Josh Rundquist of That Drummer Guy recently conducted an interview with mainman Christofer Johnsson of symphonic metal pioneers THERION. You can listen to the entire interview below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On THERION‘s forthcoming “Beloved Antichrist” triple studio album:
Christofer: “This is actually not a new album. If I would say ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, you wouldn’t respond saying, ‘Hey, it’s a great album.’ It’s a rock musical which is an album that is available in audio format in CD and vinyl. This is the same thing. I think it’s our fault that we called it a ‘rock opera’, but because ‘rock opera’ usually means an album with a storyline and that’s it. This actually is a THERION version of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, except it’s about the antichrist. It’s completely written for a theatrical stage performance. That’s the entire point with this. The reason that we released it on CD first is because of financial reasons. If you want to present this to a musical type of promotion agency that could make this their next production, we need to show them the music and we don’t have the funds just to record this just to display to somebody. We need the record label to pay for it and if the record label is paying for it, obviously, they need a product release to get their cash back, especially for an expensive recording like this. We spent 100,000 euros on this, like 120,000 dollars or something. So, obviously, we need to sell the product very fast. It’s like having the soundtrack release first, then having the movie later, which is a bit odd. It is what it is. We do what we have to do to make this work. The idea is that this should be a Broadway rock musical. I think the correct term would be ‘rock/metal musical with opera vocals’ — that would be the right terminology. I realize it now when we already sent out the promo sheets and everything. It was a bit misleading calling it a ‘rock opera.'”
On the musical direction of “Beloved Antichrist”:
Christofer: “I would say one third, in my own opinion, sounds like classic THERION. And one third sounds quite different and one third is somewhere in between. It’s going to be interesting to see the reactions. I think every time we release a new album, there’s always a lot of complaints because we always change the style. It wouldn’t be THERION if there wasn’t a lot of complaints every time. If you would check the Internet, the history of the Internet since around 2001, that’s when it became popular to be on Internet forums and comment on stuff, it would appear we’ve never had a successful album because there’s so many complaints. But yeah, we’ve had a lot of successful albums since. I think this one, in particular, will be a big challenge for a lot of fans. [New song] ‘The Palace Ball’ is a completely different type of music, but in this case, we have so much music so I hope people are smart enough to realize that if you would take your ten favorite songs out of this, you would get a very good, regular THERION album. If somebody doesn’t like the idea of the super-long rock opera, then they can take the ten songs they fancy the most and burn a CD and play this on whatever people have these days. Yeah, there will be a lot of debate around it these days, especially when we stage it in a theatrical forum there will be a lot of opinions, but it’s better to have a lot of opinions than no opinions. The day nobody speaks about you, you’re not relevant anymore.”
On THERION‘s penchant for writing a diverse array of songs:
Christofer: “For me, I think what’s kept the band fresh all these years is the fact that we did the music that we wanted and we never put our finger in the air and felt where the wind is blowing. Especially when you become out of fashion, which eventually comes. No trend lasts forever and we sparked and started this symphonic metal trend. The last couple of years, we’ve been kind of out of fashion. It’s like playing heavy metal in the ’90s. Everything that becomes out of fashion becomes nostalgia later. I can feel now that there’s starting to be a bit more interest in that music, but still for a couple of years, it’s been pretty dusty. People ask us to do best-of tours and then you know you’re out of fashion that people will pay money for best-of tours so people can go drink beer and listen to classics. That’s how it is. We always knew it would be like that. We’re actually surprised the trend lasted much longer for symphonic metal than other trends, so we have a few years extra. Now, it seems like it’s just starting slowly to come back a little bit with nostalgia. What happened basically is you have a lot of young fans, then they grow up. When they grow up, they get a lot of other interests and obligations in life. They get families, they get promoted in work and whatever they have to do; buy a new car, buy a house, mortgage, all of that. Then, you are not so focused anymore on what’s happening. Then you have a younger generation, they don’t want to listen to the generation before. ‘That’s music for old people,’ so they find something else to listen to. Then you have the people who get older, they get 40-plus and all of the sudden, especially if you’re a man, it’s like ‘Fuck, I’m getting bald. Where did my life go? I’m sitting here with two kids and a job, fuck, I need beer and metal!’ It’s an age crisis. Then all of the sudden, they come back. That’s what happened with IRON MAIDEN, for instance. They played stadiums in the ’80s. In the ’90s, they played not clubs, but halls with two-thousand people from ten-thousand a show, they pulled two or three-thousand or fifteen hundred sometimes. Now, with the nostalgia, they pull fucking fifty-thousand, five-zero, fifty-thousand. They’re five times bigger in Sweden now than they were in the ’80s. Those people were in the mid-age, they have a lot of money, it’s not a big deal to go to concerts anymore and buy t-shirts and that stuff. When things get old enough, they get classic and timeless and cool. Then all of the sudden you have a new generation of young people who think it’s cool all of the sudden. So, then you have the old people and the new, young generation.”
“Beloved Antichrist”, a sweeping rock opera loosely inspired by Vladímir Soloviov‘s “A Short Tale Of The Antichrist”, is due February 9 via Nuclear Blast. The entire piece reaches an impressive length of three hours. The dramatic and epic opus comes to life through 27 different character roles, performed by long-time band members like Thomas Vikström, Lori Lewis and Chiara Malvestiti, amongst many others. The cover artwork was designed by Thomas Ewerhart.