The Johansson Family, meaning drummer Anders Johansson (Manowar, ex-HammerFall) and his two sons; guitarist Niklas and bassist Karl, has teamed up with vocalist Michael Andersson (Fullforce) to create the newest addition to the Swedish metal scene: TUNGSTEN. Now the debut album We Will Rise is ready for release, and of course PowerMetal.no had to ask a few questions.
Let’s start with the beginning, because the first time I heard about you guys, the name of the band was Strokkur and you were supposed to release the second album in 2019. What happened; why did you decide to change everything?
Nick: We weren’t that happy about the results of the first Strokkur album. There are some great songs on that album but we choosed to do this album as a complete new band. The genre is pretty much the same but, we have a harder edge and sound with Tungsten and the production is much better now. And since we signed for record label “Arising Empire Records” everything has become more organized and precise so we have to do this the best way we possibly can and we didn’t feel that we have done this with Strokkur.
We basically wanted a new fresh start and do everything as we wanted from the beginning.
Tungsten consists of a father, two sons and a vocalist. I’m interested in knowing more about the musical relationship between Karl, Nick and Anders. I know that Karl and Nick had written some songs and that Anders liked what he heard. Growing up with a famous drummer as a father, and becoming musicians yourself; was this the first time you had made a move towards your father trying to create a band with him? Or have you tried multiple times, and now if finally became a match?
Karl: The first time we had a band/project was back in 2012 where we actually started a project called Tungsten which in a way was what later on became this band. It was almost the same kind of music except we mashed up prog/djenty vibes with Swedish traditional folk music. We put it on ice and decided in early 2016 to bring it back but with a more traditional metal for all to enjoy.
Before that back in the days we have made some small projects. Like when I was around 9 years old I recorded some gibberish vocals on some songs that Anders had made for us.
Being sons of the world-famous Anders Johansson has, I guess, had some impact on your own choices in life and the fact that you both became musicians. How has it been to grow up with a drummer as a father, and how much has his career affected your life and your own career?
Karl: For me it was very interesting and a lot of fun to grow up with a father who has that kind of life. I didn’t really know what he was doing until he showed me the first outcast of Hammerfalls music video for the song «Renegade» which was the first video he filmed with Hammerfall. I remember that I was totally amazed and in awe by the video. Another eye-opener was when me and my brother came along on our first Hammerfall which was in Lund, Sweden back in the year 2001. I remember sitting on Anders’ drum podium and I was so amazed that I mimicked our fathers every move on the stage with two of my own drumsticks. Sometime later we followed him on some European tours with Hammerfall and to see all the fans, venues and shows on these tours made me dream to have my own career and relive it all again with my own band.
Tungsten isn’t quite in the same style as your fathers’ previous bands; what did you think about his bands when you grew up? Did you listen to Hammerfall?
Nick: No, it’s not the same really. I like Hammerfall and Rising Force a lot. It was hard not to listen to Hammerfall since Karl and I was with them on tour a lot when we were kids. I still listen to them from time to time. I feel that Tungsten have some power metal influences in some songs, I guess it comes from listening to Hammerfall.
Were you somewhat surprised by the music your sons made you listen to? What was your initial reaction?
Anders: Not really. I have been listening to them all their lives. And we had been touring and rehearsing before. I got surprised they wanted to have me in the band. Now to and back from gigs they have to sit and listen to me ramble on about all sorts of things.
The music of Tungsten is metal mixed with modern elements along with folk music. How did you create this style of music; what inspired you and why did you decide to implement folk music?
Karl: When I create music I really like to mix certain sounds and genres to form a new and experimental sound that I really love. With Tungsten we mashed a little bit of all our own styles to form a unique sound. For example, the industrial and electronic sounds is from my part, the heavy riffs and angry guitars is from Nick, the power metal and prog vibes on the vocals & choirs is from Mike and the drumming styles and folk music was Anders idea and his flavor to the music. The idea with the folk touch is that we really love the northern sound of folk music and wanted to infuse this melancholy and beautiful sound with hard, melodic and catchy metal.
As the vocalist Tungsten asked Mike Andersson. How did that happen? Were you asked to listen to some music first, or did you accept right away?
Mike: Considering I have worked with Anders earlier in Fullforce plus other projects I almost said «yes» to join the band right away but, to be absolutely sure I did listen to 1 song before accepting their invitation to join the band. I mean, it’s a new musical territory for my style wise.
None of you are newcomers to the industry, so how would you compare Tungsten to the other bands you have played with? Do you feel any different this time?
Mike: Musically it feels different. I come from a more progressive kind of metal like Cloudscape that I used to sing in a few years ago but, Tungsten is more modern sounding, melodic metal with an industrial touch and folk melody touches. Same goes for Anders I guess…having a neo-classical metal history in Yngwie J. Malmsteens Rising Force and old school heavy metal history Hammerfall. That is the basic differences for both of us I guess. Tungsten is a strong unit and even thou Anders is Nick and Karls dad we are functioning perfectly as a band. We give and take and share knowledge. Musically it is Nick & Karl composing the basic songs which we work together on to develop as a band.
Anders: When we started Tungsten we wanted to be slightly different. It is hard… everything has been done… 10 times. And it has been done good. So we wanted to try to sound different. Well, it is hard, but we did as good as we could mixing modern styles with old ancient Swedish style of music. The difference playing wise is that it seems a bit tighter than in other bands. It might be because Karl and nick have the same genes as I do and that makes us more alike micro timing wise.
All of you have a wide variety of musical influences. Has that affected the album in any way?
Mike: Absolutely. Nick & Karl are the basic composers in the band and put the modern touch in the songs. Me and Anders then adds our “basics” to it from our somewhat older experience as musicians. So, a mix of traditional metal with modern metal is kind of normal as the outcome in this band.
How has the songwriting process been like; who does what?
Nick: It is mainly Karl and I who writes the music and Mike writes the lyrics. Usually Karl does his demos and I do mine. So we do our own separate songs. When we send demos to each other we often adds stuff to the other persons demo, like melodies, change some riff or make a completely new riff that fits the song better. Sometimes we write together from scratch or Karl just makes a piano track and send it to me and I write riffs and song melodies.
When it was time to record the real product for «We Will Rise», Anders and Mike added their own flavor to it by making own drum fills, vocal ad-libs etc.
In Spring 2019 you signed with Arising Empire Records. That isn’t bad being a new band. How was the search for a record deal?
Anders: I know Markus Staiger from my days in Hammerfall. I know that he and his crew really do a great job. So signing with anyone else was never really an option.
Will there be a tour after the release?
Anders: That is the plan. Right now, we are looking for an opening spot on a bigger tour.
I must ask a question about Manowar. How did that happen, and how has it been touring with the legendary band? Do you have any “inside stories” to tell? And are you a permanent member now?
Anders: Yes, it was really unexpected and a cool thing. I had recorded with them earlier and I must have given a good impression. Things went really well and easy in the studio as well. When they needed a drummer they called me. It was in the middle of a tour so we couldn’t rehearse. They threw me out on deep water right away in a huge arena.
Playing with a huge band like Manowar with a legacy like they have might be a bit scary if you are young. There is tremendous weight on your shoulders coming after guys like Scott Columbus, Rhino and Donnie. Especially from the fans. I have a lot of experience in very many different situations and that helps. If I would have been 21 it would not have worked, at least not without rehearsing. I would have rushed or fucked it up somehow probably. But now it was fine. Joey is a great bass player that really locks in with the drummer and that is also very helpful. Manowar has become so big and well known it doesn’t matter who plays drums or guitar as long as Eric and Joey are there. Permanent until they don’t call me anymore. Inside stories you have to hear from Joey, haha!