The Gauntlet: Congratulations on Therion’s 20th anniversary, first of all.
Johan Niemann: Ah, thank you.
The Gauntlet: So, you were last here in 2005 for a tour that included ProgPower….
Johan Niemann: Yep.
Gauntlet: And that was where I first saw Therion.
Johan: At Progpower?
Gauntlet: At Progpower. Phenomenal show. I actually remember seeing you and Kristian outside walking to the tour bus. And I waved, and you waved back. And ever since, I’ve thought, ‘Maybe I should have gone over and said something,’ but now you are back, so, now I finally get to. And I read that that tour had some…issues?
Johan: Mm-hmm, yeah. We had a bus that didn’t really work all that well, so it broke down two or three times and we had to cancel shows. We had to cancel Denver and a few other shows as well, and some didn’t have enough pre-sales, so they had to be cancelled because of that. And we were supposed to play New Orleans, but…bad timing.
Gauntlet: Yeah. yeah.
Johan: It was a lot of weird shit that happened. And we had some members on that tour that are not with us anymore that were not very stable, drinking-wise.
Gauntlet: That’ll do it. And you have a lot of members to deal with, so I can see how that would….
Johan: Yeah. We had, like, 10 people in the band, plus crew, so we were about 14 in the bus that’s breaking down all the time.
Gauntlet: Definitely a lot to deal with.
Johan: For eight weeks.
Gauntlet: It seems like every metal tour bus just breaks down. There’s something wrong with the karma, I don’t’ know.
Johan: Yeah! Too much devil-worshipping or something.
Gauntlet: Hah, yeah, it’s got to be. But I had assumed that tour went well if you guys are coming back now.
Johan: No…it didn’t really go that well, and I don’t know how we are here.
Gauntlet: Have you had a better go this time around? Well, I know that there have been some issues, but overall?
Johan: Well, this time we have a bus that’s working, and the whole vibe in the band is a lot better. We don’t pull that many people, but the people that do show up are really into it, so we just keep our fingers crossed. And we don’t have a lot of gigs left; it’s a much shorter tour, so….
Gauntlet: And as far as the support goes, I’d read that you’d had some problems with support the last time around. This time, do you know how that worked out, as far as the bands you were bringing in to tour with?
Johan: Well, last time we had a new band pretty much at every show.
Gauntlet: The local ones?
Johan: Yeah, pretty much. For four, five, maybe six shows we had a Boston-based band called Beyond the Embrace, with three guitar players, I think. So we had those guys for about six shows, and that was cool. And this time around we have Aesma Daeva…however you pronounce it.
Gauntlet: Hah. Something like that. I wasn’t sure myself.
Johan: And then Lori, who is singing with us…
Gauntlet: Is their singer, too, yes?
Gauntlet: And they’re with you the entire tour?
Johan: Yes, so that’s great. Actually get to know people and get familiar with their music.
Gauntlet: Definitely. Build up some dynamic together. A few weeks ago—maybe it was a month, time flies—Finntroll were coming through and doing the local bands for each show, and it’s a great way to find out some new bands—
Gauntlet: But it makes things more difficult at the same time…
Johan: Yeah. But, of course, when you do get those occasional support bands that are really good, it’s like, ‘Woooow. Fuck!’
Johan: And we actually had a few that were like, ‘This is great, I have to buy this CD.’ There’s a band in Ft. Worth, Texas, or maybe they’re from Dallas or that area. They’re called Shaolin Death Squad.
Gauntlet: Oh, that sounds familiar, but I don’t know if I’ve heard it.
Johan: Fucking awesome. They sound kind of like Mr. Bungle, that sort of vibe. They wear masks and these clothes so they kind of look like doll, almost. (He whistles) Awesome. And another…in Minneapolis last time we had a band, or a guy, who called himself Salubrious Invertebrae. Just one guy with tons of analog keyboards, loops things, just for soundscapes. Fucking awesome. So it’s just, buy the CD, thank you, buy the CD, thank you…
Gauntlet: So you’ve got quite a good selection from the American scene.
Gauntlet: Reminds me of a time my friend in Australia saw Boris, and there was a guy [Justice Yeldham] who opened for them who literally had a sheet of glass with some electrode-thing hooked up to it, and he would run it all over his face and make sounds into the glass, and that would be the entire show. Just crazy.
Gauntlet: And by the end of the show, he was bleeding all over, because he was gnawing at it, trying to chew it, and do all these insane wretched things to it. I listened to some live recordings—at the end there are people just going mad for it. If I were witnessing it…I just don’t know…
Johan: Hah, yeah. Wow. That’s crazy.
Gauntlet: Alright. So, now I have some Therion questions. I didn’t know whom I’d be speaking to, so some of these may be for Christofer, but we’ll see how they adapt.
Gauntlet: So, if you and your brother are in this band, I would imagine that you guys would be drawn to a lot of the same sort of influence that inspired a lot of the original experimentation in the band—the classical music, and that sort of thing. Is that so?
Johan: Hmm, yeah. There’s some overlap.
Gauntlet: (Laughs) Well, alright. Actually, this is good. We’d usually hear about Christofer’s influence, but not so much about you two. So, was that influence an early one with you or just more as you’ve come into Therion?
Johan: Ah, yeah, the latter. Because I was never into classical music as a kid. It was Kiss, Iron Maiden, Metallica, you know. (Pounds fist) Yesss, metal.
Johan: And it wasn’t until Therion…. Well, of course, I listened to Frank Zappa, and he did some classical-rooted stuff. And when I was in school I was introduced into some more modernist composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen and really weird stuff.
Gauntlet: The avant-garde.
Johan: Yeah. Which I really liked. (Laughs) Awesome stuff. But of course I’d heard the popular pieces, like Mozart’s and Beethoven’s, but I hadn’t really sat down and listened to it. And I still prefer the weirder, experimental, noise stuff.
Gauntlet: Are you familiar with Schönberg?
Gauntlet: Back in my early college days, I took a music course and they had a piece of his, I forget what it was called [Der Mondfleck], but the first line was, “Einen weißen Fleck des hellen Mondes,” and it was this really exotic experimental vocal piece with all these crazy loops and trills. Talking about a piece of the moon falling off onto one’s shoulder, brushing it off, and so on. Really out there.
Johan: Wow…sounds great! (Laughs)
Gauntlet: Yeah, yeah. And I think it’s not something everyone thinks about when they consider ‘Classical Music’.
Johan: Yeah, definitely.
Gauntlet: And you had mentioned Frank Zappa and all. I read that some of the progressive rock scene helped Christofer bring back all the elements together that tied Therion together. So, have you gotten into the prog rock scene at all?
Johan: Oh, yeah. That started, for me, anyway, with me kind of easing my way into it, through Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, and then reading interviews with those guys. I kept hearing Yes, Kansas, Genesis, King Crimson…
Johan: ‘Hmm! I have records to buy.’ So I’m a huge fan of those bands, Jethro Tull and so on. And there’s this French band—awesome—Magma.
Gauntlet: Yes! Oh, they are outstanding.
Johan: (Points) Yes.
Gauntlet: I remember hearing that and thinking it was mindblowing, and it’s from so long ago, too. The kind of thing people would still call ground-breaking today.
Johan: Oh, yeah, yeah. Definitely. Invented their own fucking language and stuff. (Barks and growls in imitation) ‘…What?’
Gauntlet: Amazing, it really is. And actually, I was just listening to your new record on the way to the show. I got it just recently as a promo, and it’s the one split into 99 tracks, which is still kind of frustrating, but anyway. There’s one song, I can’t recall specifically, right after ‘Tuna 1613’. ‘Trul’, maybe?
Johan: Mm-hmm. Probably that one.
Gauntlet: And there’s a flute passage in that one that had me thing, ‘This is Jethro Tull.’ So I like that influence, you can definitely hear it coming through.
Johan: Oh, yeah. Our drummer Petter wrote that song, and he is a huge Jethro Tull fan. And fortunately we know a guy in Sweden [Rolf Pilotti], a great singer and great guy. And he actually is a very good flute player, and he also is a huge Tull fan. So it was, ‘You have to play. Get in here. Here’s the microphone. Pretend you’re in the band. Just…go.’
Johan: So, just five, six, seven takes. Cut the best parts, and that’s it.
Gauntlet: I remember when I was in Germany a couple years ago and saw a poster for a Jethro Tull concert. And there was Ian Anderson in his little do-rag and psychedelic outfit, with the flute, and he was just rocking out. I don’t know, I guess people just overlook the fact that orchestral instruments can have a rock slant.
Johan: Yeah, yeah. Hopefully.
Gauntlet: Speaking of that, then, and genres. Do you as a group really feel connected to the metal scene, do you not care about the genres that get attached to you, or…?
Johan: You get these comparisons with different bands, and yeah, I’ve heard some of them…. Within Temptation, Nightwish, of course, and you get some newer bands like Epica and Blah, Blah, and Blah. But I don’t’ know, I’m not too interested. I can listen to it and it’s like, ‘Okay, this is good. I hear it,’ you know? I hear the stuff that they’re doing, but…(shrugs)
Gauntlet: Doesn’t do it for you?
Johan: No. Actually, a lot of metal—I don’t want to sound negative, but—a lot of metal these days I don’t like.
Gauntlet: How so?
Johan: It’s just so boring, you know? There’s no vision. I mean, I like Nile, for example. They’re awesome. Of course there are bands that are really, really good. Quite a few of them. But you do have to search continually. I mean, I turn on MTV ‘Headbanger’s Ball’ and it’s like—(sighs) ‘Come on!’ I’ve heard it all before. But, fortunately, there is good music, so…
Gauntlet: I absolutely know what you mean. And unfortunately it seems like so much of the music that does succeed is the stuff that lacks that vision.
Johan: Mm, yeah, yeah.
Gauntlet: Now, before you came to Therion did you think you could play in a band that had all the operatic elements and so forth?
Johan: Oh, no, never. (laughs) Actually, it’s pretty funny. My brother joined, like, six months before I did and he gave me the ‘Vovin’ CD and was like, ‘Yeah, this is the band I’m playing with.’ I listened to it and said, ‘That’s the weirdest shit I have ever heard!’ Because I had never heard anything like it. ‘What are you trying to do?’ It’s got the drums and it’s heavy, but then the (high-pitched) ‘La la la’ and the (low-pitched) ‘La la la’…. ‘What the fuck? Okay, good luck to you’, you know? And then it was like, ‘You want to go to Germany and record an album?’ And I said, ‘Ah, yeah. Yes I would.’ And that was that. It’s cool. Obviously it’s broadened my horizons and stuff, and that’s always good, but I never imagined myself playing this kind of music.
Gauntlet: I assume you’ve taken well to it, though.
Johan: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Gauntlet: Well, it sounds good. I mean, I can say that much.
Johan: Well, we hope so.
Gauntlet: And, at the time, I know that all of you have other projects that you’ve been in, but at the time were you up to anything?
Johan: Yeah. Actually, I’m still in that band. It’s called Mind’s Eye, a kind of progressive thing. And we had done our second record, I think, and were starting to write our third. And it things just weren’t happening for us. Sure, we had a deal, but we didn’t get out to play or do anything. So that was really frustrating. So this was good timing.
Gauntlet: Yes. Hah. I was amazed reading your press material to find out how many albums Therion has sold. Because here in the States, as you no doubt know, it’s not as easy to make the transition, but it’s just tremendous, some of your albums sales. Which is definitely good to hear, I think.
Gauntlet: Definitely. And hopefully this second time will help.
Gauntlet: And then, as far as the songwriting you mentioned—I was under the impression that Christofer did most of the compositions himself, but on this most recent album there are a lot of other members getting involved. But, I’d read that a lot of this album was written at the same time as ‘Lemuria’ and ‘Sirius B’?
Johan: Mm, not really. I’m sure Christofer had songs since way back that he brought to the table, I can’t say for sure which songs were written when. But, yeah, Christofer had written most of the stuff in the past, but for this record I wrote two songs, Petter our drummer wrote five, I think—so he’s the one with the most songs on the record. My brother wrote two…two? Or one and a half or something like that. ‘Wisdom and the Cage’ and the middle part of the last song, ‘Adulruna…’, with Christofer. And Mats, our previous singer, he wrote some as well.
Gauntlet: I remember reading all the names, but I can’t quite remember. Which were the ones you had the biggest hand in writing?
Johan: I wrote ‘Perennial Sophia’ and ‘Chain of Minerva’.
Gauntlet: Mm. I remember first listening to ‘The Perennial Sophia’ and thinking, ‘This is kinda weird,’ but the more I listen to it the more I think, ‘Man, this is really catchy,’ and I’m having a hard time getting this one out of my head.
Johan: Oh, good.
Gauntlet: And a review I read said it was actually the “best ballad” that Therion had ever written. Just passing that on….
Johan: Thank you, wow. (pause) Yay!
Gauntlet: And was that kind of a conscious decision—that Christofer said, ‘Hey, guys, what have you got’? Or did it just come together that way?
Johan: He was very open. He said, ‘I want to hear songs, I want to hear stuff, and we’ll choose the songs that will go best together,’ and hopefully the ones that everybody likes. So it was a very democratic decision. We actually didn’t even want to make a double. We said, ‘We actually want to make ONE CD,’ because the last one was a double and it was a real pain to sit there and record and record and record and you never see the finished product. So we didn’t want to do that. So we thought, ‘We’ll choose this many songs, record everything, but not put everything on the record.’ So, that way, you get some stuff that doesn’t turn out as well as you’d hope, so you could throw this out or that out and still have a really, really good album. Unfortunately, or fortunately, most of the stuff turned out really well. We think, anyway. So we were all, ‘Oh, fuck, what are we going to do?’
Johan: We couldn’t just cut it. So then we said, ‘Okay, let’s edit some songs!’ Like, does this part really need to go four times? Can it go…twice? Cut that, cut that. But still too long. So we said, ‘Fuck it, leave them all in, and go for two records.’ (shrugs)
Gauntlet: Do you think, for your next record you’re going to say, ‘We have to condense this’, or will you just expect a double next time, too?
Johan: Ah, that’s hard to say. We’ll probably try to go for…one. See how that goes.
Gauntlet: If it turns out to be two, I won’t be disappointed.
Johan: Me neither, actually. It’s fun. It is pretty difficult to choose songs to play, of course, when you have, ‘Oh! I want to play that and that, oh, that would be great!’ But…hello…we would need four hours.
Gauntlet: Hah. And then your back catalogue, too, and all the songs that you ‘have’ to play.
Johan: Yeah, exactly. It’s always difficult to put together our live set. Sure, we’re going to be out there for quite a while. I mean, we are here, after all. But we don’t want to bore anyone by playing three hours.
Gauntlet: How long are you playing?
Johan: Is it an hour forty five? Hour fifty?
Gauntlet: Either way, that’s probably the longest set I’ve seen for a headliner at this venue.
Johan: Yeah? Oh, okay.
Gauntlet: Most play an hour, hour twenty.
Johan: Well, we’ll be playing longer than that.
Gauntlet: Good, good. And then, as far as the lyrics go, with Thomas doing them…Do you have much interaction with him? Does he do sit-ins with the writing of the music, or…?
Johan: Mm, that actually works kind of weird. I’m not a very vocal type of person. I don’t really any lyrics to any song. Ever.
Johan: I hear the vocals and go, ‘Okay, nice voice, good melody,’ but they could be singing about hamburgers for all I care. So, the way I write, I write instrumental stuff and go, ‘Okay, this is what I think, this is the chorus, this is the verse’, you know. Fortunately we have guys who are much more…
Johan: Yeah, yeah. Especially Petter, our drummer, who’s a real, real talent. He wrote vocal melodies for all his songs, of course, for my songs, and for some parts of my brother’s as well.
Johan: Yeah, he’s awesome. And the way we do it, we’ll record a demo thing: programmed drums, crap guitars, and everything. And then he puts some kind of vocals on it. Not even real lyrics, just the melody.
Gauntlet: Vocalise, sure.
Johan: Yeah. And then send it to Thomas, get the song with the melody and the syllables, I guess, sort of… Because it doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s the right rhythms and everything. And then he tries to fit lyrics around that. And we’ve actually gone a bit back and forth on this record, going, ‘Okay, this word is not a good word to say here. It’s too weird to sing.’ So if there’s another word that means the same thing, then, okay, switch around. So, it took a while, but I think it turned out quite okay.
Gauntlet: Huh. I had assumed that he sent you the lyrics and you guys wrote the songs from that.
Gauntlet: Interesting… It’s an unusual dynamic.
Johan: Oh, yeah.
Gauntlet: But it turns out a unique product that works. So, what about Therion’s lyrics? Are you aware of those, or…?
Johan: Eh, I catch a few lines here and there, but—
Johan: But it’s the same thing with the themes. I’m not too familiar with these subjects. If I say I’m not too interested I’m going to sound like a complete moron, but…
Johan: Not too…learned?
Johan: Yeah. It doesn’t pique my interest in that way, I guess. Christofer, of course, he and Thomas are very much into these things. And for me it’s like, ‘Uh…?’ (laughs) It doesn’t really mean anything to me.
Gauntlet: Too out there? That was another one of my questions. Because it’s so prevalent in the lyrics. There are no songs like, ‘I love this girl, she’s pretty cool, this is our song.’ Everything is so involved with the Gnostic and spiritual themes and—
Johan: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I do read the lyrics. (Laughs) When I get the lyrics it’s like, ‘Oh, cool, let’s give it a try.’ And there’s some serious work put into this. Seriously awesome. So, I definitely appreciate it that way. But, it’s just…I’d need to read too many books to get this.
Gauntlet: I know what you mean. There’s just so much. It’s intimidating, really.
Johan: Yeah. So, I just…(waves hands over head)
Gauntlet: Okay, I see. Another question…I was interested about the combination of elements. Obviously there are the symphonic elements and then the straight up heavy metal elements, and the two are joined together very well. So, as far as the songwriting goes, does Christofer put those elements on over you guys rock ‘n’ roll, or…?
Johan: Yeah. In my songs, definitely. Although there isn’t that much orchestration on those I’ve written so far. But definitely. I write guitar, bass, drums, and then say, ‘Here,’ and it seems to work very well for that. And then Petter and my brother as well, if they have something they want in their songs, like a string part or a piano or some weird synthesizer thing, then they write that and put it into their demo and say, ‘Here, orchestrate it.’ However you want, either way, you know? But, yeah, he definitely gets the songs and if he gets any ideas he says, ‘It could be cool with this kind of part,’ or whatever.
Gauntlet: Kind of spices it up?
Gauntlet: That make sense.
Johan: And he writes with that whole thing. He hears all of the orchestration when he writes, of course. But since I haven’t listened to that much of that type of music, I don’t hear it the same way. I still hear guitar, bass, and drums. But it’s really interesting to hear something that you write and have in your head and think, ‘Ok, this is going to be cool,’ and then give it to someone else, and it becomes—(whistles an epic imitation).
Gauntlet: Hah, and then there your name is on the songwriting credit.
Johan: Yeah, that’s pretty neat.
Gauntlet: And so, do you ever have a moment like: ‘I want this crazy instrument—I don’t even know what it’s called, but it sounds like…’?
Johan: (Laughs) Well, I do, I do know how the instruments sound. But, yeah, definitely, I’ll say, ‘It would be great with a certain string part here or a horn (blaring imitation) would be awesome. Can you…do something…please?’
Gauntlet: Hah. ‘Make it epic.’ But, that reminds me of the first part of ‘Der Mitternachtlöwe’ where the horns come in at the beginning. It feels rock ‘n’ roll, you know?
Johan: Yeah, definitely. And you know, that’s so cool, because it starts with the ‘dun dun dun’ (getting louder), and then when the drums come in there’s no guitar there. There’s no guitar.
Gauntlet: But there doesn’t have to be. It’s heavy without it.
Johan: Exactly. It’s really weird. You’re thinking, ‘Why does that work?’ Because there are guitars and then when the drums come in, no guitars. But it works. (Shrugs, nods in Christofer’s general direction)
Gauntlet: Hah. Hats off. I think that that’s something that a lot of people overlook, especially in heavy metal where we’re so obsessed with distortion, you know, that classical music, for its era was pretty heavy at times.
Johan: Yeah. Oh, yeah. They did some crazy stuff, definitely. (Beethoven’s 5th imitation) ‘Dun dun dun dunnn!’
Gauntlet: Yeah! And then pieces like Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D’.
Johan: Oh, yeah. Whew.
Gauntlet: I was taking a Music History course and the professor mentioned that, at the time, the baroque organ was the most complex machine on the earth. I thought that was pretty cool.
Johan: Oh, yeah…. And still, they managed to write some pretty cool stuff. Hah.
Gauntlet: And, that reminded me of another thing. Do you know Converge?
Johan: Converge…kind of a punk thing…?
Gauntlet: Yeah, kinda, based out of Boston
Johan: I know the name, but I haven’t heard them.
Gauntlet: Well, your shirt reminded me. I think they’re a great band, by the way.
Johan: (looks at shirt) Splitter? You’ve heard them?
Gauntlet: Oh, yes.
Gauntlet: I remember there was one song, I forget the name just now [Haveri], but it was one of the most brutal and phenomenal gory/grind tracks I’d ever heard.
Johan: …The Swedish band?
Johan: Wow. Cool.
Gauntlet: I’m still trying to find their record in stores. Gotta get my hands on it, because that’s some wicked stuff.
Johan: They are fucking awesome.
Gauntlet: Yeah. But, anyway, if you like them, you might like Converge. It’s just crazy, manic stuff, but it has some really epic elements to it as well. The reason I bring it up, is that there’s a song where they don’t use any guitars either. It’s just drums and vocals. It’s something like 50 seconds long, and it’s one of the most intense songs I’ve ever heard [Phoenix in Flames]. The drummer’s just brutalizing the toms and the vocals are sickening. I will write it down for you, I think you would like.
Johan: Oh, yeah. Please do.
Gauntlet: Okay. But to go back to ‘Der Mitternachtlöwe’, the first time I heard it, I was thinking that maybe I wanted some guitars there, because it seemed maybe too light, but the more you think about it the more it just fits, you know? And that’s an important element.
Johan: Yeah, yeah. But I wanted guitars there, too, so—
Johan: But that would be obvious. So it’s like, ‘Okay, okay, you can leave it out.’ But of course, when we play live there are the blasting guitars there.
Gauntlet: Good, good. I was wondering how that was going to work. Are you playing that this evening?
Johan: Yes. First song.
Gauntlet: Good. Alright, so, back to…the progressive elements really coming through on the new album…And was that result of an idea that was thrown out there or you guys coming together with your own ideas?
Johan: I don’t know, maybe we had an original plan, but you usually never stick to that. (Laughs) It just sort of happened, because we’re all fans of that type of music. And we did want to feature some more playing, because the last couple records have had a lot more focus on the vocals and the orchestration. Where, you know, the drums are pretty simple, the guitars…
Gauntlet: The basic chords—
Johan: Yeah, pretty simple stuff. So we wanted to change that around a little bit. Not to make it too obvious, like ‘Woohoo, we’re Dream Theater,’—
Johan: You know, obviously we’re not the right band for that. But just a little bit, bits and pieces here and there, you know.
Gauntlet: That’s good. You know, this is the first records where you guys—you and your brother especially—are just kind of turned loose, in terms of performance. I forget which song it was [The Chain of Minerva] with a bass phrase that repeats through a lot of the song. And there are some parts of it where it’s pretty much just the bass in terms of melody, and I don’t remember another Therion song where I’ve heard the bass take that much of the forefront.
Johan: Yeah, I got a lot more room on this record. Which is really cool, because I like to play (laughs). And fortunately, the guys like bass, too, so, I got pretty much free reign, I guess.
Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. And you’d mentioned school—was this school for music?
Johan: Ah, yeah. I did, what was it, 10th through 12th grade I studied music. You can actually chose in those grades what you want to focus on, so there’s construction, for example, and other stuff. I chose music and went to another school after that for just one year, and that was to study music production and sound engineering. But during that we also had lessons for theory and arranging and stuff like that, too.
Gauntlet: I wish we had that sort of focus here. Gotta wait until you get to college. But again, I’m glad to hear you guys getting more room. You two especially, because I think that that you are really underrated musicians.
Johan: Mm, thank you.
Gauntlet: And Kristian is just a phenomenal guitarist, and you really don’t hear much of him until very recently. And then it’s just…wow.
Johan: Yeah, yeah….he’s nuts.
Gauntlet: Yeah. I had read somewhere that you started playing before he did—is that right?
Johan: Ah, no. He started first when he was sixteen or seventeen or something. I started maybe a year after that. Something like that.
Gauntlet: Well, that’s definitely reassuring that those of us, myself included, who didn’t take it up until more recently can still turn out well.
Johan: (Laughs) Oh, yeah. It’s never too late.
Gauntlet: So, then—just curious—if you had to choose one of your favorite bands from that progressive rock movement, who would it be?
Johan: Mm, King Crimson.
Gauntlet: Oh, you are a good man. Let me shake your hand. They…(whistles)
Johan: Yeah, definitely. I agree. Because some bands from back then have gotten kind of...
Johan: Yeah. But, for me, personally, there’s stuff on every Crimson record that makes me go, ‘Fucking hell…’ They still do relevant stuff that is still awesome. ‘The Power to Believe’—oh, my god! ‘ConstruKction of Light’—what the fuck?
Johan: I love those records! But people are like, ‘King Crimson? Isn’t that, like, some 70’s band?’ No!
Gauntlet: Not anymore!
Johan: No! You know? And then the 80’s stuff, like ‘Discipline’ and ‘Beat’—
Gauntlet: Those were the first albums I got. The bass on ‘Neal and Jack and Me’—
Johan: (throws up hands and shakes head in amazement)
Gauntlet: I love that song. The bass in that song that just blew me away.
Johan: Oh, yeah. Awesome.
Gauntlet: And especially live, too. There’s a song called ‘The Deception of the Thrush’, do you know that song?
Johan: Ohhh, yes.
Gauntlet: The turn in that song, how it just transforms…
Johan: Oh, it is…have you seen them live? I saw them once.
Gauntlet: No, I haven’t. But I must. Where was that?
Johan: That was…it must have been the ‘Power to Believe’ tour in Stockholm. It was…un-believable. That was the best show I’ve ever seen. It was like, ‘Ahh, ok. I’ve got to go home and practice.’
Gauntlet :I know what you mean.
Johan: And only four people! Making that much noise, it’s amazing.
Gauntlet: It’s either, ‘I’m going to go home and practice’ or, ‘Go home and quit,’ you know? What else can you do?
Johan: (Laughs) Yes, yes.
Gauntlet: Stunning. Okay…back to Therion….Ah, another thing about this new album, with all this progressive stuff it also sounds like you guys are just having fun. I mean, it sounds like you’ve been enjoying it and into it as long as you’ve been in the band, but this album in particular just sounded like you were enjoying yourselves especially.
Johan: Yeah. We were in a good place when we did this, It was a lot of fun. It felt really exciting with the new stuff. And the previous records, the two previous, were done in the Therion studio, as we have a rehearsal space that we’ve built into a studio. Which, yes, is really nice in one way, because you can record whenever you want, but I don’t’ know. Sometimes you need a change of scenery. So we actually recorded the drums in a “proper” studio this time, and it also felt really good to know—before going into the recording—who was going to mix it. It’s a guy named Stefan Glaumann, who’s done Rammstein and a lot of stuff. I think he did the new Within Temptation as well, the latest Europe record…which actually sounds pretty good.
Johan: I must say. And he’s a really cool, cool guy. So that felt really good, and it was lot of fun to know that we’re going to record it here, the drums are going to sound awesome, and we’re going to do the guitars and bass here, and that guy’s going to mix it so it’s going to kick ass. Hopefully. And it did, it turned out really well, I think so.
Gauntlet: A lot of stuff to deal with.
Johan: Oh, yeah.
Gauntlet: I mean, those other bands have some really good, thick sounds, Rammstein especially. And all the Gothic bands. They just have amazing production, I don’t know how they do it.
Johan: Yeah! It’s just—(raises arms and does wall of sound guitar imitation)
Gauntlet: Even if they’re just going through the motions, it just sounds so good.
Johan: Yeah, absolutely.
Gauntlet: And, definitely good to hear that you’ve found a good production niche. With some past Therion albums, even when there’s so much there to listen to, it’s harder to pick things out. It’s not there waiting for you.
Johan: Yeah, it’s difficult. There are a lot of things to consider. Of course, the arrangement is one thing; it has to be well arranged, which as you progress as a composer and arranger you get better. But also, it helps to have the actual right sounds as well, and the more you write and record the better your ears become. And of course it’s good to have outside help as well, in terms of mixing and stuff like that.
Gauntlet: And then, since being in Therion more, you said you’ve been listening to more classical music?
Johan: Mm, yes. But it’s more of the modern thing. There’s this French guy…probably dead—
Johan: Of course, most guys are. Olivier Messiaen?
Gauntlet: Sounds familiar.
Johan: The stuff that I really like is for organ. Just really—whew—far out stuff. I really like that, but also some just piano stuff. Like Rachmaninoff or Prokofiev, just the pure piano concerts. Really nice, I like that a lot. I think more so than the big opera. For me, that can get a bit hysterical.
Gauntlet: So, when you listen to that now, do you pick out elements that it shares with metal, or more as a separate thing?
Johan: Mm, both, actually. I do listen to hear what stuff you can…steal. ‘Oh, wow, that’s really cool, you don’t hear that in metal.’ That certain chord progression or that chord and a certain melody. That’s really cool. And also just to get a different perspective, also.
Gauntlet: And I suppose it makes sense now, thinking about it, but you were talking about the Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa, the stuff that you liked, and then Therion, which is pretty straightforward. But that’s just been the environment…
Gauntlet: So, your own writing, with Mind’s Eye, that’s the sort of thing you usually write on your own?
Johan: Ah, yeah. Probably. I’m not as out there as Zappa or Mr. Bungle; I try to keep with…
Gauntlet: Song structures?
Johan: Yeah, definitely. For me, Queensrÿche and Fates Warning were so huge at a very critical point, so that was a good starting point for me. Somehow or another its going to sound a little bit like that, maybe.
Gauntlet: And that’s not a bad thing, because they strike a good balance.
Johan: Yeah. I think so.
Gauntlet: At this year’s ProgPower there was a band called Redemption, do you know them?
Johan: Mm, no.
Gauntlet: They have Ray Alder on vocals, of Fates Warning.
Johan: Ohh, dear.
Gauntlet: It’s more straightforward with more crazy guitar soloing and drum stuff going on. But they were pretty good. You might like them. Are you familiar with Pagan’s Mind?
Johan: Yeah, Norwegians.
Gauntlet: Yep. They were there as well.
Johan: Oh, yeah! Yeah, they were.
Gauntlet: They’re another band, just in terms of mixing rock elements with prog tendencies, that have a great combination.
Johan: We did, actually, a ProgPower UK…2005, 2006? Whenever that was. Not this year. Whenever it was. We did it with Pagan’s Mind and…Threshold, I think, and I must say, Pagan’s Mind were really good.
Gauntlet: They blew the audience away.
Johan: I’m not going to say too much, in case any of the other bands read this interview (laughs), but they were probably the best band there, I think. For sure. Because some bands go on stage and nothing happens. They just look at their guitars and, ‘Hello, sorry, we’re going to try to play a song for you. Sorry.’
Johan: But they were—(shakes fist and strikes a dramatic pose)
Gauntlet: Yes, yes. And I was glad that Therion did that too, at ProgPower, because I wasn’t sure if you wou.d But you guys were really rocking out.
Johan: Yes, that was the best show on that tour, definitely, for us. Because everyone seemed to have the right amount of energy and we had so much fun. I think we had a couple really crap shows before that and we had one or two days off before that show. So we were like—(taps foot and looks jittery, excited).
Gauntlet: Hah. ‘This had better be good’?
Johan: Oh, yeah. And Stratovarius were headlining, and we really wanted to…sorry, but, we wanted to—(pounds fist).
Gauntlet: I know what you mean, yeah. And, let’s see…. Oh, Christofer has talked some about using different, exotic scales that he’s used, bringing in different elements for various themes. In your writing, do you use Western traditional melody or do you try to incorporate other things?
Johan: Oh, that kind of depends. I don’t really do that much using the more exotic stuff. It’s really cool to play around with, but everything I do with that kind of stuff tends to come out sounding like Nile.
Johan: Because I really like them. It’s like—(imitates heavy riff)… ‘Oh, sorry, that’s a Nile song.’ But of course, if you write that kind of stuff on guitar and bass, it can sound like that. But if you put those same kind of melodies on a more traditional instrument, like a lute or something, then of course it’s not going to sound as much like Nile. But I think for me personally I do more of the Western type.
Gauntlet: There was one scale I saw him mention: the Persian scale, as opposed to the Arabic scale. Are you familiar with it?
Johan: Ahh, no. Probably with the sound, you know, but not…
Gauntlet: Right. It was really kind of frustrating actually, because it makes you think about how many zillions of scales there are.
Johan: Oh, yeah.
Gauntlet: But it goes, ‘1, flat 2, 3, 4, flat 5, 6, sharp 7.’
Gauntlet: So there are those three chromatic steps and then a step and half, very strange.
Johan: Well, cool.
Gauntlet: I tried experimenting with it and didn’t really come up with anything.
Johan: (mock surprise)
Johan: But of course, it’s really fun to play around, and sometimes you find something and say, ‘Oh, this actually makes sense,’ and you can do something with it. And others it’s like, ‘Mm, no. Not so much.’ There’s the diminished, not just the arpeggio, but the scale, do you know it?
Johan: So it’s like, ‘whole, half’, or ‘half, whole’. Which is really cool, you can really come up with stuff from that.
Gauntlet: Yeah. Easy to remember, too.
Johan: (Laughs) Yeah, that too. So it’s always nice to get the new…colors to play around with. You’ll try something new and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s fun to experiment, anyway.
Gauntlet: Have you seen Nile play?
Johan: Mm-hmm. I saw them twice. We were in Japan last week—
Gauntlet: Last week? Well, this is the ‘World Tour’, after all, so…
Johan: Yeah, this weekend. And there’s a festival called Loud Park. It’s two days—we were there for the first day—and Heaven & Hell headlined that first day. So I got to see them, too, and that was nice. Nile played that day as well, so I got to see them again. And that was…fucking awesome.
Gauntlet: Hah. They’re heavy.
Johan: Ahh, yeah. They’re really good. And Karl, actually, broke his foot or something, maybe pulled a muscle. Because he does the Tae-Kwon-Do?
Gauntlet: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Johan: And I saw him on crutches and was like, ‘What have you done?’ He says, ‘Oh, well, yeah, I do Tae-Kwon-Do, and just last week, there’s this kick you do, and—(still sitting, imitates kick and collapse). ‘Mm smart move.’
Gauntlet: But he’s ok? And they still played?
Johan: Yeah! Oh, yeah. And they were great.
Gauntlet: So, had you been to Japan before?
Johan: No, it was the first time. I thought it went really well. We only had 40 minutes, so we tried to play the songs that involve more theatrical things with the singers, so they could move around quite a bit. We took those songs because most of the other bands are just metal bands and they’re just going to stand there and go—(headbangs in place) “Heavy Metal!” So, maybe we’ll do something that will be more of a difference, I guess. And from what I heard from our record label, apart from Heaven & Hell, of course, supposedly Therion got lots of good response. So hopefully, hopefully we can go back there. We’d love to go back. Everything was really super-organized and just on-the-fucking-minute. (Taps invisible watch) ‘Hey, you’re going to be on in—30 seconds. Hope you’re ready.’ And then 40 minutes, exactly, it’s like—(makes cut gesture across throat), ‘Okay, sure!’ But everyone was really nice and just awesome, great experience.
Gauntlet: And where did you fly to after that?
Johan: Ah, back to LA. Because we’d done South America, we flew to San Francisco for the first show, and did San Francisco for the first show, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, Tokyo, back to Los Angeles to get the tour bus, and the first show after that was Denver.
Gauntlet: So was the flight to Japan as rough as I’ve heard it is?
Johan: No, it was quite okay, actually. Long. But I slept.
Gauntlet: You’re lucky, I’ve never been able to sleep on planes.
Johan: Yeah, me neither, but I just, for some reason—(head onto hands) out like a light.
Gauntlet: Both times?
Gauntlet: Nicely done. And you know, that would make sense that the more theatrical, stage-oriented material would go over well with the local audiences there, what with Kabuki theater and the historical, cultural things.
Johan: Yeah, there were a lot of happy faces, so—(shrugs) that’s good for us.
Gauntlet: Ah, this next one may not apply, you not being as much of a vocal person. But, when you are writing as a band, do you take into account the present vocalist that you’re dealing with, beyond just the symphonic and operatic back-up? Like the lead vocalists: Snowy Shaw, for example, or even Ralf Scheepers on ‘The Wild Hunt’, that sort of thing. Do you think about that?
Johan: Ah…that is a very good question. Hm.
Gauntlet: Don’t mean to put you on the spot here—
Johan: Well, I think that most of the melodies were written. Like, ‘This melody should be sung by a female with that certain type of voice.’ And, actually, for this record there were a few places where we were like, ‘Ok, this section needs something more theatrical, more aggressive.’ Just way out there.
Gauntlet: There are some pretty weird vocal performances.
Gauntlet: And was Mats the one who did those?
Johan: No, that’s probably Snowy. Yeah, he’s the weird guy. As far as the more extreme stuff, that’s definitely Snowy. And, fortunately, Petter—again (laughs)—knows Snowy from way back. And he was like, ‘This would be perfect for Snowy!’ And we were—(looking surprised) ‘Do you think he’d be up for it?’ He said, ‘He’s awesome!’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, sure, worth a call.’
Gauntlet: So he brought Snowy in?
Johan: Yeah, yeah. We said, ‘Can you do the tour?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ve got nothing to do.’ Yes!
Gauntlet: Hah. And when did he come on the tour? Was it for Denver that he came in? I remember reading that his passport was stolen….
Johan: Yeah, the passport was stolen in San Francisco, the first show. So, fortunately, we had a few days to call the embassy and fix everything. There was some panic and sleepless nights there, for him, especially. But everything worked out great and he didn’t miss any shows. So, thanks to everyone: the American embassy, the Swedish, the Japanese, everyone was really helpful.
Gauntlet: Good, that’s good to hear. Because so often it seems as though they really just want to stick it to metal bands and give them lots of grief.
Johan: Yeah, yeah.
Gauntlet: Have you dealt with that before much in the States?
Johan: Not so much. There could have been…moments, but if you try to be nice and cool about it nothing happens. Because obviously on our work visa it says ‘Nuclear Blast’, because, of course, that’s the label. And people see it and are like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, right?’ When we flew from Tokyo to L.A., I forgot who it was but the passport guy was like—(pretends to take passport, glowers at it) ‘…What’s this? Are you kidding?’ Us: ‘Ah, no, it’s a record label.’ And then he called his co-workers over and was like, ‘You gotta see this man, check it out! Can you believe this?’
Johan: But they were all pretty cool about it.
Gauntlet: Have you ever met anyone going through who recognizes you guys?
Johan: Not here. But in South America, yeah. They were like—(pretends to take passport again) ‘…Therion?’ Us: ‘Yeah.’ And it’s—(reaches off to the side) ‘Here’s a stack of CD’s. Can I get your signature?’
Gauntlet: (Laughs) That’s pretty cool.
Johan: Yeah, it was awesome.
Gauntlet: You know, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the passport of Snowy just pop up on Ebay at some point. Some metal fan saying, ‘Hey, look what I got!’
Johan: Hah, yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Gauntlet: I remember hearing that he was coming on the new record and thinking, ‘Where do I know him from? Dream Evil? And now he’s singing for Therion? What?’ But, hey, it sounds good.
Johan: Yeah, yeah. Have you heard Notre Dame?
Gauntlet: No! I remember reading about it, though.
Johan; You have to get a record. He’s made a couple, but the first one is called ‘Le Théâtre du Vampire’—it’s awesome. He does everything. Plays drums, plays guitar, bass, sings, everything apart from some female something or other. Records it himself, I think. Does all the artwork, and it looks awesome. It’s like a black and white kind of comic-book thing.
Gauntlet: And what kind of music?
Johan: If you can imagine Nosferatu, the movie, but if a metal band did a soundtrack to that.
Gauntlet: So it’s pretty badass.
Johan: Yeah, it’s awesome.
Gauntlet: I will definitely check that out.
Johan: There’s a lot of cool wordplay, if you read the lyrics—
Gauntlet: To come back to the lyrics thing…
Johan: Yeah. But if you read the lyrics, he’s a genius. It’s so much fun.
Gauntlet: I’ll have to try it out, definitely. And, alright, let’s see. So, you and your brother came into Therion in 2000, was it? Or ’99?
Johan: ’99, but the record was released in 2000.
Gauntlet: Right. So, looking back on these past albums, how do you see them? Do you look at them critically? Would you want to redo anything with them, or is it a growing process?
Johan: Ah, I don’t think I want to redo anything, because it’s old news. But I think ‘Deggial’ could have turned out better. Especially the mix. The guitars sound like this—(holds up fingers an inch apart and makes a buzzing sound). It sounded good when I went home from the studio. I was like, ‘Man, this is going to be awesome.’ And you get the final product and it’s like—(slumps down in chair) ‘Okay…okay, fuck.’ But the rest of them I’m pretty happy with. Actually, I like ‘Secret of the Runes’, I think that record sounds really good for that kind of music and for what it’s about, too. Kind of metallic sounding. I like that.
Gauntlet: Yeah, yeah. That record was dead on, I thought. But my favorite record to date is still the ‘Lemuria’/‘Sirius B’ duo. I just thought it was a masterpiece, really.
Johan: Oh, cool.
Gauntlet: You know how sometimes you’ll just listen to an album and flash back to where you were the first time you heard it, that sort of thing?
Johan: Yeah, yeah.
Gauntlet: For me it’s a few weeks when I first got it, driving back and forth to school, and I just kept playing it, kept playing it, kept playing it, thinking, ‘Man, this is phenomenal.’ So I just loved those records.
Johan: Cool, that’s great.
Gauntlet: I thought all the elements really worked. Did it seem like that to you for those records, all the different sounds just coming together?
Johan: Yeah, yeah it did. It felt really cool, because for that album we had a new drummer in the band, Ricky, who later went to play with Soilwork and Chimaira for a while. And it felt good to get to do those records, and the material we had I thought was really cool. And we had real fun rehearsing those songs, with Ricky being really under the gun to get his drum stuff together. It was a lot of songs to record, and we didn’t have that much time to do it. So he really had to work…which was a lot of fun.
Johan: So, yeah, that was great. A lot of fun.
Gauntlet: I still have to figure out which one I like better. Might be ‘Sirius B’. I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you.
Gauntlet: Do you see ‘Lemuria’/‘Sirius B’ as two separate entities, or—
Johan: No, I see it as one, yeah. Probably because we recorded all the songs at once with nothing in-between. So I have a hard time separating. Maybe if we had done this record first and that record months later…. But, yeah, it’s the same record for me.
Gauntlet: When I first bought anything having to do with those albums I was in Germany and they were selling them separately. So I just bought ‘Lemuria’, came back home, and they were just selling both together…do you know what was up with that?
Johan: I know that they released it in Europe that the first few thousand copies were together, and then after a while they separated them. So I don’t know...
Gauntlet: Just how it worked out?
Gauntlet: Odd. Also a while ago, I bought a felt digipack of ‘Deggial’. I thought that was pretty cool.
Johan: Yeah, that’s cool. Yeah.
Gauntlet: And then, with regards to the session vocalists and the choirs and symphonies you’ve worked with—how do you go about bringing them in? Do you write before they come in, after they come in, or do you audition them? How does that work, do you know?
Johan: Well, sometimes we have an idea of what type of vocalist we want—do we want this guy, or her, or her. And it’s just, ‘Can you do this?’ But most of the stuff is written before that, so all the melodies are there, and it’s like, ‘This melody would be perfect for that person.’ And then it’s just a matter of finding that person or someone who sounds like that person.
Gauntlet :Do you find that it’s easy to negotiate with orchestras and that sort of thing in bringing them on?
Johan: Well, I have no experience with orchestras whatsoever (laughs). For the ‘Sirius B’/‘Lemuria’ thing, Christofer went to Prague to record with their symphony orchestra. And he went down alone, so it’s all his—(gestures off to the side) his stuff. That’s his corner. So I don’t really know how that works.
Gauntlet: I’m always kind of curious, listening to a Therion album while you guys are singing about ‘The Blood of Kingu’ or something. Or even ‘To Mega Therion’, with the operatic vocalists, and I just wonder what they’re thinking when they’re performing it. I mean, I imagine it’s an interesting challenge for them…
Johan: Yeah. Some people are more into it than others. We’ve actually done two shows with orchestras, playing both our stuff and classical music. The first one was in Romania, in Bucharest, and while rehearsing you could definitely see who was into it and who wasn’t. You’d see these people who were like—(puts hands over ears and grimaces) when they’re not playing, and then comes their part and they’re like—(rolls eyes and pretends to play violin) ‘Mm-kay…’
Johan: And then when it comes to the classical pieces they were all—(energetically playing and smiling)
Gauntlet: Right, right.
Johan: And then some more Therion and they’re like—(pretends to look at score) ‘Who wrote this? That guy? Standing over there? Well, he’s not even dead yet. Okay. Of course I don’t like this.’ So, some of that attitude is present. And then there was the second thing in Hungary, and that orchestra was all into it, so that show was better, in that way.
Gauntlet: That must be a great performance. I mean, you’ve got Metallica doing it or Manowar, but that’s still just rock music. Therion is the whole product—must be so powerful.
Johan: Yeah, absolutely. But it’s also, for me, at least, extremely nerve-wracking. (Laughs) (Pretends to play, looking over shoulder, nervous) ‘Don’t want to fuck it up!’ Rehearsals are one thing, though. So tedious. Because they’re used to rehearsing in sections, just these bars, for example. But it’s like—(raises hand) ‘But I know the song. We can play all of it.’ But I guess you have to have the short subject to really focus on it. To be able to point out, ‘You have play this part that way.’
Gauntlet: Yeah, when you’ve got that many people.
Johan: Yeah. It’s kind of hard to say when you’re a conductor, ‘Okay, we’re going to do the whole piece and I’m going to hear everything. And then I’m going to remember everything, while I’m doing it.’
Johan: I guess it’s a little different from rehearsing as a four-piece with bass and two guitars.
Gauntlet: Yeah. After the song, ‘Ok, you turn up the guitar.’ ‘Ok, fine.’
Johan: Yeah. And, ‘Don’t fuck up the chorus next time.’
Gauntlet: Definitely got to listen for that. And then, well, I know I’m taking up a lot of your time (checks clock)… Wow, a lot of our time.
Johan: What time is it?
Gauntlet: Well, we’ve been going for 70 minuts.
Johan: Oh! Really? Well, that’s fine.
Gauntlet: Yeah. But, this is my final group of questions. Demonoid.
(We become rather exuberant)
Gauntlet: I love Demonoid. So much.
Johan: Thank you! Yes.
Gauntlet: So, I’m going to ask some about Demonoid—because Demonoid are just badass, in my opinion.
Johan: Yes! Thank you.
Gauntlet: So, the album came out in 2004, ‘Riders of the Apocalypse’. That’s the same year as ‘Lemuria’/‘Sirius B’, so that means three albums in one year. How did you manage that?
Johan: Well, we…worked.
Johan: Actually, that record didn’t take that long to do. It was kind of different for us; I’d never done any music like that. So it was just so much fun. And the drummer was actually—
Gauntlet: Right, Ricky—
Johan: The same drummer, yeah. And he can really play that kind of music. It was like—(Imitates drum blasting) ‘Oh, yes!’
Gauntlet: Yeah, absolutely.
Johan: So that was so much fun to do. And, yeah, it took a month to do, all of it. Something like that. That was fun. And, I don’t know if you’ve check out any websites, but we have a new singer....
Gauntlet: Yeah—Magus Caligula! Okay, so, when I was preparing for the interview I was going through Therion’s page, and there were links to other pages and that sort of thing. And I knew that Christofer was through with vocals, but I hadn’t seen the new singer yet, exactly. And they played here just last week, Dark Funeral did.
Gauntlet: And I remember thinking as soon as they finished, ‘Man, that guy has a set of pipes on him.’
Johan: (Nods) Yeah.
Gauntlet: And that is…wow. How did you pull that off?
Johan: We actually had, before Demonoid, some other songs for a project that we wanted to do, and we wanted to find a suitable vocalist. And I think the Dark Funeral record ‘Diabolis Interium’ had just come out. So, listening to it—‘Who the fuck is this guy?’
Gauntlet: Especially the first sing, how it just explodes—
Johan: Oh, yeah! (Imitates ‘The Arrival of Satan’s Empire’)
Gauntlet: Oh, my god, phenomenal.
Johan: And it was like, ‘Okay, that’s the guy. He needs to sing on this, absolutely. So, I think my brother contacted him through their webpage or something. It was, ‘Hi…I’m so-and-so from so-and-so. We have a project and were wondering if you would be interesting in singing. We have a demo tape if you want to hear it.’ And he was like, ‘Yes! I’m very interested. Can we meet here or there just to meet, say hey?’ So we met the guy and he’s really cool. You see all the pictures and all, but he’s really an awesome guy.
Gauntlet: Really tall….
Johan: (looks up) Yeah.
Johan: Yeah, he is really tall. Big guy. Super-intimidating if you don’t know him. All the tattoos. And then you actually talk to him and he’s really cool. But that, for some reason, didn’t end up as anything. They had a lot of problems with their former record label—
Gauntlet: And still do.
Johan: Yeah. Just a lot of shit. So it just kind of fell through. And let’s see, I think Christofer heard some of the songs we had written and was like, ‘This is pretty cool. If you want to do this, I can sing on it.’ And we were like, ‘Yeah! Awesome.’ And we wanted to try to do some festivals or something, just to get out and play. But Christofer said he wasn’t going to sing anymore so we’d have to find a singer. And we actually had—(points to Splitter shirt)—talked to him, because he is really good live.
Gauntlet: Oh, live would just be crazy….
Johan: Yeah, he’s like, 22, or something. 23?
Gauntlet: They are really young, yeah.
Johan: And they’re actually all friends of ours.
Gauntlet: Well, tell them to come to America, because I want to see them play.
Johan: Sure. So, he was like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll do that.’ But then of course he has this band to think about to. So, again, for some reason, it didn’t work. But then we were like—(snaps fingers) ‘Wait! But we had…we had ‘him’! Let’s call him again.’ And we actually met him, when was it, when Nile played in Stockholm on the last tour. So we met him at the show or the after-party or whatever it was, and it was like, ‘Hey, it’s Caligula. Hi, how are you?’ And he said, ‘Hey, how’s it going with that metal band you were doing?’ Us: ‘Actually—we don’t have a singer…you want to hear some stuff?’ He said, ‘Yeah, sure, send it over.’ So, we’re working on material right now, writing songs and stuff.
Gauntlet: Do you know when the album might come out?
Johan: We’re going to try to record it when we get home. It should be out—hopefully—sometime next year. Of course, it’s a little difficult. With us, we have nothing to do with Therion next year; we’re taking the whole year off. And I don’t know how much Dark Funeral is touring next year. Hopefully…
Gauntlet: Not much?
Johan: Not much. (Aside) Sorry! And Ricky lives in Australia. But that can be solved. He knows a guy who has a studio, so we can just send him stuff over the internet, record it, send it back. So we should be able to get something done.
Gauntlet: That would be phenomenal. When that album came out, there was some little clip on Nuclear Blast’s site of ‘Wargods’, and I listened to it and said, ‘This is incredible, I’ve never heard anything like this.’ It mixes all those elements, you know? And then Kristian does the wild crazy tapping stuff…And, too, it’s a great swansong for Christofer as a vocalist.
Johan: Yeah, yeah.
Gauntlet: He sounds huge! And the entire album, really. Massive. And the low end and the rhythm section and everything. And then I heard Christofer was retiring from vocals and thought, ‘Oh, well, I guess they’re done. That sucks.’
Johan: Yeah. (Sighs) ‘Fuck, what are we going to do now? We’re not going to find another singer. Who would that be?’
Gauntlet: But, hey, if you’ve got Caligula as an option, that’s great. Have you listened to the other death metal band that he’s in?
Johan: God Among Insects? I’ve heard one song, only one.
Gauntlet: I haven’t heard too many either, but I have some friends who say it’s really, really good. So when I heard that he was in Demonoid, I said, ‘Hey, guys. Remember when I told you to check out Demonoid? Now you need to check them out even more. Caligula. The Niemanns. It’s going to be awesome.’ So, I’m definitely glad to hear that. Definitely glad. Do you think that there will be any tour associated with that?
Johan: I really hope so, I really do. We talked to him and he’s definitely up for it. And that’s something we talked about with Nuclear Blast as well. Because we only really had a contract for one record or something like that. And when Blast heard that Christofer wasn’t going to sing anymore it was like, ‘Ah, okay…’
Gauntlet: ‘Hands off.’
Johan: Yeah. Do whatever you want. Now, it’s, ‘But we have—(points) ‘him’ on board. Interested?’ And the only thing we really need is some money for mixing. Because we can record it in friends places, and that’s not going to be a problem. We need some money to mix it and we need tour support. That’s it, that’s all we need.
Gauntlet: Not too much to ask for…
Johan: That’s what I thought. So they went for it.
Gauntlet: That’s good, bless them.
Johan: Yeah. So, hopefully, if everyone has time we’ll definitely do some touring, on whatever scale that might be. Maybe just some festivals. Of course, I’d prefer to do an opening thing for…Nile, maybe?
Gauntlet: Demonoid and Nile on a bill. That would crush. If there was any likelihood that you guys were coming to the States, I would be there.
Johan: I would love to. That would definitely be fucking awesome.
Gauntlet: When you guys were first putting ‘Riders of the Apocalypse’ together, did Nuclear Blast jump on it, or did you kind of have to sell them on it?
Johan: Yeah…We had this idea, which was really cool, I think. But for a label trying to sell records, it didn’t go over too well. If you’ll notice on the record there’s nothing to say who’s in the band.
Gauntlet: Yeah! I remember that, thinking, ‘Are they really in it? It sounds like them, but is it them?’
Johan: Yeah. So the pictures we took, the four of them. If you know its us, you can kind of tell it’s us. But if you don’t, it’s like, ‘Who the fuck is this? Oh, okay, that doesn’t help.’ You don’t go, ‘Oh, of course. It’s Therion.’ So that was the idea, to have no information whatsoever. Sort of like the Slipknot thing, where nobody knew who they were when it came out.
Gauntlet: Right, just, ‘This is it.’ Or The Berzerker, they did that, too.
Johan: Yep. If you have no information whatsoever, all you can do is listen to the record and decide for yourself whether you like it.
Gauntlet: Kind of like a black metal thing. Old school.
Johan: Yeah, right. We figured that people either know Therion and they’re going to buy the record just because. Which is…nice, because you sell records. But some people are going to be like, ‘Oh, this can’t be good,’ just because it’s this kind of music. And they’d listen to it and say, ‘See, told you.’ Just because. So we wanted the music to be judged on its own merits. Just listen to it, and if you like it, fine, if you don’t, fine. But that didn’t go over to well with them…
Johan: They said, ‘We need to put a sticker on it that says you’re from Therion.’ ‘…Oh, okay, fine.’
Gauntlet: And I imagine there would be some people who’d buy it and say, ‘Oh, I love Therion,’ and then say, ‘Hey, what’s this growling business?’
Johan: Yeah. ‘What the hell is this?’ Where’s the (high-pitched sing-song) ‘dun da dun dun’?’ But there’s already a band that does that, and it is Therion.
Gauntlet: Right. But now I don’t think that should be a problem for Nuclear. Between Therion and Dark Funeral, that’s selling itself….
Johan: Yeah, well, I would hope so, yes.
Gauntlet: Do you think you will continue the apocalyptic theme or do you have new ideas that you’re coming up with?
Johan: I don’t write the lyrics, so…(Laughs)
Gauntlet: Was it Kristian who wrote them?
Johan: No, actually, Christofer wrote all the lyrics. And it was his idea, which I think fit the songs really, really well.
Gauntlet: Oh, okay. Absolutely.
Johan: But, obviously, Caligula is a singer, and he has tons of ideas for tons of stuff.
Gauntlet: What if he takes it in a more black metal/satanic direction?
Johan: Ah, that probably isn’t going to happen. We talked to him a little bit about it and he said that he’s doing that thing with Dark Funeral, so…
Gauntlet: Makes sense.
Johan: And he said something about the new Dark Funeral record not having a single ‘Satan’ on it.
Gauntlet: That’s right, I remember that. I interviewed Ahriman in January, I think, and that was one of the things we talked about. Doesn’t say ‘Satan’ once.
Johan: Which is…pretty cool, I think. (Laughs) For that type of music and that imagine.
Gauntlet: Especially when you’ve got a screaming devil on the front.
Johan: Exactly. So, I guess he has a few ideas lying around.
Gauntlet: Can you divulge maybe what those might be?
Johan: I don’t know. That’s really all he said. ‘I’ve got ideas for lyrics for days and days,’ and we were like, ‘Cool, okay, I trust you.’ Good. Just got to finish up the songs and get them sent to him.
Gauntlet: So you’ve really started the writing process.
Johan: Yeah, yeah. Musically, we’ve definitely written some songs.
Gauntlet: And is Ricky still doing drums for you?
Johan: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Gauntlet: Good. I remember reading that he was in Chimaira. And I was thinking, ‘Wait, Chimiara? The band doing the American metal, kind of nu-metal thing?’ Do I think he has the chops, do I respect his chops? And I listened to that album, and the way it opens right there with that fill I decided, ‘Yeah, yeah he does.’ So I’m excited, I’m really excited.
Johan: Yeah. That was one of the things we said. The reason he moved to Australia was a girl, of course. And they’re getting married, of course. Which is great! But he was a little concerned. He was like, ‘I want to, but I don’t want to move, because I want to play in Demonoid.’ And we said, ‘Here’s the deal. You can move if you want. But you’re still in the band, because we don’t want anybody else drumming for this band. It has to be you. Just so you know, you can do whatever you want.’ And he was like, ‘Okay, well, I’m moving.’ Us: ‘Yeah, fine. But you’re still in the band. You’re not getting out. You can quit or do whatever you want, but it’s not going to happen. Because you are still so in the band, it’s fucking unbelievable.’
Gauntlet: Good, good. And, finally, I know interviewers always have their questions prepared—I had to make the font smaller to fit everything on this page—
Johan: Oh, dear.
Gauntlet: But is there anything else, for either Therion or Demonoid, that you’d just like to say in closing?
Johan: Thanks for buying the record. Thank you for coming to the shows and supporting good music. That’s awesome, we very much appreciate it.
Gauntlet: Alright. Well, thank you again for your time.