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Lewd Flesh interview with John Madsen, Casper Nilsson, Malene Pedersen, Nanna Braunschweig Hansen

I’m not going to beat it into the ground and I normally don’t drag gender into the picture when it comes to art, but god damn is it nice to hear a female fronted Stoner Rock band!  From the moment the needle drops on Lewd Flesh’s debut 7-inch for Spaghetti Cassetti Records Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte things are hot and heavy.  Malene Pedersen’s vocals bellow and scream from the center of the entropic sludge of psychedelia and metal, pummeling distorted guitar and bass melodies washing corpses ashore intow as the drums trundle and smash their way to the surface of the bubbling concoction.  It’s not often that I hear a band who would be as much at home in the mid-90’s rock explosion around Seattle here in the US as they would be in the burgeoning metal scene which has finally managed to gain some much deserved traction again in the past few years especially in the EU, but Lewd Flesh draw from such a wide and varied array of sounds it’s hard to pinpoint just when and where they’re actually from.  The title of the single obviously does a little more than hint at the fact they’re not from here state side, but the music contained on the sickeningly addictive slab of sinister 7-inch wax is much more difficult to pin down.  There’s an undeniable almost grunge meets desert rock twinge to the distorted guitar feeding back and screeching throughout, at times suddenly turning on a dime and devolving into full on Sabbath worshipping Sleep comparison inducing state of transcendent riffage.  The bass humms and pops alongside for the entirety ride, drawing you deeper and deeper into the festering pit of sound with it’s siren’s song.  I also must say that it’s not often I notice drums on a recording either honestly.  But here though, the drums help pay homage to that same Sabbath proto-metal meets Motorhead or full on Badmotorfinger era Soundgarden sound that is such a destinctive and unique combination in Lewd Flesh.   Over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to get exposed to some of the lesser known bands from across the EU who haven’t had a chance to break here in the US yet, and there have been some amazing finds, but Lewd Flesh is definitely at the top of the list for me.  It’s been months in coming but I managed to get the band to sit down with me and dish about all things Lewd and Fleshy for all you lucky folks.  They’ve just finished the recording phase on their upcoming debut album which should be out before too awfully long.  But before that happens though, I highly recommend you give this a read.  Make sure you click on the Bandcamp link below, check out some tunes, and prepare yourself for the oncoming onslaught because you will not want to miss out on anything that Lewd Flesh releases!  Did I mention they offer all of their stuff digitally for free?  I didn’t?  Well, now I did – so what are you waiting for!?!  Dig on in to a healthy helping of psychedelic stoner delight now and you can thank me later...
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What’s the lineup in Lewd Flesh right now? Is this the original lineup or have you all gone through any changes since you first started? 

John:  The original lineup was Malene on vocals, Nanna on guitar and Sabine Tørnqvist Føns Andersen on bass.  Additionally, Carl Johan Hanberg played the drums for a couple of years around the time the 7-inch was recorded.  Before Carl, there were a few different drummers.  The current lineup is Malene on vocals, Nanna on guitar, Casper on guitar, Jakob on drums, and myself on the bass.

Are any of you currently in any other bands or do you have any side projects going on right now? 

John:  Jakob and I were playing in other bands before joining Lewd Flesh and we’re still active in those bands.  Jakob is the drummer of a hardcore band called No Fealty and I am playing bass in an experimental black metal band called Molok.

Have you released any music with anyone other than Lewd Flesh in the past? If so, can you tell us a little bit about that here?

John:  I released an album with Molok, back in ‘09 I believe.  It was a little less experimenting back then, and it isn't much of an indication of what we currently do.  Most of our music, released and unreleased, can be found on SoundCloud or YouTube, if you don’t mind doing a little digging, that is!

How old are you and where are you originally from? 

John:  I'm pushing thirty one.  I was born in Sri Lanka and raised in the outskirts of Denmark, near the German border

Casper:  I’m twenty four born, born to a Danish mother and a Swedish father, and was raised in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Malene:  I just turned thirty.  I grew up in one of the richest cities in Denmark.  My father is a farmer and took care of a large rich man's farm, we had no money but we were surrounded by huge superficial assholes.  As a result as a child, I spent most of my time in the nature by myself.

Nanna:  I'm turning thirty in a few months, and grew up in a small town at the northern coast of Sjælland, surrounded by water, trees and family.

What was your home like when you were growing up?  Was there a lot of music around or anything like that?  Were either of your parents or any of you close relatives musicians or extremely interested/involved in music? 

John:  The short answer is no!  A couple of teachers at my school put in a lot of effort to get kids involved in music, and that’s where it began for me.

Nanna:  We had a piano in my home, where I improvised music to the atmospheres of my friend’s stories; a lot of fun.  I went to piano lessons from like four to the age of about eleven, and took guitar lessons one year after that.  But my sister, who is four years older than me, was certainly a big influence on my taste in music, and brought me along to a lot of metal concerts from the age of twelve and up.   

What was the local music scene like where you grew up?  Did you get very involved in that scene or see a lot of shows when you were younger?  Do you feel like it played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or the way you perform at this point? 

John:  A nearby town had a great music scene, with all sorts of genres.  I went to my first show there.  It was local thrash and death metal bands.  So yeah, that definitely played a role in both my tastes and the way I play.  Also, living close to the German border meant that the Wacken Open Air Festival wasn't too far away either.  I first went there at sixteen and that experience did its part as well.

Malene:  As a teenager, I dyed my hair black and wore black clothes that I made myself and hung out with a small group of boys who skated and listened to a lot of different gloomy and ‘fuck it all’ music.  We soon started drinking, smoking, and going to concerts, hanging out in rehearsal rooms, jamming, playing music for each other and fleeing from the norms around us.  But I never really fit into any group.  I’ve always preferred to keep to myself.  And I’ve also always been known to be an untamable, flowing energy force.

Nanna:  I've always gone to a lot of concerts in Copenhagen, both big and underground.  I seem to surround myself with metal and punk loving people, and the energy of such live concerts has always touched my heart; energy I hope to be able to give back when performing myself. 

What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be? 

John:  Playing my first concert at school or going to my first proper show, probably.

If you were to pick a moment, or a small series of moments, that seemed to opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities that music presents and changed everything for you, what would it be? 

Malene:  When I was eighteen I joined my first band with some guys who were like ten years older than me.  I had black hair and braces at the time.  They played a lot of smooth heavy blues, soul and old psychedelic rock for me, which is a big part of my style today.  I was kicked out of the band because I was a young unstable wreck at the time though.

John:  Being introduced to jazz, wink…  On a serious note though, I still get that feeling whenever I'm being introduced to music that pushes boundaries in a creative way.  If I were to pinpoint specific moments I vividly remember the first time I listened to Cryptopsy, a Canadian death metal band.  The song is called “Cold Hate, Warm Blood” completely blew me away.  I just couldn't understand what had just hit me!  Also, hearing the Norwegian avant-garde black metal band Dødheimsgaard/DHG was a big one.  The first time I heard their music, it was a song called “Traces of Reality”, and it was an eye opener for me.  It genuinely felt like boundaries and rules being smashed to bits.

Nanna:  I've been surrounded by peoples who were playing music for a lot of years, without playing myself.  At one point I started spending a lot of time jamming with people for fun and I experienced the great feeling it gave me cooperating and making a musical universe together.  

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that? 

John:  A Fender Telecaster.  I was probably around twelve.

Casper:  I bought a cheap ass acoustic guitar when I was around eleven or twelve at my local supermarket.  No idea where it is now... 

Malene:  I’ve always sung to myself in my room.  My mother hated it! She would come in and shout at me, telling me I had to turn down the music.

Nanna:  Besides an old acoustic guitar an uncle gave me and my sister as children, which was the reason I choose the guitar later on actually, I bought an old, cheap, soon to be broken electric guitar off a friend when we started Lewd Flesh.  Tape can fix a lot of things…

When did you decide to start writing and performing your own music and what brought that decision about for you?  Or, was it more of just a natural reflex to being given a new outlet and opportunity to create something of your own and express yourself in a new way?

John:  I never cared too much for playing cover songs, so I guess it happened naturally.  That doesn't mean it was easy, though!  When I first started writing my own stuff, man, it was absolute shit!

Casper:  When I first started to play guitar, I was really into Jimi Hendrix and quickly tried to learn most of his songs and started off mostly playing Jimi Hendrix covers.  But at one point I started to write my own songs, which just came naturally to me.  Now I like to play my own songs, but I’m not afraid to play a cover song now and then either.

Malene:  I’ve always had a huge need to indulge myself creatively.  I depend on it to keep my mind balanced.  It’s like a refuge for one's frustrations and demons, a universe where you can let go of your thoughts and bestial nature.

How and when did the members of Lewd Flesh meet?

John:  I met Malene and Nanna at a party/concert for the bands sharing our rehearsal space some years back.  We were in four or five bands sharing the same place, and decided we should all meet and listen to each other’s music.  Us sharing the rehearsal room was also the reason I eventually joined the band when they needed a new bass player.

What led to the formation of Lewd Flesh and when would that have been?

Nanna:  The band started in early 2011 when a fresh and initiative girl collected a group of friends, who didn't know each other, but all had boyfriends who played music, and all wanted to have an excuse for meeting once a week to drink bears, eat cake, enjoy each other’s company and play some music together.  We had varied musical experience, but were all pretty inexperienced at our instruments.  I myself hadn't played in any band before or played guitar since I took a year of lessons at the age of around twelve, so it was like brand new to me.  Even though we didn't know each other at first, we really enjoyed each other’s company.  Luckily, we all had an agreeable idea of sound.  Slowly music was being made and the band began to evolve.

What does the name Lewd Flesh mean or refer to in the context of your band name?  Who came up with it and how did you go about choosing it?  Are there any close seconds you almost went with you can recall at this point? 

Malene:  Since we didn’t have a name to start with, our good friend thought that we should be called UP MY ASS DIE IN PAIN in Danish.  All of our friends thought it was really cool and called us this for a long time, hence the name of our 7-inch.  We searched for a name that expressed and embodied sensual freedom.  I saw a film on television by chance which took place in late 19th century.  It was about a priest who was in love with a young woman.  The young woman had a seductive, joyous, magical mind and the priest used the word 'lewd' to describe her many times.  I didn’t know the meaning of the word at the time, but I thought she and the word were so beautiful.  The priests’ frustrations with his own desires lead him to have her burned as a witch at the end of the film.  I often think that if I had lived back then I would definitely have been banished, admitted to a lunatic asylum, or burned at the stake as a witch.

Is there any sort of shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or operates by, spoken or unspoken?

John:  Not that I'm aware of!  We’re all quite different, and I think that actually works in our favour.

Where’s Lewd Flesh located at currently?  What’s the local scene like where you’re at?

John:  We are located in and around Copenhagen.  The scene is actually quite vibrant; lots of bands and small venues and festivals, radio programs, blogs etcetera for a ton of different genres.  Much of it is kept alive by the passion of people who really care about music.

Are you very involved in your local music scene in your opinion? Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything like that?

John:  We’re not really involved in booking shows, but we all attend a lot of them.  But there’re so many shows, it's impossible to attend all of them though.
Has the local scene played an integral role in the sound, history or evolution of Lewd Flesh in your opinion or do you feel like you all would be doing what you’re doing and sound basically like you do regardless of where you were at or surrounded by?

Nanna:  As we all goes to concerts in Copenhagen and the surrounding area, I don't think anybody can reject being influenced by the feeling of a great musical experience.  But I don't think we use it directly or deliberately.  We’re all different people, with different influences, bringing different sounds and new ideas to the band.  Curiosity is a great thing.

Whenever I talk to bands for these interviews I inevitably have to describe how they sound to be a bunch of people who’ve never heard them before and it can be a little bit intimidating to say the least. How would you describe Lewd Flesh’s sound to our readers who might not have heard you all before?

John:  Stoner/doom/psychedelic.  I know I'm just putting a label on it, but I always try not to be too descriptive about my music.  Ideally, I would like people to experience the music with a tabula rasa, and let them make up their own minds without being told what something sounds or feels like.

You all obviously have one foot firmly planted as far as influences go, but I feel like you pull from a bunch of different places as well to round out your sound. I’m curious who you’d cite as your major musical influences? What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

John:  I think we touched on it earlier, but it’s a difficult one because I'm not so sure that we, as a whole, could name any influences.  As you yourself said, we’re influenced, at least individually, by very different things.

What’s the songwriting process like for Lewd Flesh? Is there someone who usually comes in to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea to work out from there with the rest of you or do you all like to get together and just kind of jam and let things happen and evolve until you hit on an idea that you’re interested in working on and refining?

John:  We usually start of from a single riff and work it out together.  The funny thing about that is that you may have a feeling about a riff you made, where it’s going, what it will sound and feel like.  But when the others start doing their thing, it all changes and becomes something completely different from what you had in mind.

Casper:  Malene writes all the lyrics, usually one of us comes up with a riff or some chords, and we just jam on it together, but sometimes one of us has an idea for a whole song, and tries to play it to the others.  From there we slowly try to combine all the instrumentation to make it sound right.  Malene will try to come up with some words and sing along in the moment, while writing some lyrics down.

What about recording? I think that most musicians can appreciate all the time and effort that goes into recording when they’re finally holding the finished product in their hands. But getting to that point though, getting things recorded and sounding the way you want them to, even seemingly little things like getting the completed recordings mixed and mastered properly can prove to be excruciating tasks. What’s it like recording for Lewd Flesh?

John:  I’ve only recorded some demo songs with Lewd Flesh, but that was a nice experience.  It all went quite nicely, and the guy who did the recording was great as well.  Normally, though, I just want it to be done with!  As you said, there it’s a lot of work, especially the post-recording stuff.  The whole recording and post-production experience is probably my least favourite part of playing music, but it’s usually worth it once you get to listen to the finished product.

Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into working out exactly how a song’s going to sound when you record it, with all of the different parts of the arrangement and composition worked out and planned meticulously before you record? Or do you like to get a good skeletal idea of what something’s going to sound like while allowing for some change and evolution during the recording process where you feel necessary or prudent?

John:  We’ve only done some demo recordings together, but personally I feel that there should always be room for change and evolution in a song, even after it’s been recorded.  Not necessarily major stuff, but little tweaks here and there.  We do try to be at a point where we know how the complete structure of a song should be before we record it, but sometimes a person who hasn't heard it a million times can give you valuable input, and that shouldn't be dismissed.

Do you all like to take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle most of the technical aspects of things on your own so that you don’t have to work with or compromise on the sound with anyone else, or do you like to head into a studio and let someone else worry about that headache so that you can concentrate on getting things to sound the way you want them to from the very start?

John:  We do have an idea of how we would like it to sound, but as I said above, outside input can prove very useful.  However, that being said, we do like to make sure that a sound guy has an understanding of the kind of music we play.

You all released you first material that I’m aware of this past year in 2014. The Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte 7-inch for Spaghetti Cassetti Records is ridiculously heavy and gnarly! Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of that first material? Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you all, or more of a difficult nerve-racking proposition at that time? When and where was that material recorded? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?

Nanna:  We recorded the 7-inch with Rune Stilling Buck and Kim Møller Mikkelsen, who also made the masters at their Copenhagen bunker in the summer of 2013; some very hot days.  They were very cool, professional, and easy to work with.  Rune has a lot of patience, which I can personally attest to.  It was hard work, but we also had a lot of fun! 

Does Lewd Flesh have any music besides the Op I Røven, DøI Smerte single that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a demo or a single that I don’t know about?

John:  We have been recording a two song demo with songs from the upcoming full-length debut.  The demo should be available for free download off our Bandcamp by the time this is published.

With the release of the Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte 7-inchthis past year in 2014, are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon for Lewd Flesh that you can talk about at this point?

John:  Yes, we’re working on our full-length debut right now.  We’re aiming at getting that completely finished and then finding someone to put it out, hopefully sometime this upcoming summer.

With the completely insane international postage rates these days I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up imports as I can.  Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up your music?

John:  That would be through our Bandcamp.  Unfortunately, we don't know of any way to get it from within the US right now.  Hopefully that will change one day, because you’re absolutely right about the international postage rates!

What about our international and overseas readers?

John:  Again: our Bandcamp.  We want to keep prices as low as possible on our records and merch, which is about as much as we can do.  The other solution for everyone out there would be to download our music, which can be done for free.  That way you get a chance to hear it as often as you want, and you can decide if it’s worth your hard earned money for a physical copy.

And where would the best place for our interested readers to keep up on the latest news from Lewd Flesh like upcoming shows and album releases be at?

John:  We share all our news through our Facebook account.  It’s not ideal as some people aren’t going to get the updates in their feed, but it’s the easiest way for us at the moment.

Are there any major plans or goals that Lewd Flesh is looking to accomplish in 2015?

John:  It would be great to have the full-length released this year.  Apart from that, we will see what happens.  We would like to get a chance to play outside of Denmark, though, and are hoping for a tour in some European countries in late 2015.

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring?  What’s life like on the road for Lewd Flesh? Do you enjoy being out on tour?

John:  We haven't been on a tour together yet, I'm afraid.

Nanna:  The old lineup of Lewd Flesh with Sabine and Carl went on a small festival tour to Thylejren and Kildemose in the Danish country in summer 2013, which was a lot of fun.

What, if anything, do you have planned as far as touring goes right now?

John:  We’re looking to make something happen in the Fall/Winter, when our individual schedules should be clearing up a bit.

Do you remember what the first song that Lewd Flesh ever played live was? When and where would that have been at?

Nanna:  The first time we played live was in early 2012 at our rehearsal room in Copenhagen, at a party for all the bands who rehearsed there.  Almost all of us knew each other in some way, and we still share rehearsal space with those bands.  It was actually at this party that our old drummer Carl decided to join Lewd Flesh.  We played our first two songs that evening, which were “Cage” and “Hangover Blues”.  And in case anyone is wondering, these songs aren't on our Bandcamp for download anymore.

Do you give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, and cover artwork? Is there any kind of meaning or message you’re attempting to convey with the visual side of Lewd Flesh? Do you have anyone that you usually turn in your times of need when it comes to the visual aspects of Lewd Flesh?

John:  I’m not sure if there’s a deeper meaning to the visuals as a whole.  We’ve been using different artist, and, as far as I know, they have just been free to interpret our music and lyrics in whatever way they wanted.  Of course we want it to represent what we do in one way or another - I can’t see us using an image of puppies playing in a field of flowers anytime soon.

Nanna:  At our release party we had our good friend Martin Bollerup decorate the room.  He also made the cover art for the 7-inch, and has decorated the Kildemose Festival the last two years, where we played at.  He has a fantastic creative mind, and makes some beautiful, adventurous and magical universes. 

With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the mediums that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music? What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music?

John:  Op i røven, dø i smerte was released on vinyl and I'm sure any future releases will be as well.  Also, I think we will continue to offer our music digitally for free, or a price of your own choosing.  I guess it depends somewhat on expenses, but I hope to make our music available through as many mediums as possible.

I grew up around a pretty massive collection of music and both of my parents really encouraged me to listen to anything that I wanted to from a pretty young age. My dad taking me out to the local shops on the weekends is what left the biggest impression though. I developed a whole system, a kind of ritual for listening to music that I’ve never abandoned and has led to a lifelong love, or obsession depending on who you talk to, with physically released music. I’ll rush home, snatch up a set of headphones, kick back with the liner notes, reading them over and over again while I staring at the cover art. There’s something about having a physical object to hold in my hand’s and experience along with what I’m hearing that seems like it offers a rare and brief glimpse into the minds of the artists who created it and makes for a much more complete listening experience for me. Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

John:  Ha-ha!  That brings back fond memories, man.  I don't do it to the same extent these days though.  In fact I most often listen to music while doing something else.  I mostly listen to music digitally, but physical copies still leave me with a much deeper experience.

 Like it or not right now, digital music is here in a big way. I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg though, when you combine digital music with the internet, that’s when you have something really interesting on your hands! Together they’ve exposed people to a literal world of music that they’re surrounded by and it’s also allowed for an unparalleled level of communication between bands and their fans all over the globe thereby eradicating a lot of geographic boundaries and limitations that would have crippled bands even just a few years ago. On the other hand though, while people are being exposed to all this amazing new music, most of them aren’t really that interested in paying for it at this point. I think a lot of people have start to see music as a sort of disposable thing, to be used and then deleted as a result of digital files as well. I think a lot of what you make of a situation just depends on how you look at and deal with it. As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

John:  This is a huge question!  It’s something I’ve always been passionate about, and debated with other people.  I tend to look at music as having two dimensions: music as business and music as art.  These two, of course, are not completely separated, but on one hand you have an industry hell bent on making money, even if it means ridiculous lawsuits against kids downloading music off the internet, and on the other hand you have people playing music their whole life without ever making a living off of it, often actually spending lots of money doing so.  The industry, it seems, was exceptionally slow in understanding and accepting the internet, not to mention making use of it, often fighting it rather than adapting to it.  Individuals and small bands, on the other hand, seemed to embrace the opportunities it brought along, making their music available through various mediums.  I believe music as an art form benefits from it, but I’m biased here.  I have no intentions of 'making' it with my music, of having it become a full time job.  I want to do other things for a living and keep playing music as a hobby, something that I can enjoy.  As such, I love how easy it has become to experience new music from around the world, and how easy it is for people around the world to experience our music.  I understand your point about people not wanting to pay for music and thinking of it as something disposable, but is that really a problem?  Of course, if someone spends large amounts of money on producing something, they would at least hope for the costs to be covered, but there are, as always, other ways to do things. One of the best examples I know of, is a group called In Death it Ends.  What they do is to continually release digital singles for free download and then physical albums are released in a limited amount, which is based on how many express an interest in buying it through a preorder.  Each physical copy is of exceptional quality with a lot of care put into the details and there are little extras to make it worth it.  That seems to be a great way of making sure you don’t end up spending huge amounts on production without being able to cover it.  Now with regards to digital music being disposable, rather than something you keep and cherish: I simply do not believe we can talk of a right or wrong here.  I have a rather large collection of physically released music, and it‘s only going to grow, because I like it that way.  At the same time, there are records that no longer hold any value to me; some stand the test of time, some don’t.  If the process of getting and getting rid of music has sped up these days, then so be it, it doesn't necessarily have to be a negative.  What matters, I think, is how music affects the listener, not the length of time it does so.

Nanna:  I agree with you, John.

I try to keep up with as many good bands as I can but there’s just not enough time to listen to everything out there. Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?

John:  We have been playing a lot of concerts with a band called Gaia, whom are definitely worth a listen.

(2014) Lewd Flesh – Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte –7” – Spaghetti Cassetti Records (Limited to 104 copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2015
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