WITH VIOLENT SILENCE reply Johan Hedman (italian
by Giancarlo Bolther
Can you give us an introduction to your band with the history
of your group?
This constellation of the band has been going since about
1999 when first Bruno and then Phillip joined, but me and Hannes has
been writing songs since we were in high school together. The sound
of the band has changed radically since the early days as we were
much more metal and used much more guitars than we are now. Björn
is the newest member and has been with us since 2004.
Can you tell us about the songs from the new album?
This time we tried, consciously and unconsciously, to make the songs
more eclectic tempo wise. The first album had more of a mid- to uptempo
feel to it. This time the tempos between the songs are all over the
place with some really fast stuff like Kinetic and some really slow
numbers like Sky Burial, and some in between. Harmonically it´s
also quite varied with the difference between the tender harmonics
of Subzero and the slightly dissonant verses of Quiet Stalker being
the most obvious example perhaps. We also wanted to have a real intro
and outro this time and if you listen carefully you´ll notice
they are actually the same song with more or less the same musical
and lyrical themes but done a bit differently. We originally recorded
them on guitar but when we heard the finished result it just felt
to out of place so we re-recorded them on keyboards instead. The new
album also has a slightly darker feel than the first album but paradoxically
the lyrics are in some cases much more positive, inspired in part
by the faster tempos perhaps.
Quiet Stalker was the hardest song to get right. Hannes has had the
basic framework (verses and choruses) for the song lying around for
ages. Long before the first album, but we´ve never worked on
it properly until I had the first draft of the lyric which meshed
perfectly with the dark and spacey mood of the song. I knew what I
wanted the rest of the song to sound like and what the basic arrangement
should be in order to work with the lyrics but it didn´t come
easy. The song was about five minutes long when we seriously started
working on it and everytime we tried to finish it it felt truncated,
so it kept getting longer and longer everytime! The instrumental middle
part was the main culprit. We were actually starting to panic when
we realized it was still unfinished less than a month before we would
start recording. It all came together when we set that main drum rhythm
to the main melody, which was taken from another unfinished arrangement
of the song. The rhythm has been around for ages. Suddenly it worked
like magic and really opened things up.
Where do you find inspiration for writing your lyrics?
Lyrically, the songs on Kinetic are all related in that they
were inspired by a journey to East Asia I went on with my girlfriend.
But at the same time they are quite different between themselves.
The embryos of Morning Star, Torrential Rains, Homesick, Kinetic and
Sky Burial came to me when we were in China and Tibet. The first three
are basically written for my girlfriend. Torrential Rains was inspired
by a very rough and and quite scary bus ride we were on that I have
tried to describe as vividly as possible. Everything that the lyrics
portray has actually happened in real life. Kinetic is just an energizer
to boost the sense of self in a sometimes quite hard and hostile world.
Sky Burial is a celebration of my dead father and was conceived in
a moment of clarity on a mountain side in Tibet, overlooking the so
called “rooftop of the world.” It was such a beautiful
and tranquil place that it made me think about some stuff in my life.
On the other hand, Subzero and especially Quiet Stalker were inspired
by visiting the Khmer Rouge´s torture center Tuol Sleng in Cambodia.
That visit made a huge impression on me. I´ve never been to
Auschwitz or any other death camp that was built during World War
II but from accounts I´ve read from other visitors there they
too felt a heavy sense of anger, emptiness and sadness. Quiet Stalker
is generally about the dangers of human lemming mentality and the
absurd notion that the only way of thinking, acting and behaving is
confined within one specific community, whether political or religious.
Although it was inspired by a specific place and time I wrote it so
it could easily be applied to any severe political or religious hardship
in human history. Subzero touches on that too but is more about political
and/or religious hypocrisy. All I can say is that whether you are
a Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or Jew; wherever you are on the political
scale or whatever color of your skin you will always be welcome to
sit down and have a beer with me. I might not agree with you in some
matters but you will get the respect you deserve.
How do you go about the process of composing songs?
Hannes almost always writes the lions share of the notes
so this should probably be answered by him as well. Usually when we
write, the basic framework for a song is established quite quickly,
but some details and sections might require a bit more work. We both
have a lot of unfinished musical ideas and pieces of songs that just
have to wait for the right opportunity to be used. Sometimes these
bits and pieces don´t really fit into the song you´re
writing at the moment for different reasons so a lot of really good
bits and pieces that could easily have been worthy of inclusion on
the album didn´t make it, for now anyway. Sometimes the songs
are constructed around a specific lyric and then we try to arrange
the song to match the mood of the lyric and sometimes it´s the
other way around.
How much tradition and how much modernity there are into
That´s hard to answer. I do consider us a band that´s
very much aware of and likes much of what is happening in music right
now. Whatever we like we get influenced by to a certain extent I guess,
whether it´s older or newer stuff doesn´t really matter
as long as we like it. We just try to write and then just see what
happens. Also, if we thought a song like Quiet Stalker, which is 18
minutes long, would be a better song by just keeping it within five
minutes we would, or if we thought Kinetic would sound better as a
piano ballad we also would. We are always the most concerned about
what a particular song needs in order to be the best it can be to
us. Whether it´s one or thirty minutes long; straight ahead
or complex or slow or hard or mellow or this and that doesn´t
really matter. Not much is planned out beforehand and if you asked
us what our next album is going to sound like right now we probably
couldn´t give you a very straight answer. Mainly because we
haven´t come that far in the writing process yet.
Your new album is very strong and dark, which is the message
that you want to say?
Thanks! I don´t know if the songs in themselves carry
any specific collective message as such, but that is up to the individual
listener to decide perhaps. If you are asking if it´s a concept
album I would say that it´s not intended that way but I guess
it can be if people want it to.
How are going the responses?
We are quite amazed at the controversy we seem to be generating.
Most reviews have been very positive, and some reviewers have been
absolutely raving and have even stating that the album is a modern
classic, which to us is slightly bewildering but obviously very nice
to hear. Other reviewers have completely missed the point and have
gone the opposite way completely and really hate it. The most surprising
thing is that so many focus very hard on the fact that we don´t
have any guitars. We were quite surprised by this already when we
released the first album so we were a bit more prepared for it now
but still it´s quite odd. Some reviewers have even stated that
the music is good and very original but since we don´t use guitars
they rate it lower than if we would have had guitars, which to me
is very strange. It´s like complaining about the absence of
ukuleles in Black Sabbath or the absence of death metal growls on
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway but still liking them. We suspected
that musically, Kinetic and Quiet Stalker would be seen as the two
most controversial songs on the album for different people and so
far we seem to be right.
In your opinion, which are the hitpoints of the new album?
I am very satisfied with this album on all levels –
from the way that all the songs came out to the overall production
and the individual performances. It´s very hard therefore to
single certain moments out as being better than others especially
as the songs are designed to make a unified statement. At least musically,
and the record goes off in all kinds of directions, both harmonically
and stylistically. They all add something to the pot. But special
mention must go to Sky Burial which probably is the most personal
song that I´ve ever put my name to, and Bruno sings it absolutely
beautifully. Kinetic is another highpoint to me because it´s
quite different from what we have done before. We have tried to write
a really fast song for years but it hasn´t really worked until
now. And of course Quiet Stalker which is the first time we´ve
made a really long and extremely shapeshifting epic. Torrential Rains
is another highpoint for Bruno, when we played back the finished track
with the fresh vocals in the studio everybody´s jaws dropped
to the floor. I didn´t think he had it in him to sound like
that! Well, I´ll better stop here before I´ve mentioned
every song on the album.
In your opinion, which are the differencies between your studio
Besides being a collection of shorter songs than the ones
on Kinetic, the first album has a rawer and sparser feel. Which is
mainly due to the production and the limited keyboard sounds we had
at our disposal then. Since then Hannes has stacked up a little arsenal
of keyboards which has opened up the writing quite a lot for us.
Do you are happy about the recording and the promotion of
the first album?
I still love the individual songs and we still play most
of them live but the production could have been better in some instances.
But that was all we could afford at the time so basically I have to
say I feel it came out very well considering the circumstances. Record
Heavens´ promotion on the other hand was completely non-existent
due to a turbulent change in management at the label. The first Violent
Silence album was actually the last album ever to be released on the
label, since it is now defunct. If it hadn´t been for Musea
Records who stepped in and did at least some promotion noone would
have heard it. Thankfully we now have a completely different situation
with Hansi Cross and Progress Records who absolutely loves the band
and has done so much for spreading the name of Violent Silence.
Can you tell me more about the meaning of the band’s
name and why did you choose it?
I think I came up with the name during a break from school,
an Easter break If I remember correctly. I was listening to a lot
of music as always and several of the albums I was listening to right
then had some lyrics that rhymed violence with silence so I just put
the two words together. It just seemed to work with the music we were
writing back then and the name has stuck ever since.
What do you think about the actual progressive scene?
It seems quite healthy, at least regarding the number of
bands. But too many bands seem to lack distinction from each other,
although that is just my own irrelevant opinion. I personally prefer
to listen to bands that have more of a personal touch.
In your opinion who is that wrote the most important music
in the progressive rock history?
I think I can speak for everyone in the band when I say Genesis.
They were so consistent and inventive, especially the records with
Peter Gabriel, and really mows down any competition. Also, they really
wrote actual songs that that you could separate from each other and
that stuck in the memory, which is something that is not always the
case in the flashy world of progressive rock perhaps. This is something
Violent Silence has at least tried to learn from. Frank Zappa, Yes,
Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Marillion and Voivod also deserves special
mention. All great bands and artists and a huge inspiration for me
Which are the countries nowadays were the prog music is most
vivid both for bands and audiences?
I don´t know really, Violent Silence seem to sell most
records in mainland Europe and different parts of America.
Fans of the old school of progressive rock tend to consider
the bands of today as "regressive" because they lack of
innovation and creativity and they don't look to the future but they
look to the past..what do you think about?
I agree with that to some extent, but the people who feel
this way might be looking in the wrong direction. Bands like The Mars
Volta, Coheed And Cambria, Paatos, Khoma, Mats & Morgan Band,
Enslaved, Tool, Massive attack, Bob Hund, Mastodon, Fireside, System
Of A Down and Portishead sound very little like the 70´s or
80´s progressive bands, but to me they do carry a large portion
of the spirit of those bands.
How do you live the day-to-day reality outside the band? What
kind of person are you as men and as artists?
The city where we live, Uppsala, is a university city so
most of us are either studying different subjects or working.
Which is the greatest satisfaction happened to you in your
Just having had the opportunity to release two records that
I am immensely proud of and playing with people I really admire and
appreciate being around.
What kind of music do you listen to? What are your favourite
bands actually and what are your inspirations from the past?
An impossible question to answer straight up. I am a real
music addict and listen to every imaginable style there is. But I´ve
grown up foremost with Progressive rock, Metal/Hard rock, Pop/rock,
Reggae and classical so those types of genres will always remain really
close to my heart. Some of my favourite artists though are Genesis,
Black Sabbath, Slayer, Voivod, Pink Floyd, Igor Stravinskij, Mercyful
Fate, Frank Zappa, Metallica, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, The Cure,
Yes and Steel Pulse.
What can you tell me about the musical scene in your country?
It´s quite lively with a lot of bands in different
genres here but there is not that many places to play, especially
if you play slightly odd stuff like we do. Progressive rock is generally
frowned upon in the press here so you don´t play it unless you
really have a passion for it.
These seem to be very dark times, in your opinion which is
the most important thing to change as soon as possible in our world?
The most important thing to change is also the hardest I
think. Namely the perception peoples from different backgrounds and
from different parts of the world have of each other. What strikes
me most is that the lack of communication between different groups
has grown worse in recent years. People from different lines of thought
and religions are getting more confrontational, more prejudiced and
more afraid of each other and they do things that are extremely counter-productive
to all of us. I of course can hope this changes but I fear it never
will, it´s such an integral part of the human psyche.
Reviews (in italian): Violent Silence;
Goes Progressive 2005;