Interview conducted February 15 2018
Interview published April 1 2018
"Leif feels better than he has done in quite some
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.