Band leader/guitarist Johan Reinholdz – NonExist
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Mighty Music for the promo pictures of the band
Additional live pictures taken from the show in Malmö by: Anders Sandvall
Here comes an update on what’s going on in the NonExist camp. The band recently released their brand new album THRONE OF SCARS. If you’re interested in knowing more about the band and band leader Johan Reinholdz, make sure to check the previous interviews available in the Metal-Rules.com archives. When we last spoke, Reinholdz was in the process of mixing THRONE OF SCARS so this time I was interested in knowing more about how the work had proceeded. Former singer Johan Liiva has since left the band and Reinholdz has now taken over as lead singer. The band has also inked a deal with the Danish record label Mighty Music. Read more about what Reinholdz had to say down below.
Hi Johan thanks for your time today. Are you ready for another round with Metal-Rules.com?
Hello! No probs! I’m ready yes, let’s go.
Last time we spoke you were in the middle of mixing the album but when did you begin to work on the music for THRONE OF SCARS?
Some of the songs, like “The New Flesh” and “Enter Eternal Night” were written in 2012, and then the other songs came into being in 2013 and 2014.
You have written the majority of the material and Liiva contributed one song and lyrics to another. Is it you that runs the band and who has the final say on what’s going to be featured on the albums?
More or less yes. And now Liiva has quit, so…
Have you used any older material on THRONE OF SCARS or are all of the songs newly written?
Between 2012 and 2014.
Where do you find inspiration to write music and lyrics?
From everyday life, watching movies, reading books etc. I keep a notebook where I write titles and small phrases – ideas for lyrics. Could be whatever pops up in my head or things I read, sometimes just a word or a couple of words. I get a lot of inspiration from that – working with small fragments and then building them together.
How does it work when you begin to write a new song? Do you sit and wait for the inspiration to come or are you constantly writing material?
Inspiration can come whenever, so when I come up with a riff or two I have to get them recorded. So then the phone comes in handy or the computer if I’m at home. Later, when I have time I sit down and put together those ideas I’ve collected. Usually a song starts with connecting two or three riffs or ideas and then building from there.
What do you start with, music to a song or lyrics?
Most often the music.
How was it to work with Liiva this time?
It was good, went smooth. He came down as usual to Malmö and I recorded him. Previous to that we had some meetings, well pretty informal meetings really – just hanging out having a good time and planning some things regarding the album.
You played all of the instruments yourself, how was that and is it correct that you used programmed drums?
I love to play guitar of course, but also bass – I find that very rewarding and fun. Yes, I programmed the drums and did the keyboards as well.
Last time you said that you didn’t have the budget or the capacity to record drums, is that still the case?
Not enough budget, therefore I would have to engineer the drum recordings myself and I don’t have the knowledge nor the experience to do this. On future releases we’ll see what we can do about it.
What do you think are the major musical differences between FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS and THRONE OF SCARS?
Not too much I think. There are more keyboards and clean vocals in the new one, but also more blast beats and aggression. So I guess there is more variation on THRONE.
What did the fans think of the lyric video to “Throne of Scars” and are there any plans on shooting a video to any of the new songs?
The reactions were good! We’ve done a video for “A Promise Unfulfilled” now and there is a video for “The New Flesh” coming. There will also be a lyric video for “Dark and Tortured Universe”. All of these songs have been re-done with new vocals by me for an upcoming EP called THE NEW FLESH EP.
Throne of Scars (Official lyric video)
The bio calls the band “extreme metal monster Nonexist”, what do you think of that?
Sounds good to me, haha! I don’t know, there are so many labels people put on music, so many genres and names. It’s all a bit messy and confusing isn’t it? So, extreme metal, death metal, thrash metal, just metal – whatever is fine with me!
THRONE OF SCARS is the title of the new album; in the last interview you told us why you named the album that, do you still stick with that?
Yes. So now you guys reading this have to check out that interview! And you’ll put the link here, right? Please do. Haha!
Once again Sofia Bennrup did the artwork and art work concept, what was the thought behind the artwork this time?
It’s just a visualization of the title: a battered, scarred person who’s still here, sitting on his throne – of scars, never giving up, no matter what. It’s dark but positive. I like that combination, it’s a challenge to pull it off, lyrically.
Last time you said you were going to record two covers to be featured for the Japan issue, what covers did you choose?
Sepultura’s “Escape to the Void” and a medley-version of Masscare’s “Dawn of Eternity” and “Chambers of Ages”.
The bio states that the album is dark, intense, varied and heavy while also adding some new influences in the mix. Can you agree with those words?
The album contains 9 songs and clocks in at about 40 minutes, which is pretty short. Was it your intention to make a shorter piece this time?
Well, it’s a bit over 40 minutes – 43 minutes to be exact, and that’s pretty standard for this type of music. I’d rather keep some songs so that the next album doesn’t take such a long time coming out.
Two of the songs are almost 6 minutes and the last one is 7, what is it that decides if a song is going to be short or longer?
6 and 7 minutes is not that long to me, being somewhat damaged by progressive rock/metal, hehe. I don’t know! That’s just how it turns out. It depends on what riffs and parts there are in a song and how they interact and demand certain prolongations or shorter endings.
Many of the songs have really long titles, was it on purpose?
I don’t know, those are just the titles that seem to fit those songs, regarding the lyrics and the music.
For some reason I haven’t read much about THRONE OF SCARS in the media. What have the critics and fans said about the album?
Some praised it and some thought it was too varied in style, which to me sounds weird and narrow-minded. After all, it’s all brutal metal, so it’s not THAT varied, right? Strange people…
How was the album greeted by the Japanese media?
Very good! The review in BURRN! – the biggest magazine in Japan – was excellent.
Do you do more or less singing on the new disc?
More singing. And now I do ALL the singing. So it’s been a natural development actually.
I think I can hear some symphonic and progressive elements in the music, is that correct? Have you snuck in some of those elements this time?
Do you think you’re going to continue to insert those elements in any of your future songs?
Yes, perhaps here and there, but I think the new material will be more direct and straight forward actually. There were some prog-influences on FMCDH as well. So it’s time to move on to new territories. But sure, here and there they might pop up again…
How was the release party you held in Copenhagen at the Zeppelin Bar Café? Were there a lot of people there and did you play the entire album live?
It was a release party where we played the album – the CD – and hung out with some fans. We didn’t play live.
I think that you have done a brilliant job with THRONE OF SCARS and think the album is amazing! Both you and Liiva impress big time, are you happy with the outcome?
Thank you very much! Great to hear. Yeah, we’re happy! But next time the quality of the production will be a lot better.
Studio and production
The studio of choice this time was again your own Multipass Studio, what’s the best thing with recording in your own site?
Freedom, comfort, less stress.
Is it correct that the album was recorded in between 2012-2014? What took so long?
Because I more or less write and record at the same time. A lot of time I write a song and lay down the guitars and bass at the same time, so then those tracks are done. Later, I set up a schedule for the record to be done and there are more concentrated sessions.
You have produced and engineered the album, isn’t it hard to be objective when you’re producing your own material?
Yes, it can be hard. That’s a good point you’re making actually. It might be good to have some outside source of criticism and evaluation in the future.
Could you guide us through a typical day in the studio for you and Liiva? Who does what?
Liiva sings, I record and coach him through the process – what you generally call producing. We more or less discuss and do another couple of takes, then discuss again and move on like that through a song.
You and Markus Nilsson mixed the album together, how was it to do the mixing with someone else and not on your own?
It was good! He pointed out some things that needed improvement, not just sound-wise but also regarding some arrangements, so I was grateful for that. He is excellent.
Was Liiva also a part of the mixing?
Because Markus has much more experience, he is a professional sound engineer.
What has Nilsson done prior to Nonexist and do you think you’re going to work together again?
I hope we will work together again. Markus does a lot of productions, all the time; live-things, albums, TV-productions, theatre-productions. He’s very busy, and for a good reason. To mention some rock productions he’s done: Andromeda – MANIFEST TYRANNY, LIVE IN VIETNAM (both along with Martin from Andromeda), the latest ACT albums (also with Martin Hedin), several Deville-albums.
Was it nice to have some help with the mixing and mastering?
Yes, I learned a lot from Markus.
Label and management
Are you still signed with Trooper Entertainment in Japan?
I think the contract was for one album, it was the same thing with FMCDH.
It was Abyss Records that was going to release your previous album FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS in Europe and the US but they didn’t. What’s the status with you and the label at the moment? Is the album released in Europe and the US?
FMCDH is only available digitally worldwide, except Japan where Trooper released it on CD.
Why didn’t Abyss Records release the album? What do you think of Abyss Records’ way of working with Nonexist?
They more or less went bankrupt. Insufficient funds at least.
You are now signed to the Danish label Mighty Music, how come you inked a deal with them? Are you happy with the work the label have put into Throne of Scars so far?
Yes, we’re happy.
Both the new album as well as the previous one are available on Spotify but not the debut, why?
Because it was released in 2002 when Spotify didn’t exist. But yeah, that’s a good point – time to get that album out on Spotify etc. Thanks for pointing it out! I will get on this asap.
MM is co-operating with the promotion agency Target, how is the co-operation work?
MM – Mighty Music – is a subsidiary of Target, so it’s basically the same company.
Nonexist have worked with several different labels, what’s your general opinion about the music industry and record labels?
It’s tough and confusing times, that’s about all I can say.
Not at the moment. But it would be awesome!
The debut has been sold out for many years now but don’t you think it’s time to re-release it again in order to reach new fans?
Definitely. I’ve been asking Trooper, for example, to do this.
No news there at the moment.
Do you have a booking agency for Europe?
No. We are on the lookout for that.
The departure of Johan Liiva
Johan Liiva left Nonexist last year, why did he do it and was his departure expected?
I think he kind of lost the motivation and had many other things in his life that wanted to concentrate on.
Instead of taking in a new singer you chose to take over that role yourself. Did you ever consider adding another vocalist?
Are you and Liiva still friends?
Yes, we are friends! We speak every now and then.
What did his fans think of his departure and what did your label think of the situation?
A lot of folks were sad that Liiva left, which definitely is understandable, but at the same time receptive to me singing. So the transition seemed to go pretty smooth actually.
Nonexist started out as a duo; are session musicians, drummer Joakim Strandberg Nilsson, bass player Linus Abrahamson and guitarist Johan Aldgård now solid members? Is that the solid line-up from now on?
Did you ever think of putting the band on ice when Liiva left?
Was it hard to pick members to the band?
No, it turned out this way quite naturally.
Abrahamsson and you work together in both Nonexist and Andromeda. How is it to work with him in Nonexist?
Very good. He is seriously dedicated and thorough – which is great!
Is the door open for Liiva if he wants to come back?
No. There are no hard feelings between us, but now I’m the lead singer and that’s the way it’s gonna stay. Maybe he could do some guest-performances – live or on a recording in the future, if he wants to.
What’s the status with Andromeda at the moment?
We are in the middle of the recordings for studio album number six. It feels very good to finally get going with this. It has been FAAAR to long since the last album.
You did a PledgeMusic campaign for a live-DVD with Andromeda, how did it go?
Went fine! We reached our goal and are now shipping out the product.
The previous Andromeda album MANIFEST TYRANNY came out in 2011, isn’t it time for a new disc soon?
Yes, indeed. See the previous question regarding this.
The band ended the co-operation with management Intromental; which management is the band now working with?
We are now signed to Infinity Concerts and it feels really good!
Some old friends of mine, scattered now across Sweden in different cities. The music is kinda melodic death metal with orchestral influences.
Besides all this you’re also involved in the project Murdered Beats; please tell us more about that?
It’s a project I have together with my girlfriend Sofia Bennrup. We both sing in Murdered Beats and write the music and lyrics, but I do most of the producing and programming. The influences are Depeche Mode, Portishead, Goldfrapp (the first album), Massive Attack, Nine Inch Nails, Angelo Badalamenti, Covenant, Conjure One, Röyksopp and similar artists. Our first release will be an EP called SILENT ORDER, which we are working on at the moment.
How many times per day do you play guitar?
You mean how many hours or on how many occasions? Well, some days I don’t play at all. It all depends on what I’m doing. If I need to practice for a gig for example I might play several hours. The same goes for when I’m writing a song or recording – then I could spend whole days playing, but other days I don’t play at all. I don’t have any motivation to practice technique, scales or such anymore just for the sake of it.
What would you like to say to all the aspiring guitarists? Do you have any words of wisdom to share with them?
Practice a lot, of course. Try to listen to many different musicians and genres – get varied influences – it will improve your playing and writing.
Thank you very much! Yeah well, I listen to some of my albums sometimes and feel very pleased but at the same time I know there are many things I could improve. I hear and see a lot of brutally talented and skilled guitar players out there, so I stay humble, and for a good reason.
Do you use any special equipment when it comes to speakers or to guitar?
I play Ibanez guitars, Peavey and MesaBoogie amps, Hughes & Kettner cabinets, Digitech- and Line6-pedals.
At the end of last year Lemmy passed away, did you like Motorhead? What did you think when you heard he passed away?
Sad, of course. It felt weird because Lemmy felt immortal somehow. It’s pretty damn incredible that he did survive after doing so much booze and drugs – just insane! He should’ve been dead long ago; a medical miracle. At the same time, he was just a human being like everyone else so I guess the abuse finally caught up with him and his body resigned. R.I.P Lemmy! A true legend.
I’m not a big fan of Motörhead actually. I like some songs here and there, like “Damage Case”, “Aces of Spades”, “No Class”, “I’m so Bad” and “Overkill”. I do however respect and hold Motörhead very high in regard historically speaking considering how many bands they’ve inspired and influenced – the whole thrash metal-genre for example, which is my mother’s milk musically.
How was the live show you did in Helsingborg last year?
It was a fun show! We played with, among others, Nightrage – a great live-band and very nice guys!
Was it fun to meet fans and play live?
I was pretty nervous, yes. I had only 1 week to prepare, so it was rough! My singing technique has improved a bit since then after taking some lessons and rehearsing more. At that gig I was suffering immensely – my whole body was aching.
The band also did a live show in Malmö in January, how was that?
Yes! That was really fun!
I saw that show and I think that you did great work as a lead singer and of course on guitar. What did you think of the show?
Thanks a lot! We had a blast.
There were cameras on the stage during the show in Malmö, did you film it for a DVD?
Not for a DVD, but we have done a live clip of “Pyroclastic Cluster Torment” and also a new video for “A Promise Unfulfilled”. We also might release some more live-clips form that show on YouTube.
No festivals booked yet.
The song “Ebony Tower”, recorded live at the show, is available on your FB site as well as “Pyroclastic Cluster Torment”, which is also featured on YouTube. What did the fans think of the live-clips?
The response has been really good!
“Pyroclastic Cluster Torment” – Live! 2016
Why hasn’t the band still got a website up and running? Isn’t it important to have a website?
Yes, I agree. We haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve been busy working on my own site johanreinholdz.com. But we’ll get around to doing a Nonexist-site eventually.
Ebony Tower (bass cam) live snippet
Besides FB is the band active on any other social forums?
Twitter and Instagram a bit.
You got your own YouTube channel. What’s on it and do you have a lot of followers?
There are clips for all my projects and bands.
What are the plans for Nonexist 2016?
The new EP. And then another EP with brand new songs, more in the old-school death metal vein, just like a one-off thing. We’re planning some shows, probably in UK in October. We’re working on more shows in Sweden and Germany.
There’s a EP coming up soon, in May probably, entitled The NEW FLESH EP. It’s kinda of a introduction to the new line-up.
A Promise Unfulfilled (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered Nonexist yet?
Check us out! If you like brutal, melodic metal – you’ll love it!
Could you give them three reasons why they should buy THRONE OF SCARS?
Interesting lyrics, lots of cool riffs, dark brooding atmosphere, original cool vocals and a bunch of flashy solos, haha. That wasn’t so humble though, right?
Thank you too for continued support! Yes, we are working on getting more shows. So stay tuned for info!
Take care, bye!