Evergrey - 06/03/2006

We recently had the pleasure to speak with guitarist Henrik Danhage from the Swedish band Evergrey. We met him in Amsterdam to discuss Evergrey’s latest album ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’. The album was recorded with producers Sanken Sandquist and Stefan Glaumann, who previously collaborated with bands such as Rammstein, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. The previous Evergrey studio album ‘The Inner Circle’ was released over two years ago, another reason to fire some questions at Danhage.

Your latest album ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’ will be released at the end of this month, so of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about this album!


It took you guys two years for the new album. How did you launch into writing the material for ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’ after ‘The Inner Circle,’ did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

The thing is that the DVD and live album swallowed a lot of time, we spent 6 to 8 weeks writing the songs, then we went into the studio for 6 weeks and then the album got mixed in 20 days. It was kind of quick for us; the last one took 6 months.


Had all the songs already been written before you entered the studio, or have there been a lot of changes during the recording sessions?

We changed a couple of things. We had like ten skeletons for songs and then Tom wrote “I Should” when we were starting to get into the studio and I wrote “Still In The Water”, so those two kind of came in the end.


Did you have a certain idea of what you wanted to do on ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’ any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?

I think that we wanted to make a rougher album that was heavier, and work more on the dynamics which meant in this case that for a lot of parts we didn’t have any keyboards at all. Just two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. I think it’s a heavier and dirtier production than the previous ones that we had so it just felt good to make something different this time.

So, it was a conscious decision to do it this way?
No, I mean yes it happened, Tom and I just wrote our riffs and if it sounded good we wanted to record it. So no we didn’t sit down and have a meeting and talk about the direction of the album, it was more like somehow it just turned out this way and then it was a natural process as always.


How did the recording process of the new album proceed?

This time we had a producer named Sanken Sandquist that really threw about the order of the riffs; I was really amazed how much a song could change just by rearranging it. He would take a little thing that I put on as a fill out thing and he turned it into the main riff of the song. With the song “Unspeakable” for instance, the first time he came in we didn’t have that song, it was just and endless amount of riffs going on. We said, “Just do what you have to do” and he said “Just give me half an hour and I’m just going to cut it up”. So we came in later and it started with this little riff, and we said to him “Did you just play this song while we’re gone?” and he said “No, you did!” It was a thing I played the bridge and all of a sudden that was just the lead theme of the song and that was just amazing. That was one of the first songs we recorded and after that thing we just said to him, “Do whatever you want!” Because every time we had a discussion I would say that he was right.


It was the first time that you used an external production team for an Evergrey album. How was it to work with them, did they have an influence on the songs?

It was hard to start with because the songs are very important to us and you don’t want someone to mess up your music. This was the first time we worked with a real producer, it’s very common in metal that people confuse producers with sound engineers. Most of the guys that get production credits, they are really just sound engineers, the band has already written the songs and what the producer has to do is just tweak the sound. That is what we did before with Andy Laroque, he’s a great guy and he pretty much just helped us to make our sound better because we didn’t have the knowledge to cut the songs. But now we had a real producer and that was a totally different thing.


What about the lyrics, most of the songs were already been written, did they still fit? Yeah and that was the most beautiful thing of all, he could just step out and just be able to hear what part had to be where. We were so involved with things that we were just blind, we were just headed in one direction but he could take the songs and give them different a whole dimension.


Who was responsible for writing the songs on the new album?

Tom was the main writer, then me and then Jonas and Rikard, in that order. For the music and for the lyrics, Tom. I think Rikard co-wrote the song ‘In Remembrance’ lyrically, otherwise it was always Tom.



You recorded this album in the Division One Studios, was this a conscious choice?

Yes that is our own studio, it’s in the same building as our rehearsal room it’s, very convenient. Then we mixed it up in Stockholm with Stefan Glaumann so we had a producer and a sound engineer there. Some bands record in there but we haven’t really advertised for other bands to use it but the plan is to rent it out. Eight productions have been recorded there so far.


Did you have a larger budget for this album than for the previous albums and did this change the way you worked?

Yes, it was much better. The money that the production team got was very good. It was better than most bands get for their entire album. It was a big chunk of money but it was worth it and fortunately the record company thinks so too.


Did it add anything?
In some way it did because we could kind of take it easy, it was much more relaxed, it was good to know that it wasn’t a problem that Tom and I had to be in Stockholm most of the days and stay in hotels and stuff instead of sleeping in the studio.


How was it to work with the production team of Sanken Sandquist and Stefan Glaumann, who already worked with Rammstein, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard?
They had a very big influence, Sanken was our sixth member, I would say. When the whole thing was recorded we went up to Stockholm and Stephan Glaumann started to mix it and that was unbelievable. He can take the songs and make them into a totally different thing again! They took a minimum of two days to mix each song and they kept disappearing for a couple of hours and when they came back and we heard it there was this big difference! It was worth each wait. It was really cool to see the art of proper mixing. It was funny because those two guys had the same burning energy for the music as we have, the same burning passion, it was their little baby as well. It was very inspiring to see that. Still after all the mixing we didn’t lose the raw edge, they really added to it. It would not have been possible without those two guys and their assistant named Stephan, it would not even be close to what the album sounds like today. It was a great team, real professionals who already worked with bands such as Def Leppard and Bon Jovi.


Did you have received any feedback on the new album yet and what do you personally think about this?

Same as always, some people love it, some don’t love it and a couple of people hate it. It’s always the same thing when the band releases an album. But I would say 85 percent of the feedback is very positive. It’s usually the guys on the forum that you tend to take notice of the most. I just think it’s funny that people actually are so passionate about writing how much they hate the album. I think it’s fantastic; it actually makes me kind of proud because apparently the music moves them the same way as it moves me but in a total opposite way. There are fans that are very disappointed and I can respect that, I think they are out of their minds for thinking that but I respect their opinions and I’m not losing any sleep over it. Internet is so fast; the promo was out on internet before I got it! And that is one thing that can piss me off, people saying that they are fans, discussing my album while at that moment it’s an album that they have stolen from me!


Are you satisfied with the outcome or would you liked to have changed anything in retrospective?

There’s nothing we would change in retrospective. In a perfect world everybody would be pleased but sometimes it’s even hard to get the five guys in the band pleased and that is the main priority. It is the greatest bonus ever that people buy our CD’s but the most important thing for me is to make music for me and the other four guys that we enjoy playing and all the other things are a big bonus.


Do you have any favorites on the new album?
I like all the songs but, I’m really keen on the piano piece that Rikard played by himself, “Til Dagmar” it’s only a minute and a half. We were recording the last song and when we were done with the session we still had some time left and he was like, “You know what I have this little piece that I played at my grandmother’s funeral and I’d like to record it now that we have a good sound”. He wanted to give it to his mother. So he sat down and played the piece in one take. When he was done all was silent and it was just really emotional. I said to Tom, “We have to have this on the CD!”


Wasn’t this difficult for him to put this piece on the record?

No, not at all. It’s a really nice breather and it really adds a lot of deep, sad and almost disturbing thing, especially when you know what it is about.


There seems to be a sense of loss throughout the whole album, it’s almost like a concept album because of the lyrics?

There are only three songs that hold together some kind of storyline and those are Monday Morning Apocalypse”, “Obedience” and “Still In The Water”. But other than that it’s pretty much little murder stories and the whole thing is that you never know what’s going to happen. For me that’s a theme and if it gives you a sense of loss and that’s ok for you. The song “In Remembrance” is about loss, about losing someone and continually wanting to pay homage to that person, wanting to honor their name.



Who wrote the lyrics for this album and can you tell us something about them?

Tom does the lyrics and he writes very freely. You sense loss there and I’m just feeling that you never know what’s going to happen and that’s beautiful. You can run into the love of your life in a moment or get run over by a car.


The songs on this album are much shorter than on the previous albums, was this a conscious choice or was there a special reason for this?

No I don’t think there was really a reason. I think we stopped thinking about that two studio albums ago on ‘Recreation Day’ when we made a decision to focus on the songs and what is important to the songs. If we have a solo section that we can’t keep interesting for eight bars then we don’t use eight bars! The whole album has a more traditional writing style, breaks, chorus etc. We didn’t cut anything out; we wrote the songs that short to start with. Good music is good music. If I would have written a song that was eight minutes and it was interesting for eight minutes then it would be on the album for that length of time. Maybe next time we will make one song of fifty minutes! I have a lot of CD’s at home that are extremely long or really short that I like, it just has to be interesting.


Did you expect it this way?

We had the tendency to write more direct songs so that’s the reason but we didn’t sit in the studio and say, right we have a problem, we have a song that’s over four minutes! It just happened this way.


You recently renewed your record deal with InsideOut Music for one more album, what are your plans after the release of this new album?

We are in a very good position now. InsideOut put in a lot of money for this so they really have to work to get their money back haha! So far we’ve been very happy, they were very good. We talked to other companies but InsideOut would not have it any other way, they said sign with us and you’ll never want to leave. They treated us real well. The band is our work and we have bills to pay. We all decided to do this and give it a shot and that’s what we are doing right now, we don’t have time for other jobs.


Can you tell us some more about your death metal project: Deathdestruction, that you started with your drummer Jonas Ekdahl?

We started this project with the singer from Nightrage and Jonas our drummer and our guitar tech is the bass player. He played with Hammerfall on their first album. We have an album and we want to release it but we were kind of lazy and we haven’t shopped for a deal, we’ll see what happens because Jonas and I are busy with Evergrey, it’s our main thing.



Ok, now some questions to enable our readers to get to know you a little bit better:

How do you feel about illegal downloading of music from the internet, many albums these days are already on the internet before they are officially released?

There’s nothing we can do about it, it’s here to stay. I really believe the record sales are going down for everybody and the record companies have to find a solution for this. If I hear music that I like I work hard to get the real CD because it makes me feel good that I pay money to support that band even though a lot of it goes to a lot of other parties involved. I want to support the band so that it can make another record that I can listen to.


Do you think you lose some money by it?
Of course we’re losing money over this, the bigger you are as a band the more money you lose. For Metallica it means millions of dollars even though the person is not stealing more from Metallica than from me. I don’t like it, I don’t do it myself.


How did you get involved in the music business and what songs and bands do you listen to yourself these days?

I got in after two albums so I just kind of spun in there. Getting there to start with for me was getting ‘Kiss Alive’ from my grandfather, that really set the mode for me. Tom had been working hard a couple of years before I got in. you need some form of luck of course but when the chance comes you need to be as ready as can be, most of the time in life whether it’s music or work or love, you only get a couple of chances! But if you want to be in a band then you have to practice and write songs and work hard for it, no-one will hire you as a musician if you’re no good. You do it or you don’t. I want to do it as much as I can; if it all ends tomorrow then at least I have done all the CD’s and stuff. It’s hard sometimes what with my family and all but it’s a choice I made and I have to work around it and be a good boy when I’m on tour. I have a beautiful wife at home. I’m doing this now so that we can do things when I’m home. I had this dream since I was five.


How do you see the future with this band, any plans for touring Europe real soon?

I see a really bright future for Evergrey; I believe that we will be very big. And I hope that we will be able to continue to do what we’re doing. We’re doing a lot of shows and festivals in Europe and we’re going to The States in May to support In Flames. After that more festivals and maybe we’re going back to The States in autumn, or to Europe. We’ll see what happens but I think we’re going to have a full year.


Is there anything you want to tell us after these questions?

It was a nice interview; hopefully the readers will be open minded. We released a great album and we hope you’ll like it and come to the shows and get drunk with us!

Thanks for your time!


(Martina Schouten / Eugene Straver)



Current line-up:

Tom S. Englund: guitar, vocals

Henrik Danhage: guitar, background vocals

Jonas Ekdahl: drums

Michael Hakansson: bass

Rikard Zander: keyboard, background vocals


Evergrey albums:
2006 - Monday Morning Apocalypse
2005 - A Night To Remember ‘Live’
2004 - The Inner Circle
2003 - Recreation Day
2001 - In Search Of Truth
1999 - Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy
1998 - The Dark Discovery