On the occasion of the new Therion album, "Leviathan", released a few days ago via Nuclear Blast, RockOverdose.gr and Zisis Petkanas chat with founder and mastermind Christopher Johnson.
Johnsson mentioned details of their 17th album, which was created during the lockdown and the plans of the band for the future, as "Leviathan II" and "Leviathan III" are going to complete the album trilogy soon.
Moreover, he commented on the difficulties in the music industry and artists that the lockdown - due to covid-19 - caused and how he sees the future of the live music scene.
RockOverdose: Hi Christopher! How are you these days?
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): Well, it is what it is! We have a new record but can’t go on tour! We have to wear a mask everywhere, most countries have almost complete lockdown and I’m pretty lucky to be in Malta where we have restaurants opened so I can gather with friends.
RockOverdose: How did the lockdown due to covid-19 affected you and your plans?
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): They closed down the airports here during Spring, so I couldn’t fly myself out or anybody else to come in. We had to record the entire album on distance, so the album is recorded on Sweden, Malta, Israel, Argentina, USA, England, Germany, Spain and Finland! 9 countries! There was a pretty new way of working for me, for good and for bad. It was a very expensive way of working, because normally we would record in my studio – which means that studio time is for free, no need to buy equipment or time but when you have a commercial studio you don’t have so much time to try different ideas, as I do in my studio. So some of the ideas in the album are not what I really wanted, we throw away a lot of stuff. That is pretty expensive and frustrating, but it happens sometimes and it’s a loss of energy, time and money.
However, the good thing is that I kept very fresh; normally I get very tired having to be there in the whole production for many weeks to hear every single part of the recordings. So now my ears stayed fresh … I could do many things at the same time. Even the mix, it was rough but not so bad, that’s why we decided to continue and record after finishing. We wrote almost 40 songs to have for 2 more albums! So we have already record most of the stuff for the next album “Leviathan II” and “Leviathan III” and that was possible cause of distance recording.
I think for the future we will actually continue work like this, with some of the musicians and singers because it’s good for their creativity and responsibility as well. Whenever this is over we are going to try both ways.
RockOverdose: That was my next question about the future in the music industry after all these restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic. What are your thoughts?
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): I think it has basically destroyed the whole system. I mean, record labels will survive but you have to play live! Venues will disappear, all the system behind a live concert e.g. tour managers,booking agents, stage staff, sound engineers etc depend on this job. They have families, loans; they need to find an alternative income, ifthis situation continues… it’s a huge risk! And of course on the top of everything, every band on the planet who has released a record would want to go on tour at the same time, so it’s going to be an absolute chaos. That’s my prediction. There are more things around it like merchandise companies, if bands don’t tour they can’t survive.It’s trouble for the music business. I know lots of bands who have problems with all that, some bands are more independent, they have alternative incomes, from records, from playing live, from merchandise, album royaltiesso they can focus on producing good music. I’m very fortunate myself because I have a monthly income from every single sale of Therion products.
Bands are not always good businessmen, even bands bigger than Therion have financial problems. If you don’t invest and live only by albums sales and touring, then of course you’re going to have a problem if there’s no tour.
RockOverdose: One would expect that after the "Beloved Antichrist" project two years agothere would be a pause before a new album. However, Therion are back with their 17th album, “Leviathan”.How was the making process of the album?
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): I felt very empty after the “Beloved Antichrist” because it was my last big vision, the last dream I had that must be fulfilled. So, I was thinking that Therion was doing what WE wanted to do and never listened to the company or the fans. It’s not easy to give fans what they want, it’s not easy to just take a guitar and write a hit … So, we thought it’s a challenge to finally give the fans what they want. Let’s try to write a classic sound of Therion and see if we can do it. Of course, that’s for the fans to judge, but we did our best. We got a lot of inspiration, in the very beginning it was actually quite slow but then it exploded and we wrote over 40 songs, and they are good songs and realized we had enough material for three albums!So we decided to make a trilogy and the idea is to release them one each year. As I told you before my ears were fresh, and I can tell “Leviathan II” is mostly recorded.
RockOverdose: That means you have more time to rest…
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): That’s a very new situation for Therion for sure.
RockOverdose: As regards Leviathan II and III, the concept of the songs and music will be the same?
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): Yes, quite the same style. “Leviathan II” will be more dark and melancholic. “Leviathan III” will have the songs that were left; it has a variety, some more experimental songs, some more progressive. It can actually be compared with the situation we have. If you have to make a link to another record, a comparison “Lemuria” is actually like “Leviathan III”, it has songs that didn’t fit on any of the other two. And “Leviathan II” I think could make a comparison with “Vovin”, which is also very dark and melancholic but it doesn’t mean it will sound like “Vovin”.
RockOverdose: “Leviathan” is featuring a cast of famous guests like Marco Hietala (Tarot, ex-Nightwish), Mats Leven (ex-Candlemass, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), and Noa Gruman (Scardust). How was your experience working together with these guys?
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): Well, since it was from distance it was quite an experience for us all. It wasn’t possible to interact personally, I just send them the songs and my instructions and they send me their feedback. But it was cool with Marco, he was supposed to sing on a versus, you know he doesn’t sing on any project but as I send him the whole link and he really liked it, so when he recorded it he decided to record the whole song, not just the versus but the bridges and the chorus as well. When I listened it I realized I liked it more than my visions from the beginning. However, we released both versions, who it was supposed to be originally and Marco’s version. It’s like a bit like “what if” scenario.
RockOverdose: Are you going to release any other single from this album?
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): Normally, there’s shouldn’t be any more singles, but we’re thinking of doing them anyway since we can’t tour we have to promote ourselves digitally, through spotify etc
RockOverdose: 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of “Theli” album! We would say “Theli” was an important step for the band moving from the underground extreme scene towards the kind of band you are now. How would you comment on that today, after releasing 17th albums and having 2 more on the way? Did you expect that evolution and why?
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): Yeah! Time flies! It changed everything, because musically it was just another step for me, maybe an extra step because I used to be the vocalist of the band but I gave up most of the vocals. The biggest step was in terms of sales, because when you’re 20 years old and still live with your parents, who cares! It’s just rock n’ roll. While you get older and older, I was getting close to 30 and it was financial difficult for me, I couldn’t afford a car, I travelled by public transport illegally… I lived from rent to rent… The other aspect was the recording aspect, the companies didn’t giving enough budget for what I wanted to do. It’s really frustrating when you’re getting older to live such way. So with “Theli” by some miracle I got the budget I wanted so the album started to sell! All of the sudden we could pay our bills like normal people. It is the biggest positive event for the history of Therion.
RockOverdose: Do you have any other great moment to remember with the band all these years!
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): Definitely! I remember the first time I saw somebody on town with a Therion T-shirt! It was amazing! Especially when you are still underground and people would buy from you directly or when there’s only one place where you can find it. It is really special!
Maybe the biggest one emotionally moment for the band for me is when we played in Moscow; they would actually film the show and stream in the international space station because one astronaut there was a metalhead and he could watch the show up there! Coming from a metal background in ‘80s, when everybody would say he’s just another idiot with long hair and useless or stupid, it was a great victory to see that the extreme metal music travelled out in space! Somebody who’s a cosmonaut is a metalhead and out of other bands in the planet, he listened to Therion, which is unbelievable!
RockOverdose: Are you planning to do any live stream show?
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): No it’s impossible because we live in different parts on the planet.
RockOverdose: What are your memories from Greece?
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): It’s always awesome to play in Greece. The crowd is very enthousiastic. It’s like Latin America, the metalheads are so energetic!
RockOverdose: Let’s hope to see you again soon!
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): I don’t know when it will be possible to tour again, but I hope this happens soon.
RockOverdose: Wish you the best for the album and to close if you’d like to send a message to our readers and listeners!
Christofer Johnsson (Therion): Be safe stay metal and hope for the best!
Questions - Edit - Transcript: Vivi Zapantiotou
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