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Interviews Shadows Past

Interview with Jonatan Berg (guitar)

Interview conducted by Christopher Foley

Date online: January 25, 2010

Hot on the heals of their 2009 demo Perfect Chapter, I catch up with resident guitar wizard Jonatan Berg to find out a little about the band, the demo, and plans for 2010.

Chris: Firstly I'd like to thank you for taking the time out to answer these questions today. I guess the best ice-breaker would be to find out how Shadows Past first came together as a band?

Jonatan: I really appreciate your interest in Shadows Past!

It all began in 2004. I was studying music at a school (Kulturama) in Stockholm where our vocalist, Ola Halén, worked. I had some recordings to do as homework, and I knew about Ola so I asked if he was interested in doing some vocals on my tracks. I was 17-18 then and this was quite a big happening for me. Even though Ola was a bit older we felt a good connection and our sense of humour was really the same!

One thing led to another and he told me that he had some recordings of his own that he would like to try out with the band I had started then. He called his own project 'Shadows Past', and we liked the name, so we took it and that was the birth of today's Shadows Past.

Chris: Tell me a little about your influences; were there any bands or musicians in particular that made you pick up the guitar?

Jonatan: I started saving money for my first guitar after I had been to a Steve Vai concert with my father, that was in April 2000 and I still have the ticket! I could play some guitar before that and I listened to some guitar-oriented music, but after that experience I was trapped in the guitar world.

My playing is influenced by a lot of different genres, but mainly it has been a lot of rock guitarists, such as Malmsteen, Vai, Michael Romeo, Petrucci, Andy Timmons, Steve Morse and Marty Friedman. I guess you can hear a lot of Marty Friedman in my vibratos and bends, I'm not thinking about doing it, it just comes automatically even though I have never learned a whole song by him.

I have studied and played some jazz, fusion and other styles, so my musical vocabulary and playing contain ideas from most common styles, even though metal is my main thing!

Chris: The quality of the Perfect Chapter demo is superb, how and where was it recorded?

Jonatan: Thanks! Most of it was recorded at Patrik Svedberg's studio, a producer that also works at Kulturama. We used a Mesa boogie amp for the rhythm guitars, and lead guitars are all lined. Our keyboardist Staffan Lindroth joined the band in the middle of the recordings, so Ola had already done the pads and string sections on keyboards. But luckily we had some time left so that Staffan could put his amazing solos on it.

The demo was mixed and mastered by Erik Mårtensson at Blowout studios in Stockholm - A guy that works with Jeff Scott Soto in WET among others. I agree he did a great work on our demo!

Chris: As a musician myself I'm always interested to hear about the writing process, how do the songs come together?

Jonatan: We started out with playing some songs that Ola and I had already written. But we have always had great musicians in this band who have brought their own ideas, so the songs that we take to a rehearsal are just a foundation and then it develops into an even better song with a new arrangement and ideas.

Now that we have Staffan in the band we have another great songwriter, so I guess this band will never have to worry about getting out of material.

Chris: With the lyrics do you have a set message to send out to the world?

Jonatan: We want people to know that our lyrics are nothing that we write while playing fantasy videogames or just joking around with cool words. I think you can get a lot from listening to our lyrics, that's what fans have told us.

Mainly our lyrics come from tough experiences from life and relations. It's my way of dealing with problems, to relieve my pain and to get through hard situations. It maybe sounds like our lyrics are very dark and sad, but it's not just like that. We try to also stay focused on a brighter life after the pain is gone. You have to do that!

Chris: I know you have plans for a new demo this year; can we expect something similar to the Perfect Chapter? How many songs do you have in mind?

Jonatan: Well, yes we have had plans on a new demo. But we hope that we won't need another demo, since we are in search of a record deal right now. But if we will do another demo we have already chosen three, maybe four songs for it. It will, as always, contain some heavy shotgun riffs, aggressive playing and strong melodies, but it will probably be a bit more progressive then the last one, also the whole arrangement will be bigger. Saying that it will be more progressive does not mean that we will loose our roots. The songs will still be catchy and easy to listen to both for metal fans and others. That's our goal with our music!

Chris: Bringing me to my next question, when can we expect a full-length album from Shadows Past?

Jonatan: Hehe… If we had the possibilities it would be tomorrow! But, first we have to find a record deal that seems fair and that makes us able to do an album with the same high sound quality as our songs! We hope it won't take too long, because we have more than enough songs that are already rehearsed and arranged for it. And there has never been a better timing for the band than now. Ola Halén has quit Insania Stockholm in order to focus exclusively on Shadows Past, as do the rest of the members.

Chris: Who would be your ideal band to share the stage with, past or present?

Jonatan: If you would have asked me that question when I was 17, I would have said Ola Halén´s Shadows Past… hehe. But now I don't think of it like that actually. I prefer standing on stage with my bands and do my own thing, and watch my favourite bands from the audience. Even though I would love to have a jam with Marty Friedman or Albert Lee for example! Those guys never quit surprising you with cool guitar licks and cool attitude in their playing.

Chris: What records have you been spinning lately?

Jonatan: Lately I have noticed that I'm getting more and more into heavier and darker metal than I was grown up with. Staffan introduced me to Kamelot, and I really like it! And Paradise lost by Symphony X is brilliant! Even though I prefer their clean vocals heard on their earlier albums. Also some Dimmu Borgir, Children of Bodom lately. The funny thing is that Shadows Past music also gets a bit heavier over the years, so I guess there's a strong link between what you listen to and what you compose.

To be honest I have actually had a country period recently and some gypsy-jazz music too. Albert Lee, Danny Gatton, Django Reinhardt and others… I often say that I'm the most false metalhead to exist, hahaha. But hopefully I will keep those influences away from the Shadows Past song writing… But who knows… haha.

Chris: Who were the first band you ever seen live?

Jonatan: The first real concert for me was the Steve Vai concert that I told you about in the beginning. It really affected me then since I was so young. I actually met him a couple of years after that when he had a PR-signing thing in Stockholm. I remember him saying "Wow, this guy has everything I have ever done" when I put my CDs and DVDs on the table. Haha, a great moment for me!

Chris: Finally I'd like to thank you again for your time, is there anything you'd like to say to the readers here at the Metal Crypt?

Jonatan: Thank YOU for the pleasant interview!

I want to thank every soul that listens to our music and we hope as much as you do that there will be a full-length Shadows Past album at your CD store as soon as possible! Feel free to visit our Myspace page and leave a comment, and I can assure you this band is going to take it far!

Other information about Shadows Past on this site
Review: Perfect Chapter
Review: Perfect Chapter

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