Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Band promo pictures are taken from the bands website taken by: Thomas Erlandsson
Additional promo pictures also taken from the bands MySpace page and provided by: Vanessa Decampos
The dark/progressive metal act Andromeda has just released their fourth album THE IMMUNITY ZONE. The band is led by guitarist Johan Reinholdz and I had the pleasure of talking to him. This interview takes a deep look into the vaults of the music of Andromeda and the mind of guitar wizard Johan Reinholdz.
How long did it take to record and to write the material on THE IMMUNITY ZONE?
It took about a year or so to record. We recorded it ourselves so there was no pressure from having the money ticking away by the hour, you know?
The songs were written over a period of two years or so. I tend to forget when songs were written. It can be tricky because sometimes I have riffs or little parts lying around for years and then all of a sudden they fit with something else – maybe some new stuff and voilà! - a new song is born.
You, singer David Fremberg and keyboardist Martin Hedin have written all of the material, who writes the music and the lyrics? And what are the lyrics about?
Martin and David write the lyrics. I have however written the lyrics for one song on the new album - “Veil of Illumination”. I haven't written lyrics for Andromeda since the first album.
I don't want to go into certain lyrics and explain them, that should remain open for the listeners to interpret, but in general they deal with subjects like life, death, love, hate, psychology, philosophy and on the two last album a lot about our view on this world and the society and how fucked up it is by those in control – the elite.
What's the most positive thing with co-writing material? Are there any negative things with writing material together with others?
Interesting question! I've actually thought about this a lot. Well, when I'm writing stuff on my own it's really cool to have that control and vision of where it's going. You can create stuff that would be hard to communicate to others and to make it happen. The songs I write on my own can really be controlled and made up totally according to the ideas from deep within myself. I like to write all the parts, you know, the drums and synths and all that,
it's a lot of fun sitting at the computer and just programming and trying different shit - it's a blast!
On the other hand, it can be really beneficial to write songs with others too. You get a lot of input from the others, things you would never think of yourself. So if you are lucky you get synergy where 1+1=3. The combination of the different ideas from different people create material that can become more unique. For example it can be really inspirational to lay down a solo on a passage that Martin or David has written. Then it's totally new and fresh for me and I get new ideas.
So both methods, writing on your own and as a group, as their own merits. Often with Andromeda we have employed a combination of these methods, especially on “II=I”, which is partly why it turned out so great I think. The last two albums have been more individually composed.
On the next album though we're gonna write more stuff together as a band.
You recorded this album back in 2007, why has it taken you so long to release it?
As usual the was a lot of trouble with labels and contracts and stuff. And we really didn't have a deadline, nothing to kick us in the ass. That's basically why.
Where does the title THE IMMUNITY ZONE come from and does it have any special meaning to the members in Andromeda?
That concept and title can be found in the second song “Slaves of the Plethora Season” and it basically refers to the rich part of the world. Because as we all now, our lives turn out really differently if we are born in for example Sweden or if we are born in Bangladesh. We really live in an “immunity zone” as the rest of the world burns.
Who has done the cover art-work of the album? What do you think of it?
It was painted by Martin's sister Maria Hedin and it´s a spin-off of a photo we found on the net. I think it looks really gloomy and dark and it captures the essence of the title and the album.
Do you think that Andromeda have developed anything musicwise on THE IMMUNITY ZONE compared to your previous album CHIMERA?
Some, not very much to be honest. But it has become darker I think. And I love that! I love dark, depressing music.
The album was first released in USA and in Japan, how has the media and fans responded in the album over there?
Very very good!
Do you care about what the media and press writes about the band?
Yes, of course I do. All humans care about what others think, otherwise they lie. That's how our minds work because we are herd animals, not solitary creatures like cats.
But anyway, yes I care but obviously you can't take every comment or review to the heart too much. Otherwise you'll think you're a god or a total loser. You gotta have that distance to it, so it won't get to you. And it's really bad if it influences your decisions as an artist. You got to maintain the integrity and stick to what you believe in. If you start thinking about pleasing everyone else and not yourself then your work won´t be true and contain that magic spark of passion and conviction I think.
Do you read the reviews of the albums you're involved in?
Yes, as many I can. Of course I might miss a few but.., what the hell, there are only so many hours in day.. It's hard to find the time for everything.
What are you're feelings toward THE IMMUNITY ZONE? I mean most artists thinks that their latest album is their best one.
I'm really pleased with it. I listen to it every now and then. Many bands and musicians seem to have problems with listening to their records. I don't. I write music that I like obviously, so why wouldn't I like to listen to it?
I honestly think that “The Immunity Zone” and “II=I” are our best albums. Of course I dig “Extension of the Wish” and “Chimera” a lot too. But those two still are the best in my opinion.
Are there any plans to shoot a video to any of the songs on the album?
No there is not at the moment.
Did you threw any releaseparty for the album when it came out in Europe? If you did, when and where did the party take place?
No we didn't sadly but we did have a premier screening/releaseparty for our live-DVD here in Malmoe at a cinema. It was really cool to see the whole disc up there on the big screen!
How would you like to describe what kind of music Andromeda plays?
It's really intense, emotional, aggressive, intricate, rhythmic, melodic music!
Do you have plans on try to conquer the American and the Asian market at the moment?
No, just the whole world!
Do you think that the old Andromeda fans are gonna like the new album?
Yes – I truly believe so! But yes – some people out there apparently still want us to do “Extension of the Wish”-part 2 and 3 and 4 and so on.. and to take back Lawrence Mackrory as the lead singer. But that's natural – it seems to be that way with many bands. People can't let go of the past. They long for the old times, they're nostalgic, that's all.
The statement “THE IMMUNITY ZONE will grow on the listener after each spin” was written in your biography, how would you comment on that line? Is it true do you think?
Absolutely! That's the way we want it. So people have to invest some time and listen through the album a couple of times before they start to really get into it. I think songs and albums that you immediately understand and like will probably not last that long and provide those hidden treasures that appear with more “difficult” albums. So I think our records win in the long run.
You did record the album in Hedin 41 Studios and in Reinholdz Studio, are those your own studios? And how come you chose to record the album there?
Yes, those are our own studios. Martin has a degree in studio engineering and he also teaches this at Malmoe Academy of Music so he has some valuable knowledge. Also, because of his position we can borrow those premises at the school for recording, for free! So that's truly great.
Martin Hedin has also produced the album. How was it to work with him in the producer seat?
It works fine although we have some really strong heads in the band and everyone has a lot of opinions, so it's not always easy to agree. But that's great I think – so you can feed of each others ideas and make it better.
When Martin has done the rough mix I listen to it and write down about five or six pages with comments and corrections that I want him to make. When he opens that mail he lets out a gigantic sigh I can tell you! Hahaha! So then we start arguing and discussing a lot about how it should sound.
New mix – same procedure again! Haha! I always tell him to raise the kick drum and the lead guitar and the bass and to lower this or that... A quite tiresome and time-consuming process – but EXTREMELY important. A bad production can really ruin a great material and vice versa.
What's Hedin's strongest feature as producer? And what is the most positive thing with having a member producing the album?
He's a perfectionist and he has good taste – two extremely important features. The positive thing is quite obvious – you have a lot of input, time to work things over and synchronise in the thought process – about the direction of the album as a whole.
Do you think that you're gonna use Hedin as producer in the future?
Yes, I think so! But it would be cool to bring somebody from outside the band into the recording and mixing to get some new ideas and fresh perspectives. Maybe in the future, who knows?
You have been signed to many different labels, your last album was released by Massacre Records, why did you leave them?
Because they didn't care about us. They didn't promote the album very well, we never got any response from them basically.
Were there many labels that were interested in signing you when you had left Massacre Records?
Some. Three, four maybe.
You then signed on for Nightmare Records, are you happy with the label and the work the label have put into THE IMMUNITY ZONE?
Yes, it's been good. Of course there could've been more gigs and so on but it's pretty hard for labels of that size to really bring out the big bucks, which is what is needed to really, really push an album.
What's the biggest difference between Massacre Records and Nightmare Records?
Nightmare cares a lot more for the music, they've given us more promotion and tour-support. So we are definitely more pleased with them than with Massacre.
For how many albums are you signed for at Nightmare Records?
Don't know.. Haha! Have to check the contract, wherever it may be.. Hmmm..
Are your older album avaliable today or are they hard to find in record stores?
Pretty hard, and that's a damn shame! I think we're gonna try to make them pressed again. If any company is interested.
You're also co-operating with a management called RoastingHouse, are you happy with their work?
We have recently parted ways with them. Our work together is over.
For how long have you played guitar?
Since I was nine so that's almost twenty years now.
Who did inspire you to pick up the guitar in the first place?
Kee Marcello of Europe. Me and some guys in my class worshipped Europe so we decided to start playing at the local music-school and start a band. The others quit pretty soon, but I continued! I discovered some heavier shit that really got me going – like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Sepultura, Morbid Angel, Kreator and so forth. Then I was hooked for life!
Do you have any favourite guitarists that you look up to or are inspired by?
I love Scott Henderson, Marty Friedman, Mike Stern, Gary Moore, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Rothery Yngwie Malmsteen, Dimebag Darrell, Wez Montgomery, Steve Ray Vaughan, Kee Marcello, Guthrie Govan, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour.
You are considered as a guitar virtuoso by many, how does that feel?
Well..., I don't think I'm a virtuoso. I think that's a title that takes a lot of skill and accomplishments to be worthy of. To me a virtuoso is someone like Steve Vai or Allan Holdsworth, or Marty Friedman on Megadeth – RUST IN PEACE. That kind of almost unreal emotional and technical playing that is flawless. I do not think I've reached that level. Just look at Steve Vai live: he just owns the world when he plays, he's in total control – the guitar is directly linked to his soul, nothing in between.
What equipment do you use?
I use Ibanez Roadstar II guitars, have two of those. An old 80's model which is not made anymore. But I like them! That's the first electric guitar I bought actually! I also play a 7-string Schecter. I have a Levin acoustic nylon guitar and an Ibanez steel-string guitar. I like to play bass too. I do so mostly when I record stuff at home. I have a Squier Jazz Bass – absolutely love that one! It was love at the first note!
When it comes to pedals and I have a Line 6 POD and a Digitech RP7. I use them a lot when I record at home cause it's practical since they have pre-amps built into them so I just play them into the computer. I have a Morley wha-wha, but it sucks, think it's broken somehow – so I don't use it...
Amps: Peavey Bandit 75, Peavey Rage 108, Mesaboogie 50/50.
And also a Hughes and Kettner 4*12 speaker cabinet.
Do you have any words of wisdom to the ones that just have begun playing guitar?
Play every day, try to play along with music you like, listen to a lot of different players and different genres of music. Practice technique to get control over the instrument but that can be boring a lot of times so try to make it more fun by making the exercises musical. Play with others in a band, you learn a lot from that and you get motivation to practice and learn new songs – and to write you own stuff eventually!
Do you think that everyone can play guitar?
More or less. It's like most things – the main factor that decides how good you become is the time of practice you put into it. But everyone doesn't get equally good even though they practice the same amount of hours. So it has also has to do with talent, you can't get away from that. Another thing that may develop your playing is what you listen to. The more stuff and the more different genres you listen to and absorb – the more ideas you will get when it comes to improvising and writing and so on.
In 2002 you teamed up with Pete Sandberg ( Alien, Pete Sandberg's Jade. Silver Seraph, Midnight Sun, Sand & Gold etc), Jamie Salazar ( Bad Habit, Midnight Sun, Last Tribe, ex- The Flower Kings etc) and Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic, Midnight Sun, Sand & Gold etc) in the project Opus Atlantica, how did you end up in the project?
I got a call from Per Gyllenbäck, the boss of Regain Rec. who released that album. We knew of each other since Andromeda was signed to WAR-music/New Haven Rec. at the time and Per and Wez, the guy who ran WAR-music/New Haven used to have a record-company together called Wrong Again Rec. So Per offered me some money to play on this record and I said – sure!, why not! It was fun!
What do you think today of your effort on the Opus Atlantica album?
I'm really pleased with it!
Do you think that you're gonna collaborate with any of the guys in the project in the future?
Don't know.. I don't know them really, except for Robert. Would be great to play with Jonas, he´s a hell of a bass player! I have actually played with Robert Engstrand, the keyboardist on that album since then. He played in Andromeda on a tour some years ago when Martin had to stay at home when his second child was born. Robert is a great player and truly funny dude to have on the tour bus!
You were also a part of the band NonExist together with Johan Liiva (ex- Arch Enemy, Hearse) and Matte Modin (Defleshed) and you released the album DEUS DECEPTOR, how was it to work with those guys?
It was great fun! We didn't rehearse for that album actually, so we never hung out that much. Liiva had then recently been kicked out of Arch Enemy and the boss at the record label, Wez Wenedikter knew Liiva since he released the first Arch Enemy album. I gave Liiva the songs which I had made demos for with drums, bass and guitars and he wrote the lyrics. Then we contacted Matte, who played in Defleshed – which was also on the same label. He got the demos and rehearsed at home. I met Liiva a couple of times before we recorded the album at Abyss studios but Matte I only met in the studio. He was fun though – he hung around and drank wine after he´d finished his drum-tracks and listened when I recorded the bass and guitars.
Do you know if there's any plans on releasing another NonExist album in the near future?
I'm gonna put up a website: johanreinholdz.com and I'm planning to finish some NonExist-songs I've written and put them on that site.
What do you do when you're not performing and recording with Andromeda?
I work as a guitar teacher and I go to Malmoe Academy of Music to get my teacher's degree. I'm studying for the job that I already have had for ten years...kind of backwards!
I also work out a lot – go jogging and lift weights at the gym. I like to watch movies, watch football (soccer) read books and play Pro Evolution Soccer. The best video game-series ever! Me and my girlfriend have four cats so I love to play with them. Of course I also play guitar and write music. It gets a bit stressful at times as you might suspect!
Are you involved in any other acts at the moment?
I play in another band called Skyfire. It's some kind of melodic symphonic death metal. Stuff I grew up listening to.
How often do you play guitar when you're free?
Everyday. Between half an hour or several hours, it depends.
What do you prefer the most, writing music or lyrics?
Are you the kind of person that always writes and have ideas for lyrics going inside your head?
Not so much ideas for lyrics, only every now and then. But music – yes. More or less every time I pick up the guitar some riff, melody or chord-sequence comes up. It's sometimes tough to be disciplined enough to record them, and that's important; because otherwise it's really easy to forget those ideas.
Where does the band name Andromeda come from?
It's a Greek name, the name of a female demigod and also the name of the galaxy closest to the Milky way.
From what I understand are you the founder of the band, how did you come up with the idea to form a band?
Well, why not! hehe! I started writing songs in my early teens and played in some local bands. I played in Widow, a kind of heavy-, thrash metal band, some of our latter material was a bit Andromeda-esque actually. During that period I started recording some instrumental progressive material, those demos gave me the record deal for Andromeda with WAR-music. So it all flowed naturally somehow.
Was it given that you were gonna play this kind of music that you do in Andromeda?
Yes, it came natural to me because I had grown up on metal and then I got into more progressive stuff, fusion and classical music so that got thrown into the blender and out came Andromeda!
What do you think of the 2001 debut EXTENSION OF THE WISH that featured the session singer Lawrence Mackrory on vocals?
I'm still satisfied with that album. It is intense and dense – only seven songs but it's quality stuff through and through.
What did media think of the debut?
Mainly it got extremely good reviews. It was a bit overwhelming actually, I didn't really expect that.
In 2000 your current singer David Fremberg joined Andromeda. Was it hard to find a permanent singer for the band?
Yes, it took a while. We tried some other guy but we didn't get the right vibe with him. Then Martin called David and he came down to the rehearsal room and it fit right away. They had played together sometime before. Probably during some project at the Music Academy.
What do you think of Fremberg's vocal efforts on the new disc?
Great, just great! And he's expanded a bit into new territories on songs like “Censoring Truth”, “My Star” and “Recognizing Fate” - rawer and darker.
During 2003 bassist Gert Daun left the band and was replaced by Fabian Gustafsson. Was Daun's departure expected?
Yes, as time went by we noticed that Gert didn't really have the time to practice and learn the songs properly because he had a family to take care of and a quite time-consuming job, he is a few years older than the rest of us. So it didn't come as a surprise really.
How did Gustafsson end up in the band? Were you friends from earlier on?
David knew him from the Music Academy and met him again at a party at the time we were looking for a new bass player. We had just kicked out another guy we had temporarily after Gert left and David knew Fabian was a great player and a nice guy so he popped the question right there and then.
Your second album came 2003 and was called II=I, what do you think of that album today?
Really great! It's very progressive and experimental. The only thing I don't think really holds up is the production. It sounds a bit weak and thin. The guitars especially are quite lame sounding. We've talked about remixing that album. Would be cool indeed I think! It would bring out the full potential of the material.
Andromeda have also released a DVD, it came out in 2007 and is called PLAYING OFF THE BOARD. What can you tell us about that DVD?
It was recorded in Katowice, Poland just after the European tour in October 2006. The venue was an old, really elegant theatre, a truly great place to record a live-DVD. It had balconies and generally looked classy.
It was funny because at that time we were talking about how cool it would be record a live-DVD and then a couple of weeks later we got the offer from Metal Mind Productions. It was perfect! It turned out really cool, check it out all you people!
Which one of your older albums are you most satisfied with?
“II=I”, but I like EXTENSION OF THE WISH too a lot. It's really special to me ´cause I wrote it more or less on my own. I like CHIMERA too but I don't think of that album as being “old”. hehe!
Are all of the band member from the same city?
No, but me, David and Thomas live in Malmoe. Fabian lives in Växjö a bit up north and Martin lives in a small village not too far from Malmoe.
It has taken you a couple of years to follow up and release an album, what do you guys do in between releasing albums?
Everyday life. We are not rockstars lying around the pool snorting cocaine, drinking vodka all day. We work, study, do the daily grind, try to make ends meet, write songs, rehearse, try to get out there with our music. And when you're not doing music full-time it's really hard. It's damn hard because there is less time on your hands to do what you really love.
I don't think people in general realize this. I often hear people saying to me “Oh! You're a rock star, you have albums out, why aren't you touring the world back and forth?!” Well, try it. It's not that fucking simple. A million of other bands are standing in line to make it.
Are any of the members in Andromeda part of any other acts or projects?
I play in Skyfire and have my own solo project stuff, Thomas plays in ACT, David has some different projects going and Martin is currently finishing his first solo-album.
Are you active on MySpace and Facebook?
We have a Facebook-site and also a MySpace-site that is quite popular: www.myspace.com/andromedaonline and the Facebook-site is simply called “Andromeda”.
Do you get a lot of mail and questions from fans? What's the most common question you get from fans?
Yes, there are mails coming in quite often. The most common question? “When are you coming to Mexico/France/Guatemala/Japan/Israel/Brazil/Finland etc..?”
Second most common question: “I wanna be a great guitar player. What should I do?”
Have you done a lot of touring through the years?
Some. We've played some really really cool shows like Rock Istanbul, Progpower USA and Progpower Europe three times, Moscow, Paris. We wanna reach the rest of the globe too. Japan or Korea would be great and South America or Mexico too of course!
I read that you during 2008 performed 4 times and one of the shows was cancelled, why do you do so few shows?
Because our labels and managements haven't not done their jobs correctly. We can't do everything by ourselves, we're just musicians, not booking agents or managers. We write the music, rehearse it, record it, come up with the cover-art, record, mix and master the records ourselves – don't get paid as much as a penny. Our old label WAR-music/New Haven Rec. actually owes us thousands of Euros, but the label has gone bankrupt so we'll never see that money.
Should we book our tours ourselves too? Make phone calls and send e-mails all day long? I thought that was the label's and the management's job to do?
Hmm... I don't get it. This whole business, this music business - music industry, is a big god-damned mystery to me. Just look at all the worthless shit bands that get signed and sent out on months and months of touring.. I don't get it....or.. maybe I do: It's all about who you know – not who you are. Enough said.
Are Andromeda eager to do more live shows or have you decided not to be so active live?
We are truly, utterly and extremely disappointed with this situation. It is NOT our decision. We wanna play more live, no doubt.
You were booked to perform at the ProgPower Europe Festival in The Netherlands in October this year how was the show? Did you guys rehearse before you did the show?
Of course we rehearsed. Pretty hard to pull it off otherwise, hehe! It was great fun! Always cool to play that festival, it was our third time there as I mentioned before. This time we were the headliners so that was an honour for sure.
When do you think that Andromeda is going out on a proper European tour?
My be next year!
According to your website you're also gonna attend the Bloodstock Open Air next year, how dose that feel? Are there any plans on doing more festival shows next year?
We are so psyched about that show! We love it! It's gonna be tremendous fun! Yes, there will probably be some more festivals in the summer. Check out www.andromedaonline.com for the latest news, folks!
Do you enjoy doing live shows?
Yes – very much so! We love them. We wanna tour all the time but other shit bands take up too much space in the music-scene.
You're also gonna release a live CD called PLAYING OFF THE BOARD due to be released in October, is it a CD taken from the DVD?
Yes exactly, it the audio-version of that live-DVD. There was a deluxe version of the DVD that contained this CD as a bonus and now it's out on its own. It's a limited edition of 1000 copies though, so hurry up and buy your copies today folks!
What are the plans for Andromeda for the remaining part of 2009?
We are planning some shows in the spring and we're gonna start writing new songs soon.
And what are the plans for Johan Reinholdz for the rest of the year?
I'm gonna tour the UK with Skyfire. Really looking forward to it! Then I'm gonna finish the semester at school and my own guitar-courses. Finish some half-written songs I have lying around. Then I'm gonna fucking RELAX during the Christmas and New Years-holidays. Damn I will deserve it... It's stressful right now...
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy THE IMMUNITY ZONE?
1. It´s very heavy, intense and dark indeed.
2. It grows on you, the more times you listen, the better it gets.
3. It´s really original, varied music with both width and depth.
That was all I had for this time, do you have any final words to say to the readers?
Thank you for reading! Please check out our albums and live-shows if you get the opportunity!
When can we expect to find the next Andromeda album out in stores?
In 2010! It is gonna kill, I tell you. Pre-order now! Send us money!
Again, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer all of my questions Johan, I wish you and the band all the best in the future.
Thank you so much for support! This got to be the longest interview I've EVER done... Incredible, cool!!
Take care and don't forget:
Fuck the New World Order, 9/11 was an inside job and do not take the swineflue-vaccine – it is poison!