Evergrey – Savor the Moment

Sunday, 18th June 2017

For many musicians, the rewards for your output come in various forms. Critical praise and personal audience accounts of your recordings, plus the travel and people interaction when playing on stages far and wide fuel the creative fire so to speak. Evergrey have been a part of the power/progressive metal landscape since the late 1990’s – ten albums into their career, they embrace the moments now more than ever, aware of the fact that it could all end quickly.

After taking on a surprising middle slot position for the Delain European tour last fall, the band just completed a month long North American headlining jaunt. The final date of which took place in Manchester, NH – so we felt the time was ripe to catch up on current thoughts and recent activities for the group. Before soundcheck we sat down with keyboardist Rikard Zander and bassist Johan Niemann as we tackled everything from road stories, personal influences, favorite investments, and how they’ve handled meeting some of their personal musical heroes – plus what to expect for Evergrey’s future.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve done tours across Europe and North America to support the newest album The Storm Within. How do you feel these tours went as far as turnouts and response? Any standout moments?

Rikard Zander: We haven’t done a full headlining tour in Europe for this album, we are going to do that in the fall. We opened for Delain last fall, and it was great. We got a really good response, even though we were just the opener. I think we gained a lot of new fans, it felt like a good bill. The tour here has been really good- this is the last show. I don’t know if there were any standout moments- anything you remember?

Johan Neimann: After you’ve done 30 shows in a row, it’s a bit like one big, long concert. Los Angeles was memorable, we played the Viper Room which is classic. It’s very small but was packed.

Zander: From there it’s person to person, what kind of mood you are in. I had a great show in Montreal for an example, but I’m not sure that everyone else had a great show there. It’s hard to speak for everyone.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you have specific places that you enjoy visiting more than others, or do you enjoy all the different countries that you play in?

Zander: It’s always nice to go to new places, of course. I like to travel, so if I have the time to see new places, that’s great. But then it’s fun to come back to the same places as well, because you’ve maybe been to a nice restaurant (there) and you start to get more (of a) feeling for the city.

Neimann: For instance, yesterday we were in New York City. And we had a day off, which is nice. We were able to wander around the city. We were there two years ago, so you recognize places- end up going to some of the same restaurants so that’s nice. And I like the venue there- the stage is big so you have room to move around. And you don’t have to think about hitting Tom (laughs).

Dead Rhetoric: Have there ever been any stage mishaps, or had to worry about weather related conditions in terms of travel for the band?

Zander: We’ve been quite blessed I think. Of course, stuff has happened.

Neimann: Graspop. The keyboards.

Zander: A detuned keyboard. Due to an old keyboard, I think. Everyone was like, what? Sometimes I don’t even hear the keyboard because there are so many sounds swirling about. I hope it sounds good, but then everyone started to give me faces. They thought I was transposing. And you can’t hear it, I don’t even hear what the keyboard was doing. And then you hear the tapes afterwards and you notice. Were you guys playing jazz? I got so drunk afterwards, I just wanted to forget what I was playing.

Dead Rhetoric: Given ten albums in a headlining situation to draw from, how do you figure out an ideal set list that appeals to the band and your audience?

Neimann: That’s kind of difficult. Because when you make a new record, you want to play the new stuff. And people will want to hear it if they really like the record. But of course, we need to play certain songs, the standards. Then the other ones, I don’t know.

Zander: We try to play stuff from every album. On this tour, it’s difficult because the older stuff is in a different tuning, and we couldn’t bring those guitars because it would put us overweight when we fly. Especially when we are headlining, we are aware of what they want us to play but it’s really hard to choose when you have ten albums. It’s hard to satisfy everyone. A lot of times we don’t even know the songs because when we have a new album, we decide how many new songs we are going to play. Let’s say we decide on four, we rehearse those so much we forget some of the others. Which can be frustrating because we have to go back and re-learn an old song.

Neimann: And you don’t want to do the same old songs every tour, because they may want to hear something different from say In Search of Truth. We have played “The Masterplan” on every tour, so do we have to play that one, again? Can’t we do something else?

Dead Rhetoric: Is that part of the reason why you chose the ballad “Words Mean Nothing” from Solitude Dominance Tragedy on this run?

Zander: It was kind of a coincidence, actually. We had a few shows in Sweden just before this tour. We didn’t have it on the list, but for an encore I said, ‘hey Tom – let’s do this song’. We threw it on as a spur of the moment thing.

Dead Rhetoric: Does it become a challenging process to think about which songs will be singles for the videos?

Neimann: We were very much on the same page as far as choosing “Distance”.

Zander: And then we started to hear from a lot of people that we should be looking at the song “Passing Through”.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe it was a smart decision to film all three videos at one time over the course of five days?

Zander: That place in Iceland, it looks like what we want the band to sound like. It was expensive to go there, so it was only Tom, his wife, our filmmaker, and his wife. There were only four people that went there.

Dead Rhetoric: There seems to be some debate about the use of samples/ computers/ effects when it comes to live performances. You’ve consistently used certain samples live- where is your stance on the issue of live versus backing tracks?

Zander: We’ve been doing that ever since I have been in the band. When you hear really big choirs, obviously it’s not us singing those vocals. It’s been a part of Evergrey. When we did Recreation Day, all of the songs that we do off that album we don’t use any backing tapes. They came out as really good live songs. It’s nothing I really think about. We try to think about what we think sounds best for the song, if it needs backing tracks. We still are playing.

Neimann: There aren’t any guitars that are tracked. We use it for sound effects.

Dead Rhetoric: Are you satisfied with the level of acceptance that Evergrey has currently, and what goals do you set for yourselves either short term of long term to keep things fresh and exciting?

Neimann: We seem to have a good reputation with people- they love coming to the shows. It’s always nice to step it up a bit.

Zander: At our age, as people and as a band, we are still able to do this and it’s a blessing for us. You can’t really complain about that. You can always choose if you don’t think it’s worth it to quit, but we still think it’s fun and worthwhile. We make a little bit of money, not a lot- the wives are happy when we get home because we have some money. Right now, that’s the main thing- Evergrey has been more or less on the same level all the time. It’s slightly going upward, and since we have that feeling we will continue moving forward probably for as long as we can.

Neimann: As long as we are having fun, and people want to hear new material.

Zander: You can’t really have any hopes that things are going to be (huge). We used to think so for Evergrey, but now we hope to make a good album and continue to do this for a little while more.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe you’ve been able to weather the changes within the music industry better than most as a veteran band?

Neimann: We have very loyal fans, they may not be large in number, but they will buy everything. Limited box sets, they buy the vinyl- I’ve talked to some people that tell me they don’t even have a record player, but I buy vinyl. That’s great for us. It’s satisfying- if there (are) only 100 people in the audience but 95% of them know all the lyrics and are really into it, that’s better than if there are 5,000 people and barely anyone is into it or they are there because they only heard one big hit song.

Dead Rhetoric: Are there any personal preferences for the size of shows or types of places you play, be it clubs, theaters, or festivals?

Zander: I think so. I’ve heard people in interviews before say they like clubs more, but I think festivals can be great. The whole atmosphere about the festival is a good change.

Neimann: (Festivals) usually have a big stage, and if the weather is nice it’s even better. You also get to see some bands that maybe you’ve never had the chance to take in before- meet up with old friends in other bands. You don’t get the soundcheck, so it’s like ‘ah… well, we’ll see how this goes.’ (laughs) It is what it is.

Zander: Even sometimes the keyboard tunes out (laughs).

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