Interview with Johan Längquist of Candlemass
By Sheri Bicheno
Good Afternoon Readers!
When this interview landed on the list, I jumped at the chance to nail it! Candlemass are undoubtedly one of the most influential Doom bands out there, helping shape the Doom genre into what it is from when they started out over 30 years ago!
Candlemass released their first full length album since 2012, “The Door To Doom”, in February 2019 which features Toni Iommi on track ‘Astorolous – The Octopus’. This album is the first to feature Johan since “Epicus Doomicus Metalllicus” in 1986!
For all you fellow Doom lovers, I’d be interested in what your opinions are on the newest EP, “The Pendulum” that has been released in this chaotic time of life. Give it a go and let us know what you think!
I recently got the chance to have a Skype chat with vocalist Johan Längquist and I have to say, it was an absolute pleasure. Humble, often with a chuckle in his voice and an all-around nice guy!
I sat down, with a cheery bounce and proceeded to call Johan’s Skype ID and await…
“Hi! Johan here!” says a very cheerful voice on the other end. I’m beaming already.
We exchange greetings and introductions and immediately, I sense the smile in his voice.
Sheri: Candlemass are known for being the epitome of the Doom genre – What I find interesting is that there are fewer bands from the 80’s era that explore that genre of metal. What prompted Candlemass to find your technique and essentially be part of creating the way for Doom Metal?
Johan: I think that we were so very influenced by music that was made in the 80’s and as you probably know, Leif is a big fan of Black Sabbath…and I think that is the main reason it all started. Of course, I’m too a great fan of Black Sabbath but I like a lot of other bands from that era too. So, I think that’s the main reason the way how it turned out the way it did, and the way Leif is writing the music because you know, he writes all the songs. And I know he is a BIG fan of Black Sabbath haha.
Sheri: So, they’re kind of an influence for you?
Johan: Yeah, yeah! We haven’t talked that much about it but that must be the reason haha! I think that Black Sabbath were one of the bands that almost sounded like that in the 80’s I think, there were not that many bands, there were a couple of bands, but not that many.
Sheri: Not as few, Black Sabbath kicked off the Doom side so it’s interesting to see how the genre has evolved. Did you have to experiment with your sound technique or – as you just said, you were influenced, did you have a particular vibe that you wanted to go with or did you need to experiment with technique?
Johan: When I got into the band and we did the album in 1986, I had a tape a couple of weeks before we went into the studio. So, you know, I did vocals and I just had to find my way into that music haha! Yeah, it’s pretty much as simple as that. Sometimes, you know, when you’re about to do a song and do the vocals, you can’t find your way in, but I guess that’s the job that all the singers have to do, find their way into the music to give the music the right vocals, the right spirit, to suit the music, I think. That’s what I did. And I remember in my opinion at that time, I had my own band at that time and I thought it was a bit how you say monotone… the same chord, a very long tune, so I remember that I was thinking about doing the vocals as melodic as possible. You know?
Sheri: Sure. So, it’s a change for that sort of era.
Johan: Absolutely yes.
Sheri: How do you feel being a great influencing Artist for other bands within Doom? As we discussed, Doom has been expanded on within the last sort of 20 to 30 years with different sub genres.
Johan: There’s so many genre’s around right now, I don’t know them all haha! To me, it’s Heavy Metal. Slow Heavy Metal or not. Dark Heavy Metal haha.
Sheri: Haha! It does change quite a bit.
Johan: You know, when we are out playing and sometimes people are coming into where we playing and tell us “The reason we started was because of you guys” Then of course you feel honoured that you’ve been a big inspiration for many musicians in that genre, so yeah, what can you say? It’s an honour. It’s humbling.
Sheri: I’ve asked a couple of our readers if they have any questions for you…
Johan: Great! Haha.
Sheri: One of the questions raised by Jimmy, is that A lot of younger bands cite you as a massive influence upon them, as we just discussed, is that a help or sometimes a comfort for you to know that after all this time, Candlemass has stayed relevant without losing focus of what essentially makes Candlemass what it is?
Johan: Yes of course, something tells you that you’ve done the right thing in life. At least some good things in life if your music lives on and other people get the inspiration listening to the older album – it’s fantastic. Life is a tough one and that’s for sure a good thing to do haha. I’m not that kind of guy. But you know, it takes work and sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t and it’s a lot of work going on all the time.
Sheri: Happiness does take work sometimes! Casting back to when you were working on “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”, did you face any surprises or challenges? As it was different from anything made before.
Johan: When I got the tape from the guys, I had actually never heard anything like that before. I thought “wow, how can I find my way into this?” That was the feeling I had when I started listening to the songs and trying to learn them. But it was a lot of fun doing them because there were no limits when we went to the studio and uh… well… we had a lot of fun I can tell you! Haha.
Sheri: Haha! Tell no secrets! That leads me onto the next question… what were the best memories of creating that album and then going forward after you re-joined Candlemass?
Johan: Haha! What I remember is a guy that came to the studio and he was asking “Where is the singer?” And then he saw me and said “Oh…it’s you?” He was expecting a big guy, very tall and big, because he thought… my sound was like… he was looking around, walking by me going “Where is he? Where is he? The new singer!” Hahaha. And I was “It’s me” and he was “Oh!” I don’t know if he was disappointed or just surprised, I don’t know hahaha!
Sheri: Let’s hope it’s the latter! Hahaha! And what about after you re-joined?
Johan: When we went into the studio for “Door to Doom”, Marcus Jidell was producing the album and it was the first time I heard the songs. I was pretty amazed, and you know, we had a discussion before I listened to the songs and they asked if I would be interested in joining the band again. I said of course… but I need to listen to the songs and see if they thrill me haha. And they did! It was a good experience for me because you know, I had to sing so very hard and high, I’m not what you would call a high pitch singer so I had to push myself a lot to sing the songs on the album, not every single one as you can hear, I’m pretty distorted… haha… when I’m crying out loud to do the songs… But it was a lot of fun you know. When you’re into the music in the 80’s, I really do like Rob Halford and Dio and all the great singers at that time, you know to push yourself and do the maximum you know. I like that.
Sheri: I think that’s how a lot of successful people have carved their way. By pushing boundaries and adjusting, as you have done. You do have an incredibly big voice, so it works.
Johan: Yeah and I think I have found some parts in my vocals that I haven’t found before at that point actually, because of all the pushing haha. It was a great experience as a singer, now I know pretty much that there are no limits, you just do your very best. Of course, there are limits but maybe you can do it better than you believe yourself, just give it a really good shot.
Sheri: And that’s how people learn isn’t it! It’s good to have your vocals back with Candlemass as shown in your latest full-length album, “Door to Doom” This is your first album back with Candlemass after a long time. What did it mean to you as a musician to get behind the wheel of Candlemass? It was very positive, but did you have any visions of the future when you joined? Have you got plans?
Johan: Thank you! Haha. Even though I hadn’t been in Candlemass for those years, I have always been involved in music in one way or another all my life. So, it felt pretty natural for me to do all this. But of course, you never know what happens you know, if people are going to like the album or not? But fortunately, it all turned out very well and I’m so happy for that haha. I was very nervous the very first gig we did back together you know, because I hadn’t been on stage at that time for a very long time but it all turned out very well, I felt that, yeah, it works!
Sheri: I did see some footage of that first gig and it was absolutely rammed! I think you had no worries there haha.
Johan: Haha thank you!
Sheri: Another of our readers, Sam, has asked… The Door to Doom is very much old school Doom. In the vein of the first or early Candlemass records, how do you feel they hold in comparison to the more recent or modern bands and other albums of this generation, for example when playing a festival bill full of newer bands, to a new generation of fans who might not have been around in the Epicus Doomicus Metallicus days or hadn’t heard of Candlemass?
Johan: Ah what can I say? To me, it’s just like, you know it’s the same with Leif and the other guys, I’m so stuck in the 80’s and all the great songs that were done at that time and I listen to a lot of new musicians too and they’re so fantastic – but I think you need to have a relationship with the 80’s to find the 80’s spirit. I’d been playing for a couple of years with a young man, only 30 years old haha, before Candlemass happened, he was very interested in learning the spirit of the 80’s and was a very good guitar player – but it’s the way you play guitar and the way you do the songs. I can’t exactly say what it is, but I think there is something with the 80’s that one should learn from I think haha.
Sheri: I think so too. I think the 70’s and 80’s, I mean all decades have had their good run of music… it’s different.
Johan: Of course we have a special relationship with the 80’s because we were young at that time but even these days when you listen to the songs… yeah… My heart feels good when I hear good music hahaha!
And of course, there are so many brilliant bands out there right now too. But the problem is that there are so many bands, you can’t find them all. I’m an old fashioned guy, I don’t hardly use my computer – of course I do, but sometimes I used to sit watching YouTube looking for new bands but there are so many and I don’t’ know exactly how to steer into the very best bands.
Sheri: It’s very social media based at the moment isn’t it?
Johan: Yeah and I know that you can always listen – but the problem is they never play the good bands on radio, of course a couple do but they never play their best songs in my opinion haha.
Sheri: I agree with you. I think it tends to be what’s in the NOW you know…
Johan: Yeah, a good example is ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ with KISS and that’s pretty much the only song that they play with KISS and they did great songs before that haha.
It’s the same with Van Halen – what’s do you hear from Van Halen for example?
Johan: Hahaha, exactly! In my opinion, that’s not the best song they did haha. Of course, it’s good but I don’t know if they’re giving Van Halen the right… how do you say?
Sheri: Like a light shone on them really for people of the younger generation. I understand.
Johan: (Chuckles) Exactly!
Sheri: Candlemass have just released an EP in March of this year, “The Pendulum”. Which, in the middle of a Pandemic, is greatly welcomed!
For Artists to keep doing what they’re doing and making and releasing music if they can, is needed. There are a lot of Artists at the moment that probably, like yourself, that have to be on pause to an extent and its quite frustrating… but we have to keep rolling with the punches!
Some of the songs on the EP are noted as Unreleased Demos. Can you take us through the history of some of the demos? Are some of them quite new?
Johan: Hahaha! Ah when I did the Door to Doom, I didn’t know about these songs!
Johan: No! Hahaha. I had no idea that there were more songs. They told me a couple of weeks after we released The Door To Doom – they thought that they were not done in the right way and wanted to make a few changes and do another lot vocals on it… and I was surprised when I heard the songs and I said, “Wow, why?” They were great songs! And we re-recorded them again, I don’t know exactly what they changed about them, but I know some guitars and the vocals… that was for sure a tough one for me to do too. But a lot of fun doing those songs I can tell you haha.
Sheri: How do you think Candlemass has evolved after around 35 years of music? As I say, you are still quite true to your sound, during those almost 36 years, how do you think you have made evolutionary changes within the band?
Johan: I think that the only things you can do is… if you have the chance, if you’re allowed to do the songs and write songs the way you want to, that’s the main reason that you can develop in different directions. But we love the music in that time and that’s what gives us the most if you compare us to other kinds of music. I think that’s the main reason and we don’t have a record company telling us what to do and things like that. We are the only ones responsible for what’s coming out to the audience.
Sheri: So, it’s quite raw and all your own with no restrictions?
Johan: It suits us that way haha. It’s good to have tips of course but…
Sheri: I think if you’re changing so much over time it becomes something you don’t want it to be…
Johan: Exactly. I think that’s the main reason why they called me up again because they said they lost the spirit of what was there and they wanna try and give it another chance by pretty much create the old band again and yeah… that was one of the main reasons, they wanted to the old Candlemass sound to have another chance. Get back to the roots!
Sheri: If Candlemass were a drink – what would you be? Haha.
Johan: Hahaha! What would I be… hmmm…? I don’t drink that many drinks but a drink that I like is actually the old Gin and Tonic, that’s fine with me… it’s not that dark haha. But I’ll say Gin and Tonic just because I like that haha. It works through old times.
Sheri: There’s different flavours and everything at the moment!
Johan: Yeah but you know, I’m old and I don’t like it too sweet and there are so many out there hahaha!
Sheri: Interesting choice haha! Have you got a song that is your favourite to perform?
Johan: The old Epicus songs, I really do like to do all those songs from that album still. And I really do like doing the Nightfall songs too. And in the future, there will be more songs because there is a big library to pick great songs from. We were talking and they want me to feel comfortable doing the songs too. So of course, we will do the new songs. I really do like all the songs that we’re doing, so I can’t say I’m not doing any songs I don’t like. All the songs I do really like, they’re great songs.
Sheri: You just get out there and love it haha.
Johan: Yeah hahaha! And that’s pretty important when you’re the singer too… if you’re trying to keep your smile up and you hate the songs, that shouldn’t be good hahaha! I really enjoy the moments on the stage, playing around, just having a good time, so it’s brilliant right now.
Sheri: Very humbling! Another of our readers, Jack, has asked how you decided on the name of Candlemass?
Johan: Oooooh, actually I don’t know the history behind the name! That’s a question better to ask Leif hahaha. I can’t tell you, I’m sorry hahaha. It’s a long time ago and we don’t talk about that… sorry Jack! Hahaha.
Sheri: We will let him know! Hahaha. Finally, What advice can you offer to other Artists, new or experienced?
Johan: Never give up. If you believe in what you’re doing, continue. Don’t give up. Never give up. Even though there will be hard times and you know, if you have your goal, in time you will be there. I’ve been there myself; I’ve been working a lot with music and writing; you learn from that hard work. If someone tells you that this is shit and you shouldn’t bother, just continue with what you’re doing if you believe in it.
Sheri: Absolutely. If you are committed to something and you believe in it then carry on.
Johan: Yeah, you do it for yourself too and if you’re fortunate that other people like the songs you do too, so that’s very important, don’t give up. I’m pretty much, what you say, being a “rock star” now and I’m close to 60 haha so… you never give up hahaha.
Sheri: I think you learn a lot through that. Through mistakes, positivity, hitting rock bottom or anything in life, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel as long as you stick true to who you are.
Johan: Oh yeah of course, I can be all on my own just playing guitar at night on my own and having a great time… if no one wants to listen… Then I can have a great time myself hahaha. Keep on playing.
Sheri: Keep on keeping. Hahaha. Well thank you for your insight and I hope other viewers might find this useful.
Johan: Thank you very much for calling me up.
Sheri: Much appreciated. Take care, be safe, be happy Johan!
Johan: Thank you very much and have a really nice day!
Rick Here; I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Johan and Sheri for the great interview. To keep up to date with everything Candlemass related then click on the following links!
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.