April 10, 2021 Interview – Richard Sjunnesson of The Unguided
It is said that if you show conviction in your work and stay the course, you will inevitably find success. Doing just that, Sweden’s Richard Sjunnesson has been a strong force on the Extreme Metal scene for nearly two decades now. First, finding a stage as the harsh vocalist and key songwriter for Sonic Syndicate between the years of 2002 and 2010, he would boldly breakaway from a project he helped build to start fresh with The Unguided.
Going strong with The Unguided for over 10 years, at this point many would say Sjunnesson has taken the lightening with him from Sonic Syndicate and cast a worthy contributing act in the modern Metal landscape. Most recently putting out the highly impressive Father Shadow in October of 2020, Sjunnesson recently took the time to chat about his journey in music, his growth as a musician, the work put into Father Shadow, plus a bunch more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music professionally for nearly 20 years now. From your time with Sonic Syndicate to leading The Unguided, you have certainly made a mark. Briefly tell us, how would you describe your journey in music to this point?
Richard Sjunnesson – It’s been a rocky ride, but a journey I’m most grateful for. It has taught me a lot about both music, the music business and myself. I’m super happy over the experience I got with Sonic Syndicate, all the touring and the success. But when it comes to writing music and the art, The Unguided is really where my heart’s at. It was the best decision in my life to quit Sonic Syndicate to form The Unguided, because it has brought me so much joy and satisfaction.
Cryptic Rock – It is great to hear you are in such a positive place at this stage in the game. You were an intricate part of the success of Sonic Syndicate in your time with the band. Was it difficult to move on from a project that you helped build?
Richard Sjunnesson – I can’t say it was easy, overall, but it was a long process that started around 2008. So once it grew stronger, up to 2010, it was an easy decision to finally press the red button. I mean it was a lot of feelings involved, but the band and its brand had been so battered at the point where I left; so at that point, it didn’t makes sense to stay and fight for it anyway. I’m an entrepreneur and I had an urge to form something new and do it right from the beginning and keep it right.
Cryptic Rock – Well, it has all worked out. You quickly moved on to forming The Unguided following your exit from Sonic Syndicate. When you initially formed The Unguided, what was your vision for the band?
Richard Sjunnesson – My vision for the band is exactly what we’ve been doing the past 10 years: having fun with each other, music, the art. And releasing awesome albums without compromising ever just because we should line up with trends and what’s hot in the business.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like The Unguided has been a great creative outlet, and the band has been a steady force for a decade now. You recently released the incredible new album Father Shadow in 2020. What was the writing and recording process behind this new album?
Richard Sjunnesson – Well, thank you! We wrote most of it around the end of 2019. I think, musically, it was pretty done around the beginning of December 2019, and then I wrote all the lyrics throughout December and then off into the studio in January 2020 for a month. I think the biggest change was that it was more of a group effort than what you’ve seen from us in the past. This time around our three songwriters got the exact same airtime and I think that contributed to the dynamic of the album.
We’ve always done the instrumental first, and nowadays we try to nail the chorus melody early on since that is super important. When that’s done, I write the lyrics and do my vocal patterns and we do some tweaks throughout the pre-production phase; a process that works great for us.
Cryptic Rock – It panned out very well because this new album really has a great balance. An aspect that really stands out is the balance of vocals, as well as the usage of keyboards, and how they blend with the guitars. Are these elements that are important to you?
Richard Sjunnesson – We love all of this so finding a balance between them is essential. I think we got a good formula going on the latest album whilst in the past we might have not got the balance nailed down evenly.
Cryptic Rock – Agreed. You decided to also cover a few tracks from Sonic Syndicate on this new album, as well, and they are very well done. What inspired the decision to do that?
Richard Sjunnesson – We started to play some Sonic Syndicate tracks live around 2018. For the album we just decided that we wanted to record them as a treat for the fans and people really enjoyed our versions live.
Cryptic Rock – It is a fun treat! You are someone who came up in the Extreme Metal scene when there was a lot of exciting things happening. Bands such as Sonic Syndicate were coming to the USA and making big splashes, and you actually toured with the likes of Lacuna Coil and more. Like anything, the scene has changed over time. Do you feel like the Extreme Metal scene is as strong as it was 15 years ago?
Richard Sjunnesson – Fifteen years ago was a bit of a different musical climate. I think the scene must reinvent itself a bit to keep being sustainable and there’s surely bands that do that. But whatever worked back then I think is hard to keep going at nowadays. You must stay a bit open-minded and experiment a lot.
Cryptic Rock – Right. Things change and it seems like The Unguided are following a good path. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror/Sci-fi films, do you have any favorites and why are they your favorites?
Richard Sjunnesson – I’m a big fan of movies in general and consume a lot of popular culture in all their forms. The Alien movies and Star Wars franchise are probably my favorites.