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Astral Doors

You know exactly what you get with Astral Doors. When you have a liking for Dio and Black Sabbath, then you know that you will not buy a pig in a poke, but it is done in such a sublime manner with excellent compositions that we embraced this Swedish band since their debut album ‘Of The Son And The Father’ (2003). In the meantime Patrik Johansson and his trusty friends have finished their eighth record. ‘Black Eyed Children’ happens to be the successor of the in 2014 released ’Notes From The Shadows’ and it blows your speakers from start to finish. We decided to have another chat with vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson and eventually it turned into a very debonair conversation.

By: Vera | Archive under hardrock / aor

Last time we spoke was in 2014 for the album ‘Notes From The Shadows’. What happened with Astral Doors after this release? Did you tour enough?
No, we did not tour that much. We have been taking it pretty easy. We started to work on this new album almost right after ‘Notes From The Shadows’. So we have been taking it very easy on the touring front. We love to be in the studio, but we will go on tour in the Fall: October, November, December.

Will that tour also include the Netherlands and Belgium?
I hope so, absolutely. Of course. That is a must!

The fact that you did not tour so much, was it because you were busy with Civil War at that time?
Yes, of course. I had a lot to do with them as well.

Why did you leave actually?
The time was right. What can I say? I am tired of talking about it.

I’m sorry…
Well, I had been thinking of leaving for over a year or something, but I wanted to complete and finish the trilogy about the American civil war. And now that the trilogy is finished, I felt that the time was right, you know, I wanted to focus more time on Astral Doors and on my other band Lion’s Share. Lion’s Share hasn’t released an album since 2009 or so. We have a lot to do now, because we are working on new songs with Lion’s Share as well. So now I am free. If I want to, I can release a solo album when I want. I already have an offer and if I want to tour, I can play as many Civil War songs live as I want, because I wrote most of them. We will see. Perhaps one day…

That is also a kind of feeling that goes out from ‘Black Eyed Children’ I think. The way you sing on that album, it feels like a liberation or am I wrong?
Liberation? (thinks) More passion indeed. Absolutely. I am so proud of this album and what I do. An album will live forever, you know what I mean. That is why you have to do your absolutely best. You cannot release anything that you are not 100% pleased with. This time around, I think everything was perfect from the start. We put a lot of passion in the songs and most of the lyrics reflect on the world today. It is not a very nice world we are living in today and most of the album deals with that, lyric-wise, so the lyrics are very dark.

One of the songs that really moved me is ‘Tomorrow’s Dead’…
I cannot believe that I did it. It is one of my best vocal efforts ever. It is a great song as well, one of my favourites on the album. Epic. Beautiful colours.

And in ‘Suburban Song’ I almost had a feeling like it is a duet. Is there someone else singing?
It is all me. There is contrast between the chorus and the verses and that is how I like to work. I have the great fortune that I can use my voice in many, many ways. It is good to show up different sides of my voice as much as I can. There are no guests. We are a band, not a project. Ah wait… actually we have one guest! Joachim Nordlund, the guitar player, his little daughter is singing on the title track. It is like a children’s choir at the end of the song.

Ah and Johan Lindström is still drumming, because I remember he suffered from a severe injury when we spoke last time…
Yeah terrible! We had to cancel a tour, because he got stuck with his finger in some kind of machine. He lost a part of his finger, but now he is back on track.

Does it mean that you all have to work besides the band?
Yes, of course. You cannot live of music these days, unless you are out on the road, at least one hundred shows a year, because you don’t sell so much albums anymore. I have the great fortune that I work with music in my daytime job as well. I work with music therapy with people with dysfunctional… like Down syndrome and so. I have singing classes. They have a band. And I have a theatre group as well. I have the great fortune to actually live from music. I hear and play music every day. At work I sing at least four hours a day. It is a very good practice and it has been very useful for my heavy metal career as well. I am like a marathon runner, you know. I have to sing, otherwise I don’t feel good. And it is a good practice because I learn to take care of my voice.

I see you have recorded with some different people, because I remember that Jonas Kjellgren was in charge for the previous album…
This time around, Erik Mårtensson from Eclipse was mixing the album and he did a fantastic job I think. Johan and Joachim have another side project, it is called Sunstrike and they had Mårtensson as mixing guy for both their albums too. They thought that we should try Erik and I said: yeah, what the hell, let’s give it a try and he did a fantastic job. It is very powerful and he really did a great job making the vocals sound good I think.

The title track is inspired by something special, isn’t it?
I listen a lot to Podcasts and here in Sweden we have a Pod called ‘The Creepy Pod’ and it is ghost stories. So I heard this ghost story about the black eyed kids (laughs) and it was very spooky, very evil. I said to myself: damned, I have to write a song about this. Most of the album deals with the world of today, but the title track is a ghost story, it is fantasy of course. It is a modern day story. I looked up the subject ‘black eyed children’ and I think it started in the nineties on the internet. Someone said that he had seen a black eyed kid standing by the road, hitchhiking. Very creepy stuff. You should never stop then and take him in the car, it could be the last thing you did. (chuckles) But of course it is made up.

band image

And what struck you the most in the world of today, so that you have written a song about it?
The song ‘Walls’ for instance goes about the fact that, back in the days we tore down walls that kept us apart, but nowadays they are building walls again. Where are we going? I mean, the fact that Donald Trump won the American elections gave a lot of inspiration to write (laughs). You can write twenty albums about things he has done and probably will do. Erdogan, terrorists, etc. I was in London on vacation a while ago… I mean, you are looking over your shoulder all the time. It is absolute madness. It is just a matter of time before it will happen here in Sweden as well. (this interview was done on Monday, 3rd of April, four days later, on Friday a truck drove into people at main shopping street in Stockholm – Vera). Let us hope it will not happen, but it can happen anywhere.

I do not know so much about Swedish politics, but I know they are very open-minded. Do you think the government is doing the right things for the Swedish people?
(sighs very deep and long) Well… I think they are trying the best they can and I think if you or I should be living in Syria, we would try to escape as well. Of course you have to try to help them. But let us hope finally there will be peace in Syria some day.

Okay, let us go back to the music. ‘Lost Boy’ could be a very catchy single!
Yes, that is the most poppy, catchy song on the album. A video clip will come out for it, we already shot it. We did it with Owe Lingvall who also did ‘Tombstone’ of Civil War and ‘Hammer High’ of HammerFall. He’s been filming us and produced the video, so it will be released I think April the 10th. For ‘We Cry Out’ we also have a video that will come first. It is the first song of the album. It is a really kickass, very typical Astral Doors. My first title of that song actually was ‘The Apprentice’, because the song is about Donald Trump (chuckles). No, no, not about him, but inspired by him and the whole situation there in America. It was too obvious to call it ‘The Apprentice’ because you also have a docu-soap called this way, that’s why I changed it in ‘We Cry Out’.

Is ‘Die On Stage’ about the fact that all metal artists are getting old these days?
Yes, you can say that. Absolutely and also a bit about the band Astral Doors, because we probably will go on until we die on stage. It is just a kickass rock-‘n-roll song about our mission, our call.

Are you concerned about nature?
It means a lot to me. I live in the woods here. Forests as long as you can go. It continues forever. 80% of the surface of Sweden is woods. Nature is important, of course and I do my best to take care of it in the way that I can. Not that I am a kind of activist or so, I just do what I can do.

Is there something you want to share with us about the artwork?
Well, the artwork is just fantastic. It was our label boss Holger Koch, who came up with the idea to use this guy – what’s his name? – Felipe Mercado. He has been doing artwork for Blind Guardian. That guy is on top of the game. I think this is the best artwork we have ever had. The cover itself will make people want to buy the album! And that is probably the first time for Astral Doors. We have had pretty ugly covers over the years (laughs) but this one is finely very evil and superb.

Is there some news about other projects of you, as you mentioned before about Lion’s Share?
Yes, for Lion’s Share we have a lot of songs already and I think we are going to release something in May. It will be on no label, we will think in new ways, just to show the people and the fans that we still exist. We will just release a single and a lyric video and we will give it away for free for everyone to listen to. You have to start to think in new terms these days, because the record market is so fucked up and it does not sell a lot of albums anymore. So perhaps we have to do it in another way. Chris in Lion’s Share really thinks one step ahead, so it was his idea that we should do it that way. We have recorded the song already, at this moment he is mixing it. Then we will just make a video for it. I also want to do a couple of Dio tribute gigs in May. They have been asking it to me for years; now I have the time. The twelfth of May I will play a Dio tribute, here in my hometown actually. And the week after we are going up North, playing the Dio tribute show once again. We will see. Under my own name and friends. I will do Ronnie James Dio justice when I do my tribute. I have done Dio tribute before on Sweden Rock cruise when he died. We have to carry on his legacy. It was me and Lion’s Share. We hosted the tribute show. We had a lot of guest artists as well, like Messiah from Candlemass and Mats Levén and Jens Johansson from Stratovarius, even the singer from Amon Amarth, Johan Hegg. It is a great memory!

Wow, exceptional things with surprises! And Jorn Lande? He is also very much into such things I guess, or is he more of a concurrent for you?
No… I don’t think so. He is doing his thing. We are pretty much of the same school of course. He is a fantastic singer and I wish him all the best, but I think he made a mistake by recording an album with only Dio songs. That was not a good idea. No one can do them better than Dio, so recording an album, that is just pointless.

Can you resume the plans for playing live with Astral Doors?
We will let the fans take this album in their hearts and learn the songs and then we will go on tour from September on. We are also thinking about new ways of touring. For instance playing Friday, Saturday and Sunday and go home for a couple of weeks. Then playing from Thursday to Sunday again and so on, because that’s when people go out. I think it will bring us more people, more money and we can easier travel light. That’s my idea how to do this. That’s why I talked about four months touring, because we are going to do it in small mini tours.

Okay, that’s it for this time I guess. Thank you Patrik, if you want to occlude with something, please go ahead…
The only thing I can say is that I hope that people will like our new album, I am sure they will. I hope that people who never listened to Astral Doors will give us a chance, because it is worth it, because if you are a fan of Dio and Black Sabbath, then Astral Doors is your band! Pretty much the only alternative these days.

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