Interview with Pat Kramer of Deaf Rat

Dare you take a walk down the road less travelled and – instead of the usual vignettes about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll – get to know the bad, the ugly and the dangerous…? Well, that’s what the Swedes from Deaf Rat have to offer with an album entitled Ban The Light, taking their listeners for a journey on the dark side of humanity.  Not your ordinary family entertainment, that’s for sure… What’s the inspiration behind this unique vibe to Deaf Rat’s music…? How does the band’s past influence their present…? And what is the future going to bring…? That’s what I asked Pat Kramer, the band’s lead guitarist, about…

Deaf Rat. Photo used by the band’s permission. Photo credits: Georgios Grigoriadis

Alexandra Mrozowska: Deaf Rat’s  musical background is obviously old school Hard Rock & Heavy Metal…

Pat Kramer: The influences among the three of us differ quite a lot, all the way from older Black Sabbath, Ozzy’s new stuff, classic Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, some of our countrymen in Mustasch, Ghost and Hardcore Superstar, Mötley Crüe with (John) Corabi on vocals, Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper.

AM: The official Deaf Rat line-up consists of three musicians only, so why isn’t the rhythm section in the official band line-up?

PK: Those guys whose musicianship and friendship we cherish so much unfortunately don’t want to engage in the same way that me, Frankie and Max do. It takes a lot of commitment and we are forever grateful to Karl and Nic for staying with us for so long in the background and for being a huge part of the sound of the album Ban The Light.

AM: Before you became Deaf Rat, you’ve performed under the moniker of Billion Dollar Babies (and yes, everyone reading this now starts humming a very certain song). What’s prompted the name change?

PK: Billion Dollar Babies was started during the renaissance of Glam Rock in 2005. The music has since then changed so much and the line-up has also changed, so it was a very liberating decision to put it behind us. Of course it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was surely a good one. It gave us the freedom to do something that really came straight from the heart and soul from the people that we are now, unaffected by expectations and baggage from old times.

AM: Billion Dollar Babies have already had a couple of albums under their belt. Have you ever revisited that material in the Deaf Rat live setting?

PK: At our first gig we actually played one of our old songs and it was done by a very specific purpose. We have a buddy in our hometown named David who is probably the most dedicated fan of all of the bands in our local area. He’s studying music and learning to play the guitar so we invited him to join us for one song at our debut gig at Sabaton Open Air 2019. He spent the whole summer rehearsing the song and the show was great. I don’t think anyone got more applause and praise than David when the song was done – except for maybe Sabaton (laughs)

AM: How do you think years of stage experience translate into 2019’s Ban The Light album, which is technically Deaf Rat’s debut album?

PK: Of course it brings at lot of experience coming from a band that has been playing a lot, especially doing lots of live shows. When we write songs, we always have the live performance of it in mind because that is probably the main purpose for all of us to do it. We don’t spend that much time working on overdubs and stuff, but spend a lot of time to make the songs sound great with only that number of instruments that we have in a live setting.

AM: Speaking of Ban The Light, you’ve recorded the majority of the material for the album in your own studio (Ballroom Studios in Falun, Sweden)…

PK: It’s a luxury for us to have a well-equipped personal studio where we can record live sessions – but it could also easily work against you. The pressure of being in a studio where you pay per hour can also be good or bad, depending on what sort of band you are. So this time, we brought in a producer, Erik Berglund, and planned the recording session very strictly, which is something that is very important. We also spend lots of time rehearsing before the recording, so that we all get very comfortable with doing it in a live session. I think the main live sessions for the songs took a week and then maybe another week for vocals, and additional week for guitar solos and some overdubs.

AM: I believe the working title for the album was actually In The Name Of. Why did you decide to change it? Was the change about the possible controversy?

PK: No, there was no controversy in mind at all actually. The working title was an idea that we thought summarized many of the topics in our songs. Many of the lyrics for the songs are about people being used, mistreated or brainwashed by some large community that they are part of. The inspiration for those lyrics came from both criminal gangs or religions and cults. So the main thing there is criticizing authoritarian groups that are depriving people of their free will. We changed it to Ban The Light, because we thought that was also a great title and of course, it’s a classic move to name the album after one of the songs on the record (laughs).

AM: Speaking of controversy, the imagery and lyrics you generally use has always been pretty strong, including your early days as Billion Dollar Babies. I can certainly imagine the cover of Chemical God sparking controversy in my homeland Poland…

PK: As far as I know, we have never been criticized for it. If you listen to Chemical God and Ban The Light, you can surely hear some strong lyrics. But we like writing about stuff that we think are fucked up in the world. I hope that if people listen to the songs, they will understand that the reason why we write those lyrics are because we think those are horrible things. This topic is of course not present in all of our songs, but for example “Junkie’s Ball” and “Chemical God” from the earlier years, and “Make Me Suffer” and “Wanted Forever” from Ban The Light are perfect illustrations of that.

AM: In the past interviews, the 2016 documentary Holy Hell by Will Allen was cited as a source of inspiration for the album. Were there any other influences as well?

PK: That’s a perfect example of a cult where a leader is brainwashing their followers just to fulfill his sick fantasies of how this world should be. Other specific influences that led to lyrics for a song was the movie Spotlight, which is about priests sexually abusing young children and another was a podcast, where a former member of The Church of Scientology told their story and talked about how the get treated when they want to leave their community.

AM: These are quite dark and disturbing issues indeed – so why did you decide to make them the leitmotif of your album?

PK: Good question. I guess it’s just that we like to transmit those kind of vibes and hopefully, it will make people react and listen more to the stories.

AM: As you’ve already mentioned, the songs on Ban The Light show how people allow for their free will to be taken away from them. Do you think there really is a problem with a lack of freedom within today’s society?

PK: If you have a cynical mind, then you would assume that there will always be a problem with freedom somewhere in the world. I think the world as a whole is making progress every day, but there is a lot do to in the world to raise the equality of opportunity for all people.

AM: Ban The Light was also released on vinyl. What advantages would listening to it on vinyl have over streaming it on one’s phone?

PK: The great thing about a physical music format is that we can somewhat force your listener to listen to the entire album in the way we want them to. It allows you to tell a story and not just get snippets of it when you put a few songs in a playlist on your phone. There is also of course a whole other sonic experience listening to a vinyl than, for example, Spotify. It’s actually amazing how many details in the music get lost when you listen through most streaming platforms.

AM: Speaking of technology, your YouTube channel gives your fans quite a sneak peek behind the scenes, making them feel as if they were a part of the Deaf Rat experience. But if you as a listener had a chance to witness the recording process of just one album in a history, what could it be?

PK: Oh my God, what a tough question! (laughs) One that comes to mind is Def Leppard’s Hysteria, just because it was such a difficult process that took around four years. For me as a huge Led Zeppelin fan it would also be awesome to be a fly on the wall at Headley Grange when they recorded their fourth album.

AM: What is the band up to these days, with all the concerts being put on hold worldwide?

PK: Right now, we are writing new songs for our next album. It’s a perfect time to lock yourself inside the studio and get creative!

AM: Looking ahead, on June the 12th, 2021 you’re going to support Judas Priest on their rescheduled gig Dalhalla in Rättvik, Sweden. What are your expectations?

PK: Oh, we are soooo looking forward to it! Dalhalla is a fantastic arena and is actually in the town where I grew up. So it’s gonna be awesome to open up for the godfathers of Metal in a sold out arena with a huge stage.

AM: You were also supposed to tour with H.E.A.T and Reach this year. Speaking of this, it’s hard not to notice how many great bands emerged from Scandinavia during the last twenty years. Why do you think your region and especially your homeland is so potent when it comes to musical talent?

PK: One of the most important thing are that we have great culture of music education. At an early age, you can go to music school almost for free and it creates a very good foundation for a music career. I guess it’s also in part because the countries in Scandinavia are quite wealthy and maybe also because the best cure for a freezing cold winter is to bang the shit out of your drums or to turn up your guitar amp to eleven (laughs).

AM: You’re probably right! Any last words?

PK: Thank you for a very good interview!

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You can check out Deaf Rat’s most recent music video to their single “Bad Blood” below: