Johan Edlund (Tiamat) interviewed

You’re on your 25th year, your tenth album and your fourth record label, at this point. What keeps Tiamat humming?Johan Edlund: That’s never been a problem. We’ve decided to allow ourselves complete artistic freedom. We don’t do this for the money nor for pleasing anybody else. We still love doing it because it still excites us.

The Scarred People, I feel, ups the quality missing on your previous full-lengths. What makes it different from, say, anything in your past from last 10 years?
Johan Edlund: I don’t have a clue. We just do it. The result is secondary for me. The working process and the cooperation with the other guys in the band, that’s what’s important.

Is there a particular flow to the album? I tend to think the songs are grouped together for a reason, whether it’s for the track ordering or for emotional heft.
Johan Edlund: I think the order of the songs is very important. Or, at least as important as everything else on an album. Music, lyrics, artwork. And song order. Everything must come together.

I see you’re still very much into Sisters of Mercy. The title track and “Thunder & Lightning” are very much homages to the Brits. What’s so fascinating, to you as a songwriter, about Sisters of Mercy?
Johan Edlund: I’m not listening much to music at all these days, and honestly I haven’t heard Sisters in many years. Still like them, but there’s nothing to it when it comes to influences. I prefer silence before any music.

“Thunder & Lightning” was originally a LucyFire tune, correct? How’d that end up on The Scarred People?
Johan Edlund: It’s a LucyFire cover. Along with covers of Lana Del Rey and Bruce Springsteen.

You have two pretty different instrumentals on the record. What distinguishes “Before Another Wilbury Dies” from “Tiznit” creatively and emotionally?
Johan Edlund: I don’t know. We just did what felt right at the time. I leave it to the listener to analyze it.

How’d you find Roger? He’s pretty spectacular, actually. Reminds me of the first time the world heard Magnus on the Wildhoney effort.
Johan Edlund: Friend of friends who needed to get on with something new in his musical life. He and me are two opposites in many ways, but we’ve found a good way in combining the best of us two. At least we think so. Love him!

Did you give Roger freedom to play and compose his parts or did you already have thematic ideas in place?
Johan Edlund: He did some very important songwriting for the album and we spent ages in the studio together with Siggi Bemm, trying to find the best arrangements. I can’t take any credit for Roger’s guitar playing, obviously, but I really had a very big part in producing him.

Who are The Scarred People?
Johan Edlund: They’re all in there, on the album. I’m one of them.

666 appears on “The Red of the Morning Sun”. What does this number mean to you at this point?
Johan Edlund: It’s a good looking number, but I believe that everything is of equal value, so it’s none a bit more sexy than 384. Or 33. Or 2.

Sounds like “The Sun Also Rises” is about former lovers. Lyrically, what are you discussing here? And, the mandolin was a nice touch. Gave the song a bucolic, lazy Sunday feel.
Johan Edlund: It’s automative Dada, jumping from cold to hot in split seconds. The music is so damn monotone that I had to make the jumps in the lyrics. From fact to fiction, from down to earth to religious dogmas. Love/hate. All that contrasting stuff that we love.

What’s happening on the cover? There are layers behind it, correct?
Johan Edlund: There are lots of layers behind everything we do. When you’re rotoscoping video files, you’d sometimes call it onionskinning. If Tiamat would ever be a root fruit, we’d be an onion.

Why did you decide to revisit Woodhouse Studios? Is it more comfort with the studio and Siggi or were you looking for something missing from visits to other places?
Johan Edlund: I have nothing clever to say about it more than that it seemed like a good idea at the time. Worked out fine. Great place and a very nice and inspired atmosphere.

What did you make of ex-band mates reuniting under the Treblinka banner for the release of the Swedish Death Metal book and why didn’t you participate?
Johan Edlund: I don’t have an opinion about it. I was not interested.

Amanethes had some old-school death metal vestiges on it. “Equinox of the Gods,” for example. It’s something you moved away from The Scarred People. Was that more a one-off experiment?
Johan Edlund: I don’t know. When I write a song I try to go along with the song and give it what it needs. I’ll stay open-minded to any kind of ideas also on future albums.

Does the death/black metal thing interest you anymore? I understand a lot of years separate you from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.
Johan Edlund: I’m not listening much to music. I honestly don’t like sound so much. And I’m not nostalgic. The past doesn’t interest me.

OK, what’s the next chapter for Tiamat look like?
Johan Edlund: We hope to play live a lot. Hopefully going back to US. We’re doing the 70000 Tons cruise in January, and possibly a few shows around that.

** Tiamat’s The Scarred People is out now on Napalm Records. It’s available HERE in a few different—some very limited—formats. Or you can wait for the new Fleetwood Mac record, which promises, if anything, to be boring.