Candlemass – Johan Längquist

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The legendary doom metal mongers started the March Funebre of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in 1984. The band, guided by Leif Edling, has gone through several periods in their long career.  When the singer on the debut album EPICUS DOOMICUS METALLICUS returned to Candlemass, the return and rebirth of the doom metal sounds were here again. The most recent album, titled SWEET EVIL SUN, is another doom metal masterpiece by these Swedish doom metal icons. Metal-Rules.Com sat down and talked to the vocalist Johan Längqvist.  

Interview and live pics by Arto Lehtinen

I just read the news about Sweden that you got a little bit of snow there.

Yeah, actually a lot of snow. I can tell. It was pretty much not possible to take your car to the job actually, so yeah, a lot of snow. I can tell.

Is the Candlemass music perfect for this kind of weather?

Yeah, should be dark and cold. That’s the perfect condition for listening to Candlemass.

Yes. And especially SWEET EVIL SUN, which just came out! 

Yeah, the 18th, I think.

What kind of response have you got so far?

Actually, very good, I think. Leif is sending me pics from magazines and stuff like that, and I think it’s good so far, actually. I think we had the highest point of all in Metal Hammer in Germany, actually, and that’s pretty good.

Candlemass has a huge legacy behind and has released a lot of great and influential albums. Do you think when doing a new album and writing material, it’s getting challenging to rise barriers for the next album because the previous album got a very good response as well?

Of course, you never know the outcome of a new album until a couple of people have listened to it and the newspapers and stuff like that. But we knew it was a hard thing to– because THE DOOR TO DOOM was pretty popular. We were actually thinking that it could have had anything to do with Tony Iommi doing one of the songs. Of course, but it seems that we did a pretty good job with this one as well so far. But you never know. But it feels like that.

You mentioned Tony Iommi. Was it a certain decision not to have any special guests on this album?

Yeah, we were actually talking about it, if it has to be something special on this one as well. But we couldn’t figure anything special out. But besides the keyboard saying that Jenny-Ann from Avatarium doing one of the songs with me,  but we are old friends since a lot of– since many years, and–. No. Yeah, we talked about it, but it didn’t turn out that– besides Jenny-Ann’s vocals, of course.

Leif is a real doom riff master, a wizard. I guess he usually writes the riff and creates the riff on his own, but does he come up showing you what he has written and– or how much do you bring the ideas to the table as well?

He’s doing everything, both the music and the lyrics, but once he used to call me up if he has got a couple of songs coming. “And can we go to the studio and you can do some vocals?” But of course, he has the lyrics written and–. But he’s open-minded and we just simply try to find the very best vocals for the songs. And yeah, we’re working, trying out different kinds of vocals. And I’m open-minded, and he’s open-minded. So, but he has got a red line of how he wants it to be. Not 100%, but something like that.

He has an endless resource of creating riffs because he has done Candlemass, he has done Krux, he has done Doomsday Kingdom and has written for Avatarium, but doesn’t he ever run out of ideas?

It does not seem that it is like that. He’s actually done so many things and I’m pretty sure he actually continues writing songs. He’s amazing when it comes to writing music. And I actually have said once that, he used to say that “Tony Iommi is the very grandfather of heavy riffs,” but Leif is not that far behind. He really did know how to find those brutal riffs. So yeah, he’s doing a great job.

Regarding the title of the new album called SWEET EVIL SUN, what the heck is Sweet Evil Sun? It’s a metaphor, I guess.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s actually– Leif said that it has got a kind of an Icarus theme. Okay. What is an Icarus theme? I make a long story short. It’s something about a man and his son, they are in prison. They are prisoned and in some magic way, the father creating wings of honey. And he tells his son not to fly when they are leaving the prison. “Don’t fly too close to the sun because your wings of honey will melt.” And it’s about being, hubris, naive, and don’t you have to stay grounded in life. The sun makes you see your dreams, maybe. A symbol of life and light and fame and fortune and success. But also, it’s a hard way to reach all your dreams. And sometimes you fall down very hard, and it can make you sad and– yeah, short explanation of what it’s all about.

You mentioned about the lyrics that Leif is doing the lyrics. But when you are singing those lyrics, do you ever pinpoint some things here that, “Okay, this could be different”? Or do you bring your own ideas in the lyric writing?

No. He is the main writer. We can change a word here and there and something like that. But I’m not involved in the writing of the lyrics. But we can change some things. But he’s the main writer.

Could you tell me a little bit, what about the Angel Battle, Devil Voodoo, or Scandinavian Gods? What are they about?

Angel Battle, it’s something about– I take it the way I see it. Something or someone is disappointed on the way humans are on Earth in one way or another. And one day, they’ve had enough. Something like that. So beware of the unknown forces hiding in the sky, if it’s gods or whatever.. It’s hard for me to explain the lyrics in a very deep way. I think Leif is the best man to talk deeply about the lyrics with, of course. But that’s the way I see it.

Jennie-Ann Smith from Avatarium, it’s a great band. They have released four albums or five albums. I like that band very much. And she did the visit on the new album, giving her voice on Death Sighs; in my opinion, it sounds very amazing.

Very beautiful. Yeah.

How did she come about ?!

Marcus, you know that Jennie is the wife of Marcus and Marcus has been working with Leif for a couple of years now and they’ve done things together. And I actually know Marcus and Jennie for a lot of years back in time. So we are actually all good friends. And I actually didn’t know that she was about to do that song. But I just heard it one day when I was down in the studio and I said, ‘Wow, this sounds great.” When you’re finished with all your recordings and you think the album is pretty much done now, it sounds perfect. We all think that it’s– yeah, we’re close now and is there anything we can do more to even push it a bit more? That’s the way how she got in. And she did an amazing job. So yeah.

Let’s talk about Marcus. Has he become the 6th member for Candlemass? He has managed to capture the magic and the sound of Candlemass on the new album?

Yeah, in a way, absolutely. He’s been playing guitar with us a couple of times when Lars couldn’t join us. So yeah, I think the reason is that we’re doing a good job with Marcus. And I think Leif is very happy to work with Marcus as well. He’s so musical and he knows all about sounds and especially the old style sounds. And Leif is a big fan of the old-school sounds. So yeah. And I’ve actually done things with Marcus back in time, so I know him very well. And yeah, he’s an awesome guy.

Did he come up with some tips or ideas like “this could be a little bit different” or “you can do this way” ?

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. For sure. Yeah. Yeah. For example, when I’m doing the vocals and Leif can’t come, me and Marcus, we know pretty much how it should be, but we tried out different things as well. And he’s a big help. He’s so very musical, and I can’t say that he writes the songs, but yeah, he’s involved the way I think a producer should be. When you need him, he gives you tips and helps you out, so.

When you recorded the album at the NOX Studio in Stockholm, the whole writing and recording, it was quite a long process after all. But how long did it take for you to get the album down 100% ready?

It didn’t take that long for me because the main thing– the main time is the time when Leif is working on the songs. So he’s doing the greatest job of all. So it goes pretty fast, actually, when we know how we want the song for me, so I don’t spend that many hours. It could take a couple of weeks, two, three days a week, or something like that. But during that time, we try out– we listen to the song and, “Should we take these vocals? No, listen to the other one.” So we’ve got a small library of different takings and  recordings so we can pick the very best one in the end.

As for  the previous album, THE DOOR TO DOOM, I have understood that that album was written before you joined the band.  I guess the writing process a little bit different for the previous album than this one. How do you see this?

The big difference now was that when I did THE DOOR TO DOOM album, we had a schedule and I think the record had to be done within three weeks. So I just got in and started recording. But it turned out pretty well, anyway. But we had a couple of shows to do right after the record was said and done. So now we could play around even more, even though we did play around a lot with the vocals on THE DOOR TO DOOM album as well. But now we had more time, and of course that’s always nice to try out as many things as possible.

Before this album came out, you released a couple of singles, Scandinavia Gods and “When Death Sighs” as a single. Did you only release those singles on a digital platform like Spotify, or were they available on vinyl?

Yeah, yeah. The very first one was only on the internet. But now there is a Sweet Evil Song single. Or if it was a special edition for the Hammer of Doom Festival that we were in. It could have been that, I think I remember. It could have been something like that. I do not know, actually. I’m not involved in those things.

You returned to Candlemass as a full-time member 2018.  You have played selected shows with them before. I saw you for the first time 2006 or 2007 in Stockholm. Was it the twenty-anniversary show of Candlemass in Stockholm?

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you’re right. You’re right.Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. They called me up, and they wanted to do. I was not the only one there. There were a couple of other singers there as well, right?

Thomas Vikström, Mats Levén, Tony Martin from Black Sabbath.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, that’s right.

So how was it getting on stage with Candlemass on that special show?

I’ve been into music all of my life, but I think it’s always nerve-wracking to just– from home get up onto a stage, of course. But it was– I did okay, anyway, so. [laughter] It was good. It was good. I remember that. But I think, at that point, I hadn’t been out doing a lot of live things, but that’s the way it is.

Then I saw you for the second time, 2011, at Roadburn Festival where you had the special EPICUS DOOMICUS METALLICUS set.

I did one set and Rob Lowe did another.

Yes. Was it interesting to do the whole album for the Roadburn audience or how did it come about after all?

Actually, I don’t remember, but it was a lot of fun and it always is.  If you know those two, there are a couple of more. I went to do the 70,000 Tons of Metal, and I don’t know if there could be some other shows as well.

But have you noticed, when getting on the stage to play the album, that it has given an entirely new boost for Candlemass?

I’ve realized that the very first album has made a big impression for a lot of people. So, yeah, I’m proud to have been a part of that album for sure because pretty much everything the show would do, and people want to talk to me about that album.

Candlemass announced that the  PSALMS FOR THE DEATH album was going to be the last album.  But when Mats Leven came in, they do it some with some thought here and Leif was out for obvious reasons. When you came in, it definitely became some kind of rebirth for Candlemass.

Yeah, in a way. Yeah, I think he’s feeling pretty good for the moment actually [laughter]. He has got health issues, so he has to take it easy sometimes. But he’s done every single gig since 2019, and that’s amazing because the audience, they love him. Yeah, it’s fantastic.

The new album is out now, so you are going out to do gigs and tour, stuff like that. Do you think that doing the set list for the gigs and festivals is a kind of a nightmare because you have to play old songs and new songs? So what is the balance?

We are going to put in a couple of new songs because we want that. But we have to do some of the old stuff because the people, I think they want it. They want to hear some of the old stuff in every single show. And there are what do you say five songs, for example, that we have to play from the old records, so. But we’ve been talking about it and we really do want to play some of the new stuff as well for the next year, so.

Do you prefer festivals or normal touring?

To me, it doesn’t matter. I actually enjoy everything, a show that we’re doing. If it’s a small club or a festival, I love everything. I can tell. And if we could play more new songs, if we’re doing a club, it’s very important to have a good pace in the set so it has a good flow from the very beginning to the very end. So that’s important. And I think we’ve had a good flow in the sets that we’ve done so far. But we really do want to put in some new stuff in between there, so.

Candlemass has got one Grammy, Swedish Grammy, 2005. The last time you got the nomination for the “Astorolus Great Octopus” as well. Do you see that the kind of old Swedish bands -the first generation of metal bands like Candlemass have started getting more respect and attention as years have passed by?  Your first album was groundbreaking and  people are taking you more and more seriously.

I must say that, unfortunately, yeah, in a way, but not for real. Because there was actually someone talking to me the other day and they said that they called a radio station up here in Sweden and asked them, “Could you please do some Candlemass songs?”. I know that when do you say five, six most popular that a lot of people are listening to. And they seem to refuse to play it. And actually, the guy said to him that Candlemass is too complicated. But he said, “Have you ever listened to the songs that they’ve done lately,” or something. And he was pretty sure that they had never listened to it. So it was no idea to talk to me.

Besides Candlemass, could you tell our readers what you have done besides Candlemass as you have a long career anyway?

Put in my head, I did a song for Dead Cosmonaut. I did one song on the album. The guy managing the band asked me if I wanted to do a song. And it’s actually a very good song, so I did. And I’ve done something with an old guy that had done a couple of gigs actually with the Candlemass. It’s called Project Hate. I’ve done at least one song with him. And yeah, then I did a record with– there was a guy that was financing a whole record. And he wanted me to write a couple of songs and actually do the songs as well. Yeah. And so I did. I don’t know what to say. There is a video that I’m pretty embarrassed that I’ve been a part of. It’s okay, but it’s not exactly this man that I am.

It’s on YouTube, I guess.

Yeah, it is. Everything is always on YouTube.

As for Candlemass back in the ’80s, Candlemass was in the headlines. Everybody used to dig the music of Candlemass. When the decade changed to ’90s, the whole thing changed. Several bands had a rough time and nobody cared about Candlemass at that time. When the era turned into 2000 – 2005, the things changed. The Candlemass reunion happened at Sweden Rock 2002, after that, things started rolling and rolling. Even though Candlemass have had different singers in the past, people still enjoy and want to see Candlemass. I guess the reason is that Candlemass music is so timeless, it’s so catchy, it’s so magical because there are a lot of melodies. It’s not slow doom. In my opinion, that’s the key to Candlemass’ success and why people still want to hear and listen to the band.

Yeah. When the EPICUS album was done, people were not laughing. But well, good luck, guys. I hope you were doing well with this album. But they didn’t think that at all. They said it’s crap. They didn’t say it straight up, but that was what they were thinking, actually. So that very album was an album before its time. People were not ready for that kind of music at that point.

You have changed the world.

Yeah, of course. So yeah. We’re still going strong.

Absolutely. All right. My time is up. They gave for 30 minutes, so. Tack Så Mycket

Tack Så Mycket

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