Comradeship, friendship and catching up. Just before Johannes Persson, guitarist and vocalist for Swedish atmospheric sludge icons Cult of Luna, sits down to speak with me, he manages to grab a moment to re-connect with his fellow Swedish brethren in Katatonia. It’s a nice moment and I have to ask about his feelings towards all the press activities and such when out on the road when your main feelings must be to catch up with friends. “If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t do it. We’ve done this before for eight hours straight. I’m here to do a job whether it be here talking or on stage.”
I steer things towards touring and Johannes admits to liking it here in the UK. “We’ve been touring here for years. Our first real international tour was the UK and we must have played every small club in the country. We try to come back to the UK at least once every year.” I mention seeing the band on one of their first tours here at the Sheffield Corporation with Textures and Alchemist and Johannes instantly recalls the show. “I remember that one, we we’re in this small room with a horrible stage. I think that was the gig where someone stole a bass. We had this driver who reminded me of the guy from the film “Snatch” who feeds people to pigs. We never asked him but I think he might have killed someone. He kept saying that quote too… do you know what nemesis means… so anyway we asked him to help us find the bass as we didn’t have a tour manager at the time and he ended up eyeballing this guy and asked him, have you seen my bass guitar. He found it pretty quick. I dunno if he’s still alive but he was amazing”
I mention that Cult of Luna have been around a long time and have a large fan base yet whilst some bands reach their peak and then fall away, Cult of Luna seem to have more potential yet to fulfil. When I ask how the band keep thing going and keep improving Johannes is modest in responding. “I’m not really sure. We try with every album to grow musically. Change is not always good but I think that we do and that is important to me is keep up momentum. Some bands shouldn’t change at all, Iron Maiden should always sound like Iron Maiden. I would not like to play in that kind of band and maybe to someone on the outside we have always sounded the same but for me I feel we are always changing. That doesn’t mean it will be better but I feel we have managed to change things and still improve the sound”.
I was interested to know about the bands origins and their sound and how things had progressed, whether it was a conscious decision or whether it was planned. I ask Johannes about their more hard-core background and the more traditional sludge sounds of their first albums and how things have evolved from there. Johannes responds by saying “I’m a big fan of limitations within the sound. If you set boundaries when creating music you know where you want to take things and you can push those boundaries a little.” Moving on to more recent things I ask about “Vertikal” and whether it was based around a movie soundtrack. “Not exactly, it was an influence but the music is more about German expressionism without taking it too far due to obvious reasons”.
From there we end up discussing black metal and in particular Gaahl. “I love black metal, we played with Gorgoroth once a few years ago but I didn’t get to meet him.” I mention that I’m interviewing him later and I’m not sure what to expect. Johannes laughs and remarks “It’s all about persona on stage and off stage. I’m the same in that I’m a different person on stage to off. I’m a laid back person off stage and you wouldn’t recognize me on stage”. To finish with Johannes admits there are things in the bands pipeline but nothing official yet. “I wanna play on stage without travelling to every town and city”
I imagine people will be happy to travel to see you live… “They’ll have too haha”
**Questions contributed by Steve Earles**