Singer Mike Andersson – Tungsten
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Iris Bernotat at FOCUSION Promotion & Marketing for help with setting up the interview. Thanks to Arising Empire for the promo pictures and cover.
Tungsten is back on the attack with their brand new album TUNDRA, released at the end of November 2020. Given that the band’s previous album & debut only back out in 2019, they worked quickly to write and record TUNDRA. Legendary drummer Anders Johansson, together with his two sons and friend and singer Mike Andersson, comprise Tungsten and their music is best described as heavy metal influenced by folk music vibes.
When the debut album WE WILL RISE was released, I had the pleasure to speak with brothers Karl and Nick Johansson and this time around I sat down with singer Mike Andersson to hear what the band’s been up lately. We talked about the new album, the recording session, and the plans for the future. As well, I simply had to ask how it was to work with the three Johansson’s. Since Anders’ brother, keyboardist Jens Johansson, also makes a guest appearance on the album, one can maybe say that this album is a family thing.
Hi Mike, it’s really nice to talk to you, I hope you and the rest of the band are doing fine in these strange times?
Hey. Nice to talk to you too. All is actually fine with us despite the shitty Corona pandemic. We are active in composing new music, considering the live scene is temporary dead.
Let’s go back in time to the time of the release of the debut album WE WILL RISE which came out at the end of September 2019. What did fans and critics think of the album?
WE WILL RISE was very well received by fans and critics. We grew very fast as a band and even a bit faster than we thought. The song “The Fairies Dance” passed 1-Million listens at Spotify in early December last year and we have more than 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. None of my previous bands have come close to these numbers. Also, our CD sales went fine and even better on vinyl, which is a growing media again. Most reviewers also praised WE WILL RISE, claiming that our music is the missing piece in the metal scene today…we filled a missing spot and that is truly heartwarming to hear. When it comes to fans, fan sites have popped for stuff created by true fans of the band.
The band only did two shows last year, one in Helsingborg and one in Malmoe. Why didn’t you do more live shows?
It was in October, 2019 we did those shows. We had 3 opportunities to go out on European tours supporting other bands but for the first offer we were in the reserve and the slot went to another band. The second offer we sadly declined because, we thought better set ups might come later so, we took a chance (which we shouldn’t have…it’s easy to be wise afterwards). And the 3rd offer clashed with already booked dates that we couldn’t cancel. After that, we were hit with the pandemic. It sucks big time but as soon as the pandemic is in “custody”, we are more than ready to hit the road for live shows!
When I interviewed Karl and Nick they told me that you were about to head out on tour with a major band, what happened with that tour?
I think they referred to the 3rd offer I mentioned in the previous question because, we said that we can join the first half of the tour. Later on we got the information that it was a “all or nothing” tour so, due to other obligations outside of Tungsten we sadly couldn’t join that tour.
What’s it like for you to be in a band consisting of two siblings and their father?
To me it’s like being in any band actually. Anders is indeed a great dad but, us as members, the four of us work like a typical band and talk like friends and bandmates. I never get the feel that it is “me” and partly “Anders family”. Anders and I have been friends for many years and were also both part of the band FULLFORCE almost 10 years ago with whom we released 2 albums and did a smaller tour. In TUNGSTEN we joke like friends, prank stuff like friends, drink beers on some occasions, coffee on other occasions, Christmas dinner table with our families around Christmas etc. We are a unique but true band and I am honored to be a part of it.
The info sheet states that Anders Johansson’s background and influences lie in music like Deep Purple and Rainbow, Nick and Karl in Rammstein and Meshuggah, and that you’re inspired by everything from Bee Gees to Meshuggah. Is that correct and which band/artists have had the biggest impact on your musical career?
Our influences aren’t always heard in our actual music but considering it’s Karl & Nick that write most of the basic song ideas, one can hear their inspirations. I consider our music to be very wide and broad. There is metal for everyone in there! 😉
The new album TUNDRA
When I spoke with Karl and Nick they told me that the band had already begun work on some new material. How far along were you in the process back then? (Sept./Oct. 2019)
If you’re talking about TUNDRA, I think we were more than halfway through working with the songs at the time WE WILL RISE came out.
A normal thing actually, considering WE WILL RISE was finished almost 1 year prior to it’s release in Sept. 2019. When that album was finished and we started to negotiate with Arising Empire Records we continued writing music so, it went pretty quickly to release the second album. Fans typically don’t see these things so that’s why things went fast for the listener.
The brothers wrote the material to the debut album, are they also responsible for the material on TUNDRA?
Karl & Nick compose most of the basic song ideas then all of us discuss the songs, re-arrange them if needed. Everyone puts their flavor to it so even if the songs are basically written by Karl & Nick, all of us add our personal things to the songs.
Life And The Ocean (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
How involved are you and Anders in the song writing process?
The info sheet states that the lyrics on TUNDRA are about Volfram (the band’s mascot) who has traveled from a world in past time with castles, fairies, and knights to the future world, which is a city after it’s fall ending up in the middle of an icy tundra. What can you tell us about the lyrics? What are they about besides Volfram? 🙂
Besides Volfram the lyrics mostly deals about things common man might be able to relate to. Life things, experiences, love, growing older, etc. Like you said, we also blend in lyrics that are more fictional (like the lyrics about Volfram) and also historical.
Are all of the songs written with the album in mind or did you use any older material?
All songs except 3 were specifically written for TUNDRA. The other 3 were written before our debut album, when we got started under the banner, Strokkur (which was a test from our side). Already when signing for the record label we agreed to re-record the songs we liked most from the Strokkur demo and that’s what we did.
The album contains 12 songs and clocks in on about 50 minutes which makes TUNDRA a pretty long album. Was it the bands intention to make a long album or did it just happen?
Hmm, I think you’re wrong here, sorry. ;-). The album contains 11 songs and is around 46 minutes and we didn’t have to release the album as a double LP because of this fact so, I do not agree it’s a long album. On the contrary actually, when it comes to other bands in the genre, 46 minutes is pretty normal; not too long and not too short playing time.
Were there any songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
Absolutely. We always have more songs than the ones ending up on the album. We “kill darlings” every time we decide what songs to record for the next coming album.
Tundra (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
What are the songs “This Is War” (3.13, the shortest one) and “Here Comes the Fall” (7.15 the longest one) about?
“This Is War” is about a soldier who’s living in a world of hatred, despair and mistrust and how he gains strength to carry on as a soldier. An avenger of honor and trust.
“Here Comes the Fall” is a deeper lyric that deals about age, getting old and wise. How life has passed away right in front of you while living your framed life. When you were younger you were scared of dying while when getting older you see it differently and the fact you generally get wiser by age. Also the importance of how the old leave the human heritage and legacy to the generations to come.
Why did you call the album TUNDRA, what’s the story behind the title?
We were simply just brainstorming cool album titles and boom, Anders came up with TUNDRA. From there I was the one coming up with the directions to Andreas Marschall and the album cover. He loved my idea and the basic guidelines I told him about Volfram ending up in a future city in ruins in the middle of an icy cold tundra. Karl composed the music for the title track, and I wrote the lyric with imaginations about the album cover and things around it.
Once again it’s the well known Andreas Marshall who made the cover art. Are you happy with his work and will he do more art for the band in the future?
We are really happy with his work and just like you assumed we have agreed to continue working together because firstly, he is awesome, secondly because of Volfram who has become our character, our mascot.
How did the fans respond to Volfram? Is he going to show up on stage live just like Eddie does at every Iron Maiden show?
I believe our fans think Volfram is a cool, mysterious dude. No one knows if he is good or evil but the things he does are mainly to preserve balance and righteousness in the different dimensions, galaxies, time and spaces. However, as for now it is not possible for us to bring him onstage but, who knows what the future will bring, hehehe.
Volfram’s Song (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
If you take a quick look at the cover of TUNDRA one can think it’s a Hammerfall album. Is that a positive or negative thing you think and do you agree with the similarity?
Nah, I think our album covers are unique. The similarity is only stylistically because it’s the same artist (Andreas Marschall). We have never heard any fan say or claim that our album covers remind of Hammerfall’s.
How would you like to describe what kind of music Tungsten plays?
Melodic power metal and modern, industrial touches and some folk.
Do you think fans of the debut album is going to like and love TUNDRA?
No doubt about it to be honest.
The info sheet say that the sound is darker on TUNDRA compared to the debut and from time to time more epic than before, what do you think?
The lyrics are mainly darker and with a deeper undertone. A bunch of songs deal with “time” in various ways. And by explaining it more epic is because of the song “Here Comes the Fall” which in fact is the most epic song we’ve recorded and composed this far and released on album. There are nonetheless a few more songs that is a bit more epic in it’s approach compared to the songs on WE WILL RISE. By saying “epic” I don’t necessary mean “better”. I just talk about the musical approach.
Anders’ brother, the keyboard-legend Jens Johansson (Stratovarius, Rainbow, Dio, etc.), makes a guest appearance on “Here Comes the Fall”. How was it to work with Jens?
It was cool and his solo is so…Jens, haha. Anders, Nick, Karl, and uncle Jens on a official song for the first time together, I think that’s so cool.
Which bands do you think likes close to Tungsten music-wise?
Hmm…I really don’t know. Metal bands in general?
You worked with Anders in the band Fullforce, how was it to work with Anders in that band compared to now in Tungsten?
It was cool in Fullforce and that’s where I really got to know him as a bandmate and friend. The difference from Fullforce to Tungsten is that we might be closer to each other nowadays. We have almost daily contact, meet up more often, etc. We basically know each other much better now plus it’s easier to maintain the contact in Tungsten plus we live decently close. Nowadays we even have family dinners together at times (especially at Christmas time).
Do you think fans of Anders old bands Rising Force, Hammerfall and your bands Cloudscape and Fullforce will like the music of Tungsten?
Absolutely. I’m sure our older fans will find things in our music in Tungsten that they’ll like. Even if we’re different to our previous bands it’s still metal with melody 😉
Have you read any reviews of TUNDRA? If so, what have the critics to say about the album and do you and the guys care about what critics have to say about your work?
We have read a bunch to see the general reaction from media and the majority of the reviews are nothing but outstanding. But, of course there are always a very few that is a little more negative but, I’ve noticed that those who are negative doesn’t really listen to our kind of metal personally. I think it’s stupid to put a reviewer who isn’t in to the kind of metal genre that shall be reviewed. It’s like, a guy who loves and prefers the music of AC/DC gets to review Dream Theater or Meshuggah for example?. How will that review end up…well, go figure, hahaha. What I mean is, I prefer reading a constructive review written by someone who is knowledgeable about our genre instead of reading blasphemy by a reviewer who obviously doesn’t like melodic metal and basically writes a bad review because of it. But like I said, we’ve received mostly top reviews and that is fun and honorable and we are truly humbled. Some critics think we’re are the missing piece in metal so, that is freakin’ cool to hear.
Studio and production
In which studio was the album recorded and where did Jens record his part?
All instruments were recorded in our various home studios. Anders began his drum recordings at “Der Bunker” and from there the rest of us recorded our parts in our homes. All was put together, mixed and mastered by Nick Johansson at Harm Studios. Jens recorded his parts in his home studio.
Once again it’s Nick that’s produced the album. What’s his strongest feature as producer and how is it to work with a producer that also is a band member?
Nick is very precise and have gained lots of skills mixing albums, a natural so to speak. Nick is very critical when needed and can be a pain in the ass but also very encouraging, lifting you up and inspiring you. His very critical and doesn’t let half-good things go on an album – it needs to be perfect. He is a young force but very mature for his age, so it works splendidly between us both as band members and Nick as a producer.
He also mastered TUNDRA but who did the mixing?
Nick did it all…engineering, mixing and mastering at Harm Studios in Trelleborg, Sweden.
Label and management
You still signed with Arising Empire, are you happy with the work the label put into the band and the albums so far?
Absolutely! A great label run by skillful people who know how to push their bands in the right direction. Arising Empire Records is a medium label but in collaboration with big label Edel Kontor Media. We are very happy with them.
You have been signed to many labels throughout your career, how would you compare Arising Empire to other labels?
They know what they do, they are good with information and answering questions. They know how to make the band more accessible on the Internet in streaming platforms and stuff. They have the contacts and skills basically. Some of the guys are originally from Nuclear Blast who was a partner when we released our debut, but last year they changed partner and started a collaboration with Edel Kontor Media instead which is an even bigger label as far as I know. So, we are really happy with Arising Empire Records.
Back in the days with FULLFORCE we were signed to SPV/Steamhammer and I remember we had a good contact and cooperation with them too. I’m still a friend to Olly and his old partner Georg. When it comes to other record labels I keep my words limited because other labels of smaller size that I’ve been signed to have been labels without a long term vision, no backups or anything to their artists. No serious promotion when releasing new albums and so forth. Kinda strange because, these small labels should be more careful and really try to gain strength and promote the bands they have instead of just signing a lot of bands and then do nothing…
I know there’s many labels that put in the least amount of work in their bands. What’s your general thoughts about labels, is it sometimes easier to do everything on your own maybe?
Being signed to a proper label with proper distribution is a thing I recommend. A label that really works for the band and do their best to increase sales and making sure the band/artist is accessible at most places especially on the internet. A good label works for the band, not against them.
When it comes to my personal experiences with smaller labels then I’d suggest the band should try to reach out themselves and find a way to release their albums by themselves because being signed to a record label that literally do nothing except for maybe around the release date is not a label worth signing with. There are lots of cons out there that can make your life difficult. I have never been fooled by a label but, I have been promised “rock n’ roll paradise” by small labels that later on showed limited interest in you. Be careful who you contact when shopping for a record label; ask for help, look for any information on the internet about the label. Most importantly, never sign a contract before a lawyer who knows the music business has helped you with negotiating with the record label.
The band’s debut album was released on CD and black and colored vinyl. TUNDRA is coming out on CD as well, and on black vinyl and a limited version in colored vinyl (500 copies). Why so few copies of the colored vinyl version? Does the band like the vinyl format?
How the record label decided to release our albums is their decision. The only thing I personally made sure of before signing with them was that it’s a must to release our albums on vinyl considering it’s a media that is selling more and more these days, and soon I am sure, LPs will sell more than CDs. But, our label releases all their artists on vinyl & CD so that was never an issue. We have fans using all media. WE WILL RISE sold well, especially on vinyl. How it goes for TUNDRA is yet to be seen.
I searched online at two of the biggest record stores in Sweden and one of them doesn’t have TUNDRA in stock and the debut is sold out, the other one is out of the debut as well as TUNDRA three weeks after the release. That’s too bad for fans in Sweden but how is it world wide for fans that want to purchase your stuff, where can they buy the bands albums?
The reason things were delayed in Scandinavia was because the album was released in the middle of distribution negotiations with Playground Music in Sweden. That’s why Swedish vendors haven’t received the album yet but that will change of course. The rest of Europe has not been a problem and the album has been at Amazon and EMP since day 1 plus lots of more stores. It is only Scandinavia typically that have experienced delays because of this. Our debut album isn’t sold out yet but, If Ginza for example don’t want to refill their warehouse with our debut album it’s up to them.
Do you have many that streams on Spotify?
We have around 130,000k monthly listeners (it goes up and down) and the most played song has been streamed 1,300,000 times – that is sick. That’s “The Fairies Dance” from our debut album. There are a bunch of other songs that are getting close to a million streams too. Really cool even though I personally prefer vinyl. 😉
In Sweden the band is working with Skrikhult Management but do you work with any management in Europe?
Contra Promotion in Germany (for all Europe except Sweden which is Skrikhults area).
Past present and future
How has the pandemic affected the band?
Not much except for the fact we can’t tour or play normal gigs. On the good side we have put more time in to composing music for our third album.
The band did a show in August in Sweden together with Eleine and Gathering of Kings. How was that and did the organizers manage to make the event Covid-safe?
It was a Covid-19 restricted show based on the restrictions that was on the table back then (50 persons in the audience). It worked perfectly well, very well organized and now broken boundaries. We did 2 shows that day on 2 different stages.
Did you play any new songs during that show?
Nope, only songs from WE WILL RISE.
In September the band met up with Heavy Metale in order to create your own beer, who came up with making a Tungsten beer?
That’s my idea to begin with. It’s available throughout Sweden; the articlenumber is 35336. It’s a tasty IPL (India Pale Lager) which basically means it’s a lager but with more hops and a somewhat richer taste. So, go order it if you live in Sweden…use the article number when you browse for it at www.systembolaget.se or simply write “Tundra”.
When is the beer coming out for sale and is it only being sold in Sweden or in the rest of the world as well?
It was launched in Sweden on January 4th. As far we know it will only be Sweden. It was difficult enough to get it in the Swedish alcohol monopoly. I know that the brewery is looking for ways to ship it to other countries but it is easier said than done. Of course we would be more than happy if we could export beers as well.
What’s your thoughts regarding touring and live shows next year, do you think it’s going to be possible to hit the roads any time soon?
I surely hope so. The future looks at least a little brighter considering there’s a vaccine. But, realistically I suppose live shows will not be performed normally until late summer 2021 at the earliest. So, sometime during July/August we might be able to tour again with a little luck.
In Sweden at the moment we are only allowed to gather 8 people at the most at the same time. What do you think of Sweden’s way of coping with the pandemic? Should the government have done anything differently?
This is the first time for everyone and no one really knows what’s wrong or right. In Spain they locked people in for example but, did it help statistically? Not at all. I think the way Sweden did it was the best for “us”. The only criticism from me is last autumn when the second wave came our government was “too late on the ball” and therefore were rightfully questioned about how they dealt with the situation. But like I said, all in all I do think our government have done an OK job (at least during spring/summer 2020). And all other countries have surely done what they think has been best for them.
Is the band eager to head out on the road meeting the fans and performing live?
YOU BET!!! We are scratching the walls just waiting and waiting and waiting!!!
Tungsten is booked for the Sabaton Open Air in August next year, have you performed at that festival before? Do you like Sabaton?
We haven’t performed there before but my comrades Anders, Nick, and Karl performed there backing up Hulkoff 2 years ago. The guys in the band like Sabaton. Me for example, I think they are OK and definitely earned their big status after all the work over the years building up their band name (they are without any doubt and rightfully the biggest metal band from Sweden today). Musically for me it’s not what I listen to very often based on my personal taste. They’re a bunch of great guys though and I know the singer (Joakim) a little. It will be awesome to visit their festival for a show.
Do you think it’s important to be active on the various social forums that available today?
Nowadays it’s more important than it used to be. As long as it’s not too personal.
The band’s Facebook has about 6,000 followers so far. Do you think the amount of followers is going to increase with the release of TUNDRA?
I’m sure it will and those 6,000 followers are true followers and not bought, fake followers to make it look bigger that many bands/record labels bought earlier.
How come the band chose “King of Shadows” as the first single out from the album?
We wanted to have a song that style-wise was very close to our first album as the number 1 single for TUNDRA.
King Of Shadows (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
Any plans on shooting videos to any of the other singles from the album? You shot videos to three of the songs from the debut, is it going to be three songs and videos this time as well?
We did three videos this time again (“King of Shadows”, “Life and the Ocean”, “Tundra”) plus 2 lyric videos (“Volfram’s Song”, “Divided Generations”).
Is it hard to do PR for the album when the pandemic is raging?
It is…some magazines are gone and in general according to our promoter everything is much less this year because of the pandemic for all bands.
Is the band currently working on material to the next album?
Absolutely….we already have 4 finished demos with vocals and another 3, 4 songs yet to record vocals on.
Divided Generations (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Tungsten yet?
Don’t hesitate checking TUNGSTEN out! Our music is very melodic but still heavy and very encouraging. We have quite a broad style even though we style-wise describe us as a melodic power metal band with industrial and folk hints.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy TUNDRA?
1. It’s a damn good album!
2. The album cover is top notch
3. You can follow the adventure of Volfram in the liner notes.
Well, that was all for me and metal-rules.com this time around, thanks a lot for taking the time making the interview, stay safe and healthy! Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Stay metal, be safe and stay away from Covid-19! 😉
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