In part two of our Evergrey The Atlantic double feature, we look back on a recent interview with Tom Englund and Jonas Ekdahl, as they reflect on the band, the album, and the future.
ED: It’s been two years since you gave us your last album, “The Storm Within”, arguably one of your best albums to date. It also continued a theme that started with “Hymns For the Broken”. Is it safe to say that “The Atlantic” has now brought this story to its conclusion, or does this album open the doors to a different view of the concepts you’ve been exploring? Has it taken a detour even further abroad?
Tom: I think it’s all of that..
Tom: I think it’s getting closer… I don’t think conclusion is either… it’s either not the word, or it’s not sort of the aim either…
ED: So, evolution?
Tom: Yeah, I think it’s just about moving forward and sort of going where life wants you to go… and not staying in a position that potentially could be unhealthy for you…
ED: Yes I can understand that…
Tom: So I think it’s done. I think it’s going… and then like, The Hymns For The Broken, the first album in this trilogy of albums, was discovering that something needed to happen… like a revolution, you know, of your inner thoughts… Discovering that ok, this is not going to work. Or is it? [laughing] You know? The doubts. While The Storm Within for me was more about the darkness, and the realisation of knowing that you have to leap. This is where you sort of embark on that journey for real, in the deep, deep, wide ocean. I’m not sure that we’ve reached the new shore…
ED: but you’re certainly on the right journey.
Tom: Yeah, so, I don’t know how the journey ends. It might be another album.
ED: Hopefully. That’s always the thing that people want
This album has not been without its obstacles, both private and public, what effect has that had on the creative process when it came to finishing the album? – And do you feel it has galvanised the band, and its determination to produce the best music you can?
Tom: Like the break-in and all that you mean?
Jonas: Yeah.. right in the middle of everything.. you were super stressed, and we were all super stressed already…
Tom I had written three songs?
Jonas: It was three songs, yes.. and we were like, OK, you need to deliver the recordings to mix in like a couple of weeks, and you were going to LA and you needed to be done before that and the break-in happened and they stole a bunch of sh*t, and we were like, “How is this possible, where is the karma in this?”
Tom: Yeah, what the f**ck did we do? Who was I in a past life?
Jonas: And then we had to create… some.. some kind of plan just for the moment, so that we could say, ok, so how can we keep going somehow and make it through this?
Tom: But that’s where really your routine, and experience of being in this business, not only, but also being older, you know?
ED: Yes, having the discipline to pick back up…
Tom: Yeah man, and it makes us follow through, and ok f**k this, that happened, and now we go and solve it…
Tom: So even though being in that position sucks, and also being, you know, like the personal…f**king… thing that I was going through at the same time… that was also sort of put on hold. So everything was just put on hold and it was a case of what do we do to get through this?
Jonas: You know from that moment, just everything change in a second, from when you called me, and we had a break-in and they stole a bunch of sh*t…ok… I’ll be there in like 20 minutes. I got there, and we were supposed to write and record that day, and instead it was talk to the cops, talk to the insurance companies..
Tom: Yeah when can we get new equipment so we can actually record something?
Jonas: Yeah, what do we do until then? They’ve taken everything, even the backup hard drives.
Tom: Yeah so we didn’t know how much of the recorded music was stolen, and I don’t know if we told anyone, but the computer that had everything on it was also stolen, but the cops, they found it. So after I came back from LA, they were like, hey we found your computer… which is lucky, but by that time we already recorded it elsewhere.
ED: So would you say that, that galvanized the band and your determination to make sure the album was the best it could possibly be?
Jonas: You know looking back, the irony is that you actually got more time in LA to work and focus on lyrics, and I think that actually benefited the album…
Tom: Yeah, certainly… it surely did
Jonas: I’m not saying that I’m glad that it happened, but it f**cking sucks [laughing] but we made the most of it… and yeah, we f**king did!
Tom: Yeah and it affected the way it sounded, no doubt as it wouldn’t have sounded the same without this…
ED: So would you say that the album is heavier as a result? Because it is quite heavy compared to some of the previous ones.
Tom: Musically, the music was already recorded… but vocally… the theme was set already, but you know, bringing the frustration into something, but like you said… I was calling the label and I was like, “f**k this man, this is not gonna work”… We were going to be postponed for like two months or something because I was also leaving for LA to do some other work, you know? But then I worked it out somehow, and I would work on that in the mornings, and then Redemption after. So actually it worked out well, and when I got home from the US, we just went into the studio and recorded all the ideas that I had.
ED: As a drummer, one of the things that always stands out for me on an album, is technical prowess of the drummer, and how they help drive the sound the band is trying to create. You’ve been lucky to have had some excellent drummers behind you over the years, but do you feel that the dynamic has particularly changed after Hannes Van Dahl left to join Sabaton and Jonas stepped into the role?
Tom: Don’t forget, since Jonas was there before Hannes, and Hannes came in… same thing there… it was like f**k this, they left, ok what do we do now? Do we want to continue or not? So me and Rick, who was the keyboard player, we were like let’s just prove it to everyone that we can make and album without them.
ED: And you did, you definitely did…
Tom: Yes, we did. And Hannes came in, and became one of my closest friends, and he still is today. And then you know, things changed, and he left for Sabaton, while we were on… you know I was actually thinking of not doing this anymore. So I said, yeah of course, go to Sabaton. And then by coincidence, he couldn’t do a show, so I asked the only other two people in the world who knew the songs… can either of you step on in and do either of these two shows. And then I was set you know, and we had a good 20 years, hey let’s do these last two shows. Great to do it with them, and then that would be that. But we had so much fun doing these two shows, even with all the bullsh*t… do you remember that? [laughing]
Jonas: [laughing] Oh fuck yeah.. the first thing that happened was, our bus with everyone and everything on it was pulled over by the traffic cops in Germany.
ED: Yeah because you really want to be pulled over by a German police officer
Tom: yeah, right? [laughing]
Jonas: Yeah they weren’t happy with the weight of our bus, apparently we were overweight, light a lot overweight
Tom: We had like 5 – 600 kilos with all the gear and everyone on the bus
Jonas: Yeah and we were on our way to the first show, and me and Rick were sitting in the back and he was like “nothing’s change”, and we were like how the f**k is this happening? How is this possible?
ED: This is when you read bios of musicians, it’s always the stories on the road that are some of the craziest or most bizarre.
Tom: Yeah [laughing] so we had so much weight that I thought to myself, all of the guys probably weigh around 90 kilos each, so if they leave the bus and I drive by myself that should be ok, and of course the cop was ok with that. So I had to drive for six or seven hours on my own, and they had to get on a train and walk to where we were performing.
Jonas: Yeah from the middle of nowhere
Tom: On a highway
Jonas: Yeah and from that place we needed to find a train station, to get to Belgium where we were playing. So while we’re walking along, we’re all shaking our heads, thinking what the f**k this is crazy
Tom: This is karma, get the f**k out…
Jonas: We were only there for like 12 hours, and this is what happens. And we were so late to the gig that we couldn’t even do a sound check and Tom had to unload everything by himself.
Tom: Yeah I carried all the shit in
Jonas: The opening act set up the drums, and everything, and we just walked in and basically walked out on stage
Tom: And despite all that it was fun and that’s why we’re here now.
ED: Fair enough, I can see how that might bring everyone together.
ED: I know in a previous interview with us you mentioned Peter Gabriel as a musical influence. As a fan of him and his writing style, I can understand why he would inspire you, given his ability to paint pictures with words and his music. And I get a lot of that with all of your albums, but it’s particularly strong with the new one. Were there any particular influences that helped drive the sound of “The Atlantic”?
Tom: I think we were influenced… we’re always gonna be influenced by the things that we have been influenced by. You know for all the years we’ve been doing this, but then of course you get new influences and thinking new ways… But the thing that we have done, me and Jonas, when we sit down to write these albums, for the last three albums, is that we try to find out… let’s find a sound, or let’s find a mood… a place in the world where we can sort of step in and out of
ED: As no stranger to depression myself, I often find writing and particularly music, as outlets for those inner demons I struggle with on a daily basis. Do you find inspiration there yourself?
Tom: Always. The three albums are about that. It was not evident to me at first that I was writing about myself, but that’s what I was doing. The albums may be a fiction, but that fiction is always based on what I have felt, or somebody was close to me had gone through at the time. So it’s always been like that… Looking back at it now, it’s always been like a sort of diary of the time… where I was at the time. So yeah, writing music and lyrics have apparently been even more therapeutic than I knew at the time I was writing it. Which is sort of a magical thing. And that’s the thing.
ED: Do you have any rituals to help you get into the zone for writing, or can you literally write on the go, jotting things down as they come to you, so you can develop them later?
Tom: It’s about creating the mood, finding the sound, and being in that vibe. It’s very helpful and it’s inspiring… and you know as soon as we get there, we just feed on each other’s inspirations…
Jonas: It has become very natural, and it feels… it’s comfortable, which is good… It’s very comfortable in that… in that place you know you’re doing the right thing, and things start going good… Yeah it’s a cool way of writing
Tom: It’s us… and it’s mostly me and Jonas, in that vibe, which is fine. And Johan is also sometimes super indulged in there, and for the other guys, they come in and they give their stuff, which is of huge importance to the album… you know, their knowledge and their view on things…
Jonas: Yeah… and then we put their stuff into that work…
Tom: Into context
Jonas: Yeah, the context, yeah…
Tom: So for the Storm Within we said, wouldn’t it just be great if we just pictured this in outer space, and we can go to Iceland and film a video, and we did. And so for this album, we just put up a big screen of like, a stormy Atlantic sea… So yeah, we had that rolling on one of the screens in the studio…
Jonas: And we did the same thing for a Storm Within, and we found that sound that kind of sets the tone for that album, together with that picture in our heads and plan everything. And we found that sound for this album as well, and it’s one sound
Tom: Yeah it’s one sound, and you can hear it at the end of the ‘All I Have’ song… they all have a bass keyboard…
Jonas: Like a Moog bass
Tom: So that’s the sound for this album, and for the last album, it was like a lead sound, through the song ‘Disconnect’… so yeah, ok, this is gonna be the song, great, now we start everything from that, and then it’s not every song, but it’s in a lot of songs… So yeah for us, you know, recording an album is becoming… and it’s more evident to me every day, that we’re painting a picture, it’s not a mosaic, it’s a full picture, a complete thing
ED: The first thing that struck me about “The Atlantic” is how heavy it is at times in contrast to previous albums, but also the depths of darkness explored throughout the songs. Would you consider this to be the darkest material you’ve ever written?
Tom: I would say Monday Morning Apocalypse is one of the darkest albums, but I do think this is darker, just in a different way.
Jonas: I don’t think it’s the most… like, aggressive album we’ve done… yeah like not in total, but in parts maybe, and that’s probably from the frustration from the robbery coming out…
Tom: So while it may feel like and aggressive album, song wise it never gets out of hand, it’s controlled aggression…
Jonas: Passive aggressive [laughing]
Tom: No seriously, that’s what it is… so it becomes tense, and then erupts, and becomes darker… and like the ending of the albums is like… that is probably the darkest piece of music we have written
Jonas: And that for me is probably one of my favourite parts… listening through from the ending to the beginning, and you’re left wondering what happened, and then what’s next…
Tom: And that what I mean, you know, when setting off on a journey like this, taking the decisions that it takes to… to recreate yourself. You have like a… projected this is where I’m going, and it’s going to be like this, but then you’re ending up somewhere else… Yeah, I’m not saying that I ended up in a better place, but I’m saying that being able to recognise that, and get there, and get where you need to go, that’s the important thing…
ED: You worked with film company Revolver for the stunning music video for “The Paradox of the Flame”, what was it like working with them, and filming in Iceland? Can we expect to see anything similar for “The Atlantic”?
Tom: Yeah we do all videos with Patrick and have done since the early 2000s. Patrick is our friend, and he also grew to be almost like a part of the band, and part of creating the full picture of what we’re trying to express in our songs. He understands us, which is the important thing, and creates the visuals that go with the music. So yes, there will be videos and they’ll come out in a sort of chronological order.
Jonas: He also makes me look even better [laughing]
Tom: [laughing] What?
ED: Such modesty [laughing]
Tom: F**k me.. [laughing] even better…
Jonas: He knows what we want and understand our vision
ED: And make you look even better..
Tom: And it’s hard…
Jonas: So hard…
ED: Now you’ve worked with Jacob Hansen on number of albums, and he certainly seems to get your sound, and the production values are always top-notch. Was it a no-brainer to work with him again?
Tom: Oh yeah, until we write an album that is totally different… we are going to stay right there. We record everything, and get it sounding pretty much the way it should sound and then he adds his magic which makes it an album, and also makes it an Evergrey album… Because he’s super involved in making us sound the way we sound. He’s also a part of that family, like Patrick is with the videos.
ED: It’s an impressive album and I am certain fans are going to embrace the deep and epic nature of the songs, and while it sounds great with the volume cranked, up, I can only imagine how excellent this album will sound live. Do you have any plans to tour with the album in 2019? Will you bring the tour to the UK?
Tom: We’re gonna tour as much as possible. We’re starting a European tour with Kamelot in March, and then we’ll be doing our own headline tour in connection with that. After that we’ll be doing a number of summer festivals, as well as South America in between all that, and then USA in the fall, before a bit more Europe. But we should be here in the UK in March as well.
Jonas: I think it’s going to be one of our busiest years
Tom: Yeah definitely
ED: Reflecting on your long career, what is the Gothenburg scene like today versus what it was like when you first started out over twenty years ago?
Tom: We’re bigger bands. I mean we have In Flames, Hammer Fall, Dark Liquidity, At The Gates, parts of King Diamond, parts of Meshugga, The Haunted… there’s so many bands. I wouldn’t say we’re all leaders in our genre, but we’re certainly healthy in our genre
Jonas: The thing about it is that the rock and metal scene is still really, really solid, and influenced by the bands and the music so it keeps growing and evolving.
Tom: Yeah and they see us, and they see that it’s possible, and it inspires the next generation
Jonas: It feels like a big family. You can hang out with anyone, have an awesome time with your idols, and that is exciting as well. I get inspired just hanging out with all these great musicians as well.
ED: And finally, and this sort of goes back to the first question I asked you, where would you like to see “The Atlantic” take Evergrey, and what does the future hold for the band?
Tom: We want to take it to more places… I mean basically, we want to progress, and do so in the most comfortable way possible, but we’re eager to get out there and promote it and do the work that we need.
ED: Yeah because this is work, and not enough people appreciate that sometimes, especially in our current society
Tom: Yeah and we are very fortunate to be able to play music that people listen to, so we just want to get out there and play as much as we can. We’re not taking this for granted, which is important as well, for so many different reasons, you know?
ED: Definitely. Thank you for your time, and I wish you all the best with the release of the album and subsequent tour. It’s been a pleasure.
Tom: Yeah, nice meeting you… maybe see you on the tour.
Jonas: Yes, good meeting you. Thanks.
Haven’t checked out our review of The Atlantic? You can find it: here
Written by: Erik De’Viking
Photos by: Patric Ullaeus
My Global Mind – Reviewer / Music Journalist
Erik De’Viking is a freelance music journalist based in the South of England. His musical interests include blues, rock, and metal in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.
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