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THE METAL OBSERVER - Interview - CANDLEMASS - February 2003

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Candlemass - (Mats Björkman) The wall of china - February 2003

You're wondering about the strange headline? Well, first of all I needed to come up with one and secondly guitar colleague Lars Johansson gave me this nice quote, so why not take the opportunity? Anyways, rhythm guitarist Mappe Björkman is the only one of the CANDLEMASS crew, who does not live at least in the vicinity of Stockholm, but outside of Göteborg, more precisely in Borås, so on the other side of Sweden (in this case west). And as the whole rest of the CANDLEMASS folks, he, too, turned out to be a super nice guy, who patiently answered all the questions we had prepared and trust me, it's been a few!

Alex: Hej, min vän, hur mår du?

Fine, fine, is this Alex or Val?

Alex: Both.

Oh, so can I talk to any of you? (laughs)

Alex: Yes, of course (laughs).

So you're a website?

Alex: Yes, with reviews of all the CANDLEMASS albums up to "Tales Of Creation"...and good ratings, too...

Oooh, really? Amazing, what can I say? All those old albums getting such good reviews, that is excellent.

Alex: Well, it could mean that the albums are good...

Yes, yes indeed, that basically also was the reason why we thought about playing again, because people show us that they still like them. Basically they like them more now than they did then. (laughs) That's nice, I mean, they could be deleted, almost every record from the 80s gets deleted, if you're not WHITESNAKE, BLACK SABBATH or JUDAS PRIEST or whoever...


(laughs) ...yes CANDLEMASS. But it is like that, it's an honour for us to have four remastered albums that still are going and selling, I mean, what can you say, this is an honour for a band. They did good and we planned to play Sweden Rock Festival. We were supposed to do that festival and we hoped that the people would like it, maybe just three out of five or so. Then we came off the stage and we were "Shit, that was huge" and all the reviews were 4 out of 5, 8 out of 9, also in Swedish magazines, we got better reviews than most other bands, like "Shit, we did a really good job out there", we didn't know what people would think of CANDLEMASS 2002, I mean, it's very hard, those fans we had in 1985 and those years, when "Epicus" and the other albums came out and played the Dynamo festival in 1987, 1988, those people are older now and I don't go to see the bands that I had been seeing back then, I don't go out to concerts anymore, but the thing is that we got so many new fans and that is the biggest honour for CANDLEMASS, because we get more and more new fans, when you ask someone, when he liked us better, in 1989 or now, then he is like "I didn't see you in 1989, I was six years old", we could see that in Greece, Greece was fantastic, we met so many people there, who said that they had all the albums and everything. They were 5 years old when we played back then. We get so many new fans that really like us (laughs). We are very happy about that situation. This is the reason, why we still are going on. All the people that are into our music. We were supposed to play Sweden Rock Festival and then go back home, but we did the whole summer and everybody liked us so much.

Alex: When you had done your first rehearsal again, what was the feeling like when you were standing there again, together after all those years?

Nervous, I was so nervous, I had not held my guitars in something like 10 years. I had not worked with music for 10 years now. I didn't want to do music anymore, I worked a bit with that guy, I don't know his name anymore, who used to call up people and cheat them, but I liked him ever since I was a child and I got in touch with him and started to produce albums with him and that was my thing in 10 years, ok, 5 years. But to come back to the first rehearsal, we were so nervous, but when we started to play, the chemistry was there again and it showed that these 5 guys could do it. The first rehearsal was not so good, but the second one sounded so damn good as if we had been rehearsing for years, so it sounded like we picked up right away where we had left off.

Gabe: How does the band feel jamming together again after all this time? Is it different now that you're "older"? Do you feel like the band still has the same power as it did back in the late 80s?

It's the same feeling, but at the same time I cannot really compare the feeling. At "Epicus", it was just Leif and me doing it, it was the same feeling when we met Messiah. When we did the last album together, "Chapter VI", it was not good, it was like going to the studio, then going home, it was like a job and I did not like it very much. We didn't have the feeling to play, but this time it was like back with "Epicus", we did rehearse for the first show, we rehearsed for recording, everybody was so happy and so enthusiastic. That was a reason as well that we said that we can do it together.

Alex: You had not been part of CANDLEMASS for "Dactylis Glomerata" and "From The 13th Sun".

No, I had no part in those two.

Alex: What is your opinion about these two albums?

I understand Leif's situation at that time, because he had the name CANDLEMASS, but if I listen to them, I don't feel that they sound like CANDLEMASS when I listen to them. Yes, some songs are really good on those albums and some could be really amazing with Messiah on the vocals, but now it's not Messiah's vocals, it's not our sound, because we five had a really unique sound together. But I understand Leif that he continued with CANDLEMASS, because he has songs in his mind that he wants to get out, so I don't think they're bad albums, but if he did them under a different name, he could have won so many new fans that didn't listen to CANDLEMASS. But in this case the name was on those albums and CANDLEMASS fans bought them and were disappointed, while on the other hand there might have been new fans, who liked it, because they did NOT sound like CANDLEMASS, so...

Alex: You, together with Lars and Jan, had been in ZOIC, together with VENI DOMINE-singer Fredrik Olsson. What led to this collaboration and was this a one-off project only?

Actually that was a thing that we were supposed to do together, it was Lars' band and Lars' songs, just I didn't do that album. I was on that album, but only on the picture and with my name, I didn't do any playing. Not that many people know that, because I am on the picture, but the photo was taken and we were supposed to be a band, but because of some situation I did not play on that album. They first took the picture and then after that I came to know what they sounded like and were going to do on the album. That's one thing you don't like, because I am on the picture, but not on the album.

Alex: So was it ever a band or in fact more like a project?

It was a band, but they didn't play live, but they rehearsed. Rather it was Janne and Lars, who rehearsed, when they did not do CANDLEMASS.

Gabe: How is the new CANDLEMASS material sounding so far?

We rehearsed three songs two weeks ago that Leif had written and they sound really excellent. This is the first interview, in which I can actually talk about the new songs. And I can happily say that it is the same feeling as back then when I started the band with Leif, exactly. Leif took his old recorder with him, put him into the rehearsing room in the middle and record. That's an old tape recorder, the same one as when we started. Those songs remind me a lot of "Epicus" songs like "Solitude".

Alex: So it goes into the direction of "Epicus"?

"Epicus" and "Nightfall", they have the typical sound, depressive, with this BLACK SABBATH-side, so like those two albums, just with a 2002 production, so I was really surprised, because we did not know what he would come up with. When we started to talk about a new album, it was clear that Leif would write all the songs, just like it always had been. We're not gonna do anything. We tried that with "Chapter VI" and it was too different. So Leif has to do everything for a CANDLEMASS album, because he's the songwriter. He had been the songwriter with "Epicus". I can remember, we had nothing, we had a studio with 16 channels, Leif would play a guitar riff to me, so I could play it and it worked out and it sounded excellent. So that's the thing, he has to do the CANDLEMASS songs.

Hawk: How do you deal with the expectations of fans and press concerning a or rather the new album? Everybody is waiting for the legitimate "Nightfall" follow up.

Well, that is very hard, we don't know. We have to do an album that we trust, we have to do an album that we ourselves like, which also is very hard, because also our new fans like our old albums very much. So when the press likes what we do now, we basically only play old songs, with stuff made from 85 to 89. The fact is that people like those songs, when we do concerts today. So we have to do a classical CANDLEMASS album, because many people will think that it might be like the last two CANDLEMASS albums. Those albums could be classical CANDLEMASS, if they had the CANDLEMASS sound, Messiah's voice is very special, it's very, very much CANDLEMASS. I think when you put Messiah's voice over Leif's songs, then you have CANDLEMASS. You have the melodic, but at the same time very heavy stuff. We're not scared of what the fans and the press are expecting, we rather hope that they are going to like it, because we'll be doing the best that we can do create a good CANDLEMASS album. We know that we will come up with something that all the fans and all the press will say about "oh, that's sooo good", that we will meet all those expectations.

Alex: While doing the DVD, what was it like to see the recordings from all those years back?

It was fan-tas-tic. I must say that's a dream come true. This DVD would not be out, if we had not come back together. The best thing about that DVD, in my opinion, is that you get the live show from 1990. The story behind that is that it had been recorded for the live album. It is exactly the same concert that came out as our live album in 1990. Exactly the same sound. But, when we recorded that album, we also recorded it for a video and the video was filmed with four cameras and the problem was that we sent that video to the record company and nothing happened. They didn't want to put it out, because it would cost too much, it had cost us a lot of money to shoot the show in 1990, there were no digital cameras and all, so it was very expensive to record with four cameras, you know? It has all been in a big box with the record company for ten years.

Alex: Then you've been lucky that they still had been in good enough shape.

Well, the thing is that they were NOT in so good a shape anymore. It's still been the original tapes from the original camera. The guy, who mixed them, said that some of them were of really bad quality, so he restored them. But you still can see it with the pictures of one of the cameras, the colours flicker, that's because of the bad quality. It is nothing as bad as that you would really say that it was a really shitty quality or anything. Now it is like a dream come true that we have the quality of a DVD today. If it was out on video in 1990, we would maybe not have it on DVD today. So now you can get it on DVD and even with a bonus, not only because of the better sound, but also because of the documentary as a bonus. What I like about the DVD is that you have the chance to choose your sound with Dolby Surround and all of that, if you want to get the full sound experience of CANDLEMASS. And if you first want to see the documentary, then you can just put that disc on. I am very happy with that DVD.

Alex: Which expectations do you have for the DVD?

I think the best thing and the expectations is that we did not do any recordings now. We played the whole summer, so the DVD comes out really at the right time, with people happy with what we had done this summer and what we had created back then. So people won't forget us. I am a CANDLEMASS fan myself, so I hope that they're gonna like the concept of the live album and the documentary. I have many DVDs that are of really bad quality, 1 DVD and a high price. I know that some of the things of the documentary with us are of not that high of a quality, both in sound and picture, like Sweden Rock, the sound is very bad, because it was filmed with just one camera. But I still think that they're gonna like it.

Alex: I am sure that they do, also because of the whole backstage stuff that you normally never can see, like Janne posing...

Yes (laughs), yes, Janne (laughs), he is our main man, he's a very funny guy. So that is very nice. He really is my best friend.

Thomas: How did you like the show in Wacken (2002)? Isn't that tough to play your style in an open-air festival?

Yes, Wacken was very good, because it was dark, but it is harder when the light is shining. It was easier this summer, when you see the Dynamo Festival in 1988, that was the first festival, and also one of the best concerts, we ever did. And we never had any bad feelings playing in the sunshine. But with our music for some people it is very hard to do it in sunshine. But we don't feel it, we play our thing and we actually have the best frontman that we could possibly have. Messiah is excellent in what he's doing. We have to lean on him quite a lot.

Alex: And he can take some leaning on ;)...

(laughs) Yeah, yeah, he can have a lot of people leaning on him. Of course it is much better, when it is dark and inside, but actually our best gigs had been outside, plus the Fryshuset inside in 1990. It's all in one take. One review was not really bad, but they complained about the sound. They said that the sound was too good, that you could hear that we put the instruments on afterwards. That was very bad, because this was the one concert, where we added NOTHING at all afterwards, not a note. The only thing we did on that show was that we played "Reflections" twice, because the tape recorder was not on, but that was the only thing. The audience's sound is quite low, because they did not do any mic to the audience, that is the only gripe I have.

Alex: "Bang Your Head" had been a huge success with great fan-response...

Yes, absolutely, we'd really like to go there again. Actually we will play an indoor show called "Bang Your Head Revisited", I don't know where, it's in April, we'll be there. That's the only festival that really is booked now.

Alex: Do you still remember Bruder Cle in his monk's robe and his "Cross of Doom"?

Of course, how can you forget that man? (laughs) A brilliant guy, you must say hello to him. I saw him at Wacken as well, I am pretty sure at least. I saw him in Rock Hard magazine on a picture with him. The two best things we have done this summer have been the "Bang Your Head" and the "Sweden Rock Festival".

Alex: You apparently had not been all that enthusiastic about the gig at Sweden Rock. What was wrong in your opinion?

Yes, I'm always like that (laughs). Ok, not always, but I am always thinking about things that did not go 100% well and I always think that people didn't like that. I had been so nervous before this show. Then when the photographer came to me and said that it was good and I asked "It was?", he said yes, there were more people coming, so I was "More? Then it's ok". I am always like that, that is the reason why they put that on the DVD, too. I am a very positive man, but I am always only thinking of the bad stuff first, only an hour later I also say that it was good.

Haavard: Do you feel any different playing live in Scandinavia than to play around other places in Europe? It might be just me that seems the band has a extra energy when coming back in their own region...

Yes, the audience outside of Scandinavia is always better. I must say the German audience always has been so great, German festivals and German concerts. Greece also was amazing, you cannot compare them to anywhere else. They are so good, so very nice and friendly people. On the airport they came to the airport with posters, they came to the hotel for autographs and all.

Gabe: What is your favourite country to perform live in?

I actually have one, I must say Greece. Germany, too, because you have the best festivals.

Alex: Could you give us a few words on each of the albums, how you saw them back then and how you see them now?

"Epicus" is the classical CANDLEMASS album. When we played that one it was amazing to do an album with so heavy music, because no other band played it like that. Now we play almost every song of that album still, there are so many classics on that. Messiah is not singing on it, but still...
"Nightfall" is the first album with the whole band, that is another feeling to record that one. We were a band, playing together, to be able to play live. Almost like "Epicus", just with a real band. And now we also still play almost all the songs of "Nightfall", too. It is almost as good as "Epicus".
"Ancient Dreams", we did it too fast, we were too much in a hurry to record it. We had good albums, which really suffered from the production and I was really disappointed with the sound for many years. Now with the remasters I must say that it sounds so damn good with the so much better sound. (laughs) But better that way, hehe. But I could not listen to it before because of the productions. One of the reasons, why we play most of the "Ancient Dreams" songs.
"Tales Of Creation", I must say that album is growing, because I think now when we recorded "Tales Of Creation", it was a concept album. It actually is an old thing, written even before "Epicus". But when we came to "Ancient Dreams", we said that we'd have to do "Tales Of Creation" again, just in the right context. Today I love that album, it is excellent. I could go out and just play "Tales Of Creation" in concerts. You have up tempo songs, you have really heavy and slow stuff.
And the next one is the live album and I already told you about that one. Just the audience sound is not that good, but it is one take and it is one classical live album with one complete show and now it is even on DVD, too. I still like it.
"Chapter VI", when we recorded it, we thought it was good, we were older, but it is hard to do a classical CANDLEMASS album without Messiah. The production is not good either, I don't like it at all. And Leif also said that he would never remaster that one, because he hates it. I don't hate it, "When The Runes Speak" is a good song and I would like to hear it with Messiah on the vocals, but... When people watch the DVD, then I hope that people will recognize, that on the documentary we play "Night Of The Witch" in America, that "Dying Illusion"! It is the only time that Messiah sings a song from "Chapter VI" and that even before "Chapter VI" was recorded. So Messiah sings that song, but the title and the chorus is different. Apart from that it is exactly the same song.

Haavard: What do feel is the strongest CANDLEMASS album through the times, and why does this particular album separate itself from the others?

I don't have any exactly favourite album, all of those remastered albums are classical CANDLEMASS albums and we play songs of all of them. But I have to put a favourite, it must be "Epicus" because of the way how we did it and how heavy it was at that time. Many people also think of it as a really classical album. That would be my favourite, because of the feeling that you could compare with the first BLACK SABBATH album.

Alex: And the traditional last question of TMO-interviews: "What is your favourite question about CANDLEMASS that you've never been asked yet, but would finally like to answer?

Oh, so hard... Phew... Never been asked... Oh, when Tomas Vikström will be back in the band (laughs). And I'd say never (laughs hard). That's good (laughs).

Alex: Do you know what he's up to?

Yes, he's playing a bit in smaller things doing covers, but he is not in a band anymore. He's doing quite well, but sometimes it is sad what happened with him and CANDLEMASS. It is really hard, I invited him to the concert, but he was disappointed, he is a really good singer, but he had to fight the shadow of Messiah. But I think he's doing good.


1986: Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (CD, Black Dragon)
1987: Nightfall (CD, Axis)
1988: Ancient Dreams (CD, Active)
1989: Tales Of Creation (CD, Music For Nations)
1990: Live (CD, Music For Nations)
1992: Chapter VI (CD, Music For Nations)
1994: The Best Of Candlemass - As It Is, As It Was (2-CD, Music For Nations)
1998: Dactylis Glomerata (CD, Music For Nations)
1999: From The 13:th Sun (CD, Music For Nations)
2003: Documents Of Doom (2-DVD, Escapi)

Alexander Melzer

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