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Johan Langquist (vocals): “I have been in the music scene all my life. I am not scared of playing music” (laughs)

Tien jaar geleden zag het er nog bedenkelijk uit voor Candlemass en stonden we op het punt om de Zweedse uitvinders van epische doom te verliezen. ‘Psalms For The Dead’ werd bij release in 2012 immers aangekondigd als laatste Candlemass studioalbum. De band zou enkel nog incidenteel live spelen. Daar moesten we het dan mee doen, tot er in 2016 en 2018 als een donderslag bij heldere hemel twee EP’s verschenen. Die bleken een voorzichtige voorbode te zijn voor het uitstekende ‘The Door To Doom’ album. Bovendien was zanger Mats Levén plots ingeruild voor oudgediende Johan Langquist die ooit als gast te horen was op ‘Epicus Doomicus Metallic’ in 1986. Wanneer we ditmaal Johan Langquist aan de lijn krijgen – na een mislukte Skype poging, vandaar dar dit interview niet zo lang is als gewoonlijk – dan ligt ons lijstje kritische vraagjes dan ook klaar tijdens ons gesprek over het nieuwe album ‘Sweet Evil Sun’. 
Vera Matthijssens Ι 10 november 2022

Hi Johan, nice to have you on the line. I always wondered what made you finally join Candlemass as full time singer after all these years, because I remember in the beginning you were a guest on the first album and then you quit. Were you afraid of being a rock star?
(chuckles) No, no. All of my life I had my own band and that was the reason why I did not continue with Candlemass. I had my own band at that point and I was writing songs like that. That was my priority at that time, so it is as simple as that and we talked about that. I told the guys I could not join them. ‘I have my own band and that is where my heart is. I have to be honest with you guys.’ We talked a lot about it and they said: ‘We want you to do the album anyway’ and that is what I did. That is the only reason, but I have been in the music scene all my life. I am not scared of playing music (laughs).

Your proper return in Candlemass happened to be on ‘The Door To Doom’ and now the successor ‘Sweet Evil Sun’ will be out soon. Since it was the second album you made with them, have you been more involved into the writing process or into the vocal lines or something like that?
Of course, I always wanted to do the vocals my way. Leif Edling is the main writer in the band and he had always been the main writer, but he is open-minded towards the recordings and when he likes something coming from us, he is open to that. I don’t make big changes or things like that, I do the vocals and it is all about a couple of tunes here and there that may change. We have tried out different kind of vocals on the same song. I am really involved, even though he is the writer of the songs.

That is nice, but you can rely on a long time friendship of course…
Yes, we have known each other since the eighties.

Let us focus on a couple of the new songs on ‘Sweet Evil Sun’. We have Jennie-Ann Smith (Avatarium) singing on ‘When Death Sighs’ and that appears to be a special song for you… Can you tell anything more about that?
Yes, I have actually known Jennie-Ann and her husband Marcus Jidell for a long time. I know them very well and I didn’t know that they wanted to try out female vocals on that song in the very beginning, but when the album is finished and you are pretty satisfied with the way it sounds, sometimes you want to put something on it which adds an extra and makes it even a bit better and that is when Jennie-Ann came in and she did an amazing job on that song. She has a lovely voice. It was actually perfect that she did that, so that’s the way it turned out in that song.

In ‘Angel Battle’ we hear some spoken words at the end. What do you mean by it?
These words are actually an old guy. He was talking on a recent album, I don’t remember which album it was right now, he is a very old guy talking these lines. I can’t remember, I am sorry, I have been working all day, because still I got an ordinary job.

I understand. What do you do?
Actually I am in construction work right now with a guy. A very physical job. We put some glasses in a house today, it is a heavy job yeah. But it is okay, you have to pay your bills. These are tough times, but I still hope that it is getting better in the end.

Vorph from Samael recently called Candlemass the Black Sabbath from his generation. How do you cope with such a compliment?
The comparison with Black Sabbath makes sense, that is true. Of course, Leif is a big Black Sabbath fan. He couldn’t believe that Tony Iommi was going to do a solo on ‘The Door To Doom’ album (chuckles). We all admire all the albums that Black Sabbath has done, so. They have been a great inspiration to all of us actually.

We have a song called ‘Scandinavian Gods’ and it is the first time you cover the topic of mythology. Is it a serious song or rather relished with sarcasm, since it is rather an up-tempo song…
If you mean if we are into Viking stuff these days, we are NOT. I don’t think that is the point with that song. We are not going to be a Viking band, I can tell. The song is called ‘Scandinavian Gods’, but we are not a Viking band. Leif has written the song and I guess it is just a pretty cool song without deeper meaning. It is a lighter, more easy song than the others, that’s all.

Did the isolation during the covid-19 crisis give you any profits, more time for the writing process for instance?
Yes I guess. Leif started the writing process during that time. I haven’t talked about it to him yet, but I guess he has been working on the songs for 18 months or something like that, but all the other band members are not involved from the beginning, you know. He comes to us after doing a couple of demos and sometimes I do a couple of demos during the writing process, but that is how it all started, absolutely.

Was there a reason why you called the album ‘Sweet Evil Sun’?
Yeah. What the record is about, it is about ambition. Striving. Fame. The song ‘Sweet Evil Sun’ has a kind of Icarus theme. Someone escaped with wings of honey. The father of the man told his son: ‘don’t fly too close to the sun, because your honey wings will melt’. The wings melt and he fell down of course. That song has a kind of Icarus theme in a way. The sun gives you hope and sometimes it can even make you too brave, so you do stupid things along the way to success and then you just fall down.

To occlude a question about the artwork. Erik Rovanperä has created the artwork and that is the case since 2012 on ‘Psalms For The Dead’. What was he inspired by this time?
Actually I don’t know Erik myself, but of course I have seen all of the things he has done and the pictures that he sent to us during the birth of this album. All I can say about Erik is that he is a fantastic artwork artist. He is doing a perfect job and he really catches the spirit of Candlemass in his pictures. He has done a great job.