Evergrey 2004

Another find from the archives is Dan's interview with Michael Håkansson.

4/19/200410 min read

Conducted 4/18/2004 by Dan Barkasi

On April 18th, myself and some friends made a trek to Cleveland for the Iced Earth/Children of Bodom/Evergrey show. I was lucky enough to secure an interview with Michael Håkansson (bass) of Evergrey. It was a good and informative interview, and all the guys from Evergrey we’re really cool. I had a blast, and I hope you enjoy the interview!

Dan: This tour with Iced Earth and Children of Bodom that starts today really seems to be a good opportunity for you guys to get your name more out in the US. Are you pretty enthusiastic?

Michael: Absolutely! I mean, where we first got to hear about the tour, it was in the middle of the recording of the album. We were very happy that we got the offer to do the tour. And, yeah, everything worked out good. So, we’ve very enthusiastic about the tour, and I definitely think it’s going to be a good tour for us because it’s a really strong package, and every band has a good fan base here.

Dan: How did the recording of the Inner Circle go?

Michael: Really good! We spent 5 months in the studio recording the album. It was really nice to be able to spend that amount of time so we really could create the album that we wanted, and I think that we have our own studio now, we didn’t have the same amount of time pressure as we usually have in it during the recording. So, it was all good. I mean, of course being in the studio that amount of time of course was hard in a way too. You know, it’s 5 months!

Dan: In what ways do you think your band has progressed since Recreation Day?

Michael: I think for every album we develop that musician status, absolutely as composers. I think we really, on this album, we really managed to bring out the very essence of different elements that we’ve been working with in the past. Recreation Day was a very intense album, and we’re still very proud of the album, but we feel the new album has a lot more to offer to the listener than Recreation Day had.

Dan: What are you hoping to mostly accomplish with The Inner Circle?

Michael: Well, definitely to grow a stronger fan base over here in the US and in Europe. I mean, we’re going to try to really work hard on this album to make as many live shows as possible. This is the first tour, but we’re definitely hoping to be able to come back to the US after the summer for another tour.

Dan: You guys were doing an exclusive show here at 2 o’clock for The Metal Show. How’d that go?

Michael: It went really well! It was only Richard and Tom who did it. It’s not that long ago since we ended the recording of the album. After that, we recorded a video and we’ve done a lot of press for the album and since we left for the tour now, we really haven’t have the time to herd a real acoustic set for the entire band. So, we decided that…the set they played today, they’ve done it before, so we knew that would be good. We felt it’s better to give the people something good then, rather than throwing something together that wouldn’t work out.

Dan: Hopefully this can get you guys a little more attention.

Michael: Yeah, exactly!

Dan: How did the recording for your video for "A Touch of Blessing" go?

Michael: It went very, very well! All of the other videos have been really a lot of work and a hard time, but working with Patrick from Revolver was, you know. He really had some great ideas, and we had a fantastic crew. So, it went very smooth this time. Of course it’s hard work, but this time it felt like everything went a lot smoother than before. The good part about the kind of stretch we’ve had with this album. I mean, after the recording. To get everything done, to get it released when we wanted to, to get the video done and everything. Normally, you do a record in about 6 months before it’s released. You make a video, and then it’s a week, or a couple of weeks, or a month until it’s all together. But this time, everything has been bam bam bam bam! That’s pretty funny, there, ya know? A couple of days after we shot the video, it was all done. And it turned out really, really good. People are going to be able to see it on the Headbangers Ball next Saturday.

Dan: Awesome!

Dan: Is there any kind of lyrical message that you wanted to portray with The Inner Circle?

Michael: Well, it’s a conceptual album about people who get caught up in religious cults. How that affects that person’s life and all the people around them. So from everyone’s point of view. It shows how he falls deeper and deeper into the cult and eventually gives himself over to the cult totally. So, I mean, basically it’s the concept about fanatic cults. It doesn’t portray any special religion or church at all. It’s about fanatics in general. It’s just we’re trying to make a statement about how religion is being used in the wrong way.

Dan: Yeah. Sometimes it can be a money making scheme, or whatnot.

Michael: Yeah, it’s either that, or, people are making wars in the name of god.

Dan: It’s kind of hypocritical.

Michael: Absolutely! I’m not really a religious person at all, but some people that are religious; they put all their faith into the minister of the church or whatever, and if he abuses that trust. That would be the utter sin for me.

Dan: Is there any kind of specific process that you guys follow when you’re writing new material?

Michael: Not really. For this album, we had a concept written. When we had the concept, we just tried to put ourselves in different situations that someone in that situation has to go through, and just try to get in the right emotional mood for that, and then we just started writing material. The material that came out wasn’t something that was forced to sound in a specific way. We always try to write the music that comes out naturally for us. You can really hear that. The feelings and the moods of the songs are true. It’s not a product that we create.

Dan: Just putting your heart into it!

Michael: Exactly! That’s basically the only rule we have. We don’t have any rules. It just comes out naturally.

Dan: What are your plans for after this tour is over?

Michael: We’re going back to Europe for some festivals during the summer. After the summer, we’re looking for tours all the time. Either we’re gonna do a bigger tour in Europe, or coming back here. We’ve had quite a lot of offers for tours over here now this year. So, we’re definitely planning to come back at least one more time this year.

Dan: Where do you see your band in the next couple years?

Michael: Well, as I said, we’re really working hard now to spread the word about Evergrey and things are looking really good now. Especially here in the US. It seems like there’s a really good buzz starting to go around about Evergrey. We’re going to keep on working hard to make our fan base even stronger and bigger. Especially on this record. We want to spend a lot of time on the road, so I don’t think we’re going to release an album within a year as we did this time. But, definitely, we’re going to keep on releasing albums in the same way which we’ve done now.

Dan: I really like the cover for The Inner Circle. Does it have any kind of symbolic meaning or anything?

Michael: Yeah! It could represent a couple of different things. But, I think the major idea with the whole cover was that if you portray the adult hand as the cult or the cult leader, and the hand of the child is the fragile person who seeks to the cult. Basically something strong grabs a hold of something that is more fragile.

Dan: What do you think your biggest musical accomplishment has been so far?

Michael: I would say creating this album, because it really turned out just the way we wanted to do it. Both musical-wise and production-wise. We’re very, very proud of it. There’s really nothing that we feel that we could have done different or better with this album. I’m not saying that we’re not going to do better in the future, because I definitely think we will. But, at the time, this is really the best we’ve done, I think.

Dan: How do you keep yourself occupied on tour?

Michael: Well, since the US is still very new for us, there’s always tons of stuff to see and do. So, we’re doing a lot of, maybe not sight seeing, but we’re always out trying to see what the town’s all about, and just meeting people and having a good time!

Dan: If you could tour with any band in history, who would you tour with?

Michael: Any band in history? Hmm. Well, it would have been really nice to be on the bill with Queensryche when they did the Operation Mindcrime tour. That would have been pretty hard. Dream Theater, when they did the Images and Words tour. I would love to go out on tour with a band like Nevermore. That would be really killer, I think.

Dan: They’re really good live.

Michael: Yeah, they’re one of my favorite bands! We will tour with them someday! That’s something I will work on!

Dan: Do you have any favorite TV shows?

Michael: No, not really. I really don’t watch that much TV anymore. Evergrey is keeping me occupied a lot.

Dan: What do you think of the whole MP3 craze?

Michael: Well, you can really tell it’s bad for the whole music business. You see all the time labels are letting people go. I see it of course as really good, because people can find new music, and we can gain new fans on it. But, still. There are still too many people who just download it and never buy the CDs. I mean, I don’t have anything against people who download MP3s, but there’s too many doing just to get the album. They don’t want to have the actual product.

Dan: Yeah, and it seems like it’s kind of the whole point, getting the whole product.

Michael: Exactly, because without that, you’re not going to get the whole idea of the album. But, yeah. It is a big problem. For us, it’s not a big problem for us. But, for bigger bands, of course. They’re losing a lot of sales on that, and that's of course the problem. I don’t know really how to get to the problem, because the Internet is there, and there’s no way they can ever control that. When they shut down Napster, they just pop up.

Dan: When something goes down, a bunch more replace it.

Michael: Exactly, exactly. I work in a record store in Gothenburg, and we have to find new things. We have to start doing more merchandise and stuff like that, because just selling CDs won’t keep you alive anymore.

Dan: Besides music, do you have any special talents?

Michael: Ah, I dunno. I like to cook! I’m an educated chef from the beginning, so food is my number 2!

Dan: I know you guys haven’t toured the US a whole lot, but do you notice a difference between crowds here and crowds in Europe?

Michael: It seems like the crowd here is very enthusiastic about bands coming to play. Especially in like central Europe, like Germany and Holland. There’s constantly these tours going on all the time. People are more or less choosing what show to go to instead of, ‘there’s a show, lets go’. It’s more like which do we want to go to, which do we don’t want to go to. It feels like the whole metal scene is growing a lot in the US, getting stronger again. We’ve had a really good experience with the crowds over here.

Dan: Is there any music that you’re into that you think your fans might be surprised that you like?

Michael: Yeah, probably! I listen to a lot of different music styles. It became more and more after I started working in the record store. I felt that at a point, if I’m going to keep on evolving as a musician, I gotta open up the limits a bit more. There’s always good inspirations in different genres, too. There’s plenty of bands that people who are die hard metal would be pretty…I won’t say any names, because I’ll get harassed! laughs

Dan: Is there a place that you haven’t played yet that you’d really like to?

Michael: Yeah, Japan would be nice to play. But they don’t like us over there.

Dan: Really?!

Michael: No! It seems like we’re not progressive enough for the progressive fans, and we’re too complicated for the ones who just want the more simple, so we’re kind of in a gray zone in between. That’s what we finally managed to squeeze out of the Japanese label.

Dan: If you weren’t a successful musician, what do you think you’d be doing right now?

Michael: I would probably be working as a chef. Maybe have my own restaurant or something. Or, other than that, I’m really into the custom building thing of motorcycles. Maybe that’ll be something for the future, too!

Dan: Who is your biggest inspiration?

Michael: I will always really respect Steve Digiorgio as a bass player. He’s always been very big for me. I would say he seems like he’s the most. I really don’t get that much influence from different bass players or musicians. Maybe musicians like Michael Jackson and Sting, and all the work they’ve accomplished. That really shows that hard work pays off. And you know, bands like In Flames. They’ve been touring, touring, touring, touring, and it’s starting to show off. They’ve really got a strong fan base all over the world now. So, it really proves that working hard and touring a lot is the best way to do it, because then you’ll grow a stronger fan base. Instead of bands that grow big overnight. They don’t have a strong fan base. They have a lot of buyers.

Dan: Yup, like a fad.

Michael: Yes!

Dan: Have you guys ever pulled any crazy practical jokes on each other?

Michael: laughs Yes! We’re basically five stupid guys who just are trying to have as much fun as possible when we’re together. So, there is always things happening. We never end up in any trouble, because we always manage to blame it on someone else! laughs

Dan: Is there anything that you’d like to add?

Michael: Well, just I really hope that people will take the time and check out the new album. It’s a really great album, and I think people will really appreciate it when they listen to it. I think there is a lot of music that people from different genres that can really get into. It’s an album that will last for sure, I think!

Dan: Thank you very much!

Michael: Yup! Thank you very much as well!

Note: I'd also like to thank Michael for taking the time to talk with me, and also InsideOut for setting everything up. Thanks!