EVERGREY - HUNGOVER IN TUSKA !
Yeah, I felt a bit sad for the guys. Singer and lead guitarist Tom Englund and guitarist Henrik Danhage were sitting in the backstage lawn of Tuska festival this summer, trying to cope with their hangovers from their ferry trip over to Finland, while answering the q's from me. It often turns out that doing the interviews is the toughest part in musicians job, but no matter what the situation is you have to get it done. With the guys yawning in their state we still managed away quite clean and the guys were even smiling and joking through the relaxed chat. Nice guys to talk to really, eventhough not all you read here is that decend. But hey, that's just rock'n'roll !
Tom - I think we're doing quite well actually. We are a bit hungover, we took the ferry over from Sweden and we're looking forward to playing here today.
RockUnited - Probably lots of partying in the ferry ?!
Tom - We tried, but the ferry was full of families and old people, so we were pretty much the only ones drinking.
RockUnited - And there's terrible music !
Tom - Exactly !
RockUnited - You're actually playing before Accept here today, does that feel great and how's the Finnish audience been for you, since you were here a few years ago?
Tom - When we were here the last time it was really long time ago. It was really great, but unfortunately not too many people know about Evergrey in Finland. So that's what we're here to try to change today. Playing before Accept is...well, we're playing on a different stage so we don't really see it that way, I don't anyways. But it's cool.
RockUnited - Progressive metal isn't that popular really, but maybe more over in Europe than in the States ?
Henrik - I don't think we're playing progressive metal.
Tom - And at the same time our biggest audience is in the States. We've done three tours there and they also play us on MTV there and stuff like that. But as Henrik said, we don't concider us playing progressive metal at all, we just play dark melodic metal, that's what we like to call it.
RockUnited - You haven't yet had an own show here. Do you think you'll have one someday?
Tom - I hope so, definately. And I think now after the DVD has been released and people have had the chance to watch it, I think people have sort of changed their minds about us what they thought we were. They're gonna see today that we're not a progressive metal band standing and watching our own instruments.
RockUnited - Evergrey first started out with Tom and Dan in '95 playing classical guitar, then moved to death metal.
Tom - I didn't visit a tutor, but Dan went to learn classical guitar and I just learned from Dan.
RockUnited - What made you turn it all upside down and take a progressive path ?
Tom - We were sort of fed up with the one way street that death metal was back then, so we just wanted to try and do something differently. Try to keep the darkness, but still have the melody in it, which we didn't have with our other band.
Henrik - That's what we were trying to accomplish with our first album. I think we succeeded really well. And after that we've been trying to improve and progress as a band I guess.
RockUnited - You have dedicated fans, who've followed your career.
Tom - Definately.
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
RockUnited - You have a DVD out and it's great for the fans to have something like this. Do you feel satisfied with the outcome?
Henrik - We spent a lot of time making it, so I'm really happy with the final result. That's a great show where we played 20 songs and then there's the six and half hours extra material, so as a fan I really think you get your money's worth.
RockUnited - Do you bring the backing vocalists and orchestra along to many shows, or was this just for the DVD ?
Tom - It was just for the DVD. It's impossible for us to travel with that many people. There would be like twenty people travelling and we don't get that much money for each show. So we can't do that yet, maybe later.
RockUnited - You've also played acoustically, how easy is that ?
Tom - I think it's just a different kind of vibe. It's more loose I would say. It's a different feel, but I like it.
RockUnited - I know some guitarists who whine that it's terrible to play acoustic guitar.
Henrik - I can understand that as well. I'd rather play electric, but...
Tom - It's a whole different instrument. Acoustic and electric guitars are totally different instruments and just because you can play electric guitar doesn't mean you can play acoustic guitar. But I mean...we're so talented, that we can accomplish anything ! (laughs)
RockUnited - Your music is what most would call intelligent progmetal, but your lyrics all deal with sad issues, lots involved around life in general and relationships, not like usual progbands with political aspects and such. So how dark is Evergrey really ?
Tom - As dark as life is, I guess. I mean that's what we're basing everything around, but at the same time we're not depressed and dark people on our own time. But we deal with a lot of heavy subjects that we feel really strongly about and that we stand for one hundred percent also, at least I do. But we live in two different worlds, we're fortunate to be able to do so and when we're on stage and presenting our songs about people dying in cancer, we can't really stand there and have a laugh at that exact moment, but when the song is finished we don't have a problem with it.
RockUnited - One of my absolute fave songs from you is "As I Lie Here Bleeding", such a sad song with a suicidal theme. Since being in the dark Scandinavia and Finns committing lots of suicides with alcohol involved, can you say the situation's the same in Sweden and does this subject touch you personally ?
Tom - Since I'm half Finnish as well, I guess so, hah ! That is about a friend of mine actually, who did kill himself, so it's quite personal. But it was a long time ago.
RockUnited - You also include God and religion in many lyrics, is that because it's a strong subject which will raise emotions ?
Henrik - As far as the religion (goes), I really don't have an opinion about that. I think it's up to each person to make their own opinions about that. But when we talk about religion I think it's not about the religion, as with "The Inner Circle" the religion just happened to be in the story.
Tom - What we're talking about in "The Inner Circle" album is we're bashing fanaticism, not religion in itself. But we put on a lot of shit from people that try to convince other people to think as they think and we think that people should think for themselves. To be their own Gods and stand up for themselves.
RockUnited - People are aware that you're not a religious band.
Tom - We're more Satanic than Christian !
And then Henrik said something we won't publish here, eventhough the interview took a more humorous turn here. But when talking about religion, people tend to pigeonhole you easily based on what you're blurting out and writing in lyrics, it's a matter that needs to be dealt with super care. Apart from religious subjects, Evergrey albums are close to concept albums, each dealing with different issues. Finding the lyrical sources for a whole albums worth might be tough, if you have a liking to concept albums.
Tom - We just sit down pretty much and discuss what heavy subjects there are really to write about and what feels important at the moment to write about. If somebody had died or what it was like with the "Recreation Day" album when pretty much all of us had lost someone from our family within a year, so that was only natural for us to write about that. But other than that we don't really plan what we write about, it's just what comes naturally.
RockUnited - You use a lot of spoken parts. What depths are you seeking with those ?
Tom - I think it's adding a new dimension to the music, it sort of creates a certain soundtrack feeling to the music. We didn't do anything for the "Recreation Day" album, but we did it a lot for "The Inner Circle". So we don't know what's happening with the next album.
RockUnited - Do you include those from a movie or have certain persons to do them ?
Tom - We can't tell you !
RockUnited - Have you written new material yet, since you last album came out just last year?
Tom - Half a song. I think we'll release the new album in March or something.
RockUnited - Do you have any idea for it yet ?
Tom - A good album, that's the idea ! Nothing other than that.
HENRIK, THE BESTMAN
RockUnited - Your backing vocalist has been your (Tom's) wife Carina, since the first album. How did you come to use her ?
Tom - We had another singer before me on the demo we did, which got us a record deal for the first album and he decided to quit the band three weeks before we entered the studio. So we were really panicing and didn't know what to do. But our bass player said why don't you sing, 'cos I already did the vocal melodies, but I thought it was sorta crazy to ask me that. So I tried singing and since my wife was singing, she wasn't my wife back then, but since she was singing really good I asked her to train me basically. So we did as much as we could and we postponed the recordings two months and then we recorded the first album after two months.
RockUnited - Has Carina taken singing lessons ?
Tom - No.
RockUnited - You actually married in 2003.
Tom - Yeah. That is our bestman there (pointing to Henrik). It's been two years now, just recently.
RockUnited - It must be a little different for you guys to go on tour than for other couples, since you can bring your wife along with a good reason ?
Tom - I never bring her. We have a child as well, so somebody has to take care of the child. And she doesn't really want to be involved in it, she doesn't want to come on tour or on festivals. She likes to watch us on festivals or something like that. She would hate to go on a tour and I would hate to have her there as well.
RockUnited - On your homepages I think Henrik mentioned something along the lines of having respect for the people who go on festivals and sleep in the tents.
Henrik - Yeah, we never do that.
PRODUCTION AND COVERS
Andy LaRocque from King Diamond fame produced the first three albums for Evergrey, but with "Recreation Day" and "The Inner Circle" there were clear reasons why the productions were done by Tom and Henrik.
Tom - It's basically because it turned out really well with the "Recreation Day" and of course because we have our own studio as well. It would be stupid not to use a multimillion euro studio, when we have one and go to somebody else. As well as we're the ones who know what Evergrey should sound like and we really want to try to accomplish that as much as we can. But it's always good to have an objective ear as well. So what we're gonna do for the next album is we'll probably produce the most of it and then have somebody come in and do certain parts or have the final say how it's gonna sound or whatever. So we'll see, it's all about money, you know.
RockUnited - You've found a great sound for the albums.
Tom - We're very happy with it. Thank you.
RockUnited - Mattias Noren has also done fine job with the last three of your album covers. How do the ideas get born for the covers ?
Henrik - I think it's pretty much from us. And the dialogue between the band and Mattias is very good. I think the band is responsible for the whole outcome of the way things look. It's just that Mattias has the knowledge of actually putting it all together.
Tom - And he's got a great ability of understanding what we mean. But all of the ideas are our own.
Henrik - Tom did the whole thing for both the DVD and the live cd, just put together all the material and sent it to Mattias to put it together. But he's very good, we're very satisfied with him.
Among countless other bands Noren has also done the last album cover for Kotipelto, succeeding well with the atmosphere. Apart from the people who work for Evergrey there are also fans who are so influenced by Evergrey that they e-mail Tom asking permissions to use their material in school projects and such. One can only be pleased and taken about such attention.
WE'RE FILTHY RICH, GOODNIGHT !
Evergrey and dust do not mix, this band works hard and even has their hands in many projects. Dissonance is one of them, they recorded their "The Golden Virtue" album with guest musicians such as Evergrey guys Tom, Henrik, Rikard and Carina, King Diamond members Andy LaRocque and Snowy Shaw and Therion guys Andy Engberg and Kristian Niemann, along with others. Tom also helped with the production, being a friend to Kyle Stout, who's behind the project.
Tom - That was just a friend of ours, who's owning the studio with us and wanted our help with producing it.
Henrik - Especially your help. I mean you've produced his old cd.
Tom - Yeah, but all of us are participating on the cd. So that was a cool thing to do something totally different. He's not as talented musicwise or instrumentalwise, but he's got a hunger for the music that is sort of very uncommon to see nowadays, especially when looking at ourselves. But I mean it's a fun thing to do.
Henrik - It's always fun to do different things and I think it's good for a band, when members go for different things.
RockUnited - Some people are so closeminded they only go for one style of metal, but you must be pretty openminded ?
Henrik - Nah, it's just the fact that we're so fantastic musicians as well, that really helps (laughs).
Tom - But especially being in Evergrey. That's the great thing about Evergrey, that we can sort of intergrate whatever we want into Evergrey. We can have anything from balladish pianos to brutal death metal riffs if we want to.
RockUnited - But you're not going for the Axel Rudi Pell concept, releasing ballad albums ?
Tom - Maybe we should, if we'd make a lot of money out of it.
Another project, which hasn't really moved on in a while is Ex-Cathedra with Ralph Santolla, Mike Amott, Steve DiGiorgio, Gene Hoglan and Tom from Evergrey.
Tom - Nothing has happened so far. I'm just waiting for Ralf to set it up, I haven't had the time to write stuff for it. He's gotta write it himself and maybe I can sing on it if I find it interesting enough (laughs).
RockUnited - You're keeping yourselves quite busy.
Henrik - Yeah, very busy. This is what we do and what we live off of, so we have to.
RockUnited - So you really live from this ? There's plenty of bands out there, even quite big that still do another job besides being in a band.
Tom - They sign stupid contracts. Seriously, we've never signed one single stupid contract.
Henrik - We're filthy rich now (laughs).
Tom - No, but we have as much as a normal person earns a month. I think we have about the same. And we can do whatever we want, so we're very happy with that. Goodnight !
Tom jokes about signing off from the interview, but I relieve him by assuring there's not many questions left. Still going for projects, and this one is Project Hate MCMXCIX, which is different style of metal from Evergrey and has their bassist Michael Håkansson playing bass on their latest, now a full member of the band. Lord K. Philipson, the man behind this project, is an Evergrey fan.
Henrik - He's a friend to the band, who wanted to take some new avenues to have other kind of vibes. So he contacted Michael. I think Michael got all the songs and he was able to do whatever he wanted with them. So I think for Michael there was a big freedom thing, that maybe he doesn't have in Evergrey. So it was almost like he did a solo album, 'cos he did a lot of things on it. But it sounds really cool.
RockUnited - What can you tell me about Death Destruction then ?
Henrik - It's me and Jonas (Ekdahl), our bass player named Fredrik (Larsson) and our singer Jimmie (Strimell). I had some things I really couldn't use in Evergrey, because it wasn't really fit for that band. We just started writing some songs and we were really surprised how good it turned out, so we made a band out of it. I think we have an album I believe, but we haven't mixed it and we don't have a deal.
RockUnited - Children Of Bodom have heard it and were wondering about the singer.
Henrik - Yeah, he's very good. He's in Nightrage as well.
BOOZING IS GETTING TO US
RockUnited - You played in the big Wacken festival 2002, but what would exactly be the biggest moment in the Evergrey history ?
Tom - One of the bigger things we did was a couple of weeks ago, when we played with Iron Maiden and other bands in Italy. We had like fifteen to twenty thousand people at half past ten in the morning. But we also did the Grasspop festival and so on, we've done quite a few things like that now, which are sorta rewarding for the soul, I would say, 'cos it's really cool to be standing in front of a lot of people, have them screaming, drinking beer and stuff like that.
RockUnited - I was actually in Wacken 2000, where you were really drunk backstage.
Tom - Oh really ? I plan on doing the same today.
Henrik - He's always like that. This is the half Finnish side of Tom.
Tom - Oh yeah ? What are you gonna blame then ? The half Swedish thing then ? But we haven't been drinking much yet today, we can't really play if we drink too much. It's too many things to have in mind.
RockUnited - Some people play really well when they're drunk.
Tom - They think so.
Henrik - We're gonna get really drunk today, 'cos we're going out with Children Of Bodom. Some after party from this festival. We'll see.
Tom - We toured America with them, we lived in the same bus for six weeks. So I think we know each other really, really well.
From here we go for a personality check, who's the most silent one and who parties the most then.
Tom - Who parties the most is impossible to answer, because everybody parties a lot. But I think the silent one is Jonas, because he's so much younger than the rest of us.
Henrik - So when he's around us he sort of don't get any air, we sort of steal it from him. But he parties like a thirty year old.
RockUnited - When you turn thirty you start thinking "oh, I'm so old" !
Tom - Yeah, we think so too. The boozing is getting to us now.
THE BEST LIVE BAND
RockUnited - But back to touring. You've played with Children of Bodom and Iced Earth. How well did that tour go for you, since musically you're in a different league, than those crushing finns and americans ?
Henrik - I think it was really good and we got a lot of good response from both Iced Earth and Bodom fans. I think a lot of people have an idea of what Evergrey is, until they hear or see us live. They think, just like you said, some progmetal band that sits and practises our instruments for ten hours a day. But we're not like that at all. We drink and we do all the stupid things on tour, we're not serious at all, as far as personalities go.
Tom - And at the same time when we did that tour we had three different videos playing on MTV, so we have our own big fanbase as well. Half of the audience was Iced Earth's and the other half was divided between Children and Evergrey. I think we sold about the same amount of albums in America.
RockUnited - But it's amazing to even get a video playing in MTV these days, they hardly play metal.
Tom - They have Headbanger's Ball in America.
Henrik - But the eighties is never gonna come back.
Tom - But you have to start somewhere and this is a good start. The metal climate is much better in America than what people think, much bigger and much better. I mean, there's a reason for Ozzfest being in America', cos there's a lot of people liking metal in America.
RockUnited - You've also played with my fave bands Crimson Glory and Kamelot. How was that european tour in 2000 ?
Tom - That was great. Pretty much the same thing. Crimson Glory was going down, since this was sort of their reunion tour. So their fanbase was really fading and ours and Kamelot's was on a really strong uprise. So it was kind of strange to play forty minutes and then hearing the audience leave after us and Kamelot played. Stuff like that happened a lot. But every tour is a good thing for a band.
RockUnited - What kind of a liveband do you concider yourselves to be ?
Henrik - The best.
RockUnited - What is your goal when you go on stage ?
Henrik - To make people remember us, so they go and buy a t-shirt and the day after they go and buy all the cd's.
Tom - That's our job and that's what we're trying to accomplish every day. As long as we get one person to buy a cd, we've done our job right. And we concider ourselves to be a really good live band nowadays, 'cos we've learned a lot from touring.
RockUnited - You don't really go for the huge sets ?
Tom - Yeah, we don't build castles and stuff like that. But it's all a money thing, if we could do that we would probably. Not castles but something.
Henrik - Pyros and all that is cool, but it costs a lot of money.
Tom - And at the same time we want the music to stand for itself at first and when we have sorta made that footprint on the music market, then we can start adding all the effect elements in order to improve our set. But we're still learning how to be the best live band you can be.
RockUnited - What kind of a live set would you build then if you had the money ?
Tom - I think we would have lots of screens and videos.
Henrik - I think if we had a lot of money we would just sit down and smoke some weed and come up with some really good ideas ! (laughs) And write them down.
Tom - And the day after we would throw them all away.
RockUnited - I went to Sweden Rock, where Hammerfall had the icebergs in the background, did you hear about those ?
Tom - Yeah, we heard about them. They rehearsed in our studio for a couple of weeks, but I haven't seen it though.
RockUnited - They were kinda cool, but looked a bit cheesy.
Henrik - That is cool, but all the people have been complaining about that. When you hear other bands badmouthing other bands and stuff like that, it's probably because they can't do it themselves.
RockUnited - You've actually played all over the world, but how has the US and Iceland taken Evergrey ?
Henrik - Iceland was fantastic. It was like walking into the "Lord Of The Rings", I would say. And very different from the rest of the nordic countries.
Tom - And also coming from America, where everything is so uncultural and really no history whatsoever, so coming to Iceland from there was really fantastic.
RockUnited - What is the metal scene in Iceland like ?
Henrik - Bad, I would say. (The guys laugh)
Tom - But it's a small, small country with a small, small amount of crowd that listens to metal, but I think we had like fifty people there. And we played two days in a row. Pretty much the smallest place we've ever played in.
DOWN THE FILTHY OFF-ROAD
RockUnited - What is an average Evergrey fan like, do you get fired with tough questions a lot and what do you most like about when meeting fans ?
Henrik - I really like the fact that I meet them. That they took the time and went out to see us. That is what I like about our fans.
Tom - And we have a lot of respect for our fans. We can't really mention an average Evergrey fan, since we have like kids from nine years old, then we have like really old people, sixty or so listening to us. So we don't have an average Evergrey fan.
RockUnited - What is the greatest thing a fan ever gave you ?
Henrik - Their...virginity ! Nah...
The guys get a little restless again and the laughter hardly ends with the whole team being tired. When I can finally catch my breath I point out Henrik's comment is very typical coming from a musicians mouth, to which they praised it's the best thing you can get. I can only say "you're so sick" and they keep laughing. Tom tells me it's important to note here that Henrik said that, not him. Still laughing, I tell them hopefully their fans understand that.
Henrik - I hope my wife understands that ! (what a pleasant interview, we're all still laughing !)
RockUnited - Anyway, back to biz. Evergrey fans have been crying after the bands history, so will you correct the history section on your homepages soon, there's none now ?
Tom - No history ? I'll kick his ass ! (The moderator's, that is)
RockUnited - Yeah, you'll have to kick his ass. But your homepages don't also have no information on what you guys do on your spare time. What does a band like you do then ?
Henrik - Well, I work out as you can see (showing off his "trained" body). I mean, I spend time with my family and hang out with friends. I think most of the time I hang out with Tom and his family. So everything I do is based around Evergrey, I would say, in some way.
Tom - And we don't have that much spare time. Only a few days, hopefully, in a week. And then we spend time with our families.
RockUnited - How many kids do you have ?
Tom - Together ?! Hah...nah, one and Henrik has one.
RockUnited - How old are they, do they play together ?
Henrik - When they're together they play. My boy is nine.
RockUnited - Getting into heavy metal ?
Henrik - Yeah, but right now it's all about drumming and Slipknot.
RockUnited - What do you like about Slipknot ?
Henrik - I like them a lot. They're very intense and very good musicians. The whole concept is really cool, I really like them a lot.
RockUnited - How did you get involved with music anyway ?
Tom - I watched a Def Leppard concert in Gothenburg back in '87 I think and then I saw this blonde girl with big tits outside, the groupies, and I said that's what I wanna do !
Henrik - Kiss, that's the reason.
Tom - So pretty much the same then (laughs).
RockUnited - What is the situation with progmetal and metal anyway in Sweden now ?
Tom - Metal is as big as it's always been in Sweden. Starting something like ten years ago Sweden was becoming one of the major countries in metal world, and I think we still are. And Finland has become really big as well. But it's really cool to see the Scandinavian countries are sorta up there when you talk about quality metal. And there's a lot of people coming to shows and it's cool.
RockUnited - And you're doing great in Sweden ?
Henrik - Yeah, we're so big in Sweden...
Tom - Our DVD was in number one position for weeks in Sweden.
RockUnited - That's really great ! But thank you for the interview and have a nice day here.
Tom and Henrik - Thank you very much and the same to you too.
Report by Satu Reunanen, satu [at] rockunited.com