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Cult of Luna | The Beyond | interview | Johannes Persson | metal | Lollipop
Cult of Luna
The Beyond (Earache)
An interview with guitarist Johannes Persson
by Tim Den
Imagine yourself trapped in the elevator of a neo-futuristic industrial warehouse. In a David Lynch movie. The cable's about to snap, and you're about to be dropped into a pit of writhing, serpent cyborgs-disguised-as-human-strippers below. The Beyond is the soundtrack to such a scene, as suffocating dirges (with a dense production job, courtesy of Meshuggah's main engineer Pelle Henricsson) grind suspense into your bones. A few segments of utter serenity disrupt the mechanical beatdown, but all in all, The Beyond's a psychological mindfuck of a heavy ass album that truly effects more than just the physical. In the midst of all its chugging machinery and hallowed existence, Cult Of Luna somehow makes you feel like there's a whole other world beyond the darkness. Perhaps it will reveal itself with repeated listens... but only if you survive.
(noises from the other end of the phone) Sounds like things are busy for you today, huh?
Yeah! We're about to shoot a video this weekend. The director and the cameraman came up this weekend. We've been showing them around and introducing them to people all night.
In (your hometown) Umea?
Yes. Home sweet home.
Are you guys staying put at the moment, or are you about to tour?
We don't have any plans for the Spring except for a few shows. We've just been focusing on this video. But we'll do festivals and stuff during the summer.
Are you coming over to the States at all?
I think so... I hope so! It depends on how the record is received. Sooner or later, we'll definitely come over, but we've been getting great responses before the record's even released. We've been getting emails (about good press) daily.
Umea has been an amazing breeding ground for bands such as Meshuggah and Refused. Can you describe what the local scene is like? How did those bands influence you guys growing up?
Both those bands came out of the early-'90s scene. At that time, the scene was very intact: The hard scene. You could see a punk band, a hardcore band, and a death metal band playing the same show. That was before my time, I must say... (laughs) there was a huge hardcore scene, and Refused was the leading band.
But the scene isn't as united today?
Everybody still knows and talks to each other, but it has died out. What happened was, in the mid-'90s, we had the huge hardcore scene where there were at least 500 - 600 kids at every show. But in '94, every band sounded the same. As time progressed, everyone found new influences from the outside. The (International) Noise Conspiracy and Cult of Luna originate from the same scene, but we sound completely different. A local record company released a few compilations, and you can hear the progress of how every band found their own way of playing music. On the first comp, everyone sounded the same. The second, a little more diverse, and everyone found their own "thing" by the third one. Some people got into '80s heavy metal, some people turned Mod, some got into the poppy/emo thing... and the scene just died. Right now, it's all crusty punk and I hate that. In terms of music, the scene right now is very conservative. Stuff like Discharge... just not my cup of tea.
So did the diversity of the bands split up the audience as well?
A lot of those people lost interest in music. (chuckles) It's sad cuz it spawned a lot of great bands.
Sweden has always exported very influential bands. Entombed, Refused, Meshuggah, Fireside, At The Gates, and even Komeda...
Komeda are from Umea, too. They just recorded a new album.
How has it been with Earache? You guys are like the odd men out amongst "scary scary" extreme metal bands. Do you feel like you belong? Do you fear that people might mistake you for a typical grindcore band just cuz of your label?
I haven't thought about that. We don't label our music at all. We don't say we're a metal or hardcore band, because that limits our creative freedom. We might want to do a country record later. We make music that we like. If some people say it's metal, then it's metal for them. I won't say they're wrong. If you want it to be pop, then it's pop. I really don't give a rat's ass. (laughs)
(Earache) gave us a good deal. We felt like they were really into our music.
How did you hook up with them in the first place?
They contacted us after we put out the first record. We kept in touch, and eventually decided we should work with each other. We negotiated the contract: We wouldn't sign anything until we were satisfied. I mean, a contract is always a compromise. We're not happy with everything, and Earache is probably not happy with everything. But it's a fair deal and we're happy with it.
Cult Of Luna, as uncharacteristically metal/hardcore/industrial/ambient as you are, still functions on heaviness and a brooding, almost dirge-like darkness. Where do you draw that kind of inspiration from? Does Umea breed negativity in people? The new album almost feels like an apocalypse...
I wouldn't say it's a "local culture" thing. The band members come from two different cities, two different music scenes merging, which makes us more original... For me, my writing comes from (chuckles) my feelings. My insides. I'm absolutely not an aggressive person, but I've got some darkness. On the ouside, we're a bunch of quiet, laid-back guys who are fun-loving - I think we surprise people cuz we're not evil - but how you look on the outside doesn't always reflect how you feel on the inside.
But a lot of bands try to match their music with "evil" personalities.
Often, that's just for show. I really hate that. It isn't honest. We're honest in everything we do. I won't point out "that band is not honest" or anything like that, but we don't pretend.
How do the Swedish people view the recent American obsession with Swedish music? Do they think it's funny that Americans are all of a sudden very interested?
Yeah! I have a few friends who are in the States a lot - they're in a band called Blindside - and they tell me that every label wants to find the next big Swedish band. I gotta say, we're a small country, but we have damn good music. We have great bands in every type of music. I think Swedish musicians right now are looking at the Americans and laughing. "You hadn't gotten it until now?"
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