Saturday the 11th of June and Sweden
Rock Festival was heading towards its end when I met up with Michael at
the start of the evening in order to assist him to do an interview with
the band Therion. We met up with the brothers Kristian and
Johan Niemann along with Christofer
Johnson, and he turned out to be a person that had
very much to say. Therion is a long time running act and a band that has
progressed quite a bit during the years and this is the essential parts
of what the guys had to say when we sat down next to the backstage bar.
entire interview in mp3 format (in swedish - 24 minutes, 2,73 Mb)
Therion at Sweden Rock Festival
Michael: Tell us how the show went, what
where your expectations and so forth?
- Christofer: Our expectations was that everyone
would be sleeping or hung over, it was pretty early so we didn't expect
that many to show up.
The guys continue telling that they had a slow start since they are not
used to play as early in the day, normally their shows starts late in
the evenings. Therion started to play at noon at the last day of the festival
and I can tell you from own experience that there is many tired people
at that particular time.
- Kristian: It was a slow start but after half the
set we had kicked ourselves into gear, it was fun.
They further go on talking about their performance and Christofer and
Kristian joke between them that they did a creative interpretation in
the song Cult Of The Shadow, or a minor "fuck up" if you will,
when they didn't get the vocal leads right.
- Christofer: Its rock'n'roll.
- Kristian: It is those things that happens.
That they had luck with the weather is also something that they were pleased
about, and that everything was so well organized at the festival, in all
they were pleased with their performance and the reception that they received
from the audience.
On The Road
band have been touring the release of their two albums Lemuria and Sirius
B during the fall and winter of 2004 and now they have some gigs left
to do in Europe before they head over to North America, Canada and South
America, or was it Central America? The guys start to have an amusing
discussion about which part it actually was.
- Kristian: Then we have USA and South America and
- Christofer: Not South America.
- Kristian: We have a couple of gigs in South America
or Latin America, El Salvador.
- Christofer: But that is North America geographically.
- Johan: Central America.
- Christofer: Yes, but Central America is a part
of North America, Panama is the border.
- Kristian: Anyway, those countries in September
and October and then three dates in Turkey.
In November, they are trying to steer things up in order to do a concert
with an orchestra to raise money for the children's cancer foundation
in Austria. If things are settled, they will perform with an orchestra
and their operatic stars and the concert will consist of both Therion
material as well the orchestra's repertoire with perhaps Puccini and Mozart.
Therion participate in this for free and this event would in that case
be recorded, as they said it would be stupid to not try and catch this
on film if they have the opportunity.
How to make an album
asked if it didn't cost a lot of money to do the latest albums, considering
orchestra, choirs and all that goes with it and if they did have any problems
to get their record company to put up with the money for it.
- Christofer: We sell a good number of albums as
we do so it goes around, we need about half a million to make an album
and now we needed one million to make it. It is a lot of money but we
sell enough albums so they get their money back.
It seems like they have a healthy relationship with their record company
and that they have their artistic freedom. They get the money from the
company to record an album and when it is done they deliver the master
- Christofer: They sell records, we make records,
and I do not stick my nose in how they market the albums, those are things
that they know best. We have divided the areas we are responsible for
and it works good.
Therion is a band that needs to be on the edge of failure when they record
a new album in order to achieve their best. They tell us of when they
took the money from the budget that they had to record a new album with
and built a studio with parts of it. And if the studio had been a failure
- where had they been then? No money and no album. They say that the pressure
is something they need to get the best out themselves. Also that they
always try new stuff to keep them on the edge by not going with the same
choir or orchestra, just so that they must stay alert.
Mythology, religion and lyrics
- Michael: When you write lyrics it is much
of myths and legends you write about. From where do you gather that information?
- Christopher: It is a very good friend of mine,
Thomas Karlsson, that writes the lyrics. He is a candidate for the doctor's
degree in idea and history of religion and has a personal library with
over 3000 books, so he has lot information to get from there.
The band write the songs and the melody lines and then just fill the songs
with nonsense lyrics, almost as dada-ism just to get the pronunciations
right to complete the songs and give it the right nuance. It is something
that they say works great, they write the music and he creates the lyrics,
sometimes with an input from Christopher with ideas on topics. It can
also be the other way around, that Thomas Karlsson comes with an idea
for lyrics and that can inspire Christopher to write music out from that
idea and while sometimes they brainstorm about things they should be writing
And the next album?
- Thomas: Have you started to think about
your next album? Will you make it even bigger?
- Kristian: Bigger is hard to make it, the last
album is as big as it gets.
- Christopher: Even if we make it bigger it is hard
to make it sound better, more microphones and a bigger orchestra will
only make it sound noisier.
Therion has concrete plans for at least two more albums, when they
recorded Lemuria/Sirius B they had material enough to record three albums
and in addition they also have some new material written.
We try to get them to tell what we can expect from the next Therion album
and how it will sound but they will not give away any details until it
is done. Not even the record company will get to know until the album
is complete and they hand over the masters. The one thing that we get
out of them is that it will be more progressive. However, all details
are of course not complete yet. The new drummer Petter Karlsson and vocalist
Mats Levén might have some ideas as well so until everything is
completed they don't like to reveal any details and in which direction
they will go.
What kind of band is Therion?
- Michael: Does the band consist of four
members now, or..?
- Christofer: To fully understand Therion you shouldn't
say that it is as a band but more of a "crazy musical constellation
that has some permanent members", which ae four persons. As I have
said in many interviews; who is the vocalist in Iron Maiden? Bruce Dickinson.
Who is the vocalist in Therion? Silence...
He explains that Therion doesn't have that typical front man in the band
who is the singer as is natural in a rock band. It doesn't matter who
sings as long as it is a really good vocalist. They don't have that demand
from their fans that "he who sings on the album must also be the
one that performs the songs live."S
- Kristian: He who can get the job done gets to
As long as it sounds good it doesn't matter who sings and they make a
parallell to the world of opera: when a opera is written it is not done
specially for a certain vocalist. As long as they keep the core of Therion
intact, which writes the music and creates the sound, they tell that the
outer shell can be replaced, but if they would change the core it would
be completely different, then it wouldn't be Therion anymore. Mats Levén
is the current vocalist in Therion now and he is also the first that appears
on album and then also sings live and that they think of him as a great
- Kristian: It is hard to take in someone else and
take a step up the ladder.
- Michael: I, as a part of the audience,
can see that he adds something.
- Christofer: He brings a whole new dimension to
Mats is also to be considered a somewhat permanent member of the band
for the future, or for as long as he wants to and can contribute to the
band and feels that he has fun. And fun is something that is essential
to Therion, after 18 years they still think it is fun and still likes
to take on challenges and so far it has never been boring and they have
never felt that they have been stuck on routine. Christofer tells that
they still have fresh ideas and things that can surprise the listener,
and that is something that is important for Therion, that they preserve
a kind of pioneering spirit.
- Christofer: The day it gets predictable and we
think; damn another album, then it is time to put Therion to rest.
A band still evolving
Michael: Do you have anything that you would
like to say to your fans?
- Christofer: It is nice that people listen, buy
our records year after year and comes to our shows.
- Kristian: It is just to say thanks and be grateful.
- Christofer: It is a luxury we have actually, it
is our 12th album and we are still at the top of our career, I think it
is unique that a band is still interesting after so many albums.
They draw a parallell to bands like AC/DC and Saxon and that people talk
about what they did fifteen years ago, their set lists has always been
the same and that nobody really cares about their new album and that the
situation for Therion seems to be the opposite. With Therion people seems
to be screaming for new material and that they want to see the progression
of the band and what they have done on their new albums.
- Christopher: It is a privilege that people want
us to do new songs.
Life outside Therion?
- Michael: If we leave Therion now and talk
about you as persons, what do you do outside of the band?
- Christofer: Sitting in the suburb reading books
and listening to classical music.
He is not a person that goes to pubs but instead prefers to stay at home
reading and listening to music and, although he is not a loner, prefers
to spend time with friends at home instead of going to the pub.
- Christofer: It is just loud music and expensive
and you smell like smoke when you come home after having been out, and
also it costs just as much to take a cab home as you have spent on booze.
I get enough of alcohol when we are on tour, not that I drink that much
but it is always present.
When it comes to reading it is not literary books but instead reference
literature about history for example that he prefers, and when we talk
about classical music, Wagner is the favorite composer.
- Kristian: Mostly music, it is the only things
I do. Give guitar lessons and learn kids at Musikens Hus in Stockholm
how to play.
Kristian also tells us how he likes to listen to music and find new influences.
When asked what it is he is into right now he said it's mostly everything
but not the stuff on MTV. He tries to find new bands, or old bands for
that matter, that he hasn't heard before to take in new impressions. And
he and Christofer start to talk about a French progressive band from the
seventies that their drummer Petter brought along to their tour bus. I
think the band was called Magma and the fascinating thing about them was
that they sung in a made up language.
He also spends a great deal of time with practicing on his guitar, Christofer
said that Kristian used to be practicing for like eight hours a day. But
the practice doesn't come as a burden for Kristian but is something that
he likes to do and think is fun.
- Johan: It is the same here, music take up most
of the time.
We are going to release a DVD
They also tell us plans about an upcoming DVD they are going to release
this year. Therion recorded the two first shows on their tour and now
these shows, which were filmed in Mexico, will be part of the DVD as well
as lots of other stuff. It is going to be a triple disc release and will
also include videos, audios, and perhaps more private stuff than what
they think other bands would put out. There will also be a sort of homemade
documentary where they have recorded stuff from their world tour, and
other "amateurish" things that they have recorded themselves.
Included will also be a collection of bootlegs and concerts filmed by
fans that will give a retrospective of Therion and their evolution over
the years. All details concerning the DVD are not completed yet but I
am sure it will be something to look out for when it will be released.