Exil formed during the pandemic, yes? What was the impetus for the band – I know you’ve all done prior projects together in various combinations but why this band and why now?
138: The talks and planning were on before the shit really hit the fan. But yes, we did our first band practice and wrote our first 3 songs in April 2020, well after a state of global emergency was clearly declared. I had been chewing on forming a new band ever since Feral Brain folded in 2017. The impetus of that? I love hardcore. I just hadn’t found the right people for this new thing I had brewing in my brain. Torbjörn, a fellow Armored Saint fanatic and thrashhead, had moved to Stockholm from Umeå fairly recently and we knew each other since before, the Umeå hardcore heydays. I approached him, pitching forming a fast hardcore punk act along the lines of late-80’s GBH meets Poison Idea 1987-88. We had a blackout drunk night at my place watching the Poison Idea ”Pig’s last stand” DVD, and that was that. He was game. And he was already spitting ideas on forming a new band with an old friend of mine, another Umeå kid turned Stockholm old man: André, arguably top 5 best Swedish hardcore punk drummers ever. Here’s the family tree: me and André were in DS-13. Torbjörn and André were in UX Vileheads. I convinced Kristofer, a great mate since forever and a blazing devil master of the grind guitar, to join. The whole GBH/Poison Idea late 80’s concept thing kinda fell apart at once, but that’s how it goes. We are bad at emulating and better at creating vicious shit of our own. Me and André and Kristofer all write music, which you can tell, at the same time as we manage to hold the line and sound like one band and not 3 different ones. Pretentious standard answer: we sound like EXIL. What other Swedish band is doing this style of fast rock at the moment? Answer: no one.
What is the current state of Swedish hardcore – is käng still king?
Torbjörn: Always was, is, and always shall be.
138: I hate to do this. But I’m gonna pull the pandemic card here: I saw my last hardcore show on Swedish soil on February 1st, 2020. So who the fuck knows what is king right now? What bands are still around? Your guess is as good as mine. That show in 2020, the last one I went to, was actually the same night that me and TB had our Poison Idea pisser at my place. The night we started EXIL. Prescriptiondeath played and if they still exist they are the fucking bee’s knees. Swedish countryside genocide power violence No Comment stye. Not käng. So, yeh, I have to say that käng is not king. Prescriptiondeath is king. People who wanna call me on my bullshit should check out the comp LP Greetings from Sweden that was just released by the zine Quarantined. EXIL is on it alongside a slew of contemporary Swedish hardcore bands. New songs by all! But yeh, Prescriptiondeath is not on it. Bummer.
Your musical style is more American than the traditional Swedish style – what draws you to this rather than the classic Swedish style?
138: Mike, my darling, my dear friend. You have known me for 20 years. You know that I love freedom and US hardcore punk as much as American Instagram punks love bullets belts and shoestrings. It is in my blood. And Sweden has always been the 51st state of the USA. Let’s just leave it at that. And check out the hot new lovers in Anti-Metafor for your daily enema of supreme Swedish traditional hardcore. Proper doss!
I know that some of the lyrics focus on the current economic landscape of urban living – gentrification is a word thrown out a lot around issues of development, economic injustice, and erosion of counter-culture; how does this manifest in Stockholm? It has been argued that cities are constantly changing and morphing and some of what is called gentrification is just this normal process of change – do you think anything can be done to counteract this? What separates this sort of natural process of cities changing and gentrification?
Torbjörn: I would hesitate to call any major changes in cities “natural” rather than political. Gentrification is such a common feature in a lot of western cities that it might seem natural, but I think it is important to remember that it is the outcome of a series of political decisions.
But anyway, I’m not sure that what I’m writing about should be called gentrification. I mean, most of central Stockholm was fully gentrified at least a decade ago, in the sense that it became near-impossible for anyone except the very rich (or people with 25+ years of standing in the municipal housing queue) to be able to live there. So to whine about the gentrification of Stockholm city (where most shows take place) in 2021 would maybe miss the mark a bit. Currently, gentrification is more of a problem in the suburbs of Stockholm.
But what I’m talking about is the utter contempt that those who live in the inner city seem to feel towards anything that disturbs their peace to any extent. And I’m not even talking about counter-culture. The architects, lawyers, and government employees in Stockholm don’t care if the bar downstairs is blasting Agoraphobic Nosebleed or Billie Eilish. All they care about is that there is no noise whatsoever after 10 PM any night of the week. What would you call that tendency? Perhaps it’s a cultural variety of necrophilia? Or just upper-class Protestantism? Are those synonyms? Maybe. Likely. And I don’t know what to do about it. My way to deal with the depressing state of politics the last year has been to listen to the podcast Episode 1 and getting back into Dungeons and Dragons. I encourage all readers to give it a try.
Swedish society, from the outside, is always viewed as this socialist wonderland where taxes may be high but you are cared for from cradle to grave but there is a notion that this is changing towards a more individualist neo-liberal notion – is this accurate? If so, why do you think this push has happened?
Torbjörn: That’s definitely accurate. And without being an expert I think one answer to why it happens is that there is a lot of money to be made from privatizing sectors that have been publicly owned. In that sense, the Swedish educational or health care systems were like the nationalized oil fields of Venezuela, vast potential reserves that capitalists would make enormous amounts of money from if they were to be privatized. So that’s likely one of the main incentives behind the implementation of neo-liberal policies that we’ve seen in Sweden the last 30+ years.
138: The legend of the socialist wonderland Sweden is in 2021 well on its way to becoming just that: a legend, a myth, a spoof, a magical tale that speaks of an ancient wise social-democratic dragon. Make-believe. Not real. This is not a lie or exaggeration; we have the world’s most privatized educational system. You can look it up. There is no other country that allows venture capitalists to drain tax money out of schools to the extent that Sweden does. There is no limit on the tax-money-induced profits for owners of schools and health care. Our school system is shot to shit and hitting the European rock bottom, our healthcare system is burning because funding is swallowed by privately owned internet doctors, and rent control is up next for butchering. Thanx, social democrats.
There has been a whisper of authoritarianism which has infected politics of the west – the easiest example point to is the election of Trump in the USA, but also the success of fascist Marine Le Pen in France and the general erosion of faith in democracy around the globe – do you see this move to the right in Sweden? If so, how does it manifest? Is there organization against it?
Torbjörn: The Iraq war, which has claimed victims in the hundreds of thousands, was initiated by the US almost two decades ago. Since then the US has intervened in Libya, which has turned it into a burning hell for everyone who lives there, and supported Saudi Arabia in it’s genocidal war against Yemen. Domestically it has waged a “war on drugs” that has been a massive failure and disastrous for countless communities. You can add the militarization of US police to these points, as well as the continuous economic warfare waged against the country’s poor to see that authoritarianism is nothing new to the US. Trump was a dumb pig, for sure. But to most people outside of the US it doesn’t make sense to regard him as a sign that suddenly the US has been “infected” by authoritarianism. Pointing out Trump as a particularly bad apple risks obscuring what an absolute political monstrosity the US has been more or less since its inception.
You are right that there is a general right wing shift in Sweden and other parts of Europe. One way it manifests itself is through a total cultural and political obsession about immigration and crime. Any issue that gets discussed must be seen through these filters to be interesting. But just this week, the Left party managed to get our Prime Minister to resign as they wouldn’t give support for his proposition to liberalize housing costs. I hope this is a sign that we politically can get back to discussions about economic distribution. I think that could be one possible way to counter the right wing tendency.
Many of you have ‘professional’ day jobs and families – a far cry from the live fast die young whims of youth, how do you balance the rampaging chaos of hardcore punk with being a functional member of society?
Torbjörn: I think most Swedish punks of my generation have lived lives that are more or less identical with those of the average Swedish normie. When they are young, they get drunk on the weekends just like normies do (maybe even less than many normies) but they go to a show in a basement instead of a nightclub on Friday night. And instead of getting their surname in italics tattooed on their forearm they get the Black Flag-bars or nowadays I guess a poorly drawn picture of Mickey Mouse giving Elmer Fudd a blowjob.
But besides these surface-level symbolic aspects, their lives are completely compatible with mainstream society and easily transitions from youth to middle-age and parenthood. They rent or own their own apartments, hold steady working or middle class jobs and get a couple of kids when they are in their early to mid thirties just like everyone else in Sweden. I’m not saying this is either good or bad or that I’m different in any significant way. I’m just saying that for most Swedish punks there aren’t any meaningful contradictions between being part of the punk scene and being a functional member of society. Punk is a hobby here, like bowling or collecting stamps, but with a nicer dress-code and (I think?) better parties.
138: What Torbjörn said. It wasn’t like that when Anti Cimex was around, when all the spikey leather punks lived for the dream of getting early retirement in their 20’s due to alcoholism and mental insanity. But it is like that now. Most punks, and metalheads as well, are outstanding citizens and fully functioning taxpaying members of society. Working as teachers, nurses, doctors, construction workers, graphic designers, academics, cultural whores, data people, and so on. I’ve been working as a proper journalist since 1995, it’s the only profession I’ve ever had. Some people hate me, most love me, I am respected, I get a decent pay, and when I am not working as a journalist uncovering the dirty deeds of the powers that be, I stage dive like a motherfucker and mosh like a maniac and show up for work with black bruises all over my face. And my bosses approve. I also have a daughter that’s 11. She refuses to eat meat, bless her, and discovered Napalm Death just now, today.
How did you come to work with Ben from Armageddon to release your LP? Is doing things on DIY record labels still important and does it matter?
138: I’ve known Ben since DS-13 played with Dropdead in Sweden in 1999. He offered to do a full LP on the strength of a practice space demo I sent him. Ben loved it plus he said he mainly wants to work with friends these days. A good friendly man in a great band with a solid label – what’s not to like? Great deal! There’s also a CD version being released by my friend Arian on Lawless Jakarta Records in Indonesia, and another friend is doing an Indonesian tape version on Shadow Kill Records.
For me, DIY is still important and really the only way to do it. In my mind, and in my heart, I feel that hardcore music should stay out of big business and stay in the streets, where it belongs. All you middle aged people out there, always keep the faith. And really, fuck the major music industry, soulless midlevel boss energy cultureless frogs. Put semen in their eye sockets.
What does the future hold from Exil – tours? Records?
138: Hopefully to do at least one more gig. We’ve only done one so far: our friend Therese’s 30th birthday bash in September 2020. It was most righteous. But you know, pandemic schmandemic, yadda yadda. No fun, no core, no mosh, no gigs. Another aim is recording 4 or 5 new bangers for a 7” to be released before the end of 2021 by yet another old friend from ancient times, Jakob of Adult Crash in Copenhagen (Denmark).
138: Stop showering. It is unnecessary. Hardcore rules, ok?