Interview With Per and Jonas of Scar Symmetry
If there's a "new" band you should watch for, it would be Scar Symmetry. Hailing from Avestas, Sweden since 2004, the band features singer Christian Älvestam (Incapacity, ex-Angel Blake, Torchbearer), guitarists Jonas Kjellgren (ex-Carnal Forge, Centinex) and Per Nilsson (Altered Aeon), bassist Kenneth Seil and drummer Henrik Ohlsson (Altered Aeon, ex-Diabolical, ex-Thrawn). They are often compared with In Flames and Soilwork, but the main thing that sets them apart from other melodeath giants is the existence of clean vocals, which alternates with the death metal growls. Not to mention the amazing guitar work. These guys prove that the Swedes are still at the top of the metal game.
When fellow Swedes Dark Tranquillity and The Haunted brought their co-headlining tour to Vancouver, BC, it gave me the chance to sit down with the two Scar Symmetry guitarists in their tour bus to ask them a few questions, hear them share their pearls of wisdom and learn some Swedish from them. Here's how it went down:
darkstar: How is the tour going so far?
Jonas: Really good.
Per: Really good.
Per: But not all the time. Most of the time.
darkstar: Most of the time? What do you like most about it?
Per: Being on stage.
darkstar: What's the worst part of it?
Per: Not being on stage. All the wait. We play for half an hour and then wait 23 and a half hours.
darkstar: What do you do when you're not playing?
Per: We sleep mostly.
Jonas: We sleep very much, maybe 14 hours. Because we learn so fast. That's the only way to do it because what are you going to do? You wake up and the bus is moving. Oh, so much fun. And then back to sleep.
darkstar: Do you play video games or anything on the bus?
Per: Actually no. I'm surprised. Nobody's interested.
darkstar: How did the opportunity to be a part of this tour come up?
Jonas: It was our record label who arranged it for us.
darkstar: What's the best thing about North America so far?
Jonas: I know what's the worst thing.
darkstar: What is it?
Jonas: The beer and the coffee. The coffee is like tea, the coffee is water. That's good beer backstage. Glacier brew something. Ice glacier…some local stuff.
Per: That good thing about it is all the cheese we have.
Jonas: Yeah, the cheese.
Per: We put cheese on everything. Every meal is covered in cheese.
Jonas: It's great for my boobs. They've become so big. In Sweden, when a guy has big boobs, it's sexy. [Laughs.] No, of course not. I tried to fooled you. It's totally different. I'm beauty queen over in Sweden. Here, I'm ugly. In Sweden, I'm considered one of the top models.
Per: He's been modeling. He's been on the cover many times.
darkstar: You should try out for America's Next Top Model.
Jonas: No, the girls are all like pencils. It's ridiculous. They cannot be too fat. All the different parts of America are so different.
Per: Spain is different than France. But here, everyone talks the same language, but it's really different.
darkstar: How is the crowd here different from the European crowd?
Per: I don't think there's a difference at all.
Jonas: They like to bang their head.
Per: One thing they do here that they don't do in Europe in the same way is the mosh pit, like, in the middle of the crowd.
Jonas: In some parts of France. France? "Fronce"? France?
darkstar: Well, here we pronounce it France, but in France, they pronounce it like "Fronce."
Jonas: Well, in "Fronce," they have amazing circle pits actually. Not so much in Sweden.
darkstar: Do you plan on doing a headlining tour in North America sometime in the future?
Jonas: Yeah sure.
Per: Yeah, I think so, because the reception of the band has been so great. We didn't expect to have this many fans here.
Jonas: In Europe, we did a co-headlining tour with Communic and we had no idea we were popular like that. They were crazy.
darkstar: You guys are getting really popular.
Jonas: Yeah, it's ridiculous. Why?
darkstar: Because you're good?
Jonas: Why are we good?
Per: How can that be?
darkstar: Because you are.
Jonas: Oh, ok. I don't get it. What's so good about it?
darkstar: You just are.
Per: We would like to headline to play longer sets. That's the most important thing, I think. Because we play such a short set, you only get a glimpse of the band, of our sound. You only get to touch it a bit. It kinda sucks opening up the show because, like tonight, they had just opened the doors and when we started playing the first song, there were only 50 people there.
darkstar: What does the band have planned after this tour?
Jonas: We are going to Norway to play a festival. Then there's two shows in Sweden. That's it. Then it's recording time.
darkstar: Say you had a choice between the following North American tours: Ozzfest, Gigantour, Sounds of the Underground Tour and Unholy Alliance Tour. Which would you choose to tour with?
Per: I don't know. Gigantour two years ago, I think it was really great.
darkstar: Megadeth, Anthrax, Nevermore…
Per: Dream Theater and Symphony X. I wish I would had been on that bill.
Jonas: I would say Unholy Alliance so I can drink with Kerry King. Maybe he and I can be best friends. I don't know.
darkstar: Tell us a bit about the history of the band. How did you all meet? And why did you decide to make music together?
Jonas: I can tell that story. It's so easy.
Per: Your story?
Jonas: It's my story. It's my band. I own them. I bought them at the guitar centre in Sweden.
Per: He's a megalomaniac.
Jonas: Well, I was recording Henrik's band, Altered Aeon. I never heard it. I asked him to join the band and he said Per has to be in the band because he's so good. And he was. He was so good I was laughing when I heard him play the first time. And Christian heard about forming a new band so he wanted to join the band, and he did. And you know about the hot dog. He was singing outside the pub, he sang so good, an old man bought him 4 hot dogs. Kenneth, he is my old drinking buddy so, of course, he has to be in the band.
darkstar: How did you come up with the name Scar Symmetry?
Per: Well, it was Henrik's idea to combine a soft word with a hard word, just like our music is made up those two elements. Scar Symmetry.
Jonas: And also those emotional scars you when you go through life. [Laughs.]
darkstar: Being also from Sweden, do people ever mistaken you for originating from Gothenburg?
Jonas: No, only our bus driver. He picked us up in Gothenburg before. But we were not from Gothenburg. We were an 8-hour drive away. He got the wrong information.
darkstar: Who or what influenced you to make music?
Per: Iron Maiden.
darkstar: "Rock You Like a Hurricane"?
Jonas: Yeah. [Sings.] "Here I am, rock you like a hurricane." Especially their World Wide Live album. The live album, oh, it's so good. [More singing.]
Per: He's so tiny, Klaus Meine. Like a little midget.
Jonas: Yeah, very cute.
darkstar: Does Henrik write all the lyrics to the songs?
Per: Yes. Everything.
darkstar: Why don't you guys write lyrics?
Jonas: You have talked to us now.
Per: You know what we talk like. [Laughs.]
Jonas: I wrote so many lyrics in my days. I was the singer in Carnal Forge and I wrote all the lyrics. And I was singing. I'm out of lyrics. I cannot do anymore lyrics.
darkstar: Symmetric in Design was released in 2005, then came Pitch Black Progress last year. And now you are going to record another album. Why do you decide to follow up each album so quickly?
Per: Because we didn't have anything better to do actually. We did the first album and we didn't tour or anything in support of that album. We changed record labels during that time. So we recorded the next album. We did three tours to support Pitch Black Progress. And now we really want to get back into the studio. It's not that fast.
Jonas: This album should not take two years because it's so boring. I want new songs all the time.
Per: We should make an album once a year, or one and a half years, perhaps.
Jonas: All the old bands, the old heavy metal bands, they always came out with a new album every year. They were touring, maybe, 10 months every year. 10 months straight. Enter the studio, new album, out in the store in one week. Now we have to wait 4-5 months before the album to hit the stores. It's so stupid. Everybody's already heard it on the internet.
darkstar: What do you think of Guns N' Roses taking over 10 years to release an album, and still hasn't?
Jonas: I saw Guns N' Roses this summer actually. It was really good. He was singing and his vocals was amazing. I saw them with the original lineup in '91, before they released Use Your Illusion and he did not sing at all as good as he sings now. That's cool. But I heard some of the new songs and they suck. I mean, why can't they just write like Appetite for Destruction? It's not hard. Just dig it out. [Sings.] You know? Fuck. Just buy him a big case of Jack Daniels and whatever drugs he's using, like he did then. Same with all the old bands. Is it so hard to do it? Same for the Scorpions. Me and Per could write the new Scorpions album for them. We would sound like Scorpions. Like, old school heavy metal. Same with Iron Maiden. What's their problem? Just write songs like they used to.
Per: I don't think it's really fair that if you have a band and you change all the band members or you changed style radically. I don't think it's fair to the fans. Like, if we wanted to do country music suddenly, we should make a side project so people can tell, ok, we sound different. I think that's important.
darkstar: Do you have any favourite Canadian bands?
Jonas: Yeah, I do. Voivod is my favourite. They are one of my favourite of all times. I saw their first gig in Sweden ever.
Per: What Canadian bands are there?
darkstar: Well, there's Strapping Young Lad, Quo Vadis… [Both guitarists agree with SYL] They're from Vancouver.
Per: They are? That's very cool.
Jonas: And also, Cryptopsy I like a lot. Into Eternity are good.
darkstar: There's also 3 Inches of Blood too…
Jonas: Not so much. We hate them in Sweden. You can tell them, we hate 3 Inches of Blood. "Hate" is a strong word, but we actually do hate. No, I'm just joking. I never heard them. You know what? My girlfriend's little sister has their album. I've seen it in her girls room when I visit. But I never heard it. What is it? Is it good?
darkstar: Well, I like it. It's metal.
Jonas: Oh, it's heavy metal?
darkstar: It is metal.
Jonas: It's cool. I guess I like it.
darkstar: The singer sings really high, like Judas Priest.
Jonas: Oh, I have to hear this.
Per: High singing is good singing. Always.
Jonas: I love King Diamond, but he's from Denmark. I love him very much.
darkstar: Do any members of the band run the official Scar Symmetry Myspace page or do you have someone else do it?
Jonas: I don't know.
Per: No. I think Chris is updating it every now and then.
Jonas: I think somebody is updating it every now and then. But if somebody writes a note on the page, I think Chris answers it.
Per: So, yes, we do run it.
Jonas: I guess so.
darkstar: Any last words to the readers of MetalUnderground.com?
Jonas: Stay positive.
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