While there are many current metal bands adding choirs and orchestral arrangements to their sound, Therion was one of the first to do so in such a successful, brilliantly eclectic fashion. More of a modern day classical composer than rock musician, Therion founder Christofer Johnsson has been thrilling the world with his wondrous recordings since their debut in 1990. And now, Therion has thrust the mighty Deggial upon the world!!! Read on for more info on this awesome album!
Highwire Daze: Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Therion, and tell me how long the band has been together.
Christofer: My name is Chris and I play guitar and write songs for Therion Ė and weíve been around since í87.
HD: Where is the band from and what is the music scene like there?
Christofer: Weíre from Stockholm, and to be really honest, I donít hang out with musicians that much. I guess itís the same like the rest of Europe right now Ė a lot of symphonic and gothic metal bands. Thereís pretty many black metal bands as well.
HD: On the new album Deggial, what are some of the lyrics about and where did you get the ideas for them?
Christofer: I can give you an example with the title track Ė which is a central part of the album actually. Most of the lyrics are in one way or another linked to that one. That lyric is quite interesting. Itís a combination of many esoteric and philosophic things. The main theme derives from the Arabic legends which foretell an anti-messiah named Deggial. This anti-messiah one musnít confuse with the Christian anti-Christ or anything Ė because itís a much more sophisticated picture of what the Arabs have of their anti-messiah than the Christians do. Deggial will proclaim a message that god is dead and man will become like god. You can find plenty of books on this topic in your local library.
HD: Where did you find the choir used on Deggial?
Christofer: Itís a compilation of people from three different opera houses in Germany. A conductor of the orchestra and choir in Germany put it together for me because he has great contacts there. It would be quite hard from me going from Stockholm to Germany to travel to different opera houses. This guy has a superb knowledge of classics, so he could see immediately if the person was suitable for the project or not.
HD: What were some of the more difficult aspects of recording Deggial?
Christofer: There was really nothing difficult with it. It was just very time consuming. We were really very well prepared. We had six months of pre-production. I made a demo version in my own studio first and then we spent three months at the real studio doing the real thing. Itís just that itís time consuming, and thatís the only problem really. Iíve done this a couple of times now, so thereís nothing really hard. Of course, thereís always a few things that youíre not really use to yet. Before, we worked with a choir and classic strings Ė this time we also had a brass section and woodwind instruments. We also had orchestra drums. I would say that the French horn was a bit of an experience Ė because a lot of things that I thought would be quite easy to play on the French horn were actually quite hard to play. On the other hand, I was surprised that with the woodwind instruments Ė whatever you put in front of them, whatever note they just played on the first take perfectly.
HD: How much formal training do you have in music?
Christofer: None actually. Iím completely self taught.
HD: Who are your favorite classical and rock composers?
Christofer: My favorite classical composer, without a doubt, is Igor Stravinsky, this Russian composer. Heís completely amazing! I donít think anyone else can do anything near what he does, Of course you have other very talented progressive ones like Stockhaussen in Germany, but I think Stockhaussen is for people who are really, really into the classics. Stravinsky plays some really impressive stuff, but itís enjoyable in a relaxed way Ė where Stockhaussen takes all your attention when you listen to it where Stravinsky you can put on in the background as well. Of course I like German composers like Mahler and Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. When it comes to metal, I like Iron Maiden and Accept Ė which I guess you could hear a little bit in our music. And I listen to bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Kansas.
HD: The last track on Deggial is a famous classical piece by composer Carl Orff called O Fortuna. What made you decide to record a cover of that piece?
Christofer: Since we started using operatic choir, there were a lot of people asking, "Why donít you do something from Carmina Burana like O Fortuna? It would be very suitable for your band." We thought it would be a very good idea. But as you said, this is a very famous piece and itís quite predictable for a band like Therion to do it. But on the other hand, Therion always did things backwards and upside down Ė like when we did a cover of Judas Priest and Accept covers Ė we did their rare songs. So to do a predictable thing would be quite unpredictable for Therion, so therefore I thought it was a cool idea.
HD: When you look back on your earlier work with Therion, what do you think about it now?
Christofer: I think theyíre cool. It was a completely different time, but I think we did very good back then. Of course thereís many other bands that have been popping up since that have been able to do the same thing, and probably even better. For that time, I think we were very original and very different. I think we did well Ė I donít regret any albums. The only things that I think may be a little bit sad is that we had really sh*tty budgets Ė the same album could have sounded ten times better had we a decent budget. I mean, the first album was recorded and mixed in six days!?!
HD: If there was one thing youíd like to leave a listener with after hearing your music, what would it be?
Christofer: Everyone gets different impressions. I write music from a selfish point of view really. When I write the music, I donít really think that someone is going to listen to it when I record it later. I just write music and when I record it, I record it the way I want it. I donít think about how people would react. My impression has been that people get various impressions of the music, so I really donít have any idea about it. But thatís what I like Ė in Therion people always have different favorite songs and albums and thatís something I really appreciate. It also makes it interesting because you could vary your set live.
HD: With an album as amazing as Deggial, do you ever have thoughts of "What am I going to do to top it next time?"
Christofer: I always think after each album Ė "Now what?" But somehow, it always works out. My principle that I have that each album has to be better than the one before in my own opinion. Of course, other people might differ in their own opinions. But in my own opinion, each recording and collection of songs has to be better than the one before. This is our ninth album , and so far it hasnít been a problem. On the other hand, I donít say that it has to be out in a certain time. I donít care if it takes ten years to make an album. People have been quite use to Therion varying a lot, so itís quite hard to run out of inspiration because you could always change a little bit. If I feel like doing a different thing, people will accept it Ė well, so far they have at leastÖ