Tom S. Englund—Vocals & Guitar
The evolution of Sweden’s Evergrey, the progressive metal brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Tom S. Englund, has been constant. Besides frequent line up changes, the band’s sound has become more focused and cohesive with each CD from 1998’s Dark Discovery to the just-released The Inner Circle, a concept album about life inside a religious cult from all perspectives, which is easily the band’s strongest and most listenable release to date. The current lineup has been intact for two tours and the recording of The Inner Circle. I had the chance to talk to Henrick Danhage at length about the current CD and tour, cults, and Heavenly Ham.
Kaffeine Buzz: My first exposure to you guys was last year with Arch Enemy at the Gothic Theater…it was great. How does this tour differ with the different styles of bands you’re touring with?
Henrick Danhage: As far as Arch Enemy, now we can tour with anybody in the States [comparing Arch Enemy’s classic death sound with their more melodic leanings]. That was a very good show for us and convinced people, because we were like on the outside on that tour. Probably a lot of kids thought we were some fucking gay band with that keyboard sound [Laughs]. We convinced them that it was not the case.
KB: Was that your first U.S. tour?
HD: Yeah, I mean we’ve been over in the States like five times before doing the Prog Powers fest [and other metal festivals]. That was our first tour in the States. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys in Denver. You have a Walmart down there?
KB: A Walmart?
HD: Yeah, and next to that do you have a sandwich shop, the name is Heavenly Ham? That was probably the best sandwich I had in my whole life! [Laughs] That’s what we’ve been talking about when we go into Colorado; we’ll go to Heavenly Ham. It’s fucking crazy! We want to be endorsed by Heavenly Ham [Laughs].
KB: That’s hilarious! When you guys go back to Europe are you going to be doing summer festivals?
HD: Yeah, we’re doing a couple of festivals in Europe. We need to cover Sweden and of course, other European countries as well. Hopefully, we’re going to do a tour in the end of the year in Europe. Right now, the focus is on North America because the bus is here now. I can understand that the fans in Europe want to see us as well, but we have mouths to feed at home.
KB: How are you guys entertaining yourselves on the bus?
HD: Alcohol, weed, women, you know—all the standard American stuff [Laughs]. I mean, we share a bus with Children of Bodom. They’re from Finland. We’re crazy Scandinavians. I feel bad for the bus driver ‘cause that’s not a fun gig. You got 12 drunken people on the bus everyday [Laughs]. It’s been good. Iced Earth treats us really good. There’s a lot of stories [about Iced Earth’s egos and being difficult to tour with], but we went into this with a kind of blank eyes. We took it from zero, so we don’t care because it has nothing to do with us.
KB: I’m a big fan of the new album, The Inner Circle. My whole life I’ve had this fascination with religious cults and they’ve always kind of freaked me out.
HD: Yeah, it always makes me as well. A kind of scary thing in November in Sweden, there was this huge thing going in the air because a little town had a cult that nobody knew about, like 30 people. And the over priest, whatever you call them, they found out that he killed his wife and killed three of his previous wives as well. It was kind of scary because at that time, we were already done with the lyrics and stuff and so that was kind of creepy, especially here in Sweden.
KB: Well all the black metal things in the early ‘90s, it always comes out as a shock because it seems like a clean cut…
HD: Yeah, well that is bullshit. Fucking punk kids burning down churches…I can understand if you dissed religion and stuff because I do that a lot, but when it comes down to doing physical things then I don’t like that at all.
KB: Absolutely. So were you guys working on this album during the last tour in the United States? It seems like it came out pretty quickly.
HD: Either we had to wait around for a tour to happen or we just start to record the new album. And we had just invested all of our money in a big studio.
KB: You built your own studio, right?
HD: Yeah, Division One Studios. Inner Circle’s the first CD that was totally recorded and mixed at Division One.
KB: You guys took control on this one doing all the production, the engineering, and the mixing on this album.
HD: It was like the whole musical family was there the whole time. Being able to spend six months on a CD when you’re a band like Evergrey at this level, it’s impossible. We could never have the money to go into a regular studio for six months, even though this was a ridiculous amount of money.
KB: Are you able to do Evergrey full time or do you guys have day jobs back home?
HD: One of us is still working, but it’s his choice.
KB: Just something to do, or…
HD: Because he needs more money [Laughs]. He buys his Harley Davidson and…
KB: Expensive habits?
HD: Yes, and an expensive wife now as well [Laughs]. But I mean the other four of us are living on this. It’s not great money, but…
KB: Right, but it’s enough to do what you want to do.
HD: Yeah, exactly. I’m happy that I can put food on the table.
KB: Are there any plans to do a more theatrical type of performance for this album?
HD: In order to that, we need money. There’s two different worlds—recording a CD and then playing it live. I can put down eight different guitar tracks if that’s what the song calls for. Playing live is a different thing. I mean the audience and the listeners are not stupid. They will still appreciate us when they see us live because it’s gonna to be a different thing. You’re still going to be able to bring a lot of big production things on stage if you want to do that.
KB: Very true. I really like the cover for this album, too. It seems like all the covers have a very human element to them, like a hand or a child’s face. Are you guys trying to come up with a more emotional power metal band instead of having a science fiction backdrop?
HD: I don’t compare us as a power metal or a progressive metal band. I want to make a point about that—I think we’re really different from all those bands. I’m not badmouthing any other bands, ‘cause I believe what they play is what they want to do. But I don’t want to get caught up in that prog metal shit, because we’re not a prog metal band. I could call us a progressive metal band as far as I would say that Opeth or Meshuggah is a progressive metal band. But many bands equal standing up and jerking scales. In my book that has nothing to do with music. They’re just fucking geeks. But I’m not dissing any bands ‘cause they can do whatever they want.
KB: The band has had frequent lineup changes through its short history; do you think this will hold together?
HD: I hope so, today, but it could turn out that somebody’s a fucking asshole or somebody can get tired of this.
KB: Stuck on a bus with somebody for two or three weeks at a time…
HD: And now we’re touring for six weeks now, and you see a lot of other sides of people. Of course, this would be a great lineup, because I really feel all of the lineup changes during my time in Evergrey have only upgraded the band.
KB: Are you recording any shows on this tour for a possible live DVD?
HD: There are some plans…
KB: You’re not taping any performances at the Heavenly Ham in Denver?
HD: We can do an acoustic gig at Heavenly Ham [Laughs].
Evergrey plays with Iced Earth and Children of Bodom at the Ogden Theatre on Wednesday, May 12th. The doors open at 7:00 p.m., and the show starts at 8:00 p.m. This is an all ages show. For ticket information, visit www.nipp.com.