Guitarist Nick Johansson and bass player/keyboards and screams Karl Johansson – Tungsten
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Arising Empire for the promo pictures and cover
Thanks to Iris Bernotat at PR & Digital Relations for help with setting up the interview
Promo pictures taken by: Patric Ullaeus
From Sweden comes a new band including some new and some old faces. The band is called Tungsten and the band has just released their debut album WE WILL RISE on the label Arising Empire. This metal band contains Anders Johansson (Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, Hammerfall, Full Force, Silver Mountain etc) and Mike Andersson (Cloudscape, Full Force etc) and Johansson’s sons Nick and Karl. I had the pleasure to talk to Nick and Karl about the band, the debut album, the new label they have as well as some personal questions because after all their father is the famous Anders Johansson and their uncle is Jens Johansson keyboard player in Stratovarius, Rainbow, Dio and Silver Mountain and their grandfather is the legendary jazz pianist Jan Johansson. If you like melodic metal influenced by folk music you have to check Tungsten out. Either that or if you are a fan of Anders Johansson.. If you like it go out and buy the album WE WILL RISE at once.
Hi guys nice to talk to you today, how you doing? Are you ready to give metal-rules.com all the details about Tungsten 🙂
Karl: Hello, we’re fine thank you. Of course!
First of all, the band was formed back in 2016 by you Nick and Karl when you showed your dad Anders some songs you wrote, what was your initial thought when he wanted to form a band with you?
Karl: For me it was very exiting because of the opportunities you could have.
What’s it like to be in the same band as your father? Do you see it as an advantage career wise to be in the same band as Anders (Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, Hammerfall, Full Force, Silver Mountain etc)?
Nick: I think it has both up and down sides. Mostly up sides. It sure helps us to get contact with labels etc. Anders was the on who contacted Markus Staiger from “Arising Empire”. And some old followers from Anders earlier bands might check us out if they are interested in what Anders is doing nowadays. But it won’t help much if people don’t like the music.
Was it given from the start that you wanted to have Mike as a singer?
Karl: Yes, because we have heard him in his earlier band with our father and thought he was a perfect fit for the sound of Tungsten.
What happened with the band you had before Tungsten, Strokkur, which featured the same line up?
Karl: Strokkus is the same band, but just with a different name. The Strokkur album was only an experiment to see if people enjoyed it or not.
Strokkur released an album digitally, why wasn’t it released on CD or vinyl?
Karl: As the earlier question it was just an experiment, but we had plans to release the album on CD and vinyl if it was a success.
Do you have any idea in how many that has listened to the album online?
Karl: I know that alot have started to listen to the album on both Youtube and mostly Spotify and it seems to be alot of people streaming it over there.
Strokkur also performed live in Helsingborg Sweden during 2017, how was it? Did you do any other live performances with the band under name Strokkur?
Karl: It was a really cool experience, the show in Helsingborg was sold out. We did also a show in Uddevalla with Strokkur but didn’t continue to do live shows after that as the band Strokkur.
Are there any plans on adding a guitar player in the band in order to make the sound even heavier?
Nick: No. On the records every rhythm guitar parts are double tracked. Everything is easier with less persons involved. And cheaper to travel. I don’t think two guitar players is necessary in our case.
When did you decide to change the band name to Tungsten and how come you wanted a new band name?
Nick: It was actually not long before our first single release in June 2019. We wanted to do this as a new fresh start. It felt more organized and for real this time.
Is Tungsten a band or a project?
Karl: Tungsten is a band for sure. We plan on playing live as much we can and show the world what we’re all about.
If the band is heading out on tour or do some shows out side Sweden, are all the members on the album going to be participating live on stage?
Karl: Yes of course. Everybody will arrive on stage together so you won’t miss us.
Debut album WE WILL RISE
Are all of the songs especially written for the new album or are there any of your older songs featured as well?
Karl: On this album all of the songs are written for this album. Maybe we’re gonna reuse some old Strokkur songs for upcoming albums.
Do Anders and Mike contribute with any material? Who writes the main part of the music and lyrics?
Karl: Mike usually writes most of the lyrical contents and Anders puts his drumming touch on the songs, but mostly, on this album, I wrote the majority of the songs and Nick wrote some parts and songs of the album.
What are the lyrics about and where do you find inspiration, the bio says that some of the lyrics are about fiction and fantasy and tells stories of ancient wars, knights and heroic heroes whilst others are more realistic, is that correct?
Karl: For me, the lyrics are more between heaven and earth stuff, actually not so much fiction and fantasy. There are some songs which use some influences of that stuff but not so much literally. A lot of the lyrical content is about personal life situations that we all can relate to.
At the end of June came the first single/video to the song “We Will Rise” which until today has got about 64000 hits, congratulations to that, are you happy?
Nick: Really happy, a pretty good start. It will be alot more I hope.
We Will Rise (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
How would you like to describe what kind of music Tungsten plays?
Karl: We call it ourselves just Melodic Metal, because is a big mixture of alot of influences. We use alot of industrial influences, alot of power metal but mostly we use alot of influences from the Scandinavian folk music.
In my opinion your music is melodic metal with some folk music influences, however the bio states your music to be influenced by industrial metal and heavy metal as well, what’s your opinion on that?
Karl: That’s correct because we use a lot of heavy synthesizers and keyboards in our song to create that atmospheric and heavy sound we want and the heavy metal influences we get from Mikes hard power metal vocals.
The album contains 12 songs, was it hard to narrow it down and to choose which songs you were going to put on the album?
Karl: No it wasn’t, we knew from the first moment we heard all of our demo songs that these 12 songs we chose were the ones.
Two of the longest songs are “It Ain’t Over” (4.01) and “To The Bottom” (3.58) what are they about?
Karl: “It Aint Over” is about meaningless wars, the will to fight and kill without understanding why. That life fills meaningless, and in the dreams they win. “To The Bottom” is inspired by an horrific murder that happens in the ocean right outside where all of us lives, where a man kidnapped a reporter and tortured and killed her in his homemade submarine. Really scary stuff!
How come you didn’t feature a ballad on the album?
Nick: I don’t know really. We just didn’t write a ballad and I guess that was the right choice for this album. We didn’t have a plan for what kind of songs we wanted to be included in this album, so a ballad was never written. There will be a ballad on the next album though.
The famous Andreas Marshall made the cover art work and the logotype, are you happy with his work?
Nick: Really happy. It is truly amazing. Andreas is the best. I like that it has this old power metal vibe to it even if the music is kind of modern with just a little power metal influences. I think it really fits the music even though it might confuse some people that the album is a die-hard power metal album which it’s not.
Was he given free hands to create the cover?
Nick: Yes. We gave him some ideas and suggestions on what we wanted and don’t want, but nothing particularly.
At first when I glanced briefly at the cover it reminded me of an older Hammerfall album, do you know what I mean? Is that on purpose or a coincidence?
Nick: I know what you mean, I think so to. It was not on purpose, but since Anders is in the band and the record label boss (Markus Staiger) is the same guy who brought Hammerfall to their success and Andreas Marshall did the old Hammerfall album covers I guess that’s just their style.
Who came up with creating the bands mascot Volfram which is portrayed on the cover?
Nick: It was Markus Staiger and Andreas Marshall who came up with the mascot. The name for the mascot was my idea. It’s really stupid actually, the swedish translation for tungsten is volfram. I said it like a joke but we all thought that it was the perfect name for a warrior.
Is Volfram going to follow the band just like Eddie follows Iron Maiden and Hector that is Hammerfall’s mascot?
Nick: I think so, at least that’s our intention. If the fans like it and feels a bound between Volfram and Tungsten we will continue with that.
Where does the title WE WILL RISE come from and who came up with it?
Karl: It was Anders who came up with that title. It did come from the first song on the album which is about mankind, to rise up and find a way to have peace with each other, and it was a cool name for an debut album haha.
WE WILL RISE have got some great reviews in the media, was that something you expected? Do you care about what media and critics write and thinks about your work?
Nick: We felt really satisfied with the album and thought it would get good reviews but not this great points on so many reviews that we have actually got. Yes we care what media says, it’s kind of a proof for us that we are doing something right, if we had gotten a lot of bad reviews we would know that we’re not doing the best we can and should consider going another path. But you should not care to much since it’s still people who is doing these reviews and it all comes down to different taste in music.
Metal-rules.com gave the album 4,5 out of 5, congrats 🙂
Both: Thank you very much!
Which bands have inspired you guys to pick up the instruments?
Karl: For me it was when we came along on our first Hammerfall show, when I saw a real live show for the first time and I wanted to do what our father did. Nick: Same for me. Kiss was also a huge inspiration.
Karl you contribute with growling on the album, is that something you are going to continue doing on the coming albums?
Karl: Yes, I really like that we incorporate some growling on the songs, because it creates a whole new element to the songs so we will definitely still keep it on future albums.
Studio and production
Is it correct that the album was recorded last summer, the drums was recorded in Heptagon Studios which is Anders studio? Guitar and bass was recorded in Harmstudio, where is the studio located? Where were lead vocals and keyboard recorded?
Nick: Yes it was recorded last spring/summer. Heptagon is Anders studio. I have Harm studios in my home, I combine it with Anders studio for drum recording since I don’t really have place and a big room for the drums here at home. That’s something I will try to upgrade to though. Mike and Karl recorded their parts at their place. Karl did the keyboards.
It is you Nick that produced and mixed the album, how was that? Isn’t it hard to stay objective when you produced your own material?
Nick: Yes it definitely hard to be objective, and that’s good I think, then you really have to put your best effort in it to be satisfied.
Were any of the other member’s parts of the mixing process?
Nick: No, only me. I sent some test mixes and let the other members say their thoughts and Ideas but it was only me doing the mixing.
Do you think that you are going to continuing produce the Tungsten albums in the future?
Nick: Yes I will for sure, I think we’re all agreed on this and I want to produce and mix my own stuff.
What are your strongest features as producer and mixer Nick?
Nick: I have no idea. I think somebody else have to answer that I’m afraid.
Up close and personal with Karl and Nick Johansson
Nick you long have you played guitar and were there any particular guitarist that inspired you to pick up the guitar in the beginning?
Nick: I started to try out the guitar for the first time when I was 4. Didn’t really practice guitar until I was 10. I think Oscar Dronjak from Hammerfall was the first guitarist to inspire me to pick up the guitar. Then later on Yngwie Malmsteen maybe.
Can you play any other instruments besides guitar?
Nick: I can play drums. a little bit of bass. But it sounds like a guitarist play bass.
Have you been involved in any other bands prior to Strokkur and Tungsten?
Karl: Both of us played along with our father as musicians to the front man of Raubtier’s solo project called Hulkoff where we toured around for some shows in Sweden. Other than that we both have played in alot of demo bands around where we live.
Karl when did you pick up the bass and keyboards for the first time and who inspired you?
Karl: I started playing and using keyboards after I saw a show with Rammstein live. That show completely changed my whole taset in music, so after that I started to write my own songs in the same style of Rammstein when I was just 11 years old. I started to play drums when I was 4 but changed it to bass in the teenage years. I started playing bass because I wanted to preform on the front of the stage and thought it was really fun to play instead of behind the drums.
Do you play any other instruments and have you been involved in any other bands prior to Strokkur and Tungsten?
Karl: I can play drums, guitar, vocals, bass, keyboards and also Jew’s harp haha. I’ve been around in different projects and bands alot, mostly solo projects where I do everything myself.
You come from a music-royalty family here in Sweden with your father being Anders Johansson, uncle Jens Johansson keyboardplayer in Stratovarius, Rainbow, Dio and Silver Mountain, and grand father the legendary jazz pianist Jan Johansson. Have that have any impact on your career choice?
Nick: It sure has, they have played with some big names through out their career and that has been very inspiring. If they were sport stars or something else I would probably be into sports.
Do you enjoy listen to the work of your grand father, have his music have any influence on you?
Nick: Yes, some albums from my grand father I listen to very often. It’s relaxing, especially the folk music albums. These albums has been a big influence for Tungstens folky parts.
What was it like to grow up with Anders as a touring father?
Karl: It wasn’t that bad. He could be away for a really long time sometimes, but he always came home to birthdays and holidays.
What are you guys up to when you’re not working with Tungsten?
Nick: Mixing, recording other bands. It’s music all the time for me. Karl: Writing songs, lyrics, rehearsals, go to work sometimes haha.
Are you active in any other bands beside Tungsten?
Karl: I’m active in some other projects, but for now all eyes are on Tungsten for me.
Label and management
How come you chose to sign on for Arising Empire?
Nick: Anders knew Markus Staiger from the Hammerfall days, It was the only choice Anders said.
Was the album already set to be released when you signed for the label in spring this year?
Nick: It was decided together with Arising Empire. The album was already done before we contacted Arising Empire. If they hadn’t choosen to sign us we would probably released it ourselves.
Were there any other labels that showed interest in signing Tungsten?
Nick: No, we didn’t reach out to any other labels.
Are you happy with the work the label have put into the band and the album so far?
Nick: Yes, I think they are doing a great job for us.
The label is pretty new and have only a few bands signed so far, what benefits do you see with being linked to a smaller and new label?
Nick: The benefits in this case is that Arising Empire doesn’t have any other band that plays the same kind of music as we do. I think that gives them more opportunity and the ability to choose the right thing that fits for Tungsten.
Is the vinyl version of WE WILL RISE being released in any form of limited edition version? If so is it going to include any bonus features?
Nick: There is a bonus track on the Japan version of the CD/vinyl. but no limited edition as far as I know.
Are you guys fans of the vinyl format?
Nick: I don’t think I’ve even touched a vinyl before we got our We will rise copies haha, but I’m slowly becomes a vinyl fan. Just need to get a vinyl player.
Where is the albums available as download? Is it out on Spotify and Itunes etc?
Does the band co-operate with any management at the moment?
Nick: Booking agency Contra promotions.
Besides Facebook is the band active on any other social forums?
Karl: Yes, we have both Twitter and Instagram that we are active on.
How come you don’t have a proper website?
Karl: We actually have. If you enter www.tungstenofficial.com you’ll get there.
What’s the most common questions fans e-mail you?
Karl: “Can I get a signed CD or vinyl?”
At the beginning of October the band is going to perform in singer Mikes hometown of Helsingborg, are you excited and is that the first live performance the band done so far?
Karl: For me it’s very exiting. These songs are really fun to play and I would love to see the audience reaction to our first live gig.
Tungsten is also going to open for Cyhra in Malmo in October, do you have any other shows booked for the fall/winter so far?
Nick: Only Helsingborg and Malmo at the moment.
Any plans on heading out on a longer tour now that WE WILL RISE is out?
Nick: Yes, we’re trying to play as support act for a bigger band. Nothing settled yet though.
Have Anders given you any advice when it comes to perform live?
Karl: He have tried to give some interesting things to do live, some things we do and some things we don’t, but mostly every man in the band does his own thing, which we like alot.
The Fairies Dance (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
What can you tell us about the video to the single “The Fairies Dance” that came out in August, where was it recorded and how long took it to shoot? I sense some similarities with that video and the one you shot to the first single.
Karl: The video was recorded by the great Patric Ullaeus at rEvolver studios in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was recorded at 11 PM and finished at 1 AM. Both of the videos is done by Patric in his studio, the first one is recorded in an abandoned paper factory that Patric is renting at the moment, same with the third video we released. All of the three videos was recorded on the same day under 12 hours.
Who came up with the idea to the video to “Misled” can you tell us the story behind the video, the concept?
Karl: The concept of that video was our singer Mikes idea. The song is about a girl in a toxic relationship where the man beats her and she’s hiding the truth from all around her. That is was the girl in the video is representing.
Misled (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
When can we expect to find the second album by Tungsten out in stores? Are you working on any new material at the moment?
Nick: Pretty soon. We are already pretty far in to the process for album 2.
Any plans on heading out on tour in Europe?
Nick: Europe will be the first goal for us now.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Tungsten yet? Could you give them three reasons why they should buy WE WILL RISE?
Nick: If you want something kind of different, everything has already been done but I feel that We will rise has something new to offer. We blend alot of elements and every song is different from each other. It has old and new elements, so there is something for everybody.
Well, that was all for me and metal-rules.com this time around, thanks a lot for taking the time making the interviews, I wish you guys all the best in the future. Finally do you have any words of wisdom to share with fans and readers out there..
Both: Thanks for having us.