The Swedish epic doom metal masters CANDLEMASS are going to visit Athens, Greece on June 25th, along with the mighty GHOST in AthensRocks Festival.
Few days before we had the chance to chat with guitarist and founding member Mats "Mappe" Björkman, who commented not only on their upcoming performance in front of the greek audience that worship them, but also on their latest album and of course the band's past, present and future plans as well.
Read below our friendly chat.
Rockoverdose: Hello Mats and welcome to Rock Overdose pages. It’s a great honour to host you, as we feel you like family after all these years. How are you?
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): Hey! I'm fine! Fantastic! We've been so much looking forward coming back to Greece! It's going to be great!
Rockoverdose: We would firstly like to know your feelings and thoughts about “Sweet Evil Sun” which has been out about six months ago and what you think it adds to the Candlemass legacy.
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): I think it adds almost the same like "The Door to Doom", because we were Grammy nominated in America, which is the biggest thing we've done. We won two Grammies in Sweden - which is fantastic, but the Grammy nomination in America is something bigger!
We've made "Sweet Evil Sun" almost in the same concept. Of course in "The Door to Doom", we had guest Tony Iommi, which is of course an honor for us but now we just felt we really wanted to do a new album. It's really good, but it seems we always have to play the old stuff, you know? And the weird thing is that when we play the old stuff you can see people that were not even born when those songs were released, sing along to all the songs! It's amazing! Every Time we go on stage we think about what should we play, new or old songs... we have to play the old stuff!
Rockoverdose: How do you explain this situation?
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): Well, I think that when the doom metal thing came up we didn't even knew that we were a doom metal band. It wasn't that thing back in the '70s, of course there were Black Sabbath playing the slow music but when we started we were like more than underdogs. Now, you can understand how big is doom metal in the music business. I wouldn't say that "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" is the first doom metal album, but people think is that way because we started at that time. So, people that were not born at that time may think like that. e.g. I was very young when the first Black Sabbath album came, and it's the same that happens now, when you start listen to things that became quality music and I think the doom metal scene came with us in a way we haven't expected! Now it's there, beyond everything, we're almost 60 years old, we're more so much respected than we've never been before! e.g. Candlemass in America is sold out everywhere, we've been there so many times and we do good gigs! That's amazing for us! So, I think that our show in Athens along with my friend Tobias from Ghost is going to be mayhem!
Rockoverdose: We're looking forward for it! It’s a clear observation and not just mine or anyone else’s opinion that the Candlemass brand is so much respected that creates an awe.
So, next year marks the 40th anniversary of Candlemass, after changing the Nemesis name. Are any thoughts of special celebration for this in the works? I believe as an occasion, it must receive a special celebration in Greece and I’m quite certain you’re the first to agree. Did you ever believe you would last this long?
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): Yeah! Of course we're going to do something special and no we didn't expected that! No way! When we did the first album we did it for fun, we've been together with in another band from the same city, we've always been a band that wouldn't be played on radio, actually they don't play it on radio now either, but the thing is we've always been underdogs, so no way I would expect that we'd last so long! Every year we do an album since 1986 it's been like "Ok! Let's do an new album!" and it's been the same since 40 years! Nobody in Candlemass are big headed or any thinks that we are rock stars, no way! It's the opposite! We like what we're doing and we still think like that, and that's also a reason why we can still be together and do what we do and continue. We're very proud of what we doing and every gig we do we hope you like it and I think we actually do really good gigs now. We're like the Swedish Motorhead version, If I could say that, in a way!
RockOverdose: Changes came and went all these years, but Candlemass is still here after some inbetween breaks. Johan Längquist was there in the beginning of the band and still is a part of the band. Of course Messiah came and went as well. Do you believe in things that turn full circle sometimes and things happen for a reason? It’s pretty amazing that the very past and the present of the band are connected with a look to the future.
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): We would love that! We've talked about that many times. Johan has come back now, and to me he is the proper singer and it's going to be that way until we end. I can say that now for sure - we're not going to change singer but I wouldn't have say that while the other singer was around. But when Johan came back I wanted that since 2006, but perhaps it wasn't the right time for it, now it was the right time when we did "The Door to Doom" and we re-recorded it with Johan actually cause Mats (Levén ) had already recorded the album and that was the reason for that one. When Johan came back we were so happy about it, and he actually came in and bring a new blood in Candlemass and made it not a new band, but in a way bring a possitive atmosphere back! To answer your question, of course it would be great to do a compilation thing with Messiah or with Thomas (Vikström) and everybody, it's up to them to do it, they have to be a guest vocal.
RockOverdose: This would be a nice idea to do it for your 40 th anniversary!
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): That would be fantastic!
RockOverdose: Speaking about vocalists, you're the main responsible to talk about the Toni Martin case. He’s my favourite singer of all times and when there was a rumor he’d join you, thousands of hearts started beating faster. What really happened and why wasn’t it finally meant to take place?
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): That's a really good question, I haven't got that question before. I have a good answer on that one! It was when we parted company with Messiah and we had recorded the white album - the reunion album, we started recording it actually. We had this idea, my friend Nigel (Glockler) who's playing drums for Saxon contacted me and suggested maybe we call Toni Martin, because we didn't have a singer. He helped me out to contact Toni Martin, then Toni came in and we recorded a couple of songs, and then Messiah came back and really apologized for everything and said he really wanted to do the white album. So, we told Toni that Messiah wants to come back and he was very cool, he actually said that he would have that respect from Black Sabbath if I would get in. So, he was more like fantastic of you guys to take your old singer back if he wants it. We're still very good friends with Toni, there's nothing in between us. That was the reason that Toni Martin didn't do it! He was very close to be our singer!
RockOverdose: Well, he's been in quite the same situation like Messiah, so that's why he may understood the situation and the need of Messiah to come back.
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): It felt like that when I spoke him, and he said that he'd love to have that treatment.
Rockoverdose:Well, everything happens for a reason! Speaking about Black Sabbath, it seems that all comes and goes around them by all means especially concerning slow speeds, but how does it still feel for Candlemass to be acknowledged as the absolute "fathers of doom metal" and how do you see bands emerging and playing this style as a tribute to your influence, almost 40 years after those first monumental songs were born?
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): That's amazing! Like I said before we can't believe it, it's beyond everything that new bands are coming up and play doom, a style that was born before them. I see bands playing the new doom, they are very very slow, like we were back in 1986 if you compare it to other bands that were around back then, we did something very special of that time, we played with bands like Slayer or Exodus in festivals and there was no place to put us in a festival because we couldn't fit our music. We were really underdogs in old times, but now it's fantastic. If you had albums like ours that come up to be the best doom metal albums of all time, that's beyond everything. We play in festivals that we've never played before, and the fans are huge Candlemass fans and there have started bands because of us and done that kind of music, because they still believe in that style.
I was a good friend of Quorthon from Bathory, he started Bathory when we started Candlemass and I remember very well telling him that he can't play this shit, it's awful and he said the same to me! We were total opposite in music taste but still we had respect for each other and now you can recognise what he did for the music scene of black metal. It's like what we did at the same time with Candlemass, and it's fantastic! Of course, if somebody told me that this will happen after 40 years I couldn't believe it!
Rockoverdose: We would like an insight of a special occasion. We know that when Cliff Burton died, with Sweden being and still remaining a place where Metallica are rightfully worshipped, a radio station played “Solitude” for the first time, introducing this way Candlemass to a large variety of persons. How does the tragedy of a legend’s passing can be connected with your melancholic music and how did you receive the immense response, being so different back then, especially in the year that is considered to be the major breakthrough of thrash, meaning the total opposite to your music?
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): Well, as I said we didn't get that at that time actually that they played "Solitude", we heard it afterwards. But of course its hard to say it's an honor, because of a person died, but it's still an honor for Candlemass that shows that song. Of course it's a big thing for us.
I know that Jason Newsted is a big Candlemass fan, he has one of the biggest collections of Candlemass stuff, and I'm a friend of Robert Trujillo the bass player of Metallica who also likes Candlemass. I think the fact that Metallica had respect for us all, maybe was the reason they played that song on the radio back then.
Rockoverdose: Unfortunately, many of our heroes like Cliff, start to leave more and more. Is it a motive for you all to create your art more passionately, as we will all one day pass to the other side?
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): Well, I do think of it sometimes actually. One of my favorite bands are Uriah Heep and when thinking that Mick Box is the only member left from the original line up, all around hime have died and he's still touring with Uriah Heep with different musicians. Of course I wonder what's going to happen with Candlemass, who's going to be the first one to die, it's hard to say that, it's not funny but it's going to happen and how we're going to handle it? We're turning 60 now, we've been around for 40 years and we're not these healthy guys.
Then you look at Lemmy and the life he had, Keith Ritchards is also a very good example. Who's going to take over? Everyone is getting old, who's going to take over those positions and headline in festivals?
RockOverdose: Yes! That's quite the same as Mick Box answered me in a recent interview, when they visited Greece some months ago. He said, that when losing his friends and bandmates you should realise that you're still here alive and must continue and create wonderfull music, because you never know when this will end.
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): Oh! You met him? Cool! I totally agree. Also Ghost is a good example. Tobias is one of my good friends, if you notice what he's done so far in his career, he's huge! Ghost is going to be the main old name of the future festivals, that's for sure!
Rockoverdose: That's true! Candlemass and Greece. A bond that grew stronger through the decades. How could you explain this love?
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): That's a hard question! I don't know! Greece is fantastic, one of the best places for Candlemass we've always been. Our first gig there was in 1989, and I've been there many times for holidays as well. A very good friend of mine, has told me that back in 1989, there were actually almost no metal bands coming to Greece, it was Candlemass and Manowar. So this is the respect from you guys to those two bands, that they actually came to Greece back then. The first Swedish band in Greece was Candlemass and I would say that Greece is my main best place to play! Of course everywhere is fun to play, America, Australia but with Greece we have a very very special connection, between us and the fans. It's so fucking good! I love it!
This time is going to be amazing, playing along with Tobias! It's going to be mayhem!
Rockoverdose: What should we expect from this festival gig of yours and which are your future plans or any other details you would like to share with us?
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): I can only say that we would play the same set we did in America, which has a lot of old songs and of course some from the new album. And then we do the old-school stuff and some of the Agent Dreams we'ven't played for a long time. It's a best of Candlemass stuff, you're going to love it! It's a killer set and the sound is heavy as hell!
RockOverdose: So, Mats we would like to thank you for your time and for still delivering the goods after all these years . You always know you have a second home in our country. Take care and stay safe, we love you all. See you very soon in Athens!
Mats "Mappe" Björkman (Candlemass): Fantastic! It's me to say thank you to all of you for supporting us! I can't wait, it's going to be amazing! Bye!
Interview: Vivi Zapantiotou
Questions: Angelos Katsouras
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