I really wanted to be a guitar player, play a Gibson Flying V. Today I’m endorsed by Gibson and they give me free Flying Vs, so I guess that’s a boy’s dream coming true.”
DD: Hi, may I speak to Mr. Christofer Johnsson, please?
CJ: It’s Christofer speaking.
DD: Hey Christofer, this is Daniel from Wikimetal in Brazil. How are you?
CJ: Just fine, thank you.
DD: Excellent. Is it ok for us to talk a little bit now?
CJ: Yeah, sure.
DD: Perfect. Christofer, let us start by talking about the great upcoming concert that is coming to Brazil: what the fans can expect from the concert on May 18th in Sao Paulo?
CJ: Well, we did a tour in Latin America, promoting “Les Fleurs du Mal”, our 25-year anniversary album and now we did a tour, a mini tour, in December, in Europe making previews from the coming Rock Opera that we’re currently writing on. So, it will be a bit of a mixture between these two tours, what we do in Latin America. So we will be playing both, some material from “Les Fleurs du Mal”, we will be playing the Rock Opera preview pieces and some other songs that we did on these tours. If you check the set lists that we did in Europe on these two tours you get and idea.
DD: Since you mentioned the last time you guys came to Brazil, if I’m not mistaken, I think you guys came at least five times already. What are the best memories you have from Brazil?
CJ: Well, to be in Latin America, it’s a very organized country, you know? There’s much less technical problems, which is very appreciated. Because, in the end we don’t fly over the whole world just to sit at the hotel and wait while they try to get equipment to work. Sometimes some concerts have been very delayed, we play very late, you have to call the support technicians. It’s not the nicest atmosphere. We wanna do a regular show and in Brazil it kind of works well. Plus, you have the positive side of Latin America, which is the audience is very warm, very enthusiastic, in Europe it can be a little bit like “I’ve seen them before”. People have been spoiled with too many concerts here so we came more and more to Brazil as well. But at least the memories we have is that the audience is more wild, more appreciative. So there, Brazil is a very good balance. Things work, but you still have the Latin mentality. And personally, I’m a vegetarian for seventeen years, but for the rest of the band, Brazil is very appreciative for it’s food and steakhouses.
DD: Very good. You guys have just released a Deluxe edition of the album Theli from 1996, if I’m not mistaken. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about this reissue, I guess there’s some bonus tracks on this edition, right?
CJ: Yeah, the record label has been suggesting it for a couple of years, but I never really saw the big thing with it, you remaster a record, what’s the big deal? Of course, sounds changed a bit and the fans seem to prefer more compressed sound, this is no analog recording that we had back then. So what we’ve done now is a little bit more trembling the sound, a little bit more compressed, less dynamic. Personally, I prefer the old one better, but I understand that many young people prefer this way, because they don’t have proper stereo sound, people listen in their computer speakers, iPods. So I guess it’s more adapted to how people listen to music these days. But the main thing for me was that we have recorded a show on the 20-year Anniversary Tour back in 2007, where we performed the entire Theli album. And then the record label suggested that we could pick that parts of that concert and put it at the bonus, on the reissue of Theli. And then I thought it was pretty cool, because then you get the whole Theli performed live, you have the remaster and also there were some bonus tracks. It has been released before in what’s an album called A’arab Zaraq in 97, but this album is not available anymore, and we could take the most important tracks and put them there, in the bonus tracks. No matter what, it was kind of worth while in the end. Also they wanted to do some new artwork inside and so on. All and all, I think it’s cool. I don’t think this is really something for the people who already have the album. If you’re a die hard fan, for pure collection, sure. Or if you’re a fan that never had particularly this record, you got the opportunity to buy it. I think they’re mainly aiming at the young audience who don’t really have much records, listening to Spotify, just downloading music, to encourage them to actually buy a CD. Then of course it’s a brilliant idea that can offer a lot of other things, not just audio, but you get many things.
When Accept released “Balls to the Wall”, I managed to record maybe 30% of the song, just the last bit. I thought it was so great, I would listen to this little piece again and again.”
DD: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Christofer, we have a classic question on our show, that we ask every single guest. Imagine you’re listening to your iPod on shuffle mode or listening to a Rock station driving your car, and all of a sudden a song starts that makes you lose your mind and you feel that you need to start headbanging immediately, regardless where you are, you can’t control yourself, you can’t stop. What song is that so we can listen to that music in our show?
CJ: No way, I don’t remember the last time I heard a song that shook me up like that. Most of the music that is produced these days is not really good. Hopefully we’ve got old music. The only stuff I’ve heard recently that has been making me wanna buy CDs again are the 70’s survival type of band, like Saturnalia Temple for instance…
DD: But it can be an old one, an old song, no problem.
CJ: There’s Hexvessel, do you know Hexvessel?
DD: No, I don’t know.
CJ: It’s a really good band, they’re this small labeled, a survival 70’s sound, but they’re a young band. That’s the first time in years that I said “Wow, there’s good music being made, I wanna buy records again”. Otherwise, I just listen to 80’s and 70’s bands, mostly. If it would be a random choice, a random radio song, I would say “Return to Fantasy”, from Uriah Heep, then I would definitely step a bit extra on the gas.
DD: That’s a great one. Ok, so let me go back to the beginning of your career. Do you remember how did you become first interested in music, specially in heavy music and who were your main influences?
CJ: Actually, I wanted to become a musician when I heard Beatles, but mainly it’s all. I saw Beatles on TV and I really liked it and I asked my parents for the record when I had my birthday. I think maybe I was eight, so for my ninth birthday I had Greatest Hits on Beatles. That’s when I wanted to start playing. I don’t remember if I wanted to be a guitar player or singer, or even a drummer, I just wanted to play music. I was so taken from what I’ve seen on TV. When I was ten years old I discovered Heavy Metal, when Accept released “Balls to the Wall”, they played the title track on the radio and in the middle of the song I just looked for an empty cassette so I could record it, because I was totally blown away by it. And I finally found a cassete and I managed to record maybe 30% of the song, just the last bit. I thought it was so great, I would listen to this little piece again and again. We didn’t have much money back in these days, we were young in Sweden, it’s not like you could just run and buy an album at that age, you would have to wait for Christmas or birthdays or something like that. I think for my birthday I was wishing for Accept, so I got that record later and I also got Saxon’s “Wheels of Steel”, those were my two first albums. I didn’t have any friends who listened to Metal, there was one guy in my class at school who listened to some Metal, and he recorded me Accept’s “Restless and Wild” and on the other side of the cassete there where was Judas Priest’s “Screaming for Vengeance”. So I would be turning this cassete all day and listen to these two records. So I guess these were the bands that really set the standards for me. I used to have posters on the wall with Accept and Judas Priest. I really wanted to be a guitar player, play a Flying V, a Gibson Flying V. Today I’m endorsed by Gibson and they give me free Flying Vs, so I guess that’s a boy’s dream coming true.
We’re doing a Rock Opera. There will be a studio version as well, but that’s completely secondary. I’m not even sure if we’re gonna release it before we perform it live”
DD: That’s great. How do you listen to music nowadays? Do you still buy CDs or vinyls? Do you download, do you stream? How do you listen to music?
CJ: Well, I don’t stream, but if there’s just one song I like I buy a download. For a lot of these old artists that were one hit wonders, if you wanna do the right thing and pay for it, you can just buy the song. Like if I pick Terry Jacks, you would probably say “Seasons in the Sun”, a very famous song, but do you ever hear any other song with Terry Jacks? No, cause they sucked, you know? He just had one good song. And then I don’t wanna buy the whole CD with crap just for one song. So I think downloads are great for that and that type of music I would anyway multiply listen to it, if I’m traveling in the car or somewhere, if I have it on my iPhone. Otherwise I buy CDs, it’s really my generation. I started to appreciate vinyls a lot and listen to old vinyls… there’s some new bands like Saturnalia Temple, they have a vinyl, but otherwise I’m pretty much a CD person. I hated CD when it came and I was really vinyl, but then vinyl pretty much disappeared and I was starting to converse to the CD in the end and get used to it. But I like to have a physical record cover with the booklet with lyrics and information, maybe it’s a generation thing. But I don’t like the streaming thing at all. Two reasons: one is because the sound quality is very low; the other one is that when people listen to Spotify I get so little money, it’s ridiculous. If I would get drunk, that’s probably shit face drunk, and go down to the local train station with a cup and put it in front of me and sit down with an untuned acoustic guitar and play “Sweet Home Alabama” again and again I would make more money in one weekend than I would in one year from Spotify. So, it would be very inconsistent of me to be against it as an artist and then as a music consumer use it. I wouldn’t have the moral right to complain about it if I used it myself. So, that’s the second reason why I refuse to use Spotify and that sort of stuff.
DD: Very good. Let’s listen to some Therion now. Could you chose a song that you’re really proud of having written so we can listen to it right now on Wikimetal?
CJ: Like “Land of Canaan” for instance. It’s one of my favorite songs.
DD: Very Good.
DD: We’re back from the song now. Christofer, can you briefly explain to our listeners what is the “Dragon Rouge” organization and how it relates to Therion?
CJ: It doesn’t relate to Therion, so that’s why you should check the “Dragon Rouge” web page instead of asking about it this interview.
DD: Ok. What are the plans for the future? Are you guys recording a new album in the near future? Are there plans to create a Rock Metal Opera or something like that?
CJ: Yeah, we’re doing a Rock Opera. Music journalists always ask about the album it’s a wrong way of thinking, because if I say “Jesus Christ Superstar” you don’t think about a record, of course there’s a studio recording of Jesus Christ Superstar, but the main thing is the stage performance of it and this is how we need to think also about our Rock Opera. It’s something it’s gonna be performed like music theater, you know? Of course it will be an album, there will be a studio version as well, but that’s completely secondary. I’m not even sure if we’re gonna release it before we perform it live, we’ll see.
DD: Ok, we are almost reaching the end of the interview. I would like to ask you, before we let you go, to leave a final message to the Brazilian fans and invite everyone to the concerts that will happen in May.
CJ: We’re really looking forward to play in Brazil again and hopefully we will play in a beautiful venue like the theater we played last time and of course, we hope to see as many people as possible, we’re gonna give you a great show for sure.
DD: Excellent, thank you so much, Christofer, for participating on Wikimetal.
CJ: Thank you.
DD: Bye, bye.