Simon Johansson of Memory Garden
Interviewed By Noel
How did Memory garden wind up on Metal Blade and what is your current relationship with Heathendoom Records?
The reason why we ended up on Metal Blade is that they called us to see if we were interested in signing with them. We are very happy that we got the chance to work with them since they are a much bigger label then Heathendoom which gives us the chance to reach out to a wider audience. We are still friends with Per Karlsson who has Heathendoom and there were no hard feelings between us when we signed to Metal Blade.
Since you are from Sweden, what are your thoughts on Swedish bands like In Flames, Lefay, and Lion’s Share?
Concerning these Swedish bands you mentioned, I am very much into In Flames, they are surely one of the best bands in the world in their kind of music. I know that Stefan really likes Lefay.
Can you tell me about your new CD and will it soon be out? This is your second on Metal Blade correct?
Yeah, we have actually been working on the new album all year and that is one of the reasons why it took me so long to get back to you guy’s. The new album will be released in Europe the 3rd of July and in the states sometime on October I think. Mirage as the new album is called is a step backwards in our music compared to Verdict Of Posterity. We all wanted to make the new album more straight and doom oriented than what VOP was, a little more like our earlier releases. The music on VOP was more of a mixture between power and doom metal but as we see it our strong side is the straighter, heavier stuff so that is what we have focused on this time. You will still find the powermetal influences here and there but not as strong as on “VOP.” This is our second release for Metal Blade as you say, the first one Verdict Of Posterity was released in 1998.
Can you tell us the album title, and song titles?
Sure, the album is called Mirage as I said earlier and the song titles are: Prologue, A Long Grey Day, Hallowed Soil, Shade, Navigate, Revelation, Yearning, River Of Sludge, My Pain and The Search.
What sort of topics are covered in the songs and how long they take to write?
Our songs often deal with the darker side of things, for an example what happens when someone dies or what goes on in the mind of a lunatic. The lyric “A Long Grey Day” is about how grey and boring everything is and that things goes on and on and nothing happens. “The Search” is about someone who is about to die, the search for something else, something better than the ordinary meaningless life around him. The search to find the other side. We spent the fall of 1999 and the beginning of 2000 writing new material and we began to record in February.
Do you think that Metal Rules, do you agree?
I do think that METAL RULES!! I’m actually into all kind of music as long as it’s quality but metal is what’s closest to me. I like the energy you find in metal and the total blast youll get from playing in front of a crowd.
There were reports of a second Abstrakt Algebra album that may or not have completed? Can you tell us about that?
I know that Leif wrote music for a second AA album but that he decided to use that material for the new Candlemass album instead, I don’t know why but that’s the way it was. He probably felt that he could reach more people under the name Candlemass, but I’m not sure. I wasn’t in the band when he decided to go on with Candlemass instead of Abstrakt Algebra.
What was the label Megarock like at the time?
I didn’t have that much contact with them, Leif took care of all contact with them as a label. But I know Dave and Lena that are running Megarock and they are cool. They did what they should with AA as I see it.
What was it like working with Leif Edling of Candlemass?
It was great, old Candlemass are one of my favorite band’s and I have listened to them since I was 11 or 12 years old and they released “Epicus…”. To get the chance to work together with Leif was just awesome. I’m also a very close friend of Mike Wead so it was really fun to do something serious together with him as well.
Abstrakt Algebra is not a doom band, but instead displays a technical power metal sound not too distant from, say, Sanctuary? Is this a accurate description?
I don’t know if I would describe it as sounding as Sanctuary but I do
agree that Abstrakt Algebra was not a doom band in the same way as Candlemass. I think that Leif wanted to do a industrial version of Candlemass with a lot of progressive elements in the music. That is the way I look at Abstrakt Algebra anyway.
How much involvement did you have in the writing of AA?
Nothing, Leif wrote all of the music and all lyric on the album. He brought the songs to rehearsal and we played them there, sometimes we could jam something together but it was always Leifs stuff.
So Mats Leven went on to Yngwie Malmsteen, Mike Wead went on to Mercyful Fate, Hexenhaus, Memento Mori, Hemisfear, and what about Leif Edling (bass) and Jejo Perkovic (drummer)?
Well, Leif went on with Candlemass and have released 2 albums since AA, Jejo plays drums on those albums as well and I think he has his own band Brick as well.
Was it hard getting into Memory Garden after the Abstrak Algebra break up?
If you mean getting the job in Memory Garden than it was not hard at all, I met the guy’s at a Heathendoom party and we talked a little about them wanting a new guitarist because Rick was leaving the band. They knew me from AA and they were really into the idea of getting me into the band. I was then invited to the release party of “Tides” to check them out (Ricks last show with them), I really like what I saw and that was pretty much it.
If you mean getting into the Memory Garden music than I have to say that it was not that hard, I got the CD’s from the guy’s and sat at home and learned the songs from them. It was a little bit strange to get into their way of thinking when they do music but after a couple of rehearsals it all felt great.
Are Ken Johansson (bass) and Tom Johansson of Memory Garden related too you?
No, we are not related, Ken and Tom are brothers but that’s all. You see, Johansson is a really common name in Sweden. By the way Tom has changed his last name to Bj?rn after his mother.
Will Abstrakt Algebra ever exist again?
No I don’t think so, but it’s up to Leif. If he wants to do another album he has to talk to us but I don’t think that the chance to get us all together again is so big.
Wasn’t Stefan Berglund vocals in Memento Mori? Could you tell us about that?
No, they had a guy called Stefan Karlsson on their Europe tour ?95 when Messiah had left the band. He was also supposed to sing on “La Danse Macabre” but it didn’t work out so they brought Kristian Andr?n (Fifth Reason, Hemisfear, ex-Tad Morose) into the band instead.
Why was Fifth Reason put on hold with the release of the Abstrakt Algebra album?
I felt that I wanted to put all my attention on AA and thought that I could do like this and deal with Fifth Reason when I felt that I had the time.
So Fifth Reason is your band, that you originated?
Yes, I formed FR in 1992 together with a friend called Niclas Oreland. We work a lot with writing material and in 1993 we recorded a demo called “Stranded” with Thomas Lundin (Hexenhaus) on vocals, we only sent the demo to record companies and received some good response but at the same time everything with AA started happening and I felt that it would be better for me to concentrate on that so I put FR on ice. When I left AA I was offered to record an album for Heathendoom Music, so I called my good friend Kristian Andr?n to see if he was into the idea of us doing something together which he was. We got together to rehearse both old FR material and new stuff I had been working on and it all felt great with the new guy’s in the band. I also talked to Marco A. Nicosia (Hexenhaus) if he was interested in joining which he did during the recording of “Psychotic”. The latest news is that Marty Marteen from Memento Mori also have joined the band, we have recorded a new album called “Within Or Without” and are currently searching for a new label.
About Leif Edling…how is he doing, and what?
It’s been awhile since I meet Leif but when I last met him everything was OK I think. He is working with Candlemass now and I think he is happy with that.
Will you ever work with him again?
I don’t know, there are no such plans for the moment and I’m really satisfied with what I have going myself. But of course it would be fun to do something with him again since he is one of the greatest song & lyric writers in this country. But I don’t think that will happen.
What was AA all about as a band, lyrics wise, music wise? What did it represent too you and are you proud of that album?
I’m really proud of that album, I think it’s great. To get the chance to work with all those awesome guys was a thrill. It was the first album I recorded and to get the chance to play in AA was great.
Any final comments for the people here at Metal Rules?
I hope you all will check out the new Memory Garden album “Mirage”, it’s great. I also hope that we will get our well deserved tour to promote the album and to get the chance to show our fans what Memory Garden is really about. Please visit our Garden on the World Wide Web as well, you’ll find it on www.memorygarden.net.
Doomly regards // Simon Johansson