Deathhammer Interview With Sergeant Salsten
Deathhammer is an unholy 2 piece death/thrash that has smashed and bashed my ears for years. After the band's latest release on Hells Heandbanger's Records, I managed to track down band member Sergeant Salsten who plays bass, guitars and sings for this great chat. Sadomancer plays drums and guitar to round out the band.
So when did music begin to enter your life and did any kind of music mind you? What were some of the early bands that you heard?
Sergeant Salsten: I was into Elvis and Michael Jackson when I was very little. When I was in primary school in the mid-late 90s I got very into the current skate punk bands like NOFX and The Offspring. They fucking rule. Then I got a bit older and heard Burzum. Life was never the same again.
Now I know Norway has a big black metal scene, or did a few years back, were you familiar with any of the goings on or were you too young at that time?
Sergeant Salsten: I was too young to notice anything when it was going on, but I remember people talking about “greven” (the count) in the late 90s.
Now metal music. When did you start to get into it? Was there a particular person that got you into it or just a series of events and you now became a fan? Did you take to it right away or did it take a few spins and you were sucked in?
Sergeant Salsten: I got into it when I was around 10, I suppose. I saw the “All I Want” video by The Offspring on TV when it came out and then I was totally sold on hard shit. Anything hard. I and my friend up the street started a band and were totally absorbing any Metal we could find, which was mostly nu metal in those days. I was really into the early Slipknot stuff. I borrowed AC DC and Metallica CDs from my neighbour and then I got into them of course, but it was not the classics. Then when I was around 13 I got heavy into Black Metal and from that other cool shit. There was a radio show called AMBOLT where I discovered heaps of killer bands.
Now, what made you decide to pick the instrument that you chose? What are some of your favourite players?
Sergeant Salsten: I had a drum kit when I was very young, but I really sucked. In my early teens, I just got the urge to play the guitar. All of Black Sabbath is the best player, but Temis Osmond is my favourite lead guitarist.
Now I know you have both have been in other bands and stuff, but I wanna concentrate on Deathammer. So how did the 2 of you meet and at what point did you decide you wanted to form a band? Was the plan always for you 2 to be just a 2-piece and now a 3-piece or even a 4-piece band?
Sergeant Salsten: We met at a Mayhem concert in early 2005. We were totally into the same shit so by the end of that same year we recorded our first demo. We never considered recruiting any thrashers since everything works perfectly as a duo. We’ve always had contributions from other maniacs here and there, though.
Now when you started up the band just how serious were you two as a band? Were you just gonna have it be sort of a project or were you 2 serious as a band?
Sergeant Salsten: We just wanted to thrash out, I wasn’t even considering playing live in the beginning. But things started happening fast after the first demo.
Did you 2 know what the music style was going to be and when you guys started, was thrash metal, I mean real thrash metal, did it have any kind of following over in Norway?
Sergeant Salsten: Yeah, we were always thrashing, that was always our command. When we started there wasn’t that much going on but as the years followed several cool bands came about.
Now how long did it take before you guys started writing songs? How long did it take to get your songs ready for the tunes that ended up on your debut demo called “Barbaric Onslaught”?
Sergeant Salsten: We recorded that demo the same weekend we rehearsed the songs for the first time. It was always like that because we had little money and lived far away from each other. The demo actually had many more songs but we managed to erase everything on Sunday morning by mistake. So the songs that ended up on the cassette were recorded hastily right before I had to take the bus home.
What was the response overall like to your demo? I understand only 60 copies were printed. Why?
Sergeant Salsten: That was as many as we could afford and we thought that was fine cuz we weren’t really expecting the overwhelming interest. I ended up getting a hold of a box full of old tapes and then I made shitloads of it anyhow. So beware of slimeballs trying to sell it for a big price, it’s not that rare.
Before I move on, how did you come up with your name and your logo? Whose idea was it on as to was gonna sing?
Sergeant Salsten: Sadomancer drew the logo when he was at school, like most of the other old artwork. I was already doing vocals in another thrash band back in Hamar called Warfield so I guess that’s why it seemed natural for me to do it.
Thoughts on your 2nd demo the awesome one titled “Savage Poser Hunt”?
Sergeant Salsten: I reckon it’s good. It’s raw and to the point. The poser on the cover is wearing a shirt by a local shit band that was going on at the time. Ended up in a pretty big street fight cuz of that haha.
Another demo followed before an EP came out on Witches Brew called “Forever Ripping Fast”. How did you hook up with them and looking back, how would you say it was for the both of you to go to the studio to record this? Is this still for sale?
Sergeant Salsten: We thought it was a cool label so we sent them a CD-R with the material and they wanted to release it. It’s still easy to get yeah. The recording process was largely the same as on the demos. I think we recorded it around Christmas so we had more time since we were not in school.
I love you guys’ attitude with the way you dress, song titles, and using the word posers ha ha, and am 56 so I was around in the early days of the underground and you both would have fit right in. What are some of the bands that have influenced both of you over the years?
Sergeant Salsten: KREATOR, BATHORY, SABBAT, SLAYER, RAZOR, SODOM, CELTIC FROST, DESTRUCTION etc.
Whose idea was it to release your demos on cassette in 2009? Did label Infernal Overkill Productions approach you about it? Is it still for sale by chance? If not would you ever want to see it re-released?
Sergeant Salsten: It was probably their idea, we were in contact with that guy for a bit. It’s not been for sale for many years but you could probably find it if you wanted to. We won’t rerelease it, there’s really no point.
Tell me a bit about this full-length comp called “First Blood”.
Sergeant Salsten: Pretty much the same as the other one, it’s a compilation tape with the old shit.
Now came your debut full-length called “Phantom Knights” also on Witches Brew. Now were the 2 of you nervous at all going into the record as this was your first full length? Were the songs pretty much ready to go when you went in?
Sergeant Salsten: No I don’t think we’ve ever been nervous in that regard. Even though it was our first full-length, FOREVER RIPPING FAST was still our first proper release so it felt more like the second one. Everything was ready, yeah, but this time we used more time cuz we weren’t in school anymore.
Speaking of, how does the writing of a Deathhammer song come together? Where is the weirdest place a song idea came together?
Sergeant Salsten: For my part, a song usually comes together as soon as I have the main riff. Then other shit I have made suddenly makes sense and I start piecing it together. Actually, most song ideas probably come together in weird places but yeah I remember creating Gates of Hades on my bike horn.
Now I have seen several live clips on YouTube. Do you use the same people all the time and how are live crowds reactions to your tremendous old-school thrash sounds?
Sergeant Salsten: We try to keep a steady lineup but we’ve had several people come and go over the years. The crowds? They go apeshit.
Now how was it working for Witches’s Brew the time you were with them?
Sergeant Salsten: It was all right but they only do CDs and we wanted to release an LP. Cheryl is fucking cool!
Now the current label you with, Hell’s Headbanger’s re-issued “Forever Ripping Fast”, which included a Sabbat cover, which wasn’t on the original. What made you pick the tune “Black Metal Volcano”? How good of a job do you think you did?
Sergeant Salsten: We were gonna do a song for a Sabbat tribute album. We chose Black Metal Volcano cuz it fits with the Deathhammer sound. Also, we wanted to pick a not-so-obvious cover.
How did you hook up with Duplicate Records for that split 7″ you did with them?
Sergeant Salsten: He contacted us about it and we were really keen cuz I love the Überthrash 7″ he released before. The split turned out fucking sick except for that shit band Carniwhöre being on it, but that was out of our hands.
You stayed busy as in 2012 a split 12″ came out with 4 tunes with the band Nosferatu as the other band and this time you did another cover tune, this time by the band Metalucifer and their tune “Fallen Angel”. What made you pick this tune and how did the 12″ do overall.
Sergeant Salsten: We were offered to be a part of the Metalucifer tribute album and we were excited about it cuz we are huge fans. We chose Fallen Angel cuz it’s a more sinister song reminiscent of Sabbat and we thought it would fit our sound. Nosferatu is a killer band we were in contact with so we decided to do a split. It was never re-released I think.
Now throughout the years did the band’s popularity grow throughout the underground? Were you able to play much outside of Norway?
Sergeant Salsten: Yeah, some periods are busier than others but for sure, we’ve gotten to play heaps of killer places. We’ve been to other continents but never actually had a proper European tour. Would like to do that eventually.
At what point would you say you 2 came out with the Deathammer sound?
Sergeant Salsten: Right from the start really. It has evolved but the core stays the same. The sound is not something we ever discussed, it’s just there.
Also in 2012, another full-length came out called “Onward to the Pits”, which got some great reviews. Where did you go to record this now classic and how do you usually spend in the studio? Do you want and need that classic 80’s thrash metal sound when going into the studio? Do you ever use a producer or did it yourselves?
Sergeant Salsten: We recorded by ourselves at home on the same old portable recorder we’ve used for all our releases. We never use a producer really but we always get someone to help us mix it.
How was the response from the underground thrashers at this time? Any idea on sales, since sales were still pretty good at that time?
Sergeant Salsten: The response was great but I have no clue about sales.
Now, how did you end up hooking up with Chase and Hells Headbangers? Is it sometimes a pain in the ass seeing they are in the US (where I live as well) and you in Norway?
Sergeant Salsten: They contacted us through Myspace and we wanted to release something on vinyl so we left Witches Brew. Also, we were into heaps of bands on Hells Headbangers so it seemed fitting.
Now you were right back at things in 2015 and released another full-length called “Evil Power” and I saw a review giving it a 100 out of 100!!! How do you feel about that?
Sergeant Salsten: Killer!
How do you manage to go in year after year writing new tunes with quality material no less? Are there any leftover tunes from any of these sessions?
Sergeant Salsten: There are some songs that get scrapped from time to time, or turned into better ones. But mostly we have a pretty good ear to what’s good and what’s not. We’re raging for Metal that’s why it’s still ripping.
Now you took a 3-year break and didn’t release anything until 2018 when we saw your 4th full-length called “Chained to Hell”? Was this a planned break or did you just take a break and in 2018 you felt it was time for a new album?
Sergeant Salsten: That stuff is purely coincidental, we were waiting for the cover art for over a year for one thing. We’re pretty active in general but things get held up. That album was recorded December 2014 and the following month.
Even though it was 3 years, was it pretty easy to just go in and write tunes and get a new Deathhammer album out?
Sergeant Salsten: The timeline is not like it may seem, our albums are usually released just around the time we’re making another one. But then it takes time to get it out and the cycle continues.
Now with you 2 being in other bands, is it easy or hard, when your are writing tunes, to make sure they stay within Deathammer and not any of the other bands?
Sergeant Salsten: That’s not a problem seeing as no related bands bear any similarity.
Now did you get to do any type of touring over the years? Have you ever managed to play in the US? Do you hope to one day?
Sergeant Salsten: We’ve toured the US three times, and we played in LA one other time as well when we were touring in Central America. It’s fucking awesome to play in the US, the crowd is killer.
What are some of the best shows you have seen live and what are some of your favourite live shows you have played?
Sergeant Salsten: Dissection is maybe the best shit I’ve ever seen. I think we played a sick show in Portugal the other day actually, with Autopsy and some other bands.
You must have had the horns raised about this next release. A split release with the band Sabbat called “Army of Death”. Did they get to hear the cover tune you did of them many moons ago? Was this Empire Records’ idea, this split? I imagine the response was unholy to this. Did you get to meet the band at all? Is this release still for sale?
Sergeant Salsten: We have met them several times, Sabbat is the best band in the world. When they come to Europe we always try to see them as many times as possible. We got to play with them in England too, it was a total honour. Kill Empire records! This ripoff label wasn’t even supposed to release this split but did it anyway. Then the rat cunt sabotaged it so we can’t release it properly. It was supposed to be called SABBATICAL OSLONSLAUGHT and feature cool pictures and flyers and shit. But anyway, it’s still cool to release a split with Sabbat.
Now, what are some of the song subjects you write about?
Sergeant Salsten: Death and destruction.
Now recently, you came out with your 5th full length called “Electric Warfare”, which is once again another incredible slab of old-school speed/thrash metal attack that blows me away. So take me through how this new release came to be.
Sergeant Salsten: We recorded the guitars and bass in a cabin in the woods. The vocals and drums were recorded in our rehearsal room downtown. Then we went to Arild Torp’s place somewhere out of town to mix it. He did an excellent job.
Now once the album is recorded and done, do you send a master copy off to Chase to release on his label? How did you come up with the album title? I know you love the fact that this release will be on vinyl as well.
Sergeant Salsten: The title is from the song Thirst for Ritual and fits with the intent of the album.
How far do you two live apart and is it easy to communicate with each other?
Sergeant Salsten: Not that far anymore. I live in downtown Oslo and Sadomancer lives on the outskirts, but it’s not a huge city so it’s no worries
Now once the writing began for your new album, how long did it take and why that album title?
Sergeant Salsten: The writing process for Electric Warfare was pretty spread out so I guess you could say it took some time. My songs were made around 2015 and Sadomancer’s songs are from several moments in time up until the last song which was made just as we started recording in 2020.
So when you write and record, is there any certain pattern you 2 do, like do you do the bass first or the drums first, etc or do you just mix things up?
Sergeant Salsten: We record the drums first, then guitar, then bass and vocals last together with solos.
Now from what I have read a lot of people like you guys a lot and say you are the real deal and not some cheap retro horrible thrash band. I can easily listen and tell you to have the power, the passion and you play with a ton of that old-school feeling that is not easy to possess these days. Do you agree?
Sergeant Salsten: We never wimp out, death to posers!
Now have you 2 ever thought of ever adding a third member to the group, I mean not just a live fill-in, a member of the group?
Sergeant Salsten: There was a point in time when Jon Doom was almost in the band but it didn’t turn out like that. We never really needed anyone.
How has the thrash scene in Norway been over the past 10 years or so? Has it gotten better, worse or around the same?
Sergeant Salsten: I think it’s more shit since Condor seems to be dead now, they totally slayed everything with UNSTOPPABLE POWER.
Has any of the older band’s new releases got your juices flowing and has any new bands that you heard got your juices flowing?
Sergeant Salsten: Yeah check out ABHORRATION, they’re a totally wicked new evil death metal band.
So what are your and Hells Headbanger’s plans for this new release? Now this website is based overseas (not in the US or Canada) so since your label is based in the US, how does one pick up your new release?
Sergeant Salsten: I think you can get it at any cool distro or store, shouldn’t be hard to find at least.
Is there anyone release besides your demos, that you not so fond of and if so, why?
Sergeant Salsten: All the releases are good, but as I told you earlier there is some sour taste regarding to a couple of releases due to bullshit.
Now are there any of your releases that are sold out and if they are may they one day see a re-release?
Sergeant Salsten: We pushed for a re-rerelease of the old records when we saw that assholes were selling them for a fortune. These days I think you should be able to find just about all of our records.
How long do you see the band being around or do you just things one release at a time?
Sergeant Salsten: Yeah one release at a time I guess but eternal.
For someone who has not heard the band (shame on them), what would you say you guys sound like?
Sergeant Salsten: Evil Power!
Please plug any websites or social media accounts you have.
Sergeant Salsten: We have a facebook page.
Mega, absolute horns for doing this chat with me and this website. Any last words to wrap this interview up?
Sergeant Salsten: Thrash till death!