Leader/guitar virtuoso Johan Reinholdz – Nonexist
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Nonexsist for the promo pictures of the band
Promo pictures taken by: Sofia Bennrup
A while ago I hooked up with guitar virtuoso Johan Reinholdz (Andromeda, Skyfire) in order to talk about the brilliant new Nonexist album FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS. The band is back on track again and since I love the bands music I thought it was time to feature the band once again in Metal-Rules.com. The first Nonexist album came out in 2002 called DEUS DECEPTOR and I urge every fan of extreme metal to check out the bands two albums so far. Reinholdz and I spoke about putting the band together again, his relationship to the singer – the wellknown Johan Liiva (ex- Arch Enemy, Hearse, Furbowl) and what the future has in store for Nonexist.
Hi Johan! How are you today? Fine I hope. Ready to kick off the interview?
Johan: Hello! I’m doing fine! Yup, I’m ready!
Well let’s begin where we left off the last time and go back in time to 2003 when both drummer Modin and singer Liiva left Nonexist. Were their departures expected? Why did they leave and what effect had that on the music of Nonexist?
Johan: Well, that Matte left wasn’t that unexpected since he was mainly doing it as a studio-job. Liiva however I thought was gonna stick around for another album, so that was a bit of a surprise. But then again, we never hung that much in those days. Me and Liiva have become more close now these last few years though, hanging out, drinking beers, watching movies and so forth, and planning the album of course.
I’ve read that the band tried to do some live performances during 2002 but that it didn’t work out, why?
Johan: I think mainly because of Liiva and Matte leaving plus I was working a lot with Andromeda then. Also, I lost contact with Wez at New Hawen Records, our label then – also for Andromeda. So we had no real backup from a label or a management, which made it hard of course.
Have you stayed in touch with Liiva and Modin throughout the years? Are you and the guys friends today?
Johan: I haven’t met with Modin since we recorded the album. But then again – that was the only time I ever met him, haha. Nice guy though! We didn’t rehearse or even meet before we made that album, pretty strange huh? I spoke to Liiva during the years between the first and second album, but only seldom. It wasn’t until 2011 when we decided to do the second album From My Cold Dead Hands that we started to hang out, like I wrote previously.
What do you think of the Nonexist debut album Deus Deceptor today?
Johan: I think it’s quite good. There are some really good songs on there such as “Ebony Tower”, “Faith”, “A Halo Askew” and “Delirious Tongues”. The production is maybe a bit shady, but also kind of cool since it’s very raw. This mainly fits the more rough songs like “Delirious Tongues”, “Faith”, “Divided We Fall” and “Carnage Bloody Carnage” (Carnage-cover available on the Japan-release only), the songs with more melody and complexity suffer a bit from the production I think though.
Were there any plans on putting the band to rest when the guys left?
Johan: Well no, I always had a plan and desire to do a second album, I just lost the inspiration and drive there for a couple of years. Even in 2005 or so I came up with the title From My Cold Dead Hands, I already knew then that would be the title.
Is it correct that you have continued to write material for the band during all these years?
Johan: Yes, I’ve been collecting riffs and writing songs for Nonexist more or less continually since the first album came out. In some periods less though, but this type of music is in my blood, so it just naturally comes out. I actually wrote material for an entire Nonexist-album back in 2002/2003 something, but discarded most of it because I thought it didn’t quite cut the mustard.
Actually the only song that survived from that collection of material was “Presence Everlasting”, the second track on the new album. But then it sounded quite differently, some parts were exchanged and so forth. Liiva also added the lyrics and the vocal-arrangements later.
During 2011 the band was alive again and Liiva re-united with Nonexist. Why did he went back and joined forces with you?
Johan: Well, I think only Liiva could explain that in detail. But I gave him a call after sending some demos and he was up for it. I was happily surprised! I think he’s really great so I was glad to have him on board again. For some reason the timing fit him, don’t know if it was musically or personally or whatever, but anyway – I’m pleased it turned out this way.
Why is the band now a duo? Why not recruit a drummer etc to the band?
Johan: We have a drummer for live-shows – Joakim Strandberg-Nilsson of Faithful Darkness, Linus Abrahamson on bass and Johan Aldgård on guitar – also from Faithful Darkness. I really like to work as a duo in the studio. It’s a nice contrast from Andromeda where there are five members with strong heads and it sometimes takes forever to get things done. The less members – the easier it is to make decisions. So if we wanna make an album – we make an album, we don’t have to wait for anyone. Also, now that I’m getting more into singing and producing it’s nice to be able to realize my visions with less hassle.
How was it to work with Liiva again?
Johan: It was really fun! When we recorded DEUS DECEPTOR it was Tommy Tägtgren in Abyss Studios who recorded Liiva, so I didn’t have that much to do with that process. Also, back then I hardly knew Liiva so it was more difficult to influence the recording. This time I recorded him and I tried to coach him a bit and give pointers and try to boost him to get the best takes possible.
Besides Nonexist are you also involved in bands like Andromeda and Skyfire. Is Liiva also involved in other bands or projects besides Nonexist?
Johan: Don’t know really. I heard there might some new Furbowl-stuff coming up. I think Hearse has split-up for good. I think he writes some stuff for a solo-project as well, but to be sure I suggest you ask him.
Do you consider Nonexist being a band or a project?
Johan: A band.
The new album From My Cold Dead Hands
Was Liiva involved in the songwriting process?
Johan: It was mainly me. He wrote some lyrics, but no music this time.
When you wrote the material did you feel the pressure to deliver extra ordinary material with the thought of that the debut album went so well?
Johan: Not really, since we had been away so long from the scene we’re really underdogs, so it feels kinda relaxed.
I know that a few of the songs was already recorded before you went into the studio, which ones?
Johan: Well, “Dark and Tortured Universe”, “Here Comes the Pain” and “Flesh Falls from the Bone” were recorded in 2009. The vocals were however recorded in 2012.
You chose to use programmed drums on the album. Why not hire a session drummer?
Johan: Simpler, easier to get things done. There is neither budget nor know-how from my side to record the drums properly, which is by far the hardest instrument to get to sound good.
Were there many songs that didn’t make it on to the final edition of the new album?
Johan: Well, not really from the point in time where I decided to write the album. There were, like I said earlier, a lot of discarded material from around 2002-2008. But most of the stuff from 2009 and on made it onto the album. But there was actually a cover-track that we shelved – The Cure’s “Push”. It just didn’t turn out that good… It was cool in that it was completely changed from pop/gothic to melodic deathmetal somewhat in the vein of In Flames, but in the end it felt too cheesy and lacking in good taste.
Where does the title From My Cold Dead Hands come from? Why did you choose to name the album that?
Johan: I picked it up from the movie Bowling for Columbine where Charlton Heston says it during a speech. I’m not referring to the same things he does with this phrase though, I must stress. I do not share his views, at all. For me it seemed like a strong-sounding album-title…it just sounds so metal. Plus I like the meaning – to never give up, to be stubborn, keep doing what you wanna do no matter what, no matter if success comes your way or not, no matter what people say you should do and not do.
The cover art-work was made by Sofia Bennrup and what do you think of it? Do you think it reflects the music?
Johan: I love it. Yes, I think it reflects the music. There are a lot of artwork also inside the booklet that relates to different songs on the album. We invested a lot of time and effort into this and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out.
From My Cold Dead Hands was streamed and available for the fans for free. What was the thoughts behind that?
Johan: Well, that’s not entirely accurate. When we got in contact with Pivotal Rockordings they offered a deal for a electronic release straight up. It was actually they who approached us, we were just beginning to record the album and hadn’t even begun shopping the stuff around. So we were just happy to get it out there after being away from the scene for a decade. So Pivotal put it out for download-purchase including a pdf-version of the booklet. Then what happened after that with various leaks onto different sites – I don’t know.
The album contains covers of Megadeth, Coroner and Atomic Rooster to mention a few bands. How come you chose those bands and songs?
Johan: Great bands, great songs! Especially Megadeth and Merciless, which we also covered (“Realm of the Dark”) have inspired my songwriting a lot. Also – we feel that when you do a cover it should be a personal version which adds something to it. It’s boring when bands do exact copies of a songs, even copying the guitar-leads and such, what’s the point in that? So these songs gave the opportunity to add that Nonexist-feel to them. I mean certain bands or songs I would never dream of covering, because they are already so perfectly done – it’s an impossible task. But for example with the Megadeth- and Atomic Rooster-covers we changed the style, added completely different arrangements and ways of singing, different drum-patterns and such.
Was the covers recorded at the same time as the album or had they been recorded before you hit the studio?
Johan: Same time as the rest of the album.
Have you read reviews of the album? What did media think of it?
Johan: Kind of mixed. Actually many good ones, but also some bad where the programmed drums seem to annoy the reviewer and some journalists were displeased with the mix of metal-styles. They wanted a more cohesive style, which I think is narrow minded bullshit because basically the album is extreme metal through and through so there must be some variation. We’re not interested in writing a whole album of just pure deathmetal, grind or thrashmetal for example. For us to keep it interesting there must be some melody, harmonies and variation in rhythm.
You also sing some clean vocals on a few songs, how was that?
Johan: Really fun! I’ve started singing on my own recordings more and more the last couple of years and I love it! I like doing both growling vocals and melodic ones, but I have a lot of work in front of me to improve and develop my own style.
As always you happy with with your guitar work and also Liiva makes a hell of a job. Are you happy with the outcome of the album?
Johan: Thanks a lot! Yes I agree – I think he did a great job. I’m pleased like hell!
What does fans of Andromeda think of the music on Nonexist? I mean, the music of those bands are quite different from each other.
Johan: That’s a very interesting question. I don’t really know…but I wanna find out, somehow. Of course I have a desire to get the Andromeda-fans interested in Nonexist, since Andromeda is much more established and has more fans, plain and simple. I think many of the Andromeda-fans consider Nonexist to be too extreme – too fast, too much growling etc. But I also think a lot of them might like it.
It’s said that there are keyboards used on the disc, is that correct? I can’t hear much keyboard to be honest.
Johan: Well, there are keyboards on all the songs except one. So – listen again! There are some lead-synths but mainly pad-sounds to make it more atmospheric.
What do you think are the biggest differences musically between Deus Deceptor and From My Cold Dead Hands?
Johan: More blastbeats on the new album, more variation between death-thrash- and even some black metal-influences. There are also more keyboards and some melodic vocals. So in general I’d say FMCDH is musically broader – it’s both softer and more brutal.
You put out a few on the songs on youtube, what do fans and people think of the songs?
Johan: They really like them!
Studio and production
Where and when was the album recorded? Where is the studio situated?
Johan: Multipass Studios, it’s my studio here in Malmö where I live.
You produced the album on your own and what’s it like to produce your own stuff? Isn’t it hard to stay objective? Does Liiva do the things you tell him to :)?
It was really fun! Yes, I guess it’s a bit difficult to stay objective in your judgment. So it was good to have input from Liiva and Sofia Bennrup as well.
Have you produced any other bands before this album?
Johan: No. But I actually did a remake of a song by Swedish electronic/industrial band #366: A life lived. The song is called “Bullet for Thee – Johan Reinholdz-remake”, you can listen here: http://www.open.spotify.com/track/4jgTib3CBYhRVZPdy6Mno0
That was a blast! I used their tracks but also added guitars, drums, bass and vocals so it turned out quite different from the original. I’ve also helped friends sometimes with demos and such but this Nonexist-album was the first proper album I did by myself.
You also did the mixing and mastering and was that done in the same studio?
Johan: Yup! There was a real do-it-yourself-vibe to this album, which suited us fine.
Was Liiva part of the mixing/mastering process?
Johan: Not really.
What was recorded first – the music or vocals?
Johan: The instruments are always recorded before you lay down the vocals. Otherwise there is no rhythm-section to follow.
Label & management?
The album was released in Japan by Trooper Entertainment Inc what did Japan think of From My Cold Dead Hands?
Johan: Haven’t seen that many reviews. But from what I’ve heard from fans over there they really enjoy it.
I’ve read that both Pivotal Recordings and Abyss Records have released the album and Abyss released the album with only three covers (out of five) featured on CD and vinyl, is that correct? Why did two labels co-released the album?
Johan: It’s not unusual to have different labels for different territories, especially Japan/Asia. Regarding the covers: it was quite easy to get rights to release those songs – except the Atomic Rooster- and Megadeth-tracks, because those songs are released and published by major labels and those people are greedy and it’s just a mess trying to deal with such folks.
I tried to get a copy of the album from one of the biggest record stores online here in Sweden but once I had booked it, it was taken away from the store. What happened?
Johan: I guess since Abyss Records didn’t release the album, and still hasn’t, in Europe and North America the album wasn’t available to order anymore.
Is the album available in USA and Canada?
Johan: No, not yet because Abyss Records hasn’t put it out yet.
Are there any plans on re-release the debut album soon?
Johan: No plans at the moment, but we’d love to do it.
The band did a live performance back in 2012 at Scorched Tundra Festival in Gothenburg Sweden, how was that?
Johan: It was fun! A bit nervous with feelings of uncertainty since it was our debut-gig, but it went fine.
Back then you had three session members with you doing the live show. Are there any plans on incorporating them as solid members?
Johan: No, there are no plans on doing that.
What did the fans think of the show? Did the show made you eager to do more live shows?
Johan: The response was positive and we were satisfied with the gig and how it felt to play together.
Are there any plans of do some more shows any time soon?
Johan: There will possibly be a show here in Malmö soon. Also, we have a booker we’re working with in the UK, so there might be something in the making over there as well.
How come the band doesn’t have a proper website?
Johan: It just very smooth and simple to handle, we can’t be bothered with running a proper site, at least not at the moment. The Facebook-site contains everything we need right now.
According to your Facebook the band is already working on the next album. What can you tell us about the work? Have you written many songs and in what direction is the music going?
Johan: Yes, we’re actually finishing the mix right now. There are ten original songs. The style is kind of similar to FMCDH, but still different, it’s hard to explain. You have to hear it. The sound is gonna be a bit different since I’m not mixing it by myself entirely this time. Markus Nilsson at Sunnanå studio here in Malmö is working with me on the mix and he sure helps to improve it! He has worked with Andromeda on our recent tours and he’s a hell of a great mixing-engineer and producer.
Who runs the bands facebook site?
Johan: Me and Liiva runs it.
What’s the most common question you get from fans?
Johan: “When is the next gig?”, “When are you coming to our town to play?”
Is it correct that it’s called the new album Throne of Scars? How come you named the album that?
Johan: It sounds good, it sounds majestic and also the meaning is positive – to learn from negative, dark experiences and grow as a person, become stronger – forge your throne of scars.
Are there any covers featured on the new album?
Johan: We have recorded two cover-tracks this time. I think they will be used as bonus-tracks for Japan and such. It’s Sepultura’s “Escape to the Void” and a combo of Massacre’s “Dawn of Eternity” and “Chamber of Ages”, put together as one song.
You put some clips on youtube where you taught the songs on guitar, which I thought was fun to watch. What has the response been from the fans on those clips?
Johan: I think the response has been very good! I stopped doing those videos because I realized that my camera wasn’t up to snuff regarding the quality of sound and video. I’d love to do more when I get some new gear.
Sofia Bennrup is also doing the cover art work for the next album. What can you tell us about the cover?
Johan: We’re still working on it, so I can’t tell you that much yet.
Are there any plans on doing any live performances or even a tour when the third album is been released?
Johan: Don’t know at the moment. We have to wait and see!
Are there any plans on heading over to Japan to do any shows or tour there now that From My Cold Dead Hands has been released?
Johan: Don’t know either. We’ve been away from the scene for a decade before this album came out so I guess we have to pay our dues a bit more before such offers may be presented to us.
Many artists and bands state that the music industry is dead with all the downloading and streaming and claim that no one really buys albums anymore. What is your opinion on that?
Johan: Well yeah, that is kind of true. Not many people buy albums anymore, and that isn’t that strange considering how easy it is to get a hold of basically any album you want on the net, at any time. Sometimes even before the album has been officially released – it has leaked onto the net. So what to do? I guess bands have to find other ways to get paid and distribute the music. One way is through video-games. Both Nonexist and Andromeda have songs for sale via downloading for the game Rock Band, which is really cool and people still pay for those services it seems.
The biggest problem with the internet killing the album-sales in my eyes is that there is no money for tour-support. A part of the album-revenues used to pay for that but now bands, at least the opening acts, have to pay to go on tour. It’s very hard to manage that.
What’s the status in the Andromeda camp at the moment? Are you working on new material?
Johan: Yes we are, but it’s going a bit slower than we anticipated…We have a killer live-DVD from the National Arena in Hanoi, Vietnam plus footage from other gigs and tour-diary stuff as well lying around, waiting to be released. We just gotta figure out how to get it out there on the market in the best possible way…
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered the music of Nonexist yet?
Johan: Check us out! If you like heavy, fast music with lost of feeling you’ll love it!
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy From My Cold Dead Hands?
1. High-quality metal-songwriting with variation, finesse and brutality.
2. Great vocals and tasty guitar-work
3. Rich booklet with sublime artwork.
Well, that was all for now. I have to congratulate the band for delivering yet another amazing album, I love it! Good luck with the next album and I really had love seeing Nonexist on a live stage really soon. Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with the fans and readers?
Johan: Thanks a lot once again, really glad you dig it! We sure hope to play some more live soon as well. Cheers!