Johan Edlund Talks Recording and Writing "The Scarred People" and Touring in America
Sweden’s Tiamat has never been a band confined to a certain sound. Whenever an album conveys a certain path, the group turns around and travels a different route on the next album. From their Swedish death roots of “Sumerian Cry” to the atmospheric doom of “Clouds” to the bluesy soundscapes of “Wildhoney” to the electronic beats of “Judas Christ”—each album seems related only in their pursuit of lush ambiance.
“The Scarred People,” Tiamat’s tenth full-length studio record, bridges many of the ideas and sounds heard throughout the group’s long history. Tiamat mastermind, Johan Edlund corresponded with Metal Underground via the internet to give us the scoop on “The Scarred People.”
Darren Cowan (Rex_84): How does “Amanethes” compare to “The Scarred People?” Did you pursue a different direction or do you perceive this album as a continuation?
Johan Edlund: We're just trying to make as good albums as our limited talents allow us. There's never been much thought or speculations on where to take an album. We trust our subconscious to come up with the concept.
Cowan: What does the album titled “The Scarred People” refer to? Who are the scarred people?
Edlund: Anybody. I see this album as homage to outsiders. But that's just my interpretation.
Cowan: Was this title your first choice or did you have other ideas for an album title before you picked “The Scarred People?”
Edlund: I like to have the album title before I even start thinking about songs. I don't know why, that's just the way we work.
Cowan: Who created the album art? The cover depicts a robed individual surrounded by symbols such as pyramids. How does this picture fit the mood/themes of the album?
Edlund: I did it. It's a hodge podge of assorted symbols from different cultures that goes well with the open minded view we keep in everything we do.
Cowan: Tiamat has changed its sound often through its long history. Death metal, doom, Pink Floyd-ish atmosphere and goth/industrial electronics describe some of the ideas you’ve put to wax. Besides death metal, would you characterize “The Scarred People” as a blend of all these styles, all the styles created throughout your career?
Edlund: We're happy being Tiamat, that's the only label we put on ourselves. In fact, Tiamat is by far our own biggest influence. We often quote ourselves, what we've done in the past, when needed in the studio. There are a lot of elements both in the music and in the lyrics that we have developed over the years that feel genuinely Tiamat, be it a clean electric guitar sound, a special way of drum patterns, certain ways to express lyrics. We often go back there and sample ourselves, so to speak.
Cowan: Each song on “The Scarred People” moves in an amorphous fashion, casting brilliant moments that soon fade into darkness and vice versa. Listeners may experience moments of stillness to reflect and absorb your encompassing atmosphere, but soon find their selves energized and active during up-beat, danceable segments. How did you piece each part together in a sensible, flowing manner?
Edlund: Contrasts were always important on our albums. This comes quite naturally to us because we let it happen. We don't even talk about it, like. Now we need a fast part etc. As long as we're open minded to follow where the song takes us, it's just gonna flow.
Cowan: Every instrument is a single layer in the sonic fabric that envelops “The Scarred People.” Would you say keyboards are at the center of the atmospheres you create? What brand of keys and other related gear do you use to create these sounds?
Edlund: Oh, we use a lot of different equipment. From modern PC plug ins to old analogue gear, and we like to run around sampling sounds here and there, but most of my songs are written on an acoustic guitar, so there's often a pretty simple campfire song behind all that cosmetic.
Cowan:“Tiznit” is an organic instrumental track featuring sounds of birds and acoustic guitar. For these reasons the track resembles the opening, title track on “Wildhoney, although “Wildhoney” related an ominous tone. What does the word “Tiznit” mean? Were you communing with nature when you conceived this track?
Edlund: The song was recorded outdoors, in a green sunny garden with lots of birds. Roger [Ojersson] played guitar and I was fooling around with the bell. Tiznit is a small town in Morocco, but also a great painting by Cy Twombly to whom this song is a homage.
Cowan: The bluesy guitar tones of “Messinian Letter” project a twang that approaches country music. What types of emotions do you hope to express on this track?
Edlund: I don't know. I just love the song for it's simplicity. It's a pure love song, so it was no need for complicating things.
Cowan: “You are my only friend” comprises the song’s chorus. How does this phrase fit into the song’s storyline?
Edlund: It's a rewriting of a letter that my girlfriend sent me when I was still in Germany waiting to move to her in Greece, so it's actually her letter to me.
Cowan:Tiamat released “A Deeper Kind of Slumber” in 1997. That album showed a greater reliance on electronic elements. However, the goth-industrial sound didn’t become prominent until your 1999 follow up “Skeleton Skeletron.” What led you to take this approach? Did you start incorporating more of these elements because of the popularity of this music in Europe?
Edlund: Again, no big masterplan. Everything we've done has felt pretty natural at the time. But I was going out quite a bit back then, spending long nights in dark clubs in Hamburg and Berlin, with fog machines, stroboscopes and super loud Sisters of Mercy.
Cowan: What does Tiamat have in store for the near future? Is the band hitting the road in Europe?
Edlund: I hope we'll soon have some European dates along with some festivals next summer.
Cowan: Other than an opening stint for Black Sabbath and Motorhead in the mid-1990s, I don’t recall Tiamat touring the States. Why has Tiamat remained distant from North America’s shores Do you have plans for an American tour or at least a festival appearance?
Edlund: We have nothing planned at the moment. Next show is the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise. Hope we soon get the chance to come back for a real US tour. We would love to tour US. We're just not big enough.
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