Jaded Heart – Imperfect Sanity Moves Them Forward
Interview with Johan Fahlberg (Jaded Heart) [December 8th, 2009]
2010 marks Jaded Heart’s 20th anniversary since the band was founded by former singer and songwriter, Michael Bormann, and his brother, guitar player, Dirk Bormann, although the band was not consolidated until 1991, when the full line up was completed by bass player Michael Müller and drummer Axel Kruse. After the release of their fifth album, Trust, Michael Bormann and Jaded Heart parted ways, allowing the band to take a different approach to their music writing after they were joined by Swedish frontman Johan Fahlberg.
As Jaded Heart has always been quite consistent in their line-up, I was curious to see how this crucial change was going to affect the band. However, after releasing three albums with Fahlberg as their frontman, they have proven their talent as songwriters and their ability to go in new directions. In their most recent album, Perfect Insanity, we find ourselves listening to a Jaded Heart album which still has not forgotten its hard rock roots and yet, there is a freshness found when they play melodic metal.
It is for all these changes that I wanted to speak with Jaded Heart’s new frontman, Johan Fahlberg. I wanted to get his views on his influence on the band, his feelings of what the future holds for them as well as many other subjects concerning Jaded Heart. As I sat down for, what turned out to be a one hour phone interview, I did not know what to expect and found myself speaking to a very likable fellow who immediately opened up to my questions. . .
Nerissa: First of all, let's go with some easy question. What is Jaded Heart? What does it mean to you?
Johan: For me? Ohh, you mean the exact word or what Jaded Heart means for. . . Oh my, a difficult question. . . What does it mean to me? Well, it means a lot of fun, actually.
Nerissa: Ok, a lot of fun, describe that.
Johan: Yeah, it means three fantastic guys from Germany and one fantastic Swedish guy from Sweden, Peter Östros, and me of course.
Nerissa: In 2004, when you first joined the band, what did it feel like to join Jaded Heart? After all, they'd been there for some time, what did it do for you? What did it mean for you, personally and musically?
Johan: I mean it was. . . The first time when I went to Germany, we just had this, what it's called? An audition, of course, was the first thing that happens. We got together and started rehearsing nearly directly and it was like we connected instantly. We rehearsed and tried out a couple of songs and it worked directly. So we just rehearsed for maybe a couple of hours and directly afterwards, I don't remember it, we just had a couple of beers and they asked me if I wanted to join the band. I said, hell yes. . . Absolutely!
Nerissa: As a musician, what did that mean for you, in your life?
Johan: It was a step up, I guess. I mean I wasn't involved at that time in that kind of successful band, I didn't have a band, actually, at that time here in Sweden, I was out of a job. It was my former colleague in Scudiero, an old Swedish progressive heavy metal band that I played in, and it was Mikael Rosengren, with whom I played in Costancia, you know that?
Nerissa: No I didn't know that part of your life. . . There wasn't very much information about you online, so I'm looking for more!
Johan: Ask me what you want to know and I will try to tell you.
Nerissa: Ok! So what do you prefer, heavy metal or hard rock?
Johan: Heavy metal.
Johan: I mean, I prefer hard rock. . . Ahh, I prefer heavy metal. . . I do, yes, I do.
Nerissa: As a singer too?
Nerissa: Where do you think Jaded Heart stands as far as the music style?
Johan: I think now we're something in between heavy metal and hard, hard rock.
Nerissa: Since you joined Jaded Heart in 2004, what have you brought to the band?
Johan: Hopefully, a lot of good songs, (laughter) a couple of few good laughs. . . I don't know, it's so hard. . . Well I am such a good singer. . . No I am not! I'm just a normal, Swedish, tall, 2 metres tall idiot, from here, I'm a Swedish guy, Jesus Christ, it's so hard to speak about myself!
Nerissa: Well you have to!
Johan: Well, I’ll try to! Hopefully, you know, I changed the way of thinking and my style of singing, I think. And also, the guys were. . . In the beginning, when I started with Jaded Heart, the music, the way they went and were doing was more the Bon Jovi style, the AOR style. . . So I was a little bit concerned about that. But when I talked with the guys, and we started to rehearse, they instantly said "no, we want to go harder, more heavy metal and stuff". So I think my contribution to the band is more metal, I guess.
Nerissa: Since we're on the subject, let's talk about the more recent album, Perfect Insanity, why do you think the fans are loving it? What do you think is new in this album?
Johan: Ehhh, I think it's more, it's more honest I guess, it's more us, I think and also, for this record, when we had this direction, all of the sudden while recording this album we had like 25 songs, a lot of songs to choose from. So we just stood there and were like, yeah, more or less, killing your darlings (laughter), ahh this one, no I don't think so! Yes, you have to god damn like it 'cause Peter and Axel think this one is good. But I would like you to think that this one is good, because I want it on the album. We try to convince each other about what songs should be on it, but, you know, it's democracy with five guys. So it's just, you know, we have to put up our hands, ok if we don’t discuss through it, and decide which songs should be on the record.
Nerissa: Is that a very difficult process? Do you argue a lot about those types of things, you know, which song is going to be on the record and which song isn't?
Johan: Not arguing, but yeah, we discuss it. So it's just that, if I like a song and the other guys don't like it, then I try to convince them and I try to pour out what's good with it and what's going on the album, and blah blah blah and so on, but never arguing.
Nerissa: I get the picture. (laughter)
Johan: We just sit there and come up with new ideas, me and Peter, and the other guys from Germany as well, also come up with ideas and we just send them through the internet files back and forth. We put on guitars and drums and vocals. They also have like drums and bass and guitar. We try to record, and, you know, help each other out and maybe you could do this like that and all of the sudden, we have like 25 songs. I don't know, do you understand what I am saying?
Nerissa: Perfectly, and it's very interesting to see it really is a group effort.
Johan: When I joined Jaded Heart, it was only the old singer who was doing the material and the songs, but when I met the guys it was completely wrong, he just took the, how do you call it?
Johan: Lyrics I can write myself and vocal lines, but I was a little bit scared if none of them was doing the music, but of course, they did. . . This is the word I was looking for, he just took credit for everything.
Nerissa: Who writes the lyrics?
Johan: Most of the time it's me.
Nerissa: Going back to the former vocalist, when you went in, he had just been kicked out. What was the feeling of the band after kicking out a founding member, Michael Bormann? what was going on there?
Johan: I think they were relieved. Actually, the guys, they were relieved.
Johan: He was a burden. Actually, he was, I don't know, I mean, I don't know the guy and I guess you should ask the German guys, actually Axel, Michael and Henning.
Nerissa: Ok, I will ask the other guys. From a more recent point of view, since you've been with the band since 2004, with all the changes there have been in the band, what do you think is the secret that has kept Jaded Heart moving forward?
Johan: I think the recipe is. . . To have fun and be open-minded I guess. I mean, we are, all of us are decent guys who eat, sleep, we're easy to hang around with and the thing is, we like each other, I think we love each other actually, we have so much fun together and you know, we like to be around each other, to hang with each other, to play, to watch a movie, we like to go to dinners outside of the band. . .
Nerissa: Do you hang out a lot together?
Johan: We try to, but the problem is, me and Peter live in Stockholm, Sweden of course, but we try to visit them and they come often to Stockholm as well. We’re just friends, all of us. It’s fantastic, I never really experienced anything like this. We always talk with each other, if we don't talk, we have skype or send emails or we at least send SMS.
Nerissa: Continuing with your, what was your previous experience in music before joining Jaded Heart?
Johan: I was a singer, and, actually still am. We have a record that hasn't been released yet, the only thing that is missing is my vocals. Scudiero, Mikael Rosengren, the keyboard player now in Costancia and there's the guitarist Fredrik Folkare from Unleashed, and then also the drummer who plays in Yngwie Malmsteen now, he was a drummer first, and nowadays in you know. . . Christ, I was almost saying Shotgun Messiah, it's not Shotgun Messiah, my God, what's the name? Ahh, I forgot it completely. It'll come sooner or later. It was a bunch of guys, five guys, that was my former band, and it still is.
Nerissa: How do you juggle both bands and job?
Johan: Well, this is put on ice, it's put on hold actually. The other guys in the band, kick my ass and say come on do the vocals god damn it! Do the lead vocals someday. (laughter)
Nerissa: How does being a musician impact your personal life and your job?
Johan: Well, ummmm. . . (silence) I don't know. (giggle) But seriously. . . (thoughtful silence)
Nerissa: Let’s skip this for now. What is your other job?
Johan: I work with a company that's, what's it called? Interior designer I guess.
Nerissa: So musician and good taste in decorating?
Johan: Hopefully, yes. (laughter)
Nerissa: So you're an interior designer
Johan: Well, I'm not actually an interior designer, but yeah, I design a little bit. More or less, I just work for them.
Nerissa: How do you handle both your musician and designer job?
Johan: The thing is I have such a nice boss taking care of me very well and when I started to work there my only, what it's called, I told him like this, I'll start working here but the only thing I want is that I want to go on tour whenever I want. And he was like "mhmm, ok".
Nerissa: An easy-going boss.
Johan: Yeah, absolutely, so he lets me go whenever it is, I just tell him, try to tell him, as soon as I can.
Nerissa: So how does being a musician impact the rest of your personal life, because it's not a regular 8 to 5 job?
Johan: No it's not. Well, it's, well, ummm. . . I'm often away from home of course, because it's, you know, I'm going to Finland on Friday, oh I'm going to Åland, you know Åland, Finland? The island between Sweden and Finland, I'll go there in the night, and of course, it's Friday to Saturday, well Friday till Sunday actually, I'm often away from home and, I don't know. . . Ask me more questions, what do you want to know? I just lost myself
Nerissa: I was just curious, how it impacted your personal life. Do you live alone then or do you live with somebody?
Johan: I live with somebody.
Nerissa: So how does this person deal with your different lifestyle?
Johan: She knows how to deal with it. I'm pretty lucky because her dad was a jazz musician, he was a guitarist and played in a lot of jazz bands in Sweden. She knows everything about musicians, of touring and yeah, you know.
Nerissa: Yes, because for many other artists it's sometimes a bit of a problem, so it's a compromise.
Johan: Yeah, of course, yeah. And that's really hard because I have other friends, and, of course, I know the problem is with the one you're involved with or. . . She is not really comfortable with you’re going away or she's scared or you know. . . (thoughtful pause) It's always because. . . What's it called, jealousy? Oh, not jealousy but what's it called when you, of course, it comes along with you must be confident in yourself I guess because it's a lot, because the thing when you go on tour, actually, it's a party. (soft laughter) You play, and you go somewhere and everybody is happy, there's a lot of booze and of course, there's girls everywhere so they (girlfriends) get scared and stuff like that and of course it's. . .
Nerissa: I think more than scared or insecure, it has to do with trust, trust in the other person.
Johan: Yeah, absolutely.
Nerissa: Let's go back to the band. What would you like to see the band to do in the future?
Johan: You mean on record or what?
Nerissa: Yeah, future records, what would you like to see Jaded Heart do in the future as far as recording artist?
Johan: It would be nice to be, because I think now people are not really aware, because, as I said, they were more or less an AOR band and they were melodic, they were on the melodic scene and it would be nice for people to recognize. . . I think it's getting better and better. The people who loved the old Jaded Heart are, of course, confused now with what's happening. Those who listened to heavy metal have not really realized that we actually play a little bit more harder and heavier nowadays. So hopefully, I think we're going to reach out to all these people, they understand that Jaded Heart is on the metal scene nowadays.
Nerissa: So do you think you're going to get harder and heavier in the future?
Johan: Uhm, could be.
Nerissa: Your most personal Jaded Heart song.
Johan: Most personal. . . I think. . . I think the most personal song I have to say the first on Perfect Insanity, Love is a Killer is actually a very personal song.
Johan: It’s about a really bad relationship I had years way back. (laughter) So that was, yeah, you know you always meet someone, and she was my biggest mistake. I was deeply in love and she actually really destroyed me, crushed me. I was broken hearted. . . (laughter)
Nerissa: Yeah, you laugh now but at the moment it’s usually tough.
Johan: Yeah, it is. I remember how hard it was.
Nerissa: Where do you get other moments of inspiration and other ideas for lyrics for the songs?
Johan: I don't know. It could actually be anything. It could be when I'm sitting watching a movie, watching news. I just realized I am better at doing songs about things that I don't like, that I dislike, that I hate, yeah, it's easier to write these songs or these lyrics, than to write a love song actually.
Nerissa: Well, I like songs of broken hearts, not happy love songs.
Johan: Yeah, broken heart is easy, you know what I mean, it is easy for me to be angry, you know, just get out my anger, you know. . . I can't find my words in English now. . . It's more easy to be angry actually, easy to write those angry lyrics than to write those love lyrics.
Nerissa: Have you ever made anybody cry with one of your songs?
Johan: Not that I know of actually. The thing is that I don't know if I actually made her cry, I'm not sure if it was the lyrics but it was the first time I was on stage with Jaded Heart, it was in Germany and it was one girl that I met afterwards and she was so, I don't know, she couldn't speak, she cried, and it was her boyfriend, or he was her friend or something, I don't know, but she was really, we had to get a chair and put her down, I don't know, she couldn't speak, she was just looking forward to meet me.
Nerissa: So, how did that make you feel?
Johan: My God, how the hell do these guys deal with this, what should I do? Man, I was worried she was going to faint or something, I don't know. I felt like, I don't know, I think I felt like an idiot actually. (laughter) Come on, it's only me god damn it! It's nothing special, I'm just you know, I'm just me, I'm what you want, I'm just a Swedish guy. (more laughter) I just stand up there, two metres tall, and I try to be funny, tough or sexy. (some more laughter)
Nerissa: Ok, funny. Your most personal moment?
Johan: The thing is, the most, what I come up with now is actually the thing that, when I decided to play music, actually to play hard rock it was when, I guess, I was 7 years old and at that time it wasn't very often that you could see hard rock bands or something like that on TV. So I was asleep and all of the sudden, my dad runs to my room, and I was asleep and he just grabbed me, I thought the house was on fire, what the hell it was, and he just ran down the stairs carrying me on his shoulder and he sat me down in front of the TV and there was my all-time biggest band that I love, Kiss. (laughter) And I was so... I wasn't really awake, and I wasn't you know because it just grapped me and I didn't know what was happening. So I was a little bit, what's it called when you just got up fast from bed....
Nerissa: I would say you were sleepy, half asleep still.
Johan: Yeah, I probably was that, actually, I don't remember, I just remember a few like... What it's called... Just a few moments, pictures in my head of that moment, of Kiss, what it was on TV and I wanted so bad to remember it, but I couldn't but I knew it was Kiss, of course. I was so glad, you know, I wasn't really awake. But that was actually my moment, I decided that was so cool to see Paul Stanley and the guys then. I was convinced that's the thing, that's what I'm going to do, absolutely!
Nerissa: What a moment! Describe what is Jaded Heart, the band, for you. We first started with the words themselves meant. Now describe what the band means to you other than fun and all that.
Johan: Tough questions! (laughter)
Nerissa: Yes, but I’m getting good answers!
Johan: What it represents, it represents... I don't know, it's Tuesday today and I think my favourite word today is fun, and it's fun, I don't know... I mean, I, well, when they come to our concerts, I want them to have two hours of not thinking of anything, just having pure fun. But I don't know what to say actually... It represents... It was a tough one. Ok can I go on with the other one?
Nerissa: We can go on, no problem. Describe each individual band member.
Johan: I'll start with Axel Kruse, the drummer. He's our big daddy, he's the one who's.. he's really taking care of everything. I don't want to call him the boss, but he's the guy who takes care of everything, who, as you say in Germany, he has Ordnung, it means like, it has to be someone, or has to call someone to do something, take care, fix a tour bus, or a new rehearsal room, or fix a new backdrop or take care of the T-shirts... All the things, he is the man. And Müller, Michael Müller, our bass guitar player. He's Mickey Mouse man (laughs), he lives in a fantasy world, and he is... He is the happy and funny guy, he's always happy. Actually, he and Peter are the funny guys, they are the, what's it called?
Nerissa: The clowns?
Johan: Yeah, the clowns, they are the clowns of the band. Then we have Henning. he's also an organizer. He's kind of the guy who, he's more into details, like, if we discuss things over the internet, he just organizes everything. We’ll say, I see the flight going like 9 o'clock in the morning or whatever it is, and he says, ah, I found another plane that is much cheaper, and it's much faster. He's the guy who always goes into details.
Nerissa: Ok, what about yourself?
Johan: I am something in between all these... (laughter) I think I'm the lazy one! (laughter) I'm trying to organize, but then, all of the sudden I lose things, of course, I think to myself that I'm pretty well organized and stuff like that, but then, stage clothes go missing and... (laughs) I don't know... I'm also the guy who is, if there's something wrong and we've been, you know, mistreated or something, I am the one who gets angry and fixes those things.
Nerissa: So you protect the others?
Johan: I think so.
Nerissa: OK, let's try this again. Now that you described all of the band, how would you describe the band as a whole? eart
Johan: We're... What’s it called... Ok, it's a paper bag, it looks like a paperbag but there's an image, you know this thing that laughs all the time? (laughs)
Nerissa: Yes, I can’t remember the name.
Johan: It's the thing that come to me as I said fun. As I enter the tourbus, everything is always fun and laughing all the time, everybody telling jokes and... Yeah, we have fun the whole time, you know, we're like a cartoon. In this paperbag, you know what was it called? In Swedish it's called skrattbåget, the direct translation means laughbag. (laughs) I know it's called like Joker, the batman, the first one... like hehehehehehehe...
Nerissa: As a final note to end this interview, what would you tell your fans?
Johan: To never watch a Primal Fear show again! (laughter)
Johan: It's just something like I said, we were in Spain, we just love Spain, it's fantastic there everytime! We were in on tour with Primal Fear and we got fired from the tour because we were complaining, everything was so unprofessional and badly organized. It was ridiculous! We came to Barcelona and the (playing order was) Jaded Heart, Brainstorm, and Primal Fear. First, we didn't get soundcheck and, the thing is, their soundcheck was for about six hours! You start to wonder what the hell they're doing! Then everything was changed, Jaded Heart had to play 45 minutes and we played 30 minutes after the doors were opened, so it started directly with no soundcheck! So we were like pissed off, and one of us said, ok it was the first gig and thinking let's be nice guys, it's going to get better. The lucky thing was that people were waiting outside, so there was many people who just ran in when we started but the sad thing was that there were people who had been driving or traveling for thousands kilometres just to see Jaded Heart so when they got there, they just missed us as we went off stage, they were so angry and disappointed at us, and we were trying to tell them we're so sorry, have a t-shirt, I'm sorry, take photos... But, they want to see us, you know, thousands kilometres just to see us. We talked to the tour manager and we said this is not going to happen.
When we got to Madrid, the day after, it started directly when we got there. The tour manager said, ”My boss is complaining that you played seven minutes more.” It was 20:07 and we played til 20:37 and they got angry! And we asked, ”Who the hell is so angry with us?” And he said it was Mat Sinner. We got ripped, we got killed directly because we played 7 minutes over the time! It was like kindergarden, it was like, you know, child's play all the time! Then, again, people came down and said we've been driving for hours and now we missed you! So, we had fun with our fans, hung out, took pictures, and signing autographs while the other guys, Primal Fear, just hid because, you know, they are rockstars. (laughter)
We were angry again, more angry than ever. So, after that night, we just decided this is shit, we're going home, but then we thought, going home is up North and going to Pamplona is North, so we give this one more day. We actually talked to Mat Sinner, ”What's this? The tour manager says all the time that he refers to the boss and that's you.” And Mat Sinner says, ”I'm not the boss, you see, he's the tour manager, he gets well-paid for doing this thing so I'm not the boss.” He wasn't man enough, Mat Sinner, to say that he was actually the one giving us the hard time.
So we were sitting in the dressing room, actually, we didn't have a dressing room at all because it was only Primal Fear and Brainstorm because they are big rockstars! (laughter) I don't care, actually, perhaps I have to change clothes but that room there's just sofa, they eat white bread with salami, the oranges and four bottles of wine, you know, I can live without that. So, the promoter was really fantastic in Pamplona. He gave us his room and we were sitting there with him and all of a sudden, Mat Sinner just entered the room and saw that we had one bottle of white wine standing on our table. He got furious and started directly to ask the promoter why we had a bottle of white wine because there should be like four red wine, two bottles of whiskey, one bottle of vodka, one bottle of white wine and that white wine is only for Ralf Scheepers, the singer of Primal Fear! I asked the promoter afterwards what the hell was that, was it because we had white wine and they didn't and he was like, ”Oh, you can't imagine.” So he was also angry. (laughter) So, I was so angry, I just slammed the door in front of Mat Sinner and Ralf Scheepers' faces, they were standing there making coffee. After we had played, the funniest thing, actually I must tell you, (happened) We had guitars that we'd smash on stage but we didn't do it that night because there were new wooden floor on the stage. Then, the promoter asked why we didn't smash the guitar. It was after the Primal Fear guys had played so everybody was leaving, everything was taken down, so he brought us on the stage, dropped the guitar on the floor.. and said, ”Come on, trash it!" There were a couple of hundred people there, so I started to "hey, hey, hey" do this thing with the audience and Peter, our guitarist, just trashed the guitar... That was too much for Primal Fear, because I guess we stole the show from them every night! So, in the middle of night, instead of telling us, the tour manager gaves us a call, to Axel, and said "Axel I just want to tell you that you are fired from the tour and don't come to the venue because it's only becomes worse for you guys if you come here." Can you imagine?
Nerissa: I can't imagine, I think it's so ridiculous... I didn’t knwo this anecdote, I’ll just summarize it for the article.
Johan: Yeah do that!
Nerissa: It must have felt like, you’ve got to be kidding me!
Johan: Yeah! It was funny, when we woke up in Pamplona, because we went out with some fans to a rock club, we woke up and in the morning we were thinking we got fired. It was completely quiet for about five seconds, and then, everybody started laughing and everybody was screaming, ”Fantastic! We're going home! We don't have to do this shit anymore!” (laughs)
Nerissa: I'm curious, what was the reaction from the fans who didn't get to see you?
Johan: Oh, they were angry of course, and we had beautiful fans that put on their websites photos. In Hamburg, Germany, there was this bunch of girls who printed their own T-shirts, which said, ”We're only here for Jaded Heart.” It was nice! And there were other fans in Milan, when they got the news, they turned around and went back home, they just didn't care to go to the show.
Nerissa: So, please, some final words for the fans all around the world.
Johan: I want to thank them so much for supporting through the years with me joining the band and with our change of direction. And hopefully, even see them on tour!
Nerissa: So would you like to add anything else before we finish?
Johan: No, I think I'm... I don't know, I've been talking for an hour now. (laughter) That's what the other guys in the band say the whole time, "Man, you talk a lot!" (laughter)
Nerissa: Well I'm going to finish this interview. Thank you very much for this really fun interview.
Johan: Thank you.
As we finished this interview, I could not help but look forward to their upcoming European tour supporting Rage. I expect the onstage gig to be forceful thanks to the melodic metal additions to their songwriting. Now, I’ll just have to wait and see if this Psycho Kiss is one I can live with or just makes me want to Fly Away as Perfect Insanity is taken live!
virtual, the darker side of me....
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