|Does this sextet still need an introduction? Since debuting five years ago Scar Symmetry have established themselves as one of this decade's most exciting metal bands. Speaking to Maximum Metal about late-2009's acclaimed "Dark Matter Dimensions," their two new singers, and facial hair is guitar whiz/producer Jonas Kjellgren, who has been with the group from day one. The man is all over his band's latest album; responsible for its polished sound and those mindboggling guitar leads that elevate each of its breathtaking tunes to epic heights. Ever the approachable nice guy, we didn't waste any time asking him...|
MM: ...did you gain weight over the holidays or has all the touring in support of "Dark Matter Dimensions" kept you in shape?
Jonas Kjellgren: Hahaha! Touring keeps you in shape? [I] had no idea. Drinking gallons of beer every night is quite a nice diet, I must say. But then chasing women is great exercise ofcourse so...Yes, I gained weight over Christmas, hehehe...
MM: Last year saw the release of "Dark Matter Dimensions" where you showcased the band's two new singers. How long have you known Lars [Palmquist, clean vocals] and Robert [Karlsson, growls]? What did it take to get them aboard once Christian exited the band?
|Music is art and you gotta let your mind be free when doing music. Not worrying about what people will think is not easy but it's important!|
JK: I've known Robert since 1994. We met at some gig and became best friends. Then I saw him live with Edge Of Sanity back in 1996 and was mighty impressed by his voice. I did not know Lars before he came into this band; apparently Lars and Robert have been friends since they were kids. They went to school together and stuff like that. I just asked Robert if he was interested in trying out as our vocalist and he was. It was his idea to bring Lars to the audition as well and we fell in love with the dude straight away. So we're a happy family doing what we love together. Niiiiceeeee!
MM: You guys must have been bummed when Christian [Alvestam, ex-singer] didn't want to tour anymore, which eventually led to his departure from Scar Symmetry. How did the rest of the band cope? What kept Scar Symmetry going? Were you worried this would affect the band's relationship with Nuclear Blast?
JK: Yes, we were a bit bummed. But I totally understand, aroudn that time he just got a job and stuff like that and didn't have the time the band needs. The love for the music we're making kept us going and we were not worried about how this would affect the relationship with our label.
MM: With two new singers in the fold, how soon did the band get into the writing and recording process for "Dark Matter Dimensions"? You once mentioned in an interview that the previous album, "Holographic Universe," was done in 60 days. Does the same apply to "Dark Matter Dimensions"? And how did you squeeze in the new Dark Funeral album?
JK: The [band's] writing process never stops actually. We're constantly writing new material when we feel like it and with the new singers in the band it felt like it was more fun than ever to write music, so it was a smooth ride. The recording process took about the same time as the last album, I guess. I only mastered the new Dark Funeral ("Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus"), it only took one day or something like that.
MM: Was there a lot of stress in the studio while breaking in the two new singers and making the songs as perfect as possible? What kept the band from pulling each other's hair/beard?
JK: Hahaha! We like to pull each other's beards and hair, it's a sex-thing--instant boners in da house! No stress though, we just do what we do as good as we can.
MM: Given your consistency and output over the last several years, I'm willing to believe Scar Symmetry aren't human but are actually cyborgs programmed to create awesome music. There are now six of you and there'll probably be more members in the future, so how do you keep everyone happy in the band? What bonding experiences do you share aside from gigs? You watch movies together?
JK: We are robots! We are happy just being together in the same room, there's good chemistry. Yeah, we watch movies together, go on fancy burger dinners and such. Working on cars and bikes together. Drinking and raising hell!!
MM: I liked your video for "Noumenon and Phenomenon." I also noticed you now bear a resemblance to Lord K Philipson from The Project Hate MCMCXIX with that beard and shaved head of yours. Is growing a beard a guitarist thing these days?
JK: Funny thing you mention Lord K, I actually decided to try growing a huge beard because of him. I was so damn impressed by his beard when we met so I just had to try challenge him. It's not going great, by the way. Must drink more beer, I think. Get to ze choppeeer!!!
MM: I'm amazed at the level of musicianship I'm hearing on the album—I guess all that free time was put to good use, huh? Don't you and Per Nillson ever run out of ideas for leads? I hear them all over "Dark Matter Dimensions"!
JK: Thanks, happy to hear that! Yes, sometimes you run out of ideas or something. Then a quick beer break and things starts flowing again!
MM: Of course, next to the sweet guitar play—or should I say, better than the sweet guitar play—are the vocals. Those are some breathtaking choruses on songs like "The Consciousness Eaters" and "Sculptor Void." But was sounding a bit too soft or ‘pop' ever a concern while writing the album? Was balancing the alternating aspects of the Scar Symmetry sound a huge headache or a doozy?
JK: Sounding too much pop or jazz or whatever is not something we are concerned about. That's the critic's concerns. We don't care at all what other people think about our music because it's our band and we do whatever we feel like. Music is art and you gotta let your mind be free when doing music. Not worrying about what people will think is not easy but it's important!
MM: I'll be honest here, Lars Palmquist's voice is so beautiful, my heart skips a beat every time I hear "The Iconoclast." I know that Christian Alvestam was once given a free hotdog when someone heard him sing, but do you anyone who ever broke out in tears after hearing Lars work his magic?
JK: Hahaha!Yes he [Christian Alvestam] got a hotdog from his angelic-voice, hehehe...People crying? Hahahaha! I dont think so. But after our gigs you can see the girl's snailtrails on the floor of the venue, hahaha! He [Lars Palmquist] usually gets massive amounts of pussy though. (Maybe?)
MM: The only song I didn't really dig was "Mechanical Soul Cybernetics." Why was there a stronger emphasis here on the extreme vocals than anywhere else on the album?
JK: Hmmm... I dont know, we just felt like it. I like that song a lot actually, it's different and aggressive in a weird way.
MM: The bonus track "Pariah" is on Japanese versions of the album, which I have. Why did you have to tuck this away for use as a bonus track when it would have done so well as part of the tracklist? And how much other original stuff does Scar Symemtry have lying around?
JK: We dont have much extra stuff lying around, maybe one or two songs that will never see the light of day. Choosing Japanese-bonus tracks is hard, but they want a bonus track otherwise they wouldn't release the album.
MM: At first you guys were considered another Soilwork, then death metal, power metal, technical death metal, and today its progressive melodic death metal. Do you still have plans of confusing your audience in the future?
JK: We are all about confusing the audience! No, I don't know! I think we play a mixture between Heavy Metal and Progressive (whatever that is) Jungle Rhythm n' Blues. Hahaha!
MM: In your past albums it was always Henrik Ohlsson who wrote the lyrics. Did he have to consult all those esoteric books on philosophy this time around or where all the themes and lyrics thought of before hand? And does anyone ever question what he writes?
JK: I don't know how he does it...He just does his thing and when we get to read the lyrics it's always very interesting and fun! We trust him 100% with the lyrics, which are his department and we never interfere with that. We are all impressed as hell everytime he unveils those fine lyrics!!!
MM: You're a producer with his own studio. How do you find the time to practice guitar, much less listen to music for leisure?
JK: I don't...I work all the time, seven days a week! Sometimes I sit at home with the guitar not practicing but composing. I listen to metal very, very loud everytime it's beer time, which can happen any night of the week when I have an urge to feel crappy the day after. Hahaha!
MM: When on tour, what's the next best thing to do aside from hanging out in the concert venue for 12 hours?
JK: Go see stuff, drop by titty-bars or regular-bars, normal stuff! Oh, we sleep like 12 hours while on tour so there's not much freetime actually, hehehe... [We] go to bed at 4 AM wake up at 4PM, that's our daily schedule.
MM: What is the perfect time of day for you?
JK: Midnight and later. Before that it's usually just boring, hahaha!
MM: If the band had the resources and power to play anywhere on Earth, which places would you love to conquer? What would be the ultimate Scar Symmetry tour?
JK: I don't know, I love touring the US. We could do that for years! Other than that, it would be cool to tour Asia!
MM: Aside from "Dark Matter Dimensions" and a ton of shows you guys played, what else made 2009 special for you? Any favorite albums you'd like to mention?
JK: 2009 was nothing special, a shit year like all the others, hahaha! No-no-no, it was actually a good year and its highlight for me was recording our album. It felt very special and there were also lots of cool gigs! My favourite albums 2009 have to be the new albums from Hypocrisy, Immortal and Europe, I guess.
MM: Thank you for your time Jonas, it's much appreciated. To this day, I have not met a single person who hasn't listened to you guys and not liked what they heard. Well, there was this one dude...never mind! Anyway, for a super-musician like yourself, are you more comfortable inside a studio or onstage?
JK: Thank you for your time also! I love playing both live and in the studio equally. I love metal more than my own mother! Cheeeerrrrrssssss!!!