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Interview conducted June 9 2017
Interview published June 27 2017

"There are no must-dos to make our daily income."

Metal Covenant locked in an appointment with original member and rhythm guitarist Mappe Björkman of legendary doom outfit Candlemass on the day before their show at Sweden Rock. Since they have no new record out and have decided to play their second effort, Nightfall, in its entirety a couple of times during 2017 our conversation quite naturally took off in the direction of that monumental album.

Tobbe: You will play the entire Nightfall album tomorrow and you've played Epicus [Doomicus Metallicus] and Ancient Dreams in their entirety before, so will you play Tales Of Creation some day too?

Mappe: It's my dream. I've said it from the beginning that Tales Of Creation is probably my own personal favorite record and of course playing it live is a goal I have. I can never say or promise that we will do it, but I can say to 99 per cent that it absolutely will happen. The thing is: with these old records, if we talk about Epicus, Ancient Dreams and Nightfall, is that there's such a huge backup for it, you know.

We recently were in the USA and did 4 gigs and one of those was a Nightfall gig and that one was probably the coolest one. There are people who are 20-25 years old and they sing along to every damn song. You know, the average age is like 25, sold out, and they know every damn text, and I'm like "These old fucking albums… It's sick!". So, of course we will try to do Tales Of Creation. I would really like to do that.

Tobbe: If we look at the Nightfall record. It's been 30 years since it was recorded and how much do you really remember, in detail, about those specific recordings? Or does everything kind of get blurred and it's hard to distinguish what happened on which recording?

Mappe: Well, you remember bits and pieces. You always remember the things that went straight to hell or if something went really well. You know, those extremes during the actual recording. I don't remember the details, of course not. I do not, but I remember certain gigs after Nightfall. We had our hype there and it was the first times we played live and things happened, you know. I often remember the good stuff and I don't want to remember the bad things.

But I remember certain bits, like we recorded and we weren't so pleased with it. We were a band at that time with, you know, low-budget recordings all the way. On Nightfall we were under contract with what we thought was a big company [Active Records / Music For Nations], but they were nothing at that time, you know. But I have good memories from Nightfall.

Tobbe: Nightfall has 6 real [and 4 instrumental] songs, but you have played all those 6 songs numerous times before, everywhere, during your career, so isn't this actually just a gig where you just play them all together and where there's kind of no need for rehearsals?

Mappe: Well, it's funny. Exactly as you say, I didn't think so either and when we said that we were gonna play Nightfall it was like "OK. Let's just rehearse some of the stuff.", you know. I mean, Mourners Lament is probably the one we've played the fewest number of times and [At The] Gallows End, Samarithan and [The] Well Of Souls we've played frequently, but what I want to make really clear is, and it's kind of funny, when we started the rehearsals for Nightfall, and I was at home for pre-rehearsing, it suddenly occurred to me "What the hell! I can't believe it.", because we have almost never played Well Of Souls, Dark Are The Veils [Of Death] and Bewitched in their entirety, and there are things in the second halves of these songs that are a bit tricky.

So I had to send text messages to the other guys, like "Listen thoroughly, damn it! Because there's more to the songs than we know.". But it's really fun and it becomes kind of a happening, because it's not just playing songs that we've played before and when we now play the whole record I've noticed that "Yeah! This is cool!", you know. And Gallows End is a song that's always in the end of the set and played as an encore or it closes the set, but now it's, like, song number 3 [Not counting the intro Gothic Stone, which is on tape in the set.] and every time I kind of feel "This isn't right.", but it's Nightfall we're playing and we must play Gallows End as number 3.

Tobbe: The intro on the album is just under a minute long, but the 3 instrumental tracks all pass the 2-minute mark and the previous record, Epicus, was just straight off 6 songs. So do you believe that the Nightfall record could have been even greater if it just would have comprised those 6 real songs or are the instrumental songs vital for the record's whole outcome?

Mappe: I think those 4 tracks spice it up. I really think so. I mean, when we play live now we have shortened certain intros, recorded stuff, and I think they add another dimension. I think it's a nice feature and when I see a concert I like it when there is a recorded theme and things on the stage cool down a bit and maybe something happens too and you get a little break. If we would play the whole record with the full versions of those tracks, maybe those breaks would be too long, but as they are now I think that they fill a purpose.

And on the record I believe that they really add a whole lot, you know. The songs on Epicus were longer and more epic stuff maybe than on Nightfall. But no, I really don't think that the record would have been greater without those songs.

Tobbe: You've had Marche Funebre as the intro to your shows for a long time now and have you ever thought about open up with something else or will it always be Marche Funebre that opens up your gigs?

Mappe: We have actually never talked about it. Marche Funebre is really classic Candlemass. Of course it might be boring to always do the same. It's not the intro on the Nightfall shows of course since Gothic Stone is the first track on the album. And now we can play a Nightfall set followed by a best of set the next day and then we have to rethink, you know, and when we haven't started with Marche Funebre as the intro it feels really good to do it the next time, since it's such a classic Candlemass intro.

We had another intro after the white album [Self titled album, 2005] where we had that one from V [An 80's TV series], you know, where there's just a dark tone and so. But still I think with Marche Funebre everyone feels and knows that Candlemass will hit the stage soon and I can't help but think that it's really cool, you know.

Tobbe: Well, it was just a simple question…

Mappe: Yes, but it was a really good question. In fact we've played it all these years and it's a damn good question. And surely we could come up with a new intro, but at the same time what are we going to do? Will there be a new record some day with another intro? But Marche Funebre has become a statement, just like our skull. When we had that one on Epicus, who the hell thought that it would turn out a statement?

I mean, I don't say it's as classic as the Motörhead skull, but it's surely just a step behind, you know. If we look at merch: We can do this and we can do that, but whatever we do it's like "But fuck that! Go for the skull. It's what people want.". And I think it's cool, just like Marche Funebre with Candlemass.

Tobbe: About Per Wiberg. He is usually filling in for Leif [Edling, bass] when Leif is absent and before that he played the keyboards. So if Leif returns full-time, will Per be your keyboarder once again?

Mappe: Well, we haven't even talked about it. We don't want to be without him, you know. Per is hired, you know, even though he was with us for about 3 years. But of course, whatever we will do with keyboards involved and if we will play songs off the later albums, Per will be our keyboarder, you know. When Per came in instead of Leif we had already decided to not have so much keyboards live anymore and focus on the old stuff and then it's quite fitting that Per is the bass player.

We're pretty careful that whatever we do in Candlemass it will be in the family, you know. Mats [Levén] who sings with us now isn't really a new singer, as he has been demoing stuff since 2005 and also with Krux, Abstrakt Algebra and with Leif. There is a family connection and I think it would be very difficult to pick someone from the outside at this point. Per was a keyboarder and became the bass player and Jörgen [Sandström] has filled in for Per and he has been in Krux. You know, so there is a connection.

Mackan [Marcus Jidell] filled in for me on guitar when I was absent and he's also in Avatarium. I see all this, Avatarium, Krux, Candlemass, as a family. And of course we will never tell Per to leave, like "Now you're not involved with Candlemass anymore." and maybe we will have to play a gig with keyboards, in order to keep him in the band. [Laughs] He's so valuable to us, you know. Really. I really mean that.

Tobbe: Candlemass has become more of a part-time band today. You don't tour so much anymore and neither do you put out so much material nowadays. So is this situation kind of nice to you, to kind of have the band as something you don't work so hard with and you rather do things when you like to?

Mappe: I think this is what has made Candlemass survive for such a long time. We wouldn't have lasted as a touring band. Our last really extended tour was in 2008 with Rob [Lowe, vocals] and it was quite tough because Rob was in kind of a bad shape. We made some bad gigs in the USA and we felt like we were stepping on each other's toes. It was our last attempt to make a longer tour and we kind of decided then to do, like, the gigs we can combine with comfort.

I mean, we bring our families, someone always brings his wife, someone brings their kid and if we play in Greece I always stay there for an additional 4 days for some vacation. So we combine these things and therefore we all feel really good and I think that's one of the strengths of Candlemass, like enter the stage and "Yes! We feel so good so we can really deliver.".

There are no must-dos to make our daily income. Everyone has jobs, you know. Candlemass has for me always been a hobby, for 31 years, and I'm really glad to have a job where they accept this. [Laughs] Besides Per I'm the youngest in the band and I'm 53 and as I said, I don't think of Candlemass as a touring band, but when we come to festivals we actually make really great gigs and as long as we keep doing that we can keep on doing what we do.

Tobbe: You know, Leif is doing The Doomsday Kingdom and the record recently came out [March 31st] and does that in any way affect Candlemass, whatsoever, besides being something in the family?

Mappe: No, no. I think it's just positive. I know Leif since 32 years back and I know exactly how he functions. With Doomsday Kingdom there's no pressure on him and he does exactly what he wants to. He puts out his album and part of his rehab is writing songs and part of his rehab is doing a gig and there's no pressure on him. If he would play the Candlemass gig here tomorrow, I know exactly how he would feel. There would be a real pressure on him and he must deliver and he would get closer to hitting the wall again. And I understand that. It doesn't matter if you have a job, or whatever: if you feel safe and can do whatever you want, you feel like "Yeah, this is working.", but as soon as you feel the pressure it gets tough again.

And it will be like this with Leffe, until he feels that he's back, and he's happier than everyone else that we're doing this. He reads every Candlemass review and texts me every time, like "So fun and cool, man." and I got a message earlier today "Destroy Sweden Rock! Just go! You're awesome!". And I mean, I love Leif, you know. Of course I will always let him do his thing and this only affects Candlemass on a positive note.

On the contrary, it would have been quite the opposite if we were in some kind of schism. You can't have a schism with Leif, since he has created every song and even if I'm a founding member I have only played his songs. But we're a family and he does his thing and he will be back. Maybe we will have some new material soon. We take it step by step and every day is a new day.

Tobbe: And now it's been a year since you put out the EP Death Thy Lover, so in all honesty, do you really believe that you will have something out, EP or full-length, within a couple of years?

Mappe: Yes. I absolutely think so. I really think so. I'm convinced that Leif is excited to make new Candlemass songs, as long as there's no pressure on him, like "Now you must make these songs!". If he gets space and no pressure, he will do it. It was the same thing with the EP. I mean, Leif and I talked already before the white album in 2005 and we said nothing about making new music. We only talked about playing old stuff. But the white album came out and we never talked about making new stuff after that, but then King Of The Grey Islands [2007] came out and after that one we still didn't talked about making another one.

And then came Lucifer Rising [2008 - EP] and Death Magic Doom [2009]. And before Psalms For The Dead [2012] I told the other guys "I'm quitting. I can't take this anymore.", because the live shows were so bad, but Leif told me "I've written the new album. I really want us to do this.". And we did it. So we're not done with this. We're not done as long as people want to see us.

Tobbe: And that will probably last for a while…

Mappe: Yes, I hope so and I think it's really fun. I pinch myself before every damn gig we do; for real. I have family and kids and I have a job and everything, and every time I go on stage, you know, people are in their 20's and sing along to songs that were made in the 80's. You know, how did that happen? We've got kind of a new audience and it just goes on and on and on. And our albums are listed as "The greatest doom metal album!" or whatever. If someone would have told me that when we made those records I would have said to them, like "Jump in the ocean!".

Tobbe: Death Thy Lover is an EP, obviously, and might that one end up somewhere in the periphery of your discography in the end, just because of the fact that it is an EP?

Mappe: Yes, absolutely. Definitely, I would say. Initially, we were only going to release one song, or two maybe, as Mats and Leffe had some ideas and it was something we would just do to show that we are still a recording band, but after a while we got a couple of songs more and we made that EP. And I really like it, but because of our great back catalogue we have never played anything off it live and neither do we have to.

Some people want us to play something off it, and surely we could, but we haven't rehearsed it and we feel like "It was Leffe who wrote the songs, we made an EP, blah blah blah." and now we're playing the old stuff and people want to hear that and no one seems to complain and after the gigs no one is saying "Why the hell didn't you play those songs?"

Tobbe: About not playing so many songs off an album, Chapter VI [1992], even though you've played The Dying Illusion a few times and maybe some of the other tracks occasionally. Anyway, quite a few of your fans have nothing but good things to say about that album.

Mappe: Today, yes. But not back then. It became kind of "That was just a record in between the others." and "That one was shit." and whatever. But now, people seem to think it's kind of good that one, so we brought The Dying Illusion into the set last year and people were like "What a surprise! The Dying Illusion. It was really great live, with the same kind of sound as the other songs.". I have always thought that there are gems on that record. Absolutely! If we would pick them up live today we would be able to play quite a few from that record and no one would think it was strange, you know.

Tobbe: If Mats Levén, your singer, hypothetically, would quit, like "I don't wanna do this no more!", could Candlemass go on with yet another singer change?

Mappe: Yes, I think it would work. But if you had asked me 4-5 years ago, when Robert was with us, I might have given you a different answer. But our curse has over the years always been the singers. Johan [Längquist] on Epicus was just a session vocalist and he's such a nice guy, you know. Messiah [Marcolin] was great with what he did and he made some great records.

And then came Thomas Vikström and then Leffe made those late 90's records with another singer [Björn Flodkvist]. Then Messiah was back and then Robert Lowe after him. We've changed singer like a hundred times, but somewhere I can feel that "If there's something that we can manage to go through, it's to change the singer.". But you have to find the right singer. And I really don't want to find a new singer now, because I love Mats and what he does.

We've been down at the bottom with singer changes and nobody believed in us. Messiah is a very clear example. And Robert Lowe too. He made great records, but his live performance was a fucking catastrophe and we almost had to escape the scene, you know. But we got up again and got a new singer and we've done that all the way. I don't want it to happen, but I can guarantee that we wouldn't call it a day if Mats would quit the band, you know what I mean?

Tobbe: If we look back at the singers, even if there are some similarity between one or two of them, they still are quite different in style from one another.

Mappe: Really different. They have some similarities because they kind of try to imitate the old stuff, like on the Epicus songs everyone wants to come out kind of that way. And it's cool, because none of our singers have been like "I don't give a damn about the former singer. I will do my own thing.". No one has done that and everyone has, with respect, tried to come out a little bit similar, yet with their own touch and that's been great.

And Mats is so damn cool and he doesn't want to play any new stuff and he just wants to play the songs from '86-'88. He loves Nightfall and he loves Ancient Dreams. We're like "Shouldn't we play something from the new album, Psalms For The Dead?" and he goes "No, no, no. Let's play the old stuff." and that's really great, because there we have no keyboards and Per can play the bass. So, kudos to Mats.

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