Just a few moments before 2020 became an unpleasant memory, Royal Hunt “met us” with their 15th album “Dystopia” (review link). This was an excellent opportunity to “virtually meet” their “locomotive mind” Andre Andersen, having with him what proved to be a “rich” (Two-part) and “entertaining”, we would say, interview, on music and more….
It’s the second time, if you remember, that we welcome you to our site. It was in 2018, in Kyttaro Club, that our Chief Editor Giannis has interviewed you (video interview link).
Yes, yes I remember!
So, we are very happy to have you here again, and “Dystopia” has been an excellent opportunity to have a talk about. A new concept album for Royal Hunt, which has received excellent critics according to my “research”, throughout the world. In my opinion, it is even better than a very good one, as “Cast in Stone” (review link) was. Tell us some things about that, about the new album.
Obviously, it’s excellent, you know. It seems like both the press and the fans like the album, reviews are unbelievably good, which is nice! Of course, after being in this music business for like almost 30 years with Royal Hunt, you don’t react as you did like 30 years ago when you had a great review, but still all said it’s very pleasant to see actually and hear that people are enjoying your work, because we’ve been working on this album almost like a year and a half. We could have done it quicker of course, but the circumstances with the pandemic and the whole thing kind of slowed us down a little bit, but still almost a year and a half and then you are actually releasing the album. So, it’s very nice having this positive feedback and also people appreciating your work. It’s great, a great start!
Ok. In fact, you covered more or less my second question. I understand that the input you have from your fans as well is very good.
Absolutely! We are getting on all; we are present now I guess on almost every social media or platform. So far, we haven’t received any, not even one negative response, even like not one, once, you know. Everybody is very excited and like the album a lot and discussing it on different discussing pages and staff. That’s great, I mean that is the whole point working for so long, you want to see people enjoy what you do. That’s great, great! We appreciate it very very much, every single one of us.
Great! And if you’d want my opinion, if the list for the Top 20 albums of the year for our site was not asked from us earlier than “Dystopia” ’s release, it would certainly be in Top 20 of the year, for sure in mine.
Thank you, thank you! It’s nice because a lot of great music came out this year I guess, and last year, so it’s a lot of good music out there. So, to be noticed is the ultimate pleasure you can get as a musician, as an artist, of course.
“Dystopia” “reached my ears” even “fresher”, or if I may say so more modern as a sound, than “Cast in Stone”. Was that something you wanted to happen? And I believe it shows partly why a band can be so successful over a 30 years’ period.
Yes, we did it on purpose. I mean, I think it’s probably, if you are still creating new music, when you are talking about bands which are already, let’s say over 20 years old, you have like two paths you can follow. One of them is basically releasing very little, if any, new material and basically playing your greatest hits, which is fine. Some of my favourite bands which I grew up with, are basically doing just that and I’m going to their shows from time to time and I’m enjoying it really. There is another path, which we’ve chosen. We created something new and “why the album started sounding a little bit modern in a way”, I guess, I mean we are leaving in a modern world, so we are surrounded by modern sounds and you change as a person, your taste changes a little bit. The only thing which we keep is the general outframe of Royal Hunt, which has been since the very first album which came out like in 1991. We would really care for not “disturbing” it in any way, so when people are buying a Royal Hunt album, they are getting a Royal Hunt album. It’s not like all of a sudden we sound like Nickelback or AC DC, with all the respect for those bands, but still it’s a recognisable sound which we created back in a day or it just created itself. We do not know, but it is, it is in existence, you know. So we are kind of keeping that, but especially now with all these production opportunities you have, possibilities with the technology and staff like that, of course we are using that and reinforcing the original Royal Hunt sound, which we’ve maintained for 30 years.
What came to me was that you were so modern, so up to date but also went back no step in your identity, you fully respected and held your identity, the one you have created in your 30 years’ music era.
Yes, and it was actually very fine in a way. I was talking to a lot of journalists in my life and in my career and there were always just problems answering this question, that every journalist has to ask. “How would you describe your music?”. And in the first like few years when we just started, it was really hard because the inspirations on this kind of music the “backbone” of the band are very different. We have the classic rock roots, absolutely, we all grew up with like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and staff like that. And then everybody involved, enjoy the progressive music like Kansas and Rush and Genesis and this kind of bands, right? And then my classical background, as I was playing classical music since 5 years old, like most of my life you know, so those three things combined, kind of like created the sound we have and in the beginning I had problems explaining, how will I describe the band. We’ve kind of rock, classic rock roots, and we have those progressive elements and a certain sound in choruses, and all of that, and it was really annoying because I couldn’t say that we are power metal or something, I couldn’t say that. And then somebody told me, maybe a journalist maybe another fellow musician, “You know what? The day when you read a review and some newer band will be compared to you, it means that you established”. And I remember it was like 1997 or 1998 or something like that and I was checking in a magazine, looking for our review and then I read somebody else’s review, like a younger band probably, a debut or second album, saying they sound like that and that….and Royal Hunt and “Thank you God!”, finally! We have the sound we have and after 30 years I can actually say that we sound like Royal Hunt. And every single fan I talked to in my musical career, they “see” or hear something different in Royal Hunt. Somebody “sees” those progressive elements, somebody “sees” those classic rock things, somebody is enjoying the choruses. Royal Hunt means different things for different people, but it’s still relatively sounding like that, so that’s why now I do not have this problem anymore.
I am happy for you (laughs). Was, being heard modern and contemporary, the aim behind all these different vocal contributions in the album. For example, “I used to walk alone” was very very nice!
You see, we did concept albums before. And this one, because it has been done, not based on, but kind of inspired by Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”, so I wanted to make it a little bit, even more like kind of cinematic or theatrical. So, in order to do so, you need more characters. And when we did “Paradox” or “The Mission” or “Paradox II: Collision Course”, concept albums as well, there was like one person telling all the stories. We wanted to do it like with different characters. So, of course me being in this music for so long, I had specific guys, singers which I knew, first of all my friends. And the second thing I knew, they can project this character very well. So, I got in touch with them. In the beginning we were a little bit hesitant in the band, “Is it a good idea, bad idea?”, but I thought we should go all out, doing something like cinematic/theatrical, do it all the way. Which we did and I am glad we did. Because all the guys they brought something, some different kinds of “colours”, more drama to the songs, instead of, if it was just D.C. singing the entire story. At least we think so.
It was! It was to me as well and I wrote it in my review. “Dystopia”, as you said is a concept album from Bradbury’s book. Do you think it’s something like the state we kind of live, not specifically the same, but similar to the dystopic situation we live nowadays? And I wanted to ask if this kind of dystopic situation we live helped you in any way. Was it fruitful to the creation of the album?
I didn’t know it would go so far. I mean, because when I started writing this whole thing it was 2019. And then obviously, obviously we had all this “cataclysm” happening everywhere. It’s in Europe, it’s in America, it’s everywhere and social media is playing a huge role on all of this, and we change as species, we change and of course I was thinking about it and one of the reasons why I took “Fahrenheit”, because most of Bradbury’s work it’s almost timeless. I mean he never mentioned in the book at what specific time it’s going on, the whole story. But I read an interview he made while he was still alive of course, and he kind of hinted he was projecting 1999, because he wrote a book in 1953 and he was kind of projecting 1999, but he never stated it. So I just moved the whole thing instead of going page by page in his book, I just moved the whole thing into 2020 basically, where I am kind of projecting probably what we have today, which is very very in unison to what he was writing about, social injustice, of course the staff like the censorship and in general this joining of this society in general. So I found it was very, I mean there is everything in this story, there is love story, there is a hate story, there is a chase, there is, I mean all the emotions we have as humans, you know, it’s in there. It’s just transformed in 2020. I think it was back, I never imagined when we started working on it, so when the album would be ready to be released in 2020, it would go so bad. I never knew, I never imagined that.
How could you? Nobody could, I think (laughs).
Every month, we were still recording the album and you read the news every morning and it was getting worse and worse. It was unbelievable!
Unbelievable indeed! I hear you are releasing your solo discography now on all platforms, as well as an EP with N’ Tribe that you have already released. Has this pandemic probably turned you and most of the artists more in the production process, probably due to the lack of live sets as well? Has maybe music gained in that way, more productivity from all artists?
Generally, I think so. But as I said we never really stopped, you know. We were still touring in the summer of 2019, so we just like wrenched in the studio directly. We played the last festival and I started working on this thing, you know. So, we didn’t do more because of the pandemic. But, in general, a lot of bands did. I am pretty sure of that. Because a lot of bands were just like, they were planning on touring in that particular time. All of a sudden it didn’t happen. So, in that sense we were a little bit lucky you know, because we already had a “plan” by the fall of 2019. But, in general, why my solo catalogue and of course the N’Tribe came up on social media or all these platforms, I mean you have to follow. I mean, I am “old school”, obviously. I am “old school”; I was buying my records and I never enjoyed this part of internet. I am enjoying internet, there is a lot of different things, but not the music. Because I still have my vinyl collection, my CD collection, I don’t even think I have one song as a file. Just don’t! Maybe because I am not listening to music that much, because I work with music myself. So, maybe I am listening to music, maybe twice a week. So when I have the spare time, and I am really enjoying it. You know what I mean? I don’t listen to it like with headphones, when I am travelling or something, no! I just sit there, I pick up the album I like and I listen to it. And I really listen to it! It’s not just playing in the background. I am listening to it, you know? So, I am really enjoying it! But technology comes and it changed everything and all of a sudden you have all these platforms, so I said why not? Embrace them and put the staff out, so it was never like kind of a master plan behind it you know, it just happened. And now we have a great team of people who are working all this digital media for Royal Hunt and for me personally and they, they are younger, they understand, they’re more transparent than I do, you know. They are all like with headphones, just music “blasting” all the time, so I said you do what you do, I am not a part of it! (laughs)
The sense of getting a vinyl in your hands and putting it on a turntable or even a CD, it’s different of course, it’s very different and many many people like it!
I have probably by 500 vinyls still, and I have more CDs, but anyway, even the vinyls. You can take any vinyl off this shelf, anyone, and I’ll tell you when and where I bought it. I’ll tell you which shop I bought it, I remember every single one, because there is this physical connection to this product. That’s why I understand why vinyls are a little bit, kind on the rise right now. Because it’s a completely different story. I remember when I went there, more or less which year it was, where I bought it and which store, because you are looking at a cover and you pick it up and it’s a new album or you bought the album because you liked the colour maybe, it happened too, you know. So, you picked it up and you are on a train or on a bus and you are just like taking it out of your plastic bag and like watching and you couldn’t wait to get home and finally listen to it. And when you listened to it, it was like completely different world, opens up, you know. It meant so much! So yeah, this nostalgic thing and this physical thing, it has huge importance. Because some of my friends, I mean younger people they have terrabytes of music. And I sing a song and say:
-“I think this or that band just like released a new album”, and he goes
-“Oh, yes I have it”!
-“Yes, there is a file on this and that”,
-“And how is it?”
-“I don’t know, I didn’t listen to it”. (laughs)
Too many files, too many files to listen to!
So many of them, there’s like thousands of albums there, I didn’t listen to them, but he already has it. Ridiculous…. But then, that’s what it is.
I can see in your web page, that you have already booked a show in Germany. Are we maybe in the pleasant position, from your side, to have any detail that we are coming towards a way on which we will get back to normality, in summer or autumn, and as fans are very very eager, of course, to attend live shows, as well as for some bands it is a matter of existence, maybe for some smaller bands.
Yes, absolutely. Not only smaller bands, any band I think in general. Unless you are like Metallica or Kiss or something like that, a huge band, where it doesn’t matter that much. But, for all other bands, you know, it’s very important, and the connection with fans is important and, in general, for a band to get together and play again, not only in the show, just like rehearsals and staff it’s very important, the social aspect of it. And I, don’t see the guys, I am fortunate enough, I have my guitar player, he’s like living like 5 kilometers away, I see him all the time but we have like a singer in America and two other guys in Sweden and we can’t travel, you know, so I don’t see them for almost a year. Last show we played was like last October or something, and I know lots of bands, I got fans and everybody is calling each other, “Have you heard anything?” and somebody said “Yeah, they say maybe in August’ and somebody is saying “August or something in November”. Nobody knows for sure; nobody knows for sure. I really hope so! My personal estimation is probably late Autumn this year. October, November, I guess. That’s my estimation, maybe it’s completely wrong, I don’t know. A friend of mine, he is a promoter, they are setting up a show in Copenhagen, in August. I am not sure it’s going to happen. But they are taking a chance. Let’s see. I don’t know. But I think like October, November. That’s my idea. Could be longer, but you know, we’ll see. Nothing we can do. There is absolutely nothing we can do. We just sit and wait. Then again you could use the time productively, which personally I do, as I work in the studio all the time and it’s new material coming up, I don’t know yet what it’s going to be like, but you are working on it, you know, so hopefully everything will be all right, in a years’ time. We’ll see.
We cross our fingers and of course to have you in Greece as well, if possible.
That would be nice. I mean it’s very soon that we played in Greece actually, the projections are we are coming over. Not every year but from time to time. It would still be nice.
What, in your opinion, have we learnt from all this situation, besides how much we miss live music, of course? As individuals generally….
I think the bad lesson in this situation is a little bit scary is like we just figure out how unprepared we are. You think about it, it’s 2020 and all these technological advances we have, with….everybody felt pretty secure and now like all of a sudden a virus traveling from China or something like that and all of a sudden it’s just in the entire world, entire planet and it took a long time, really long time before we kind of started handling it somehow. Because the first three months it was like a complete prank. Everywhere. It doesn’t matter which country. It was completely prank. Closing this and then opening this and nobody knew what they were doing. So it just shows again you know, because of course we are relying on technology and staff and that’s great, but we are very unprepared and I hope in general the civilisation, people will learn something from that, be more alert. This can happen and we are unprepared everywhere, doesn’t matter, Europe, America, everybody was unprepared. It’s a scary thought. The positive lesson now, I mean it’s first of all a lot of people have recognised, because you know we are talking about digital media and especially younger generations they consider something like music or movies, something which is free. It’s just free, you push the button on the computer. They just realise how important it is, because imagine this quarantine without music, without movies. All these staff are extremely important.
Psychotherapy it is….
And I hope people will realise it and value it a little bit more than they are doing today. A little bit more. That’s I think, that’s the positive at least we, as musicians, can drag from it. So, maybe people will appreciate it a little bit, because it’s easy to say I don’t feel like watching this show, I don’t feel like buying this album and staff like that, but if you couldn’t go to this show, when no albums are coming, all of a sudden you miss it, you miss it a lot, you know, so it will show you and maybe appreciate it a little bit more, if and when it will come back.
I think that even in some live streamings that took place, you could watch in your PC the feeling was not the same there, you could tell.
Of course, no thinking about it. A few people were actually suggesting to do something like that, and to me it’s a little strange because you won’t have the audience, you don’t have any feedback, you are playing to the camera, you know, I am not an artist, I am not an actor, I am playing music you know, so I want to see people’s reactions, people smiling, so it’s weird. Of course, if all of a sudden there’ll be something like no live shows for the next two years or something like that, like something crazy happens, well we might consider. We might consider doing something like that. Like a concert online, of course. But at the moment, if we actually, maybe in half year, maybe eight or nine months, we’ll go back to live shows, I prefer them.
Ok, let me ask a last unpleasant, in a way, question. In this dystopic era we are leaving, I am sure you have heard that people are confronting each other about having a vaccine, not having a vaccine, we have the recent situation in Capitol in the U.S.A.. Are you worried about where this planet is going, for example? Do you think we are living in a crisis era?
Yes, I am worried. Of course, I am worried. Well it’s not normal, if you think about it. And then again, to come back a little bit to this theme of “Fahrenheit” and dystopia, I mean I grew up in Soviet Russia, right? I mean my first 20 years I lived in USSR. So, for me the freedom of speech, the freedom of expression, is almost like a religion. Because I do understand how important it is, because I tried it differently, for 20 years. Where freedom of speech just didn’t exist, at all. Zero! So, when I finally got to Denmark, I really valued that. So, for me it’s extremely important. And it’s one of those things which separates, the truly, call it democratic, call it whatever you want, a free world from unfree world. You know, that’s where it all starts. It starts with the language. Always. And of course, I am worried. I am worried from both sides. So, we now, we have like completely new expressions like fake news, we never heard that before. We knew like ten years ago, we knew there was some manipulation and from time to time of course, everybody understood that, in general, but now it’s like an avalanche and to sort it out, it’s getting harder and harder, especially for younger people. So, this part of it kind of worries me, but all the other staff all the “cataclysms”, you know, yes America of course, yes they are just hating each other at the moment and you know country looks this joint, you know they’ll figure it out. I am pretty sure. I mean for so many centuries they did. They’ll figure it out. The same thing in Europe, you know. EU or not EU. It doesn’t matter this much. The point is if everybody can co-exist, you know. It doesn’t matter if you call it EU or somebody is outside EU, it doesn’t matter. We’ll work it out. But the main principles should stay intact, otherwise the whole thing will start to disintegrate. That’s for sure. That’s my concern, basically.
Ok. Let’s go back to music. It’s the time of the year that we make our lists, with our favourites of the year. Which albums, you’d say, that were received/heard very nice from your side, the year that passed.
This year, I’ve heard some new music, of course. Actually not as much, and sometimes I am just getting confused, if it’s been released in 2020 or 2019, you know I am not sure. I know this year I enjoyed very much the last Deep Purple album “Whoosh!”, I mean great album. Loved it to bits. Dream Theater made a nice album, I am not sure this year or last year, nice album. I didn’t get into the previous one they did but this last one was very good. What else I heard new. Nothing, I bought some old staff. Rick Wakeman did an excellent album, “Red Planet”, enjoyed it very much. What else, I don’t remember. It’s embarrassing.
No, it’s not at all. It’s not at all. Because you couldn’t tell, maybe it was 2019 or 2020. In our site Psychotic Waltz, I don’t know if you heard it, was voted as the best album of 2020, which was a very good one.
Of course, I know that, we actually played together once in some kind of festival, or something. Yeah, I heard, I know those guys. Pretty Maids! Their last album, great album, liked it very very much. There’s been some new music and I am probably forgetting like 5 or 6 or 7 other albums I enjoyed, so my collection is grown. Slowly but sure.
I share the same opinion, as you said in the beginning of our interview it was a very productive year, up to December when some last releases like yours. Up to the end, it was a very very good one.
Yeah, we came out at the last second. And I won’t say it was on purpose, but I didn’t want to release it too early. And I knew we were not touring in winter, so I said what’s the point, to put the album out in August, we are not going anywhere? So, we sat on it for a while, you know, but finally I had to let it go, because we were promising it for such a long time, you know, but actually I am happy we did, because last second but you got it, everybody seems to like it, so we did something right.
Indeed, indeed. So, the last words to our readers are yours.
First of all, of course, I want people to check it out, to check the new album out, I think it’s worth it and especially if you are in this kind of music, I think it’s a decent album, pretty good one. Unfortunately, at the moment we couldn’t back it up with a tour, with shows, like everybody else actually, we are not an exception, so we really hope we can do just that, by the end of this year or the beginning of next year. Let’s see what happens, but anytime, if you are into this music join us on social media, go in and check, always some news, some videos, photos, news about the band. RoyalHunt.com, easy to find and everybody is always welcome. That’s basically it.
With my wishes to you and all the band and your beloved ones to be healthy and safe and all together to come out of this and meet again, hopefully in Greece as well, I want to thank you very much for your time, I really enjoyed the interview and I hope to see you again in the future.
Exactly! Same things to you. I really hope so. Stay safe. Thanks!
Andreas “HABO” Johansson/Drums