with Christofer Johnsson
From the “Flowers Of Evil” Tour / 25th Band Anniversary
Interview by Rhiannon Marley
Thanks for the interview time! I’d like to start by asking about your metal/rock opera in the pipeline. What are your aims and goals in constructing, as your website says, “the world’s first REAL rock opera”?
Christofer Johnsson: To truly mix rock music (metal for most of it I guess) with opera. All other rock operas are just rock music with a synopsis or some sort of rock musicals, they don’t have anything to do with opera.
To you personally, what are the main reasons as to why the metal and classical worlds can be so successfully blended? Is it complexity in the music, conveying a story, or something else entirely?
Christofer Johnsson: Just one simple reason; that’s my musical taste. There was never any thoughts behind it, I just ended up there musically somehow.
You say you’ve taken many risks with ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’. Can fans expect anything similar to anything done before in the album, or does the change of an era signify any new influences?
Christofer Johnsson: It’s a cover album of french songs from the late 60’s, so it’s indeed different. But at the same time the aim was to, while not change the original compositions too much, make it listenable to young people of today. To show that music isn’t so different as it was…
I’ve read that ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’ is a direct reference to the poem by Charles Baudelaire. What is it about Baudelaire that captivated you so much?
Christofer Johnsson: The public and legal reactions to the 6 poems that were forbidden.
What are your thoughts on the ironic parallel between Baudelaire’s ‘Flowers of Evil’ poem being too controversial for the French public, and your tribute to him being ‘too controversial’ for Nuclear Blast?
Christofer Johnsson: No, because the title was already set before it was presented to NB. Also I guess "spectacular" is maybe a better word than "controversial", it was much how I wanted to work and not only the music it self that was the issue for NB.
You say that your working relationship with Nuclear Blast is unaffected by Christofer’s self-release and funding of the new album. Are you permitted a lot of creative freedom with the label?
Christofer Johnsson: Yes, total freedom. They never ever had any interference to limitations. I honestly and deeply love the guys there and I am fundamentally grateful for all they have done for me and Therion dying these years. Their problem in this case is that it’s covers and that it’s all in French, but the main issue is how I wanted to work with this.
In light of Snowy pursuing his solo ventures, how do you feel such a rich experience with guest musicians and vocalists has affected Therion over the years? What have you gained from it?
Christofer Johnsson: One of the fundaments of Therion was always the ability to have the singers needed for what we did at the moment. It allowed a variations that no other band could offer. So it has indeed been a key element in the success and a fantastic resource.
You have personally promised to interact with as many fans as possible on the tour, and you have written at great length on your website about Therion’s ventures. Do you think that communication with fans is the best way to humanise a band, and take down the ‘rock star’ barrier?
Christofer Johnsson: I’ve always liked to speak to fans, but was often too busy with office stuff on my lap top back stage to go out and speak to people. I also don’t like to be in the middle of crowds of people. BUt I thought this time I really want to see who the guys are going to see this performance. After 25 years, I want to give a big focus to the fans.
I’m sure it humanizes the band too, but that’s both good and bad. Many fans don’t want their musical heroes to step down and be human; they want to have untouchable idols.
Can we have any clues as to the nature of art you’ll be showcasing in your upcoming project? Would you care to share any teasers of the tour for Metal-Rules?
Christofer Johnsson: It will be both visual art and performance art. And social behavior type of art. That’s all I can say now.
After 25 years of creative success, do you feel at the most accomplished stage of your careers yet? Although there is more of Therion to come, are you more polished and secure than ever?
Christofer Johnsson: Yes, I would say that. I feel very laid back and relaxed and feel I have done all the hard work on the first half. There’s still hard work left to do, but I now have resources on my side and have 16 years of success (the first 9 years were very hard) to rely on.
And finally, if you could each take three albums with you to a desert island, what would they be?
Christofer Johnsson: Brutal question… This could vary depending on what day you ask me, what mood I have. Today I’d say:
Wagner "Rienzi", Hollreiser version
Wagner "The Ring", Karajan version
Voivod "Killing technology"
Thank you for your time!