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Interview conducted October 26 2019
Interview published November 30 2019

"Pretend, you know, even if you just want to cry and say that you can't take it anymore."

Swedish melodic hard rockers Art Nation put out their new making Transition on October 25th. One day after the release the band came to Stockholm for a show and Metal Covenant were able to get some time with frontman Alexander Strandell.

Tobbe: Tell me about the new record, Transition.

Alexander: Above all it's just really cool to get this thing into completion. It has been like "Will I be able to make another record?". There are so many components that have to be in line to make it happen, you know. So that was the coolest thing, like "We did it!". Now the third record is out and it feels really great, you know.

Tobbe: In what way does this record follow the path of the previous albums?

Alexander: Well, this is kind of my thing. Maybe it's a blessing or a curse, but I love trying out new things. It feels like every album take its own step into something new. All from Revolution [2015] to Liberation [2017] and now from Liberation to Transition. Maybe it doesn't follow the same trajectory, but I think you can hear that it's still Art Nation. So it's something in between, you know.

Tobbe: What kind of transition are we talking about?

Alexander: There has been a transition in many ways. I haven't been feeling so well for a long time and I've started to make it official and started to talk about how tough it has been going out touring with panic attacks, stress and anxiety.

And the tough part of being the leader of a band and at the same time be the singer, the manager and the booking agent, and be the driving force and at the same time take care of yourself. And this isn't always easy. This is an ongoing transition for me, to try to find a balance in what I want to do with my music, with myself and everything, you know.

Tobbe: I've recently talked with guys in Mustasch and Airbourne about mental illness. That it's getting more common and that people feel worse and worse.

Alexander: I know. And I think that's why it's so important that, especially, public figures are talking openly about it, because I think it's still a little shameful to feel ill today. And I think it's important that it doesn't feel that way, because it's just human to be ill, and it's human to be ill when you're also doing things the whole time. So I think it's great that people talk about it.

Tobbe: In a greater perspective, what do you describe with your lyrics?

Alexander: To me it has been important to always write about things that feel relevant to me and that I in a way can be touched by and also then can touch other people too. Fallen Worlds is a prime example, because I was in that flow. You know, it's cliché to talk about the climate and that we must take care of each other and everything. But I thought it was cool, as a hard rock band, to choose to write about that, and not only about, you know, love, or dragons and demons.

But it's not so important to me as long as it's something that touches me, and sometimes it might be love, and sometimes it might be life itself, and sometimes it might be, well, whatever. On the new record it's a great blend. Some are a little more, you know, about life, that we must take care of each other.

And some things are more about love and dare to believe in yourself and dare to break destructive patterns. Well, dare to make a transition, you know.

Tobbe: Do you make music just because it's fun? You know, honestly.

Alexander: Let me put it this way. When I was little it was really so, but then you become an adult and I think it's so interesting that many people say that they're doing it just because it's fun. Well, of course you do, but then you must realize that you, just like with any job, have to earn something, because otherwise you aren't able to survive.

No matter how passionate you are, if you're not getting something back economically, then you'll have to do something else until you're getting something back economically, because you have to pay the bills, the rent, or whatever there is. So of course there's a touch of that too, that it's important to create something that you think people will like. I can't do this just because I think it's fun. I must try to reach out to more people than just myself, you know.

Tobbe: Music may be a 24/7 chore and might this whole thing be somewhat boring sometimes? You know, people with regular jobs don't think it's great all the time.

Alexander: Absolutely, and especially when you don't feel well. It hasn't been fun for several years for me, because I've felt bad about going upon stage, and been having so much anxiety, and felt that it's hard to go up and pretend that you're well and pretend that you're happy. Pretend, you know, even if you just want to cry and say that you can't take it anymore. We have canceled some stuff this fall, since I don't feel well, and we will pick up everything next year instead. But that's all right.

I remember when I got the offer to join Amaranthe as a permanent member, before Nils Molin joined the band, and it was the same thing there. I didn't feel well, so I said no thanks. Of course with hindsight it might be like "Oh, I should have joined them.".

But at the same time I feel that there is a meaning with everything and therefore I think it's right to care about how you feel. And everything isn't always funny and everything isn't always good, you know.

Tobbe: Years ago you were on TV and also a contestant in a couple of different competitions. Tell me about those.

Alexander: Well, I think I have always wanted to be seen. And then I've made some stupid choices. I was on that TV show on TV4 with Leif Mannerström [Leif's Restaurant] several years ago and made a complete fool of myself. Because I didn't feel well. But no one knew about that. But it was a lesson learned, to make a fool of myself, and realize that you have to think about what choices you make.

Idol and Talent have just been great stuff to do, just because I've always gotten a no, and always heard that I'm not sufficient enough and that I'm not good enough, you know. And that has been such an important thing to me, because that has made me so determined, that no one else should tell me what I can do, you know. That's just one person's opinion, just like someone likes red and someone does not like red, you know.

I'm probably the one that's been most associated with Idol of the ones who haven't really participated. I think it's so great, like "You've been on Idol! That's so cool!" and I'm like "I wasn't really on the show.".

Tobbe: Are the tryouts overstructured? What has it been like when you've been there?

Alexander: Well, it feels like there's a lot TV and what they want and what they don't want. I've always experienced that people in that environment think that I have a too clear vision of what I want to do, and it feels like they want people that they can control a little bit. Like putting them in a department and making them a certain product, while I've been totally clear with "No, I want to do it this way! I want it to sound like this! I want to sing like this!". For better or worse, of course.

Tobbe: So it's a little bit rigged?

Alexander: Definitely. But it's fun. And that's why I chose to start my solo project last fall. My pop project. It will be so great to be in the commercial industry, like this past summer when I was on Lotta På Liseberg and BingoLotto.

And, you know, to be on TV and do a completely different thing, and then suddenly I'm, like today, with a hard rock band doing this thing. I think it's great. I like it. It shouldn't be like just because you're playing hard rock you can't be on Lotta På Liseberg, or the other way around, you know. I think it's awesome. The music is what's important and not what you specifically do.

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