Παρασκευή 14 Δεκεμβρίου 2012

MEMORY GARDEN interview with Tom Björn

The Tides of Doom Metal...
Swedish Doom Metal masters MEMORY GARDEN just finished the recordings of their new album that will be released in early 2013 from Metal Blade Records. Standing always by the side of the band, since the first years, I contacted drummer/songwriter Tom Björn and discussed about the recordings and all the latest news of the band.

It’s been already 4 years since your last album “Carnage Carnival” and now you are in recording sessions for a new album. So, give us all the available info about it.

Yes, time really flies! We started to record the drums in June 2011, so it has been a long process for us. Because most of us have small kids we felt that it was impossible to hire a bigger studio for this album, and be away for weeks. So with the help of Dan Swanö we upgraded our own studio, and have spent in general five hours per week there. We all have daily jobs to go to, so we met one night per week after work to get something done. And here we are in December 2012, finished! The album is right now being mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö, and the cover is almost done as well. Once again by Hjules! This album will both sound and look fantastic, and I consider it to be one of our best efforts ever!

Since you are back in Metal Blade Records, why did you left at first place, after “Mirage” and how did you join them again?

Well, this was in  2002 if I recall correctly. We had once again planned on visiting studio Fredman, so we called him up and booked the studio for about two-three weeks during 2003. We needed some months to complete the songwriting. Then, for some reason, MB decided to cut our budget drastically. That meant we could no longer afford studio Fredman, which we had been looking forward to so much. We kind of lost all inspiration in a heartbeat, and wouldn't settle with some other studio. Which was pretty stupid of us... MB decided to drop us when we said we couldn't make a good album with that budget cut in half. 
Some years later we signed with VIC records and they released Carnage Carnival in 2008. When we were getting ready with material for the new album, VIC was in some financial trouble. They simply couldn't afford to pay for another album.  So, without label again we decided to check with MB (among others) once more and they were happy to take us back for another round!

What about your musical direction? The early doom metal era of Memory Garden was watered with many progressive and power metal drops over the years and the last album had lot of differences from “Forever” or “Tides”, but all these years I consider you as a Doom/Power Metal band. What should we expect now?

I can promise that no MG-fan will be disappointed on the new stuff! It's pretty much the same foundation, doom with a few progressive elements and lots of heavy riffs to bang your head to! The melodies and Stefan's powerful voice are still there of course. 
We have also used a bit more clean guitars and keyboards this time, and that has brought a more dynamic and atmospheric sound. 

The line up remains the same?

Yes, it's the same since ‘08 when Andreas joined us. We don't want any more changes in that section now... We're working better than ever together and that feels great!

I am a big fan of Simon Johansson’s guitar playing - and also a big fan of Mike Wead of course (and Mercyful Fate/King Diamond style in general). How it feels to work with such a great guitar players?

We have been playing together since ‘96 and Simon has really become a great guitarist. No wonder with a mentor like Mike Wead! Simon has developed his style during the years and you can clearly hear influences from Mike in his playing, but I think he has a little different tone and has created his own style. I'm very happy to have Simon in the band, and also to have had the honour to play with Mike in Memento Mori. 

You are one of the few drummers that contribute in writing music and lyrics. What’s the composing procedure in Memory Garden?

I got too tired hearing that every band has a couple of musicians and also a drummer... :)
No, actually I've been writing songs since I was 12 years old or something, maybe not so good ones but still... I think I have a good ear for melodies, harmonies and so. 
We have always brought our ideas to the rehearsals and tried to put things together. And sometimes one of us brings a complete song to the table as well, then we try it out to see how it feels. We usually make the songs first, then vocal melodies and last the lyrics. I have written most of the lyrics for the new album, and I think it's easier to have a melody in mind to make the words fit better. 

What is the true essence of Doom Metal for you?

Well, it must be the heaviness and slow-to mid-tempo. But on the other hand I can't stand listening to stoner-doom or songs that are too monotone, I find it boring. So I guess, for me, the important stuff are heaviness, groove, melodies and variation. A good singer is also a must!

It is obvious that you play the music you like, but how easy or difficult is for a band like you to survive in the music industry?

Since we're not making a living on our music it's not a problem. We have been lucky to land deals with record labels and play a lot of cool shows, and I think those two things are of great importance to stay on the scene. We don't have any hopes of riches or fame (that would be pure stupidity) and we appreciate every opportunity we're given. As long as we feel we have something to give to the doom metal scene, and the fans want us, we will keep composing the best we can. 

I know that it is very early, but are there any plans for live shows after the release of the new album? People here, really enjoyed your shows in Greece.

Not at the moment. During the whole recording process we didn't play live even once, so now we look forward to that a lot! We will soon start rehearsing a setlist with some new songs in it, and as soon as the album is out we will hopefully be ready for some gigs again. But nothing is planned yet. 
We would love to come back to Greece again! 

Last words.

Thanks for keeping up your interest in Memory Garden, we need your support! Hope you will enjoy the new album, cheers!

Blessed Are The Dead 7”EP
Megagrind/Immortal Underground Rec. 1994 
Forever EP
Heathendoom Music 1995
Ta någon hårt i hand, så ger vi oss av till tomteland 7”EP
Private released 1995 
Heathendoom Music 1996 (Rereleased by Vic Rec. 2009) 
Verdict Of Posterity 
Metal Blade Records 1998 
Metal Blade Records 2000 
Marion 7”Single
Heathendoom Music 2004 
Carnage Carnival 
Vic Records 2008

Visit the official Memory Garden Facebook page HERE for the latest updates.

Σάββατο 1 Δεκεμβρίου 2012

AGATUS Interview - The Dark One speaks...

AGATUS... A legendary band from Greece that dwells in Black Metal with many traditional metal elements, epic atmosphere and great musicianship. After many years, Eskarth The Dark One and Archon Vorskaath are back in Greece and recently the performed a return live show in Athens, supporting Primordial. This year, they released a new EP entitled "Gilgamesh" and a remastered version of their first album "Dawn Of Martyrdom" is on the way. Crystal Logic took the opportunity to exchange a few words with The Dark One...

So, you are back! After a few years of absence, first last year with “Night Mares” EP and this year with “Gilgamesh” EP. What have you done these years?

Indeed we are. I have been busy with various diverse projects over the last few years. The pre-production of the new Agatus album was recorded, (hopefully available next year). I toured with Zemial, did various shows and recordings with Raven Black Night and composed and recorded bits and pieces for my solo acoustic project. Over summer I was involved in the recording sessions of the next Zemial album “NYKTA” which is anticipated for release in 2013 through Hells Headbangers Records. 

Early 90s and the cult begin… Give us a brief bio of Agatus.

Formed in 1992 in Athens, Greece. Recorded and released our first demo “A Night of The Dark Ages” in 1993 and our debut “Dawn of Martyrdom” in 1994 with the line-up, Archon Vorskaath, Eskarth The Dark One, Prince Korthnage. The same year Vorskaath and myself moved to Australia where we re-established the band. In 1996 we recorded the 7EP “Rite of Metamorphosis” with our new member Dracon (Destroyer 666, Razor of Occam). In 2001 Vorskaath and myself recorded our second album “The Weaving Fates” with of Jimmy Petkof (Raven Black Night) as guest vocalist. Due to other commitments the band remained dormant until 2009 which was when I re-incarnated Agatus in order to participate in Hell’s Pleasure where we shared the stage with Pentagram (US), ABSU, The Devil’s Blood and many other great bands. In 2010 I recorded songs for the 7”EP “Gilgamesh” which was released in 2012 by Those Opposed Records and marked the band’s return and new stylistic direction.   

What I can see, is two brothers with unique musicianship and each one has a band as his main vehicle. Yours is Agatus, and Vorskaath’s is Zemial. But each one completes the other one sometimes. How didn’t you come up with one band?

Thank you for your kind words. As a matter of fact we do have a couple of bands in which we both share all duties, these being Alpha Centauri and The Watcher.  We are both contributors musically, lyrically and arrangement wise. Besides, both Agatus and Zemial are evolving into something entirely different from each other and all that we did in the past.

“Gilgamesh” EP is your latest release (earlier this year) and I can see that your Heavy Metal influences are more obvious than ever. Which are these influences and what is the next step?

I am a huge fan of  70’s - 80’s Rock and Heavy Metal Music and I felt the urge to combine some of my influences in the music of Agatus. From the very beginning the music contained a lot of Heavy Metal elements, however in a lesser dose due the fact I was trying to keep the band sounding more in the Black Metal vein but with melodic elements. The fact was that my skills at the time didn’t allow for many elaborations, hahaha. That was so cool... Creativity was so intense due to the fact that I had to somehow compensate with mood and melodies for all those parts that I wanted to compose but simply couldn’t. 

Where do you live now? Are you back in Greece?

Yeah, I am back in Greece again after nearly two decades of living Down Under.

Recently, in November 24, we witnessed a live show of Agatus supporting Primordial. How did you felt playing in your homeland almost 20 years after Agatus’ birth?

It was an excellent moment for us. Very much anticipated and almost surreal. It felt like I owed this show to the Greek fans who have supported us throughout the years and continue to enjoy and support what we offer with Agatus or Zemial. Simply put, the audience was brilliant! We do have a great fan base in Greece and we sincerely look forward to our next live endeavour where we can offer even more to the fans.

What Agatus stands for? Which is the essence of the band?

Movement. Throughout the years I have attempted to create a unique sound which I feel I have achieved. I exercise freedom in expression however in a more conservative manner in order to remain within the context of the genre I represent. In other words I am happy to mix elements together in order to create the picture I have in mind. 

Back I the mid 90s when you released your debut album “Dawn Of Martyrdom” you were somehow under the sign of Rotting Christ, Necromantia and Varathron, the leading forces of Hellenic Black Metal. Also your album then, released from Hypervorea Records had a limited press. How easy or difficult were those years and what do you remember from composing, recording and releasing your first album?

Indeed all three aforementioned bands where certainly well established entities within the Greek scene and appeared as a source of influence or inspiration in one way or another for many Greek bands. Certainly it wasn’t an easy thing to get a record deal, especially from labels outside of Greece. When we did the recording of the demo I recall the owner of the studio (and Molon Lave Records), expecting that we hand over the recording to him in order to release it through his label. Most bands did that. 
As far as the composition is concerned, the whole thing was taking place in my bedroom at home whilst studio rehearsals with Vorskaath, Korthnage and myself were less than a handful prior to the actual recording of the album. I was in Australia on the date of the release and I remember receiving a box of 20 or 25 CDs. I was hoping for more. That was it; never did I see anything more from the label that profited from my work. 

In “The Weaving Fates” album, you started moving slowly into the depths of a more traditional Heavy Metal sound, keeping though all the Black Metal elements that characterize Agatus. Again, for that album, do you have any interesting stories to share with us?

I remember recording the album preproduction minus the drums in my own studio on an Tascam 8-track cassette recorder. We rehearsed at my brother’s place with drums a few times and then we entered Mixmasters Studio for the big moment. The daily budget was around $800 AUS per day so there was no time for fucking around. We either knew the stuff or we didn’t. Very little time for improvisation and working things out on the spot. The entire album was recorded in 3 days and spent 2 days mixing it. We spent the biggest part of the first day setting up the drums and getting a sound. “The Weaving Fates” is a mostly a live album since the drums and one of the guitars were recorded live within just 90 minutes (I have the entire session recorded on video). Most pieces were one take. I invited Jimmy Petkof (Raven Black Night) to do a vocal part in the song “Conqueror of Fear” which worked out really well and that marked the beginning of a longer lasting collaboration on various fronts. The album was recorded and mixed using AMEK and SSL consoles and Studer multitrack reel to reel machines. Nice memories.

Give us a few words for all the other bands you participate in. As far as I know, Raven Black Night are going to release their album through Metal Blade Records, right?

Yeah, that’s right. The new album “Barbarian Winter” is scheduled to be released through Metal Blade Records in early 2013. 
I am also involved with the band Alpha Centauri that is moving in the realms of epic metal. Götz Kühnemund - chief editor for Rock Hard magazine once told me that he felt that Alpha Centauri was Europe’s answer to Warlorld. Subsequently he voted it number 1 in his list of personal favourites in Rock Hard Germany sometime in 2007? That was quite an encouraging statement for our work that to-date remains unreleased and has only been circulated in demos and through MySpace.
I am also involved in The Watcher which is a progressive rock band with inspiration drawn by bands such as Eloy, King Crimson, Marillion, Tangerine Dream, Socrates Drank The Conium, Änglagård, Camel, Rush, Mike Oldfield, Hawkwind and many others. We have only done 3 live performances –all in Australia. 
Music, lyrics and all arrangements  in Alpha Centauri and The Watcher are handled both by Vorskaath and myself. I also compose my own material which is more like NWOBHM as well as acoustic contemporary material that does not belong to the metal genre. 

And back in 2012. The last words are yours.

Thank you for supporting Agatus and for the fine interview. A re-mastered gatefold LP version of “Dawn of Martyrdom” will be available early in December 2012. Those interested in reserving a copy can get in touch with me directly via Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agatus.thedark

Organisers wishing to book Agatus for selected shows are welcome to get in touch.

Many thanks,

The Dark