Despite the limited time of the interview, our conversation starts with a debonair interchange of the weather. It was twenty three degrees in Sweden – he lives in the south of Sweden near Gothenburg - while a week ago there was snow falling. But in April the weather can change from day to day, so he expected some cold for the next days. Okay, enough weather forecast, let's focus on Lake Of Tears and their new stunning record 'Moons And Mushrooms'. I told him about our previous interview three years ago and he immediately answers with a philosophical touch: “In some ways a lot of things happened, but in other ways three years is not that much.”
What happened after the release of 'Black Brick Road'?
Well, what can I say? We did the 'Black Brick Road' record like a kind of fresh start, while the guy from Noise Records pushed us to play again. He was the force behind it and asked us to do another record. We got together and tried it out and I think it was really nice to do. Now we realized again that it was nice to play together, to make music together. Of course the situation has changed a little bit, since we now have a lot of other things to do in our lives and we all live in different cities now, so we cannot do it as we did it in the old days. But it still feels very good when we get together. We are all friends for a very long time, the kind of friends you can talk to about anything; you can be who you are. That is a really good thing. Now we realize that a big part of us was missing in the years we did not play. Right now, the mood is quite good in the band.
And you even welcomed stand-in guitar player Magnus Sahlgren as a permanent member…
It was a two ways thing. The three of us have been in the band for a very long time and grown together as a good team and to take someone else in the band is quite difficult from both sides. But Magnus, he's with us since 1997 when he played on the 'Crimson Cosmos' record. But we never had this kind of discussions of having him in the band. But after 'Black Brick Road' we decided to have some live shows and we did not have a guitar player to do live shows. So we asked him and he wanted to try it out. He fitted well into the group of persons and it was not a big step to take now.
The album is recorded in the same studio as the previous one (Studiomega with Christian Silver), so I guess it was a positive experience?
Yeah, producing records was never our kind of thing. We are musicians, not the mathematical guys who are busy with the production stuff. But we were really happy with the outcome of the last record, so we decided to do it in the same studio with the same producer again. But now we added some parts we did in our own studio in our rehearsal room. It was quite a few years ago since I bought the stuff for my computer at home. A recording program and you can try with all those plug ins, different kind of instruments, and after a while you have like a hundred different synthesizers and stuff like this, but then one day you realize that I am not doing anything with it. I am just having it. I guess it can be both good and bad. Sometimes making music can be more fun when you don't have any equipment, then you try to get the sound from whatever.
There are two versions of the album. On the limited edition one can find a cover of Status Quo 'Is There A Better Way'. Why did you decide to cover exactly this song?
There is not so much behind it really. We thought about doing a cover once and we came pretty fast to discover, no discussions about finding the ultimate cover. Our drummer had been in a record store one day where they sell old records, very cheap LP's, and he put this one on and it was a really great song with some good energy in it and we could not imagine that Status Quo, these old guys playing boogie rock, were doing a song like this. We thought “Why not try it out?” and we recorded it and released it.
Do you play it live as well?
We haven't played any new songs live yet, but we will see. It is a pretty fast song, I don't know. We will see.
You started in the mid nineties as a band with influences from Paradise Lost and Metallica, but through the years you have developed your personal style…
In the early days rock and metal was our inspiration and especially death metal when we started out. But after a while, I think it was 1992, we heard Paradise Lost and Tiamat and bands like that. And this was for all of us actually, I think, more interesting than ordinary death metal. And so I guess we wanted to play this kind of music more. When you start out as a band you have to have some kind of guidelines, otherwise you don't know what you want to do. This is a base for us in our music, you can add a little bit of this and that, there has to be progression. It is fine that you recognize a band, but at the same time I want something new in it. Because otherwise, if I buy one record and a band plays ten records exactly the same way, why should I buy all ten of them? Even if the music is technically the same, it can carry different emotions, or vice versa. There can be something in it that is similar, but something that is also different. We don't think about it so much, we just do it. We do not decide whether a song has to be more rock or more psychedelic, but we talk about it of course. After three slow songs it is time for more death metal approach (laughs). The thing is, whenever we say “now we are going to do a rock song”, it can turn out totally different. It can become the slowest song, so we stopped bothering about those things.
There are two songs I would like to know more about lyrically. The first one is 'Last Purple Sky'…
I have done quite a lot of lyrics; right now it is our seventh record. And I always want it to be interesting for me as well, to write lyrics. I try not to write stories so much anymore. I have done that a couple of times in the past, as I have always been quite a fantasy-fan, you know. But for this record I wanted to have it more abstract. Lyrics, words and phrases, more like textures. Maybe how I can imagine that a painter uses colours. You can paint a painting with just colours; a little bit black here, blue there, purple there again, then you put the painting out and everybody who comes looking at the painting – if it is quite abstract – gets a different emotion from it. That's what I tried to do this time. Reflect on situations in their lives and get their emotions.
One of my favourite songs is 'Planet Of The Penguins'. Seems like a funny title…
Actually this title was inspired by our trip to Ukraine last year and we were eating in a place called The Potato House. And it was on the menu, a dish called “planet of the penguins”. It really got stuck in my head, a great title for a song. It is really abstract. There is no concrete connection between the title and the song. The title paints you a picture, but the rest is for personal interpretation.
I guess that's the best way to enjoy music…
I think for me it is the same when I listen to other records. I may not listen to all of the lyrics in a song, because my mind somehow disconnects some phrases. You can still make up a song, some phrases in the first verse, some phrases in the chorus, some phrases in the second verse and these phrases together become this song for you.
Why is the album released on Dockyard1, while the person that inspired you to start again works at Noise? Why not on Noise again?
Because that is also quite naturally, because the person from Noise that inspired us to do this, they are the same persons that work at Dockyard1. There are actually no bad feelings between us and Noise Records. I mean, we were on Black Mark and we were not totally satisfied with this cooperation. At the same time I cannot say if other record companies would have been better, since we have always been on Black Mark. But then all of a sudden when we got in contact with those Noise guys, we felt that they were the kind of people you should work with in the music. I don't know how to put it, but it feels good to talk with them, they understand us and we can talk openly about things and they decided to quit their old company. It was not such a hard decision to come with them actually.
Did you tour more since 'Black Brick Road' than before?
(hesitates) Yeah, it was 1999 when we decided to put the band on ice. (wonders) It was already back in 1999. The last tour we did was in 1997 with Therion. Well, well it is ten years ago (grins). Then we had a little break for a while and did the 'Forever Autumn' album in 1999, but that is when all these problems started to happen. We were really unsatisfied with the record company and all this music was more becoming shit than happiness. It was taking all our energy. We had some really good tour offerings back then, with some really good bands. Longer tours. Back then when we had the time to do these kinds of things, the record company said: “No, no, there's no money for touring”. It just ate us up and we decided: “We cannot do this anymore, we have to do other things in life to get by in life”. Of course when we did the 'Black Brick Road' record in 2004, it was seven years ago since we played live, and it felt funny to do it again. That's also a little bit why it took almost three years from the last record till this one: because nowadays we got lots of other things to do in our lives, we cannot put so much time as we may want to into the music. But we try to use this time to play live shows, instead of focusing too much on writing new songs.
In September you go to Romania, I guess?
Yeah, in September we will go to Bucharest again. We were there once before last year.
Can we hope you will visit the Netherlands or Belgium or tour Europe?
We will see, I guess there probably will be something, but I don't know how long it will be. Probably not too long, one or two shorter tours. We have been playing pretty much in the eastern part of Europe after the last record.
A new market?
(grins) Yeah a new market and I think we got really good response there. But I think we have to try the western parts of Europe also with this one. In the eastern part of Europe it is not the same. Here in the west we got rock and metal music for a long time. It has become quite controlled by the media. You listen to what you hear. But in the eastern parts the media has been more or less forbidden for many years. But the music there is spread in totally different ways. It is not that most selling record or a certain magazine or certain radio station is playing that counts, because they did not have that kind of stuff. The underground of course had that stuff, but not so much as over here. When we went there we felt that these people had really been seeking out our music and they are really into it. Not because somebody told them that they should listen to it, but because they wanted it themselves.
Maybe through Internet?
Oh yeah. Internet has done a lot. We are not like the biggest band in the world, but I can see now, if I do a google search on our record, there are like thirty thousand hits where half of them you can download the promo record. It is good for the band if people hear it and they like it, but of course it is good for the economical side and for the record company that people buy it.
My impression is that there is less keyboards on this album than on the previous one?
Like I said we don't want to stare our songs into certain directions. But of course sometimes we have some kind of direction. I think for this one we wanted it a little bit more based on guitars. I tried to do most of the riffs for the songs based on guitar instead of keyboards. With fewer keyboards we wanted it to be more rock 'n' roll.
And easier to play in a live situation probably?
Yeah, all of the songs on the new record can be played live actually and I think this is the first time that we did this (laughs), that we can play the whole record live. I mean, we can play every song live, but it might not be so easy. We'll have to have backtracks and stuff like this. But this one we can manage to play all of it.
Can you tell something about the artwork?
We had the title 'Moons And Mushrooms' ready for quite some time ago, but we didn't have any artwork for it. We did not know what we wanted to use for this one. Because for the 'Black Brick Road' artwork, we decided to break a little bit with our old artworks. You know they were quite colourful and a bit psychedelic. They are really good and Christian, the artist who made them for us, is a wonderful guy and he is a fantastic painter. But the thing is: Black Mark released those two “best of” records. You know we did not want anything to do with this record company anymore and then all of a sudden in my mailbox I found these two best of records and they did not ask us about it. To do this without the band's knowledge and to do nothing extra is just ripping off money from people. Somehow we got angry, so that's why we decided to go a different way for the cover artwork. And I guess it was also now a little bit the same. I mean, we are not angry for this anymore, but we had the opportunity to do things different than before. Last year we got quite a lot of emails from artists all over the world who were fond of our music and wanted to do the cover artwork. That was fantastic!
And which one did you choose then?
We chose this one from Philippe from Venezuela. We finally decided: “Let's try them out, one of those people that are sending us all those great emails”. So we gave some simple directions, like the title and some emotions we wanted to bring in and then we just waited for the right one to come. We all like this one. It is a little bit creepy, but that is the nice thing about it, I think. It must be lonely out there in space.
Was there a reason you called the album 'Moons And Mushrooms'?
Not really a deeper reason. I think both moons and mushrooms is a thing that has been with Lake Of Tears for many years. It is the kind of atmosphere we like to catch in our songs. Someday the title just came into my head and we liked it.
Are there bands you want to mention that you discovered lately and listen to a lot now?
I am not listening to so much music nowadays as I have been doing in the past. Or let's put it this way: I guess I still listen to as much music as in the past, and maybe even more, but most of it is not my kind of music. I listen to the radio the whole day when I am at work and stuff like this. In the past I really liked to lay down in the sofa or the bed and put the headphones on and listened to the music, read through the lyrics. I guess I don't do it as much nowadays, but of course sometimes there comes a song from an artist that you say “wow, this is really good”. But these are more songs than the whole record now. Maybe we are all a product of a certain time and we all get stuck a little bit in that time. These days we are so over spoiled with music, it is not that exciting anymore as it was maybe in the past. But I am happy that there is some real music out there that comes from the heart, not from the hands of a producer that is using good equipment.
What are the plans for the near future?
First of all now, we are trying to get back to ourselves again after the recordings. Now there is a lot of promotion work with interviews and then we start to think about gigs and see what happens. Hopefully there will be some shows at least during the year. There are two shows that are really booked for now, but I know there are some others also that we have quite concrete plans about but they are not certain. We have one festival in Germany in Summer and then Bucharest after the Summer.
Are there plans for a single or a videoclip?
Actually we don't know anything like this yet. So we have to wait and see I guess. It also depends on record sales and stuff like this. Of course it would be nice to do something, but we have to discuss it.
Everyone with a heart for music should buy or at least listen to 'Moons And Mushrooms' of Lake Of Tears. They are heartfelt musicians with a gift for making great music!