Evergrey Tells All, Reveals Plans for Vinyl, Cracks Up at ProgPower USA XII
Evergrey likes to frequent the ProgPower USA festivals. This year, they decided to play and throw in two special exclusive sets along with a third set of songs that they will be playing on the upcoming US tour. The Swedes were in high spirits after sound check when I dropped in backstage to interview them in their dressing room on Thursday afternoon. Guitarist/Vocalist Tom Englund, keyboardist Rikard Zander, drummer Hannes Van Dahl, guitarist Marcus Jidell, and bassist Johan Niemann were all pretty eager to talk, and while they were joking all the time, they did have some serious things to say.
Along with being the most relaxed and genuinely happy band I’ve interviewed, they finished each other’s sentences quite a bit and looked to be personally in tune with each other. For a half hour, we discussed their newest album, “Glorious Collision,” new ‘directions’ for the band, the recording process, inspiration behind the songs, vinyl records, and their personal music interests. We also nearly died of laughter as the band discussed their ideas for alternatives to illegal downloading and Spotify towards the end of the interview, which is below.
Frank Serafine (Progressivity_In_All): This is your 16th year as a band. You have 8 albums out, and in the progressive tradition of “boldy going where no band has gone” before, what has Evergrey still not done that you plan to do?
Tom Englund: A country album. (laughs) But, I mean, seriously, ideas pop up whenever you start doing a new album or a new project. I think the well of ideas is never going to be empty, so there is a hell of a lot more to do than what we have done.
FS: How is the new lineup working? Do you feel like a family yet?
Various bandmembers: Nah! (laughs)
Tom: (jokingly) I wouldn’t say family. I wouldn’t even say friends. (laughs)
FS: Just some random strangers that you picked up for a tour, right?
Tom: Except for him. (points to Rikard Zander) That’s the guy we knew. The rest of them are just a necessary bad! (laughs)
Hannes Van Dahl: It’s great. It’s absolutely great.
Rikard Zander: From this short time that we’ve been together, we’ve been through so much. I really think we’ve been through a lot of hard stuff, as well, as you might have heard. I think, as far as us being together, I think it made us closer in a very short time. That reflects in the music as well.
FS: Was it an agreeable split with Henrik Danhage, Jari Kainulainen, and Jonas Ekdahl?
Tom: Yeah! Definitely. We still meet. Jonas was even there watching while we rehearsed for this show in Gothenburg. Jonas was there watching, hanging out with us in the dressing room. It’s just people like you are looking for a dramatic story, but there is none.
FS: Well, not me personally. I’ve got to say, I want my favorite bands to stay intact! I don’t look for drama!
Tom: There was no drama at all. We played together for ten years. That’s a severe amount of time.
FS: That’s more than most marriages in the US last.
FS: How has the crowd response been to receiving you guys?
Marcus Jidell: Really good. Very friendly and welcoming.
Tom & Hannes: Absolutely. The nicest fans in the world.
Tom: Also, we like to hang with our fans. If we have the time, we always stick around and have a beer and talk with them. That’s why we’re there, really. We’re not that big to where we have to hide.
FS: Good to hear. For “Glorious Collision,” how long was the recording process?
Tom: Fuck, about five months? It depends on how you count, really. We sort of record as we write, so we wrote a lot before we started. Things like keyboards and vocals and stuff like this was already recorded when we started writing the songs, you know, so for the keyboards, there was not a “recording” per se. We have our own studio, so we recorded there. And then we just did the guitars. But overall, it was like four or five months, I guess, but that includes writing.
FS: Right. Over the course of the albums, you went from having producers and different studios to doing it yourself in your own studio. What influenced that decision?
Tom: We still don’t do everything ourselves. We bring in people for the positions that we feel we can’t manage on our own. It’s also very important to have people from the outside coming in and not being in Evergrey and have their point of view to tell us when to slow down or if we have our heads up our asses, so… What was the question?
FS: What was the logic behind wanting to produce more, yourselves?
Tom: First of all, we got our own studio. I worked there. Basically, knowledge about the recording process is what made the decision to be more self-produced.
FS: That sort of ties in with the albums, which are largely constructed and well-fit-together, so having your own studio would facilitate that process better, right?
Tom: Yeah, it did, but at the same time, we were away quite a lot that time when we had it. We had it for six years. It was a really really big studio, you know? We didn’t have the time to run it, commercially, which made it in the end cost more money than what we put in. Then, the guy who really owned the studio said “fuck this band and the ship before it sinks.” (laughs)
We had five or six great years. Of course, we also had our rehearsal room next door to it, so we had a big Metallica-sized fucking studio and rehearsal space. Those are great memories.
FS: Now, for the gear junkies, do you want to explain your setup?
Tom: Yeah, I can start. We are endorsed by Caparison guitars, and also by Peavey amplifiers, and that’s what I use! Nice! I’m done. (laughs)
Marcus: I also play Caparison guitars. I play Marshall amps, which is modified. I have some pedals and stuff. A boss Ibanez Tube Screamer. That’s important to say. It’s one of my favorites.
FS: I’ve heard good things about that little pedal.
Marcus: It’s great. I actually have this deluxe version. It’s like, got a switch to get the original TS-9 on it, and different sounds like more bass. It’s very good.
Hannes: I am endorse by Tama and Pro-Mark. At the moment, I am trying out different cymbals. We’ll see where we’re at.
FS: Zildjian and Meinl?
Hannes: Yes, Meinl is in there. I’m trying a couple of different brands.
FS: How about you? (to Johan Niemann)
Johan Niemann: Ibanez basses and Swedish-made EBS amplifiers.
Rikard: I still use the Korg Triton I’ve used since I started with the band. On the recording on the last album, I only used it once. I mainly used computer plug-ins and actually a Fender Rhodes piano a lot. The only thing I use live is still the Triton.
FS: A lot of people have been glad to hear the keyboards in a more pronounced role than on “Torn.”
Rikard: Yeah, they came back a little more!
FS: What are some of the inspirations for the songs on “Glorious Collision,” this time around?
Tom: I mean, lyrically, mainly about the split that we had with the guys that we played with. Of course, it would be weird to explain it in such an ordinary way. We had to add some nicer words and, I wouldn’t say fiction, but spice it up a little. It’s our divorce album. That’s actually quite striking! (laughs) That’s what it deals about. It also deals about the time after. I tried to put things in an ordinary daily story and try to spice it up so it becomes bigger. I think you can hear it quite easily if you read the lyrics.
FS: I’ve thought that myself. So we go from alien abduction to solitude, to religious abuse, to divorce?
Hannes: That’s all you need.
Marcus: What’s left?
Tom: What’s left? Country music! That’s what I’m saying. (band laughs)
Johan: I think we established that!
Tom: We’re gonna write country songs. That’s all about love, isn’t it? Fuck that.
Hannes: Country songs with those three things in it?
(band laughs heartily)
Tom: Religious abuse, alien abduction… (laughs)
FS: That’s NEVER been done before.
Tom: Haha. Weird. Never mind us!
FS: Anyway, tonight, you’re playing the whole “In Search of Truth” album.
Tom: What? (in mock surprise)
FS: I’m quite sure you got this back when the album came out, but what influenced the lyrics behind the alien abduction tie-in?
Tom: The fun thing about it is that I have never said in an interview that it’s about alien abduction.
FS: Really? So that’s just rumors?
Tom: It is. And it isn’t mentioned once in the lyrics that it is about anything like that, even. But, then I mentioned in an interview once that I read a book! In the interview, the guy said that, “Well, so you took that story and made it into “In Search of Truth.” And then I said, because I didn’t realize it myself at first, but “Yeah.” What was the question?
It is about alien abduction. Yes. Maybe. But it’s more about the dark side of the human psyche.
FS: Right, “Different Worlds” summed it up perfectly.
Tom: Exactly. You take one subject and you can talk about all different things and different views of things.
FS: Do you see you guys playing any more of these shows where you play one album straight through? Or is this more of a one-off?
Tom: We think it’s just a one-off.
Johan: We’ll play someone else’s! (laughs)
Marcus: Yeah, that’d be cool.
Hannes: I have some demo tapes.
Marcus: We’ll make some money off of that!
Tom: “Have you heard that cover band thing?”
Hannes: The country band thing?
Tom: The COUNTRY band thing?
Marcus: Country? That’s the kind of music where they sing about, like…
Band, all together: Alien abduction? (laughs)
Tom: Yeah! Country music, yes! Nah, we’ll see. Really, we’re in America to promote our new album. This show is special, so we’re not going to do it for the rest of this tour.
FS: For this tour coming up, what is planned for that? Is it going to be a retrospective set list? Is it going to involve a lot of “Glorious Collision”?
Tom: We have so many albums. Even if we would play one song from each album, that would be eight songs. Then we have to play all the video songs. I think we’re playing like 3 or 4 songs from “Glorious Collision,” and then we have to add in the other stuff. That’s how it works.
FS: Right. How does the songwriting process usually go? Where do the songs start?
Hannes: I wrote most parts, yes, on the other albums as well!
Tom: This is our ghost writer!
Marcus: When you were like nine years old.
Tom: When he was nine years old, he wrote “In Search of Truth!” (laughs)
Hannes: I tell them, “You need anything?” “Oh yeah, an album about fuckin’ alien abduction.” I got it and I sent it over. That’s it.
Tom: That’s usually how it works! Nah, I mean, for this album, even before we decided that we should go on, me and Rikard had written some material. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a usual way of writing. I think we have worked out in different ways for different albums. With these guys, Marcus came in and co-wrote songs on this album straight away, which is fantastic. I think, on the next album, we will all be more informed, since we’re a band now. We weren’t, really, when we started writing. (falls asleep, jokingly snoring.)
Marcus: (laughs) Grandpa!
Marcus: (singing in falsetto) Grand-paaaa! (laughs)
Tom: A grand pa…
FS: Since we’re at ProgPower USA, are there any bands that you guys are going to stick around and see?
Tom: We’re leaving straight after the show, so we’re going to Virginia tomorrow, so no.
Marcus: We have some friends in Therion and some other bands. It’d be really nice to meet. I met them a few days ago in Sweden. It’s like, “If we don’t see each other in Atlanta…”
Johan: I would like to see that Emperor guy.
Johan: I would’ve liked to see that. I think the new record is really good.
Tom: I haven’t even heard it, what is it?
Hannes: It’s with Nils Fjellstrom on…
Johan: Not on the record.
FS: Asgeir [Mickelson, drummer]?
FS: He somehow managed to put a saxophone on the record.
Hannes: That is pretty weird!
Marcus: Scary shit.
FS: Speaking of saxophones and all that, what kind of music are you guys listening to these days?
Tom: Country music.
Hannes: Alien abduction.
FS: Country music! (laughs) This is a theme!
Tom: We are, actually, listening to some country music. We listen to whatever is on the iPod, basically. We listen to so much stuff. It’s so diverse, and also our tastes are. We go from everything from Marcus’s Johnny Cash stuff to Johan’s black metal and everything in between. For us, it’s impossible. We can manage one favorite band of each.
Marcus: We have a lot of music that we like and we trade a lot. We play a lot of music.
Hannes: We listen to music that is done with a lot of quality.
Tom: Yeah, we don’t listen to music that doesn’t hold a certain level of quality.
FS: Nothing that sucks. (laughs)
Marcus: That depends if it’s like… party time? Or if it’s like…
Tom: Driving in the car time.
Marcus: When it’s party time it’s like… Iron Maiden.
Tom: Country time?
Tom: The “Somewhere In Time” album. And Rikard puts in one of his favorite Judas Priest songs. (laughs) I fuckin’ hate that. Actually, I really don’t hate Judas Priest.
Hannes: I usually listen to Barry’s trumpet. (talking about the tour manager’s ringtone)
Tom: Barry’s going to release a trumpet album!
Rikard: I actually listen to my old vinyl collection right now, because I’ve noticed the prices on the used vinyls are really high now. So, it feels like I’m sitting on treasure.
Tom: I sold mine!
Johan: That’s how it has been for me my whole life. Really expensive vinyls.
Rikard: It sounds so much better.
Tom: That it does, if you have a good player. It feels real, you know?
Rikard: Yeah, it does.
Tom: Evergrey’s going to release a vinyl.
FS: Only on vinyl?
Tom: “Glorious Collision.” It’s coming in November in a blue, kind of blue album.
Marcus: You listen to music in another way when you put on a vinyl. It’s easier to sit down. I don’t know why, but it’s different.
Hannes: You listen to the whole album.
Tom: It’s great. Of course, it’s not that handy to bring 400 vinyl albums on a tour bus.
Marcus: You don’t have a vinyl player anymore, but I liked to listen to it.
Hannes: I got one from my girlfriend for my last birthday with a USB so I can bring them into my computer. Convert them to MP3.
Rikard: At the same time, you find some real shitty albums in your collection, like from the 80s, that don’t really stand the test of time.
Tom: But then there are LOTS of albums that do stand the test of time, both production-wise and song-wise, like “Operation Mindcrime,” for instance. And “Somewhere in Time.” Fuckin’ sounds fantastic! It does. The playing is remarkably great.
FS: Hannes was just talking about digitizing music. I guess we can take a serious turn here to wrap things up. Arguably, illegal downloading was a huge way that the US fan base got to learn about the international metal scene, like with the Swedish market, with the explosion of you guys, In Flames, Soilwork, etc. What is your take on illegal downloading and piracy?
Tom: It hurt us more than it helped. We’re not against the availability of music. It’s fantastic for bands these days to come out and get their music played. On the other hand, it’s horrible, also, because there’s so much shit that gets played, which would never get played if it didn’t have the means to get it out there. It’s what it is today. We have to find other ways to make money. Unfortunately, that’s going to mean higher ticket prices for concerts and higher merch prices and stuff like this.
You can’t get paid from a record label today. You can’t get any advances. Fuckin’ hell! When we released the “Monday Morning Apocalypse” album, we had so much money that we could do pretty much what we wanted, production-wise. Now, it’s like… It’s all because of the degrading sales, because nobody’s selling albums. We sell T-SHIRTS.
Marcus: It’s hard to make a living. But the good thing, for us, recording-wise, is that we’ve learned a lot of stuff and we’ve produced music ourselves, so we know. Now we just try to be able to be on tour and get home not broke. That’s the thing, we try to make money. To be able to be touring is hard, because record labels can’t put up enough money.
Tom: And also, that’s when it’s going to really reflect on the fans -- when people can’t tour anymore. And also not record proper albums.
Rikard: The amount of time it takes to make an album… You have to have some money to pay for it. If you don’t’ get any advance, you can’t really do it…
Tom: Because you have to get another job!
Rikard: You have to pay your rent. That’s why people are going to just sit home and do music on their free time like a hobby if it continues. A few lucky people who can afford to sing full-time and make records will do it. That’s the sad truth.
Tom: That’s true. Exactly. America has just been introduced to this Spotify thing… I think that is such a weird thing. Because it’s owned by all the major labels, everyone is involved in some way. They’re basically giving away their own music, which is our music, and THEY are the ones getting paid. We’re not getting paid. I think Lady Gaga was the most played artist on Spotify in the last year, and I think she got like $200.
Tom: Imagine what we get! We get a fucking bill! (laughs) “Pay this, motherfucker!”
Hannes: “Pay up!”
Marcus: “Pay up, boy!” (laughs)
FS: That’s definitely crazy.
Tom: I don’t see a solution for it at all, unless… It’s amazing in a way, also, that you have these fucking fantastic guys that work on these great computer companies, and they can’t come up with a way for people not to be able to distribute the music. It’s weird. But the guy that will invent an invention that will prevent people from doing so will be very rich.
That’s what we should do! Stop making music! (laughs)
Tom: Mute-ify? (laughs)
Hannes: It’s a virus that internationally goes out, and it’ll use the Spotify icon on your desktop.
Tom: Then, if you play an illegally downloaded album, your house explodes!
Hannes: Yeah, it will automatically take money from your account!
Tom: Yes! (laughing histerically)
Marcus: Let’s talk more about the house exploding thing.
Tom: Let’s go to motion! (mimics a song being played and house exploding) Dee-diki-dun dee-diki-dun dii-PSHOOM! (laughs) “Oh! Another house!” (in an old man’s voice) “Yeah, should have paid for your fucking music, boy!”
Hannes: That thief!
Marcus: That will teach you!
(everyone laughs histerically)
Tom: Goodbye forever!
FS: Oh god, that’s hilarious.
(everyone cannot stop laughing)
Tom: “I don’t have a head!”
Hannes: “And no house!” Doon-buggity-buggity-bah-POOM!
(more laughing, sides aching)
FS: I wish I taped that just now. I wish I had a camera.
Tom: (inbetween laughs) Oh, fucking Christ…
Hannes: 1, 2, 3, 4- PCCCHHHWW!
Tom: Bastard – PHOOOM!
Hannes: On the first count, 1-PCCHHHWW!
Tom: What? How many times do you have to count?
Hannes: (starts singing a song, getting to the middle of a line) POOM!
Tom: It should also be random, so it could happen in the second verse, to where they think they’re home free, but PCCHHHWWW! “No you don’t!”
Hannes: You get a CD from your friend, and you don’t know, because it’s a burned CD, so you have to check. You’re like, “Oh, it’s okay, the first song.” But then, the second song… you never know when it’s going to blow.
Tom: And also, if you borrow somebody’s car, they have their CDs in their car, but if you play it? PCCCHHHWWW!
Hannes: You just put it in and play it.
Tom: If you touch the CD on the outside! Or just the CD cover! PCCHHHW! “Mute-ify – It’s the law.”
Hannes: “Buckle up!”
Tom: That’s what it says here, right? “Buckle up – It’s the law.”
FS: (laughs) You guys are brilliant.
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