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Interview - Dan Swanö (Nightingale)

Interview with Dan Swanö from Nightingale
by Daniel Fox at 11 December 2014, 5:27 AM

NIGHTINGALE is a Heavy Metal band that was brought to life back in the early 90's by multi instrumentalist Dan Swanö. With a new album released, they took the time to speak with the Temple's own Daniel Fox about a few interesting things, from his work with MACERATION, how the new album is Metal free, up to his plans in the future. Enjoy dear readers!!

Hi mate. It’s a pleasure to be interviewing you.

It’s a pleasure to be talking to you too, mister.

How are things going this year, for you?

It’s been a very, very good year, actually. Even the time since the time of Witherscape and all this, I think it’s been a really productive time and Nightingale coming out, mixing and producing a lot of stuff; it’s been super.

Lovely. I originally knew of you from Maceration, but now you’re well known for performing in Nightingale. What facilitated your shift from death metal to this kind of music?

Well, I would say that I have done. I mean, my career started already in the late 70’s. I started really early, you know, and in the early 80’s, and I just played just normal melodic rock all my life, up until one point I was bitten by the thrash metal bug like so many other Swedish musicians. I mean, if you read some of those death metal books, they all say the same; the guys from Entombed and Dismember, whatever, “Oh yeah in summer or something ’88 we heard Slayer for the first time on the radio and something. You know, just “wake up”. And I had that too. And I was just lucky to be a part of that death metal boom, and have a record contract when I was 17, and releasing albums, and being in so much stuff in this death metal, but still, you know, my normal music I’ve done, I play melodic rock and progressive rock all the time but nobody was interested in that. I mean, actually my progressive rock band unicorn had a record deal with an Italian label because of my involvement with the old death metal underground, because they were sending flyers and stuff, it was always two parallel worlds. So for me, I’ve been in and out of death metal but nonstop melodic rock since I was 8 years old. So for some people it might be surprising to hear an album like nightingale but people who really know me, they would say “Yeah! It’s like any other record you’ve made in this melodic rock style.” So, yeah; I hope that it’s also for the death metal guys, that they have an appreciation for somewhat more melodic music, and I think it will appeal to them cause it’s got kind of a dark, gothic vibe; it’s not about driving in your Chevrolet on sunset boulevard and partying with the girls, it’s not that kind of music; it’s still got a lot of darkness in it, even though its’ very upbeat and melodic.

Well, you know, melodic metal actually tends to resonate with me more than other genres anyway.

That’s good!

For those who are unfortunately unaware, would you like to give a little background on Nightingale?

I would say that Nightingale started out as my solo project that I just had; I had done so much music together with other people, including bands like Edge of Sanity and Pan. Thy. Monium, and also recorded bands from the beginning of the 90s up until I quit in the late 90s; I recorded bands all the time, it was constantly 3, 4, 5, 6 members from countries all over the world, and me in a small room, and there’s always people, people, and I felt, “Fuck! I need to do something alone”. I need to work with this cool equipment that I have bought and explore it and really do something which is all me. I play everything, I write everything, nobody comes down here telling me what the fuck to do, and that ended up being the first Nightingale record, “The Breathing Shadow”, and it was supposed to be a one off, you know, but it turned out to be quite a success actually, because Edge of Sanity was pretty famous at the time, and I guess I rode in on that wave of popularity, and what happened then was that the label wanted a second one, and I said, “Well, sorry, I don’t care for this gothic rock style from the first album.” “Well do what you want, just give us another Nightingale and it will sell.” Because back in those days, records actually sold copies; you couldn’t really download them, you know? Yeah! So I had a bit of writer’s block and I called my brother saying “Hey, I need some help here, I have all these songs and I need to put together an album in this 2 week period; write, record, mix, deliver it. So when he came over and together we did “The Closing Chronicles” record in 06 and then the band kind of stopped again, and then the band was revived once more with the “I” album, but this time, me and my brother kind of shared the band; we were 50/50 basis with song writing and so on, and after that we kind of quit again. Then we thought, “Fuck no, it’s kind of fun with Nightingale, why don’t we find a bass player and a drummer and start playing live, and see what happens?” So that was the next step in the evolution and once we felt, “yeah, this could actually be something”, we started writing new songs as a four-piece, and that was like the first album from the band Nightingale that you know today, and that’s called “Alive Again”. Which, the title also says that we were kind of gone, and resurrected ourselves, you know? And that was released sometime in the early 2000s, I think 2003, or 2003, I don’t really remember. Then we just made one more album with that line-up called “Invisible”, and we had a little bit of a change in the way the songs were written; my brother wrote most of the material for the album White Darkness Darkness”, and before that we made kind of a rerecording covers and old tracks on the album “The Nightfall Overture” and that was only released in 500 copies worldwide, which is now a sought after collector’s item; I have at least one email a week from people asking me for it. And then we had a long hiatus for a lot of time, I mean we all did stuff,  Tom worked Memory Garden, my brother worked on his solo project where our bass player Eric is also on the solo project, and I worked with a trillion other things; just not nightingale, you know? And then around 2011 I felt the material could be used as Nightingale and I just kind of resurrected the band out of the coalmine once again and here we are; back in business.

Great stuff. Now the new album is gonna be called “Retribution”. How does that compare in terms of sound to “White Darkness”? Are you looking to explore new avenues and suchlike?

I would say the album sounds pretty much like a sister record to “Alive Again”, especially, it’s like you take the songs that I wrote for Alive Again, which is pretty much a staple for the live set from the band, you have a song like “Shadowman”, “Glory Days”, “Shadowland Serenade”, and so on, and you just write a few more, in that style, you know? I wanted to make the best of Nightingale, but all new songs. I know it sounds kind of cocky, but if I didn’t feel that this is the best nightingale album, and not just one of those musician bullshit things, “this is the best album we ever did” bullshit, but really feel it and be honest to yourself, and I felt it after a while that this is gonna be the strongest one, the one I like the most, and that gave me the courage to release it through a label like InsideOut, you know, I had to make sure that I was on top of my game, and yeah, everyone seems to agree, there is a lot of people say honestly, even though they don’t have to, that it’s our best album; not many bands release the best album of their career 16 years in you know? It’s definitely a true Nightingale record. To me, “White Darkness” is not, it’s more my brother’s version of Nightingale, and this is my version of Nightingale, but it seems that a lot of people like that vibe I have in my songs. My brother wrote one song on this record and to me it’s one of my favourite songs, but he just felt that his material was not really cutting it this time, and hopefully for the next record that he will be back on 50/50 duty and that will be super.

You’ve ‘been around a lot’, so to speak. What other projects are you currently involved in or have future plans for, aside from Nightingale?

I have a project called Witherscape, we’ve done an album and we’re releasing an EP in about a month from now, also on Century Media, and there’s a solo project that I am planning, probably using my name, makes it easier for people to get it, to have another project name out there which is technically the sound of my death metal style is a little bit stupid, so I’m hoping to release that one in like two years from now, and there’s a progressive rock, more of a melodic progressive rock band called Second Sky that I’ve been working on for 10 years, that never seems to be ready, because for that one I’m so fucking picky, that nothing is ever good enough, but that one will be released eventually, one day, you know? And I have a non-musical project which will take up a lot of time called Swanö Merch, which is dealing with the printing t shirts from Pan. Thy. Monium, Edge of Sanity and all this; we just did the purgatory afterglow 20 year anniversary t shirt and they are selling really well, and that takes up a lot of my time also; taking care of orders, shirt sizes and packing and what not, and like to be busy, you know? Time is a currency for me, and I like to spend it, you know, with something that makes a difference. Sometimes I like to do nothing, which is a very human thing, but not all the time because I get horribly bored. That’s about it, you know, it’s a lot of stuff and of course mixing and mastering bands all the time; studio is solidly booked and its like my day job, you know? But music is still something I consider a bit of a hobby, and it’s a busy hobby at the moment.

 Great. Now, you’ve delved into quite a few genres, as far as music is concerned. What kind of music or bands do you draw inspiration from?

I would say that my main inspiration in music comes from.. Well, it’s hard to say, I’m more of a melody kind of person; I can be inspired by an Abba song, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the track I’m writing ends up sounding like Abba at all, but there could be something in the drama, something in the melody that speaks to me; it’s like, you should write something in this direction that makes you feel the same way. It’s not that I listen to the latest album from band X, and then I say “I wanna make a clone of that record”, it’s never how it was for me, you know? Even in the early death metal days, I said, a little bit of Voivod, little bit of Death, little bit of Pestillence, little bit of Candlemass, squeeze it all together and boom you have Edge of Sanity. It was never about cloning Pestillence or cloning Death, that was other bands’ problem, to be like “Oh, this sounds exactly like Massacre, oh cool”, no, it’s not cool, that exists already, what’s the point? You should try to put your own stamp and always put a little bit of a twist in there. Somehow, even though people may not know this the first time around, I mean for Nightingale the little scent of the gothic rock vibe in some of the harmonics that I have been inspired by from bands like The Sisters Of Mercy and The Mission, the way I still write a few of my melodies still considered to come from a gothic rock heritage, but there is nothing gothic rock about the production, the sound, the singing and not even the lyrics, but it’s still there somehow, that flavour, and not many AOR bands or melodic rock bands are really into gothic rock, because that’s really a closed community; you need to have your drum machine, your Andrew Eldritch rip-off singing and your clanging guitars, and I just felt I like the gothic harmonics, and that’s what I bring to the table. I get inspired from melodic music, it just speaks to me, it resonates with me, that’s all I can say because it’s not about one band’s latest record “oh I’m gonna write a song like that”, it’s not that anymore.

I like the way you think. If there’s some kind of, shall we say, musical guilty pleasure you’d love to accomplish in your career, something unexpected and unlike anything you’ve ever done, what might that be?

I would say that, the Second Sky album is definitely going to upset a few metal fans, because at one point I thought about putting a sticker on it called ‘100%’ metal free, because that’s what it is, it’s really very accessible, but still like bands like Journey and Asia, and it’s really like also forbidden bands like Daughtry and normal radio rock, but still, from my persona writing style, and it’s very accessible and I know ordinary people will love it because it’s that kind of stuff you hear on the radio, but it doesn’t mean that it’s Euro-disco or Euro-techno or country music you know, that’s some people’s guilty pleasures, it’s still like the softest part of Nightingale, but all the time; that’s what Second Sky’s like. On the left side, you have Second Sky. Little bit to the right, Nightingale, little bit more to the right, Witherscape, a little bit more in the right corner you have my future death metal project. That’s the four cornerstones of my writing, and that’s it. There’s not gonna be any more weird, strange projects, I’m all gonna work within those four parameters from soft, little bit harder, hard, super hard.

Does a new album mean a new tour? Where can fans expect to see Nightingale in the near future?

We are negotiating a little bit. There is a hope to put together like a festival tour, somehow, but I must say I am a little bit surprised by the extreme activity on the live scene from everyone, it’s just like, every band needs to go out touring, because there’s so many bands out there that’s still stuck in “this is what we do for a living, we need to sell merchandise or I can’t see my family”, kind of problem, you know? So I guess some bands are dropping prices to get on certain shows or tour with them, but then for Nightingale to come out of a 7 year coma and just expect to be on top of the whole booking agency industry, it’s like, yeah, you get some replies, “Oh yeah okay, what have you done lately?” and I say “Nothing” “Oh, cool…” (laughs). So, we’re hoping to score some good festivals, maybe not some really nice slots, maybe like 12 o’clock or sunlight or whatever, but that’s the plan, that’s the problem when you are using your band as a hobby, and you are more into recording and releasing albums rather than touring and rehearsing, that’s the punishment; you are nobody in the live world, but you are somebody online or, you know, with streaming or selling, it’s all equal, but when you come to a  stage thing it’s all about stage show, stage presence, tours you did, and it’s a whole different world there, and we are still kind of back to zero. So hopefully we will put together some really good shows, but at the moment, it seems a little bit rough, I might say.

Yeah, okay, well best of luck. I have to squeeze this one in here: your old band Maceration had their album reissued recent, much to my pleasant surprise. Do you think there might be a possibility of a reunion?

For Maceration I was only a session singer; that existed before and after without me. I was kind of called up and asked “do you wanna do it? To be our singer?” And I was thinking, “Yeah, of course”. Was my first time ever doing some kind of session work, and I was on the band picture and all that but I saw the guys for 24 hours and that’s it, and I know the album has been re-released with a lot of stuff that I’m not on, demos without me and also stuff like live shows without me. I don’t know if Maceration will get back together; I would definitely not be a part of it ‘cause it’s just not what I do, but I think it’s great they finally put that one out there.

Alright, well, that actually finishes it up. Thank you very much for your time, I’m glad to know you’re still making music. Do you have any last words you’d like to leave for fans?

I would like to thank anyone who is reading this interview for the support they’ve been given me for the past 25 years as a musician, I kind of counted it from the start with Edge of Sanity, it’s now the 25th anniversary, and I’ve been doing music 10 years before that but for the mainstream big world, where there’s actually something traceable other than old demos, this is the first 25 years and I hope they will remain with me for the next 25 years because I have a lot more to give, you know?

Definitely. Well, best of luck, and, yeah! That’s it!

Yeah! Thanks a lot! Have a nice weekend!


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Edited 16 July 2020

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