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Interview conducted February 15 2018
Interview published April 1 2018

"Leif feels better than he has done in quite some time."

Swedish doom masters Candlemass aren't so frequently active anymore, but as Metal Covenant met up with the band's singer Mats Levén in February to talk about his and Anders Wikström of melodic rockers Treat's new project ReVertigo, we also managed to squeeze out some of the latest information about Candlemass as well.

Tobbe: (About bass player Leif Edling's health condition.) Have you been talking to Leif some time recently and what's his condition at this point?

Mats: Yes, absolutely. But he is pretty all right. Leif feels better than he has done in quite some time. So we have been in contact pretty frequently now, for different reasons. He's still careful about playing live, for some time to come, but he seems better actually. He's slowly getting better, and that's great to see.

Tobbe: Well, I guess the plan is, when you're in these type of conditions, to not rush things.

Mats: Yes, and that's been the problem. As soon as he's been working too much, no matter if it's been with other projects or whatever, he's been getting a backlash, you know. But the last couple of times I've seen him he's been feeling better than he's been doing for a long time, absolutely. Some time ago we didn't know at all, you know. Like "Will his condition get better?", but right now it definitely feels like it's gonna get better. I've had this feeling for the last six months, you know.

Tobbe: Of course it's great that he's getting better, but honestly, do you other guys think that Leif will do Candlemass to 100 percent again?

Mats: Well, 100 percent… What you can say about Leif is that if he decides to do something with Candlemass, regarding songs and stuff, he'll do it to 100 percent. And he's had his projects; he's done The Doomsday Kingdom and he's done Avatarium and those he's done with great determination during the periods where he's been able to work, you know. So Leif is very serious when he chooses to look into something; when he has a vision or an idea of what he wants to do.

And also, Candlemass itself hasn't been out on tours since, I don't know, 2008 or whatever, for the reason of lack of economy or enough energy for the band to go out. Well okay, we've been in, maybe, South America for 10 days. We did that a couple of years ago, and we've been in the U.S. for a week, but full-blown tours haven't been on topic, at least since I joined the band. Which really has been because we haven't had new material to deliver and to market in a way that's needed.

It's been pretty good for us to play more festivals and not do so many gigs every year and be on that level. And especially now when Leif has been absent, it's been a level we've been looking for in order to kind of wait on the situation a little bit, but still be out and play to some extent, you know.

Tobbe: Back in the day Candlemass was a touring band and later it became kind of a weekend band and today there's just some gigs here and there and do you think that the fans might think that Candlemass some day will just fade away without saying anything and all of a sudden the band is just gone?

Mats: Well, it will probably be like that if it's going on for too many years, and we're well aware of that ourselves too. But it depends, you know. I mean, when we make one off gigs in the U.S. for example, and in Europe to some extent too, we notice that we have quite a lot of new audiences with kids under 23 that sing the lyrics to our songs. So there is a new audience that doesn't know really who sang on a record from '89 and they just enjoy the music and have heard the songs, you know. And if we go to the U.S. we get a higher fee, because to them it's more exotic that we come there, you know.

There's a lot of ways that you build your career on, what you do, and let's say that we were gonna go to the U.S. for a 5 week tour: That would be pointless to us because we would make the same amount of money by doing just two festivals and we would be more exotic for the next year again. If we would do 5 weeks, we would just be one band of many that's out there, you know, and plays in clubs for 400 people. And some of us have regular jobs and therefore there's no sense in it and that would be the wrong way of doing it, you know. And it's worth a whole lot too, that when we actually do play we think it's really fun to go on stage together and we never find ourselves in a situation where we think it's hard or boring.

We haven't been in that situation once, since I joined in 2012 at least. And that might happen if you go away for 4-5 weeks and hardly make any money and maybe then there's some friction and it's not as fun anymore, you know, and Candlemass is a lot about love, that we enjoy what we're doing. But sure, it's like you say, and we're aware of it, but there will probably be some change along the road.

Tobbe: All your predecessors in Candlemass have had their own style and you have your own singing style in the band as well and is it kind of relieving to not have to copy someone else more than what you want to?

Mats: Well, it's different. Live, in different songs, it suits me more to feel like Messiah [Marcolin] did when he sang Bewitched for example. When I'm singing Bewitched, I automatically sing a little bit more like Messiah sang that song. It just happens to feel normal to do so. If I sing a song that Robert Lowe sang, then I sing more in the style I sing, without thinking about it. If I sing a [Johan] Längquist song, from Epicus [Doomicus Metallicus], then it's a kind of mix between the way he sang them and the way that I would have sang them, but it happens without me really thinking out a plan before, you know.

In the beginning I didn't want to join Candlemass, you know. I wanted to personally find out the vibe myself and I also wanted both fans and journalists to get used to a new voice. I didn't want to come out and say that I'm the new singer in Candlemass. We waited for 2-3 years before we announced that I was the new singer and that was just because of this. I wanted everyone in the band, myself, fans, journalists, to feel "This is cool. This is legit. We're buying this.", you know.

And we noticed that after a few gigs; it went great, we got great live reviews and everyone in the band felt "Awesome! Now we're a great live band again. We don't have to be ashamed of ourselves anymore.". [Referring to the fact that Robert Lowe did some really bad performances on stage.] And when we felt like this, it was cool enough for me as well because I wanted it to be for real if we were gonna do it, you know.

But at the same point in time, as I felt that I wanted to more and more be the singer in Candlemass, Leif got worse and worse, so naturally it didn't take off the way I wanted it to, with making new music or whatever. But it is like it is and we have to wait and what's most important is that Leif is well and that we can make things work the way we want them to.

Tobbe: Why does Candlemass' music fit so many different singers?

Mats: Well, it's very melodic, and especially the 4 first albums, you know. It's very melodic and Leif is writing it and there's a lot of space to sing in in a sense, you know. And the songs are really great and you must remember that the Candlemass sound has a lot to do with Janne [Lindh, drums], Mappe [Björkman, rhythm guitar] and Lasse [Johansson, lead guitar] too. They have a sound when they're playing, and I know that, I feel that, and I notice that.

Janne plays in a specific way; he's late on the snare. He has kind of a slow snare, which is a part of the Candlemass sound. To me Candlemass is pretty timeless, you know. There are really cool compositions and really cool riffs and Leffe has a really special way of doing things. When he really puts effort into something he really writes great songs, but he is also the kind of songwriter that depends heavily on that people around him deliver personality to what he has come up with, you know. No matter if it's Candlemass or Avatarium or Krux for example, a lot of things happen from where he presents his stuff to where the other guys play it and then it becomes really cool.

But most important is that he writes really cool ideas and there's a lot of space for each and everyone to add their personality. That's probably the only explanation to why it works with many different singers. The songs are really cool, there's a lot of space and it's pretty slow.

Tobbe: You have only recorded some demos and the EP Death Thy Lover and some song here and there, so I guess that you want to put a greater imprint to Candlemass that you've been able to make so far.

Mats: Yes, definitely. Of course everyone hopes that we will be able to make new material. That's our goal, you know. I hope it will turn out that way, but what it will sound like we have yet to see. But I'm counting on it. There will be something. Death Thy Lover was mostly just something we wanted to get out in connection with the 30 year anniversary and if we will come out with something new it will be stronger than what that EP is and it will be more work and effort put into it.

Tobbe: Epicus, Nightfall and Ancient Dreams are classic records and you still play a lot off them live and sometimes you even play one of them in its entirety. So if now making new material you will definitely have something to try to live up to and how does that feel really?

Mats: Yes, it's definitely like that. And I think we all felt that on Death Thy Lover we really didn't have the time and the possibility, you know, to put down all the energy that's needed, but if we would do an album we would really put down effort into it and be really hard too and say if something is good enough or not. And Leif is just like that himself, as he can very often make a demo and then suddenly he writes a new chorus or ditch it just because he thinks it's not good enough.

But of course there's a lot to live up to. Absolutely, but you can't really do more than to do your best. I think what's most important to us, if we make new material, is, you know, not being lazy. You must truly be hard and go those extra 20 percent or at least have that as a goal. And you can never say what it will be like in the end, but it will never sound like it did back then. It just doesn't, you know. There's no point to try to do that either, in that way, and I think people will see through it too, like "That's just a copy of that song…", or whatever. But we'll see. And we'll have to do our best if it happens.

Tobbe: I think that the full-length records that have been released in the last 15 years are good as well.

Mats: Yes, those records are really good. And what's strange about Candlemass in a way is that Candlemass has been kind of in a sense mismanaged commercially for so many years. I mean, after Messiah's departure really. And somewhere it's almost like we also feel it ourselves too, like "Now's our last chance.", because Candlemass is nevertheless a concept, you know, and the whole Candlemass logo is a concept and everyone in the hard rock community knows about Candlemass in a way. Festivals love to book Candlemass and it's one of those old '80s band who still delivers live and who has a whole lot of really awesome songs, you know.

So it's actually mostly up to ourselves to get back on the map again in a sensible and smart way that works for us as persons and individuals, in order to not become, like you say, just a weekend band or a band that just plays 10 gigs a year, because in the long-run we're not interested in being that either, but we've kind of been like that for a couple of years now because of Leif's condition.

Tobbe: And finally. What's the last thing you've said about Krux within the inner circle?

Mats: Actually we should have done a gig now, but that festival got canceled. But after I joined Candlemass it hasn't been such an interest for Krux and I think in the beginning Leif just set out to do 3 records. But now, when Leif hasn't been so active, I've been thinking about, like "It would be fun in some summer to do a festival summer and play 5-10 gigs with Krux in Europe.".

And that's still possible, because today there's quite a few doom festivals too, who probably think it would be really cool to book Krux, if we suddenly were available for a summer. But at the same time we are all a little bit busy in one way or another. So it is like it is with Krux and it becomes a little strange since I sing with Candlemass as well. But I like Krux very much and I love all 3 albums and I love playing live with those dudes too.

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