THERION

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TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE

This interview with Christofer Johnsson from Therion was done through e-mail in February/March 2001.

As I understand you have written most of the material for your next album already. Can you tell us something about it and how it will sound compared to Deggial? Can we expect new guest appearances like you have had on your last two albums with Ralf Scheepers (Helloween, Gamma Ray, Primal Fear) and Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian)?
That is correct. However, I never reveal the direction of future albums, it should come as a surprice. No guestappearance from any famous singers though.

I know you have been busy building your own studio. Could you tell us a little about this? Why did you want a studio of your own?
We have about 160 squaremeters in the north of stockholm which we completely rebuilded. There is room in room with floating floors, every angle is perfectly measured (having recordings of classic instruments especially in mind) and we have choosen to design it in an unusal way. We will name it "Modern Art" and the next Therion album will be recorded there (though we will mix at another studio due to the fact that we will need over 50 channels, which we have for recording (we can do up to up to 96 channels), but unfortunaly not for mixing. This might be helped out in the future, but as for now, we are happy enough with being able to record there and take as long time as we want.

I know that you have been in another band called Carbonized. Could you tell us a little about it? Have you been involved with any other bands?
This was MANY years ago. We released the 3:rd and last album in 1996 (though it was recorded 1993 and the band stopped its activities somewhere in between) We played a weird kind of disharmonic/psychedelic metal/rock. Didn't sell too well (around 5000 copies worldwide or something like that). It was me + the ex Therion members Lars and Piotr who had the band, but instead of being a Therion side-project it was actually through Carbonized I got togather with them and later brought them into Therion. I did vocals on one album for a swiss band called Messiah.

The first Therion line-up consisted of you, Oskar Forss, Erik Gustafsson and Peter Hansson. When did those three leave the band? Do you know what they have been doing since their departure?
Erik moved to USA -91, we had contact for a short while, but he just dissapeared later. Peter quit raight after the recording of the second album. He had said just before it that he wanted to do something different. We kept in touch for a while and have had some small contact some years later (didn't hear from him in 4-5 years now though). He's playing the bass now (in a popband called Mayonese or something). Oskar left a while after the release of the second album. He was expecting his second child (he have 3 now by the way) and throught he wouldn't have the time to play music anymore. He did some shows with us in sweden after the album was out though.

Later on Anders Wahl, Magnus Barthelson and Fredrik Isaksson have been in the band. During what time were they in the band? I know that Magnus and Anders has also been in a band called Formicide but do you know what Fredrik has been doing since he left Therion?
Andreas, not Anders. Andreas and Magnus played on the tour we did in Holland/Belgium on the second album -92 , recorded the 3:rd album and did some touring on that album -93. Fredrik did a second tour with us supporting the 3:rd album in -94 (or was it ealry -95???) and recorded the 4:th album with us. He didn't do the tour to support that album (supporting Annihilator) as he had some serious personal problems that prevented him to leave home. So we used our old friend Lars Rosenberg as a stand in bassist. Due to the personal problems and due to the fact that Piotr didn't get along at all with him, Piotr asked if he could fire him and I understood it wouldn't work for long, so I agreed to let him do it.

You have also been working together with Piotr Wawrzeniuk, Wolf Simons, Jonas Mellberg and Lars Rosenberg. Were they ever real members of the band or 'just' session musicians?
Piotr was of course a permanent member, he did 3 albums with Therion and had an influence on the band (even wrote a little bit of music). We still have contact. Lars was a session member for that tour, but later joined as a permanent member after being fired from Entombed. He recorded Theli with us and did a minitour in the break of the Theli recording and the first (out of 3) tours to support that album before he was finally fired due to simular reasons Entombed had to sack him. Jonas was a permanent member and did the Theli recording and that minitour. Repeated misbehaviour under the influence of alcohole and being a very difficult person made me forced to leave him out before the first Theli tour. Wolf was a hired studio-drummer.

For a couple of years now you have had a new line-up with Johan and Kristian Niemann and Sami Karppinen. I suspect that Johan and Kristian are brothers? Are these three members involved in any other bands?
Yep, they are brothers. The line-up now is perfect. World class muscicians and uncomplicated friendly personalities. They have no other bands, but Johan used to play in a DreamTheather kind of band earlier. After all those line-up changed it is natural for people thinking I must be a very difficult person to work with. I might not be the easiest one around, but definatly I must say all those changes is due to things beyond my control except in some of the cases due to me making bad choices of members in the first place.

In the beginning Therion was a traditional death metal band. Was it your dream even back then to compose something like Theli or Deggial or did you come up with this later on?
We were never traditional. Those albums might be traditional from todays perspective, but they were not back then. Therion was always a progressive and original band and the evolution to what we are today can be heard step by step between each of our albums. half of the Theli songs were written fully or partly some years earlier though and was never recorded as we didn't have any budget for such recordings back then.

You have also been a member of a magical order called Dragon Rouge for some time now. Did you join them before you started Therion or afterwards? Has this influenced you musically in some way?
I joined in january 1991, so it was some months before our first album came out (though the band had been around since 1987).

As I understand you have had a lot of help producing your latest orchestral albums from Jan Kazda. Who is he and how did you come in contact with him?
He did loads of work helping we finding errors and mistakes in my notesheets, as well as transposing the notes correctly for those instruments that require such (french horn for example). He also conducted the orchestra/choir and in rare cases suggested additional or alternative harmonies. On top on that he organize all the musicians and singers (I call and say what I need and he get them for me, supply them with my notes and prepare them for the recording) and was my link between them in the studio when I had to explain certain feelings or expressions I wanted in the playing/singing. Vovon could not have been done without him and Deggial would have been a fucking mess if he wasn't there. He also cobducted the choir/orchestra for the two live shows we did with full set-up and those two would never had happened without him. He is an old friend of the producer and for a living he is playing bass in his solo jazz-band Kazda + give lessions in classic guitar (he did most of the acoustic guitars on our albums as well).

If you were to choose only one, which Therion album are you most satisfied with and why?
Deggial, beacause the songs are the best ones. Our latest album will always be the best one in my opinion. It will not leave the studio before I agree to that. However, as the albums have different styles, it is not alsways directly comparable.

What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have any favorite bands/artists/composers? Do you listen to the same kind of music now as you did ten years ago?
75% classic and opera. Best classic composers are Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Prokofiev, Allan Petterson + a few more. Best operas are without doubt done by Richard Wagner (Richard Strauss and Stravinsky make great operas too, but yet play in a division below). Carl Orff is ofcourse great too, but Carmin Burana isn't really an opera, it is a rearranged pirece originally written for two pianos, 2 mezzo-sopranos and Timpanies.

I also listen to old heavy metal like Accept, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Manowar etc, to old 70's hardrock bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Alice Cooper etc and to old 70's progressive/symphonic rock bands like Rush, Kansas, Pavlovs Dog, Klaatu etc. Finally I also enjoy a few of the 90's bands, rather limited to Amorphis 3 latest albums, The Gathering and Portishead. I am also a big fan of Voivod and Uli Jon Roth, but neither of then fit in any of the above mentioned cathegories.

What kind of books do you read? Any good books you would like to mention? I think I have seen somewhere that you have written a short book yourself, am I right?
Mainly esoteric litterature. I recently read a good book about Vril. As for fictional authors I am only reading Bulgakov. All his works are brilliant, but I would recomend his lifework "Master and Margarita" above anything, being the best fictinal book I've ever read! I haven't found the time to read much the last year thou, due to too many activities.

Since the "Lepaca Kliffoth" album Thomas Karlsson has been writing most of your lyrics. Who is he and how come you are not writing the lyrics yourself?
He is one of my very best friends and also the founder of Dragon Rouge. He did only a few on Lepaca Kliffoth and less than half on Theli actually. But from Vovin and onwards he did them all. The reason for that is because he do it better and I wanted to turn the focus away from my personal experiences and make the lyrics a bit more academic. he write the jyrics the way I want to have them and better than I would be able to do it my self, so it is a great inspriration working with him actually.

Metal as a genre has developed extremely fast in the 1990's and there are now a couple of bands who successfully combine classical music with traditional metal like you, Luca Turilli/Rhapsody and Haggard. You have never thought of joining forces and create something really big like Metallica did with S&M? What do you think will happen with metal in the future?
"Too many cooks doesn't create a good soup" - or how was that expression now again? Ketchup is great on fries, but would be disgusting on pancakes. I doubt it would work, we have totally different views on classic; Haggard having their focus on early baroque and medieval music mixed with death metal and Rhapsody being a mix of Helloweens "Keeper" albums, late baroque and the romantic "happy" italian sound. Therion is the opposite, I use a mix of the not so melodic metal, 70's prog rock, german pretentious Wagner inspired opera and russian heavy-mood classic atmosphere. If we would manage to combine that, it would probably be a 5 year project to deliver an album which all parts where happy with. Hardrock/metal is a very shapable form of music and I think we have not yet seen the end of it's evolution. Personally I think it will continue of the progressive path for a while (in various directions), but who knows where it will take us and where it will end...

Any final words you would like the world to know of?
Our new album will be out in September.


Links of interest:

Therion
Nuclear Blast