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Evergrey | Inner Circle | interview | Tom Englund | metal | Lollipop


The Inner Circle (InsideOut)
An Interview with guitarist/vocalist Tom Englund
By Martin Popoff

"Martin, one second, gin and tonic… There're fucking 200 people sitting here, man. I'm in the lobby of the hotel…" So begins a noisy cellphone chat to downtown NYC with the tall dark Swedish ambassador of tall, dark, doomy progressive metal. You see how many words you gotta wedge in to describe this band's sound? Add power metal to that - but of the virulent strain most associated with Nevermore - and you're getting close to the dramatic metal world in which Evergrey lives. The band's fifth album is called The Inner Circle, one which houses a harrowing, thespian tale of human sacrifice. Swirling the unfortunate turn of events is a set of majestic musicks that is introspective like killers for hire in a cathedral. Marry the two, and you have a literary and musical feast for the gods. Or false gods, as it were. Here's a chat with Tom on all things forever grey…

What are the added dimensions to The Inner Circle versus the last one, Recreation Day?
I don't know if we've added that much. Basically, we concentrated more on the songs, more than we did on both In Search of Truth and Recreation Day. I think that's the way Evergrey is developing. We want to bring out the best songs we possibly can and sort of take away all the additional bullshit like guitar solos. I think we've progressed a lot in terms of production; the album sounds really, really big. This is the first time an album sounds the way we really wanted it to sound, primarily because we produced it ourselves.

What is your production philosophy? What are the different approaches you used with respect to the various instruments, for example, the drums?
Cannons. Big, fucking, major cannons. (laughs) And I think we achieved that on this album, as far as "this is how I picture a cannon sounding" goes. (laughs) The keyboards and the female vocals add another dimension to Evergrey. Because Evergrey, since day one, has been, in my mind, a guitar-driven act, but it never really came through until the last two albums. Things would stand in the way of the guitars actually coming out in the production. The keyboards definitely add atmosphere and beauty and darkness to the compositions. I usually create and write on the keyboards, and then I add the guitars. The guitars usually stand for aggression.

Your wife, Carina, performs female vocals on the album. Does she sing professionally back home?
No, no, we have a child at home, so we can't have two crazy musicians out on the road. But she's been on every Evergrey album, and for every band that has come through and done an album that were fans of Evergrey, she's been asked to sing for them as well. She does what she likes, and then says no to the other stuff. She gets a lot of requests. I have a friend in a band called Dissonance, and that's probably one of the coolest albums she's been on. She's done a lot of Swedish stuff that I don't think you'd know. She's done a lot, man. She's probably guested more than I have.

You have real strings on the album? How elaborate did you get with that?
Just a string quartet. When we wanted them to sound like a big orchestra, we just arranged them and did overdubs. For "Faith Restored," there are only four instruments playing, but for other parts that we wanted to sound huge, we did overdubs, over and over again, and made them play different harmonies. We had them for three days. Actually, they were really impressed by the compositions, which was an extreme honor, of course, since they are professional musicians who have played a lot of big classical music pieces by really famous people. Other than that, they were paid to be there, so they did what we told them to. (laughs) It's always cool to have people playing your music, especially while you're reading the paper. (laughs)

What got you going down this path, lyrically? Did you read certain things?
No. Basically, I've had an interest in this idea for several years. I've always been fascinated by how one single person can affect and influence a thousand people to do really extreme things and to make people live their lives by his rules. And that's something I've never really understood. Because I, myself, am a fairly strong person when it comes to my psyche and mind. People today are searching for a higher meaning to life, a higher purpose, and for a really strong-minded person, it's easy to take advantage of people looking for a better life or for some excitement in their lives.

Where do the ranting preacher excerpts come from?
I can't tell you, Martin, because that would get us in a lot of trouble. Especially in this country. (laughs)

What are your aspirations for Evergrey as a band? How big do you think you can get?
My goals are the moon, man. And if I get halfway, I will be very disappointed. I'm very ambitious. We shaped and formed ourselves into what we are today. So Henrik (Danhage, guitarist) might have not agreed with me in the beginning, but he does now, and the other way around. We are all set on the same goal, even though it's really hard leaving our families and touring. I'm never satisfied. That's why a lot of people have a problem working with us, because we're not satisfied with selling 80,000 CDs or something in Europe. And I don't know what we've sold here in the U.S., but we're definitely not satisfied with it. That's like cat shit to us.

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