Interview – Rogga Johansson of Paganizer

Today, I have lived out one of my life ambitions. Being able to write and contact bands through social media is one of the perks of this job and for those people that have looked at doing something like this and debating whether they can do it, all I can say is that I have fulfilled an ambition today by talking to someone that is a stalwart of the Swedish death metal scene. A gentleman that has been playing death metal for over twenty years and has over 100 releases under his belt. He is an underground legend that deserves more praise than those who have abandoned the Swedish death metal scene. His name is Rogga Johannson and you may know him through his more popular bands Paganizer and Ribspreader (is that not the best death metal name ever?). Read my review of Land of Weeping Souls here. This is a good one.

Over the past years, I feel as though the albums that you’ve released with Paganizer have got better with each release. Would you say this is the happiest you have been with Paganizer?

Well, yeah. When Fienig came back to the band, it seemed we got a sort of upswing again. On the other hand Paganizer has only had two drummers (and one session) through the twenty years of existence. So often it’s been a back and forth sort of thing between Fiebig and Ringdahl on drums, but the last time Fiebig came back it sparked a bit of more fire maybe. We did the really good mini album Cadaver Casket and then the new album is for me something of the best we have done with Paganizer. I would say Paganizer is in a good place right now, for what it is. We don’t play much, or almost any, shows though which is the negative thing. Everyone’s very busy with families and work so there’s not much time for weekend gigs or mini tours. In a few years it will change I’m sure, it always goes up and down.

Due to the fact that you have regular musicians now with Paganizer, do you welcome each member’s input to the songwriting or are you still responsible for the majority of the songwriting?

It’s always been me who has done most of the material but everyone’s invited to write songs and on many albums there have been at least a few written by other members. This time with the new album we were back to the sort of usual Paganizer thing though, me and Fiebig writing and rehearsing the album, and the other guys coming in a bit later and doing their parts which are bass and solos basically. It works for us, always has done, but a lot of songs through the years have been written by other members. A personal favourite of mine for example is “Rot” from Cadaver Casket which Dennis who played lead guitar then wrote.

With Land of Weeping Souls being released through Kunal Choksi’s label Transcending Obscurity, how easy was it to sign with him as I imagine with a reputation that Paganizer has to release quality music, you would have had a few options at the time.

Our label at the time, Cyclone Empire, sort of went away as they started to downsize or something. So it was really the right time for Kunal to approach us and as I had known him for a while I thought why not give him the chance. I mean, we are not a big band by any means, so it wasn’t like that we were being hunted by labels haha. Kunal had proven to be something of a marketing genius, so I think it was perfect timing and so far it has worked better than either of us thought really.

Now that Land of Weeping Souls has been out for a few months, is there anything about the album that you would change now that you have had time to reflect on it?

I don’t think so, often there is stuff you could have done better but I think we did as good as we could this time. Sure, I might miss a few things, like maybe a few more songs in a certain style or something, we could have done maybe a couple more songs, but on the whole I’m very happy with it all. The music, the performance and the artwork is all really killer and fits great.

What are your plans for 2018? Something tells me you are already preparing the new Paganizer album!

Not really. We have a few new songs actually, I think three but I think we will take it slow as we are so pleased with the new album so we don’t feel the need to really rush anything, the next album must be as good or better or there’s no point in doing another one. We have ideas for the concept, the artwork and as mentioned a few songs done but I don’t know if it will be finished and released 2018 or if we take it a bit slower and let it out in 2019 instead as then we maybe might be ready again for doing some shows also to go with a new album.

For Paganizer, how easy or difficult is it to get the band together and rehearse? Where do you record your material before you record the album?

We don’t live far apart at all, so in reality it’s not hard at all, but everyone’s busy, and we have gotten lazy. Among the four of us in the band there’s also eight kids in different ages, and full time work and everything else that eats up time when you are supposed to be an adult. So we don’t actually rehearse anymore, we get together before shows and try to remember how the hell the songs are played, same when we record something. We have a large rehearsal room which is also a demo studio, you know the typical place with gasmask couches and trashcans full of beerbottles, but the past years we don’t use it as often as we should I guess. Fiebig just turned 40 and treated himself to a pricy spacekit as I call them, a digital drumkit. So now we can try out new material in his cellar, so I think things will again move a bit faster from now on again actually. We tried it out for the first time during a family’s dinner party a week ago or so, and already two songs were done haha.

For a band like Paganizer who have released ten full length albums, countless EPs and singles, what ambitions as a band do you have left to fulfil?

We don’t have any ambitions left! That’s why we are increasingly lazy I guess. I mean, what would be left for us is maybe to play shows more often, get active again and start doing festivals but for that you need to rehearse more often; to sound good. And you need to get a booking agency, and actually say yes instead of no when shows are being offered… I think when the kids are more grown for all of us; we might start doing more shows again. You know; 45 year old shaggy men reliving their youth again.

You are involved in about 20 bands and with over 100 releases under your belt, what is it that keeps you motivated to keep writing?

I have no idea actually. Often I tell myself to just stop with something, you know to cut down and maybe don’t finish stuff that I’m working on as it’s not really needed, but it doesn’t happen. There have been times when I haven’t had anything to work on, and I think to myself that maybe this is a great time to try to not write anything new and start the whole thing again, and then a week later I have two albums being recorded. I don’t know why, man, it’s like an urge, I guess and an addiction. I don’t know where the songs come from, I don’t try to write them, they just come out. Sometimes it’s just ridiculous, I sit down and have a beer and fiddle a bit with the guitar and half an hour later I have two songs written and all guitars and melodies recorded. But as long as its fun, why stop really I mean. I don’t do it for anyone else; I just do it for fun really.

When you practice and create riffs, how do you know which of your bands suits the riff best?

I never practise; I should but I don’t. That’s why I suck at playing. Good question, I don’t really. I mean some riffs are obvious, like if it’s crusty its gonna be a verse in a Paganizer song or if it’s very melodic it might only work in Grotesquery. But mostly I don’t write a riff, I write a song from start to finish and then I mostly hear what it would fit into for which band. If it’s just a riff and nothing more I usually just record it and save it, and pick it up later when I work on a song and think to myself that that riff would fit.

What is it that frustrates you most about being in the bands that you are involved in? I mean would you love to tour more with some of your bigger bands like Paganizer and Ribspreader (I have always said that Ribspreader is the best name in death metal haha)

Yes, Ribspreader is a great name, right? I was happy it wasn’t taken when I came up with it. Well, yeah, sometimes it frustrates me a bit that I live in a very small village and next to a small town. So there’s really not huge lot of people playing this music around here, which makes having a rehearsal a bit more difficult. On the other hand I have a very hard time being around people, I prefer to keep to myself and the family and to play live and travel a lot isn’t something that I would enjoy doing too much. On the whole I think having just Paganizer with a line-up is the best for me, and I think that it might’ve been so even if I lived in a larger city and had more people to play with so to speak. I’m not a people person really, so I think we are at the level we should be, and that that’s enough.

You have had the pleasure of working with some of the legends of the scene, namely Dave Ingram, Paul Speckmann and Kam Lee to name a few. Is there anyone else that you would love to work with for an album?

Yes that’s something I’m very proud of being able to write music to those guys who are my heroes in this scene. I’d love to write an album for Chris Barnes. I love early Six Feet Under and of course the Cannibal Corpse era too. But on the first few Six Feet Under albums he really did something awesome with his voice, on those awesome songs. I’d love to write a simple straightforward death metal album for him. I’d also love to write something heavier and more epic for one of my absolute favourite vocalists, Daniel Brennare from Lake of Tears.

So a bit of a selfish question here. When are you coming to Scotland to play a gig? We have good beer and whisky! On a serious note, we have plenty of venues that you could play. Is it difficult to get each member away from their day jobs and families to put a tour together?

It would be great fun, I am very sure! And to answer your question, yes. Starting rehearsing regularly for some months and then finding time away from full time work, it’s something that takes planning these days and this music doesn’t pay any money so it would mean using up vacation days from work and I can say that some family members might not agree to that haha… I think we are on the level that weekend gigs will be our thing. The last large tour we did was 11 years ago and I have a hard time thinking we will do one again really. If we get the right offer, everything taken care of with travel and such things around, then we could surely take the time but on the level we are as a band we might not attract as much people as we need, to make arrangers happy. It is what it is really, its our own fault as we haven’t played too much live so we cant really expect people to know about us and feel the need to come and see us if we suddenly decide that we want play live here or there you know.

What can you tell us readers at Moshville Times your plans for the other bands that you are involved in?

Oh there are some… new albums soon out with Down Among The Dead Men and The Grotesquery, as well as Severed Limbs. Dead Sun will do a 2nd one too, just as the first it’s a bit of new stuff and some old stuff from the 90s on there, and a Paganizer compilation with all the material from splits and EPs from the last few years. Then I’m working on one more stuff as well, as the 2nd Garpedans album and a new project called Troikadon which will have three vocalists, David Ingram, Kam Lee and Karl Willets, which Im very excited about.

A fun question to end this interview.  If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?

Good question! Well I would bring these I think:

  1. Massacre – From Beyond
  2. Six Feet Under – Haunted
  3. Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time
  4. Skinny Puppy – Too Dark Park
  5. Sentenced – Frozen

Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?

If you like ugly yet catchy music, check out the new Paganizer album! You might not be disappointed!

I thank Rogga for taking the time out to answer these questions. I wish himself, band mates and future endeavours the best as I feel we shall be hearing from them for quite some time yet!!!

Paganizer: facebook | bandcamp

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