(Kharma, Reingold, Street Talk, Yngwie Malmsteen, Brazen Abbot, Glory & John Norum)
Goran, you have a fantastic resume these days, covering some very memorable projects over 16 years now.
But on your latest release Kharma I think you put in your best vocal performance ever.
I totally agree. It is difficult to explain , from the beginning it was just meant to be another project requested by Magnus Soderqvist on MTM. I felt very skeptic about doing songs out of a 10-year-old demo but when I heard the new material I started to feel the potential of the band. Atilla is an outstanding songwriter and from the hard work and all confrontations a friendship developed that also contributed to the final result of the production. The chemistry in the band is easily underestimated I think.
It was also a privilege to be able to work in a high tech top class studio such as Dragan's Bohus Sound Recordings. The pre production of the vocal arrangements became the final master and the result felt very spontaneous when we did not have to deal with the magic demo syndrome.
Kharma's musical orientation was very similar to my own preferences I soon discovered and therefore my own ideas of arrangements became highly appreciated and contributed to the songs. Being a part of the creative work is very essential to me, to feel motivated and inspired. Kharma is really the highlight of my career, to say it myself, and it feels important to get the confirmation that my feeling is a general opinion.
So, the concept of Kharma goes back as far as 10 years ago with the band Venessa. But how has the band line up changed to what Kharma is today?
The heart of Vanessa has always been Dragan and Atilla so in general the lineup is the same in Kharma today. There is another drummer (Imre Daun) and base player (Oel Starander) that has only improved the potential of the band. About the name Vanessa first of all it was already used by another act but personally I think Kharma is a better choice. All works to the better.
When it comes to the sound of Vanessa it was the typical 80's with a lot of reverb on almost everything. Vanessa was very oriented in the 80's also in their songwriting which is obvious when you consider that the material is 10 years old.
If you compare Burn Forever with Angel Eyes or Wonderland with Don't Close Your Eyes it explains the general difference between Vanessa and Kharma. Both Wonderland and Burn Forever are a parts of the new material that I find more representative for Kharma and the way the music have developed from the old demo.
Our influences goes back to the 70's more then the 80's I believe.
And the songs and the concept of the recording - how does that differ to the original 4 track demo you shopped to labels previously?
Bohus Sound Recording that belongs to Dragan himself is of course a very important brick when it comes to Kharma's sound. This studio is equipped and updated to the latest standards with a perfect balance between analog and digital sound.
We where experimenting a lot between the songs to get the right sound. We tried various microphone set-ups but ended up with a Neumann U47. That microphone fits my voice character perfectly. A good studio must offer these options to get the most out of the recordings I think.
I also want to give Bob Reimer a credit for his superb work on the final mix. He also mixed the old Vanessa demo 10 years ago by the way.
Tell us about your passion for this album...
My passion slowly developed from song to song as all the pieces fell together and you started to get a grip of the sound. Especially the new songs inspired me. One of the first we did was Burn Forever. That was the moment when I became hooked on the project.
It was a delivery that set up the standards for the rest of our production. The moment of truth too. I remember I had a terrible hangover that day!
Congratulations on not only the songs, but I think the production is simply amazing. Magnus @ MTM said something like this album would not have otherwise been affordable to record and produce in the way it has been, if it wasn't for you guys owning the studio. Is this correct?
We spent so much time with the making of Wonderland. Especially Dragan that engineered the recordings and took care of all the technical arrangements.
I can't imagine what this production would have cost on a current account in a rental studio. It was a privilege and a real pleasure. Like traveling first class at no expense.
It was only possible because of Dragan, who's the owner of the studio, and his invaluable dedication to the project.
How long did it take to record the album?
Dragan and Atilla started two write the additional material at the end of '97. They recorded a rough demo with the real drum and base takes and introduced me to the material during the summer of '98, when I received the material with suggestions to melody lines that was sang by Atilla. They gave me free hands to come up with ideas of my own and in September we started to record the vocals. Not all of the ideas worked out as expected and the structure of a lot of songs changed a couple of times before we where satisfied.
In Feb '99 we finished the vocals. Dragan spent 2 months editing all the quires in the computer and made mix-downs while Atilla prepared the keyboard arrangements.
In August all guitars and keyboards where put on tape but the mix was delayed from Sept. Dec. because Dragan invested a lot of money in a new mixer table that had to be installed properly. Then came Christmas and the last songs where mixed in Feb. 2000.
Two and a half years altogether.
You have a stack of extra musicians on there, the studio must have been buzzing at various points!!
The studio was buzzing for many reasons. We recorded most stuff in the B-studio because the A-studio was fully booked most of the time. Several jazz productions, and other bands came and went during this endless production. They all became very familiar to Kharma's music I can assure you.
You have always had various projects going on, guest vocals and the like, but you mention that this is your band now....Kharma is not a one off project?
Kharma is where I belong. I guess I will still appear on other projects but when it comes to Kharma we are talking about my first priority. If the circumstances allows there will most certainly be a lot of Kharma in the future but the market is very difficult for melodic rock as we all are aware of and to survive as a band it's a permanent struggle against the odds unfortunately, especially as a new band out of the category AOR. Small independent companies do not have the money to give their acts a fair promotion and can not stand up in competition with the major record company's distributions.
There are some truly (and I say this in the nicest possible way) over the top songs on the album. I can hear elements of Kansas, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Styx and Led Zeppelin in there. You are obviously paying homage to some of your favourite bands.
What were your influences in writing for this album?
I think that influences are of a subconscious nature. When it comes to quire arrangements I guess there was a lot of Styx, Queen and Yes in the back of my head. I know that Atilla also is a big fan of Kansas and Styx. We have a large backpack of influences that is growing constantly I hope, but when it comes to writing or composing, first of all you want to add a personal touch on the material instead of glancing on other bands that once might have influenced you. Kharma's music can always be derived to different sources but we always try hard to find a profile of our own.
And your favourite songs?
My favorites are Wonderland, Knowing You and Burn Forever, but it is really difficult to mention just a few because so many songs have components I'm really satisfied with. It is very unusual for me to feel this way, when all the work with a recording is done. Most of the time I hide the albums in a drawer, out of sight and never listen to them anymore. Kharma I still listen to and enjoy. Must be a good sign.
Personally I love Free Yourself, Wonderland, Knowing You, Part Time Lovers & Don't Close Your Eyes...
I must say you have a good taste!
Haha..thanks! I do have one small complaint! The Japanese bonus track is a smoking rock track. Why was Cold As Ice held back for a bonus track?!!
Actually there was another blues rock track that never made it called 'Nasty Girl'.
The record company thought that these songs, because of different character, were not suitable for the album. The opinions in the band differed but we finally, in all respect, had to let the record company decide.
OK, that aside, it's a superb album. Are you happy with the fan feedback to date?
All responses so far have only been positive. The reviews are very encouraging and I hope that this album will be able to reach all these people who appreciate this kind of music.
The album has just been released so it is to early to say but I'm very positive about the future and cant wait to play Kharma's music live. It will be a great opportunity to meet our fans, and I'm really looking forward to it.
And are there any plans to play some live dates this Northern Summer?
It is still to early to say.
And what plans are in place for the future for Khrama? Another album in the not too distant future I hope?
We will start working on new material as soon as possible. We hope that there will be a new album available in the second half of 2001 approximately. The 'Wonderland' album taught us a lot about what to do and not to do and I think that next production will run more smoothly with out those frustrating delays that became typical for our first album.
I will just cover a few of you other projects Goran. Firstly the other release that has just hit stores - the new Street Talk album. That showcases the smoother side of your voice, the more Westcoast/AOR personality. What do you prefer singing?
Without doubt Kharma. Kharma has more progressive and theatrical features that I prefer. I can identify myself better in Kharma's music.
This is your second album with the Street Talk guys, how did you hook up with the band initially?
Fredrik called me one day on the phone. I think Fredrik, who is practically 'Street Talk', is a very humble and nice guy. Like me he's coming from a small town somewhere in the north of Sweden. I respect him for his dedication to his work and think that he is a talented in what he's doing.
The last project you were involved in, also for MTM, was Reingold. It was not your average AOR album was it?!
The first Reingold album 'Universe' was more metal then AOR I think. Jonas Reingold where trying to create an album that would fit on the market in Japan. An album that would appeal to Scandinavian hard rock freaks as well as to Melodic Rock fans.
I admit I wasn't totally into it, certainly not as I am into Kharma anyway...I hear there is a new Reingold album in the works. What is planned for that?
Right now he is mixing a new album that will be a lot different compared to 'Universe'. This album will be more progressive. I prefer the new album
The Brazen Abbott projects were enjoyable. Classic European hard rock. Did you enjoy collaborating on these albums?
Brazen Abbot with Nick Kotzev gives me more credit when I'm also involved as an originator. I respect Nick a lot. He has created a little empire of his own on where Nitrax studios are situated and where he lives. He has a very strong determination in everything he does.
Are you involved in the current one - Nostrodamus?
Yes, And his latest project is really exceptional. The Nostradamus opera is really a complex masterpiece including a symphonic orchestra from Bulgaria and the members from Europe in the band. My character in the plot is to be a storytelling ghost of a French soldier who inherits the powers of Nostradamus when he take part in the desecration of Nostradamus grave in Salon, during the French revolution, and arouse the spell of the seer by drinking from his scull.
Other names of the cast is:
Glen Hughes as King Henry.II
Alana Myles as Nostradamus second wife
Joe Lynn Turner as Nostradamus himself
Doogie White as Storyteller
Sash Gordon as Catherine Queen of France
And Jorn Lande as the Inquisitor.
The albums with you old band Glory are still held in high regard, how do regard these albums now looking back?
Glory and Jan Granwick is still very much alive. 'Positive Buoyant' was the first album I was involved in after I broke up with Yngwie Malmsteen in '92 - '93. That album was originally supposed to be pure instrumental but he managed to fit in 4 track with vocals. I remember that I also made the art design for the cover.
Our second album Crisis vs. Crisis became a drastic change in style from Glory's traditional classical rock oriented concept. It was more progressive and we both felt an urge to try something different. I still think it was an interesting album.
I was also very much involved in Glory's latest album 'Wintergreen' as a songwriter together with Jan. JVC Victor, the record company in Japan had requested a more traditional 'Scandinavian rock' album this time but I'm not so sure that we wanted to please them.
Speaking for myself I did not like the idea of returning to an old concept. In Glory I felt that the challenge was to create a more innovative sound for the band. The album was released in Japan '98 and in May '00 two years later this album finally has been released by Black Mark for the European market, at last.
We are planning to do another album but it is to early to speculate about when.
You also sung with Yngwie J Malmsteen, a wonderful guitarist possibly one of the most legendary people for changing personnel around. What happened with you and Yngwie after Fire & Ice?
It is the same old story. I did not receive any publishing money ore statements and became very suspicious about it. I consulted a layer in the Swedish Music association where I am a member, and he became very interested in the case. It took us 5 years before we received the money from Yngwie's private publishing company. There is justice after all.
Not much chance of the two of you working together again in the future?
He called me about the Inspiration album and wanted me to sing a couple of tracks. After considerations I felt that I did not want to be a part of the Yngwie Malmsteen gallery so I turned the offer down.
I have nothing against Yngwie and I agree that he is an outstanding guitar player. I wish him all the best but I will never work for him again. I think Mark's voice is perfect for Yngwie's music. He is a natural born high range singer.
Was he the most 'challenging' artist you have ever collaborated with?!!
In a way. I mean he was a very established artist, with a bad reputation, touring the international arenas all over the world at the time. There where a lot of fans dedicated to his discography of various singers and to sing covers on Joe Lynn, Mark or Jeff was not that easy. A voice is such a personal and individual instrument.
When we did Heaven Tonight, Yngwie used a sample of the quires from the 'Odessy 'album and it always felt very strange with Joe Lynn Turners voice opening the song. After all it was a good experience and I had a lot of fun.
One of my favourite vocal performances by you - besides Kharma - is the John Norum album Total Control. Is there any chance you might work with John again?
I always thought that the two of you could have made more records!!
No I don't think so. We are worlds apart. It almost looked like there was going to be another album once in '88/'89. But John decided to join Don Dokken after Lynch left the band.
And is there any other projects you are working on right now or coming up soon?
We are going to start writing material for the next Kharma album as soon as possible. That is all I know so far. As I said Kharma is the band I'm going to focus on in the future.
So stay in tune.