Hypocrisy's Peter Tagtgren: My Life In 10 Songs

Peter Tagtgren
(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

Since forming Hypocrisy in 1991, Peter Tägtgren has consistently proven himself as a tireless champion of metal in its many forms. Though his flagship band started out heavily inspired by late 80s/early 90s American death metal, by their third album they were branching out into melodeath, establishing a branch of the genre distinct from the game-changing sound emerging out of Gothenburg

“I was never the biggest fan of the whole Gothenburg thing," he admits. "I loved At The Gates’ Slaughter Of The Soul but then again, I think a lot of that kind of stuff came from Dissection in the early 90s too. At the same time, back then there was so much going on in Sweden it was like the more the merrier, you know?”

In the three decades since Hypocrisy's formation, Peter has branched out into countless projects, exploring a love for industrial-tinged music with PAIN and Lindemann whilst indulging his love for extreme metal in its many forms in projects like The Abyss, Lock Up and Bloodbath, while also forging a lucrative side-line as producer extraordinaire, working with acts including Amon Amarth, Sabaton and Children Of Bodom

We pinned Peter down to get the story behind his 10 favourite and most important songs of his career, covering everything from the early days of Hypocrisy and PAIN right up to Hypocrisy's spectacular 13th album Worship, a record which made our list for the best death metal albums of 2021

Metal Hammer line break

1. Hypocrisy - Left To Rot (Penetralia, 1992)

Left To Rot was the first Hypocrisy song I wrote. I lived in America between ’88 and ’91 and got really inspired by the things happening out there at that point. It was such a huge thing happening in death metal and, especially when I lived in Florida, I was right in the middle of it. Cannibal Corpse moved from Buffalo down to Florida because that’s basically what everyone wanted to do. 

I wasn’t even there to play music – I was there because my girlfriend got an au pair job and brought me along. She stayed a year, I ended up staying for three years! When I got back home I couldn’t afford to go to a studio by myself and couldn’t find anyone, so I just wrote it all myself and really took inspiration from groups like Deicide. I was at the release party for their debut album – it inspired me a shit-load.”

2. Hypocrisy - The Fourth Dimension (The Fourth Dimension, 1994)

“I became the singer of Hypocrisy for our third album The Fourth Dimension by accident. I live in a really small town and there were hardly any metalheads, but someone told me there was a guy from Stockholm whose grandparents lived here and he sang in a death metal band. I got in touch and asked if he would sing on our demo and some of that stuff you can hear on 10 Years of Chaos and Confusion. We went on tour in ’93 with Fear Factory and Cannibal Corpse, but he started getting problems with his ears so he finished another show and decided to go back home to see his doctor. We’d done five gigs out of like 30 and had done all these shirts with the dates on so it was like ‘if we don’t finish this tour, we’ll go bankrupt’ so I decided to try and see if I could play and sing at the same time. The first show was horrible, but it got better and better from there; I was basically practicing before an audience every night.

I wanted to start writing about dimensions, out-of-body experiences and experiments and that’s how a lot of that album came about. I’d found a keyboard in the studio that someone had left behind and was playing with it. I came up with this apocalyptic melody which is what the song starts with, very slow and epic. It changed Hypocrisy into what we became – those first two albums were so inspired by Morbid Angel, Deicide and Entombed, but now we were doing our own thing.”


3. Hypocrisy - Roswell 47 (Abducted, 1996)

“I never saw Roswell 47 as a hit song, but it was one that people just seemed to immediately like. Mikael [Hedlund, bass] wrote this great part in the middle and I wrote the rest but didn’t really think too hard on it. It was a giddy, happy song written about all this alien shit I’d been interested in since… well, since I was born I guess! But it really became something when I saw Close Encounters Of The Third Kind in 1977. In those days I was trading VHS – most people were tape-trading for underground metal, but I was looking for documentaries on UFOs and shit from England and America. 

I saw this thing about Rendlesham, which was basically Roswell in the UK. There was a base there and in 1980 they had some crazy shit happening with floating lights and whatever. They were communicating with walkie talkies looking for this thing and that’s actually what you can hear in the intro. In the 80s I also saw these things about Roswell itself, so I figured I’d make my own contribution to writing a song about it.”

4. Hypocrisy - Slippin’ Away (Abducted, 1996)

“I wrote these two slow songs on Abducted, Roswell 47 and Slippin’ Away, because I’m a big fan of Pink Floyd. It’s also how I ended up forming PAIN, because Mikael and Lars [Szöke, drums] were like ‘just put these songs on, they’re cool!’ and I was thinking ‘man, we’ll get so much shit for this…’ and we did. If you look today on Spotify though, it's one of our most played songs but back then it really pushed me to start a solo project for the songs that didn’t really fit in with Hypocrisy. 

I felt like I had so much inside me that I needed to do a different band – at that point too so many of the death metal bands had started doing other things, whether that was more gothic stuff, more technical, more bluesy… There were so many different ways these bands were going and I didn’t want to do that with Hypocrisy so I decided to write different shit.”

5. PAIN – End Of The Line (Rebirth, 1999)

"Most people don’t even realize that our first album is the self-titled, they think it’s Rebirth. But, I didn’t really know what I was doing - I was experimenting with different styles and production. There was a bit of ‘this guy is supposed to be making death metal, what’s he doing with this industrial music?’ about it, but I was brought up with keyboards my whole life and my dad actually used to build Moog synthesisers as a hobby. He was totally hooked on Jean-Michelle Jarre and I picked that up too – one of my favourite albums is Oxygen

Anyway, by the second PAIN album I’d got my shit together and End Of The Line became a really fucking huge hit, especially in Sweden, Scandinavia... Europe even. I couldn’t go to my local grocery store without people wanting an autograph and I hated that shit. End Of The Line put PAIN on the map – problem is, I had no manager and only had my A&R guy David Mortimer-Hawkins, who really believed in me and was pushing for things. Without him I don’t know what would have happened – I don’t think PAIN would have been a thing.”

6. Lock Up – After Life In Purgatory (Pleasure Paves Sewers, 1999)

Shane [Embury] got in touch to say he was working on a new project with [ex-Cradle Of Filth/Dimmu Borgir drummer] Nick Barker, did I want to come record some vocals? I was like ‘hell yeah’ and went over, we were done within a couple of days. He was just feeding me one lyric after another and we were recording and recording, so by the time I got to listen to the final thing it was like ‘holy shit this is fucking cool!’ 

Honestly, you could pick any song from that first Lock Up album because it was so great to work on, but I really fucking love After Life In Purgatory. Nick has always been one of my favourite death metal drummers, even though he comes from black metal. That guy is a big-hitter – he could play any Neil Peart/Rush song.”

7. Bloodbath - Eaten (Nightmares Made Flesh, 2004)

"[Bloodbath guitarist Dan] Swanö calls me up one day and he’s like ‘hey man, you wanna come do some vocals for the next Bloodbath album?’ because Mikael [Akerfeldt] had something else going on at the time with Opeth. I wasn’t even really aware of Bloodbath until Swanö called and explained it, like ‘yeah it’s this band influenced by Entombed, Dismember and whatever’. 

I was listening to what they were doing previously and it was like ‘hey, somebody is keeping the torch alive!’ and it took me back to my influences of the late 80s/early 90s. Again, I went to the studio, rallied it in and when the album came out people were going crazy, which surprised me because I knew it was good, just not that good! Eaten was the ‘hit’ on that album but I think the whole album is insane.”

8. Pain – Zombie Slam (Psalms Of Extinction, 2007)

Mikkey Dee is a good friend of mine, so I knew I wanted to work with him for a while and asked him if he’d put drums on the track Zombie Slam, which I kind of imagined would have this Sweet Ballroom Blitz like tempo. I figured, he’s a good heavy metal drummer, we know each other and we’d hang out if ever we were playing locally and the other was available. He came to my studio and we nailed it out in a few hours, then went and got drunk. Zombie Slam was one of the only songs where I sing very gothic – this deep, Sisters Of Mercy type thing against an up-tempo song.”

9. Lindemann – Praise Abort (Skills In Pills, 2015)

“I became good friends with Till Lindemann around the late 90s, when Rammstein were working on Mutter. They were mixing in Stockholm and so we became friends because of how much time they spent there – they were mixing for a good eight or nine weeks. Each weekend they would fly home but Flake [Christian Lorenz] hated flying, so I invited him to come stay in my village, go to parties and stuff. In 2013, Till invited me to a festival in Sweden that Rammstein were headlining – he told me Rammstein planned to have a two-year break, so we should do something.

Whenever we were drunk we’d talk shit like that but this time it actually came about. Praise Abort is one that I think shocked a lot of people, but Ladyboy was the first song I’d written for him and when he sent me the lyrics back I was like ‘what the fuck?!’ because if it shocked me, so I knew it was gonna trigger something in other people! My eyebrows went up, so I figured it would be cool. For the video, we worked with the guy who’d done Mein Teil, Zoran Bihac. I’d never met the guy and the first thing he said to me was ‘you guys are PIGS!’ Like, yeah I know but what do you mean? He told us his idea for the video and we loved it. People freaked out about it!’”

10. The Dead World (Worship, 2021)

“I started writing songs with my son Sebastian around the summer of 2017, I think. He had a load of riffs and had actually started writing things around [2013’s] End Of Disclosure with the song Soldier Of Fortune, when he was 14. He also wrote Mathematik which we did for Lindemann; he’s a super talented kid, so in 2017 we just did this father-son thing where we had guitar and drums, demoing all these ideas we had and The Dead World was one of those. It gave me a bloody tooth to want to start writing again for Hypocrisy and between 2017 and 2019 I wrote Worship.

The lyrics come from everything I see going around – like with Chemical Whore, I’ve known a lot of people who’ve got hooked on pills or whatever. They go to a doctor with problems and instead of going to a shrink to talk those things through, they take these pills because they’re convenient. But then, they need more. They’re told it’ll chill them out, make them feel good but it also makes them really docile. We wrote that in 2018 and filmed the video in September 2019, but now you’ll see comments like ‘is this an anti-vax song?’ – whatever, man.”

Worship is out now via Nuclear Blast

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.