Evergrey: From Torn to Glorious Collision
Interview with Thomas S. Englund (Evergrey) [March, 2011]
After being Torn and having to face one of the toughest decisions, decision which has brought down some mighty bands, Evergrey has proven it is still strong and alive in one of its most powerful albums to date, Glorious Collisions. From beginning to end, from Leave It Behind Us to ...And The Distance, the album is full of forceful metal tunes expertly combined with brilliant melodies all crowned by beautifully dark poetry, for, all the words that I leave offer reasons...
Far from being lost and astray, Thomas B. Englund was calm and serene, I would even dare say pleased with the end result of what might have been a troubling decision to make a few months ago. So, enjoying this opportunity to speak with the mastermind behind Evergrey, we immediately got to talking about so many aspects concerning his life, Evergrey and much more. . .
Nerissa: OK, jumping right into the interview, since you founded Evergrey in 1995 to date, how would you describe this journey?
Thomas: (Deep breath) Eeeh. . . In total, I haven't even wrapped the fact into a single thought or a single sentence because that would feel like I'm wrapping it up for good. You know, I am not a person who thinks about the past that much. So, how would I wrap it up? I would wrap it up as a great mix of experiences, I would say. (Light hearted laughter) By mix, I mean a really great mix because a lot of things have been real and there have been a lot of great people and most of the time I've had a great time. And, you know, visiting different cultures. . . I would say that I have been very fortunate to be able to do my profession for this long. Yeah, I think that is the most fitting sentence, that I am happy, yes, I'm happy that I've been able to do this for so long.
Nerissa: Yes, that is always positive. Now, let's return to the present. There have been many changes from the previous album, Torn, to this one, Glorious Collision, can you describe your thoughts about all these changes?
Thomas: I mean, the most prominent one must be, of course, the changes of the members. When I took the decision to tell the guys who were also my best friends that I didn't want them to be in my band anymore, of course that was a hard decision. But, at that time, I was already so long gone on the thought and so were they, so for the four of us that made the decision not a hard one to make. For us, we were sort of set on the idea that was the way it would be. So for us it wasn't strange at all. Of course, for many of the fans and all of the record labels, they didn't know, but they really didn't have the right to know until we really knew what we waned to do. It was. . . We didn't even know if we were going to continue, we just knew we wouldn't be happy creating together for another bunch of years, which is what it means when you release a new album and that takes at least two or three years. So, that is something that we had to take into consideration. So, that's just what we did and we, after a few days, felt that we should start writing again to see if we still had it or if maybe the old members brought the magic and took it away from us so that we didn't know how to continue to write. At first, we just tried to write, and, then, all of the sudden, we wrote three songs within a couple of weeks, well, in one week actually, and all of those songs are in the album right now. Then we just kept on going and when we had like eight to ten songs, then we started to realize that maybe we should do another album anyway and see what happens and get new people because we had fun again. That's how I'd sum it up.Nerissa: This leads right into my next question. How would you say the creative process changed without the old members present anymore?
Thomas: (Deep breath) Aaah. . . In a dramatic way, of course. First of all I had a new writing partner, Rikard, a guy who has an ability to leave people to present their idea to the fullest, until it's done, with sounds, with everything, and then he sort of judges it which is sort of an extremely hard thing to do if you are all fired up by musical creativity. It's difficult to sit down and let somebody else drive, but that's his thing. He and I also have the exact same sort of filter when it comes to music, it's quite easy, it's either yes or no, it's good or bad, it doesn't matter if we erase the guitar or not or if we put some more keyboards in there, it's a good song or it's a bad song, it's a good riff or it's a bad riff. In that way I would say we are very, exactly alike in the thinking process. That's what changed the most, and for us, at that time, just being two in something that wasn't even a band, it was extremely relieving and extremely sort of, mmm, created lots of feelings of freedom not having to think about what five other guys would say, or three other guys. I just had to turn my head to the left and Rikard would say, “Yes, I think it's great.” Or, “No, I think it sucks.” And that's how we turned the whole album, pretty much. Some of the songs, of course, I wrote on my own. Rikard has a lot of confidence in me when it comes to writing, which is a nice feeling to feel. I won't say that the old members didn't have it, but they didn't have the same ability he has to let people try their idea to the fullest. That's what I would say.
Nerissa: With all the albums behind you, how would you describe your latest album, Glorious Collision?
Thomas: Well, it's too early for me to describe it. I don't know, how would you say it was?
Nerissa: I've listened to it and I can honestly say I loved it. Musically speaking, since I haven't had a chance to really analyze the lyrics, I found it to be very strong, very consistent, because you have those strong heavy metal parts which are beautifully balanced with the more melodic parts. So, I really enjoyed it.
Thomas: Yes, as I've done this time around, it's been very important for me not to listen to the album, since the album was done like in October. That gives me a lot of time to sort of digest it, really listen to it and be sure of some things and maybe start hating some things as well. But this time I decided that I would not want to listen to it at all. I just started listening two weeks ago because I wanted to have the same sort of perspective that the journalists have, I mean, of course that is impossible but in a way I wanted to be able to relate to what the fans felt, what the journalists said. So everything I heard we'd be on the same page, so to speak. I feel, I think that the immediate thing I hear on the newest album is that it's an extremely strong album when it comes to both, the songwriting and (music), not the least production. I think it's the most nice-sounding album we have done. And with nice I mean it's sounding raw when it has to and sounding very heavy when it has to. So, yeah, that is what I can say right now.
Nerissa: Why Glorious Collisions?
Thomas: Well, you know we go through our lives everyday and we collide with different things, different people, different ideas and differences of opinions, and whatever. And if you are really unlucky, you go through things that make your whole world go up-side-down, like, you know, deaths of family members or even the change of band members. But for us, all these things are small collisions that lead us to think in different ways, hopefully, or sometimes not even hopefully, but they tend to make you turn, make you take another step in another direction or at least make you question why you are where you are. And in the second of impact it is very hard to think clearly about things you don't have the control over, like your future, in a way. I mean, you do have control over it but you don't know what it will bring you, like this major collision I had with my former band mmembers, was like, I mean, we played together for ten years, the four of us, me, Rikard, Henrik and Jonas, and I had to tell them I couldn't work with them anymore, it was a big decision. That was a major collision for me, but that collision led me to where I am today, sitting, discussing my album, which seems to be more unanimously praised than ever and that is a glorious collision if anything.
Nerissa: So, in a way, would you say this album is dedicated to them, your former band members?
Thomas: I would say I dedicated this album to us four because that's the best decision we could have ever made, in respect to Evergrey, in respect to ourselves, and, of course, in respect to Evergrey's fans. I don't want Evergrey to become a band where we become more, how should I say it? (Brief thoughtful silence) More ruled by apathy than inspiration, where you just record albums to get the extra buck. That's not why we have done this from the beginning and I can honestly say that I think we have released seven great albums before this one, so I just add this one to the list of accomplishments in my private little book that I feel I am proud of. I know that I have, we have and will always put out 100% in Evergrey or we won't release an Evergrey album. That's why we split up with the members, because we felt we couldn't make an album that would be good enough.Nerissa: Evergrey, everyone who knows the band has their own idea of it. What does Evergrey mean to you?
Thomas: Evergrey means everything to me, I mean, it's my life. It's just as big a part of my life as my daughter and my wife are. I mean, of course I'm not talking about significance there but the percentage they sort of take up of my life. I've been part of the Evergrey life for sixteen years or something like that and I'm 37 and it's, uhm. . . When I think of it like that and I hear myself say the years and all, it becomes a bit overwhelming that I've been able to do this. Now I realize that I have been living my dream even if I didn't do it in the level that I suspected I would when I was a kid, you know, when I dreamnt of being as big as Metallica. But I still have done this and I've lived off it for eight or ten years now, and, you know, that is an accomplishement in its own way.
Nerissa: Yes it is. Given all the changes in the band, instead of my typical question for the interviewee to describe the other band members, I'd like you to describe the former ones.
Thomas: Oh, which ones? (Laughs) There are many.
Nerissa: I was thinking the original band members.
Thomas: OK. Then I would say that Jonas, the drummer, came into the band when he was very young. We brought him into the world of rock n' roll if you will, and we sort of gave him the basic routes because I saw something in him, I saw a very skilled musician and that he could become something truly special and he did! And he is an extremely nice guy, a guy who would never step on anyone's toes. He comes from a great family and we are still in contact. So, it was also very important to me when he left. Henrik is one of my absolute closest and dearest friends, I think that's what is most important to mention. He was part of my band for a long time and so many (soft laughter) so many days of our lives together that it would be horrible not to be able to talk about them just because of a small quarrell or whatever. Rikard is a calm guy who is always very, how should I put it, very logical and very down-to-Earth, doesn't make any hasty decisions until he's drunk of course! (Soft laughter) Then he can make any type of fucking weird decisions! He's also a very nice guy. I'm surrounded by very nice people, that's what I would say.Nerissa: And what about you?
Thomas: Me?!? I'm the captain of the ship! That's how I would describe myself. I tend to be, maybe people feel sometimes that I am a bit hard, a bit tough. But the people who know me the most realize that I am only in that way because music means so much to me that nothing else comes before it when it's in the band. Within the band's four walls that is where we make the music and that's where the music sort of sets the rules and we should all abide by them or we should do something else.Nerissa: What is your most, and this is a difficult one because of all the songs behind you, but which would you say is your most personal song and why?
Thomas: I can tell you it's The Phantom Letters but I won't tell you why 'cause that is too personal for me to discuss yet.
Nerissa: No problem. I'll have to listen to it carefully and try to figure it out!
Thomas: Yeah, do, do, I think you'll figure it out.
Nerissa: How, if any, does this lifestyle, very differnt from most, affect your personal life?
Thomas: Well, as I've said, it's very different for me than for many people, I think, because I've been doing this for so long now and I met my wife just before I started with the band, I got my daughter and she sort of was born into this life. So, of course there is longing, of course you hate to leave the people that you love the most. But, at the same time, it also brings some kind of health into the relationship that we have within the family. I think staying away from each other creates a longing and I think a longing is something that can be really good.
Nerissa: How old is your daughter?
Thomas: She's 11 now.
Nerissa: How does she see daddy?
Thomas: Yes, what I mean is, she's not that impressed. (Laughhter) She's not that interested in the music side of me either until she wants to record something, of course, (more laughter) then I'm very much the biggest and best dad there is. Other than that, she's not impressed at all. Today I brought home a newspaper, for instance, that I showed her, and all her friends were like, "Oh, man!" Because it's one of the biggest daily newspapers in Sweeden and I had a whole page. She just looked at it and called her friend. She didn't even pick it up. (Laughter) She's not that easily impressed. I think it's a healthy thing as well. I think I wouldn't want my daughter to be impressed by me as a musician, but, I mean (laughter) sometimes it would be cool that she would be acting pleased, like she's somewhat impressed. I don’t make a fuss about it.
Nerissa: Give her a few years.
Nerissa: Favorite song to sing live?
Thomas: A song called Words Mean Nothing, just a piano-vocal song which makes it very naked, very true and just sincere, I would say. I think the lyrics also make it quite heartfelt. Yes, it's a great song. I also like the way me and Rikard are interacting within the song. Yes, I like that one.
Nerissa: Most memorable Evergrey moment?
Thomas: Oh, God!
Nerissa: I know there are many.
Thomas: Oh yes there are and it's impossible to answer. I mean, there are so, I could, I mean, I couldn't even begin to tell you. There are so many things. It's like how do, I mean, it's the same thing within normal life, that isn't involving any rock histories or stuff like that. It's something hard to even describe life's best moments. There are so many things that it would be unfair to dub memories, for me to mention one. Yeah, it's impossible, that's the answer, I am sorry.
Nerissa: No, no, that's OK. So I guess you can't answer my next question, most memorable personal moment?
Thomas: Of course, when my daughter was born, that is the absolute, biggest moment in my life.
Nerissa: Nice. To finish this up, Evergrey is going on tour very soon and with all the changes we’ve already spoken about, what should the fans expect from this new line-up?
Thomas: Well, we are going on tour with Kamelot, first of all, so it's an opening act tour. For us it's perfect, the chance to get warmed up within the new set list and with the new band members as well. We have to become a new band again, that's what we will try to accomplish now. Then you'll see a bunch of hungry, revived and happy guys on stage playing sad music. (Laughter)
Nerissa: Won't that be just beautiful?
Nerissa: Well, this is it on my end. I just want to thank you for taking time out for this interview.
Thomas: No problem.
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