Interview conducted December 8 2021
Interview published December 18 2021
"I have a lot of thoughts and stuff, but I don't
wanna be in the frontline."
New Horizon is a collaboration between
musical prodigy Jona Tee and lead vocalist
Erik Grönwall, one current and one former member of Swedish melodic
metal band H.E.A.T. But make no mistake, this new stuff, although I've
only heard one single song, is a real heavy/power metal blast, and probably
not what most people would expect if looking at what these guys have put
out prior to their upcoming album Gate Of The Gods.
I went down to Jona's studio to
talk about this coming New Horizon album, with a yet to be revealed release
date, and came home with quite some cool and unexpected information, as
he among other stuff broke the news about upcoming releases in 2022 from
his other two bands H.E.A.T and Crowne as well.
Tobbe: New Horizon is a collaboration featuring
yourself and Erik Grönwall, and tell me how this came to life in
the very beginning.
Jona: It has probably just grown, in some way.
I have always written stuff that maybe isn't fitting for H.E.A.T. You
know, I've added some progressive and some metal stuff and then I've
played it for the guys and they've been like "Well, maybe this
doesn't fit.". So I have put some of these ideas in a pile somewhere
and, like, "Maybe this will turn out to something some day.".
I'm going to a Christmas party this weekend with my buddies and we've
done that for 15 years and once the clock hits 7 or 8 we put on the
power metal that we listened to in high school, like HammerFall, Helloween,
Blind Guardian, and a lot of Manowar. You know, we sit there and just
bawl and sing. So around that thing I maybe started feeling kind of
like "I wanna do this as well.", you know.
When I had signed with Frontiers to do the Crowne
album [Kings In The North, 2021], I just sent them some stuff and asked
them if it was something they were interested in, and they loved the
songs, you know. In the beginning I was thinking about using several
lead singers, kind of like Avantasia, but not a rock opera, you know.
Like a project and just play everything myself and do something that's
mine, you know.
I had Nisse [Molin] from Dynazty, Kenny [Leckremo]
from H.E.A.T and Erik and a couple of other singers. And then to use
a whole lot of different guitarists who would play solos and stuff,
which in the end actually happened now.
So Erik came down and put down vocals on two
songs, and it sounded so great. I'm not sure, but I think he just said
"Shouldn't I sing on the entire record?" and I was like "Yes,
you're gonna do that!". All bits and pieces just fell into place.
It just suddenly became so simple, like "Let's
just do it!". We were in the same band for about 10 years and now
we were like "Let's do this! You and I.", because we have
always been getting along really well. Like "We are the core and
let's see what happens around us.". I would write music and lyrics
and so, and he would basically front the band, you know. So that's where
we are, you know.
Tobbe: It took quite some time to get this
record out considering you have listened to this kind of music in your
youth. I understand that maybe H.E.A.T has been "a little bit in
the way", if you know what I mean?
Jona: Yes, exactly. It hasn't been like H.E.A.T
has been in the way maybe. Well, perhaps anyway. Well, maybe it's not
the right terms, but H.E.A.T has been in focus and prioritized, you
know. But now I've started opening up for having other creative channels
and I perhaps have more productivity than there's room for in H.E.A.T.
I mean, we can't make 3 H.E.A.T albums a year. I think I started recording
this stuff in 2019, so it has been quite a lengthy process.
I, and I guess quite a few people, have only listened to one song yet,
which is We Unite. So to what extent is that song representative for the
rest of the material on the album?
Jona: It's quite funny, because it's both representative
and perhaps not, because the album is quite varied. That song is kind
of a little more power metal, but then some songs are more classic heavy
metal, almost a bit Judas Priest-ish, you know. And some songs have
a more modern touch, like closer to modern power metal.
The next single, that will be out in January,
is definitely more classic heavy metal, you know. It's really cool.
And the third single has perhaps a little bit of a more modern touch,
like modern Swedish power metal. The title track of the album is an
8-minute epic song. I don't know how much I'm allowed to say, you know,
because the press release for the whole album isn't out yet.
But I wanted a song in the vein of what Iron
Maiden used to always put last on their albums, like Alexander The Great.
You know, an epic track. And then there's a really fast one, with speedy
bass drums, which maybe is reminiscent to old Stratovarius and stuff
like that. But I think it might be a fun album, like it can be fun for
quite some time, you know.
Tobbe: Let's go through the guest artists
on the album. Let's start with Robban Bäck.
Jona: I like him. He's a really great drummer,
you know. I was thinking, like, "He will understand exactly what
I wanna have.". We talked a lot about Ingo Schwichtenberg from
Helloween and those kinds of old drummers. I didn't have to give him
so many instructions and he added his flavor with his neat chops and
so. It worked out really well. A lot of people think it's programed
drums, but hell no, he has played each and every stroke, you know.
Tobbe: Sam Totman. Was he sober?
Jona: I don't know actually. Well, he missed
one opportunity to record because he became hammered instead. [Laughs]
Well, Sam. I co-wrote a song with him. Well, I had written the song,
but I had no solo part. So he wrote the solo part, and the bridge actually,
like 1,5-2 minutes of the song. He nailed it instantly. I sent a voice
memo to him and told him "Something like that, okay?" and
he sent some stuff and I was like "Okay, nice. You get it.".
there are solo duels between Sam and me and Niko Vuorela from Temple
Balls too. I have produced Temple Balls' last two albums and also played
on the first one of them. And he's really good, you know. I checked
him out when he recorded and I was like "He's gonna be on the album.",
so I asked him. He plays the solo on 2 or 3 songs.
I think there will be a lot of focus on this
being Erik's new thing, and rightfully so, but there are also incredibly
great guitar solos on the album. I mean, awesome guitarists and if you
like guitar solos this is definitely an album where you can find nuggets,
Tobbe: Love [Magnusson].
Jona: Yes, he's playing on one song, the fastest
one. A completely wild solo too. He laid down the solos on the Crowne
album as well. So I asked him if he could play a solo on this album
too. Really awesome. And then we got Laucha [Figueroa] too. He's so
great. He's my dream guitarist. We met when we played with Martina Edoff
in Buenos Aires in 2015. 3 kids came to our hotel. They had found out
where we stayed, you know. I think they fooled us about being from some
magazine, but they just wanted to hang out.
So we were on a roof top and started following
each other on Instagram and I saw what an awesome guitar player he was.
A mix between Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Romeo from Symphony X and
a bit John Petrucci, you know. So I contacted him too. He plays on 4
of the songs, I think. And he plays the solo on We Unite, which in fact
was the first one we did. I think he recorded that solo about two years
ago, so it has been kind of in a marinade since then, you know.
Tobbe: I've only got one name left on my
list. A guy from H.E.A.T maybe, called Dave [Dalone].
Jona: Oh, yeah. Dave is playing too. He actually
plays on the next single and he's going to be in the video as well.
But Dave, yes. He's my oldest friend, you know. Of course he was going
to be on the album too.
Tobbe: So how much of this album have you
completely done by your own hands?
Jona: I play all the rhythm guitars, all bass,
all synthesizers, and I have laid down all the choirs. Maybe Erik was
doing some choirs as well? And I have written everything, besides the
title track Gate Of The Gods, which came out of an old H.E.A.T idea
that didn't work there, who I wrote with Crash and Erik. And then the
one with Sam of course. And then recorded and mixed everything. So it's
really my own baby, you know.
What's the greatest thing with doing almost everything yourself around
your own creation?
Jona: You know, the most pleasant part of it
is that I'm working on your own. [Laughs] No matter how much I love
producing other guys and it's really great to jump into to a band and
be a member, you always have to be, like, a layman psychologist, and
get things together.
There's something special about coming down here
in the morning and I'm sitting here all alone and getting to do my stuff,
you know. That's actually really nice. But sometimes I might also get
trapped inside my own ideas to some extent, so I guess it's both a blessing
and a curse. Yet, I appreciate doing it this way. It's just great to
have an outlet for the creativity.
Tobbe: How about playing live? Any talks
Jona: We're pretty open for it, but we wanna
play shows that we would consider fun. We won't go out on a club tour,
and grinding it, and building it that way. That's not our ambition.
In addition I've got H.E.A.T and we have plenty of dates booked next
year. So if we get any gigs that we think is fun, and if we can afford
to do them, and if we have the time, then we will do them. That's where
we are right now.
God knows what will happen in 10 years. You can't
predict that. But this is how things look at the moment. So, I would
say, probably we will do some shows next year. Probably. That was not
our initial thought, but Erik and I have such a good time when we're
out on tour. It's the best, you know. And hence we get the urge to go
Tobbe: You mentioned another side project
of yours earlier, Crowne, who put out an album just 6 months ago actually.
So what does the future of Crowne look like? Do you have anything at all
to share with me?
Jona: Yes, we will have a new record out next
If I'm allowed to say that? But either way there will be
one out. [Laughs] Well, fuck it! So it's coming, you know.
But I guess that the New Horizon album will be out first.
Jona: Yes, the New Horizon album is done and
delivered, you know. It was done sometime during this summer, but we
have been waiting for Erik to get healthy enough for us to make the
videos. He has gone through a bone marrow transplant and shit, you know.
And our label wanted to wait until we could film the videos, you know.
But now, finally, we're doing it.
Tobbe: Is there a possibility to see some
live shows from Crowne as well?
Jona: Maybe. For me personally it's probably
even less likely than with New Horizon. But there are different aspects
of it too, like with Erik, because he doesn't have anything else than
New Horizon, so I think he's really excited about playing live. And
Crowne: I know that Kicken [Christian Lundqvist] is really excited about
gigs, and I think Alex [Strandell] is too. But John Levén is
going out with Europe for the whole next year and I have a lot of shows
So it might be a tight schedule, and it's not
like it's only because of the time it takes for the actual show, but
you're gonna have fucking 3 or 4 different sets in your head, and potentially
on different instruments. That's a whole lot, considering doing just
a gig now and then.
Tobbe: You put out quite a few records these
days. Crowne: this past June, New Horizon: pending, Crowne: again next
year. So when will we see the next H.E.A.T album out?
Jona: We're making it right now. We're laying
down vocals at the moment and Kenny was here last night. We have no
release date yet, but it's on its way. We hope to get a single out in
the beginning of next year, before we go on tour. In the best of worlds
we have an album out in early May. Nothing is set yet, but we're making
it. Everything is recorded and I'm, as we speak, sending the first song
What do you do besides working with music? If you even do anything.
Jona: Well, I guess it's family stuff. I have
a kid that I'm playing with. A pretty regular life. We haven't been
on tour, you know. But a really huge part of life is about music, you
know. And that's to some extent a blessing and a curse, because you
can't really just shut the tap when it's flowing. Sometimes I lie in
bed, as I'm going to sleep, and listen to voice memos or mixes, you
know. It's always present, for better or for worse.
Tobbe: You always seem to consciously take
a withdrawn position and less credit than you actually deserve. Why is
Jona: Well, I don't know, but I have something
against personal chest-beating. You know, if people think my music is
good, then I'll get to know that sooner or later, like if the streaming
figures are good or if people write nice comments. You know, I'm out
there, I'm on Instagram, I'm on social media and I see fragments of
what people think. So that's after all a sweet pay-off. I have no need
of being kind of a celebrity, you know.
I like having some kind of a figurehead, just
like Erik. He's perfect, because he enjoys being in the center of attention.
And the same with Kenny. He's like the Duracell Bunny. Just wind him
up and push him out on stage. [Laughs] I love being on stage too and
so, but I don't make speeches and stuff like that. Yet, I wouldn't mind
writing the speech, if you know what I mean? I have a lot of thoughts
and stuff, but I don't wanna be in the frontline.
Maybe it's just out of old habit and maybe if
I would be a frontman for something I would get used to it and become
more comfortable. But now it just feels safe and sweet the way it is.
Tobbe: Most bands on the other hand need
one fixed person that is more visible to the public than the other guys.
That's just the way it works most of the time.
Jona: You know, in the beginning with H.E.A.T
we were more equals in a way, like "Everyone is a musician. We're
a band.". But when Erik joined the band we were like "We need
a clear frontman.". He grew so much in that role and became so
great, you know. And now it's really natural for him to be up front.