The Exorcism of Peter Dolving of The Haunted

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Tuesday, April 3, 2007 @ 5:28 PM

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Extreme metal is a rather lofty-sounding name for a genre of music, but if there is any heavy metal/thrash band deserving of the extreme descriptive it is indubitably The Haunted. Along with great acts such as Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquility, In Flames, and Soilwork, The Haunted is from Gothenburg, Sweden. Two of its members, guitarist Anders Bjorler and his bassist brother Jonas Bjorler, came from the short-lived, though legendary At the Gates, one of the bands that pioneered the renowned Gothenburg sound. With guitarist Patrik Jensen (Witchery) and ex-Artillery drummer Per Moller Jensen in the lineup this mob could be considered an extremely brutal supergroup.

Original vocalist Peter Dolving rejoined The Haunted in 2004 replacing Marco Aro, who had been with the band since Dolving’s departure five years before. Dolving immediately got involved in the writing and recording of Revolver, an album which caught critical acclaim, launching the band back onto the scene.

Having a conversation with Peter Dolving is an intriguing adventure. He seems to be very “open book,” but if you could walk into one of the dark chasms of his mind you might run out of there screaming. He’s survived a painful childhood, but the specters of his past are beginning to become his allies. For the demons that still remain, Dolving gets a reprieve while onstage and through his frequent journal entries. While it’s been said that truth is stranger than fiction, Dolving’s artistry reflects his truth, particularly within the lyrics he penned on the latest album The Dead Eye.

We’re not just another Pro Tools band. We never have been. We come from a background of punk rock and death metal.
“Dead eye is just right on the mark, right in the crosshairs,” says Dolving. “That’s pretty much what every song on the album is like and that kind of sums up the record for what it is. We wanted to actually communicate something different than so many of the bands out there do, you know? I felt I had to take from my own experience to conjure up the imagery that we did on this one. There was no conscious decision to make a concept album, but as it all turned out I guess there is a theme that’s very much about dysfunction; on a psychological level, on a social level. I wanted to do something that felt seriously honest and dark and for real. I feel really happy about the lyrics because they’re communicative. They’re not this sense of preaching or whatever and the songs are not some abstract mystery, if you have any kind of understanding or at least trying to understand yourself, I think. I’m really happy the way it turned out. It turned out very beautiful, in a way.”

Tue Madsen (Himsa, Kataklysm, Witchery) was hired to produce, mix and master The Dead Eye with creative input from each member of the band. For them, it was a different approach to making a record than with the previous albums. It is the band’s most personal release to date, loaded with more poignant subject matter than the previous releases while still loaded with the same musical brutality characteristic of The Haunted.

“I think the approach was different with this record. The main difference between this and all the previous records was that this time around we actually talked. As five people of a band we really talked about what we wanted to achieve in the record and what we were trying to communicate. It’s not as clinical and as digitally processed—we’re not just another Pro Tools band. We never have been. We come from a background of punk rock and death metal. For us it’s always been a matter of pride and love and respect to be able to play the shit we put on records. I don’t want to put anyone down, but with a lot of records that have been surfacing in this kind of genre, during, say, the last five or even 10 years, there is a kind of generic quality about it. Especially if you’re a studio head—you’re able to tell when something has been digitized and everything’s been edited, and you can hear from the way it sounds that it’s all processed. It’s not really giving the people the respect they deserve. For us we felt that we wanted to make a record that you will listen to and be able to enjoy it, but you’re not going to be able to get the full picture until you see the band and understand what the band is about. We love our audience, man. We’re not going to go out there and charge money for doing something half-ass. That’s just fuckin’ disrespectful. We’re not in this game to be these cool rock stars. We’re guys who play music. And no, we’re not really interested in MTV Cribs (laughs). It’s the rock, man. It’s a way of life and it is something that we truly love and it’s as simple as that.”

2005 was a banner year for The Haunted, securing a slot on Ozzfest’s second stage, and then hitting the road for a North American tour alongside Meshuggah, God Forbid, and Mnemic and finishing off the year with a European headline tour. Still enjoying the success of Revolver, Dolving explains how the lyrics for The Dead Eye emerged.

'The Dead Eye' had so very much to do with the nonfunctioning relationships that so many young people have with their parents.
“The lyrics for this record started to build during that whole madness of doing 12 weeks straight of shows every night in a row. I think we did 97 shows straight in the spring of last year. That was rough, but at the same time, for some weird reason, I found myself getting something out of giving myself to being onstage like that and it opened up a lot of stuff for me—in me. Out of that I caught that I really had shit I wanted to say. I don’t know if I wanted to say it to me, or if I wanted to say it to an audience or whatever. I do keep a constant journal. That journal has been made out of sporadic statements or stuff close to prose, or just day-to-day journal writing. But I always find myself going back to those and looking for clues to when I started writing lyrics. What started coming out there was really more raw and less naïve than some of the stuff I had written earlier and I felt that I had reached some kind of level of understanding myself, but I didn’t quite know what it was that I was supposed to understand, but I realized it was something new and I started digging in it.”

Dolving alludes that writing the lyrics for The Dead Eye was a cathartic process. While the songs have personal meaning to him there is something we all can identify with. “The Reflection” is a song that touches on dysfunction, emotional dependence, passing on the sickness and ultimately perpetuating the “dis-ease.”

“On one level it’s definitely about my relationship to my mother, who’s now dead,” Dolving confesses. “On a more general level it had so very much to do with the nonfunctioning relationships that so many young people have with their parents. It doesn’t even have to be young people’s relationships with their parents. It’s one of those things where in many cases people become parents without even having grown up yet. They have no capacity for taking another human being in. They’re not even shaped as humans themselves, I think. There is a denial with us all, unfortunately. You know it’s not that fuckin’ easy to change something like that. Where do you look in some kind of fuckin’ rule book? Who’s going to help us out? It’s kind of stating the sad truth.”

Along with the memories of his tumultuous past Dolving drew inspiration to write the songs on The Dead Eye from the painstaking (but death defying) experience of entering recovery from a nearly lifelong battle of substance abuse. “I never had a clue that I was an addict at all,” Dolving admits. “Shit, I’ve been an active addict since I was about eleven years old. Before that I didn’t really have a choice. My mother would pretty much kind of subdue me with this really potent cough syrup—because her doctor told her to do it. I don’t think she had a clue. I kept repeating to myself as a kid—as I grew into a young man—that I was never going to be like her and my Dad. I was never, ever, ever going to be like them. But I think I came to a really harsh realization. Initially, a couple years ago, I started getting medication for ADD and that made me realize ‘Holy shit! I’m an alcoholic!’ I was told specifically at that time when I started taking that medication “You cannot drink and take this medication” and I said ‘Well, absolutely…no problem. Of course I won’t drink,’ and I could not not drink. After almost two and a half years of touring I got back home a little less than a year ago and I realized that I was back on massive amounts of hash every day. I was drinking tea with hashish in it; I was eating morphine-based painkillers. I was eating large amounts of sleep medication and I was still not drinking so I really didn’t consider myself to have a problem, but I realized that ‘I’m going to have to straighten my act out here a little’. But I really didn’t. I stopped using hash, but I kept taking my painkillers and my sedatives to kind of keep myself in check…well, that’s what I thought anyway. Then when we were in the studio--when we were putting the final touches of the vocals, I found this lump of fine, fine Lebanese hash just lying around the studio. Then I started obsessing over it. I obviously wasn’t an addict! I think it took me six or seven days of really obsessing over it. I’d go looking for cameras figuring it was a prank from the other guys in the bank or it was a test by the record company (laughs). There’s no limit to how twisted I got in my mind over these five grams or something. Eventually I was there melting this huge lump of beautiful black hashish, ingesting it and drinking it, and it really didn’t do it for me. I think somehow I kind of started slowly, slightly taking in that perhaps I might be an addict. I’ve been clean since, and it’s been a trip, man…a trip mostly for the better, but it’s been rough because I’ve had to reassess a lot of things I’ve taken in as normality. And it really has made me realize a hell of a lot of things about being who I am and what growing up in the circumstances I have grown up has made me. A lot of new parameters I really haven’t taken into account on a day-to-day basis, really. I think writing the record was part of slowly coming to the acceptance and the understanding of this fact. It wasn’t a conscious thing at all. It was just something I did and had no clue what it was about as I was doing it. It’s cool to be able to find enough strength somehow to see that there are parts of me that I have no clue about (laughs). I find it kind of relieving—accepting the fact that I’m not all bad. That’s relieving.”

Shit, I’ve been an active addict since I was about eleven years old.
Each member of The Haunted brings with them a wealth of experience and musical influences, but Dolving seems to have the most diverse and colorful palette.

“Being the dysfunctional kid I was--and am--I was never looking for a lifestyle as far as music goes. I was just looking for music that could reflect how I felt about things. It turned out that I found a bunch of artists that probably were as fucked up as I was… sometimes worse, sometimes less, but somehow they managed to put words and music that made me feel alive and somehow I wasn’t alone. A guy like Lou Reed…when I listen to a record like Berlin, which was produced brilliantly by Bob Ezrin--it’s one of the most brilliant rock albums of all time. And it’s probably the most morbid tale of being a fuck up ever (laughs). It’s the most depressing album in the world. I love it. When I heard it was like ‘Yeah, this is how life is. How come no one is fuckin’ picking up on this?’ I would play the music to them and they’d be ‘But this is so sad.’ I’d be ‘See, understand? That’s how it is.’ And no one would understand what the fuck I was talking about (laughs). But life is not like that for everyone. The same thing with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Nick Cave had this way of picking up traditional themes from blues or country and somehow perverting them. There’s this one song called “Saint Huck,” which takes Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and places him as a male prostitute in the really crappy bars of New Orleans, and it’s just the most fuckin’ perverse tale of humanity in a song, ever. When I started listening to death metal I had been listening to Nick Cave for seven years. When I started playing in this band called Mary Beats Jane, which was metal with a lot of other influences, I just kind of chuckled and cracked up because I thought there was nothing evil going on. Where was the real life drama and where was the real life darkness? I bring in my kind of influences into the world of influences of the other guys in the band, which are completely different. They come from a more traditional metal background. What we do together is what makes up The Haunted.” For as mean and volatile as Peter Dolving may appear onstage he seems undaunted when showing his vulnerability. But don’t count on him crooning out a sweet love song during one of The Haunted’s cranium-crushing sets.

“I’ve been married for 10 years and it’s worked out really well. It’s been even better now since I’m finally getting in the whole thing of recovery. That has brought me something that I didn’t know before—intimacy…real intimacy, instead of hardcore fucking and arguing. That part has been left behind, I guess. I really found something that I had no fuckin’ clue of before. I didn’t know what intimacy was. It’s something I’m learning out of trust and out of mutual respect, which is all-new to me. It’s so new and it’s so fresh that I’m amazed by it. I feel like a kid. You better take hold of it if you want to have some fun in life. That’s the deal, because you can never take that stuff for granted. Life is not to be taken for granted. I’m enjoying life. It took me a couple years to understand that, but why the hell not? I’ve earned it, goddamnit (laughs).”

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