April 30, 2015 Interview – Johnny of Unleashed
Sweden has been a breeding ground for Death Metal for years now, and one of the pioneers of the movement was Stockholm’s own Unleashed. Formed by Johnny, whom had been a part of the band Nihilist, Unleashed would release some of the decades most genre defining albums including 1991 debut Where No Life Dwells. Appearing as if the ship had sailed for Unleashed, a brief hiatus was only a time for the band to recollect and come back stronger than ever with seven studio albums over the past thirteen years. Now releasing their twelfth overall album, Dawn of The Nine, Unleash look to reign dominance in Death Metal once again. Recently we sat down with mastermind Johnny for a closer look at the formation of the band, their return, the new album, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You began Unleashed back in 1989 after the breakup of Nihilist. Since that time, the band has become known as one of the most well-respected in Death Metal. Looking back all these years later, were you at all apprehensive about beginning your own project, or were you comfortable with it from the start?
Johnny – I recall that as a no brainer really. I was in Nihilist for two years between 1987 and 1989, and it was just a matter of when and which band members really. There was enough friends that were into starting something brutal at the time, so we just went ahead and started Unleashed.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting, so that was the start of something special with Unleashed. In the beginning, the band was extremely active, releasing five studio albums in six years. Then you took a break for five years before returning with Hell’s Unleashed in 2002. What caused you to take such a lengthy break from Unleashed, and do you think it inevitably restored your love for creating again?
Johnny – Well, for us, the break from the industry was a well-needed time off. In 1997, we had toured extensively for many years and also watched someone else come to the road and take the money we generated (our record company at the time). Now, after all those years, we found ourselves in a situation where we could not even reinvest in new gear when the old ones broke down. We generated loads of cash, but very little stayed in our pockets. We decided to take a break and earn some money elsewhere to reinvest in the band and come back with a bang. With new energy, we actually started making Hell’s Unleashed around 1999 to 2000. For the members of the band, the break was really only around two years.
CrypticRock.com – Sometimes you need time off from something and then you come back stronger than ever. Since the band’s return, Unleashed has been very active once again. What has the second chapter of the band been like for you?
Johnny – It has been great. We are better organized both mentally and intellectually. We are hungry for more….which is the most important thing if you want to stay alive in the music industry.
CrypticRock.com – That is fantastic to hear. Unleashed returned with their twelfth overall studio album, Dawn of The Nine, April 24th. What was the writing and recording process like this time around?
Johnny – We worked with pretty much the same process as the past twelve to fifteen years. It takes around one to five years for us to create music and lyrics and then, when things get ready, we record a pre-production. After a while, it is time for the real thing and we enter Fredrik Folkare’s own Chrome Studios for the recording. We did however use a different mastering studio this time around, just to get a “new set of ears” with great results, I think.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly does work well and the album is very strong. This is actually the six consecutive record Fredrik worked on with the production. Is it safe to say you and the rest of the band are extremely comfortable with his work, and does it help to have someone who is part of the creative process actually producing how the albums sound?
Johnny – Very much so. I think Fredrik gets better with every new release. He is highly experienced these days and we will likely continue like this in the future as well.
CrypticRock.com – That is a positive thing to have that comfort level with a producer. The album is certainly laced with a lot of powerful songs from beginning to end. Being that you have been doing this since you were essentially a teenager, what has changed for you as a lyric writer through the years?
Johnny – I guess you learn along the road. I have been digging deeper into the Viking traditions and values for more inspiration. Nowadays, we use the storyline from the book (the world of Odalheim), which I have been working on for a few years. It is very inspiring to work with combining the wisdom of our forefathers with present day strength and determination, and bring that into the everlasting future story of Odalheim.
CrypticRock.com – That is quite compelling, and makes for great stories in Unleashed’s music. As mentioned, Unleashed did have that five year absence between 1997 and 2002. Interestingly enough, a lot of bands rose to prominence in the Melodic Death Metal scene in that time in Sweden. With that said, what do you think of the progression of Melodic Death Metal?
Johnny – I am not a big fan, so I guess I should leave it at that. I guess I am more a classic Death Metal type guy. Death, Autopsy, Bolt Thrower, Morbid Angel, Grave, etc…
CrypticRock.com – Fair enough and understood. With that said, what are some of your musical influences?
Johnny – As stated, our influences were like that, especially in the early days. I would say nowadays, a lot of things can be an influence. We try and keep to the roots and develop within our own style of music.
CrypticRock.com – Unleashed certainly has developed their own way through the years so that makes perfect sense. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Johnny – I like some of the older classic ones, but they are probably too damn old to mention (laughs). The Evil Dead (1981), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and I like The Walking Dead series too. I kind of dug Saw (2004) as well.