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Interview - Johan Niemann (Evergrey)

Interview with Johan Niemann from Evergrey
by Charlotte "Lotty" Whittingham at 24 September 2014, 8:51 PM

The release of Hymns For The Broken is upon us and it is a very deep complex affair. Going back to the original lineup Evergrey are much stronger and they mean business, this album is evidence. Our own Charlotte Whittingham had a word with Johan Niemann to explain more.

Hello Johan, thank you for doing this interview. How are you?

I am very well thank you

What has the reception been like so far with regards to Hymns For The Broken? Have there been any reviews? I found one on a small blog.

No I haven’t seen any reviews but we’ve heard comments from the journalists we have spoken to today and also the comments on Facebook and YouTube. The comments on the video have been very over whelming.

What was the influence behind the decision to go back to the original line-up?

Well I believe it started when our previous drummer Hannes Van Dahl got an offer to join SABATON and he was going back and fourth on whether he should take the offer up or not. We said, “Of course you should because we’ve only got a couple of gigs booked whereas SABATON are getting bigger.” He’s 22 or something like that and we said to him “go and join SABATON, tour your arse off and become a rock star”. You’ve got to take the opportunity when it comes up because it won’t come around again. We had a couple of gigs booked which Hannes couldn’t do and then our guitarist Marcus \[Jidell] couldn’t do it either so our only option was to call Henrick \[Danhage] and Jonas \[Ekdahl] because they knew the songs. Originally they were just going to fill in for those two shows; at that point we didn’t question whether they would come back to the band but they came back later.

Of course different line-ups seem to affect the bands sound; would you say this applies to Hymns For The Broken?

Yeah of course; different people play music in very different ways so of course it will sound different. It tends to affect the band’s sound and the feel of the band. For instance if we had Hannes played the same things as Jonas then it would be different, the same method applies if Jonas played what Hannes recorded on “Glorious Collision”. So the original lineup however you look at it they are still the original guys and they have a sound that is very much Evergrey. The Facebook comments for our video King Of Errors got lots of overwhelming comments expressing their happiness that Henrik and Jonas have returned to the band. It’s they’re laughing and crying at the same time because their favourite line up is back.

Reading the press release earlier today I saw Tom’s comment about it focusing on how we aren’t who we think we are; would you say there’s a connection between this and the single King Of Errors?

Yes, the overall concept or theme is realising you aren’t who you thought you were and coming to grips with that realisation. Basically when you come to this realisation it’s absolutely shattering, you have to look at yourself and analyse every little detail. Particularly in King Of Errors it focuses on how you portray yourself outwardly; when you are a musician and people buy your records you portray yourself as a rock star but inside the only thing you feel is doubt. On the outside you portray confidence and a sense of knowing what you’re doing but inside you doubt every single thing you do.

Listening to King Of Errors quite a few times and I find it very thought provoking, the theme in that song relates to modern day society.

It is a universal thing, Hymns For The Broken is a conceptually personal record but it’s still a universal theme. A lot people can listen to the record, recognize it and relate to it or know someone else who is going through the same thing. It’s something most people can relate to. Especially with Facebook and all those magazines saying ‘this is how you should look, if you don’t then you are bad’ For example if you don’t have a certain hair colour or not doing your dishes a certain way then you are bad according to the magazines. It’s as if they are intending to make people feel shit about themselves.

Is the issue with how we should live according to the magazines similar in Sweden? Because I know in the UK most people tend to believe everything they read.

It is similar in Sweden; I think the whole issue is similar across the western part of the world. People do believe everything they read; they’ll look at the front page and go ‘Oh really? I should loose five pounds?’ at whatever tabloid magazine they read. People reading that they need to loose five pounds think that will make them a better person; but if you’re an arsehole and loose five pounds you are still an arsehole. A lot of things are highlighted to make people feel bad about themselves.

Your records seem to focus on religion. Would you say the conflict between religion and metal music are still visible?

They are less visible nowadays. There were some religious groups in the nineties that targeted Cradle Of Filth and other so called dangerous bands. Also if you were caught wearing a “Jesus is a cunt” t-shirt you go to jail or you burn in hell. There is less of that now, at least from what I can see anyway.

To round up, being part of the music industry for a couple of decades now; what’s your general opinion on how easy we can access music because of the internet, particularly social media?

There are good sides and bad sides to everything. With having say Spotify and downloading; the good thing is you can get your music out to anyone in the world and anyone who has a computer can listen to your stuff, which is amazing. However the downside of that is you can put your heart and soul into something; write and record it and it can take you up to a whole year to do, it costs you money to do all this via trips to the studio and then you put it out there to get nothing back because people have heard the record. There’s a party in Sweden called the Piracy Party and they advocate that music should be free; but if you call a plumber or a painter to work on your house, do you not expect to pay that person? He’s doing his job, I’m doing my job as a musician should I not get paid?

Thank you very much Johan for taking time to this interview.

Thank you very much for having me.


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Edited 04 December 2022

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