Evergrey - Tom Englund, Henrik Danhage

Using all the gathered momentum from “Hymns Of The Broken”, EVERGREY stroke once again with the amazing “The Storm Within” which has been haunting my playlist since day one. Most recently, the band was upon US soil to do some press and METAL KAOZ had the chance to Skype with Tom Englund and Henrik Danhage, so please have a look what we discussed and for what we had a couple of laughs...

Evergrey - Tom Englund, Henrik Danhage

Hi Tom and Henrik, and welcome to METAL KAOZ!
Tom: Hey Dimitris, thanks for having us.

How was the album release party?
Tom: It was fantastic! There was a great amount of people, sold lot of albums and, most importantly, everyone really loved the album, so yeah, it is with a sigh of relief we enter this cycle of the album release with the touring.

You did also some pre-listening sessions for some EVERGREY fans; so how anxious did you feel then?
Tom: Well, when we write / record an album, we are not interested in what anybody thinks. But then, it starts to shift; the day we release an album, then it is of course not our album, and becomes the audience’s album. So, at that shift it becomes extremely important what people think and of course we need to have as many people as possible to think that this is the best album we have ever recorded. So, before the pre-listening we were not that anxious but we were eager to get things out and start the next step of this process.

How would you feel if someone had something negative to say?
Tom: It depends if this is said in a constructive way or just to badmouth the band, and believe it or not, there are people like that (laughs).

Of course I believe you, Tom…
Tom: It is also strange; because you can have ten thousands of positive comments and then you see just one and it bothers you. I think there is an analytical side of me that wants to understand what it is that they don’t get (laughs).

I think this is how our brains are wired and always be focused on the bad things. Anyway, “The Storm Within” is the first 'love' album by EVERGREY? (laughs)
Tom: (laughs) Or maybe it is the first 'lack-of-love' album.

I guess this makes more sense…
Tom: Yeah, especially if you listen to the music, then it makes more sense, right?

Exactly, and in fact, when you look at the album’s cover artwork, you see the black birds and the white doves and although they seem to be in perfect harmony, there is some short of a battle going on. This is something each of us has to experience - the good fighting the bad side.
Tom: Exactly, it is all about finding the balance in life. There are times in one’s life that is easy to find this balance and others where it is impossible. I think life is demanding but at the same time is a totally unique experience for everyone.

So, what period of time of your life or of the band’s life is being representing in “The Storm Within”?
Tom: I think every EVERGREY album represents the most recent times. The music that we make is being colored by the experiences we had or someone really close to us had. This is the cool thing about music when we can experience the situation we were when we were writing the music.

Well, the concept of the album seems to be personal, so how can a band contribute to the songwriting and still feel like it is based on one person’s experiences?
Tom: Well, being in a band means exactly this thing. I am the one who wrote the lyrics for the songs, so from that aspect, I am the mind behind that, but we are five individuals that write music together and this is like working as a single mind. This is how it works. Of course we talk about things and explain to each other how we see or feel things. When you analyze this, it seems like a well-thought process in a way and this is also something that we have learned and have used to be doing all this time. Most of us have played together for almost fifteen years, so we know each other.

Speaking of the songwriting process and since I am talking to the two EVERGREY guitarists, how do you split the leads between the two of you?
Henrik: It does not matter who writes what; if I think that I have a riff that sounds better when Tom plays it, then he will be the one to do it.
Tom: And vice versa...
Henrik: Exactly. There are no rules and we want to make the best possible and the hardest riffs, no matter who is playing it. We just go with what feels the best.
Tom: For the lead parts, I usually say to Henrik; “here’s the part that you’re going to play on” and then he does...
Henrik: And this is usually done very fast... (laughs)

Do you challenge each other?
Henrik: Yeah, there is always some tension between us, although this word has a negative sense but I think you get what I am saying. It is very important to have this between us and I’d say we have a very good guitar companionship I’d say. After all, a lot of people like this, so I guess there must be something we are doing right.
Tom: This is really important and the thing is that even if you are very good at playing the guitar, there are moments you feel insecure and I think what you need, what I need to hear from Henrik and what he needs to hear from me is if ‘this is good enough’. So, we are each other’s ears and this works.

And that goes back to what you said about playing together from fifteen years and maybe so this is the result of maturing and growing up together as musicians and as persons, right?
Tom: Yeah, for example in “The Paradox Of The Flame” we played the guitar lead together but without deciding what to play beforehand. We kind of follow each other in a way and Henrik plays with his whammy bar, I play with my style and then we make it work; something that is a very cool thing. We know each other guitar-wise in and out.

Speaking of “The Paradox Of The Flame”, this is the third video that you have planned to release, correct?
Tom: There will be four actually. “The Impossible” will be the last of the three videos we filmed in Iceland and the fourth one will be “Orbit” with Floor Jansen.

Cool, will Floor be part of the video?
Tom: Of course she will.

Is it true that you asked Floor to guest sing on the album over a glass of wine?
Tom: Yeah, but it was not me and her. It was my wife and her (laughs)...

So, was it the wine that did the talking? (laughs)
Tom: (laughs) Might have been and maybe now Floor feels really sorry about it. No, I’m joking, it is all good. The only problem we have is trying to schedule things because there is no time. I mean, after getting home from the US, we have 7-8 days of time to make this video because we have to play in Norway but somehow we will make it work.

How did you use her singing abilities in “Orbit”?
Tom: Well, I gave her the melody I had written and let her sing it. For the last part of the song, she does a lot of ad-libbing and whaling and I just try to follow her and mark the song with the EVERGREY sound. So, she had the freedom to pretty much do what she wants within the range of the song.

Did you use a live choir during the recordings?
Tom: Yeah, that’s my daughter and her friends.

So, I guess everyone is singing in your family…
Tom: Everyone except the dog; he is not singing that well (laughs).

­And speaking of family, you had your wife doing a duet with you, so are there any plans to get her on the tour with you?
Tom: No, never! (laughs) but mainly because she doesn’t want to. She is totally uninterested in that type of life. She would go crazy and I would definitely go crazy within eight hours or something like that. However, the hardest part of being a musician is being away from your family. But the moment the musicians start bringing their family on the tour bus, then it will be the end of the band, for different reasons (laughs).

I can only imagine… In the special edition of the album, you had the cover on SABBATH's “Paranoid”; so was this just an easy choice or there is some weird connection with the theme of the album?
Tom: No, it is totally a stand-alone song. We actually recorded this for a project for homeless people in Sweden. They get to sell magazines and then get the money, so this organization had a lot of such homeless people wishing for an artist in Sweden to record their favorite song and one of these guys he asked for EVERGREY to do “Paranoid” and we did it. Then we saw that it came out so great that we wanted the rest of the world to hear it as well. The song was released about two years ago.

I have to say that you did a great job with the guitar solo that has nothing to do with the original.
Tom: Thank you so much, although I have to admit that I don’t even remember that. It is been a while since the last time I’ve listened to it but I will take your word for it.

The press release that came with the album reads that this LP is in the context of celebrating the band’s 20 years, so are there any plans to celebrate more this occasion?
Tom: We celebrate every day when we tour... (laughs) The thing is that this 20th anniversary came as bit of a surprise for us. I mean, I consider us being recording artists for 20 years when it will be 2018 because EVERGREY released their first album in 1998. But of course this band has been since 1995, so maybe when we reach the 20th of being recording artists, we will have a logical plan to celebrate this.

Do you like the idea of playing an entire album when it is the anniversary of its release?
Tom: No (laughs). We don’t like playing entire albums at all because some songs are not made to be played live; they are just studio work, even though for this I could actually see us playing every song.

That would be nice…
Tom: Yeah, it would, but you know, we have done so many songs that people wanna hear.

Yeah, I totally understand this. The next question is for both of you; what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think the beginning of EVERGREY? Although Henrik was not in the band from day one…
Henrik: The first thing that comes to my mind is excitement of what was about to come.
Tom: For me, thinking about this makes me feel fucking old (laughs). Seriously now, I can’t even remember; of course I do remember when EVERGREY did a demo and then we got a record deal, so you know, it happened quite fast to get into a semi-professional status, and for me, this was exciting.

This is a cliché question but I will ask it anyway; are you satisfied with the way EVERGREY have evolved and matured after all these years?
Tom: Matured? Absolutely, I am super-satisfied. Of course, we could have sold many more albums but with that being said, we are extremely happy where we are. I mean, we are professionals and we can still have our lives in a way that works for us. With that being said (again), if this steps up a few notches, we will have to recalculate what we need to do in order to do this. After all, we are musicians and this is what we do.

Of course, and going back to the press release, there is another line that says that your life plan was to release ten albums; so this is tenth one…
Tom: Yeah, so life is over (laughs).

Ok then, nice talking to you (laughs)...

Tom: This was just a child’s imagination, being the greatest thing ever. It is a great thing to have accomplished that for sure but now - as it happens in real life - you have new goals; my goal now is for everyone to hear “The Storm Within” album and then get out there to play and stay healthy.

Sure, especially the latter. Speaking of playing live, you have announced the tour dates for Europe starting around late September, so my obvious question is when should we be expecting to see EVERGREY here in the States?
Henrik: In May.

That was a quick answer, I like that!
Tom: (laughs) Yeah, the sure thing is that we will play for one day live in the US in May...
Henrik: (laughs) Well, we don’t have the schedule yet.

Do you know if it will be a headlining tour?
Tom: Of course it will.

Cool, so please make a note to include Chicago…
Tom: Chicago is already included, Dimitris.

Oh cool, you just made my day. Have you chosen the songs from the new album to play live?
Tom: Oh no, we haven’t. I know that we will start to rehearse “Passing Through”, “In Orbit” and... what was the other one?
Henrik: It was “Distance”.
Tom: Yeah, these were the first that we have picked to rehearse.

For “In Orbit”, will you be using pre-recorded parts for Floor’s singing?
Tom: No, I will dress up Johan [Niemann], the bassist, and he will come out and do those (laughs).

Is Johan that tall?
Tom: (laughs) Well, the plan is for me to sing all the parts but I will skip the ones in the end, but it will sound awesome - I promise that.

Well, I will keep you accountable for this… Do you have any leftover material from the “The Storm Within” sessions?
Tom: No, we have just 35... (laughs) But these are from both “Hymns For The Broken” and “The Storm Within” sessions and they are not full songs. These are song fragments and ideas and some of them are also produced. The main reason that we did not use them is that they did not fit the vibe of either albums. We need to write songs that fit to the exact period of time. Who knows, maybe we will write another album next and use some of them later.

I asked this because some musicians don’t like to use old material…
Tom: Well, yeah, when you start writing for an album, you want to start writing and not just looking through old stuff. I mean, if you have the inspiration, then that’s what you want to use and this is why some songs get written but never recorded. But we do not know.

The album has some violin sounds, so did you use actual violins or did these come from keyboards?
Tom: No, we hired musicians to record these. There is a cello and a violin and we hired for a couple of days musicians who sat with us in the studio to record the parts “The Paradox Of The Flame” and quite a few parts for other songs that some of them we ended up using.

I have the impression that the album has an almost modern finishing touch in the keyboards…
Tom: Yeah.

So, was this done intentionally or it just happened?
Tom: The thing is that the whole inspiration for the album came from the keyboard sound you hear in the chorus of “Distance” and “Disconnect”. Those were the first two songs we wrote, so the whole vibe is based on the keyboards and then of course we built this “The Storm Within” world around that. I don’t know if this answers your question, but it’s true; we had a keyboard sound and then we had an album (laughs).

That sounds so easy that I can do it myself (laughs). I have one last question; watching the videos, I have to ask you how you get in that mood with all these elements around you? It had to be cold right? So, what’s going on with you - do you have some actor within you?
Tom: Well, I don’t know. I mean, I just walk and it is not that hard because I have been doing this since I was two years old (laughs). But it was not cold and, in fact, it was hot and we wore shorts and t-shirts but for the video I had to wear all these clothes and sweat my ass off.

That was awesome, guys! Thank you for taking the time to once again talk to METAL KAOZ.
Tom: Thanks a lot, Dimitris.
Henrik: Thank you.

Looking forward to seeing EVERGREY live again and getting my hands on the vinyl. Have safe travels!
Tom: Thanks a lot man, see you in Chicago.