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Cult Of Luna


These are busy times for Johannes Persson, guitarist/composer of the band Cult Of Luna. A new record, an European tour of four weeks, an album with his other band Khoma and of course the obligatory chit chat marathons with the press. Lords Of Metal spoke with Johannes, just a few days before the tour with Fear Falls Burning started (Johannes: ”An amazing act from Belgium: it's just one guy and his guitar, doing a lot of ambient stuff”), which took place even before their fourth album 'Somewhere Along The Highway' was released (”That's due to the local promotors”). That doesn't mean this new album doesn't leave you behind with scorched ears, totally flabbergasted of the huge imaginative impact. If you thought that predecessor 'Slavation' was a chance hit, you didn't listen to their older albums and underestimate their creative minds they have these days. An interview with a band that doesn't think, but feels.

By: Evil Dr. Smith | Archive under different metal

This album came quicker than I expected. Your previous album is only eighteen months old. These days we have to wait at least two years when a band produces a new one. You're in a very creative period?
I guess so. There was also about eighteen months between 'Salvation' and our second album 'The Beyond'. This album was written very quickly. I think we wrote it in a couple of weeks and recorded in two weeks, and we used all the songs for the album. We wanted to capture a moment. 'The Beyond' was a studio album from start to finish. We had like unlimited studio time. Which is good, sometimes. But after 'The Beyond' we thought that we've done that and wanted to create a more live sound on the albums. 'Salvation' was just the beginning. On this new album we wanted to play as few takes as possible, just trying to capture a single moment and not record “the perfect sound”.

So the recordings were like a jam session for recording purposes?
Of course you have to have some quality: you can't play like shit. Some of my all time favourite albums are 'Life Love Regret' from Unbroke and a couple of Joy Division albums. On these are albums they were very sloppy playing. You can almost hear they play like shot sometimes, but it takes guts to leave the errors in it and it adds to “the moment”. All right, I wouldn't lie: we have some overdubs done on almost every song. But we recorded everything live with just two guitars, bass, drums and most vocals. Therefore, there are still a few minor errors on this album. But that's part of trying to capture “the moment”. Only when someone fucked up bad, then he got another chance. One song is completely recorded in just one take and that's 'And With Her Came The Birds'. We recorded it in the middle of the night. It was pitch black outside, we shut off all the lights inside the cottage where we recorded, and played it with pure emotion. It was quite a stimulating area where we recorded the album. It was in the fall, in the middle of the woods by a river. It has beautiful scenery. The cottage where we recorded gave that old feeling. It all has a certain 'Blair Witch' feeling with it. We used this cottage for the pre-production of 'Salvation', so that's why we knew this place. Some band members even lived in that cottage during the weeks of recordings.

The disadvantage of this way of recording could be that people might say that it's too much of the same. They might say that it's too close to the atmosphere, to the vibe of 'Salvation'. People that did not like 'Salvation', why should they like 'Somewhere Along The Highway'?
I have no idea. People that didn't like 'Salvation' will probably hate this one, hahaha! On every album we've taken one step further, I generally feel that. But on this album we've taken two steps. People could disagree and I would totally be cool with that, but for me it's that we've had no boundaries or whatsoever. On one side we even used a banjo on 'And With Her Came The Birds', which got a softer, folk-ish, country-feel to it. On the other side we also used programmed drums.

Programmed drums? Why? I've understood that drum miracle Thomas Hedlund joined in to play the drums on the album again. If there's one guy that doesn't need programmed drums…
Do you have any idea how many bands he's playing in? He's playing in so many bands right now (Khoma, The Perishers, etc.) I think he's the world's best drummer right, and I'm not kidding. About those programmed drums like for instance in the song 'Dark City, Dark Man': it's not that we programmed the basic drums, but the programmed drums should sound as programmed drums. It was our intention to create it like that. We had no boundaries, although not every idea worked out though. We've had to cut off a three-minute part from one song, because it didn't work out. I'm not gonna tell you which song, because it could destroy the feeling of the song in the way we thought it would if that part was still on it, but believe me: the song is just better without it.

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Besides an intro, the album starts with the song 'Finland'. Two days ago I saw a Finnish band (Moonsorrow)singing a Swedish drinking song and you are a Swedish band singing about Finland. What's wrong with your neighbours on your left side of the map?
Hehehe, there are two reasons why we named that song 'Finland'. First it's about something that happened to me when we played in Finland. And second because…

Hold it right there, you're way too quick. Something happened…?
Yeah, just something… Well, I haven't told it to any one. I only can tell you this: I got a phone call when I was in Finland, and that phone-call changed a lot in my life. The song is about that story. I'm sorry I can't tell you more, it's just too personal to reveal. I'm not willing to disguise.

I just think that it could even intensify the impact of the song when people know what was on your mind when you wrote the song.
When you dive in yourself, when you dive into the person who you really are at a very structural level, I've got a very large tattoo on my body to remind me of that situation. It was just one of those things that… [Johannes thinks for the right words] … It was a life-changing moment, yeah. So the lyrics are about that. And also the first riff that you here was written during our stay in Finland and since then it went under the name 'The Finland Riff'. We thought that both lyrics and music has something to do with Finland. We from the band all agree that it's the best song we've ever written.

Why is the song 'Thirtyfour' called 'Thirtyfour'? It's your lucky number?
I don't know, it just came out of a dream. I was at a beach I had the number 34 tattooed on my chest. No explanation, no analysing. Just the reason that it was mysteriously in my dream. It was a strange dream and that was reason enough. I have the most fucked-up dreams and I'm not trying to translate them. I translate these pictorial and visual atmospheres rather in a musical way. Yeah, I always remember what I dreamed of. Last night I dreamed of robbing a bank and got away with a lot of money. But I left my guitar tuner in the car, which we used to flee. Luckily I woke up before the police caught me…

I always thought that band has seven band members, but on your Internet site I even counted eight Cult Of Looneys.
Since exactly a month now. There are just a lot of great people that you wanted to incorporate in your sound. But it's also kinda sad that you have to aware that Thomas (Hedlund) plays in like ten thousand bands, so he just can't play live drums with us. Therefor out guitarist and sound technician Magnus Lindberg is playing the drums again when we're on the road.

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Another problem of touring might be the fact that lead singer Klas Rydberg is becoming a father.
Yeah, we'll be touring than with “just” the six of us. It'll be his first kid and his wife is expecting next month, so we never know what's happening, but we totally understand every step Klas will make regarding to Cult Of Luna. He's the only one in the band that's married and becoming a father. But we'll see what happens. It's quite hard sometimes to get all the Cult Of Luna members at the right place at the right time sometimes. We don't make a living with Cult Of Luna, everybody has other things to do as well. But it worked out good enough, so far now.

In our previous interview almost three years ago, during the release of 'The Beyond', I asked you about Swans, an 80s/90s American band that was mentioned a lot in various reviews as being an influence, and about Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner, two German classical composers, which symphonies has some similarities in intensity and vibe as Cult Of Luna. You had never listened to Swans and you didn't even knew Bruckner.
Hehehe, I still don't have a clue who those guys were! I've downloaded a couple of classical songs. I've tried Mozart, but that just doesn't work for me. I do enjoy certain pieces from Bach, but it's not really what I'm into. But my grandfather is into this stuff, so I should probably ask him more about these composers. According to the Swans: I do know them now. I even have two albums from them and yes, I can absolutely relate to the fact that people were mentioning this band when they hear our older albums. But these Swans were a strange band. A lot of their songs I just think it's rubbish. But a couple of songs are totally mind blowing and impressed me a lot. They're older stuff and the newer stuff sound totally different. That's how bands should work. They should evolve into something different, but they have to maintain their quality.

So what's next for Cult Of Luna then?
Phew! I have no idea. Only time can tell. But I can tell you this: the next album people probably gonna hate, hahaha!

What's your ambition with Cult Of Luna?
To create images that I myself as a kid found when I listened to other bands. There's more than just the music.

Anna Ledin did the artwork on 'Salvation'. Did she do the artwork on 'Somewhere Along The Highway' as well?
No, this time it was done by Eric Olofsson, our other guitarist. He's also our photographer and does also a lot of artwork for commercials and stuff. He tried to get the same feeling and atmosphere as the music on the album. I don't know why he chooses roses for the sleeve. We had a discussion about the artwork, and we agreed that we had some sort of “green” feeling of our music. It's hard to describe, but the way the rose is printed on the sleeve, it's like a stone rose and it captured that bleak, green feeling.

You just mentioned your grandfather. Did you grew up with music?
Yeah, my parents like contemporary rock music like Bruce Springsteen and Chris Rea and so, but they have also a big liking for Swedish folk music, and as a kid I really hated that. My father used to arrange folk festivals in our town (Umeå) every year, and one band, Garmarna, in particular got my attention, because they played their folk music so dark. They've got this album 'Vedergällningen' (Vengeance, retaliation), and it's so dark, bleak and gloomy. My parents never told me that I had to play an instrument or follow music lessons or so, but they always encouraged me when I wanted it myself. When I was a kid, I started out playing drums, but I sucked. And I still suck. Then I tried guitar, but my teacher told me I had to play tunes like 'Twinkle In The Star' and so, and that was way too boring. Then I got into punk rock music. That was so much easier to play. You just teach yourself three chords within a couple of hours and then you can play punk rock. From there I continue to evolve and start getting interest in music which I didn't have before. At that moment I started to like playing guitar, because I could actually play the songs myself that I was listening too. It's not that my parents are my biggest fans or so, but they're proud of what I'm doing. I think. At least they visit every show Cult Of Luna gives in our hometown. That's why we never play there, hahaha!

Cult Of Luna:
Klas Rydberg - Vocals
Erik Olofsson - Guitar
Thomas Hedlund - Drums
Magnus Lindberg - Percussion, guitar
Johannes Persson – Guitar, vocals
Fredrik Kihlberg – Guitar, percussion, vocals
Andreas Johansson - Bass
Anders Teglund - Sampler, synthezisers

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