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Interview conducted November 14 2021
Interview published November 19 2021

"Leffe is an artist, indeed, and he has a clear vision, and you cannot really tweak his stuff, and therefore things started getting difficult."

Accordingly, on the 6th attempt due to shows being postponed during the pandemic, Stockholm doom metal pioneers Candlemass finally were able to play their double night show The Tritonus Theater, which saw the band perform the classic albums Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1st show) and Nightfall (2nd show) in their entirety.

Metal Covenant had the pleasure to meet up with drummer Jan Lindh to talk about the band's bearded faces, the possibility of playing the album Tales Of Creation live from start to finish, bass player Leif Edling's current health condition, former singers, how they nearly disbanded about 4 years ago, ongoing recordings of a new album, et cetera, et cetera, and indeed got some quite interesting answers.

Band lineup:
Jan "Janne" Lindh - Drums
Leif "Leffe" Edling - Bass
Mats "Mappe" Björkman - Rhythm guitar
Lars "Lasse" Johansson - Lead guitar
Johan Längquist - Vocals

Tobbe: You're quite a bearded band nowadays, although you've trimmed yours a bit lately.

Jan: Well, I let it grow on top instead. But, you know, I work and then in the end it just became two cones, because everything in the middle was torn by that damn zipper, and I was like "I can't look like this.", because it looked like two ice cream cones on my chin. Ever since I was younger I've shaved my hair off at every even decade birthday. The first time was when I became 30. And then I let my hair grow and again shaved it off at 40 and then again at 50. On that very same day, July 29th, you know.

Tobbe: And the other guys, besides Mappe that is, like to don some kind of beard as well, and especially Leif's is something else.

Jan: Yes, Mappe doesn't like to wear a beard because of the itch. But he had a bit before, I remember. And Leffe hasn't even cut his hair in a long time. He kind of looks like Saruman now.

Tobbe: You recently did a nice thing in honor of Trouble's Eric Wagner's death by recording a version of their song The Tempter.

Jan: Yes, exactly. There really wasn't any question about it. Leffe just emailed me and asked. We've known Trouble for so long and played a couple of times with them and met them in the USA and stuff. So we just went down to the studio, rehearsed a couple of times, and just counted it in. It was a cool thing to do to honor him.

He has meant a lot to us, both for us in the band musically and for Leffe who has often been in contact with them and they were a great inspiration for him as well. And we have kind of gone hand in hand over the years, so it's a pity, you know.

Tobbe: When I spoke to the promoter a couple of weeks ago, he told me that these are the 6th dates for these two shows and I guess it must feel really great to finally get to do this.

Jan: Yes, it does. We have been waiting and waiting, but right now it has felt solid in Sweden specifically to go through with this. This coming weekend we're playing a gig at Keep It True, which is something that we had to cancel before, not because of us, but due to unforeseen stuff. They have wanted us there for a very long time.

The first time it was because of that volcano in Iceland, which spewed out a lot of ash. And then two years ago the pilots went on strike, and perhaps we could have rebooked our flights and stuff like that in some way, but it was so much work trying to do that, you know. Because it come so sudden, like one day before. Or perhaps we could have gone there by bus. I remember that we got some complaints about that, like from fans, and the promoter told us that we could have come by bus, you know.

But it would have been difficult to quickly hire a driver and then drive straight to Würzburg, Germany, which is pretty far away, and then go on stage, and then go back home again. [The distance between Stockholm and Würzburg is approximately 1500 kilometers / 900 miles and a 17 hour drive.] And now the Germans have warned us that they maybe will shut us down, so we'll see what happens. Maybe it's not meant for us to play Keep It True.

Tobbe: It's unfortunate for everyone involved of course.

Jan: Well, that's the way it is when people don't behave right and so. But I think there will be restrictions in Sweden again, like restaurants having to pull tables apart again.

Tobbe: Will there be a special set at Keep It True, like playing an album in its entirety?

Jan: I think so. I think it's the Epicus set, you know. But it could be Nightfall as well. I'm wondering myself actually. [Laughs] But we have kind of a list of which kind of set we're going to play.

Tobbe: Because maybe your fee could be a little bit higher if playing a classic record on a festival.

Jan: Ah, well, but first and foremost if it's a special thing then it's a way in to a festival for us. But the way it feels right now, when looking at our emails within the band, it's like, you know, bands are really dumping their fees to get to play now.

So the promoters are rubbing their hands now, like "Yes, the last time we had this band we paid this and that amount and now they've more or less cut the price in half.". But as long as it might last we will go out playing, you know.

Tobbe: You have played Ancient Dreams live in its entirety and then more frequently Epicus and Nightfall as well. I talked to Mappe about 4 years ago and at that point he said that you will most likely play Tales Of Creation some day too.

Jan: Yes, it will happen. Absolutely. Maybe we will play a couple of shows during a year and play specifically that record. You know, we have the experience to play an entire record, so we are able to do that. It will happen one day, for sure.

Tobbe: Do you think that these two special shows would have been possible to do if Leif wasn't able to participate?

Jan: Well, yes, I think so. In terms of musicianship, yes. But then Leffe is Leffe. You know, Johan isn't so keen on talking upon stage, so if somebody talks to the crowd it's usually Leffe. But it's a real pity and it was incredibly fun when Leffe returned. You can see the joy in him playing. But he is still really tired. It wears and tears on him big-time. But still, he sits up all night and we tell him "Go to bed and go to sleep instead of sitting up all night!". Like, he's watching YouTube, and there's some band, you know.

I just have to go no further than to myself, like sitting with my cell phone and just scrolling and then go to the next page and next and next and then suddenly hours have passed and it's 3 o'clock in the morning. And, you know, he has so many ideas. You know, this songwriting; he's unique, really. It's just an everflowing stream.

Tobbe: I would guess that his brain is kind of always in overdrive and never gets to slow down and relax a little bit.

Jan: I think so too. By producing music and stuff. But that's his lifestyle and ideas have always come to him. Of course it's related to stress. His head is constantly in overdrive. A lot of stuff, like looking at his watch and planning times and things like that. But he's lovely anyway. What a guy, you know.

And he has so many projects. I mean, he wrote songs to Avatarium, and then he has The Doomsday Kingdom, and Krux and stuff. Just the thing that he is able to distinguish stuff so that it doesn't sound like Candlemass. He is incredibly good with that, like "This song is Candlemass, and this one is not a Candlemass song so I'll put that one here.". If I would have done stuff like that everything would have sounded the same. You know, just because it is the easiest way to do it.

Tobbe: So will we see a new Candlemass record out soon?

Jan: I have just almost finished my parts on the new record. I'm the one who is almost done, you know. So now the other guys will do their parts, but we have been concentrating on these shows and rehearsed for a while now. I have one more song to go, then I think Leffe is the next one to go, after November 27th. He and Mappe, and then Lasse after that. I think it will be out in the fall, maybe August.

Tobbe: Do you guys ever really say no to anything of Leif's material?

Jan: No, it's amazing what he's able to do. Nowadays we rarely rehearse before a record. Leffe is making demoes, because we have Marcus [Jidell] and his studio, so they sit down together, and then Johan is there singing, so it's the original vocals there. So then I get to hear it, and rehearse, and it's just amazing. It's unbelievable that he is able to get stuff together.

He is often inspired by perhaps a specific album, like "This is kind of the style I'm looking for.", so he has been getting a feeling of, well, let's say Black Sabbath, Dio or Judas Priest. I mean, stuff like that. I guess that's why the albums have worked with the different singers. I think maybe Mats [Levén] wouldn't have been so suitable for our last album The Door To Doom, but it's more suitable for Johan. Leffe writes a little bit like "Who do we have on vocals?" and knows the capacity of that singer, like with Robert [Lowe] for example, who came in so well for King Of The Grey Islands.

Messiah [Marcolin] was originally going to sing on that one. It was very important. Robert was just lying on his couch at home in Arlington [,Texas]. Leffe just sent an email to his wife and she was like "Leif Edling from Candlemass has sent an email and wonders if you want to join their band.". He was probably lying there with a 6-pack of beers and, like, "What? Hell yeah!".

But anyway, the timing with Robert on vocals was just great. But maybe there's not so much talk on the web about those albums anymore, and first and foremost live, you know, because that was a catastrophe. Sweet Lord Jesus, you know.

But on the albums he was amazing. It was like "Just give me a couple of beers and we're doing this! No problem.". Most people like the songs, but live-wise it just went worse and worse. But then Mats replaced him and things were getting better again. But Mats is a professional, you know.

Tobbe: Pandemic or not, you guys don't play live so much anymore, and is everyone happy with that situation or does someone want to be out playing more often?

Jan: Well, personally, instead of playing weekend after weekend after weekend I would rather go out in a bus for a 4 week tour. Really great, you know. I mean, I enjoyed the Ghost tour [February 2019]. But still, I and Lasse work full-time. Lasse has more of a supervisor job, so it's harder for him to go away.

But if I don't want to play and do something else and have told the other guys way ahead of the gig, then no one will complain, even if the pay is great. And we could replace me for a gig with Olle [Dahlstedt] from Entombed for example. We have decided that if someone can't do it, then that's the way it is. I think Mappe wants to go out more. You know, so that something will happen.

We're kind of still on the same level as we've been for such a long time. You can see certain bands who supported us before, like Ghost that supported us in Greece, go straight to the top. It's what it's all about; just go out and play. But it takes a great sacrifice too. And weekends with festivals work great with Leffe now. He usually go there a day before and just relax in maybe an airport hotel or whatever, just to be able to get up, have breakfast and so, and then we'll meet up with him.

Tobbe: And about Candlemass' constant curse; the singer changes: Again, I remember asking Mappe, in 2017 when Mats was your singer, if the band could survive another singer change and he told me that you could. So now when the original singer Johan is back in the fold, could Candlemass manage yet another singer change?

Jan: If he would, you know, succumb in the next few years, then we would have to do that, as long as we like to do this. But, you know, Johan is stuck with us now. And he's such a wonderful person. Such a humble guy. He was on our minds before Robert. We made a demo with a couple of singers and Johan was one of them. But Leffe said "Well, he's a good singer, but he hasn't got that power, you know.".

Leffe had already written King Of The Grey Islands and thought that Johan wasn't really the right guy for that record. But what if we had had Johan from the beginning there? It would have been great. Now we have gone through Robert and Mats and now in hindsight we should have brought Johan in already at that point.

And he's always up for everything, like when Ole [Bang, management] sends an email asking us if we want to do a specific gig, then Johan is like "I'm in. No matter what.". And I'm sure he will be with us for a long time, unless anything unexpected happens, like him getting run over by a train, you know.

Tobbe: You know, you guys seemed to be so happy with Mats Levén, and everything was at peace, et cetera, and you guys have known him for decades, yet he left the band in 2018, and I'm just like "What the fuck happened, really?". Do you dare telling me anything about it, or is it maybe a too sensitive subject to talk about?

Jan: Well, let's say, like, Mats and Messiah for example are two personas where it's all about them, you know. And Leif can't take that someone minds about things. No offense, Mats is a professional in every detail and he knows what to do, but Leffe must get some time to think things over and there's no room for quick decisions.

And Messiah was even worse. You know, it could take two weeks to think about a decision whether we should play a place or not, and then a list, like a rider, came for things that he wanted to have. He was quite special as well. But, you know, like with Mats for example, he started to dig into Leffe's lyrics, the way he wrote them, and the mixes and stuff like that. Leffe is an artist, indeed, and he has a clear vision, and you cannot really tweak his stuff, and therefore things started getting difficult.

So, we were very close to just put it all to rest, you know. Well, it was Leffe who wanted to do that because he wasn't feeling well and so. So Mappe kind of said "Okay, I will take Janne and Lasse with me and put something together with Johan. I have talked to Johan many times about it." and Leffe was like "-Johan? Which Johan?" and Mappe responded, like, "-Längquist." and Leffe "-Do you mean that Johan is interested?". [Mappe:] "-For sure. We have been thinking about doing something for a long time now, you know.". Mappe told me that he then could kind of see Leffe's facial expression through the phone, like "There's a sun shining here.". So Leffe became really stoked about that.

So we talked to Johan, he came down to play a little bit, and we clicked big-time, you know. But absolutely no offense to Mats or anything. He's a real professional and he got us back on track and take a couple of steps after Robert's live fiascos and so.

Tobbe: I actually did an interview with Mats just a month or so before he left Candlemass. And like you say, he was a true professional, not a word about things weren't all right. Everything was, like, "Peace and happiness. Never been better.". So I guess being professional is very important for bands until the bitter end.

Jan: Yes. I mean, there is no ill will here towards anybody, but it's just that things must work, you know. But, for instance, if someone is a fucking asshole, that makes me mad. You know, I've been furious and almost quit the band a few times, like with Robert for example, when you're like "What the hell is he doing? He's completely off track.".

We musicians were like "When will he enter with his vocals? Will he come in at the right spot for the verse? Should I just continue? Will he start from the beginning now?". It caused a real chaotic situation live and we weren't able to get him to get his shit together, you know.

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