Interviewed by Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Sound Pollution for the promo pictures of the band
Thanks to the Astral Doors manager for lending me more promo pictures of the band
I had a chat with singer Nils-Patrik Johansson from Astral Doors about their new album ASTRALISM which was released earlier this year. Mr. Johansson is a busy man and he is also involved in the band Wuthering Height’s that also have released an album that’s going to come up in Metal-Rules.com in the near future.
Hi, it’s fun to finally talk to you. In fact have I waited to have an interview with you ever since the release of the first Space Odyssey album where you sang. Should we maybe kick of the interview with talking a little about the new album with Astral Doors…
Hi man! Let’s go for it!
When did the work on ASTRALISM began and how long did it take for you to finish the album?
Oh, shit: it seems like it was very long ago. Actually I think we began the work right after we came home from the Grave Digger tour early spring 2005. We worked with the songwriting and the recordings for the rest of that year and finalized it in the beginning of this year.
Who’s writing the music and lyrics in the band?
We never write the songs in the rehearsal room while jamming together like many other bands do. Here’s how we do:
Johan, Joachim and Martin create instrumental demos and record them at home, complete songs but without vocal arrangements. Then they send me the stuff and I try to come up with the vocal parts.
I write all the lyrics and vocal melodies/vocal lines.
You have once again recorded in Big Turn Studio and The Darkside, why the same studios again, what’s so special with those studios?
It’s not anything special with those studios, but Big Turn is Joachim’s home studio and The Darkside is Martins home studio. In other words: We can go on forever and ever with the recordings, until we’re 100% satisfied. It’s a much bigger stress factor if you have to rent an expensive studio far from home. We work on our home turf. Perfect.
ASTRALISM was released in March 2006 but it took until August before the digipack version came out, why did it take so long?
Good question. To be diplomatic; the mastering of the first version didn’t live up to our expectations and due to the tight schedule; we weren’t able to stop that version from being released.
In fact, the mastering was so bad that Peter Tägtgren who mixed the album, wanted us to remove his name from the booklet, hahaha.
So we were very depressed when we had to release a product we couldn’t really stand for, so we asked our label if they were willing to release a re-mastered version. They said: Yes, let us release it as a special digipack tour edition. So, we started to work and we had it, not only re-mastered, but also re-mixed by no one else but Mr.Tägtgren himself.
You have been pretty fast to release albums, since 2003 you have released 3 albums and one MCD, do you think you’re going to keep that speed in the future as well?
Well, if we can keep the spirit and the high quality, I guess it’s possible. In fact we already have recorded four new songs for the next album and we have five or six songs just waiting for the final touches. So a spring release would be possible, but I think we will work a bit longer this time around.
A fall release will be perfect.
Earlier this year you were supporting Blind Guardian, how was that? Do you have any favorite shows amongst you did with them?
It was seven great weeks. We had the audience with us every night and they enjoyed our Swedish brew of classic hardrock. The gigs on Swedish soil were great of course, but I enjoyed all gigs. London and Paris were super. Spain and Italy rocked really hard. But as I said: I loved all the places and audiences all across Europe.
You have only done a few shows in Scandinavia as well as a shorter support tour through Germany with Grave Digger, how come you’re so bad at touring with this band?
Well I wouldn’t say that we’re bad touring with this band: Two European tours: one 2005 and one 2006 and also gigs at very big festivals before and between the tours. That means 55 gigs in one and a half year. I think that’s ok. Astral Doors is also a band with high demands, we only accept good offers. We’ve been doing small club gigs in other bands for so many years. With Astral Doors we’re aiming higher.
Which one of the Astral Doors albums you’ve featured on are your favorite one?
We’re talking Astral Doors here right? If you had asked me this question 5 months ago, I would have said “Astralism”, but as I feel at this moment, my favorite is “Evil Is Forever”. I just love it from start to finish. “Astralism” is also amazing, but it’s too long. We should have removed three or four songs, and it would have been as strong as “Evil”. Maybe “Astralism” appeal more to the regular heavy metal fans and “Evil is forever” more to the Rainbow/Dio fans. “Astralism” brought us many new fans and that’s great.
As the matter of fact I rank all our three albums very high.
Where does the name Astral Doors come from and why did you name the band that?
It was in 2002, when labels started to pay attention to our music and we didn’t even have a name for the combo. Not so strange perhaps, since we started the band just 6 months earlier: Things went really fast. We took the name Astral Doors from one of our songs “Far beyond the astral doors” and that was it.
And why did you title the album ASTRALISM?
Because It’s a great name. We had it as a work-title when we started the writing sessions for the album, and we kept it all the way. I know that it’s a term within some New Age movements, but for us it’s just a cool title.
Who’s done the cover artwork on the new album, and what do you think of it?
We love the cover, otherwise we wouldn’t have used it. It’s made by the cover master Mattias Norén. Our label wanted us to have a “dragons-flying-around-castles-cover”, but we had that on the cover of “Evil” so we wanted something different for this one.
Do you think that Astral Doors have developed anything musicwise during the years? If so in what way?
We have brought the classic hardrock back on the scene. When we came up with “Of the son and the Father” 2003, the world was hungry for good old quality hard rock. Since that day, I think we have become better and better as songwriters, musicians and performers. Our aim is to lead our style to perfection and make THE album.
Have you read any reviews of the new album? What have the Swedish media to say about ASTRALISM?
To be quite honest, I don’t read that many reviews. They just piss me off if they aren’t good. I read metal-rules.com (!) and the big magazines though, to keep myself up to date, and both Close Up and Sweden Rock Magazine, the biggest metal mags in Scandinavia, gave us pretty good grades for “Astralism”.
The press world wide has always been kind to Astral Doors.
I was wondering a little about your debut album CLOUDBREAKER from 2003, it was released in Japan/Asia entitled CLOUDBREAKER but it was released in Europe/USA under the name OF THE SON AND THE FATHER, why? And why 2 different cover art-works?
Just because our Japanese label didn’t like the European version with the cover art with the crucified priests. They wanted something more “neo-classical”. Our manager found this picture with the space ship. We could live with it; the label liked it and everyone was happy. But it would have been pretty silly to call an album with a colorful space ship on the cover “Of the Son and the Father”, so we named the Japanese version after the opener of the album: “Cloudbreaker”.
Are your old albums still avaliable in stores today?
I sure as hell hope so. Remember that our first album came out 2003, so I wouldn’t say that is an old album. It’s still fresh and sells pretty well.
Is it the same line-up today as it was in the beginning? And who started the band in the first place?
The line up hasn’t changed at all. We want Astral Doors to be a strong unit, not some kind of project where members come and go. In the beginning it was me, Johan and Joachim, but pretty soon we completed the line-up with Martin, Jocke and the Finnish flash; Mika.
You have always been signed to Locomotive Records, what’s your thoughts about your label? Are you happy with the promotion the label have put into the band and album’s etc?
We are very happy with them. I know how much blood, sweat and tears the staff at Locomotive put down in their work for us. The promotion campaign they pulled off for “Astralism” was amazing. I don’t think a bigger label would have done it better.
How did you landed the job as lead singer in Astral Doors?
As I mentioned, it was Johan, Joachim and me who started Astral Doors. Johan and Joachim started to write songs together and needed a singer. Johan and I have been friends for years, so he asked me if I could come up with the vocal lines and lyrics to a couple of songs. I said yes, and it was great chemistry from the start. A new band was born. I have to add that all the members in Astral Doors live in the same Swedish small town, Borlänge. We have always been a real band. I think the metal fans dig that. They are tired of project-bands.
How would you like to describe what kind of music Astral Doors plays?
We play classic hard rock with a touch of heavy metal; influenced not only by the music of Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Dio, but also by bands and artists like Accept, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne etc. It’s a mixture between the legendary old school sound and a more modern angry sound.
When can we find the next album by Astral Doors in the stores do you think? I read on your myspace site that you’re already have begun the work on the next album, in what musical direction are you heading with that do you think?
The next album is scheduled for a fall 2007 release and as I said in the beginning of this interview, we are about half way into the writing/recording process. In what direction are we heading? Tough one to answer at this stage, but I will give the Astral fans more variation vocal wise on this one. On the previous Astral releases, I have sung pretty aggressive all the way and I feel that it’s time to be a bit more progressive. Don’t worry: it’ll still be classic hard rock, only better.
Give me three reasons why the readers should run out and buy ASTRALISM?
I’ll give you three reasons to run out and buy all our 3 albums: 1. they are superior within its genre 2. I sing on all three(laughter) 3. Anyone that buys an Astral album is a friend of ours.
Is there any special artist or band that the members in Astral Doors share as a common “idol”?
The only one we share as a common idol must be Ronnie James Dio. Besides that we come from very different backgrounds.
Do you think Astral Doors are going to increase the touring on the next album?
For a band not signed to a major label it’s very tough to find better tours than we already have done. We did 40 gigs promoting “Astralism” and for a band in our position that’s a lot. The touring plans for the next album is to go on a smaller headliner tour across Europe, doing as many festivals as possible and finally to visit the States.
Let’s talk about your other involments besides Astral Doors, you’re also singing on the first Space Odyssey album, how did you end up on that cd?
That’s a long story. I guess that the start of it was the fact that I went down to Copenhagen to record some kind of test demo with the band Wuthering Heights. One of the members in Wuthering Heights was a guy named Henrik Flyman who was a good friend of Richard Andersson. Richard had a new project going, Space Odyssey. As a singer he had hired a great and famous singer, but somehow it didn’t turn out the way Richard wanted it so Richard called Henrik Flyman and asked him if he knew any guy who could sing “Tony Martin style”. Henrik told him about me and the rest is, as they say, history.
The first Space Odyssey album will always be close to my heart since it was the first album I ever made. The Astral debut landed on the desks a month later and shortly after, my first Wuthering Heights album saw its light. The first three albums with me behind the microphone came out within six months.
You’re also singing on the second SO album, how was it to work with Richard Andersson and why didn’t you sing on the third album with SO?
If the first album was tough for me to do due to the fact that I had to complete the vocals in three days, the second session was more relaxed. I and Richard worked tighter and everything went real smooth. We drank a lot of beers and had a great time.
Richard asked me if I wanted to do the third one as well, but I had no chance to do it, since I had my hands full doing gigs with Astral Doors; recording the second Wuthering Heights and recording/writing with Lion’s Share. Richard understood the situation, so no hard feelings between me and Richard.
Do you think that you will work with keybord master Richard Andresson again in the future my be?
Who knows? We get along real well so I hope we’ll team up again one day. However I will not do another album under the name Richard Andersson’s Space Odyssey. That’s out of the question. If we’ll work together in the future, it has to be something fresh and not another “solo”-album.
Were you involved in any other acts before you joined SO?
I already had Astral Doors and had just landed the job as the new singer of Wuthering Heights. Before that I’ve been around in the local scene here in my hometown for many years. I did a lot of stuff, from Purple covers in one band to progressive metal in another.
Do you “only” sing or can you play any instruments as well? And when did you first discover that you could sing?
I guess I’ve been singing since I was born, but I actually started my band career as a drummer in a couple of bands, before I finally decided that singing was my game. I play a little guitar as well but not really good.
Where do you find inspiration to your lyrcis and what do you write about?
I find inspiration in anything that touches me in one way or another. It can be anything from Second World War stories to current things like terrorism, religious fanatics, fantasy stuff or sometimes just pure kick ass rock’n’roll lyrics.
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard that you have a lot in common Dio and Coverdale vocalwise, what do you think of being compared with those two? and do YOU think that you have any vocal similarities with them?
I can not do a single interview without talking about Dio. I got no problem with that. He’s a great singer and a big inspiration to me. Not many interviewers mention David Coverdale so I’m glad that you do, since he actually has been just as much inspiration to me as Dio. I actually think that my voice in many ways sounds like a mixture between the two, but with a bit more aggressive touch, but that’s only when I’m “screaming”. When I sing softer I don’t sound like them at all. That’s probably my strength as a singer; I can use my voice in many ways and I’m capable of singing all kinds of different styles.
Are there any special vocalists that have inspired you?
I just gave you the answer I guess, but besides Dio and Coverdale I have to mention Glenn Hughes, Tony Martin and Ian Gillan. Lately I have listened a lot to the 70’s and 80’s symphonic mega bands like STYX; how about Tommy Shaw? Great voice!
You are also lead singer in the Swedish/Danish act Wuthering Heights, how long have you been inolved with them?
I’ve been touching the subject already in a previous question. It was 2002, I believe it was, when they called me and asked if I was interested of joining them. Their management had heard an old demo with me singing and managed to find me somehow.
And like that’s not enough you’re also the new singer in Lionshare, how do you find the time to work with everyone?
I don’t know really, hahaha, it has worked until now, but I guess that Lion’s Share will take up more of my time in the future. Next summer it will be a lot of gigs with Lion’s Share I hope, so Astral Doors may have to step back for a month or two. It shouldn’t be any problems. I won’t let anyone down.
Imagine that you’re going into the studio with one band and get to hear that another of your bands are going to perform live, how do you solve that?
I will never again put myself in that situation. Remember that’s one of the reasons I had to say no to Space Odyssey. In the future I will make sure that there’ll be no double bookings.
Wuthering Heights have also released a new album, what can you tell us about that?
It’s a crazy mixture between Power/speed metal, Progressive metal, folk and Irish music etc. Everything is totally over the top, and it’s fantastic. You won’t get bored listening to it, I can guarantee you that. I’ve done 2 albums with WH now and both deserve to be classics. Crazy and “over the top”, sure, but the albums beat the hell out of most releases in the same category of music.
Does Wuthering Heights have any plans on doing any live show’s next year?
Nothing confirmed, but I’ve heard some rumors. I can’t say anything more about it at this stage. We all have to wait and see.
When can we expect to find the new Lions share album out in the stores?
In May I think! It has to be out before the festival season, so the fans can learn the new songs in time.
What do you think of the older albums with Lions share?
They are great. Remember that their debut album came out 1995 when Heavy Metal was dead. So it came down like a bomb. I loved it: Great riffs, cool songs and an excellent singer. The new album will be more aggressive than the previous ones, but it still sounds like Lion’s Share.
Does Lions share have any plans on doing any live show’s next year?
You bet: We are booked for next years edition of Sweden Rock Festival and more festival appearances will be confirmed. It’s important for us to face the fans. Lion’s Share has been away from the limelight for some years now and we have to show that we are back: Stronger than Ever!
Can you live on being a musician or do you have a “regular” job besides the music?
Not really! But on the other hand I work with music a lot in my regular job as a music therapist, so that’s cool! I couldn’t live without music!
Which album are you going to appear on next?
It’ll be the new Lion’s Share album. I don’t accept any new offers these days. I can’t be on every god damn album, it’ll be overkill, and I hate that. I’m no session singer; I wanna be in real bands. But hey, if Ritchie Blackmore calls, who knows?
2006 is soon coming to an end, have this year been a good year for Nils-Patrik Johansson?
Yeah, it has been a fantastic year in many ways. Astral Doors is getting bigger and bigger. The Blind Guardian tour was a big and successful thing for us.
The sessions with Lion’s Share have been great. I, Lars Chriss and Sampo Axelsson work very well together and big things will hopefully come out of it next year. Finally, the recording of the new Wuthering Heights was a blast. Maybe my best vocal works this far in my career.
What are your plans for 2007?
The promotion of the new Lion’s Share album including a lot of gigs and interviews will take a lot of my time. Another goal is of course to make the best Astral Doors album ever. Live appearances with AD are also high up on the priority list. I got no obligations towards Wuthering Heights, but if they come up with something cool, I will try to be there for the lads!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, do you have any final words to the readers and fans?
I would first of all like to thank you for the interview and the good questions. Cheers!
To the readers and fans I just want to say: Thanks for supporting me, and see you on tour: Stay Evil!
Read the cd review of the Astral Doors album here