(A recollection of) An interview with Johannes Persson of Cult of Luna

Photo Credit: christopher.endeavor

Technology sure is something isn't it? Revolutionizing our lives in ways we couldn't even dream possible a scant few years ago. Its praises can't be held in high enough esteem... that is, until it fails and we scream at the sky as to why we relied so heavily on it.

Such was the case for the second portion of a rainy March 2nd night.  After a successful interview with Intronaut, I proceeded to do another with Johannes Persson, the front man of Cult of Luna, who used his obvious dark magic to make my recorder not work.

Truly, I should have guessed there was  mysticism afoot. When I asked him my tried and true question, "what's a question you don't want to be asked?" he responded with "Look, this is a part of doing what I do. I understand that. I don't like doing interviews for 5 - 6 hours straight. I hate it. But, I do it because I know it needs to be done. But, this is not boring yet." He further added, “That's the problem with musical journalism; there's only so many questions you can ask. The only questions that I don't like are questions that aren't questions. They state an opinion for a very long time, 'what do you think about that?'" thus, necessitating me to change the format of many of my questions.
Since I am concerned with accuracy, perhaps I should mention that the recorder only picking up five minutes of a twenty minute interview could be the stupidity of the interviewer... buuuuttt is it not better to assume that it's the dark sorcery of Cult of Luna, who have been creating dark, atmospheric music that seems to have a new genre label depending on who's talking about it.

When asked what he thinks about the prevalence of the genres within metal, his answer is blunt: "I don't care."  Specifically in relation to Cult of Luna's ever evolving and encompassing sound, he added, "You should have seen when we started with this band and people tried to pigeon hole us with things like 'industrial black doomish sludge core.'"

Since this is where my recorder finally succumb to swirling chaos around it, and since, apparently, I am more concerned with being accurate than some allegedly "professional" outlets, allow my to put a disclaimer in here:

*** NOTE: Any actual quoted section from this point forward should not be taken as actual verbatim quotes, more the general idea put across about a subject ***

As I continued to interrupt Johannes' eating of broccoli and Copper Branch, I asked him about his band's collaborations, mainly with Julie Christmas for the last album, Mariner. I also asked about an upcoming gig, set to happen at Roadburn in April with Pertrubator and if those effect future writing.

"I think subconsciously, all collaborations effect your music,” adding that he certainly loves working with others for what you learn from how others do thing. He then told me about one of the early bands he was in that sounded like a mix of "Helmet and Quicksand", which, as an aside, people of Sweden, if you can find any evidence of this, I'd love to hear it; send it my way. "The guitarist in that band, who was great, taught me so much about guitar playing and writing. If I had not been in that band, I don't think I'd be writing the type of things I'm writing in Cult of Luna today." He also then mused, "I used to practice guitar a lot in those days. I was better guitar player then, but I'm a much better song writer now."

And though I can't speak for any decline in guitar playing, in order to produce nine studio albums, three eps, three live records,  three video albums, and an audiobook, songwriting is something the band is strong at. With so many types of media produced by the band I posed the question to Johannes if he thinks other bands don't take enough advantage of alternate forms of releases outside of the LP / EP format.

Again, bluntly he responded with, "I don't know. Each band has to do what they want."

Of course, with these endeavours, the creativity of the band is on full display, and after mainlining interviews, especially after one done for Bucketlist Music reviews by Chris the Frog from Sewer Spewer (Mondays from noon - 1PM), I heard Johannes mention about how, for a long time, he was creatively stuck with what he wanted as the video for the first two tracks of A Dawn to Fear, the band's latest output. This lead me to ask him if he had any tricks for getting past various creative blocks.

"I'm a big believer in writing," he told me. "An example I've used before is it's like pulling a rope. You need to keep pulling because you know there's something at the end, but if you don't write you've stopped pulling the rope." He also added, "I'm also a fan of watching or listening to something else to try to inspire me. Nothing is new right? So sometimes seeing something else will help to form a new idea."

He then addressed the video specifically speaking about how difficult it was for him to come up with an initial concept. "It was a bit easier since I knew it had to start at the first song and end at the second," said Johannes. "But you know what finally did it for me, is when I saw the medallions (featured in the video). Once I saw them, everything started to fall into place and then everything flowed super easily."

I circled back to the idea of creativity and if one could come up with a wholly original concept.  "I don't think so. Even in music, it's pretty stagnant. Grunge was just the punk attitude mixed with rock, and that was probably the last time music hasn't been stagnant, that or maybe nu metal. No, maybe grunge." After a brief paused, he added, "It's funny because the bands we think of grunge didn't even have a definitive sound. I mean, Nirvana and Peral Jam and Soundgarden were the main forces and they were all radically different in how they sounded."

This, of course, lead us into a discussion about nu metal and to a similar point the night before on my show, Grade A Explosives (shameless plug). Even though they were all radically different, bands like Disturbed, Korn and Rage Against the Machine, they were somehow lumped into the nu metal wave and all written off or vilified for being near the genre. Upon hearing the mention of Rage Against the Machine, it illicit a response anyone should have, “If you don’t like Rage Against the Machine you’re not human,” which is an empirical fact. 

This further lead down a rabbit hole onto where nu metal even began, with him positing that the soundtrack to the film Judgement Night (1993), one of the largest combos of metal and hip hop could be start of the entire sub-genre.

Having started down memory lane, I asked him what he remembers as the first point that started him listening to louder music. "I remember being in my house and hearing some kid outside  singing 'We're Not Gonna Take It' in garbled English. A couple months later, I finally saw the music video and I instantly fell in love with the spectacle of it. Then I got into bands like KISS and other heavy bands."

"You know my father wouldn't let me buy Metallica's 'Kill em All'," he said, "... because the cover was too violent. He let me buy the Black Album though."

I finished my  interview by asking him what's the worst or most  under-appreciated instrument. Upon hearing the first part, the worst, he answered with, "The saxophone," before I finished the question. He took longer to answer the under-appreciated aspect of the question. "What's the ones with the keys?”he asked. ”Keytar?" I responded . "No, but that's definitely the answer I'm going with now," he said ,laughing.

Finally, asked for a station ID, to which he said, "I don't do those." I was surprised since to date he's the only person who's ever refused. "When you're young, the label tells you to do something, you do it. When you get older you realize, 'I don't have to do that anymore.'" He added, "It just feels like I'm selling something, you know?"

But I have no such qualms, which is why I can safely say that if Cult of Luna is coming anywhere near you, go check them out. And why not go buy A Dawn to Fear on Metal Blade records. Also, big thanks to Looters PR and Cult of Luna's tour manager Chris for helping to set this up.


Andrew Wieler, aka Andrew Wixq, is CJLOs Metal Music Director and hosts Grade A Explosives every Sunday at 4pm.