Hi Ken, if I’m not mistaken you were the one that started up this band, so when did this happen and what was the intention that you had for this new outfit?
At first it was meant to be a solo-project as I had the idea to create something where everything would work according my terms and with which I wouldn’t encounter any conflicts with other people. But of course I needed somebody to sing on this solo-project and therefore I had an audition with a bunch of different singers. The very last person that came to audition was Linda (Toni Grahn) and the fun part was that everyone was really good at singing, but the other auditions took about three hours while Linda’s only took about fifteen minutes as I was completely convinced that she would be the right person to sing on my album. We wrote some music together and we realized that it was so good that we decided to take things further and create Follow The Cipher as a band.
When and how were the other band members recruited?
We have had a few other guys in the band before the current line-up was established, but with Jonas, Karl and Viktor, although we come from completely different parts in Sweden, there was an immediately click both musically as well as personally. Jonas and I have been friends for a number of years and he’s responsible for bringing Karl into the band. Viktor lives a few miles away from me and he was in another band that was actually recording in my studio. As a result of that we became friends and I realized that he was a super song writer and guitar player, so that was the reason for Linda and me to ask him in the band. We called him late at night and sent him some material. An hour later he called back and he had already written a complete song which totally blew us away. From that moment on he was in the band!
With Linda Toni Grahn you have a female singer in the band. Was it the intention from the start to have a female singer or was she just the best candidate around?
It was definitely not the intention as we just wanted to select the best singer from the candidates that were auditioning. Coincidentally we had just one male singer auditioning, the rest of the candidates were female and from all of them Linda was clearly the best one for me. We don’t want to use a female singer as a gimmick, that’s not our cup of tea! We just want to create the best music possible.
Did you record any demos or promos before this debut full-length album to gain the interest of record companies?
We didn’t send anything to anybody, we just did some recording for ourselves. Both Jonas and I have strong connections to Sabaton and I believe it was Pär (the bass player of Sabaton) that introduced us to Nuclear Blast at some point. We played at Sabaton Open Air here in Sweden last year and Markus from Nuclear Blast was there as well. So after the show we had a meeting with him and that’s how the contact with them was established.
It must have been a dream come true to be signed to such an established label, right?
We couldn’t believe that it was true as it seemed so unreal. Why would a label like Nuclear Blast want to sign a band like us as we have just started? We were very overwhelmed and still are with their interest in the band and the support that they give us at the moment. We’re very thankful for the trust that they have in us. On the other hand it also puts a bit of pressure on you as you really want to live up to the label’s expectations and do our best for the label.
So let’s move on to the debut album ‘Follow The Cipher’ now. When did you start with the actual preparations for this new album and what was the game plan that you had when you went into the studio?
I didn’t really have a plan for the sound at that point, because when Linda and I met the second time after her audition we wrote the song ‘Winterfall’ together. That song is a bit different to the rest of the material on the album, as it was already written in 2014, while the last song written for the album ‘Play With Fire’ was done by Viktor much later. We didn’t really have a plan, but one thing led to another. During the whole process we twisted our music style a little bit, but now we have found our own identity. We believe that it’s okay to use lots of different influences and styles in one album, because that only add to the variety. We will try to be just as open-minded on the next album as well.
Your music is very varied and contains elements from different musical styles. Is that something that comes natural to you or are you deliberately looking for this variety aspect?
I think a little bit of both, as I like to write music that satisfies me independent of the style it is in. I don’t try to be narrow-minded and stick to one style as that just wouldn’t work for me. Depending on your mood you tend to write in a certain style and for me there are no limitations in that. As a band we’re also not afraid to try different styles of music as long as it in line with was satisfies us.
So what are then the typical elements that need to be present in a great Follow The Cipher song before you decide to release it on an album?
I would never release a song where I didn’t believe in the chorus. I really like the climax of a good chorus and it’s a very important ingredient for my song writing.
Was was the album recorded in your own studio and who was responsible for the production?
We have recorded the album in several parts in Sweden and the album production was mostly done by Alexander Backlund, who’s the vocalist of Letters From The Colony. I have produced ‘Winterfall’ and also Buster Douglas Odehalm, the guitar player of Humanity’s Last Breath, has produced a couple of songs. Alexander was supposed to do the complete album, but at the last minute his computer crashed and we had to redo everything. Since we were close to the deadline we needed to have a backup plan and that’s why I contacted Buster to help us out with two songs. ‘Winterfall’ already dates from 2014 and since we were not able to get the same feeling with the new recording, we kept the original production which I had taken care of back then. Although we use three different producers, we all have the same style in producing and therefore you can’t really notice that on the album.
A first lyric video was created for the song ‘The Rising’ about a year ago. Why this particular song and why a lyric video?
The song ‘The Rising’ was sent separately for mixing, so that was the only new song that we had at that time. We still didn’t have a label back then and we wanted to get the music out, so we decided to create a lyric video for this song so that people could get acquainted with us via YouTube. After that the other songs came about, but at that time ‘The Rising’ was the only new song available.
Now there are also videos released for ‘Valkyria’ and the Sabaton song ‘Carolus Rex’. Same question here?
‘Valkyria’ is a song that Viktor and I have written together and therefore we had the opportunity to put elements from us both into that song. ‘Valkyria’ is also a bit of a sister song to ‘The Rising’ and it represents the sound that we wanted to go for very much, which made it a given choice for the video. For ‘Carolus Rex’ we had some discussion with Markus from Nuclear Blast as he suggested to do this song as I have been one of the writers of this track. Furthermore he thought it was a real cool addition to the album and that’s why we decided to create a video for this one as well.
What do you think about the importance of videos nowadays as besides YouTube there aren’t too many possibilities for broadcasting anymore?
I myself love watching Youtube videos to get an image of what a band is all about. Videos tend to enhance the song quite much which is also in the best interest of the band. Therefore I think that videos are still a very important medium and we will definitely continue creating videos in the future.
I know it’s always a difficult question, but if you had to pick one song from the new album that would represent Follow The Cipher best at this moment, which one would that be and why?
I would say that ‘Valkyria’ is the song that represents Follow The Cipher best, because it brings Viktor’s song writing world and mine together as we wrote that song together. Furthermore Linda’s vocal delivery has a lot of punch in the verses and the song has the synth melodies that we enjoy very much.
Did you record more material than the ten own songs that are to be found on this new album? If so, which ones and what is going to happen with them?
We actually took every single song that we had finished and put it on the album, so no other material is available.
What are typical subjects that you like to write about in your lyrics and where do you get your inspiration from?
We have decided to go for a little sci-fi touch and we write about the future of mankind and what mankind is doing to itself with all the wars and the damaging of the environment. Although these things are already hot topics right now, we chose to write about it in a more futuristic way.
The cover artwork has also quite a sci-fi look, but who was responsible for the artwork and what was the assignment that you gave to him for the creation of the cover?
It was actually Chris Rörland, the guitar player from Sabaton, who created the cover. I did put a draft together which was sent to him and he perfected my original idea in a great way I might say.
The album will be released on May 11th, but what are you own personal expectation from this album? When will it be a success for you?
I try not to have an expectation because I can honestly say it is quite scary. If it’s going to hell, it does and if it’s going to be real successful we’re going to be super happy. I don’t want to be in the position where I can be disappointed and therefore I haven’t set any expectation for myself.
What are your plans after the release of the album? Do you already have any concrete shows or tours booked for 2018?
At this point we have already started to write some material for the new album, so that’s in the process right now. Next to that we have two shows booked in the summer, one at Metal Fest Open Air and the other one at Graspop Metal Meeting. We have got a few opportunities besides these two shows, but those were not the right ones for us and therefore we didn’t go for those. Our hope is to be able to do a tour in the autumn of this year, but we’ll just have to wait and see if that will materialize.
The band has just started, but what are your goals on a more long-term perspective? What are the dreams that you want to accomplish with Follow The Cipher?
This is our dream coming true, being signed by Nuclear Blast and doing the things we’re doing right now. At this point it’s too early to create new dreams, but of course we want to take this as far as we can. If people enjoy our music and we get the opportunity to play live and take this to a higher level, we will definitely go for it.
Okay Ken, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
I think we covered quite a lot of important topics, thanks for the interest in the band and I hope that your reader will like our album!