Interview: Evergrey Vocalist Tom Englund on 30 Years of Music and New Album Theories of Emptiness


It’s been a long road for Swedish progressive metal unit Evergrey, who formed in 1995 and have continued to chase the dream across three decades and 14 albums. Singer Tom Englund‘s love for the music and desire to expand—both as a musician and in terms of popularity—is as bright as it was on Evergrey’s first demo.

As they close in on the release of 14th album Theories of Emptiness, Englund spoke with Decibel about the band’s past and present, coming out of the Gothenburg death metal scene, his different theories of emptiness and his desire to be the biggest band in the world. Check out the band’s latest single, “Falling From the Sun” below and read the interview with Englund below, edited for length and clarity. Theories of Emptiness is out June 7 on Napalm.

You’ve been a band for about three decades and you’ve had a pretty consistent release schedule since the late ’90s. How do you maintain this pace for so long?
There’s still an eagerness to become the biggest band in the world. We keep changing stuff. We don’t use the same producer or mixer or studio or even personnel in the band for thirty years. We’ve been like a football team in this band. Changing things up and doing different things, it keeps it fresh for us ourselves and we write music for ourselves, then it’s become a business. 

On this album we have Adam “Nolly” Getgood mixing the album and the bass player Johan Niemann writing 70% of the foundation of the material, so a lot of things that are very different in that sense. 

You guys are always adjusting things and trying to move them forward.
Yeah, absolutely. The progressiveness of Evergrey, the most progressive we are is in how we evolve, how we try to renew ourselves for every album. We are very proud of that fact that we still maintain some sort of quality and write music that is very coherent. 

When Evergrey formed and the music that was coming out of Gothenburg at the time, it seems it was a very intentional choice to make the music you like and do something that wasn’t as popular at the time.
I also came from that death metal background growing up with all of these bands that are now big in their respective genres. It would have been very natural for us to jump on that bandwagon in a sense but you’ve gotta stay true to who you are and write what you need to write, whatever you feel come from within. I think we have done that since 1996, we have written albums that are only what we want them to be. 

What does the writing or creative process look like you guys? You had a record in 2022—were you already working on Theories of Emptiness by the time your last record came out?
This album we started writing in March last year. As I said in the beginning of the interview, the biggest part of the album, at least the beginnings of it, was written by Johan, the bass player, who never wrote anything before. He’s been with us since 2010. 

All of a sudden, he had an everflowing stream of inspiration. We also got him a computer and he learned how to make music on that, now he’s dropped like four albums this year or whatever. But I knew that about him: he was sort of afraid of the technique, the tech stuff getting into the computer. He was afraid of all that. 

It was a great thing for me and Jonas Ekdahl [drums], who produced the last five or six albums, to have somebody from the band come in. It wasn’t all up to us, so that gave us a lot of time and a lot of freedom to explore other sides of who we are or who we could be. It was a blessing and I’m so eager to hear what he’s going to come up with the next album now that he’s got his first blood on this and knows we can make Evergrey music out of his song ideas. 

Once you open up that floodgate for someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to try out these ideas, there’s so much potential.
He’s probably a better guitar player than I am, he’s definitely a much better bass player than I am, but he’s probably the most talented musician in the band. He’s so modest about it, he doesn’t give a fuck.

Sometimes talented people are the most humble.
At the same time, I get it. We don’t do this to get props… we do this because we have an inner urge, a drive to write music and that’s all we want to do. We don’t really honestly want to talk about it that much, we just want to record the music and play it for people. This part is something that we now have come to love to do because people are interested in our music. 

You said that Johan wrote a lot of the music. You and Jonas were producers. Do you think the fact that someone else was writing the music let you see and produce the record from a bird’s eye view?
Very much so, but what we do is that we take people’s ideas, all of the band member’s ideas, and we make Evergrey music out of it. Then we listen to it together and everyone has a say, “is this a go or not?” It’s a constant process going back and forth. It’s not like Johan came to us and said “OK, here’s eight Evergrey songs. He actually gave us 35 ideas and then we picked the best 15 and for most of them, we raised the tempo a lot. For some parts, we doubled the tempo because he writes in a very doomish, slow vibe, but he has these magnificent ideas in terms of melody. 

I write all of the lyrics and the vocal melodies, then we add guitar parts in between and stuff. It’s a big process but at least kicking off seven of the ten songs is due to him. One song “Ghost of a Hero” is totally him and then Rikard [Zander], the piano player, contributed to one song. A lot of the burden was gone from the start which was like, “Yeah, why not go with this?”

It’s also adding a fresh element to a band since this is our 14th album. 

The record is called Theories of Emptiness. Are you taking from real life experiences or are you looking for a fictional approach?
Everything in Evergrey has been based on the human experience, whether it’s been about me or somebody close to me or something that affected me. It’s the same now. After I had written five to six songs, I analyzed the lyrics and what they were about for me, and I came to the conclusion that they all had some connection to emptiness. Whether it be that you lost your father to cancer and the void it left you with, or the positive side of things: when you don’t feel like you have to leave the room or go in search for truth, that emptiness, that space right now. I’m feeling very good about my life and that also creates an emptiness, but that’s a great emptiness. It gives you peace of mind. 

It’s all kinds of emptiness spread out through this album, which is a cool way to talk about emptiness. It’s not only about loneliness and despair, but also the positive sides of it. 

That explains the album title. Theories of Emptiness, different kinds of it, different expressions of it.
Exactly. Then whatever you can find in it that connects with your emptiness or your perspective, that’s cool. It already made people think about emptiness in a different way based on the discussions I’ve had so far. It has this negative ring but it’s not only about that. 

On this record, you also got Jonas from Katatonia on this record. How did that come about?
We have been friends for a very long time but we never met before last year. We’ve been in the same business for 30-35 years in sort of similar sized bands. We did a project called Ayreon in the Netherlands for a guy called Arjen Lucassen, who has this big metal opera project that we perform on. He’s been doing this for as long as we have and we played six sold-out shows there last October with a bunch of other singers as well. 

Me and Jonas also like to drink red wine together so we sat many nights and discussed life and being metal musicians and these things you get to discuss. We also had a lot in common in terms of, this song in particular is about having had somebody in your life that you couldn’t help, that you tried to help, that you reached out to for many years but they never took your hand and accepted the help. That was a story we shared so when we discussed for a few nights drinking red wine, I asked him “Do you want to be on our album?” and he said yes. 

The great thing is we have another song called “The Night Within” which is about the opposite, where I’ve been in a situation where I really did help somebody because I had been in this situation. I was able to get out and I was the proof to him that life can change. Another side of the album and another song, cool juxtapositions. 

You can see the mirroring on the album.
I like that. In those terms, it’s the most dynamic album we’ve done both in terms of how light it can get but also how dark it gets sometimes. It’s super heavy but some songs just have a lighter vibe to them. “Our Way Through Silence,” for instance, it’s like an Evergrey AOR song which sounds super weird but it works. I’m very proud of this album. It’s very rare I can feel that I’m happy with an album this close to its release. 

You can backtrack this, because I’ve never said an album is the best we’ve ever done, but for this I have to say this is the best album we’ve done. 

It must feel great to be this far in and still feel like you’re making the best records of your career.
And we’re also still growing which says a lot about how small we were in the beginning. We’re still growing and we’re still picking up a lot of fans. That curve is steepening; I would say it’s very rare to have a band this late in its career becoming bigger and bigger.

It’s impressive to still be growing.
The coolest thing, I still believe in world dominance because I have to. Because I want to. We never had a big hit or even a metal hit. We had a few minor, smaller hits but that is still the reason we still want to do this. Why we still want to make sure that we make the best songs ever. We want to travel to see the whole world still, which for us is a blessing. 

When we started out, we were 23, 24 years old. I was 21 when I started Evergrey, so it’s very cool. I’m very grateful. 

Originally Posted Here

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