Interview Tom S. Englund and Jonas Ekdahl (Evergrey):

"It took a rather long time to be able to do what we wanted to do"

(Augustus 2016, text by Martien Koolen, edited by Peter Willemsen)

In 2014, Swedish prog metal band Evergrey released Hymns For The Broken. Their tenth studio album, called The Storm Within, will be released on September 9. In my opinion Evergrey is celebrating their twentieth anniversary with the strongest album in their career. The Storm Within is probably their most progressive record so far. Before the album is released, I had the chance to talk to Tom S. Englund (vocals, guitar) and Jonas Ekdahl (drums).

The Storm Within is your tenth album. What do you consider to be the best Evergrey album ever?
TE: “That's a difficult question... Well, I cannot name one actually, I would put the new album in the top 3, maybe in the top 2 as The Storm Within is a more complicated album, it has more depth and I think that Hymns For The Broken is also one of our best albums. In fact, if we had not made Hymns then this new album wouldn't have been made either, so there you go.”
JE: “We follow our hearts and I think that The Storm Within is a very strong album. It is definitely one hundred percent Evergrey!”

Could you tell us something about the album's title?
Tom S. Englund
TE: “It was taken from the last song of the album where you can hear me sing: the storm within. It symbolizes the fact that we don't know each other's secret thoughts end desires. There are things on the outside, but also on the inside and we try to explore that. I had a vision about an album with a love story theme, a sort of concept album that took place in space. The Storm Within is about a search for identity, trying to make yourself full when you feel half empty and I placed the story in an interstellar world. That makes it rather lonely and obviously also symbolic. It's a real progressive album and the playing was really tough, very technical, but you won't hear that. We changed keys within a song a lot and we liked that. We are proud of The Storm Within, but I'm not very objective about that, but I feel that Evergrey is still a very fresh band. We are still on fire and our music is still progressing.”
JE: “The new album is colder and the production is quite heavier than Hymns For The Broken, maybe you could say that The Storm Within is a kind of lonely album...”

You picked the opening song Distance as the first single of the album. Why that particular song?
TE: “We all decided that it would be the best single of the album. We drove in the car in Belgium and we were brainstorming about the titles of songs of the album and what would become the first single. Then we decided together that Distance would be a great lead single, so there you go.”

On the song In Orbit we can hear the Dutch singer Floor Jansen. How did you get in touch with her?
TE: “Floor is a personal friend and also a true-blue Evergrey fan, so my wife Carina said 'why don't you ask Floor to do a song with you on the new album', so we asked her and she immediately said yes to our proposal. Of course, she can also be seen in the video of In Orbit.”

So, In Orbit is a duet between you and Floor?
TE: “Yes, you haven't heard the song yet..?”

No, to be honest I still haven't heard the album...
TE: “Oh, well that makes it more interesting, ha, ha! It's a very dynamic duet indeed. So, we had a woman in Evergrey and that was really weird! It felt like I was cheating on my wife, you know...” However, I had a goal with Evergrey. I wanted to make ten albums which would fulfil my life plan. It's quite an amazing thing to be in a band for twenty years. I dare to say that we always released an album that felt the best we could do at the time, but that applies to everything Evergrey ever did. That's why we don't do anything half-assed, my friend!”


So, twenty years of Evergrey, what would you consider to be the highlights of these two decades?
Tom S. Englund (TE): “My God, I was afraid that you were going to ask that kind of questions, ha ha! Well, I think we had a great career so far, we made ten studio albums and that's already a great achievement. So, yeah, I don't know, actually. We have visited a lot of places, we have seen lots of countries in Europe, Africa, Japan and so on, you know, so that was really great.”
Jonas Ekdahl (JE): “We have also been to Latin-America, which was really quite amazing. For me, personally, it was great to become a member of Evergrey as I was a fan of the band when I was nineteen years old. I was always listening to their music and followed them. So, when I actually became a member of my 'dream band' it was awesome. Tom and I have known each other now for more than sixteen years and we still get along, so...”

I guess there must have been some setbacks and disappointments as well in those twenty years?
TE: “Well, lots of! Of course the split up of Evergrey a couple of years ago was really tough, but in hindsight that had to happen. It was the best decision I've ever made. That's also the reason why Evergrey still exists. Other disappointments are cancelled gigs, managers that rip you off, but we actually got rid of all those idiots and the contract we have now supports us; we are in a good position right now. It took a rather long time to be able to do what we wanted to do, but we finally got there.”
Jonas Ekdahl
JE: “I actually don't want to think about low points, but there's one thing I still remember as if it was yesterday and that was the gig with Ozzy Osbourne. Ten years ago we were offered to play an entire tour with Ozzy and we were really excited about it. We thought: this is it! We called the newspapers, so we even had an interview about the tour with a well-known rock magazine but 24 hours later it was all over. Ozzy had hurt his back and the entire tour was cancelled; man that was hard!”

What was your most embarrassing moment in those twenty years?
TE: “Oh, man, here we go. How much time do you have, ha ha! Nice questions so far by the way! We had so many embarrassing moments, but maybe the most horrible one was in Greece when our bass player Michael Håkansson, who has a fear for microphones, had to say something to the audience. He was in total panic and he said: 'No, I'm unable to say anything to the audience', but he really had to; he was supposed to say: 'you kick ass, Greece', but instead he said 'you kiss ass...' Well, that was really embarrassing!”
JE: “My most embarrassing moment was when I opened for Evergrey and we sang Swedish midsummer songs. I was dressed up really weird and the fact that this was broadcasted live on the radio was really embarrassing, wasn't it, Tom?”
TE: “Don't get me started!”

What is the best thing about being a musician?
TE: “It's still a privilege to travel around the world to make music and play music. People actually listen to our music and they also like it; that's the greatest reward of being a musician. And that we earn money with making music, of course.”

And what's the worst?
TE: “People judging and reviewing our music; touring, which can be a drag sometimes, and producers.”

Well, thanks for answering my questions.
TE & JE: “You're welcome. It was our pleasure.”

More info about Evergrey on the Internet:
       review album 'Glorious Collision'
       review album 'Hymns For The Broken'

       Interview Evergrey about 'Hymns For The Broken'

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