Ten Bazillion Years: The Daniel Ekeroth Interview

Bazillion Points, the heavy metal publishing house founded by Sound of Beast author Ian Christe, turns 10 this year. To celebrate, Decibel has corralled 10 authors from the BP stable to discuss their own works and what it’s like to be part of the world’s heaviest publisher. 

Daniel Ekeroth should need no introduction in these parts. But here goes anyway . . . While Ekeroth’s remained steadily active in the underground extreme metal scene all over the world since the early 90s; and while his current bands—especially Usurpress—deserve your time and support, it’s Ekeroth’s more scholarly pursuits that have raised to him to the level of a master historian in our world. Almost twenty years ago now, Ekeroth started working on a wildly ambitious project. Ekeroth wanted to write the book on the history of Swedish death metal. By 2007 (six years later), he had completed his work and self-published the book Swedish Death Metal through his own publishing company Tamara Press. A year later, Ian Christe revised the original edition and republished it through Bazillion Points. Throughout the following interview you’ll learn not only what inspired Ekeroth to undertake such a daunting task, but also about some of the trials and endeavors he went through so that we could all become Left Hand Path eggheads.

We caught up with Ekeroth just as Martyrdöd, the Swedish crust band, which Ekeroth joined only months ago, was returning from a stint in Moscow. Immediately prior to that, incidentally, Ekeroth had been on the West Coast for Decibel Metal & Beer Fest. “Well, some things are just too good to miss,” Ekeroth writes.  “Celtic Frost is always one of them.”

Daniel Ekeroth, Swedish Death Metal

First of all, 2018 marks the ten year anniversary of Swedish Death Metal’s publication through Bazillion Points. In those ten years, how many other Swedish death metal bands have since you learned about that you forgot to include? But seriously, how does it feel to look back on this accomplishment ten years later?
I spent like a year adding stuff for a second edition (the one Ian finally did on Bazillion Points), and I guess it was about 30 pages of corrections and additions in the end. Don’t remember how many bands were added, but quite a few. Since then, I have basically stopped listening to death metal. I’ve paid my dues. Now I’m basically back to my actual favourite music of progressive rock, Italian soundtracks and the trio of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy—the three very best bands ever.

You self-published Swedish Death Metal first. Then Ian Christe revised it and published it through Bazillion Points. Can you tell us how that came about?
That is exactly what happened. My original edition on Tamara Press was a 100% underground operation, where I did everything myself. It took me 6 years to complete the damn thing, while having a full-time job and 2 touring bands at the same time. Nearly killed me. Then I distributed all the books myself, and I do not have a driver’s license. When it was first released in 2007 [there] was also very much snow in Stockholm, so I had to drag a sleigh filled with books to the post office several times every day after work for months. I must have looked like some poor man’s version of Santa Claus!

Ekeroth, sans book-filled sleigh.

I know so many people who’ve read Swedish Death Metal. How many copies have sold so far? How does it feel to have written such a popular book?
I really don’t know. The initial press was 2,125, and those sold in like six months. There are a few prints on Bazillion Points, so maybe like 8,000 copies more. Then probably a few thousand in German, 1,500 in Poland, a few thousand in France and Italy. . . and an upcoming Japanese edition. 20,000 in total might be an estimation. It feels really strange to have reached so many people, I just did it for myself initially.

Martyrdöd in Moscow.

So your book’s been translated into other languages then? I didn’t realize, that’s incredible!
Yes, it has been translated quite a bit now. The German and Polish versions actually happened before the Bazillion Points deal. It feels really cool to see your work translated and appreciated in other countries. I’m especially happy with the Italian one, since I [used] to live there and love that country to bits.

Ekeroth among some familiar faces.

You wrote two other books. Were they as fun to write as Swedish Death Metal?
I actually wrote those two before the metal book, and they are not at all as ambitious. However, me and Ian rewrote the Swedish Sensationsfilms book from top to bottom for the English version on Bazillion Points, and that work was so much more fun than the metal book ever was. Either we were sitting by the river in Brooklyn, and I just told stories out of my memory to Ian who typed them down as we chugged down beer & whiskey. Then we Skyped as I sat in my cabin in the forest in Sweden, doing the same thing over the Internet. Just a blast of crazy stories!

Ekeroth with one of the original editions; note the white cover.

Do you miss poring over old underground fanzines and jamming late ‘80s death metal demos?
I don’t really miss that, I’ve done my work in the metal underground. It was very connected to a certain time for me (85-92) and I can’t get that same feeling again. While working on the book, it was kind of stressful as I realized more and more how vast the subject was. It was such an ambitious attempt to cover everything, and it was just impossible. I did my best though. Now I prefer going to record stores, trying to find some of the rare records I sold to finance the book in the first place. That’s a lot of fun, and I feel the same as I did when I was digging up thousands of vinyls in my youth. I love record stores, we have to keep them alive so they don’t end up like the video stores!

Like what records?
Basically old Swedish progressive records, like Life, November, Saga and Råg i Ryggen. I am also constantly in search of Italian genre film soundtracks, and obscure NWOBHM records.

Some records reclaimed.

Are you working on anything at the moment?
As mad as it might sound, I am currently working on an even more ambitious book about the extreme Swedish hardcore punk scene 1979-1989. It will kind of work as a prequel to Swedish Death Metal. I am currently not sure if I will ever finish it though, I wanna correct all the working errors I made while doing the metal book… and the workload is already becoming ridiculous. But I will keep at it!