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Tiamat: I believe in God

Owls are not what they seem and Johan Edlund is an owl of that unpredictable kind. He is honest, calm and very peaceful, even when occasionally he slips into his native Swedish when he canīt find the right word for an answer. And by the way, he appears nothing alike his promo pictures, so who is Johan after all?

Did you know that today is International Womenīs Day?
Good for you! Congratulations!

Sounds quite sarcastic...
I donīt celebrate anything.

So you donīt really care for Valentineīs day either?
No. As an excuse – any celebration is good, but I donīt celebrate Christmas for over 10 years now...

Maybe Christmas is more of a religious thing, but what about other special holidays?
Last year when I had a birthday, at 12 oīclock, my girlfriend has forgotten about it. And I went into the kitchen, I had this small muffin, which I put a small candle into and sprayed some cream on it, and then I lit the candle and went into the room where we were watching movies, and I started to sing “happy birthday” to me and she was quite ashamed. So itīs not that important in my daily life.

And you werenīt offended?
I donīt think I know the date when my girlfriend has birthday and itīs not an important thing. Every year we forget the day when we met, the anniversary... Sorry... I can still bring home flowers, without a reason or without a special date, but just because I feel for it. I am a socialist and I donīt like when market economy forces new reasons for us to shop, to buy flowers and stupid gifts, heart-shaped crap that no one likes, but I still think I am a romantic person who can do all those things on any random day, just because I feel for it on that moment.

Are you sentimental?
Yeah, probably.

And your birthday is almost now... How does that feel?
(pause) ...mmm. The only thing I can think of now is if I get any bonuses when I fly home tomorrow, if I can get upgraded to a business class flight.

So materialistic!

And youīre like that?!
Hm [nods]

Going back to the deadly sins, Vatican has recently introduced a few more and so now we have whole 14 sins...
And how many did I answer?

No, but how many of them did I agree to being sins?

Maybe one...
So I could upgrade that to two maybe. Those fourteen now sounds a bit too much.
They include pollution, genetically modified things, abortion...
Iīm not even going to comment on that one, itīs just stupid to comment on abortion. Itīs like... thereīs no point.

And this is the last show on this tour?
It isnīt really a tour. We did the last show last week on Monday in London, and now weīre just flying in for this show, we donīt even have the same lights or the crew, or anything.

How were the past shows with the 69 Eyes, their style is quite different to yours?
Yeah, but most bands weīve been touring with, are all quite different. Weīve toured with Motörhead, with Black Sabbath... lots of bands, which arenīt doing the same thing than what we do. The most important thing for us is that we get along, because when they play, weīre backstage preparing ourselves. But the other 23 hours are the real important ones.

Does it violate your ego at all that sometimes there is more audience coming to those bandsī shows than to yours?
Weīre doing our thing and it never matters... If weīre playing a huge festival in some early afternoon, we donīt really care if Aerosmith are playing after us or before. We are there to do a Tiamat show and all the times before and after if we get along with people in the bands, thatīs what matters and thatīs a bonus.

Now that the newest album is about a year old, and youīve played the songs live, how do you feel about that material?
I think itīs always after youīve played the songs live and youīve toured for some time, the songs also grow. The perfect scenario would be to record the songs after the tour, I mean if we wouldīve recorded them today, they wouldīve sounded better.

In what way?
They had their time to mature and the band is really getting into the song, doing it together. In the studio itīs more stressful, you get in there, everyone has their part and plays it alone in the booth, and during the recording process you donīt have time to think about it. With this record we had more time than ever to think it over, because it took so many years to do it. And itīs the case with every album and I guess we just have to accept it.

How come this one took so long, especially?
Weīve run out of the record contract, so we had to search for the new label and it took forever. Not really for us, but for our manager and so... We just wanted to play, thatīs all, but thereīs a lot of business.

So after all, business and art arenīt so far apart...
The best would be if everybody in the band would win a million Euros lottery and then we could just do whatever we want.

Well, that doesnīt apply just for a musician, but any person...
Yes, I started to play music because I wanted to stay out of the business. I have my own company and get the best out of it, but I always push it aside, as far as I can. I donīt like meeting my tax lawyer. I want to sit here, drink whisky with my friends and be on stage, the rest is boring.

What kind of whisky do you like?
Whatever they put on a table...

...as long as itīs for free...
Yeah. I notice how bad it sounds, but thatīs the truth. We have Jack Daniels every day, but it wasnīt my suggestion. Why do we have this Jack Daniels on the rider?! I think itīs the drummerīs fault... So I blame the drummer.

What happened with you personally since the album before last and the newest record?
Iīve moved from Hamburg to Berlin, from Berlin to Dortmund and from Dortmund to Greece and met a new girlfriend.

How did you meet?
We had a show there.

What a coincidence!
Coincidences have been good to me so far. I donīt know exactly what there is with destiny to believe in, I accept it and it has been taking me through some bad places, but at the end I was always in some good place, if you see what I mean.

Youīre engaged now. How did you propose?
Weīve been out drinking, in the day before, slept 3 hours, woke up with horrible hangovers, decided to go to the tattoo place and have rings tattooed. So it was pretty spontaneous.

Have you planned the wedding yet?
Yes we have, but in Greece itīs a pretty big thing, with the family and so on... So youīve to plan it at least a year ahead. So this is something Iīm not really looking forward to. Now Iīve been thinking just to go to the stateīs office and just have it done and over with.

After all, what do you think is better or worse, believing in nothing, or believing in God?
I have to say I believe in God. And thatīs why I have so many dilemmas with is, as my lifestyle doesnīt really fit to... I donīt believe in church as an establishment and also what they think God is or what their view on it. We are humans and we should be allowed to be humans as we are. I also think God has a sense of humour, so if I do something bad, Iīm sure God would tap his head on my back and say “Hey, itīs not so bad, cheer up...”

Howīs living in Greece for you? Their orthodox religion is especially vivid there...
Their church has a very strong position, thatīs true. So itīs just more of the evil thing that comes with religion. I mean I have the same authority to say what God is, as the Priest does, thatīs my opinion. Or the orthodox Priest or even the Pope. How does the Pope know more about God than I do?!

Youīve “hail Satan” tattooed...
Maybe itīs just irony that he laughs about... I mean in my world, God would have the same twisted humour as I have myself. We would get along pretty well together, as long as I have a direct line to God, instead of having to dial to the church first and they can connect me... Itīs like, if you rebel against your parents, it doesnīt meant that you hate them. Twisted Sisterīs song “I wanna rock” – I donīt think Dee Snider hates his parents, in his funny way he is rebelling, but Iīm sure he still has nice thanksgiving dinners with his family and they probably laugh about it. So I think I have the same relation to God, as Dee Snider to his parents.

Iīm sure Dee Snider had to go through some trouble before...
Exactly!! A lot of communication and arguments... Which all end up in inspiration to writing songs. Most of my songs are like that, dealing with those questions that I donīt have the answers to.

Do you sometimes go to church?
I try to keep it as my pride that I donīt go to church since I was arrested by cops when I went into a church together with our bass player, they thought we were about to steal the silver from there. We went inside to keep warm, as it was minus seventeen outside and we were waiting for a train. It was a modern church with an elevator inside. The keeper turn off the elevatorīs power, we were stuck there for one hour, we missed our train and the police came, checked us, they were rude to us and since then I thought Iīm not welcome in the church and I wonīt go inside ever again. And since then Iīve been telling my friends that Iīve not been in the church, which is a lie, because Iīve been to a church after that in Thessaloniki last summer. I think itīs a great place actually, maybe I will go more often.

How does it make you feel inside?
The only thing I hate is if there is a priest has a problem with how you look and how you dress. A church should welcome everybody and treat everyone the same. You can go inside and feel peaceful, stay there for however long you want, then the church could be a great place. As I somehow believe in God, to me church creates a very deep intense feeling. Itīs not that I pray or anything, but I feel... something.

On a more global scale, what do you think is a meaning of life?
To fulfil your position in universe, to not take too much for too less space, to float around like an atom, interact with the rest, you know? I think if someone takes too much space, itīs like a virus or something, if you go down into too many little particles... It gets disastrous. So I think we all have to fill our lives, thatīs what we are suppose to. On the political level I think the same. Someone has to clean the toilets, and some people have to count our money in the bank and they are all people, everyone is equally important. So try to keep everything even and in equal shape.

Do you think youīre doing your part in it?
I try to, but I canīt know...

Alright. Maybe you could comment on your band mates? What is the most romantic thing about Tomas?
Actually he quit the band for his family, so that explains it pretty well. And that it something never to argue about it. He has two lovely kids and heīs my parentīs neighbour, so he did the right thing, definitely.

Whatīs the weirdest thing about Anders?
He gets very upset when we drink too loud. He is easily bothered by little things, like dried fruit, it upsets him.

Whatīs the cutest about Lars?
Heīs right there!! He is very cute. Can I say something? I show it. Lars – catch! [throws wooden drum-stick at him, which Lars fails to catch, instead covering his head with both arms] See?! He has a lot of coordination, but not at this. The rest of us are used to playing football, but not him. And we find it very cute. Heīs afraid of small flying objects. Ask Jussi69, heīll tell you some stories...

And then whatīs the most annoying thing about you, Johan?
[asks around in Swedish] I donīt know, I wonīt answer, and those guys donīt want to say. I drink with a lot of noise...

And now we do a small game. Here are a few random objects. Please pick a few and tell us your associations or thoughts, whatever comes to your mind first.

[picks Beauty and the Beast figurines]
This one is very easy: it is me and my girlfriend, she is just too good for me, but the Beast is a good guy, he has a good heart. Sheīs missing me a lot right now, this is her main job.
[picks up a picture of Uncle Scrooge]
This one I have a lot to say about. Itīs an old drawing of Scrooge, probably by Carl Barks, who is my favourite artist of all times, the guy who invented Uncle Scrooge, as it wasnīt Walt Disney. And this duck is one of my favourite characters. Some years ago I did an album with my project called Lucyfire. Uncle Scrooge had a lucky coin, which he earned from the Gold Rush on Klondike. So when that record came out and I had the money on my account, the first thing I did was buying a silver dollar, itīs in my vocal booth in my studio. It brings no luck, as the album sold horribly, but Uncle Scrooge had some tough times too, so Iīm still waiting for my empire to boost!
[picks up a small Jagermeister bottle]
I donīt really like this one, but alcohol I like a bit too much. Iīm so used to being unsober, that I donīt do anything stupid. I drink a lot, but I can take it. Itīs like this, being on tour, I fly a lot and I fly alone, and I kill the boredom by going to the bar. Being afraid of flights or heights became an excuse, I just realised. Iīm not as afraid of flying as I just, I just want to give everybody a reason why I drink at 6am. Actually I like it, I like to have a vodka-tonic at 6 in the morning and if I say that itīs because Iīm afraid of flying, itīs only because itīs more socially acceptable. At least I am honest and Iīm saying this.

Author: Marina Sidyakina, transl. K. Weber, photos: Tiamat
Date: 2009-03-21

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