interviuri rock

Interview with Christofer Johnsson (Therion)

Interview with Christofer Johnsson (Therion)
BANDS : Therion

Therion is a very successful enterprise and in the interview below you will have the chance to find out what does it take to reach the top. Christofer Johnsson proved a very interesting discussion partner, willing to chat despite his very busy schedule. Enjoy it!



Metalfan: Hi there and welcome to Metalfan webpages! How did today find you?
Stressy days with plenty to do.

Metalfan: You have just released a new studio album, Gothic Kabbalah. Could you please tell us about the feedback it received from publications and fans?
As always with each new Therion album there are mixed reactions, older fans preferring the older sound and some other preferring the new directions.  The majority has been very positive though.

Metalfan: Many people would probably find the album name quite controversial. What made you choose it and what is the story behind it? Is Gothic Kabbalah a conceptual album?
It’s supposed to be a bit controversial, but indeed the name is the most abstract Therion ever had, that is the cool thing about it. People with no knowledge of what we sing about think this is the trendiest record title imaginable, while it is in fact a concept album about an esoteric tradition which very few know about the merge between runosophy and qabbalah that Johannes Bureus invented some 400 years ago. The concept is about Bureus, life, visions, teachings and ideas.

Metalfan: The new album offers a slightly different musical approach. I find it more “70’s hard rock/progressive” oriented. The vocals are quite different too. What is your opinion on that issue?
You are totally right; this has been the influence this time (among others). The vocals were an experiment; to mix rock singers with classical singers in the same vocal ensembles and to have rock singers do melodies originally intended for opera singers. Some loved it, others less. For us it was nice to try something different to what we have done the last 10 years.

Metalfan: What does a musician feel when his creations reach the charts almost all over Europe?
I can only speak for myself and Therion. We don’t think much of it actually. Reaching a chart for a week or two only mean a certain amount of people bought the album at that time. It is the sales after 6 months (or a year) that really will tell you how successful the album was (or 10 years after, our albums from Theli and onwards are still selling after all these years).

Metalfan: Mats Leven is quite renowned for his past collaborations with Abstrakt Algebra and Yngwie Malmsteen (among others). Could you please tell us how did you get to work with him?
Johan Niemann plays in a coverband together with him and we also had other common friends. I of course knew Mats vocal performances on records since many years, but when I went to see the coverband live I and saw him do so many different styles on stage in one night, I realized he would be interesting for Therion to work with. And I was right; we had a long time of good co-operation.

Metalfan: Does Mats Leven have any other contribution to your latest two albums, besides singing?
Yes, on Gothic Kabbalah he also contributed with some song writing and helped with some of the arrangements.

Metalfan: Snowy Shaw, another metal legend, could be heard on Gothic Kabbalah. In what way did his musical/producing experience helped Therion?
He is a very multi talented guy and he designed the entire stage show we used on the tour in Europe. Also the clothes were partly designed by him. Like Mats he can sing with a thousand different voices and he get to use many of them with Therion.

Metalfan: During the last years you have visited Romania for 2 concerts, last one of them with orchestra. What were your impressions before those shows and what are your impressions now?
I knew that it would be the hardest task of my life even to survive that project and I was totally right. It was a trial by fire. Afterwards I was just happy we managed to pull it off at all, there were so many difficulties. Having Uli Jon Roth there as a guest and advisor helped a lot keeping the spirit up and his advices turned out to be extremely useful when we made this type of concert again in Hungary last month.

Metalfan: By looking onto your official discography I have noticed a thing that seems to be there from almost the very beginning, Nuclear Blast Records. How did you manage to have such a long “marriage” with them?
We were having many problems in the beginning and our first 5 releases (including the limited and today very rare mini album Time Shall Tell) were released on 5 different labels. Some of the labels we had worked with were bad, but had resources, others sucked in every aspect. One had good intentions and understanding of the music, but no money…  With NB we finally ended up with a team of people who really lived for the music they worked with and also had loads of money. We had many fights and problems in the beginning still, but since 1998, we’ve had a relation that many bands can only dream of with them. We’ve just prolonged our record deal with 5 more records.



Metalfan: Therion could be easily considered a very successful enterprise. What does it take to reach the top, besides talent?
In terms of sales and puling people to concerts, we are very successful in some places in Europe and all over Latin America. In some other parts of Europe we’re quite big, but not as successful as in those other places. In USA, Canada and Japan we have a very loyal fans base, but we never managed to become in the near of the same popularity as in Latin America and Europe.
Innovation and daring to go your own way is the recipe. Those who try too much to sound like others, may have some temporary success, but no one will remember them 20 year later. I can tell you many names of bands and artists from the 70’s and 80’s that sold really well that very few people know or care of today. Therion is still more or less on the same level as when we had our breakthrough with Theli back in 1996, I am very happy with that and see it as a proof of our efforts being worthy of rewarding.

Metalfan: I am now going to ask you a quite controversial question. It is known that your albums sell very well (for a metal band). Have you managed to make a living out of music? If yes, how important is the financial part of the business to you?
It’s not a controversial question around here; everyone talks about it, as it is every musicians dream to be able to spend all time only for the music.
Many bands could have made it, but never did because they were not as business minded, as they were musically talented. I’ve been lucking to have a head for business as well and even though I too made some of the classical mistakes in the beginning, I have managed to live from music since 1992. In the beginning I made very little of course and were still living with my parents. 1993 I moved into a small 2 room apartment and was pretty much living out of air for some years, not until after Theli I started to make the same kind of money as from a simple regular job and with the huge success of Vovin I started to make more than from a regular work. I’ve been very wise though and saved and invested money in a good way. One cannot count on things lasting forever and by living simple and normal instead of living like a rock star I have a bit of economic safety ahead. Most musicians I know think very much only for today and maybe a year ahead, but I like to plan 5-10 years and it has paid off. If you are hungry and have a potato you can cook it and eat it. But you can also plant it instead and you will in the end have many potatoes every day for the rest of your life. Apply “potato” on what I do and you’ll get the picture.

Metalfan: How would you explain the success of melodic metal acts in Japan? Is Japan a good market for metal?
Japan has always been a mystery with a taste totally of it’s own. Trends from the rest of the world only have a small influence on Japan. I really respect that even though it has meant Therion didn’t reach the same level of success over there as in for example Europe.
Japan is indeed a very important market for metal bands and for some melodic metal bands over here it is more or less the ONLY market they have. Some 80’s bands that made reunions only managed to get their albums released in Japan actually (people had forgotten about them here)



Metalfan: When was the last time you’ve listened to one of your older albums? What do you think about, let’s say, Lepacca Kliffoth and Of Darkness?
Once every 1 or two years I get some nostalgic feeling and listen through the entire catalogue sitting alone at home. Each album has it gems and flaws, but in general I am proud of each album in the light of how they were created. Of Darkness for example had a budget of 100 euro (which was peanut money even back in 1990), that’s what it costs to tune the guitar in those studios we’ve been recoding in more recently.

Metalfan: What is your biggest accomplishment, as a human being in general and a musician in special?
Managing to have FUN after all those years. =)
I started making music because I loved it so much and we had so much fun playing back in 1987 when we more or less tried to learn how to play together in the band Blitzkrieg (which later renamed to Therion) and still today after 20 years I’m having so much fun when playing (both rehearsing and being on stage). This in combination with managing to make so many listeners and also other bands realizing how good opera fits together with metal and rock music I think are pretty impressive.

Metalfan: I know that you have recorded the voice for a Messiah A.D. album (former death metal legend Messiah) back in 1994. What could you tell us about it?
Therion wasn’t having much going on in 1994 and I was broke, so it was actually very fitting with something fun to do and even though I didn’t earn much, it was at least something when I had nothing…
I had met Messiah at a polish festival in 1992 and they later organized a Therion concert for us in Switzerland in 1993 and I got to know the guys personally. One day they asked me to sing on their new album, because they couldn’t find a replacement for the old one that just had left. I accepted and in the end we also did some concerts. We made a pretty original album, but it sold really bad and didn’t fit their old fans at all (the strange record cover didn’t help much either, ha ha), so the band split up.

Metalfan: Would you be tempted to release another death metal album sometimes in the future? In fact, what is your opinion about death metal acts in general?
We did this album with the band called Demonoid some year ago. That was fun and I think we did a great album. In lack of time I decided not to continue with it though and the other guys will continue with another singer.
Death metal to me means youth and teenage frustration that needs to be channeled through music. By playing death metal, I became a very harmonic person. It’s fun that the music style can live on, but I have very little interest in what is going on today. If I some time would feel like listening to some aggressive music, I’d put on some old album with Autopsy, Death, Celtic Frost, Bathory or similar.

Metalfan: What could you tell our readers about your involvement in the Dragon Rouge Lodge in Sweden? How can anyone interested become a member of this organization?
I joined in January 1992 and have been a part of building it up ever since. I however don’t find it appropriate to go any deeper into that in a Therion interview, as it is often erroneously mistaken for being connections between Therion and Dragon Rouge as such, which is not the case (I have never tried to promote the order with the band and have no interest in gaining members being more interested in Therion than esoteric).
For information about the order, please refer to the official page of the order instead.

Metalfan: Thanks for your time and good luck in the future. You have the final words!
I’ve never been good at that...

Autor: Sake
Vezi galeriile trupelor: Therion

   August 07, 2007  | 2 Comments  | 16314 Views « BACK

Comment on: Interview with Christofer Johnsson (Therion)

  • Un om care intr-adevar te inspira pozitiv... Se simte si in muzica pe care o face ; indiferent de parerile celorlalti isi urmeaza drumul si ideile.

    1. Posted by betrayed | 09 Septembrie 2007 11:08
  • despre trupa asta nu am decat cuvinte de lauda.
    Albume ca Theli si Vovin sunt arta in muzica.

    2. Posted by Alex_rock | 13 Octombrie 2008 21:22

Other Interviews