Cult of Luna Interview
with Johannes Persson
@ Damnation Festival, Leeds UK
2nd November 2013
Interview by Caitlin Smith
Interview Photos by Michelle Murphy
There are a few ways to tell that an interview is going to be interesting, and having to literally coax the interviewee away from reading up on an Ice Hockey match is definitely one of them.
Already running 5 minutes late for the interview, CULT OF LUNA member Johannes Persson; (Vocals and Guitars) breezes up with a grin the biggest grin on his face before launching into a long complaint about the back ground music.
Dragging him back on track and into his music, It’s not hard to see why these guys are one of the hottest post-metal bands around right now. Not only did Vertikal set the new standards in bleak music but EP Vertikal II released just months after is the same devastating standard.
Taking a quick break from the madness of Damnation Festival, we chat with Persson about the new EP and how they turned such abstract ideas into musical reality.
There was a 5-year gap between Eternal Kingdom and Vertikal. Why such a long time and what were you doing?
Living our lives.
Between 2001 and 2008 we pretty much released an album every 18 months and we needed a break first of all.
It also seemed pretty good then as after 5 albums we were done with our obligation to our record label so we were like, we’ve done this and then we just lived our lives. This is not our job, its kind of a paid hobby.
It’s very easy to press the stop button; it’s very hard to get the machinery going again. We were kind of stuck in a situation where we get the show on the road now or we’ve just got to quit. We live in different cities so we had a mail conversation between each other and we felt like if we were going to do another album, we need to do something new; we need to do something we haven’t done before.
We had a very long conversation about where we were at the moment, where we wanted to go and where we had been. The last two albums Eternal Kingston and Somewhere along the Highway had been inspired by the geography of where we were, where we grew up in North Sweden with the woods, the rural environment. There’s a very green, brown, yellowish undertone. So we said lets go 180 degrees and go into the future doing a city album, harsh grey kind of stuff.
So then we started writing and there were so many ideas flowing back and forth. I think the most important thing when we wrote the album is that before we wrote a single note we put down how we wanted the album to sound. I don’t want to get too deep into this but we create with people you should probably know yourself.
You get stuck in abstract ideas that basically mean nothing, you need to do something concrete. It’s going to sound like a city, yeah; a city to you is different to me, so you need to find a common ground. So what is a city? It’s human presence, and what constitutes human presence? Industry, repetition, harshness and that you can write something with.
Repetition for example, industry, we tried to record only down strokes on the guitar so it would sound less organic. That was one very specific way of how will I let the idea of industrialization force us to take creative choices which we wouldn’t have done otherwise.
You’ve released your Vertikal and your new EP Vertikal II in the same year. Why such a short time between releases?
It was opening a dam when we actually started writing and we had so many ideas that when we got into a recording situation we had enough material to do a double album, but we understood very quickly that a lot of songs were not holding up the standard that we expect from ourselves.
So then we had to make a decision, do we go back and write songs so we could do this double album? This would be the wrong thing to do because that would be the wrong motivation to write songs, and can you name a double album that does not consist of too many fillers?
There’s a lot of good double albums out there but we decided to focus on making this album the best album we possibly could have and we ended up with a couple of songs left over, so we released those songs as an EP.
They were very close because any of those songs could have been on Vertikal and vice versa, and those two releases should be viewed as completing the whole Vertikal section.
Vertikal II seems less aggressive that Vertikal. Would you agree with this and what would you say the differences between the two releases were?
I think the way the songs were arranged release wise, I agree that maybe Vertikal II is less aggressive, but that’s because maybe those song ended up on Vertikal II.
I mean they were recorded in the same session so it’s just a coincidence. The song that ends Vertikal ‘Passing through’ could easily be exchanged with ‘Oro’ which starts off like Vertikal.
That’s the first song we wrote in Swedish too, which was very easy. Writing lyrics in Swedish is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.
Are we going to see more lyrics in Swedish?
I don’t know, we’ll see.
The songs are very atmospheric and you have elements of each song bleeding into each other so you have a passage through the album. Was it meant to sound like a soundtrack or was that something that just happened?
Maybe not the first album, although we tried to make that consistent too. Every album we have ever made had a theme or a story and so every album is basically a soundtrack to something. Every song has its own storyline and the song storylines need to be together in a story.
The way we write is we get three or four songs and out of that we decide how the next songs need to sound to make a complete album. Every song cannot be harsh and hard; you need to build those waves, those highs and lows. It’s very intentional.
What is next for Cult of Luna?
We’re going to do something in 2014. I don’t think I’m at liberty to say. Were going to come back to the UK that is for sure and do something very special and then were probably going to disappear back into our ordinary lives for a few years.