By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
Venue: The Orpheum, Tampa, Florida–May 7, 2017
Evergrey is a progressive metal band from Gothenburg, Sweden. Known for dark lyrics and dark imagery, they also delve into mostly darker themes: cults/religion, child abuse, paranoia, death, alien abduction, fear, mourning, sorrow, and self-reformation. “The Storm Within” is both the title of their latest album and their tour, and not surprisingly, their stage presence is dark as well, from blacking out the stage between songs – and often during significant portions – to spotlighting one or two band members, or backlighting the whole band, giving them an edgy image to go along with their head-banging thrash with strains of the light/dark dichotomy. I was reminded of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” Van Halen-like licks, some Scorpions; Tom S. Englund, lead vocalist, guitarist, and leader of the band – the only member who has been a constant throughout the lineup changes – lists Yngwie Malmsteen, Iron Maiden, and Pink Floyd among his influences, but it would be hard to pick one single influence in their music. Henrik Danhage (guitar) and Rikard Zander (keyboards) also contributed backup vocals.
Several songs from the latest album were featured, including “The Distance,” “The Storm Within,” “In Orbit,” (handled quite well though missing the added vocals of Floor Jansen, featured on the album version and in the video) along with fan favorites “Recreation Day” and “Hymns for the Broken.”
RAN had the opportunity to interview the band’s rhythm section: Jonas Ekdahl, drummer 2002-2010 and 2014-present, and Johan Niemann, bass player, who joined in 2010.
Rock At Night had the pleasure of chatting with Jonas Ekdahl and Johan Niemann before the show at The Orpheum, Tampa, Florida. Please see the interview below:
RAN: I am Brent Michael with Rock At Night and I’m interviewing Jonas Ekdahl (drummer) and Johan Niemann (bassist) with Evergrey. Is this your first time playing in America?
Jonas: We’ve been playing in the U.S. on and off. I did my first U.S. tour with Evergrey in 2003.
RAN: So who has been with the band the longest?
Johan: Tom (Englund)…but between us two…I joined in 2003 and left in 2010 and returned in about 2013.
RAN: When did you join the band?
Johan: In 2010 when the bass player quit.
RAN: What is an interview question that nobody ever has asked you but you wish would be asked?
Jonas: Maybe not many journalists are drummers. I don’t do many drumming interviews. I would really like an interview like that because I’m kind of a nerd. It’s fun to talk about and I rarely do it. I have very few drummer friends that I can actually and meet up at home and talk about drums and stuff…and have a beer. <laughing> I feel pretty lonely!
RAN: So imagine if I were a drummer….
Jonas: <laughing> This would be a long interview!
RAN: I guess you would be asked about your head types and cymbals. Are you sponsored by any drum company?
Jonas: Ah, yeah, I’m sponsored by Sabian and Pearl Drums. They are the best for me and my playing. I’ve been with both companies since 2004.
RAN: And you, Johan?
Johan: Yeah, Fender and Tech 21 (for the pedals…they are very, very good).
RAN: So tell me about the background of Evergrey and its founding…
Jonas: Tom has been with the band the longest and I guess he kind of has the vision.
RAN: So what kind of vision does he have? I’ve read a lot of dark thematic lyrics.
Jonas: Yeah, that’s what we are going for. The band has changed direction over the years, like for themes and concepts for the albums, but Evergrey has always been a dark band. That’s the way it should be.
RAN: So what is the concept of the album, The Storm Within. If it is “in” something…
Jonas: Tom writes all the lyrics. What thought it would be cool to have a “lack of love” album. The themes are centered around stuff you have to deal with when you are left by someone you love. It could be your partner, friend, or loved one…passed away or something like that. [The album] is about losing love, I guess. You have to deal with the consequences in your heart and at the same time you have to function as a human being. Life doesn’t stop just because someone is leaving you. You have to move on…
RAN: Speaking of moving on…you guys just got here in the U.S. You’ve been here before. What are your impressions of the U.S. Do you get political at all?
Jonas: No, not me…
Johan: We see it from afar….<laughing>
RAN: Florida must be a nice change from Sweden. It’s pretty cold over there now, isn’t it?
Johan: We have a few weeks of Summer over there but it’s obviously real nice over here.
Jonas: And those weeks usually happen in May. Then June comes and it’s pouring down rain. Then the sun comes up now and then….then it’s Autumn again.
RAN: And today you guys were at the beach?
Jonas: Yeah, St. Petersburg Beach. We were there for a couple of hours and then came over there for the sound check.
RAN: I saw your schedule and you are going all over the U.S. Have you been to any of those places before?
Johan: I’ve never been to Tampa before. This is my first time here. Tomorrow we are doing New Orleans and I’ve never been there.
RAN: You are heading out West then?
Jonas: Yes, we are going to Dallas and Houston…Las Vegas.
RAN: So what do you do on your “off” time? Like when you are not touring, maybe?
Johan: We all have jobs to go to.
RAN: Like “day jobs”? What do you do?
Johan: I help old people with their day-to-day stuff. As far as my “off” time I have a daughter which takes up a lot of my time.
Jonas: I like to do a lot of stuff. I like to play TV games like PS4, go to the gym, hang around the house…taking it easy. I work in a warehouse. I like to write music. That’s about it…it’s a pretty simple life!
RAN: Is there anything you’d like your fans to know?
Johan: We’re extremely thankful that they are coming out to see us and have their support. It’s really nice!
Jonas: We really don’t get to come over here that often.
Johan: It’s nice to see some familiar faces.
RAN: What other countries have you been to?
Johan: We did the European tour. We toured Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, Holland..
RAN: So where are the most rabid fans?
Johan: It’s always different. The Netherlands (Holland) is always good.
Jonas: Then, South America, like Brazil. It’s insane there!
Johan: Also Eastern Europe.
Jonas: Yeah, that’s really good too.
RAN: Would you believe that Botswana has a really good metal scene?
Jonas: Really? We’ll have to check that out!
RAN: Well, have a great tour and success with the new album! Thank you so much for speaking with us!
When not in custody, I've been involved with music, photography, and writing my entire life. Ever since I was a young boy and played those silver tunes, I've had the beat, but being a drummer didn't suit me so I became a lead singer, which lasted a few years. Settling down, sort of, I translated my knowledge of audio and glib tongue into mobile emcee work, and my training as a photographer and videographer into a living in the wedding, party, bar/bat mitzvah, and entertainment industry. During this time I also managed to bamboozle my way into a master's degree in writing, worked for a couple of magazines (yes, I took photos for a nudist magazine!), have photographed hotels, done commercial work (shot the cover of Tablet and Capsule magazine), published a few articles, hosted some public access shows (a couple times in drag, but that's another story), and generally made a nuisance of myself until I landed here.