There is a shred of truth to the statement that Tiamat are a mere shell of their former selves. When everyone wanted them to suck the success of Wildhoney dry, the Swedes did the opposite, engaging in avant-garde, "dream" rock/metal on its A Deeper Kind of Slumber successor, then stripping the entire operation down to its core on 1999's Skeleton Skeletron. The band has largely remained in that area since, having subsequently lost the shine and sheen that generally comes from having a mid-90's underground metal staple.
Yet, on the outside looking in is where Tiamat appears to be most comfortable, with their newest The Scarred People (Napalm Records) soaking up the band's now traditional slow-paced metal. Somehow, Tiamat is able to make lemonade out of lemons with this, most evidenced by the gorgeous "The Sun Also Rises" and touching "Messinian Letter," two of the band's best songs in recent memory. But by and large, Tiamat have managed to hold on in a climate that has come to reject their new approach, while hankering for the days of old, which obviously, are very much a thing of the past.
Blistering did a lot of talking about the past with mainman Johan Edlund, who as you'll read below, has battled both creative and drug-related demons. The man's measured and candid tones reflect someone has been to the proverbial gutter and back, yet there is a sense of optimism to Edlund's voice that amounts to a level of content that is hard to come by. Read on...
Blistering.com: For the better part of your career, you were synonymous with Century Media, as in, you were their top-selling band, main priority, etc. Now that you’re off of them, does it feel weird to be releasing albums through someone else?
Johan Edlund: I’m still good friends with many of the guys working with Century Media. We recorded most of the album in Germany, pretty close to their headquarters, so in the evening I’d catch up with some good old friends. We’re in contact all the time because they’re planning some re-releases and a release of our former band, Treblinka, which should be early next year. To me, it’s not really a business relationship…they are friends.
Blistering.com: If we go back a bit into the mid-90’s around Wildhoney and A Deeper Kind of Slumber, you and the label both were hitting your stride. What do remember most about that period of time?
Edlund: Somehow it’s sad I couldn’t see “it” back then. I didn’t realize…I was dreaming of so much more, which I don’t know…maybe it’s something about growing older, but nowadays, I don’t want so much. It was like having cravings, being a pregnant lady and wanting weird stuff…I don’t know [laughs]. I wanted so much, but I couldn’t see that I had quite a lot already.
Blistering.com: So you aspired for success beyond what you had with Wildhoney?
Edlund: I was spoiled for a while. For five years I was with a lady working with Century Media back then and she revealed to me that my nickname in the company was “The Crown Jewel” [laughs]. And I hated that. But I had a thing going on, I got addicted to cocaine for about two years and I could just pick up my phone and call my manager and say, “I’m a little bit low on money.” And the first thing he would say was, “How much do you want? Ten, twenty thousand Euros?” Then he’d call back a few minutes later and say “Okay, it’s in your account.” And so great, thank you. Life was so easy, but it also sucked in a way. We headlined huge festivals and I felt awful. I feel better now and I feel more confident and secure with myself with what we’re doing…more happy in life in general. A little bit less money, but a lot less drugs [laughs]. Just a much better general mood.
Blistering.com: Did your state of being cloud the creative process for A Different Kind of Slumber? Or even if we want to go a bit further, the Skeleton Skeletron album?
Edlund: Yeah, totally. Deeper Kind of Slumber, I cannot listen to it. I realize that the other guys say they really like it a lot and I do too. It’s too heavy for me. It’s not like I dislike it or regret what we did…I just can’t take it. It’s too heavy for me.
Blistering.com: Interesting. Wildhoney is a heavier album than A Deeper Kind of Slumber, though.
Edlund:Wildhoney also had a lot of problematical things, actually. Maybe that’s what we’re about [laughs]. It was complicated because we almost split up…we split into half as a band. Me and the bass player [Anders Iwers] decided to go for it, and we were the least talented music-wise. We split with the guys who could actually play.
Blistering.com: I think Wildhoney turned out just fine.
Edlund: Oh, it’s good to have that tension. I’m not looking for the easy solutions, ever in my life. I think it’s cool to say “Hey, we’re a death metal band. Let’s do something that sounds like Pink Floyd.”
Blistering.com: You were taking a big risk, especially since you were associated with Entombed and Dismember. None of those bands would have ever thought to do an album like that.
Edlund: We were one of the first bands doing that, but there were other bands too. I was into tape trading in the end of the 80’s and I got some demo tapes from Samael and Rotting Christ and they were already starting with the keyboards and that was something you weren’t allowed to do in death metal, but in black metal allowed it more. The more you got into the dark atmosphere, you got more and more influenced by the horror movie soundtracks and almost all bands used that cliché style for intros. After a while, bands started to add this element into the music. What happened later on with black metal…you don’t even need to discuss it today. Back then, it was us, Rotting Christ, Samael, Paradise Lost. We all knew each other, toured together and so on.
Blistering.com: With the problems you were having for Wildhoney and its success, was there any pressure to take that album and copy it?
Edlund: Yeah, it’s not easy to take. I was 23 or something and I was pretty full of myself. I was pretty convinced because we took that step to do something different with Wildhoney, it was all the people working for Century Media, they were pretty concerned. The album cover was orange with suns, we had some psychedelic moments, and they were like, “Let’s just go for it. We’re behind it because we like it. Even if it fails, we can stand proud.” And it worked. When we started to work on A Deeper Kind of Slumber, I thought I could get away with anything.
I remember one time we were working in the studio and we had a really big budget and we spent time and we just went to a Chinese restaurant to drink beers, even though we were paying an hourly rate in a studio [laughs]. And I decided one moment, “I have to be a real rock star, I have to take drugs.” And someone offered me cocaine and I started like, “Yeah, that’s the one. And I can afford it.” Stupid like hell. I can admit it…I was complete bullshit. And I thought on the album, I put a lot of soul and a lot of hard work, but sometimes I felt I could get away with anything because we did it on Wildhoney. I thought I could do anything…I could fart and it would be a great song.