Interview with Nick Holmquist by Ed Shorrock

Nick Holmquist might be better known to many dark music lovers as Nick Vincent, front man and guitarist of the uncompromising Swedish goth rocking outfit, The Preachers of Neverland. Some might think that the story ended in 1995 when the group disbanded having released the 12” gem Autoskopia in 1992, the follow up EP Incision a year later and finally, The Artificial Paradise. Not so…

Ed Shorrock thought it would be a good time to see what reflections Nick had on his Preachers days, what was going on with his and his former band members’ lives and to take the temperature of the music scene in his neck of the woods.

Q: There’s no doubt that PoN left its mark on the goth music scene in the 1990s and Autoskopia is still very much considered a classic of the time – its re-release last year seems to have gone down well. Regrets, you’ve had a few? With the benefit of hindsight what worked and what didn’t about the band?

Thanks for those kind words, really heart-warming! I like Autoskopia very much still and I’m glad that I’m not alone. Regrets? I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention…sorry, couldn’t help it! All jokes aside, but it’s safe to say that had I known then what I know now about the industry, we would most likely be quite famous as well as dead and/or be mental cases from drugs and stress. A wise man once said that this scene is full of fragile minds and we were no better. Drugs and alcohol mixed with troubled minds only got us so far. We made some terribly bad choices and could have ended up somewhere very different had we only stopped for a few seconds to have a look around. One particular thing I wish we should have done differently is the fact that we turned down quite a few label deal offers. We had decided to go our own way, which left us with so much more work even though it meant way more control. In retrospect I would have preferred that someone that knew their job did all the work so we could focus on the creative part.

Apart from the business bits I can only say that the mystery of all the bands that I have been involved with are true! I can’t make that crazy stuff up, no one can. Most things revolves around drugs though. There are gigs that none of us remembers for various reasons. Been awake for 5 days straight for one. Extremely drunk is another classic. Even on drug free youth events… There was a gig where Patrik jumped off a train that was late and ran all the way to the concert hall and on to the stage in the beginning of the first song! That’s the reason the first minute or 2 is missing from the Youtube-clip. The second time we recorded “The Artificial Paradise” we did it in 4 days and 4 nights with 2 engineers working in shifts! We only paused one evening for drinks and ended up doing an unplugged gig in a pub. I won’t even go into the women things or the violence things, but most things with the women ended way worse than the violence bits. We all seemed to cheat on each other via sharing girlfriends or something. ThePoN hated and loved one another with all the passion in the world and that’s the main reason it was such a bad break up. With Teeth I allowed myself to be hung upside down in my feet with a megaphone strapped to my mouth for 2 songs! St. Vincent were never ever in the same room at the same time! And the Catherines Cathedral stories are hilarious: At one time, more or less the entire band were dozed up and drove around in Maggies car in the middle of the night until they wrapped it around a tree. Then the bass guitarist says “My turn to drive”! At one time they wandered around Maggies apartment planning and talking about their greatness for a week and missed 2 interviews and a gig in Stockholm. No need to invent things to enhance the legend so to speak. While these things probably helped with the downfall then, they most certainly help with the cult status or myth today.

Q: Do you still keep in touch with the others – Patrik, Christer and Anders? Are they up to anything musically?

Little or nothing, I’m afraid, apart from Anders. After just a few years in the business we realized that we really needed to move on or we would literally die, so right after the demise of ThePoN 3 of us relocated to Gothenburg, Sweden and shortened our band name to The Preachers, as well as changed musical direction towards what we claimed we always had wanted to do. It was heavily distorted and way more aggressive and I think we let the metal/industrial metal, noise rock and hardcore influences come out full force to the best of our abilities. Ironically, the person we left behind is now the one I will work with on a new project. So while Patrik and Christer are up to whatever they are up to, which is not music from what I’ve heard, Anders and I are working on a little something we call “The Last Of Us”, very heavy and not entirely gothic rock, rather goth-ish metal.

Q: Bleed For Me. That video and that sound. It still resonates. Have you still got the hat?

Bleed For Me is a very powerful expression in itself and I was never quite sure where I got it from. It’s one of those things you think “No, this is so good that I couldn’t possibly have come up with it myself, someone else must have and I just grabbed it unknowingly!” A little research shows that Dismember apparently released a song called “Bleed For Me” in 1991, but I still think I heard a line from “Venus In Furs” by Velvet Underground wrong.

Oh, I held on to that hat for ages until I was offered the same sum I had purchased for by the growl vocalist Jacub from Ashes And Rain (whom I later signed to the label, by the way). While I never saw the money the hat have travelled the venues of Europe and after a rough life now rests on a shelf somewhere in Poland. The beautiful 12 string electric guitar I used in the video (Andy Sumner of The Police owns one exactly like it!) and on most of the gigs is also now in the hands of the front man of Dr Arthur Krause and is still seeing the roads of Europe unless I am mistaken. I miss it, but it’s in good hands.

Q: The Swedish dark scene in the 1990s seems to have been particularly productive. As an outsider looking in the English bands from the 1980s seemed to have had a particularly big impact – acts like PoN, Silent Echo, Catherine’s Cathedral, Bay Laurel and Sons of Neverland spring to mind. What do you think accounted for this?

I’d like to add Funhouse, Dark Side Cowboys, Dawn Of Oblivion, Malaise and Dr Arthur Krause to the list even though they may or may not have been equally important (?). I do believe that Preachers Cath Records helped forth many bands throughout Sweden by only being present. I know several bands that felt reassured knowing that there was a label working with their kind of underground music and pretty soon labels like M&A Records and Noxious Records popped up. There was also a large network of bands, fanzines and labels working together, so it was quite easy to get drawn into it or along with it or whichever way one wants to put it.

Now, what made the English scene influence Swedish goth rock, I can only speculate. Maybe it was the unearthly sight of a rock musician with a hat, long coat and sunglasses that attracted us? A cowboy with shades and an electric guitar…think about it: It’s two really cool stereotypes rolled into one…looking awesome with sun glasses! It doesn’t get any cooler than that! I just ruined the mystery of British and Swedish goth and you may censor the entire piece…

Q: The last PoN release shifted into an even darker, more aggressive zone. Your newer projects, Windymills and GRATE seem to have taken a bit of a lead from there. Can you tell us a bit more about those?

Yes, we felt early on that we may have painted ourselves into a corner and couldn’t dig our way out of it. The Preachers was the natural step to the next level. While The Preachers took on an even more technical and metallic approach, GRATE kept stepping and leaned more towards feelings and bursts of emotions rather than thoughtful and technical calculations. GRATE experienced more success in 3 months than The Preachers ever did in 4 years and will soon see the release of their third album. Windymills did a 180 and went quite the opposite way musically. I grew up with The Beatles, Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd and somewhere along the line I realized that I had missed all that. Windymills have little or no aggression or any frustration or desperation anywhere near that of GRATE or The Preachers. It’s soft rock where Supertramp and Roger Water were at their most calm state of mind. A German music reviewer categorized the debut album “Big Mean Reality” as slowcore? I’m still not sure what slowcore is, but hey, I’m a Swede and I don’t complain…

Q: Sludge metal, black metal, gothic rock, dark rock, cold wave, dark wave, EBM…..the list goes on. Does it help anyone?

Whatever my answer may be, I am still flattered by the comments and innovation by the reviewers mentioned below:

I am currently also involved in a project called AISUMASEN (ep just out, album to follow soon) and the first reviewer said it was “funeral doom” and the second reviewer said “grave doom”. I had never ever heard of any of these genres, but okay. The next reviewer mentioned “experimental sludge” and the one after that said “sludge drone”. See where I am going with this? I truly believed this genre naming game was over in the ‘90s, but who am I kidding? As long as people try to feel special and unique about themselves, they will make up new names instead of simply being special and unique and leave it at that.

So no, not really; simplify, man! Not only are there 50 metal categories, they also have 50 sub-genres each and they in turn have 50 sub-genres…and so on. If I play the name game myself, it is stupid, but if someone else does it for me, it’s okay…

Q: I know from the credits on various CDs, like the 2015 release from brilliant Ashes & Rain, In Cold Remembrance, that you’ve also moved into the more technical area as well as still playing the guitar and doing vocals. What are you working on at the moment and how do you find time to fit it all in?

Being brought up in a studio it was natural to go to a sound engineering school when I moved to Gothenburg. And as a sound engineer I have recorded albums and singles for various bands in many years and with todays technology it was fairly simple to learn how to master and restore old and new master tapes. I am currently in the process of “building” a mobile studio in order to keeping things in my control, rather than booking studios and organizing people and adjust my busy life to them. It’s more convenient for me to go to the bands rehearsal room to record them and then head home to my little studio to mix there. This is just one way to find the time for doing things. It’s a puzzle, but I like it. At the moment though, I am only mixing the new GRATE album, mixing the Schyttfock debut album (I am very excited about that!), recording the Aisumasen debut album and…that’s it, I think. Sure, there’s always more and I’m glad to wake up in the middle of the night wondering what I missed. Then I get up and do stuff I may have missed!

Q: As the driving force behind Preachers Cath Records who is signed with you and who have you got your eye on for the future?

You mentioned Ashes And Rain earlier. A great band with a great dark future! I really hope they are getting a new album into shape, because 2013 is a very long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Before I came back to Preachers Cath in 2014 again the other guys decided that it was a good idea to put Windymills on the label, so there we are. I had hoped for greater things, but they said they’d do all the work and I was busy with Social Blasphemy Records anyway…

Other than that I feel very strongly that very few things are good enough to end up here. We just started up a mail order shop with all kinds of music in the darker genres and that convinces me even more. Until I find the right band with the right conviction I’ll stay with the buggers I have as well as keeping to restoring old gems before they’re forgotten. Which brings me to a secret, so don’t tell anyone, okay? I am currently working on getting the Bay Laurel rights in order as well as Desire (another great band from Noxious Records)!

Q: The music business is getting more and more fragmented as different delivery platforms are competing for space along with all the social media outlets. The old record label model seems to be under greater pressure than ever, particularly with non-mainstream music. How do you see a label’s role going forward?

This is the true punk era! Anyone with any imagination and the right set of tools can create music and anyone can start a career or label with the same conditions. We are talking Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etcetera using freeware and/or illegal downloads on dads laptop. Assemble the right sounds and the easy to remember words, run it through autotune, get on the right playlist and you’re good to go. I’ve seen it and seen it. It helps if you live off your parents “because you are a sensitive child”, then you can have the time to do whatever you want. The good old “all work and no play-policy” is extremely tiring and you end up being more constructive and having more fun if you think of it as a hobby rather than a means to pay the rent. The underground labels of today are inclined to find alternative ways to compete with both the major record labels as well as the wee lads and lassies whom uploads silly tunes to Youtube and get fantazillions of hits because just because they’re cute.

Then again, the indie labels do it mainly for the love of the music and we should really be a dying breed…only, our love is hard to kill.

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