Interview date

03 Septembre 2010




Interview Thomas Vikström (by phoners)

If we introduce this new album as the logical continuation of "Lemuria" and "Sirius B", does it ring a bell to the band?

Absolutely, that's what I say to everybody who is asking me that. It's so correct. Obviously it has a new touch. But when people listen to this disc, I think it's ring a bell that we're back to "Sirius B" and to "Lemuria". And I think that because some of the songs on the album are written around that period. But also, I think on "Gothic Kabbalah" for example, Christopher Johnsson was not so much on the production as he is now. Now the production is its and a little mine. I think that's the reason why.

Do you think excepting the fact of the production that the fans' reaction that seemed to be disappointed with "Gothic Kabbalah" had an influence on "Sitra Ahra"?

I don't think that we really made plans to sound like "Sirius B" or "Lemuria". I think it just happened naturally, which is good. Because I was talking to Christopher about that recently, every Therion album is like a commercial suicide. That's a matter because we do what we do and what comes out comes out. We do what feels best so we didn't plan for this sound. That just happened. But I'm really satisfied with what came out!

I think the fans will be satisfied too!

I really hope so! Because those guys are who we work for, sort of speak. Of course, we do our best to satisfy them.

On the cover, we can see a mystic image...

Yeah it is very mystic; I don't know what it is! (Laughs). But what I know is that it looks like an oyster and a pearl but, behind that, you can see the tree of life.

If you had to talk about each song on this album, what would you say?

For "Sitra Ahra" for example it's the typical title track, the perfect opening. That's a very catchy refrain and melody. And "Sitra Ahra" means the passage to the other side, to the unknown. It's Hebrew I think. And I wrote this song, not the lyrics, because all the lyrics have been written by Thomas Karlsson.
And then comes "Kings Of Edom" for example, a very strong melody and I think with this "King of Edom", we have part with an acoustic guitar, almost with a little flamenco feeling.
Then my favourite song is "Land of Canaan". For me it's like a real masterpiece that Christopher had written. That song contains everything, everything from acoustic guitars to harmonica and every instruments that I know. It's significant for Therion because that song shows they are simply no rules about what we can do.
And then we have "2012" where we took in better choirs on the vocal leads on that one. It brings so much because his voice is perfect for that. "2012" is obviously about the Maya calendar and the apocalypse.
Then we have a song called "Cu Chulain". We have to investigate a little to know how to pronounce it. It's hard. Cu Chulain is an Irish sort of symbol or saint, something like that. It's a strong song.
We have also "Hellequin" a rock song with strong backing vocals and melodies. On this song we brought an old friend of mine who is one of the biggest opera singer, a baritone, his name is Marcus Jupiter. And he is big in everything and with a voice really low.
We have "Din", almost touching speed death metal where I have to sing a really high speech what I think it's funny. And it's a fast one, a really fast one.
The end of the album is "Children Of The Storm". In that song, we brought in a children choir, from a choir school of Stockholm. That's a kind of ballad or a slow song.
For me, I think this album contains a lot of things.
I may forget some songs like "The Shells Are Open". I really think that we have a Hungarian touch in it with the folk music violence. We invited real folk musicians to play that song.
So we have a lot of fun during the recording process, with a lot of people!

And what was your implication in "Sitra Ahra"?

I wrote this song, "Sitra Ahra". I have also been there for the recording. Normally, when I do a record, I'm going to record my stuffs and when it's ready, I go. This time, I have been there from the first chord to the last mixing. I have been involved in the all process. And I came up with ideas, and work with Christopher of course. We had a very close collaboration together and a very good one. There has not been shouting at each other once I think. (Laughs).

It is known that the lyrics of Therion are about mythology and mysticism. How did you appropriate the lyrics of this new album?

To be honest with you Ostianne, sometimes, and it's the same for Snowy also, we don't have a clue about what we are singing about! (Laughs). Sometimes it is like that because it is so complex. You know, Thomas Karlsson is a poet and a professor in this topic. So sometimes, I don't really get what I'm singing about. But in the same time, I'm really a fan of mysticism movies, books and stuff like that. For me, it's very fun to sing it. When I write songs, I can never write this kind of lyrics. Also this is why it is so cool. Because when I write lyrics, I write from a musician point of view, he writes from a poet point of view. And when it goes together with the music, I think it marries each other very good!

The strength of this album is to have different kind of music and universe as you said before. Is it something nice for a singer?

This is a dream for a singer! For me, I can use my all spectra of voices here. There are songs where I sing heavy metal for example in "Kali Yuga III" that I forgot to mention before. I sing for example with my heavy metal voice, I sing the high speech, the high full notes on "Din", I use the opera voice in the first song "Sitra Ahra". You are able to use your own spectra, and that's very stimulating for a singer I think.

You are quite a new team for this album. How did you find the new members?

I got in the band in 2007, Christopher asked me to join him. I did and I love it. I understand that it's a band where people come and go a lot. After the "Gothic Kabbalah" tour, we lost the Niemann brothers, Johan and Kristian, they wanted to do something else. So Christopher and me sat down to talk about what we should do, how to find new guys. And I know a lot of people around the rock scene here, in Sweden. So our first choice on the drummer fell on Johan Koleberg who was in the band Lie and Share. We tried him out and we thought he fits very good. He is a nice person. Then we took Nalle Pählson on the bass. He is the guy who played with everybody, from heavy metal to classic music, everything. But when he plays the electric bass, he plays it old-school. He plays really, really well. He is like the only bass guitar player I know who is sitting in an orchestra without reading notes.

Oh really ?!

Yeah, I swear to God! He was in a TV orchestra when we have an orchestra for the Eurovision contest, and he didn't read notes, he got everything by earring. Then we came to the biggest problem, we had to find a new guitar player. It is the hardest part, I mean; they are a lot of fast guitar players that can shred really fast. But that's not really what we are after. When I was in Buenos Aires, on vacation, I met a guitar player there called Christian Vidal. And I heard his stuff and he is great! He comes from the heavy metal school but has influences from the latin music. And that makes his playing very interesting. I told to Christopher that I know a man who is name Christian, his only one little problem is that he lives in Argentina. (Laughs). He said: "ok. We have tried so many guitars players, no one has fitting, so let fly him over!". And we did. He came over and played the shit out of us. We asked if he wanted to be in the band and he said: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, si si, claro !" So that's how we find him. And the cool thing about him, he can really copy also Kristian Niemann and his solos and I think that's really respectful to Kristian Niemann and to his fans. He is also a great guy, a funny guy!

When Christopher asked you to join the band, what did you think?

It was fine. He called me in 2007 and introduce himself has Christopher Johnsson. I didn't know who he was to tell you the truth. But I knew Therion even if I didn't listen to the music. He told me that: "Mats Levén who is singing with us now is leaving the band." Mats Levén is an old friend; we did a lot of things together. "Oh really, is he?" "Yeah, we have a world tour to do, would you like to come along us?" "Of course, but I have to listen to the thing first to see if I can do it!". The day after, it came with an express post with the all Therion catalogue. By coincidence, I took "Gothic Kabbalah" and put the first track. I called Christopher after that: "Hey, I really want to do this!".

You had just listen to one song before saying yes?!

Not even one song, a half of song! I thought it was great! I don't regret that for a second!

As you didn't knew the band before joining it, your view on the Therions' music didn't change when you worked with them...

No, not at all. I think it's funnier now than it was at the beginning. I really love it because the music has everything that I like. It is bombastic, it has very good melodies and it simply has no rules! I think it's very cool!

And in your opinion, what are the new things that you bring to Therion?

The new things I bring to Therion? Well, the new thing I brought is that I have a different voice than the previous singer. But I can change my voice for different songs; I don't think that another singer could have done that before. So I bring my own personality on stage. Some people call me the little Dracula. I don't know... Maybe. It's hard to say what I bring to the band, I think that's up to people to judge. Some more kilos I would say! (Laughs).

On our Website, we really loved "Sitra Ahra". It gets 19/20...

Wow! That's almost the highest grade! Thanks a lot! Wow!

...and an ecstatic review. This kind of passion for the music you do, what does it inspire you?

You get so humble for that, and you get so happy every time you hear that! You get really happy for it. It's a sort of payment for what we have working for. I'm very happy to hear that. It's like a little orgasm, not that good, but almost! (Laughs). It's a very good feeling!

Two months ago, the band announced that Snowy Shaw was leaving the band, few days ago it was said that he came back. What is really happen with him?

Well, Snowy is with us now, again, that's what I can say. We were in Mexico two months ago, for three gigs. And Snowy took me and Christopher in silence and said "hey, I recorded an album with Dimmu Borgir and I will go with them!". That was a sort of catastrophe for us because we were very shock by that because we had a tour ready to go in Europe. We were very hurry to come out with the decision: do we have to take somebody else or will I do it all? It's never a good thing when you are in a hurry for a decision. We decided to just do the best with what we have, I should have done everything. But then, like a flash from the sky or a sign of God, or of kell with Snowy (laughs), I got an email from Snowy saying "hey, I take the most stupid decision in my life." And I sent back a mail to him: "The door is open, we still have your flight ticket! Come back!". And he did! So we are more than happy for that! The magic is back!

And so you are going to tour with him in all over Europe, USA, South America and Japan...

We have discussion with Japan, but it is not confirm yet. And that's would happen in 2011 if we do that.

How do you train your voice for the old and new songs you will sing during this tour? Do you sing them every day?

The biggest problem for me is not the vocals; the hardest part is to learn the lyrics. You know, I have the records on when I do the normal stuffs; I keep the record on because you learn it automatically. I try to keep myself in some shape; I try to eat pretty healthy before a tour. I try to sleep a lot because it's the best medicine for your voice. But in the same time, I smoke! And that's not good of course! But I do, I've been doing that since I'm sixteen, there is not what I recommend, but I do. And I try to not hang around people that have cold; because that's devastating for a singer, to have a cold. But I think if you have your seven hours of sleeping, that's the most important thing. Then to be a singer, it's like to a girl sometimes. You have bad days.

Aside of Therion, will you focus on other projects or for now, you are only with Therion?

Right now, Therion is taking all my time. That's what they represent right now. But when we will come back after the tour, I don't know! Of course, I will continue with Therion, but we will have a short break and then, we will see. We have some discussion with the project I have, if we will make a new album. But what will happen? I don't know!

If one band you worked with asks you to join them on an album, even it is as guest for one song, what would you answer?

Yeah, I would, definitely! I like to cooperate with other people. I would definitely do it! But it has to be a good thing though, that I think it's good I mean. I have been doing some projects that I'm not so satisfied with. But it is also a question about the final work and how I made my lyrics. If somebody really bad asks me really, really well, I would say yes probably. (Laughs). Isn't that an honest answer?

I think so! It's time for the last question: what can you say to the fans of Therion and your fans who will maybe listen to this new album because you sing on it?

The very all fans that we have are really the greatest! We have a company of fans that follow us all around the world, and that's literally around the world. They called themselves: Therion stockers. We have people who are coming from Europe who go to Japan to see one gig. That's really astonishing. The fans are the one who we are working for and if they are happy, we are happy. I think that we are good to take care of our fans. We take time for them. And in South America, they stay outside the hotel. I often go to chat with them, sign things; I try to be friendly with them. I'm a fan myself! I was hanging around the hotel when Kiss was in town when I was a kid. So I know how it feels.

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