Grave Infestation Interview With Graham Christofferson

Grave Infestation recently put a new album called "Persecution of the Living" that is some big time savage old school death metal. Here is a chat I did with guitar player Graham Christofferson:

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

GC: I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest of Canada.

What were some of the early types of music that you were exposed to? How did you come to discover metal? What were some of the early bands that you heard?

GC: I was really into anything I could find that seemed cool. I grew up in the ’80s, heavy metal was really popular. Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Scorpion, Helix Ozzy, and all that was on the radio. That was easily accessible. I would watch or listen to any TV or radio show that promoted and played metal. I got more and more into it, and I got really into thrash for a few years and then into death metal. I was into death metal, kind of, in its golden age around 1988 or something. Back in the day, I saw Metallica in ‘89, I saw the Clash of the Titans tour (Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax). Megadeth, Testament, Judas Priest, and Alice in Chains a couple of years later. I saw each band doing their strongest releases including Sepultura etc. The first time I heard Death Metal I was listening to the Monday Midnight Metal Shop, they played mostly thrash like Exodus, Sanctuary, Metal Church, and Death Angel but they were playing a new song by Obituary – “Chopped in Half” came on the radio. That was a motherfucker. Butchered at Birth and Decide just came out. Asphyx The Rack, Leprosy by Death, Gorguts Considered Dead, Extreme Aggression by Kreator, Sepultura Beneath the Remains, Unleashed Where No Life Dwells, and Celtic Frost Morbid Tales all got a lot of play at this time too.

Now how did the world of underground metal rear its ugly head into your world? What were some early bands that you heard? Was it a style you liked right away or did it take a few listens to get into?

GC: The music that I got into as a youth seemed underground to me because it was pretty different from the more mainstream metal I was hearing at the time. The bands I described above encompass some of this but the demos of Swedish death metal bands really captured my interest because of the raw and dirty sound that the recordings embodied. I immediately liked the sound of the demos and underground metal, it didn’t take effort for me to get into it – I knew right away that this is a style and sound I was into and what best represented what I wanted my bands to sound like.

Now before we get into the band, what made you want to pick up the guitar? Were you self-taught or did you take even just a few lessons? What are some of your favorite guitar players?

GC: I guess I always wanted to play guitar. When I was 5 or something some kids who lived on my block had their dads make them wooden machine guns with a jigsaw and plywood, but I got my dad to make me an Explorer-shaped guitar out of plywood instead. By the time I hit high school, I had a real guitar and was playing. I later moved on to bass, because bands needed bass players but I started playing guitar as more of a focus again around 2010 or something. I get into playing guitar more and more as my guitar playing continues to improve. I am pretty much self-taught, save some YouTube videos or a one-off lesson here or there. I gotta say the guitarists who influenced me to start soloing would be Hanneman and Caller of Storms of Blasphemy. But the style I like best is early Swedish death metal and early Carcass style, kind 2 bar chaotic blasting solos.

Now I know you are or were in a few other bands, are any still active?

GC: Ceremonial Bloodbath is the other band I’m in that’s really active. We have a 7-inch split coming out pretty soon on Seed of Doom Records and a new full-length record that’s being mixed and mastered at the moment for release later this year via Sentient Ruin for vinyl and a co-release on CB with Sentient Ruin and Vault of Dried Bones. I have been half of the core part of a band called AHNA that has an album called “Crimson Dawn” coming out soon via Phobia Records but that was recorded in 2017. I also play lead guitar/do half the vocals in a band called Encoffinate that has a demo out via Seed of Doom Records on vinyl, and cassette out on Caligari.

You also play bass. Which instrument is harder to play and which do you personally prefer to play?

GC: I don’t play bass anymore, I miss it a little but I try not to look back and just plow forward.

Graham Christofferson
Graham Christofferson

Now how did the coming of Grave Infestation come together? Did you all know each other pretty well before forming the band? Did you guys have a pretty good idea how you wanted the band to sound in the early days?

GC: We had a band called AHNA that was touring a lot and it was mostly mine and Anju Singh (now drummer for Grave Infestation) band and we’d ask our friends to join and play in the band with us. The last new member was Thomas Szuk on bass. We were just about to start writing a new album but we decided that we wanted the next record to feel like it was everyone’s project and band collectively rather than just our band so we decided to start Grave Infestation with Thomas and I splitting writing duties. We recorded the first demo as a 3 piece, we wanted a killer 2nd guitarist to fill out the sound, so we found Brian Comeau hanging around somewhere and he came in for the second demo and has been in the band since. Brian and I are co-lead guitarists and when we were talking about favorite guitarists earlier, I would say that Brian would definitely be in my top 5. The original idea for the band was to sound like old Swedish death metal demos. Raw and evil as fuck and primal.

Now how was it decided you were gonna sing in the band and not get a singer? Who are some of your favorite singers?

GC: I think 5 people in a band was just too many people to organize. I did half the vocals in our last band, so I was thrown in front of the mic again. Vocalists I derive inspiration from would include Matti Karki, Martin van Drunen, Chris Reifert, and John Tardy on Slowly We Rot.

So how did you come up with the name and the logo of the band?

GC: We first came up with the name Grave Inhumation but we didn’t like that it was basically just the same word just repeated twice. We were at a party at our friend’s place and I said to give me an hour to think of something else for my bandmates, but if I didn’t think of anything, we agreed to keep the name as is. Right before we left, I put together my 2 favorite old Swedish demos from Grave and Carnage, so I think I took Infestation from the Infestation of Evil demo. And then I ran the name Grave Infestation by the band and we all agreed it was the right name for the band. I drew the logo myself, I am not a great artist so it came out like it did, but everyone in the band was down with it and didn’t want to change it, so it stuck.

Now how long had the band been around before you recorded your demo in 2018? Was it easy putting together tunes for this demo and even though you had been in the studio before, was it easy getting this demo done?

GC: The first thing we did as a band (at the time a 3 piece) was write and record the demo. We didn’t even have a band name yet. We got into it pretty quickly. I wouldn’t say it was easy or hard. We wanted to do it and we did it, and we were stoked the whole time.

Now in 2019, a 2nd demo was released. What would you say is the biggest difference between the two? Is it at all tough not to bring all sounds into Grave Infestation from the other bands, or is it easy to separate them?

GC: They were recorded at different locations, there are more songs on the first one, and we have a second guitarist – Brian – on the second one. The first one is cool because it’s the first one.

To me, all of my bands are like playing in completely different genres, or subgenres. The different writers in each band keep the sound of each band separate and distinct. Each band has a different goal or point.

With this 2nd demo, did it help get the name out more and what was the response from the underground like? Could you see a label reaching out to you to put out your 2 demos on vinyl or CD at some point?

GC: The second demo I believe was entirely self-released so I doubt it got the name out more, we basically recorded it to have it ready for a tour in East Canada that we were doing. Invictus, who released the original demo and now our full-length record “Persecution of the Living”, offered to release both demos on vinyl and CD so that is already out.

Now there is also an Entombed cover on the 2nd demo, for the song “But Life Goes On” that ended up on compilation release. Please tell me more about that as that had to help the band out a lot. What made you pick that particular Entombed song?

GC: We were asked to do a song for a compilation where each band did a song off “Left Hand Path”. We got lucky and no one had picked “But Life Goes On” yet so we picked that song. We recorded it with the songs from the second demo and Invictus put it on the vinyl 12” demo’s comp. Skull Skates just put out an Entombed “But Life Goes On” deck. They gave Anju one because we are friends with those guys, it’s a killer deck.

Does Canada have a strong metal scene up by your way? Are there any still cool record stores that stock metal and clubs that have metal shows or is that all in the past now?

GC: Canada has a strong metal scene across the country and we try to stay in touch with bands from West Canada all the way to the East Coast, where our friends are doing some killer stuff like Versifist, Hellacaust etc. Quebec, in particular, has lots of strong metal bands, for example, bands like Outre Tombe are making a strong impression internationally and for good reason, they’re a great band. We tour Canada as much as we can within reason, the cities are very far apart so it can be tough to tour the country, but we try to get out and see our friend’s bands and what everyone is up to at least once a year in east Canada. Overall Canadian metal bands are pretty aware of one another and we definitely cross genres with black metal, death metal, thrash, grindcore, and doom metal. We rarely play exclusively death metal gigs.

We don’t have strictly metal clubs but definitely some venues that cater more to metal audiences. For record stores, we actually recorded part of our music video in the basement of our friend Ben and his dad’s record store in Vancouver called Neptoon Records. Those guys stock lots of good metal and Ben knows his shit, so Neptoon is definitely a go-to. Another long-standing record store that stocks great metal records is Audiopile where our friends Mark and Corey work, and they do an impressive job of stocking underground metal as well.

But what really moves metal records through the scene is distros. We have several active distros in Canada, including one in East Canada we just learned about called Night Howl Records which just stocked a bunch of our stuff for East Coast metal maniacs to buy from.

Now we fast forward to 2022 and your bone-crushing new release called “Persecution of the Living”, which comes out the day before my birthday. How did you hook up with the great label Invictus Productions for this release? Did they reach out to you or did you reach out to them?

GC: We wrote to Darragh from Invictus and asked if he’d be interested in releasing our LP and he immediately showed an interest and agreed to release the record. The band and all of our peers were stoked about this collaboration as Invictus is a well-respected label with a strong history and foundation in metal and dedication to the underground in particular. For us, it was most definitely a very big deal to be confirmed to work with Invictus.

The release is bone-crushing down and dirty old-school death metal the way I love it. How long did it take to get this release ready and how easy was it getting the songs ready, especially with COVID?

GC: We had studio time booked before COVID hit so we had already started working on the record before then. We had to start and stop working on the record because of the pandemic restrictions. The recording dates were moved a couple of times during this time. The only times I really spent around people during the pandemic were at band practices, and with no shows happening we had a good amount of time to practice and get ready to record. Once we got into it, we focused and rehearsed a lot and spent a lot of time putting together the record. COVID was a good circumstance to write some apocalyptic lyrics. We recorded in December 2020 and the record was officially released in almost mid-2022 so it took some time to pull everything together and to deal with the delays at the pressing plants.

The guitar sounds you use, please tell me how you get it.

GC: I use a Peavey 6505+ through a Mesa 4×10 cabinet with a delay pedal in the effects loop for solos. We are tuned to C. I played a BC Rich Warlock on the record but I play an Iron Bird live. I have to say everyone in the band is a guitar player in different bands and whatnot so we all took time to set our tones and to ensure that the band sounded the way we wanted. I’m probably the least of a gearhead in the band, but I know how to find the sound I like.

Would you like to possibly get to play any shows in the US or do some mini tour if possible at some point?

GC: Before COVID, we had an East Coast US tour set up, but then the borders closed during the pandemic making that impossible so we had to cancel. We are working on setting up another East Coast tour for May 2023 and some West Coast US dates for early 2023. We just played Total Death Over Mexico this summer, and we are doing a Mexico tour in December. We are setting up a European tour for Fall 2023 as well. The process of organizing tours has slowed down quite a bit and we are getting back into it after a long break. Things have changed. Things that weren’t as expensive 2 or 3 years ago are more expensive now. But you can’t stop Death Metal, only slow it down.

Any particular reason for this title “Persecution of the Living”? Who did the cool cover for the album?

GC: “Persecution of the Living” is the name of one of the songs and a good description of an apocalypse. The guy who did the art is Matt Stikker who did a sick job of making it look kind of old-school and disgusting. I think it’s perfect.

Have you had any other people like myself that reached out to you to tell you how great the new release is?

GC: Everyone has been really supportive and we really appreciate your kind words.

For those who have never heard the band, what would you say you sound like?

GC: Death metal on biker speed.

What do you think of bands that change their sounds completely away from what they used to be?

GC: I respect a band’s decision to do what they want regardless of what their listeners want. It’s the band’s prerogative and in the end, their right to do so. The music might change for different reasons, for example, the band could be staying true to themselves by changing and it would be fake for them to not progress and grow or they are challenging themselves as musicians etc, etc. Either way, it’s the artist’s decision in the end, and I respect and support that decision. People complain if bands change but they also complain if they don’t change and then you hear things like “everything they do sounds the same.” It’s a tough balance of staying true to yourself and your vision and not being so self-indulgent you aren’t considering the listener at all.

What are some of your personal favorite bands?

GC: For death metal bands, off the top of my head: Blasphemy. One of my favorites. Older bands with good demos or first albums I play somewhat frequently: Abhorrence, Convulse, Beherit, Sentenced, Grave, Carnage, Tiamat, Therion, Nihilist, Unleashed, Asphyx, Nihilist, Lobotomy, Obituary, Autopsy (every album), Carcass, Repulsion, Incantation, immolation, Massacra (France), Destruction, Possessed, Sepultura, Gorguts (Canada), Sacrifice (Canada). That’s a short list of just kinda straight death metal I dig but I listen to tons of different genres of music, but I won’t get into it all. I also prefer to listen to old bands and see newer bands live for inspiration.

Some bands I thought were deadly live or I’ve been listening to lately include Mortuous, SNET, Fetid, Chthonic Deity, Mortiferum, Undergang, Vastum, Necrot, Sempiternal Dusk, Blood Incantation, Cerebral Rot, Outre Tombe, Begrime Exemious, Occult Burial, Caustic Wound, and Reversed.

Please plug any merchandise you have and social media sites as well.

GC: We have the LP – Persecution of the Living, available on vinyl and CD right now and that will be on cassette soon. We have the demos 12” on vinyl and CD as well.

For someone in Canada or the US, since your label is overseas from both of us, where would be the best place to get it?

GC: Local distros and record stores, or you can order from our Bandcamp directly.

Horns up for doing this interview, any last words to wrap this up?

GC: I think I can speak for the whole band when I say we’ll be bringing destruction to you soon with our tours and other plans for live gigs, so keep an ear out…

Remember, from the womb to the tomb, death waits behind every corner and is the only constant in a godless, indifferent universe…..


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