Tribulation interview (11/2019)
|Conducted by:||RaduP (skype)|
It goes without saying that Tribulation are one of the most interesting bands to look out for lately, already almost two decades into their career, starting out as a thrash band, then morphing into an old school death metal one, then infusing psychedelia and black metal, then infusing gothic metal to create some of the catchiest and mesmerizing sounds in the scene today. Obviously I wanted to know more about how the process of constant reinvention went, so we got a little chat with Johannes Andersson, who does bass and vocals in the band, and hopefully he'll give us a bit of insight.
Tribulation's upcoming tour
Radu: Tribulation has been touring quite a lot. When was the last time you played live in a new place?
Johannes Andersson: That was actually this year. This June we were, for the first time, in Iceland.
Radu: In Iceland. How was it?
Andersson: It was very good. You're always extra pumped to see a new place, of course, and it lived up to its expectations, I would say. The countryside was very beautiful and the people were very nice as well. It was a smaller, a bit more underground festival than we're used to these days, but they can be very cozy and nice, especially the people working there. So it was a good first experience.
Radu: Is there a place that you haven't been yet that you wish you would in the future?
Andersson: Well, I would love to see China…
Radu: That would be interesting.
Andersson: Yeah, I mean, China… The Chinese are so many, you know -
Radu: I don't think you can play to each and every one of them.
Radu: It could take a while.
Andersson: But it would be so cool to make it over in China and become a "Chinese" band, so to say… But more Asia, I would say. We've only been to Japan… Yeah, that's it. And Australia, but that's… yeah.
Radu: Okay. And next month you embark on a tour with Ghost, right?
Radu: And it's not the first time you've toured with them.
Andersson: No, we did two or three, maybe, weeks in the States a couple years back, so, yeah, it's nice to go out with them again for a full run.
Radu: Okay. And do you actually know who they are?
Andersson: We actually don't know the band, but of course we know Tobias. The band that was playing on the 2016 tour we all knew from early on, but this new band after that we haven't met yet, so I'm a bit curious who they are. It might even be someone I already know.
Radu: Okay, well, if they do, you report back to me, all right?
Andersson: *laughs* Sure. If I can. If I'm allowed.
Radu: You'll be my anonymous source. It's not unusual to see you touring with big names. I saw you when you toured with Insomnium in Romania. You also toured with Arch Enemy and Abbath and Deafheaven and Cannibal Corpse, but I feel like Ghost is a band that you have more in common with, even though you don't really play the same genre.
Andersson: No, but, yeah, it's been quite wide of a…
Andersson: I mean, the tours… They don't make tours anymore like they used to be, like a "thrash metal package" or… Sometimes I see a death metal package, but usually it's a mix of various kinds of genres.
Radu: Honestly, I don't even know who I would package you with.
Andersson: Me neither, but… Right now, Fields Of The Nephilim would be cool, and if Type O Negative still were around, that would be cool as well, but, uh…
Radu: Yeah, they're not.
Andersson: Yeah. It's interesting because it makes you see - you're not that narrow-minded because you see bands that is not in your…
Radu: Comfort zone.
Andersson: Yeah. But you always get to know the guys, and at some point you get brainwashed at least to like some of the songs, because you hear them every night. It's good. And Ghost is definitely something I do like, so that's good for the tour.
Radu: What's the difference - because you've had your fair share of headlining tours - what's the difference between a tour where you're headlining and one where you're the opening band, and how do crowds usually react to your performance depending on the headlining band?
Andersson: Well, a big tour, like this Ghost tour, it's very hard. One thing is the merch sales. That's always important. They will probably not be that good, because everyone bought their expensive Ghost ticket and saved money for the Ghost merch, and there's usually price-matching; we have to sell at the same price as - if it's a big headliner, usually it's price-matching. That's quite horrible for us. But if we're headlining, it's - I guess you gain more respect from the promoters and the personality venues, and… I mean, basically, it's nicer, I would say, to headline. But sometimes being main support to a midsized band can be equally as good. It usually depends on the crews, actually. If the people are nice and everything runs smoothly, it usually ends up being just a pleasure. It's from case to case, from tour to tour, I would say. It's never the same. Sometimes you're doing a smaller tour and everything is super nice, everyone's happy, you get along. Sometimes you don't. You hate one or two guys and it keeps on bothering you the whole way. But that rarely happens.
Radu: Hopefully you won't hate any of the new guys in Ghost.
Andersson: No, no, no, I'm quite sure I won't.
Radu: If you were to cover a Ghost song and Ghost were to cover one of your own songs, which would it be?
Andersson: Oh, shit. That's a new one… Maybe… It's boring to say the first album, 'cause that's my favorite, but "Monstrance Clock" is a good song off the second album. [Editor's note: Yes it is.] So I would go with that, "Monstrance Clock."
Andersson: And I would love to hear Ghost do a cover of "Strange Gateways Beckon."
Andersson: That would be interesting.
Radu: All right. Well, when we publish this interview, I'm going to tell them, but it's probably far easier if you do.
Andersson: Yeah, probably.
Radu: You did release a couple of EPs to accompany your last two albums. What can you tell us about them?
Andersson: Let's see now… It was Lady Death and Nightbound, right?
Radu: Let me take a look. *Takes a look* Yeah, it was Melancholia, Lady Death, and Nightbound.
Andersson: Ah, yeah, yeah, true. My memory, you know, keeps failing me, of our releases. *laughs* But, uh… nothing special. You have to release singles. That's the way to get the attention that there's something coming. But the songs we chose… "Lady Death" is more of a shorter - no, forward song. There's nothing super mysterious about it. Then Nightbound, and then it was Melancholia, yeah. There's different versions of "Melancholia" on there.
Radu: Yeah, it's also on the longer side. It's not just two songs. You also had -
Andersson: Yeah, there's, like, a demo version -
Radu: A bunch of demos, a bunch of remixes.
Andersson: Yeah, but that's cool. That's something I like, when you can show the buyers and the fans some obscure stuff like demos.
Radu: Stuff that isn't gonna be on the actual full-length albums.
Radu: Like those The Cure covers that you also did, those were on some versions of the albums, right?
Andersson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There's so many versions, I can't… *laughs*
Radu: Yeah, I suppose you cannot really keep up with them, but it was a bit strange when you did cover that "One Thousand Years" song, but the same cover is on both Children Of The Night and Down Below. [Editor's note: It's actually "One Hundred Years," but if they put that cover on the next eight albums, they will in fact be up to a thousand.]
Andersson: Oh yeah.
Radu: It was kind of strange because of that. Our publication each year has Metal Storm Awards, where our users vote on each category, and they voted for Best Cover Song of 2018 and they did vote for that, which is apparently a 2015 song.
Andersson: Huh. Yeah, that's strange.
Radu: You deceived us.
Andersson: *laughs* Yeah, we did. All good, though.
Alive & Dead At Södra Teatern
Radu: You're also releasing a live album soon. What can you tell us about that?
Andersson: Oh, yeah, that's coming out - I think it's the day before the Ghost tour starts, November 15th. It felt like it was good timing right now. We've released four studio albums so far, so the live album will be the fifth. It was a hometown show, in Stockholm, and we were at this amazing venue, this old theater, and someone just said, "Hey, let's film this," and then it snowballed to become a bigger campaign and, "Ah, okay, let's record it as well, and let's make it into two acts and do the whole theater thing with an intermission," so everything started to evolve around this live album, and the label, Century Media, was really up for it, so it became a bigger thing than I thought it would *laughs*. It ended up well, I think. It sounds good, it looks cool, and… yeah.
Radu: And you already released some videos from it.
Andersson: Yeah, there's also singles coming for that. We released two so far. You can expect a third one before it's being released.
Photo by Sara Taylor
Radu: Okay. How important would you say is the visual aspect of the band? [Editor's note: Please do not ask about Eyes Wide Shut again.]
Andersson: Super important.
Radu: Obviously, you look like a bunch of vampires.
Andersson: *laughs* Yeah. But, you know, vision, your sight, is one of the most important senses you have, and we have always worked a lot on the visuals. It goes through quite a lot of filters. You can start with a feeling, but it ends up being something that makes it to the cover. And the live album cover, speaking of that, is, you know - "less is more" is my way to go. [Editor's note: I thought he was about to say, "Your site is one of the most important in the metal community right now." We would've given this live album a 10/10 review.]
Radu: Most of your albums were not really packed with a lot of stuff, but it did catch attention.
Andersson: Yeah, we are our own factory in that way, because Jonathan [Hultén], the guitar player, does the actual drawings - for the front cover, at least - and then Adam [Zaars], the other guitar player, does all of the layouts. So far, we never trusted anyone to make a cover or layouts, so it feels good to have it in the family.
Radu: Other than the covers, there's also your stage presence - like I said, you look like a bunch of vampires, and this is something that is transmitted in your music videos as well. The ones I saw were clearly inspired by German Expressionism and stuff like that.
Andersson: Yeah, of course. I mean, the horror element is kind of obvious, I hope. And Nosferatu and the vampires have always been a big inspiration. Yeah, it reflects our personas onstage, as well. We would never go up in, like, sneakers and a t-shirt and play a set. That would look stupid in our world and to our music, I would say. So it feels very normal to put on stage clothes and so some makeup. It enhances the experience in a way.
Radu: It certainly does.
Radu: Tell us a bit about the writing process for the band. How does it work?
Andersson: Well, usually it's the guitar players, Adam and Jonathan, who usually ends up doing almost 50-50 on every album. They come up with ideas, riffs - Jonathan usually makes a demo in his computer, like a full song, and then we… It might not be finished and he's very open-minded with that, so we…
Radu: So you put your input in.
Andersson: Yeah, all of us put our input in there, and if something's not clicking with the Tribulation sound or feeling, we're open about it and address the riffs or the issue at hand and solve it. Everyone is included in some way. For Down Below, for example, me and Oscar and Adam were sitting a lot in Oscar's basement doing demoes together, making the riffs run smoothly into each other, making Adam's songs come to life.
Radu: So it's usually Adam and Jonathan who are doing the actual inspiration songwriting, the basis element.
Andersson: The actual riffing, yeah. I'm gonna try a bit more now, actually. I just got a new computer and Logic, so I'm gonna try as well. It's been too long since I wrote anything. For the upcoming album, for the next album, I'm definitely gonna do some demoes and see where we end up.
Radu: Okay. Most of the interviews that I read were with Adam, so he did go into a lot of detail on how the songwriting process goes and I wanted to ask some questions about it, because you are a band that really evolved a lot and you can clearly tell each album has its own sound that built upon the predecessor and really alienated a lot of fans quite often, and often I thought it has to be intentional, but in every interview that I read, it said it's just where the flow went, kind of.
Andersson: Yeah, I mean, we don't have a great plan or anything. That's the beauty of being in Tribulation. The label trusts us so much they don't intervene in the actual songs, so we have full, completely full trust, so to say. So far, doing exactly what we feel like at the moment on every album has worked out, I would say. It hasn't been turned down so far. We'll see when we fuck up.
Radu: Will you probably fuck up if you do the same album twice?
Andersson: Yeah, exactly.
Radu: I'm really afraid that you're gonna find a sound and you're gonna say, "Okay, that's it, we've hit it. This is what we want to do from now on."
Andersson: I think we would get too bored if we ended up -
Andersson: …doing the AC/DC recipe.
Andersson: I mean, it's only them who can do it that good, so… And evolving in the sound and the songs is what keeps it interesting for us, and our fans like it.
Radu: So you can't really go and say, "Okay, for the next album, we're definitely going to go in this direction."
Andersson: No. We usually know when we're in the studio where we're heading; it's usually that late in the process. We think in terms of colors and feelings. Sometimes there's a lot of songs written for an album, but we scratch some of them because they don't feel like they match the album, I guess. It's gonna be interesting for me as well to see what we are coming up with next time. It could be heavier or it could be going any direction, you know, so…
Radu: As long as you don't stay still, I'm fine.
Radu: Because what I also wanted to ask is, reading these interviews with Adam - it's probably shitty that I ask you how his creative process goes, but, like I said, a bit of this "going where the feeling takes you," it feels like you're not actually in control of the music you're writing. You can't really go in and say, "Okay, I'm gonna write something that is death metal."
Andersson: Exactly. You might be right. The music takes us places, not the other way around.
Radu: I don't really remember, but in the ancient times, something like this, there were some people who said you don't invent music, you discover music. The music is out there in the universe and you're just like a radio who's used to transmit it to the world.
Andersson: Huh. Yeah, that's a way of seeing it, and I agree. Lovely.
Radu: This also goes into more of the spiritual stuff that I obviously read a lot in the interviews with Adam, about his interest in Hindu spiritualism. How do you relate to stuff like that?
Andersson: Uh… Well, I'm quite boring, I would say.
Radu: So you kind of look at Adam and say, "That's a bit too much for me?"
Andersson: Nah… I mean, I agree with the philosophies that Adam especially is interested in, but I'm that deeply involved in it. I'm not Christian, I wouldn't say I'm an atheist either, I just… don't care. That's my lame answer to that *laughs*.
Radu: Okay. Yeah, that's indeed pretty lame. If at least you were a hardcore denying atheist…
Andersson: *laughs* Yeah.
Radu: Or, I don't know, something interesting, like a pagan or something. I mean, paganism isn't even that interesting anymore.
Radu: I wanted to profoundly thank you for being Scandinavians who aren't obsessed with Vikings.
Radu: At least you're obsessed with something else, like vampires.
Andersson: Yeah… the Viking theme is a thing we Nordic people have to… endure. *laughs* [Editor's note: The sigh just uttered was legendary.] But, you know, people kind of like it outside of Scandinavia. Some bands really like that theme.
Radu: Yeah, but it's kind of funny how ancient Scandinavians, or medieval Scandinavians, are the only old folkloric people that other people talk about. I mean, you're not really gonna see a lot of bands about ancient Greeks, about Persians, about Egyptians - other than Nile, obviously.
Andersson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's true. It would be fun to see more bands doing the historical themes of their countries.
Radu: Are you more of a Disintegration or a Pornography kind of guy?
Andersson: *laughs* The first one.
Radu: Disintegration, or "the first one," their first album?
Andersson: The first album - I don't know what you're talking about, actually.
Radu: The Cure.
Andersson: Ah, The Cure! The catalogue of The Cure is not in my knowledge, I would say. But Pornography is a good album. I've heard it maybe three times, to be honest.
Radu: After the interview, go listen to it again, then.
Andersson: Yeah, I'm gonna.
Radu: I mean, you covered one of the songs from that album. You should know it by heart by now.
Andersson: Yeah, yeah, of course - of course I know that, but a good song doesn't have to mean that you love the band who's playing it. But The Cure I have total respect for, but, uh…
Radu: But you're not that deep into their actual discography.
Andersson: I'm not a diehard fan.
Radu: What are you a die-hard fan of?
Andersson: Well… Right now, at the moment, I'm listening to [no idea what he says]. Her latest album came out in 2015.
Radu: [stumbles over it]
Andersson: I've been stuck on that. [repeats it, and I still have no idea.] [Edit: We figured it out] But otherwise, "die-hard fan"… Whoo. Must be the old classics. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and KISS.
Radu: Okay, but that's really boring. Hit me with something better.
Radu: Everybody's a fan of those.
Andersson: Yeah, I know, but I don't think I'm that much of a die-hard… Type O Negative, the last couple of years, has been playing a lot, so… yeah, maybe Typo.
Radu: Okay. You haven't covered a Type O Negative song yet.
Andersson: No, we haven't.
Radu: And which one would you?
Andersson: Ooooh. Uh… "Everyone"… ah, what's it called again? I'm so tired. "Everyone"… "Everyone I Love Is Dead," I think it's called.
Andersson: That's a good one.
Radu: It would fit with your name.
Andersson: Yeah, exactly. They had so much good songs. And a couple of bad songs, but…
Radu: They far outweigh the bad songs.
Andersson: Yeah. Doing a Typo cover feels dangerous. You don't wanna destroy something that beautiful.
Radu: Only if you do it in your own way.
Andersson: Yeah, exactly. That's the important thing.
Radu: If you try those deep Peter Steele vocals, you're gonna ruin it.
Radu: Nobody else can do that.
Andersson: No. He was the man.
Radu: What movie should I watch for Halloween?
Andersson: Well… Have I seen something recently that I…? A scary movie… Hmm… I mean, The Shining - that's a boring answer again - but I rewatched it quite recently and it's still so damn good. But, uh… I saw a movie last night… It was okay for being super fresh. It was called… Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.
Radu: I think I saw that it was in the cinema, but I just assumed it was probably shit from the title.
Andersson: Yeah, of course it's a new Hollywood movie, but that's what you see these days.
Radu: It was just less worse.
Andersson: Yeah, exactly.
Radu: I think the last time I saw a horror movie in the cinema was when they redid It.
Radu: But just the first part. I heard the second part is way worse.
Andersson: I saw the first part. It wasn't that good. You know, it's remakes - you rarely make it better than the original.
Radu: Yeah, obviously. I really can't think of any remake that's actually worth its -
Andersson: No, I mean - I really like The Thing, have you seen it?
Radu: The actual '80s thing is a remake.
Andersson: Yeah, it is as well, right?
Radu: Yeah, and I think I saw the 2011 one as well, but it had awful CGI, which is a damn shame.
Andersson: Ah, yeah. But I'm so in love with The Thing's story - and I don't think it's a remake, maybe? It's a -
Radu: I mean, it's a prequel, but you don't really get to know that until the very end.
Radu: But yeah, the CGI kind of destroys it, and it's a shame because they actually used a lot of practical effects but the production studio had them replaced with CGI.
Andersson: Oh. That's too bad.
Radu: Yeah, that's really bad. But going back to horror movies that you've seen in the cinema, there were actually a lot of horror movies released this year and you can't really see them in the cinema, at least in Romania, like Midsommar or The Lighthouse.
Andersson: Mmm. Yeah, I heard about that Midsommar movie. I liked the movie he did before…
Andersson: Yeah, Hereditary.
Radu: Yeah, I watched it, too. I was definitely willing to go see that, but it's not anywhere in Romania unless it's, like, a Marvel movie or something.
Andersson: Yeah. But so you haven't seen Midsommar?
Radu: No, I haven't yet.
Andersson: Oh. Me neither. [Editor's note: Me neither.] I'll have to look that up.
Radu: We'll have a watching party.
Andersson: Yeah. We could stream it, probably.
Radu: And The Lighthouse is the same production company. It's with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.
Andersson: Hmm. I haven't seen that.
Radu: I've seen it praised everywhere. I hope I get the chance to watch it soon.
Andersson: Yeah. I'm gonna check it out when I get home.
Radu: That's about it.
Andersson: All right.
Radu: [Remembers he's interviewing a guy in a band] Are you in the process of writing a new album now?
Andersson: Well, uhhhhhhhhh…. We're writing. We're always writing.
Radu: But you don't really have any finished songs just yet.
Andersson: We might have some demos coming to life. But probably we're gonna sign up for some studio time in the spring, summer next year, so let's see…
Radu: You're gonna need the studio time to record those Ghost and Type O Negative covers.
Andersson: *laugh* Exactly.
Radu: Thank you very much.
Andersson: Of course, no problem. Thank you.
Radu: Thank you and good luck for your next interview. I hope their questions aren't as interesting as mine.
Andersson: *laughs* They probably aren't. Thank you.
Radu: Thank you. Bye.
[Thanks to SSUS for transcribing the interview, as he should thank me for not bringing David Lynch up]
||Posted on 10.11.2019 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.|
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