Interview with guitarist Johan Reinholdz
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 9, 2015
Sweden's melodic Death/Thrash Metal patrol Nonexist has been working on their third album, Throne of Scars, since September 2013, and the album has passed the mixing stages that took place at Sunnanå Studio in Arlöv Sweden with its relaxed countryside atmosphere. Nonexist is getting ready to start shopping it around and is hoping to land a deal with a label that will give the album a proper release.
Nonexist's previous albums, Deus Deceptor (released on New Hawen in 2002) and From My Cold Dead Hands (released digitally by Canada's Pivotal Rockordings in November 2012 and physically by Japan's Trooper Entertainment in 2013), were both welcomed warmly by fans worldwide and obviously the band's forthcoming opus is eagerly anticipated.
The Metal Crypt caught up with Johan Reinholdz in his hometown of Malmö, Sweden and asked him a bit more about Throne of Scars, his to write style (both for Nonexist as well as his other band Andromeda), about his band mate Johan Liiva (ex-Carnage, ex-Arch Enemy, etc.) and a few other things related to Nonexist.
Let the Johan show begin...
Luxi: Hejsan Johan...how's life in Malmö, Sweden? Enjoying life there?
Johan: Hyvää päivää Luxi! It's good! Yeah, I'm happy here in Malmö!
Luxi: As things stand at the moment you have been recording Nonexist's third album, Throne of Scars, little by little. How have things been in the studio? Has the recording process been as smooth and easy as you were hoping it would be?
Johan: Some of the recording and writing had already started as the last album, From My Cold Dead Hands, was being finished. It's gone pretty smoothly as we learned a lot from the previous album.
I had some technical problems this autumn and had to repair my computer and such. Also, we brought in Markus Nilsson, a very good sound engineer/producer who has worked with Andromeda live and in the studio, to help out with the mix, so that also delayed the process. But it was surely worth it because he improved the sound a lot!
Luxi: How many songs are you aiming to record for Throne of Scars and do you believe this album will generate lots of sheer excitement and joy among the fans?
Johan: There will be ten songs on the album and we've also recorded two cover tracks for bonus purposes.
There are some new elements on the new album, yes! We hope people will like it. There are more melodic vocals, more blast-beats, more variations in mood. I sing more on this album so there are more dynamics in the vocals, some acoustic guitars, some spoken-word samples, a few passages inspired, in a way, by Black Metal. It's hard to describe in words. You'll have to hear it for yourself, as always.
Luxi: You have song titles like "The New Flesh," "Before the Storm Takes Me," "Pyroclastic Cluster Torment," "Throne of Scars" and "A Promise Unfulfilled" among others, on this forthcoming Nonexist album. Have you nailed down the song order that has the right flow and mood? Was it difficult to decide the order of the songs and was this done in a democratic way?
Johan: We have a rough idea of the song order but it's not 100% set yet. We are still pondering a few different possibilities, especially regarding the first four slots.
Luxi: There are two covers songs on Throne of Scars; one from Massacre and the other one from Sepultura. Undoubtedly both bands are pretty darn meaningful both of you, right?
Johan: Oh yeah, definitely! Both Liiva and I are huge fans of Sepultura. They were one of my favorite bands in my early teens. I remember sitting and playing along with the Arise album for hours! I learned so much on the guitar from that; the riffing, the songwriting. My favorite Sepultura album, however, is Beneath the Remains; it's just so fucking good! I also really like Schizophrenia, were we took "Escape to the Void" for one of the covers. We thought it could use a bit of an update.
We also like Massacre a lot! I'm too young but Mr. Liiva was in the "Death Metal-demo-tape- trading" game back when Massacre recorded their classic demos in the 80's. I started listening to them when the From Beyond album came out in '91. That was another album I played along with for countless hours. We did a combo of the songs "Chamber of Ages" and "Dawn of Eternity" which turned out really cool!
Luxi: Did you have any other band names in mind that deserved to be covered for Throne of Scars?
Johan: We where thinking about doing a cover of Depeche Mode but could never figure out one that would work in our style. In Flames did a superb version of Depeche's "Everything Counts" and we were inspired by that, though after considering it for a long time we realized it wouldn't work.
Luxi: When you started the whole songwriting process for Throne of Scars did you take a slightly different approach compared to the songwriting sessions of your previous album, From My Cold Dead Hands?
Johan: Not really. It was the same kind of process where we took some old songs lying around and paired them with brand new ones.
Luxi: The music you do for Nonexist is mostly Death/Thrash but obviously you aren't afraid of using other elements outside of this "Metal box" whenever you feel like something might be worth trying out, are you?
Johan: No, hell no! Almost anything that can fit. The musical scope and concept feels really free and inspiring! Like you said there yourself already; the main core of Nonexist is, and will always be, Death Metal and Thrash Metal. It's the music that runs in our veins and through our spines.
But we also add some Doom Metal, Gothic influences, ambient stuff, acoustic bits, Black Metal, Punk/Hardcore, progressive and neoclassical (actually the title track "Throne of Scars" is soaked in neoclassical influences), so as long as it is dark or aggressive and done with taste it can fit in Nonexist.
Luxi: When you are working on stuff for Nonexist, is it easy to find a state of creativity and does it ever get really intense and aggressive when you push your abilities to the extreme in search of ultimate perfection?
Johan: The songwriting can start whenever. There is no telling when a riff might come up. So I try to get those ideas down on tape, lest I should forget them. Frequently I come up with two or three that work together and all of a sudden I have the basis for a song.
I don't really feel the need to be in an aggressive state of mind to write that type of music. A lot of it is subconscious, so the anger is always there somewhere, ha ha!! Along with other emotions as well, of course...
Ultimate perfection? Nah, I don't really think that way. What comes out, comes out. Life is short and I just want to make as much music as possible. Sitting around and working on something forever to get it "perfect" is a waste of time. The Nonexist albums take WAY too long time to get done as it is. I want to work faster. With Andromeda it's like that too; an album takes like a year or two to get done. It's absurd.
Luxi: Was writing the lyrics a challenge for you this time? How did you find all the topics worth writing about? Are there some topics in this world that truly set you on fire when it comes down to Nonexist's lyrics?
Johan: They came pretty easily, actually. Some of them kind of wrote themselves. But others were more difficult to finish. The music was really inspiring this time around and the vibe of it kind of just crept into the pen. I like to write first drafts manually in my notebook and I do correction and edits right on the paper. When it's finished I type it into the computer. Liiva's lyrics for this album are amazing! He has his own style of writing and it always fits the music perfectly!
Luxi: Speaking of your previous album From My Cold Dead Hands just a little bit, how happy were you with how it turned out? Did you feel like you had the kind of album that allowed you to feel proud of your accomplishments?
Johan: I'm really pleased with it! Of course the sound could've been better, but then again it was the first time I produced an album on my own. I did everything, including the "mastering," which I pretty much just winged... ha ha!!
Luxi: It was supposed to get a worldwide physical release from American label Abyss Records but that did not happen? What's the story?
Johan: Lack of money, I guess. Too bad, but that's the reality of today's music business. Sucks.
Luxi: Japan's Trooper Entertainment eventually got it out on CD in 2013 and included three bonus tracks. Does it bother you that it can only be ordered from them if one wants to find the real thing for his/her music collection?
Johan: Trooper is a cool label and we're glad they were interested in the album! It's a bit hard to get a hold of, yes, but we've ordered some copies from Trooper that will soon be available directly from us! Stay tuned for that!
Luxi: Let's jump back to Nonexist's third album, currently in the works. Your band mate, Johan Liiva, provided the grunts for the last two Nonexist albums and it is no different with this new album. How did his vocal parts on Throne of Scars turn out? Do you think Mr. Liiva pretty much exceeded your expectations once again?
Johan: I think he has an extremely original and personal vocal style that needs no improvement! They kill! His vocals on the new album are kind of in the same style as the last album. The vocal sound has been improved with the help of Markus Nilsson, whom I mentioned earlier.
Luxi: I know that you pretty much compose all the stuff for Nonexist but would like to know it Johan contributed to the songwriting process for Throne of Scars?
Johan: Sure, I ask him before each album if he has some cool stuff in the making. For this album he did the music and lyrics for one song and the lyrics for three others.
Luxi: How did you end up choosing the title for this third opus? Is there some deeper and more meaningful thought behind the title?
Johan: We're always looking for a title that sounds good and fits the album. In addition to that it should make sense on a deeper level. Well, not all titles have to have a profound meaning, sometimes it suffices that it sounds good or is a bit mysterious or confusing, he he!!
Throne of Scars has a majestic feel and it's dark and brooding yet positive since it refers to building on sombre, painful life experiences to make your life wiser and better. Experience is knowledge and knowledge gives you power.
Luxi: Sofia Bennrup of Devianart is the artist who is responsible for all the artwork on Throne of Scars. She is not new to Nonexist as you have employed her artistic skills on your previous album, From My Dead Cold Hands. What makes her such a fitting artist for Nonexist, from your point of view? What makes her art special for you?
Johan: Her stuff has a feeling and vibe that goes hand in hand with our music.
Luxi: How important is visual side of Nonexist? Is it like those red and sweet-tasting strawberries on the top of a cream cake, even if you don't like strawberries or cream cakes?
Johan: To us it's really important to have an interesting booklet with artwork that stands out and works with the music, like a synergy effect. We don't have any merchandise yet but we really want to get some and we are equally keen on having truly cool shit to offer. Doing videos is also interesting to us and we want to do one for the upcoming album.
Luxi: You mentioned to me just recently that you are preparing promotional packs for some well-chosen labels, hoping to find a suitable one to release the next Nonexist album. But what if your nets are not cast deep enough and you return to the harbor without any catch? Do you think you might release Throne of Scars on your own?
Johan: Yeah, we'll see how it goes. We've already secured a deal for one territory, I can tell you that much.
Luxi: When the previous Nonexist album, From My Cold Dead Hands, was released, you did a few live shows. In the live line-up you had Linus Abrahamsson on bass, Johan Aldgård on guitar and Joakim Strandberg-Nillsson on drums. Do you believe you'll go with this very same line-up for live shows once the new record is out?
Johan: Yeah, sure we want to play more live! And yes, all the boys are still on board for that.
Luxi: The future is of course unwritten for all of us but do you see longevity for Nonexist after Throne of Scars is out and ready for the fans to digest?
Johan: Nonexist will always exist, he he!! That's the irony of the band moniker...
I can't see that we will stop doing albums. I already have a bunch of songs on the way for the fourth album. I don't give a shit if the labels are interested or not; the music will continue to flow and we will find one way or the other to get the music out there as broadly as possible.
Luxi: That is all I have so thank you so for your time with my questions Johan and I hope you had fun answering them. May Lady Fortune be with you and Nonexist in the future. If you have any closing comments...?
Johan: Thanks a lot for your support, Luxi, for your interest and a great interview! Nothing to add really, so take care and check out our stuff folks! Cheers!
|Other information about Nonexist on this site|
|Review: Deus Deceptor|
|Review: Throne of Scars|
|Review: The New Flesh|
|Interview with vocalist Johan Liiva on April 27, 2013 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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