With their tenth album, Storm Within, due to be released on September 9th drummer Jonas of Swedish prog-metal powerhouses Evergrey sat down for a chat with us. After the resurgence brought on by “hail mary” album Hymns For The Broken, the band seem to be enjoying a very popular second wind.
Are you in London just for press on this visit?
Yes, we have had breakfast and on to our interviews. Tomorrow, more interviews and then on our flight home! I have seen the back yard of the hotel through my window. That is about as much of being a tourist as I will manage on this trip! Oh, I will go and get some Indian food later. My favourite curry restaurant is in Camden, near the Underworld. [following Jonas’ directions on Google Streetview I think the restaurant in question could be Namaste Kitchen – Mosh]
You’re on your second stretch with the band. Before Hymns for the Broken, the band was pretty much at an end. What made you come back to the band at that point?
Well, the reason we left Evergrey first of all. Within the band some of us had stopped being friends. If we had stayed in Evergrey I don’t think we would be friends today. There was a lot of tension, a lot of stuff going on and we decided that being friends was more important. We decided to leave the band, but the rest of the band continued to do Evergrey. You have to be dedicated to be in this band, and I think this was the best decision at the time.
The reason we’re here today is that we got time apart. The five of us crew as people and matured. We realised that we need to play music together! We learned a great deal from that experience.
Without Hymns, the band almost certainly would have ended. Would you say that makes it the most important album of the band’s career?
I don’t know. We didn’t think like that when we got back together. We were grateful to get a chance to play together again, but we were also cautious as it was the first one we would be writing together in some years. In the beginning we were a little worried that we may end up in that place again. But it didn’t take long to realise that the vibe was better than ever. We never had it in mind that it was going to be such an important record. We did that album for us. We loved making music together again.
We were mindblown over the reviews. We loved it, of course, but we had no idea what the press or the fans would say. For us it was solid and we were confident. We really pulled it off and I think this was another part of being apart for a while. Back in the day we took ourselves for granted a bit and didn’t appreciate each other enough.
There was a little secrecy at the time regarding yourself and Henrick rejoining. Nobody knew until they saw you in the video for “King of Errors”. Was this caution or just to spring a pleasant surprise on fans?
We felt that it was a golden opportunity to build something. We liked the… mystique. We tried for once to be smart and I think it paid off! It got a great response when fans saw it. We got tons of emails when the video was released, with fans saying how happy they were. It was overwhelming.
We couldn’t tell our friends… anyone. Family knew, but to everyone else we denied everything. It’s too easy for one guy to tell another and then it’s on the Internet.
Did you find The Storm Within a little easier to work on once you’d greased the wheels a little with Hymns?
Both yes and no. We had a lot of material and ideas left over after Hymns for the Broken, I’d been doing a lot of writing when I wasn’t with Evergrey as well. I had tons of ideas that we could use straight away, and that we did use. But we had so much music in us for this album that we wanted to write. Once we realised where we were and the vibe we were going for, we started to piece together all the bits we had. We just went with our guts and our heart and what turns up turns up!
There’s a concept behind the songs on The Storm Within, isn’t there?
Yes, it’s love – or rather the lack of love. It’s about a person being left behind by the person he loves… and who he still loves. To make the story more dramatic and imaginary we’ve placed the character on this lonely planet, an interstellar world to make him smaller and more lonely. We found this lonely vibe while we wrote and loved it, bringing in these influences from movies like Prometheus, Interstellar and Oblivion. We travelled there in our heads then wrote the music with that in mind.
You have a video for “Distance” just out [see below]. It’s one of a series?
Yes, I’m really looking forward to the other two coming out. They have this concept theme to them as well. I’m super-proud of these videos – they’re spectacular. The videos are our vision – the look, the post-apocalyptic feeling. We decided how we wanted to do it while we were working on the album, even where we’d film it. The opportunity to make them came up and we took it. Tom and Patric Ullaeus, who filmed the videos, travelled to Iceland for a week and travelled about 3000km just filming and driving. It looks so unreal. You could think it’s CGI but it’s all real footage.
No, it’s a long tour through Europe and the UK. We’ve not toured with them before, so we’re really looking forward to it. There’s also Kobra And The Lotus on the bill – it’s a great package.
You’ve got ten albums. What sort of setlist can we expect on the tour?
We’re just going to try and show our best side. Delain’s audience aren’t quite our audience, so perhaps we’ll have to select songs which will appeal to them as well. It’s difficult with only having about fifty minutes – we can’t even play all our video songs in that time! One advantage with a short set time is that we have the opportunity to change some songs each night or every other night to try new ones out.
You joined Evergrey, the first time, in 2003. What’s your favourite album from before you were in the band?
That’s a hard one! I was only a young teenager living at home when Evergrey began, and they were one of my top three band at the time. For Dark Discovery I learned all the lyrics, all the drum parts… everything. But Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy was something else. I think that’s my favourite. That’s the one I wish I could have worked on! But… I would still want Patrick to have done the drums on the record the way he did!
How did you land your original role as drum tech with the band?
They used to rehearse in the same basement as us. Evergrey had one room and my friend and me had the room next door. We said hello and had a chat now and again. We were just kids and they were the cool guys with the record deal! I started talking to Patrick every now and again, sharing drumming tricks and videos. One time he asked me if he could borrow some cymbal stands for the “Masterplan” video and I offered him my help if he wanted someone to set up his kit and so on. It just went from there and before long I was tagging on at gigs and ended up being the drum tech.
You formed a band called DeathDestruction with Henrik. Is that still an ongoing project or has it been shelved now that you’re back with Evergrey?
It’s still going, even if it’s going very, very slowly right now! Henrik and I are working hard on Evergrey at the minute and the bass player, Fredrik, will be touring with Hammerfall. It’s hard to find time for it, but I still have a special place for it in my heart so I don’t see myself putting it away any time soon. I want to do another record with DeathDestruction for sure. You’ve got to let off some steam once in a while and it’s a very different sound from Evergrey!
Are there any experiences at live shows that stick in your mind for any reason? Good or bad?
The crowds in South America, especially Brazil, are incredible. Their screaming powers the speakers almost – they’re so passionate and know all the words. One bizarre thing in Brazil… we played an indoor stadium there on one tour which held 10,000 people. There were 500 in the audience, and they were spread out all over the building – some of the seats, a few on the floor. It was embarrassing! The sound echoed so badly. I threw out a drumstick between songs and you could hear it when it hit the floor. Somebody thought we were Iron Maiden… and we’re not!
The next venue was an open air stadium with about 500 people in it!
On the same tour I almost shat in my pants! We got sick from some bad food, apparently. I got the runs. In this club we were playing – a good club – I was basically rushed from the toilet onto stage when we were due to play. Within ten seconds I just needed to go again. I played probably the worst two songs I’ve ever played in my life. I started sweating, pinched my butt together for eight minutes and then I just ran away across the stage to the toilets. Tom told the audience that I’d shit my pants, so they were all yelling “Caca!” or something at me when I came back. It was fun. Well, it’s fun now. It was a nightmare at the time!
If you met a young band – 18, 19 years old – starting out now, what advice would you give them?
Follow your heart and have fun. That’s it.