Hails and congratulations with your new album 'Where Eagles Fly'! But before we get more into the album, let's take a ride back to 1982; the year Dark Illusion was born. Unfortunately the band didn't last for many years at that time. So, could you tell us more about the “rise and fall” of Dark Illusion in the eighties?
Tomas Hultqvist: Thanks a lot! For many years the name Dark Illusion was mainly known only to those who happened to be present at any of our live shows in our home town Stockholm back in the 80's. I joined the band in '83. Although acting on a smaller scale we still took things very seriously, and inspired by Kiss and bands like that we gladly used pyrotechnics and pretty advanced lightings to spice up our performances. All in good fun. We also recorded a few demo's. However, in retrospect, we shouldn't have quit. We gave up far too easily. But the inspiration had run dry. The quality of the songwriting was dropping. At some point things had turned pretty much into an uphill struggle and we had absolutely no idea how to move forward and take the band to the next level. So we quit. That was in '85. Then a good number of years passed and the world had forgotten us. But deep inside I always knew we had something of value and the thought would never leave my mind of organizing a second coming.
About two decades later you decided to get the band back together! What made you decide to resurrect the band after such a long time?
Tomas Hultqvist: It started out as a “project”. Me and my old companion and ex-Dark Illusion rhythm guitarist Niklas Tengblad took contact with producer Chris Laney of whom we heard of from a mutual friend. This was in 2003. Basically Niklas and I was keen on cutting some songs in a professional studio. Something we hadn't done in a long time. We figured if we made the songs sounding really commercial, we would likely gain a decent amount of airplay from them. Chris then introduced us to Thomas Vikström for the singing. It worked very smoothly. Thomas came in, sung his parts and that was it. Although by then he thought we were only cutting demo's. He later found out that we were going to release the first recordings as an EP. That was actually a surprise for him.
You are the only original member left in the band. Back in 2003 also Niklas took part in the rebirth. Where the other original members not interested?
Tomas Hultqvist: I still play. Niklas only plays acoustic guitar nowadays and is mainly involved in the band as a co-producer and a manager. The other three original players have had a cover band for years, playing quite frequently on all kinds of venues; clubs and parties etc. I really lost contact with them after we stopped playing together. I only kept close contact with Niklas. Neither him or myself was ever involved in their cover band. Anyway, the original bass player Ola Jansson, played bass on some songs on the 'Beyond The Shadows' album. And when we recorded the video for the song 'Night Knight' (Beyond The Shadows) the old time drummer Björn Kihlblom appeared with us. So occasionally the old guys have reappeared and I think their participation may increase. The future will tell. I think the band will undergo a major change in the near future.
Your debut album 'Beyond The Shadows' was released in 2005. What took the band so long to release a new album?
Tomas Hultqvist: The band was really dead and gone. In all fairness it was to a large extent luck and coincidence behind that this album was released at all. If me and Niklas had not felt the same way at the same time it would never had happened. I couldn't have done it myself. The players we brought in were in all fairness “session musicians”. Our aim was to be efficient in the studios to keep the costs down and at the same time get high quality performances. Why did it take so long? I really don't have a good answer for that. It should have been done earlier. No doubt about that. Maybe we weren't matured enough at an earlier stage (although we're not young any longer).
Well, eventually everything turned out good and a few months ago the second album 'Where The Eagles Fly' became a fact as well and as far as I could see the reactions are great so far. But things haven't started rolling very fast yet, have they?
Tomas Hultqvist: No, not really. You only get what you play for. And we haven't played a great deal lately. We've just put an album out. That in it self may be a major achievement, but it'll never be enough and we're aware of that. To grow bigger we must play live, maybe do some touring. At this point we don't play live at all. But that I think is going to change in the near future. It has to change if the band is going to survive and take things beyond base one so to speak.
Thomas Vikström: No, thats true. Exept that we put out two in my opinion good albums. We have not yet being offered to play live and also I will go on tour with my band Therion this year worldwide so its also unfortunately little time.
Although, the album was released in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and those are important territories for heavy metal in general. Do you think once the album hits on in Germany, things will start to accelerate for an underground band like Dark Illusion a bit more?
Tomas Hultqvist: We´ll always have high hopes for Germany. But as many may know, the competition is fierce and people buy fewer and fewer records. Downloading is the big thing at the moment. And those who do purchase records are more likely to walk out of a store with an Iron Maiden or a Helloween record in their shopping bag than a Dark Illusion cd. That's the reality. But there's no reason to be “disillusioned”. You just have to take things from where you're at and work hard while you still have the ability and the desire. If you've proven yourself worthy, good things will come to you. That's my belief.
I never paid a high value to originality of a band/song, because a good tune is a good tune and although 'Where The Eagles Fly' is nothing renewing or original, it's a great power metal album. But in what way do you think Dark Illusion distinguishes itself from the rest of the bands in the scene? If that is your intention of course…
Thomas Vikström: I could not agree more!! When grunge came it was new but it was mostly crap. When for example KISS released their new album 'Sonic Boom' this year it was absolutely nothing new but so so good!! We have our style and its classic metal and that style is not new. Its been around forever. When I write songs or sing or make albums this thing never really cross my mind. I think its up to the listeners to find "new" things on the albums and if they dont and just think "Holy shit this is good" Its fine by me!!
Tomas Hultqvist: I still think we have a sound that's our own and also a voice that's entirely our own. We want to prove that to the rest of the world too, that we belong in the scene.
Another point I think remarkable and interesting about Dark Illusion is the fact that you chose for melodic heavy/power metal again, while this genre is kind of going back to the underground, while – for example – thrash is making a come-back. To me this shows that you really love this type of music and that's a good thing. What does power metal mean to you personally and what makes it special?
Tomas Hultqvist: I don't mind if we're labeled power metal. If you call us simply “heavy metal”, it's fine too. But there's also “heavy rock” elements in our music. But we're definitely more “metal” than “rock”! And in the future we'll be even more “metal” I can confirm to you. The “rock” element in our sound is becoming lesser and lesser each time. As far as Thrash goes, I love listening to Thrash from time to time, but I would never consider playing it myself. It don't even know HOW to do it, there's a limitation right there. But you really got to feel for the genre or you will never pull it off. My place is in Metal and I want to keep it that way.
Something different then; you've been in the metal scene for almost three decades now! Needless to say that a lot has changed since then. But when you compare the scene now to the eighties, what are the greatest differences in your opinion? Except for the amount of bands and more technical abilities, haha…
Thomas Vikström: When I released my first album with my first band Talk Of The Town it came out on LP, vinyl and MC (MUSIC CASSETTE). It was a new thing called CD player that you only have heard of. And I thought it was so cool that our record company wanted to release a small amount of CD records out of our album.I NEVER could imagine that CD would take over from the vinyl. Almost nobody expected that (same with DVD).I was deadly wrong! Back then you released singles and it was also very important also for rock and metal bands. And they were selling good! There was no other way to get music. You simply had to wait until it was out in the store. I remember the feeling the day before a new album would come out in store. I could hardly not sleep! And I also remember the disappointment when you came to the store and they said " NO Im sorry but it is delayed with one week or so...". But when you finally had it it was like heaven. You sat in your room and listened until you knew all the lyrics so you would be able to sing along when the band would come to Stockholm and play live.
Today its another world. Downloading has deluded the value of new music and a new product. I don't have a solution for this problem. But I think that musicians and record companies must start to think about HOW can we sell this product that EVERYBODY could get for free? Okay, its illegal but in most countries the governments don't care about this and neither do people. You can not defend it with “Oh, it's a better sound on the original CD”. Most people don't care for a second. I think that you must offer something to people along with the product that are not digital. Don't ask me what, but something. For me personally this is not such a big problem because I am blessed and very fortuned that I still can make a living from this. But for new bands that are trying to make it today it must be a hell of a struggle. It is unfortunately a question about luck if you will make it or not today. Good songs and good guitarplaying is not enough anymore. God, I sound very negative but I m really not. I love rock and heavy metal and its a genre of music that will never die. Its ageless, it's pure, and produced by music lovers. And I will not stop with this until they have to wheel me out onstage. That's a promise!
And how about when you look at yourselves as musicians and the vision and enthusiasm that drove you to make music; what is different now than when you started the band back in the eighties?
Tomas Hultqvist: I'm more experienced and know how to get things done. The enthusiasm, luckily, is still there, but maybe a little different. I don't waste my time on crap, there is simply no time for it, and I try to avoid spilling my energy on musicians that doesn't share the same visions and goals. It's all about growing up. For sure I could have gotten to this point earlier but better late than never.
Again something else; Sweden has always been a great soil for metal bands! From all genres! What is about Sweden that makes its people start a metal band? Hehe!
Tomas Hultqvist: Who knows? Boredom perhaps? A lot of people live on isolated parts of the country, and a lot of times there's little else to do. We also have the “Abba-tradition” with strong melodies. The rock band Europe followed right in their footsteps.
And finally, what are you guys planning on right now? I mean, now that the album has been out for a while, this might be a perfect opportunity to take the band on the road to promote the CD? (I know it's not as easy as it sounds though…)
Tomas Hultqvist: You're damn right it's not easy! We're definitely not ready to throw in the towel yet. As mentioned earlier, things are about to change within Dark Illusion. The changes will probably soon be visible to you all.
Alright Tomas, I guess we can wrap it up for now! Of course if there is anything else you'd like to mention, please don't hesitate…
Tomas Hultqvist: I just wish to send a big Thank You! To all of you rockers in Holland who have bought our new album 'Where The Eagles Fly'. Holland is one of the most important countries for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. And We Salute You! Cheers!