» Anders Johansson - Tungsten
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Interview conducted July 29 2022
Interview published September 17 2022

"I'm not the one who yells at everyone and everything."

Swedish quartet Tungsten put out their new album Bliss on June 17th. Metal Covenant met up with renowned drummer Anders Johansson 6 weeks later at Skogsröjet festival to find out a little bit about the record and the band, as well as slipping into his other current work and past efforts.

Tobbe: You recently put out your new album, Bliss, and in what way does that album follow, or perhaps does not follow, what you've previously done?

Anders: It follows in the way that it's the same members and so. I guess we consciously tried to make it a bit different than the other ones. To make the same record year after year is a proven concept however. Like AC/DC and so. Well, kind of. And many other bands.

But I guess we aren't those kinds of musicians, you know. So, we thought it was fun to make each song a little bit different, in a way. Well, it just happened to come out that way. But it's a development in a way. A different development. But I don't know, it's hard to explain.

Tobbe: And a constantly recurring thought. What's it like, really, to play in the same band as your own sons?

Anders: Strangely enough it's not so strange as maybe many would think it is. In the beginning, on our way to the gigs, I was nagging about what they should do and what they should not do, like "Don't drink beer." and this and that, you know.

But all of that is now a completely finished chapter. They're well-behaved and don't freak out, which actually they've never done. And then there's a question of what they think. In the beginning I guess it was tough for them probably, to have a controlling parent and everything. But at this point I think they don't care.

Niklas, the guitarist, was asked, "What's it like to have a legend in the band?". You know, just because you've played for so long, you're supposedly a legend. It has nothing to do with… Well, but rather because I've been around for so long, you know. And he said, "Well, he might be a legend to you, but to me he's just my dad. How fun would it be, for yourself, to play with your parent?". You know, kind of like that.

I guess he had just heard from me that he should not do this and that. But there's nothing like that now. They're adults now, you know.

Tobbe: You're recording the drums for music that is actually written by the boys. Might there be some upset moments occasionally?

Anders: Well, there was one time I got upset, where there were sighs, and something tricky. You know, something that was impossible to play, I thought. I told Niklas, "Well, play it yourself then.". And he tried, and it didn't work out, and it wasn't as easy as he thought it would be. So sometimes it's not so easy. Maybe theoretically it's easy, like everything is gonna be tight, and everything is gonna be even, you know. But it's been very few of these occasions. Maybe this was the only time it happened.

Tobbe: Well, that doesn't sound alarming at all. It surprises me a little bit.

Anders: I know with other bands, the producers might come up with all different kinds of strange stuff, like you should be tamed, that you should be this and that, that you should be oppressed, and such ridiculous stuff. What's with that? Who plays better when they're upset or irritated? You just don't.

Of course, if you play bad it's a different thing, you know. In the '80s, if you played bad, at the third miss they were starting to sigh and talking about a replacement immediately, you know. Everything was gonna be recorded in one take, whereas today you can copy and paste and stuff.

Tobbe: In what way do you look at your drumming in the '80s?

Anders: Today I guess I have evolved my playing style a little bit, but back in those days, what I played was what was current then, in those bands. With, for example, Yngwie, it was supposed to be pretty straight and commercial in a way. I heard some record, which someone had put out online, with Jonas Hellborg. It was from the '90s and I was surprised about how tight it was and how tricky things we played. I was thinking, "Am I capable of doing that now?", but I guess we were well-rehearsed and into that very thing then.

Tobbe: Tungsten has now put out three records in less than three years. That's a sign of good creativity.

Anders: If it wasn't for the pandemic, we would probably have a fourth record out already. We have songs for a fourth record. It's done to 70-80 percent, really. But it's not recorded, and it's more demos and such stuff. But you can't release too much at the same time, and we must come out and play too.

Tobbe: You have recently been out doing some jazz gigs again with your brother Jens. Tell me about that.

Anders: Well, last week we were on Gotland [A Swedish island in the Baltic Sea.]. And that was great. One gig was on Fårö [A smaller island just north of Gotland], and I know that Georg Riedel, who played the bass on many of these songs, lives there. [Georg used to play with the brothers' father Jan.]

I asked if there were any musicians in the audience. I ask that sometimes. And they started pointing at a few rows back, and I asked a guy right behind them, "Are you a musician?" and he was like, "No.". So, pretty much the next thing I said was, "All these bass lines, I have stolen from Georg Riedel. He actually lives a couple of kilometers from here.". Then he just rose from the bench, and that felt like having a real legend there. Bass isn't even my instrument, you know.

But I didn't become nervous. Well, I made some mistake as I saw that he was there. But I thought that it would be worse having him there. But he approached us after the gig. We have known him since we were young, although we don't keep in touch.

But that was great. We had a bit different approach to the music since we're not jazz musicians. He thought that was interesting, and clever, but yet more blues fusion musician style. And I think he liked that, because jazz music might sound too mild, you know.

Tobbe: You were in HammerFall for about 15 years. Will you ever be so active with a band again?

Anders: No, I don't think so. And it's also depending on how long I will survive from the Grim Reaper. No one is getting younger. I was in Manowar for three years, you know. Actually I'm not allowed to speak about Manowar, depending on contracts and so.

But there were too many things conflicting with everything, and there you must be dedicated only to them, I think. You know, I have nothing against them as people, or anything like that, and it was really nice, or something. But you must be dedicated to a 100 percent there.

Tobbe: I was actually gonna ask you if you had signed some kind of contract like that. But you've already answered that question. It's nothing peculiar about that, I think. But I guess you at least can say positive stuff about them.

Anders: No. I asked them, "I must be able to say positive things, right?" and "Preferably, don't say anything at all. Refer to our homepage instead.". But I told them, "You are so nice, so I guess it will be difficult to refrain.". But I guess they're afraid of disinformation. I think they had problems like that before, when someone who was a little bit upset was blurting out something.

Tobbe: So these guys are really goal-oriented, I guess.

Anders: For sure. You know, they've been doing this for, like, 58 years, basically. The leader, Joey [DeMaio, bass], it's his life, you know. Very goal-oriented. He runs this thing massively. They are huge in certain territories. In Germany they sell out 20,000 seaters. It can't be easy when you're on that level, and there are many contracts and stuff.

Tobbe: Do you miss anything now from your time with HammerFall?

Anders: Yes, I do. But strictly musically I don't really miss it. Because it became very much the same grind in a way. They do what people want, and they're successful at it, so I'm not in a position to sit here and whine about us not developing in a certain way. I think I'm the kind of person who wants to play different stuff, and it becomes tiresome following the same old grind.

But of course it was fun. We were based in Sweden, and pretty big, and therefore a lot of fun stuff were taking place. Like on a festival like this one, we would have arrived in a tour bus, and maybe it wouldn't have been a party, but a nice happening and you could bring your family, and stuff like that. Now with Tungsten, we're too small to have a tour bus and stuff.

Tobbe: But it works, right?

Anders: Yes, it does. But with HammerFall we could make stuff for TV and take part in TV shows. It was fun, that we did other stuff as well. Some sick stuff, really. And we travelled to many strange countries, where I had never been before, which was fun to do, you know. They are very well-behaved, and punctual, and serious, in a way.

Tobbe: Kind of like Manowar then.

Anders: Yes, but without that contract. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Joacim [Cans] was on that show, Körslaget, I remember. Did you guys notice any real difference during that time? (Körslaget is a Swedish TV show where a captain leads a choir and Joacim and his Team Cans won the entire thing in 2008.)

Anders: Yes, he became a superstar among the regular ladies. I remember that we made some fun out of it. When we entered hotels, we would tell the receptionist, "The winner of Körslaget will soon enter. Please, don't even look him in the eyes. And wait until he starts to talk.".

They became insecure and he couldn't understand how odd the situation was all the time. And as the tour bus stopped at gas stations, we would go in before him, doors closed, and just before he would go in, I would shout, "Ladies and gentlemen. Let me present the winner of Körslaget.".

And later he would say, "People were really staring at me. So strange.". We got a boost from people who normally aren't interested in metal music. Yes, absolutely, more people came to the shows. He also had that kind of folksy manner in a way, you know.

Tobbe: And you must have fun when doing this, right?

Anders: Yes, and usually it's bands hanging out. And, again, Manowar, then it wasn't like this, and you couldn't hang out here, but you had to wait at the hotel all the time. They were afraid that something would happen. You know, canceling a 20,000 people show is not something that's taken lightly.

So everything was a couple of steps more serious there. As it should be, right? It was kind of like a moon-landing. You know, the astronauts can't fool around before going. It was very regulated, so to speak. But, you know, I have only positive stuff to say about them.

At this point Anders and I just start talking casually, and after a while we realize that we share the same degree from our days behind the school desk. He mentions a certain subject, to which I respond:

Tobbe: That was fucking boring that one.

Anders: And that's why I became a musician. Like, the fourth year, I thought, "This isn't bearable anymore.". People told me, "Be serious now, Johansson. We actually want to learn something.". You know, the stiff people in class. Well, stiff… [Laughs] They were probably just the normal guys.

I was in a band, Silver Mountain, with my brother, and it didn't go so well, and I had some contact with Yngwie when I did my military service. I did that military service in Stockholm, although I am from Malmö, so. I was kind of like a pest on him. We had gotten some cassettes, and we listened to it, and that was completely new, and hearing Yngwie for the first time was unbelievable.

So, of course I sought him out. And we jammed and stuff. But the band didn't go well, and Yngwie left for the USA. I had applied for Engineering Physics at college. I was thinking, "I'll apply for the worst and put the drumming to rest.". But I got stomachache, so I went over to Yngwie, and again was a real pest, in order to get a place in the band, which I got.

Anders and I just start talking casually again, so fast forward a few minutes:


Anders: Nothing happens backstage. I think there's more of a party feeling out there. We will hang out in that VIP area later, by that beer tent, Heavy MetAle. They have made some beer [Tundra].

It was Mike [Andersson, vocals] who was working on that. He's enthusiastic. When Mike started to bug them, I thought it was a bit embarrassing. He talked to them like he was Judas Priest or something. But they, you know, bought it. But it has worked out pretty well and the beer has good sales figures. It was successful.

Mike is a little bit different than us other guys. Someone like him is needed in this combination of people. The rest of us are maybe a bit more careful. I would never ask anybody to brew a beer. I would just feel stupid, you know.

Tobbe: A combination of people in a band sounds reasonable to me.

Anders: Yes, and maybe you don't need an asshole, but someone who says no when it calls for it, and that person is Niklas, strangely enough. That's not me. That's not my type of personality. I guess I'm too chastened. I'm not the one who yells at everyone and everything. Well, neither does he.

You know, if a sound engineer is completely off, which happens a lot, like, "Who did they put there?", then I might feel hopeless and I just let it pass, but then Niklas walks over there and solves the problem, which is great. In HammerFall, Joacim was that person, like, "This is unacceptable! We must eat now.". You know, kind of like that.

Tobbe: As a musician, you usually get herded everywhere. It's like when you got here and we talked on the phone, like, "Where the hell am I? Where am I going?". You had no idea.

Anders: Yes, and we have no representative with us, whatsoever. That feels a bit unusual to me actually. Usually it's like, "Walk this way. Enter here.". But the bigger the band, the more of that thing it is. But now, you know, "Where are we going?", you just have to ask.

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