Those of you reading my webzine Rubber Axe might be aware of my fondness for old (but timeless, I have to say) stuff, be it music, books or movies. And – by any chance – if you’ve read my review of Altar’s “Dark Domains” CD, it should be no surprise I have reached out to Jimmy Lundmark, the former guitarist of this mighty Swedish OSDM band, to ask him about times past…
Hello, Jimmy, and many thanks for your time conducting this interview. It might seem like going back to some prehistoric era (and in many regards it might be so), but anyway…can you tell us how did you get into metal music?
Hello Rudolf, thanks for remembering! I found Black Sabbath’s Master of reality in my mother’s record collection when I was about 9 years old, that lead me to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Accept and so on! Longer down that road I found Metallica and Slayer and all those other thrash metal bands! And then I borrowed “Leprosy” from a friend, and you know, that changed my view of metal right there and then!
Almost every kid wants to be a rockstar. Obviously, aspiring metal musicians nowadays have a plenty of idols to learn from, but back then, what was the main impulse for you to pick up a guitar and start playing? Any guitar hero of your back then? Was the guitar your first and only choice of a music instrument?
I have never been a fan of guitar virtuosity, don’t know really! Even though Glen Tipton and KK Downing was fukin’ badass back then! In my book Tony Iommi is the number one guitar player, but that’s all about his riff making magic! Guitar has always been my only instrument, and favorite one as well! I got hooked for real when I was about 15-16!
How the Swedish metal scene looked like back in the end of 1980s? I can only recall Europe and Alien from the more mainstream acts, but that’s about it…what about underground acts playing at the time you started the band? Did any of them have any impact on you?
I have never liked Europe or Alien, have always thought they were pretty lame! I stuck to the foreign heavy metal bands instead! When I was getting into the harder kind of metal, bands like Candlemass, Mezzrow, Hexenhaus, Therion, Nihilist/Entombed, Dismember and Merciless had great impact on me!
Altar had its beginnings in Wortox, how did you, guys, actually meet?
We met in school all four of us, except from Perra/drums we have known each other since like forever! In a small town like a Kumla it’s not hard to find out who are into the same stuff as you are, when we started to play I think it was only 10 people in the whole town who knew what the fuck we were doing in the rehearsal room!
These days you can make a record from your bedroom, so many kids would never know the joys and troubles bands faced back then…how difficult was the find the practice room in those days? Any problem a band like yours could face?
Not at all, we had something called Studieförbund, not really sure what the English word for it is, but it’s a educational service! They provide rehearsal places and instruments if you’re not have any yourself! The only thing we had to do was fill in some reports once in a while! A awesome thing, I think many bands from our era started out just like that!
In 1989 Wortox released its first and only demo “The Unknown”… in retrospective, what can you tell us about this release? Where did you record it and how many copies did you release? What was the response from the listeners, zines and/or labels?
We recorded it in our rehearsal room, on a portable 4 channel thing, it sounds terrible, but it was lots of fun to record the stuff! I have no clue about how many copies of it that was done nor the response from zines etc, Perra did all that work, mailed demos left and right to fanzines and distribution people!
Why did you decide to change the name of the band to Altar? Did the name change also reflect any significant change in the music of the band?
We were never really satisfied with names and logos in the beginning, we changed that shit so often for a while, confusing times, hehe! If my mind serves me right I think we stole the “Altar” from Altars of madness, we wasn’t content with that name either, but we kept it.
In 1991 you’re recorded your demo “No Flesh Shall Be Spared” in Dan Swanö’s studio. How did you recall working with this legendary producer and musician? He also remastered your material for “Dark Domains” CD, is that correct?
I hanged out with Perra and Jocke Grave one day, Jocke played with Darkified back then, and they had formed another band on the side, Marduk! He recommended me to get in touch with Dan Swanö, they had recorded their stuff at his studio, it was called Gorysound at the time. So we did, we drove to Finspång and met up with Dan, we clicked almost immediately! He was/is a great guy, funny and talented beyond belief, we had some great time with him, both on the No flesh demo and the Ex Oblivione split recording!
I assume the reactions of the listeners must have been great, as the demo’s got re-pressed by now infamous Wild Rags Records. It would be interesting to know what your experience with WWR were, as many bands had been ripped off in the end…
The No flesh shall be spared demo had a great response from both zines and smaller radio stations, and of course among our friends that was involved in the death metal scene in one way or the other! We did 300 copies of it, they was gone in no time!
Later Richard from Wild rags contacted me for the possibility of release the demo on a 7”, that later became another demo tape! He was supposed to make 500 copies which we would get 50 copies in our end! He wrote that he sent 2 boxes with 25 tapes each, I only received one box, don’t know what happened, if it was him or shitty postal services! I’ve heard that he ripped other bands, but I’m not sure, latest I heard about him was that the law was after his ass!
Your next release was a split album with Finnish death metallers Cartilage. How did this co-operation happen? Was it the idea of Drowned Productions? Do you know how well was this release received?
Yeah, it was Dave/Drowned’s idea, it was supposed to be released as 2 separate 7” with us and Cartilage, but it was changed to a split cd, also Dave’s idea! He was traveling around Europe by train in the summer of 1991, and one day he knocked on my door, that night we had lots of beers and signed the contract for the split cd, all accompanied by the metal of death! Great times. Don’t know how in how many copies Ex Oblivione was done, about 500-1000 I think! Quite good response I guess even though the sound is crap, not to mention the cover! It’s sold for ridiculous prices on the internet, save your money good people!
Promo 1993 and Promo 1994 were, I guess, aimed at securing a label release for a future material, am I right? I particularly like those songs from 1994, they are more melodic than your earlier stuff, although still a proper old school death metal the Swedish way.
The ambition was of course a record deal, but the 100% involvement in the band were never there! I guess it’s my fault that the music was getting more melodic, I was listening a lot to At the gates, Unanimated and Dissection at that time, bands that I still listen to and admire.
In these songs just mentioned we could hear Mieszko Talarczyk, how did he become the singer for Altar? How do you recall working with him?
I learned to know Mieszko when I moved to Örebro in the fall of 1993, he played in a band called Shagdiel and wrote for a local news magazine! He also had a compilation tape going on and he asked me if he could use a track from our 1993 promo tape, so we met and our friendship began! Our singer never really liked to both sing and play the bass guitar, so I asked Mieszko if he was interested in that position, this was before he formed Nasum. I miss him a lot.
1995 was a final year for Altar. Can you share with us the reason for the split-up? It couldn’t be because of music, I am sure…As I am unable to find any more information about any of you, guys, playing in any band past Altar, does it mean you stop playing for good? No session work, no pub cover band, nothing?
No, we just lost the interest for some reason, family life, work, girlfriends etc. It was a really un-dramatic split up. Me and Perra, our first drummer, along with Johan/Altar & Fallen angel started to rehearse for a while, but that folded pretty fast. As I know it’s only Fredrik/drums that continued play in some party band, for the almighty cash I guess.
In 2012 the complation CD “Dark Domains” has appeared by the cooperation of Konqueror Records and Pulverized Records. I, for one, am glad for this release, it’s fantastic! Can you tell us something about its preparation…did you re-record any songs, or just remaster the existing recorded material?
Thanks for the kind words Rudolf, I think it’s amazing that dudes like you and Andy and Roy from Konqueror and Pulverized exists, pure dedication and minimal economic interest. Andy contacted me asking if he could release a compilation cd with Altar, if that was ok with us, he also asked if he could do a Altar Facebook page! And of course he could, how could you say no to that, total dedication! So I provided him with our old dat-tapes and some photos, he did all the other work, he’s a great guy! We didn’t do any re-recordings or stuff like that.
After all said and done, how do you view the legacy of Altar? Looking back, what would you highlight as the most successful point of your career as a guitarist in this band…and what is – if any – your biggest regret?
I look back at it with great love, it was a really good time in my life, we were never a successful band in any way, we just had fun and made the music that we liked, so there is no regrets at all!
The best thing about it is all the fantastic people I’ve met along the years thanks to death metal music, some of them I am more or less in contact with, some of them I have the honor to call close friends!
Buying demo tapes right out of the hands of members from Edge of sanity and Afflicted Convulsion outside venues and on parking lots after gigs. Getting info paper from Tompa/Grotesque about his new project At the gates at a gig with Kreator & Death. That’s memories I won’t forget, perhaps sound like petty stuff, but for me it’s fukin’ huge.