By Jonathan Matthews
We had the chance to have a quick chat with Christofer Johnsson, guitarist of Swedish symphonic metal band Therion. We talked about their most recent (three disc) album which was released in the form of a rock musical titled Beloved Antichrist, as well as their upcoming Australian tour, and some of his reasons for not drinking booze on tour.
SR. Your band Therion is coming to Australia for the first time, are you looking forward to that?
Yes it is. We’ve been spending the last twenty years trying to get over to Australia! The band has been around for thirty one years, but we had our first offer to go over there twenty years ago, unfortunately that didn’t work out in the end. It’s continued like that since, we’ve had lots of offers, but it’s never been enough to make things work.
SR. You recently released ‘Beloved Antichrist’, which is a three cd album, what inspired you to make it so long?
Well first off, it’s not just an album. I’d say ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ wasn’t really an album either. It’s a Rock Musical, which you can buy on CD, and it spans over three discs. The songs are intended to be theatrically performed, just like ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, except it’s the rock version. It’s not quite Rock Opera, it’s a Rock Musical, which is much larger. We wanted to literally make an Opera play real rock music. We haven’t staged it yet, because it’s quite a lot of work. We’re going to do a regular tour first, where we just perform a few of the scenes, so it’s a smaller scale production. We’ve done six shows so far, and the tour should be over by now, but then we got the offer to play in China and Australia, so we prolonged the tour. After that is finished, we will work on staging the full Rock Musical.
SR. You guys are only playing in three of the major cities over here, is that because you’re just treading the water for your first trip over here?
It’s just a financial thing, because it’s very expensive to travel that far. There are a lot of people in the band, we’re not just a regular five piece band. We used to have ten people on stage, and it was ridiculous trying to make that work, so we reduced it down to eight people for a while. Now it’s down to seven, which is really the minimum amount of people that we need.
SR. Wow, you guys must need a big stage to fit seven people.
Not necessarily, we’ve done tiny shows on pub stages before, but it’s pretty crazy. It doesn’t really look the way we want it to when we play a small stage.
SR. You’ve been doing this band for over thirty years now, is there a secret to the bands longevity and maintaining the relationships between so many members?
I’m not sure if there’s any secret to it, just doing what we really want to do. I think if you try to follow the trends, to put up your finger and see where the wind blows, so to speak, it can become very dull. On the other hand, if you’re an experimental band like Therion, there will always be controversy every time you make new music. If you judge your work by what you read on the internet, you will never make a successful album. I’ve found the people who do not like something are usually very loud, whereas the people who do like it are rarely as loud. Every time we release an album, there’s discussion between the fans about how we have changed the sound and the style, there’s always people who will say it’s shit. We’ve become used to it. Record sales go up and down, but I like how things settle with time. For example, when we released ‘Secret Of The Runes’ in 2001, the record sales dropped rapidly, it was very discouraging. But ten years later, the album was so popular that we were requested to play the full album on tour. It went from being the crappiest album we released to being our most popular. Some things just take more time to sink in.
SR. Why do you think that was?
Well, we’re a pretty boring band, we don’t drink alcohol or party too hard on tour. I do like alcohol, I just don’t drink on tour, I’m at work, you know? It’s not work in a bad sense, I have the time of my life on tour, and I don’t want to spoil it by being drunk or hung-over all the time. Usually when you play a show, you get paid in alcohol, but we don’t drink. We’ve had several alcoholics in the band over its course, and I’ve seen brilliant people become completely useless because of it. We partied a lot in our early days, but it came to a point where I needed to stop drinking on tour, or I was going to become an alcoholic. I had a wake-up call in 1997, it was the last time I ever drank before a concert. It can be very boring on tour when you’re not playing, you’re sitting around waiting for sound check or an interview, there’s not always a lot to do, especially in the days before Wi-Fi internet. So we would sit around and drink together. We were recording a live album at the time, and we didn’t drink that much before the show, I thought it went okay. When I listened back to the recording of my voice, it sounded absolutely terrible, I was so ashamed. I thought “What the fuck? If this is what we sound like on a good day, what are we like on a bad day?”. Since then I’ve never had a drink before playing a show. We began to cut down our drinking then, and had less and less each tour, until 2007, when we cut out alcohol from our touring all together.
You can catch Therion in Australia on……. Follow them on social media or via their website to keep up to date with all the news, including their Rock Musical Beloved Antichrist.
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