With the album “Poltergeist”, released earlier this year through Pure Steel, Mindless Sinner has really upped their game. The album is a big improvement on its predecessor. I made an appointment with singer Christer Göransson and phoned him to get some details about both the past, present and future.
The band went under some other names before you settled for the moniker you are using today, why did the name become Mindless Sinner in the early eigthies?
– We started out as Purple Haze in 1981 and then we changed the name to Genocide after the Judas Priest song. Then after a year, or a year and half, we changed it again into Mindless Sinner. A good friend of mine came up with the name. We were really struggling to find a decent name, and that person, he also got the name for the band Axe Witch by the way, came with this suggestion which we accepted without further hesitation.
The figure, or should we maybe say man, that is part of the front cover of your very first release «Master Of Evil» is also there the two latest albums as well. What’s the story?
– The record label made the cover for our first release . We didnt know about it until the “Master Of Evil”came out, so by then it was already way too late. The first time we saw it, we all thought it was awful, but with time, the cover art has grown on us. When we decided to get together again as a band, we thought this Mr. Evil-guy, as we call him, should be our mascot. You know, like Eddie is for Maiden or The Pumpkin is for Helloween. So yeah, in the end the whole thing turned out better than we first thought.
The EP is musically a bit different from the album that followed. Did your influences change from the EP to the first album or was there pressure from the record company?
– I think the music just evolved, you know. We had several bands influencing us back in the day, but we tried to mix it up and make our own thing out of it. Bands like Holocaust, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Judas Priest and Saxon certainly were important. We didn’t change our sound on purpose, “Turn On The Power” just ended up that way.
The bands you mentioned are all British, but if you listen to a song like “I’m Gonna (Have Some Fun)” from “Turn On The Power”, I guess a lot of people will think of Mötley Crüe…
– Yeah, but Mötley Crüe was never a great influence on our band. Okay, so we listened to them, but there was nothing more. Most of our influences are British.
I like the fact that you mention Holocaust as a source of inspiration. People know the track “Heavy Metal Mania” of course, which Gamma Ray covered, as well as “The Small Hours” which got the same treatment by Metallica, and perhaps also the totally crushing “Death Or Glory”, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t hear them mentioned often.
– I love that band. We got to play with Holocaust at the first edition of Muskelrock we did back in 2014. They were on the bill as well, and I got to meet the band, and even though there are only one original member left nowadays, I probably acted as a typical fan boy. I told them how much I love the first record . The latest album I think is pretty good as well, but of course the first one, “The Nightcomers” is definitely the classic.
According to Christer there were not a lot of metal bands in the same area as Mindless Sinner during the mid eighties.
– Axe Witch as I mentioned is from Linköping as well. We often played together and are great friends. There were some others act as well. You have to remember that Mindless Sinner was actually a rather small band. We never toured or anything, only did some gigs around in Sweden.
Are you surprised now to see how many fans you actually have around the globe?
– It feels like an unbelievable dream, really. To get to do live shows, to come to other countries with the purpose of performing our own music, has been great. Also seeing that people really appreciate our music. The gig we did at Muskelrock in 2014 was great. We didn’t expect anything when we entered the stage, but soon people were singing along to our songs. We looked at each other and said something like “What the hell!” We have played in the UK, and in Spain, France, Norway, Austria and in the United States. We have to pinch ourselves because this is what we wanted to do back in the day, but never got a chance to do.
After a while you shortened the name to Mindless. Why did you release only one album under this new moniker?
– Because our drummer, Tommy who is back in the band now, left us back in 1990, one year after the release of the album “Missing Pieces”. We all thought that without him, it wasn’t the same anymore., so we decided to lay the band to rest, and started another band with the drummer from Axe Witch, called Skinny Horse. We recorded one album with that band. However, we made another album with Mindless as well, but it was never released back then. It was released later though, on a double CD from a German company (Metal For Muthas“). The album “Missing Pieces” featued on the first CD, and the second one, called “Missing Songs” was on the other disc.
In retrospect do you view the name change and the transformation into a more commercial sound as something you shouldn’t have done?
– It was the sign of the times, so to speak. At that point we never regretted it, but looking back at it now, of course we shouldn’t have done it. It was quite a bad mistake. We should just have stuck to our guns and continued playing the style people enjoyed.
If you look back at these first recordings, which of them are you most satisfied with?
– If you speak in terms of playing- and singing, I must say the “Missing Pieces”-album. However I am more proud of “Turn On The Power”, when it comes to the songs, the style and the music. But I would say the craftsmanship is better on “Missing Pieces”. We were all pretty new to things when we did the first EP, it was the first time we were in a studio ever. The songs are good on that one, but the production is rather weak.
You already did a minor reunion around 2000, but no album was released back then. Why was this attempt so short lived?
– It all happened because we celebrated our 20th anniversary as a band. We formed in 1981 and this took place in 2001. Even if we hadn’t played for years, we were still very good friends. We were never arguing or anything. At first we just wanted to do one gig to celebrate 20 years together as Mindless Sinner but then we expanded to two gigs, as we got an offer from Motala Metal Festival. After that we spoke about maybe doing an album or at least recording some new songs, but the idea faded out after a while.
What have you done musically in the ten year or so from the first to the last comeback?
– After the album we did with Skinny Horse (“No Pain, No Gain”) came out in 1993, we played shows around Sweden with that band for about one year. Then we split up, and the guitar player Magnus Danneblad and I, and the Mindless Sinner-drummer Tommy, got together with another guy on bass and formed a new band called Everlone, which was more in the vein of Foo Fighters and The Wildhearts. A mixture of punk, metal, rock and pop maybe. We made six albums with that band and played with Everlone until 1998 I think. Then we laid it to rest and did pretty much nothing until we got Mindless Sinner back together again for our 20 years anniversary. We reunited Everlone in 2007 and played together until 2013, when the bass player got a heart attack and died. Without him, the band wasn’t any fun anymore, so we disbanded. In the same time period we got an offer from Muskelrock do a 30 year anniversary show for “Master Of Evil”, so we decided to start Mindless Sinner up again.
Today you got the same lineup you had on “Turn Of The Power” It’s rather unusal to see such an old band with so many members from the classic, if not orginal, lineup on board. What is the secret?
– I don’t know. It’s just like I said: We are good friends and have never stopped seeing each other. We rely each other and know each other. Everbody is also around the same age.
It appears that Pure Steel Records, who released both the comeback album “The New Messiah” as well as “Poltergeist”, came recommended from one of the important persons in the scene nowadays.
– It happened at Keep It True in Germany, when we played there in 2015. I spoke to the organizer, Oliver Weinsheimer and asked him if he knew any good labels, because we wanted to do a comeback album. I had already sent out the album to a couple of labels, Pure Steel and some others and asked him what he thought was the best fit for us. He suggested that we should go for Pure Steel, so that’s what we did.
The first album, “The New Messiah” was released later in 2015. Are you still satisfied with it? Was there something about it you wanted to improve for “Poltergeist”?
– “The New Messiah” is a great album, but to be honest, the production is not very good. We did it ourselves, as we have our own studio. We recorded everything there and mixed the album ourselves. We did the same with “Poltergeist”, but the record company thought we could do better with the mix, so we had Robert Romagna, who works for Pure Steel, to do a new mix for us and he lifted the album a hundred times. We swallowed our pride in letting him do it, but in the end it proved a great decision. When you create music, it’s not easy to kill your dalrings. You think you can do things best yourself, but it’s not always right.
Do you see a difference in songwriting when you compare the two latest albums?
– Maybe. Not on purpose, but maybe. I think the songs on the last album, “Poltergeist” are better overall. Out of 10 songs on “The New Messiah” around seven are pretty good, while three or four are not up to the same standard. On the new one, I personally struggle to find a weak song at all. For this new record we only did ten songs, while for “The New Messiah”, we had thirteen or fourteen tracks, so we left out three or four.
On these two latest album, the booklets tell me that all songs and lyrics are by Mindless Sinner. Christer explains further…
– What happens is: If I have an idea, I bring it with me to the guys,. All the others have their input and we rehearse and arrange it together, so it is definitely a band effort. Or maybe me and the guitar players have a more or less finished song, but the others have their input anyway, and some things are changed. We do it together, so it doesn’t matter who has the idea. It’s always a collective effort, that’s why it says “All songs and lyrics by Mindless Sinner”. We usually meet face to face to write music. I am almost helpless with the new technology, but the two guitarists have their own equipment at home, so they record things, and bring it along so we can hear it.
Are all the ideas on the two latest albums new, or have you also used some songs or at least ideas you had laying around?
– No old ideas or songs were used on “Poltergeist”. On “The New Messiah” however, there is some old stuff, the song “Step Into The Fire” is from an old demo from 1986. So, we re-recorded that one, and used some old bits and pieces of some old lyrics as well.
Speaking about the lyrics, it appears that not all of them are written by Christer.
– No, on this album I have written all lyrics but three. Our guitarist Jerker Edman did three songs and I did seven. I think it’s rather difficult to write lyrics, to be honest. English isn’t my native language, and I always tend to think that my lyrics are really bad compared to those of other bands. I am very much a lyric guy, I listen mostly to the vocals and the lyrics when I enjoy music.
In 2018 you released a live album titled “Keeping It True” containing the concert you did at Keep It True, first as a CD-R but also on vinyl.
– The festival recorded every band, and when we got the recordings, we thought they sounded pretty good, so we decided to put them out as a live album. We didn’t print up that many of each format, but I think we have broke even with it now. We are satisfied with the result, we played quite early in the morning, and things were really stressful. We arrived at the airport in Frankfurt, rented a car drive to the hotel to leave our bags and then to the venue. Even though it was a lot of stress, I think the performance as documented on this live album is good.
“Poltergeist” is the title of the album as well as the name of the opening song, which you also did a video for. I guess this must mean that you feel it’s one of the best songs on the album?
– Yes, it is. One of them, that is. We really wanted to do a video for the title track. We made it ourselves, and it didn’t cost anything. I turned out quite cool nevertheless. It’s the guitar player Magnus who as done the editing and directing.
The album has generally received good reviews and and a strong reception from fans. Is that important for you at this point in your career?
– Absolutely! It’s always great to have some good reviews and compliments from fans. One thing that feels a bit strange though, is that a lot of people say that we sound like Hammerfall. It really must be the other way around, or? We formed in 1981 and they formed in the early nineties or something. So how can we sound like them? We sound like we have always done.
It’s easy to think that bands at the point in their career where Mindless Sinner is now, operates more short term, but the Swedes are already working on a fourth album.
-We have some ideas already for the next one. When you have finished a record, like we have done now with “Poltergeist”, you feel you are done with it. You really shouldn’t think like that, because now is the time to perform those songs from live. The new album is pretty far away, but for sure it will not take another five years.
Speaking about playing live. It must be harder for you to make a setlist these days, with two relatively new albums out?
– Yeah, it’s hard. People want to hear the old stuff, and I understand that perfectly. When I see Judas Priest, I want to hear the old songs as well, not the new ones. But we don’t want to be purely a nostalgic act. We are proud of the new music we have made, and we want to move forward. You asked me about the reviews, another thing that is often mentioned is that we sound old. That’s not strange at all, because we are an old band. We are not a new band trying to sound old, we are an old band!
What is the force that drives you these days? There is not any money to be made playing this kind of music.
– It’s the music, you know. The music is our lives. We live and breathe the music. We have done it for so long, without it there would be nothing. We think it’s fun too. We appreciate it more these days than in the beginning, as we don’t take everything so serious anymore. We take things more as they come. Don’t misunderstand me, of course we are serious about what we do, but back in the day it was a disaster if we couldn’t get a gig.