Hi there. Congratulations to your great new album. Please describe the reactions to the CD so far.
Hello! The reactions so far have been great and we've received high scores in almost every review I've seen. Many people have been quite blown away by the powerful melodies and our unique approach to power metal. Exactly the reactions we felt were appropriate for an open minded listener of the album.
Some few reviewers seem to not have listened to the album at all though, writing us off like a standard power metal band with fantasy lyrics about dragons. I'm willing to accept that not all people are able to see through the metal production and find out what is really going on musically, but to compare our new album to bands like Rhapsody is just ridiculous.
F]Do you care for the opinion of your fans, the press and people in general? Or is it just you and your music?
We really care for the opinion of our fans that's for sure. Not the press though, since their criticism often isn't constructive at all. Or let me put it this way; personally I love to read reviews because when you've spent about a year of composing and arranging it's of course fun to hear what people thinks of it. But reactions from other people (negative or positive) will not be able to interfere with the course our music will take in the future. If you go back to my previous answer you will see that it's easy to become upset in some occasions though...
Some of our readers may never have heard about you. Please give us a short briefing in the band's biography.
The band was started by Nicklas Magnusson (guitar) and Jonas Heidgert (vocals/drums) in 1999. Soon Christer Pedersen and guitarist Daniel Kvist (guitar) joined in. About six months before the recording of the first album "The Battle of the Ivory Plains" I joined the band. When Daniel left the ensemble Olof Mörck took over. The above mentioned album was released in 2001 by the Greek label Black Lotus Records. We didn't play many gigs because Jonas had a hard time singing and controlling the drums at the same time (not an easy task that's for sure!). Our second album "Holy War" was released in 2002 and a while after Jesse Lindskog (ex Nostradameus) took over the drums and Jonas could finally focus solely on the vocals. In 2003 we did a really successful tour in Japan. Inspired by this awesome experience we immediately began writing the "Starfall" album. That took more than a year. We recorded it during this summer in Division One Studios with Arnold Lindberg (sound engineer for Europe) and Tom Englund (Evergrey).
What are the differences between "Holy war" and "Starfall" in your opinion?
There are many differences actually! First and foremost Starfall is an album where much of the focus lies in the vocal lines. We often started with making the vocal melodies and then we built the arrangements afterwards. This was a very conscious decision because we wanted to make the songs catchier. It's easier to get control over the compositions too when working this way. We've stepped away from the more baroque-sounding power metal found on Holy War, and excluded much of the clichés that genre is famous for. We used almost no power chords on the guitars but instead arranged the guitars in a more harmonically correct and unique way. The chords (on both keyboard and guitar) are often richly colored, creating a more fresh sound. I guess you could say Starfall sounds a lot more "mature" and perhaps "progressive". We have a great deal of variation this time too; everything from the catchy 80's-styled title track to the bombastic Hans Zimmer-esque Book of Shadows trilogy.
What are the reasons for these differences?
Basically because we wanted to create something interesting and unique in a quite stagnated genre of music. We were not interested in making a new Holy War. I mean, why would we? It's always fun to try something new.
The label info says that your vision is to make the perfect Melodic Metal Album. How close have you come this time and how far is it still to go?
I guess with respect to melody we achieved what we wanted. Our vision was to make every melody as beautiful and perfect as possible. We could work for hours with just one single melodic phrase! Of course perfect is a problematic term when it comes to music, but for the attentive listener there will be much detail, depth and a sense of "here's an album where nothing was left by chance". We will always strive to make the best music we possibly can, always reinventing ourselves and attack the compositional work from many different angles.
Please describe the story of "The book of shadows" in a few words.
In the end of the 1800's a professor in Oxford discovers the key to unlock the secrets to an old Egyptian legend. The legend about the cursed prince Qa'a who betrayed and murdered his father to claim the throne for himself. When exploring the ancient tomb, Qa'a is released from his imprisonment and kills the entire science team and an unknown disease spreads over the earth.The third part of the story takes place in our time, when strange things begin to happen. Haha, that was really a short description of an epic story. Actually the lyrics have a real depth to them, and the text is longer than the complete lyrics for Holy War.
My favourite is "The shores of our land". Can you tell us something about this song and it's history?
This is a romantic little Viking story with a lot of cool twists and turns. Originally the song started with blast beats and sounded quite black metal. We dropped those ideas quite fast as we began to realize what we wanted to do. Parts of the middle section of the song was actually used in Starfall (!) from the beginning but of course didn't fit that song very well.
And what about "The returning"? I like it very much as well. It rocks!
This is the only real power metal song on this album I guess.
No wonder that I like it that much
Sometimes you just want to play fast, that cannot be denied! Much variation can be found in this tune; for example both the verse and pre-chorus are heavily rearranged (with different chords and riffing) when they appear for the second time. There's plenty of glory in this song and I must say I'm especially happy with the middle section. It has a nice groovy and catchy feeling to it.
Which one is YOUR favorite song from the album and why?
Hmmm... This is not an easy question; I like them all for different reasons.If I would have to choose I think it would be "In Perfect Harmony", just because this one turned out extremely good on the album version.
How and why did you choose the album cover?
Getting the right cover art was not easy. We actually had an almost finished cover by an other artist, but we felt it wasn't quite right. When we instead tried ToxicAngel (who has done artwork for Sonata Arctica for example) things worked much better. We wanted something related to a starfall, and also something taken from The Book of Shadows trilogy.
Are there further lyrics next to "The book of shadows" that are special to you? Tell us something about them.
Myself I don't write any lyrics, so they cannot be special to me in that kind of personal sense. The lyrics for the song Starfall are excellent I think; it shows Olof in a more poetic manner.
Any plans for some further stuff of "Starfall" (like singles,video, DVD etc.)?
We planned to make a single and video, but this didn't work out unfortunately. A DVD would be cool to make, we'll see what happens!
How did it come to the collaboration with the Evergrey guys?
We heard about the new studio Division One and decided to go for it because we wanted to try something new. Since Arnold is an educated sound engineer, and also have worked in Studio Fredman (where we recorded Holy War) we felt that things could turn out great in this studio.
I am an Evergrey Fan for years now. But I disliked "The inner circle" a bit. "The dark discovery" is great work again. What do you think?
I have never been a fan of Evergrey; actually I have not liked their previous albums at all. "The Inner Circle" has some great moments though. So I have to disagree with you there hehe...
And me with you as well concerning great albums like "In search of truth" and "Recreation day".
What about the recording process of your new album? Any stories or curiosities to report?
The recording went smooth; we had a great deal of time this time! One funny thing that happened was when we forgot to shut the window to the mixing room after a whole night of recording. When Tom arrived in the morning he was not very pleased to find pigeon shit on the mixing desk. Fortunate for us
nothing was damaged though hehe...
How do you create your sound? Which equipment do you use?
The sound on the album is much a result of all the equipment and acoustics of the studio of course. Most of the guitars were recorded on Caparison, Ibanez and Fender guitars, with a Peavey Triple X 120w. Jesse plays Pearl Z-custom drums. Christer played on a Yamaha bas guitar. Myself I use Roland Xp-30, Yamaha Clavinova CLP-860 digital piano and Korg N5EX along with a lot of samples and software synthesizers. The vocals were recorded with a Neumann microphone if I remember things correctly.
Please tell us something about your process of songwriting.
We consume a lot of beer, snacks and other unhealthy things to get the right feeling. If we have an idea, we work for hours and hours in order to become satisfied with it. Often the good ideas pop up when you least think they will do, so we try to not stress anything. This time we recorded everything in my little home studio so we could immediately hear if something worked ornot.
What are your musical influences in your opinion?
In the past we have been influenced by bands like Rhapsody and Bal-Sagoth and composers like Vivaldi, Beethoven and Hans Zimmer. Many of us have roots in the more extreme genres of metal, and I guess that's apparent in much of our work if you listen carefully. Nowadays it's hard to say, because we listen to and let us be influenced by a broad spectrum of music. Not much metal for me anymore. One band that influenced some parts of the Starfall album would have to be the Norwegian band TNT though!
We'd like to know something about your background in making music. How did you learn to play, what are your experiences and which musicians are your main technical influence?
I started playing the piano at an age of about ten. But I didn't start to practice that instrument seriously before I was nineteen. Since I were about three years old I have been playing drums, but I don't do that anymore. I play quite a lot classical music (which I studied at a music school for two years). Johnny Maudling of Bal-Sagoth has been an influence for many years, not for his technique, but for his way of arranging his keyboards. Jordan Rudess from Dream Theatre is quite astonishing when it comes to finger technique, so that would be a pure technical influence. Nowadays I'm not as much interested in playing fast, but more in creating cool sounds and do nice arrangements. Jazz pianists like Keith Jarret inspires me a lot too.
What do you think: How will Dragonland sound like in let's say five years? Is there a masterplan?
We have just begun to discuss where we want to take our music for the next album so there's no such plan! Considering our ambition to always travel new musical paths there's no possible way to say how we will sound in five years!
Please name some lately released CDs that you like to listen to at home.
I can't say I listen to anything that was released lately, but some albums Ilisten to for the moment are:
Muse - "Absolution"
Godspeed You Black Emperor - "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven"
Coldplay - "A rush of blood to the head"
Yes - "Fragile"
Anathema - "A Natural Disaster"
Do you still watch other bands play? Have there been some shows lately that have impressed you?
Not as much as before. Europe at Sweden Rock this year was a great gig though. Just because I didn't think they would sound that good nowadays.
What makes the difference between Dragonland and other Melodic Speed / Power Metal bands?
I would say that there's quite a difference harmonically since we use a lot of colorings like I said before. This is a thing that's not very easily observed, but it gives the music a very different feeling compared to other power metal acts. Personally I think we write melodies that are more exciting. We have more varied songs too as we don't fear influences from any genre of music.
We'd like to know something about the underground in your hometown. Are you still in touch? And if so: Where do you hang out? Are there some yet unknown bands that you like?
Nah, not really. Sometimes I go to Rockbaren (the rock bar), but that doesn't happen very often. The underground scene I don't know anything about.
What about the Swedish Metal Scene in general? Do you know some bands, and if so, is there friendship, rivalry or more or less nothing special?
There's no rivalry at all, at least I haven't noticed anything of that sort.Jesse plays in a cover band with members from Hammerfall, and I have been involved with Ironware for example.
Please tell us something about further Live activities.
This is being looked into right now, nothing is settled yet though! Hopefully a tour will happen.
Is there something that you have never been asked but always have been eager to say?
No. Sorry, can't come up with anything!
We are looking forward seeing you in Germany. Best whishes to you all. Any last words?
Thanks and see you on tour! Hope you'll like the album if you check it out! Try not to judge our music before you've heard it just because of our band name... Cheers!