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Evergrey: New Challenges for an Established Band

Interview with vocalist Tom S. Englund of Evergrey by Vera in Autumn 2008

Swedish progressive metal band Evergrey has been around since 1998 and with every album they expanded their success. After such a long time they felt the need to refresh things. With a new label, a new bass player and last but not least an amazing new record, entitled ‘Torn’ they are now ready to face new adventures. I had a debonair conversation with standout emotive vocalist Tom S. Englund who called me from Gothenburg to announce they are back with a vengeance.

When I talked to Tom they had recently played at the Zwarte Cross festival in Holland, so I asked him as a starter whether it was a good experience or not…
Yeah, it was a good experience, we had fun. But I had a bit of a headache that day. We travelled a lot and were quite tired, so we went to bed right after the show.

The previous album ’Monday Morning Apocalypse’ was a bit more experimental. Can we see it as a kind of search for a new identity at that time?
No, it is just us being the way we were at that time. It is a reflection of that time and what we could do at that time. And we are really proud at that album. It is one of the hardest hitting albums we have ever done. Not so much musical passages, but more song based.

The good thing is that I like ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’, but I like the other more progressive side of Evergrey as well, because above all you can hear it IS Evergrey…
Yeah, absolutely. I think we could do a jazz album and still be able to sound as Evergrey. I think we have managed to get our identity really strong. It will always sound like Evergrey, no matter what we do.

After that release was a time of reflection because you had to change label, booking agency, management,…
We had a lot of stuff that we wanted to change. It was a good time for it. I mean, we did not had to change label, if we did not want it, but at the same time we had been with InsideOut for three or four albums and you know sometimes you have to move on in order to progress as a person and as a band as well.

I read it took a long time before the contract (with Steamhammer/SPV) was signed. Was it that difficult?
Not for us. We just said what we wanted and then we waited for them to agree (laughs). And it took like a year. But we did some shows and some smaller tours, so we kept ourselves busy. And we were really sure that we would never ever sign a contract that we were not happy with, so… Because it could be the last album contract that we sign… That’s why we have to make sure to be happy with the result.

And I guess you have learned a lot from the business after all these years…
Absolutely. When you are twenty years old, you sign whatever contract. It doesn’t really matter as long as the record comes out. But when you are at the point where we are now, having released six albums, we know the mistakes you can make and we don’t want to fall into that ditch again. We have always been very determined and accurate about signing a contract, especially for this one.

When did you start writing the new album? Where can we place that in time?
I think we started writing August 2006 because this year we had Henrik (Danhage – Vera) playing guitar for Björn in In Flames on tour. Me and the drummer (Jonas Ekdahl) started writing during the time he was gone. Then we did a few tours in between and kept on writing. Then we started really writing. We had maybe three or four songs when we really started writing for the sake of this album. We had a lot of time for this album, which I think you can hear. All the details are there and we are really happen with the result.

Did you write the lyrics?
Indeed, I wrote the lyrics, I always do. It is a bit strange when you sing about emotions and you haven’t written them yourself. At least for me it is. I need to be really into the stuff and it has to feel honest when people read them. They are about things that affect me in my personal life. Reflections of my own feelings and ideas; fears and horrors. It is like talking to a good friend, you know. But instead I talk with my pen. I did not get that many answers, but at least I talk to myself and try to figure things out. I need to do that in order to stay sane as a person.

It is like a purifying process…
Absolutely. But at the same time it is not more than that either. I write my lyrics and then I just happen to be lucky enough to have people who enjoy them and think things over, which is fine by me. They can think whatever they want and I am just glad that it affects people.

You have a new bass player, Jari Kainulainen (former Stratovarius)...
Jari was one of the guys we tried out for the bass parts for Evergrey and he came in flying from Finland and he played for two minutes and we knew immediately that his style was going to fit Evergrey. He’s a fucking good bass player! We decided within five minutes.

Isn’t it a problem if he lives in Finland?
He lives in Norway but he is Finnish. And he plays in a Swedish band. It is a bit strange. It only takes him four hours to drive, so it’s okay.

I guess it was no problem to work that long on the album, since you have your own studio…
(hesitates) Well, we hàd it, we actually sold it now. We did not have as much time for it now as we needed. A studio costs a lot of money and you need to make sure it is constantly filled up. But with us being away all the time, we could not afford having it anymore. It cost too much money, so for the next album, we’ll see… (grins) We recorded this album in our own studio but this was the last one, then we sold it.

You also played in Romania recently. Was that a nice experience or just a fly in fly out trip?
It was really great because we were supposed to play in Romania on our European tour, but our bus broke down when we were in Turkey, so we missed Romania. We thought we really needed to go back because this was a sold out show and all these people paid this amount of money. Yeah, we love our fans. We took that loss of money for the flight tickets. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that people have been working hard to be able to see us.

Did you see something from the country in Romania and Turkey?
No, not really. But we have been in Romania and Turkey before. When you are in a country for the first time you are really keen on going out and looking at stuff, make sure you see everything. But when you are in a country for the third or fourth time, you have pretty much seen what you wanted to see.

What is the cruise between Finland and Sweden? Do you do a real cruise then?
Yeah it is the Sweden Rock Magazine who has this metal cruise on a huge cruise boat. They have this really big stage and like five thousand metalheads drinking beer for three days (laughs). We have done it before and it is really fun. It is really cool. You go to bed and you wake up and you keep on drinking and another band is playing. It is nice! It is like another festival, but you have your bed, you know…
It must be a huge boat…
Oh yeah, it is fucking big, it is like fourteen or fifteen floors.

Incredible! And who is the female singer in the last song?
That’s my wife. She has been on every album so far. I guess I am going to keep her singing some small parts here and there.

In 2006 you did an American tour with In Flames and Nevermore. Was it impressive? Was it the first time?
No it was like the sixth time and it was not impressive at all (we both laugh for my ignorance). America is like… well, everything looks the same. Whether you are at the East Coast or the West Coast. But America was always fun. It is very easy to tour in America. Everything is open 24hours a day. If you are hungry you can go out and eat whenever you want. The people are really nice and everything’s good.

Do you have new tour plans?
We have lots of plans. But I think what we are going to do now is playing in Scandinavia first, then I think we are going to South America and then we are going to do Europe in January or February 2009 as opening act tour for somebody else. And then we are doing America and then we are coming back and do Europe as headliner. Then we have all the summer festivals, so, it will be a busy year.

What were your favourite bands when you started to make music?
Iron Maiden, always! That’s always been my favourite band. But at the same time I listen to a lot of music. I listen a lot to Slayer and a band called Deicide (mm… pretty heavy stuff – Vera) and Morbid Angel, Yngwie Malmsteen, Queensryche, Europe… everything.

How did you get into music as a kid?
I was not so much into music as a kid, but when I was fifteen years old I saw Def Leppard at a concert and I saw these great looking girls with big tits watching the show and I said to myself: “That’s what I want to do” (laughs)

And the dream came true…

Did you meet your wife on tour?
No, actually through friends…

There will be re-releases of your complete back-catalogue in future, isn’t it?
I don’t know, we’ll see. If that’s what they want to do, okay. If we have some important material we can add on this albums and make the new people interested in old Everygrey, that’s fine. But you have to offer something; you cannot just re-release the old albums. We have to make something special of it.

In the infosheet one can read that you have enough material to fill a DVD with every re-released record…
We do actually. We have a lot of stuff that we can fill it with. It is all about planning. Evergrey doesn’t release anything that is not really thought through. We don’t want to put some videoclips on it and release it as bonus DVD. We want to make sure that it is something that people will enjoy.

Who did the artwork?
The cover artwork was done by Matthias Norén who’s been doing so many bands, but in the booklet – you haven’t seen the booklet – are pictures of an Award winning Danish photographer who gave us his pictures because he loves the band so much. His name is Rene Asmussen. So we could use his pictures and they are fantastic! People should really check out the booklet, because it is really worth it.

What about the bonus track ‘Caught In A Lie’? Why was it chosen as bonus track?
When we make an album, we want to make sure that the album stays in a certain mood. And this is a great song, but it did not really fit on the album. We could not find a good spot for it on the album in order to make the rest of the album sound as interesting and effective. So we needed to make that as a bonus track after the rest was finished.

Are there plans to shoot videoclips?
Yes, on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday we’ll do that. It will be for the first track ‘Broken Wings’. We shoot it here in Gothenburg, the band will be in it, but I really don’t know what will come out. That’s up to the video producer.

Take a look at the standout video of ‘Broken Wings’:

What is your opinion about things like MySpace and You Tube?
It is an interesting way to introduce you as a band. Especially for bands who are more in the underground and don’t have a steady audience yet I think it is a great tool for them to make their own appearance and identity. Maybe they’ll stick out sometime. Yeah it is a cool thing. I really like it.

Well, I think we have covered mostly everything. Is there something I forgot?
No, not really. I just want to make sure that people know we haven’t forgotten about Belgium. We will be there, hopefully playing Graspop next year and also doing one or two tours in Europe. So there will be a chance for everyone to see Evergrey next year.

Geplaatst door Vera op vrijdag 07 november 2008 - 11:34:52
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