Jonas Ekdahl (Drums) Opens Up About Departure from Evergrey’s Touring Circuit

New Horizons: Jonas Ekdahl Discusses Leaving the Touring Life for Production and Songwriting...

Interview by: DJ


MGM: I asked Jonas about the decision to walk away from touring with Evergrey…

Jonas: You know, it’s always great to play live with the band, but sometimes you change. At some point, I felt I couldn’t do it anymore. I had no joy in touring. I realized I’d rather put my energy and time into production and writing songs instead. That’s what makes me happier than playing live shows.

MGM: When did you come to this decision?

Jonas: I kind of decided in February. We had a bunch of shows booked throughout the summer, including summer festivals. I told myself I would do these shows, just to be 200% sure about my decision, and give them 100% effort. After the summer, I would make the final decision. And I did, and it feels like the right choice for me.

MGM: How do you think this decision affects the band?

Jonas: I think it’s best for the band too. The drummer wants to go out and play live shows and tour. If I stayed, I’d eventually hold them back, which wouldn’t be fair to anyone. They’re still my best friends, and it’s important for me to point out that there are no hard feelings. I’m leaving because of my lack of passion for touring now.

MGM: That makes sense. Fans might not realize how tough life on the road can be. You’ve been with the band a long time, and if your passion isn’t there, it makes sense to step back.

Jonas: Exactly. It’s been a long time with the band, and if my passion for live performances isn’t there, it wouldn’t be fair to anyone.

MGM: How did the band react when you told them?

Jonas: They were really shocked because I hadn’t spoken about this to anyone, not even my wife. I needed to make this decision based on my own feelings. When I told them, it came out of the blue. But they understood and respected my decision. We’re still good friends, and we all want each other to be as happy as we can.

MGM: You’ve also been involved in producing and songwriting for other artists. How does that experience influence your decision?

Jonas: Yes, I’ve been producing and working on that side of things for a while. It gives me more opportunity to focus on what I enjoy. You need to do what makes you happy and excites you, and that’s what I’m doing now.

MGM: Let’s talk about the new record coming out on June 7th via Napalm Records, “Theories of Emptiness.” We’ve heard the promo, and it’s another great record from you guys. What was the thought process behind this new album?

Jonas: The biggest change for this album was that Johan, our bass player, delivered so many ideas during the writing phase. He probably delivered over 30 ideas, from riffs to full production-ready songs. It took some workload off me and Tom. We could just open Johan’s ideas on the computer, choose one that inspired us, and start working on it. It was super inspiring and a relief compared to previous albums.

MGM: That’s great to hear. It sounds like Johan’s contributions were significant. How did you approach the production of the single “Falling from the Sun” and its video?

Jonas: We went up to a very small city north of Gothenburg to work with a friend who owns a pyro company. We set everything up in a field, and the pyros were massive, some firing up 40 meters into the sky. It was a big production, but it was worth it. We did several takes, some with more pyro, some with less, to capture the best shots. The reception has been great, and it’s been worth all the effort.

MGM: The single and video are fantastic. Our UK partner who’s a big Metal fan says It’s one of the best songs he’s ever heard from Evergrey. What can fans expect from the rest of the album?

Jonas: Thank you! Fans can expect the same level of quality and effort we’ve always put into our music. Johan’s contributions have brought a fresh dynamic to our sound, and we’re excited for everyone to hear it.

MGM: So, the concept. I wanted to get into some of the songs on the record. One of the things you always notice with Evergrey’s music is the melodic choruses. I’ve always said that it’s a combination of heavy and melodic, a perfect balance. It’s kind of been one of the recipes in your music. Not that every song sounds the same because you guys have evolved. Every record seems like you’ve evolved over the last four albums at least. It seems like you’ve gotten better and better. But that recipe, where there’s a melodic riff or the choruses come in and it gets heavy, is consistent. Then it can get back to a power ballad. You guys are all over the place with the musical structure, but it’s entertaining and not repetitive. That’s one of the things I enjoy about an Evergrey record. So on songs like, for instance, “Misfortune,” that’s another great song on the record. What’s kind of the story behind that one?

Jonas: Yeah, that’s one of Johan’s ideas that we started from. But the funny thing is when Johan writes, he says, “I can only write slow songs. I can never write fast songs.” So, that song, I think we sped up almost 20 BPM. It was super doomy in the demo.

MGM: Right.

Jonas: And yeah, it was one of the songs that we already had the basic structure for. We just added more of that Evergrey touch to it. It was quite easy to finish, as I recall. Tom worked on the lyrics, but he usually starts with the melodies, humming or singing gibberish, and then builds and evolves the lyrics around the melody or phonetics. He usually does this on his morning walks, recording ideas on his voice memo.

MGM: Gotcha. I’m going to ask you about this because, again, this was unexpected. So “Say” to me is the best song on the record. They’re all great, but my favorite one is “Say.” That’s an Evergrey song to me.

Jonas: Yeah, yeah, I love that song.

MGM: So at the end of the video, you walk up to the camera and say thank you. At first, I was confused. I was like, what the heck is going on here? (laughs) Some fans hinted already. Then you went, oh, something is up here with Jonas. What’s going on?

Jonas: It was Tom’s’ idea. He called me up one day and asked what I thought about having an ending to the video where I walk up and say thank you, goodbye to the fans and everybody. I felt a huge honor and humbleness that he wanted me to do something like that because once it’s in the video, it’s there forever. I didn’t want to set the video off with a negative vibe. I told Tom, as long as people don’t start disliking the song based on the ending and what I’m about to do, it’s okay. And he was like, don’t worry about it. I felt unworthy, like, do I deserve to make a big exit like this? And he said, of course, you’ve been in this band for 20 years. Of course, you do. So, yeah, I was very honored to do something like this.

MGM: Well, it was a nice touch. You’ve earned the right for something like this. You’ve been with the band a long time, and that says a lot about your band mates as well, that they chose to do that for you. In other instances, when a band member leaves, sometimes they never speak again. But that was cool that it was featured in the video. It was bittersweet for some fans when they saw that. There was speculation once they saw it. There was a social media post about an upcoming announcement, and some people already had an idea. But I thought it was cool nonetheless. A nice touch by Tom and the guys.

Jonas: Absolutely. It was really cool.

MGM: I’ve always thought, we’ve interviewed Rikard a long time ago. I don’t remember what record it was for now, but I’ve always thought that his work in the band is extremely underrated. The way he blends the keyboard sounds into your music and how that fits into some of the moodiness of the songs is impressive. You talk about Johan and what he did, I feel the same with Rikard and the stuff he brings to the table. He doesn’t get spoken about a lot because he’s the keyboard player, but he’s very important and underrated in your band, I think.

Jonas: Yeah, absolutely. And this album incorporates a lot of Hammond organ as well, which fits the sound of the album so well. Rikard has his own Hammond with a Leslie in the rehearsal space. We just put some mics on it and could record whenever we wanted. It adds a great touch to the album.

MGM: So, you said “Say” was one of your favorite songs on the record. Did you have any other songs that stood out for you as specific favorites?

Jonas: Oh, I like “We Are the North.” I really like that one. I also like the final track, the title track, “Theories of Emptiness.” I love that we put it last, giving the listener some time to reflect and relax after listening to the whole album. It’s a nice song, and Johan, again, is a genius with the song structure.

MGM: “Ghost of My Hero” is another one I like a lot. It’s one of the slower songs, and to me, that’s one of the things that’s great about Evergrey. You can play slower stuff, and it still sounds good.

Jonas: Yeah, “Ghost Of My Hero” is really great. Again, that’s Johan’s song structure from start to finish, except for some production touch-ups. We also had our friend Vikram Shankar (Redemption) do the orchestral arrangement, and Tom delivered cool backing vocals at the end, which are super epic.

MGM: Vikram plays with Redemption, and Tom does vocals for them. Another great band, one of my favorites. They’re up there with Evergrey as one of the great progressive metal bands.

Jonas: Yeah, they also have this melancholic soft duo called “Silent Skies,” which you should check out. They know each other very well.

MGM: Absolutely. It’s different from the Evergrey stuff, but it’s good. So, do you guys ever feel pressured to keep putting out great records?

Jonas: No, the only pressure comes from ourselves, if any. We don’t feel any outside pressure. We focus on writing the best music we can at the moment. You always learn and evolve from one record to the next. We learned a lot from the previous album that we could bring to the table for this album. You discover new music in between albums that inspires you. As long as you follow those creative nuggets, you do the best you can at the moment.

MGM: I was going to ask you about this. I know you brought in some fans to record background vocals on one of the songs. Can you elaborate on that?

Jonas: Yeah, we did a collaboration with the Sweden Rock Magazine for an exclusive song for their vinyl edition. It will be featured on the digital versions, but the vinyl will only be available from Sweden Rock. We needed a song that would combine the whole middle rock atmosphere, something festival-like, but still tie it into our world. It became a collaboration that we were very excited about.

MGM: I saw that, and it was neat. It goes back to what I said about the connection between bands and their fans. Doing stuff like that shows you care about your fans. It’s pretty cool to bring in fans and have them sing on the record.

Jonas: Yeah, we love our fans and interacting with them, both during our live shows and afterward. It’s a way to invite them into our creative world, making them a part of the song.

MGM: I recall something from when “Hymns for the Broken” came out in 2014. Tom mentioned there was some uncertainty in the band around that time. Can you elaborate on that?

Jonas: Between “Glorious Collision” and “Hymns for the Broken,” Tom got done with making music. Hannes Van Dahl got the opportunity to join Sabaton, and Marcus left the band. We had two shows booked in Belgium, and Henrik and I stepped in as session players. We were in another band called Death Destruction at the time. Despite some trouble along the way, those shows went well and started the whole thing again. It was the beginning of a new chapter for the band.

MGM: I thought “Hymns for the Broken” had a different energy. The music sounded more powerful, and the concepts were cool. From that point forward, every record has gotten better. I love “The Heartless Portrait.” It’s one of the best albums you’ve ever made. Every song is amazing. I hope new fans check out your back catalog because there’s so much great stuff there.

Jonas: Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

MGM: With a great discography like yours, I’m sure it’s tough to put together a setlist.

Jonas: Yes, it gets tougher with each album. We want to keep it interesting for 90 minutes, playing songs we want to play and ones the audience wants to hear. It’s a fine balance.

MGM: What do you hope fans take from the new record, “Theories of Emptiness,” when it comes out?

Jonas: I hope they appreciate the organic, modern, and punchy sound that Adam Getgood managed to bring out. It sounds more live and balanced, and you can hear all the small nuances and details. I hope they find something in the songs to connect with.

MGM: Final words are your.

Jonas: Thank you for the interview, feels like I cant thank the fans enough, but super important to do so. Thank you so much for all the fan support for all the years, it means everything to me.

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Photo Credit: Chris Rugowski

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