“The hidden self”. An interview with DRACONIAN

by Gabriel Szünder

DRACONIAN were not there when the foundations of gothic – doom metal were laid, but they play this kind of music with great artistry. Even though nowadays female vocalists are everywhere, DRACONIAN managed to give new meaning to the female voice in heavy metal.  A Rose For The Apocalypse, the band’s fourth album released not so long ago proves it wonderfully. Among other sings, Anders Jacobsson told us how he feels about DRACONIAN’s first Romanian concert that will happen at the Dark Bombastic Evening 3 festival.

DRACONIAN was formed in 1994-1995, yet the band’s debut album came out in 2003. That means you missed the chance to lay the foundations of gothic-doom metal, along with bands like MY DYING BRIDE and PARADISE LOST. Do you regret this?
”Bands like My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and not to forget Anathema actually laid the foundations a couple of years earlier. We would have missed it anyway. The reason why the world did not see an album until so much later was rather because of bad luck and various problems than a conscious decision. The problems were a lack of more or less everything we needed to go further. Very few bands get signed after just one demo and we had tons of obstacles in the way to just take it smoothly from there. No need to get into it in too many details, but everything went extremely slowly and the conditions for bands and musicians in Säffle were at best poor in the mid 90’s.”

I would guess that the name of the band was inspired by the title of the PARADISE LOST record Draconian Times. Am I right?
”Not at all. One could believe that, but the decision for our name was made before the release of Draconian Times. I understand why this suggestion exists though. I came up with the name because of my studies of dark magic, esoteric lore at the time, and something I highlighted in these studies were draconian magic – which means  to explore your inner darkness and find the treasures hidden there, facing your fears and become one with my unmasked self. In this sense I always say that “draconian” means the hidden self; the inner darkness in which we have to travel to overcome fear and ignorance.”

In older interviews you said that the Turning Season Within will be your last record to be put out by NAPALM RECORDS. Later you signed for two more albums with Napalm. Are you satisfied with Napalm these days?
”If I said that, I must have been wrong or the deal to close Turning Season Within was not done yet. Due to the extensive price range of recording at Fascination Street and using their producers we had to sign for two more albums on Napalm Records. I have always been quite pleased with Napalm. They always let us do our own stuff without any interference. Their distribution kicks ass and they are quite responsive. This is a higher <<luxury>> compared to many other artists in relationship to their label. If I have some objections, I guess I could say that they are quite cheap sometimes, and seem to be afraid to take many bands further. We would want more support from our label to achieve the next level.”

It seems to me that Lisa Johansson’s role grew more important from one DRACONIAN album to another. Is this a case of “natural evolution” or did she have to fight it out?
”She didn’t have to fight it out at all. There was no need to. Lisa’s role never really grew with each album released. On our second album she was less present than on the first, for example. On the two last albums, including the new one, I think Lisa’s role has perfected. It feels as if we have reached a healthy balance, greatly thanks to a step forward in songwriting and improved production. We try to understand the nature of the songs and then see what fit and what doesn’t. We try to put our egos aside as vocalists and do what is best for the songs.”

Did you ever feel that it is difficult – or almost impossible – to create something new between the boundaries of this gothic-doom genre? As a composer were you never frustrated by the limitations of this genre?
”I think, in the past couple of years, that we have stopped to think only in terms of <<gothic doom>>, but knowing our core and root, we feel free to branch out and inspire the band with things, whatever it might be, that are inspiring us as persons, what we like and where our passions lie. We won’t abandon our roots, where we come from, but we know that we want the band to develop along with us as persons. That’s also why I decided to take the lyrics in a somewhat different turn. If you just combine your roots as a band with the passions in life there are no limitations.”

Speaking of lyrics, on the Where Lovers Mourn album you have a song with a Latin title, Reversio Ad Secessum – the lyrics are partly in Latin too – and another one with a Greek title, Akherousia. Are you into classical studies? Do you have a special interest in classical antiquity?

“I find it interesting and at many times fascinating, but I’ve never gave it much deep serious attention, and I have very little studies. However, I am interested in the certain ambiance surrounding myths and ancient lore, and how you can interpret them and use it symbolically”.

How popular are you in Sweden these days? Do for example people recognize you on the street? Generally speaking do metal bands stand a chance on the Swedish music market these days?
”Sweden kind of sucks when it comes to music such as ours. The Swedes never really have much understanding. The chance is much bigger being recognized abroad than here in Sweden. In a way that’s somehow reassuring, because it allows us to distance ourselves from things whenever we need to. Swedish metal is a big market all over the world. Sweden is very, very respected, but for us it is different. But I’ve reached a point where this doesn’t bother me. Swedish people are in general not in my preferences.”

By the way, what do you think about the new Swedish glam-sleaze scene, BACKYARD BABIES, CRASHDIET and such?
”Not my thing, not at all. The closest I’ve come to stuff like this is in my record collection is Hellacopters, and they are not even glam/sleaze. I do have some respect for 70’s band T-Rex though. One of the fathers of the genre. We all remember Children of the Revolution  and 20th Century Boy right? [laughs]”

Your latest album just came out a few weeks ago. I’m curious, when you finish recording an album are you usually satisfied with your work, or do you feel that there were many things you could have done better if you only had the time?
”Yeah, I feel as if time wasn’t enough. Of course I can be excited, but most often I have to get over the fact how the album turned out, and then I can start enjoying it. I am almost never ever happy with an album in the beginning. I think fewest objections I had  with Turning Season Within, but that doesn’t mean I like that album the most. At the time I had just gotten over the shock of our let’s call it <<new>> sound. However, it is useless wondering about stuff like this in the long run. What can I do about it? We do have some plans in remixing The Burning Halo though. The sound on that album is a disgrace.

The Dark Bombastic Evening is an elitist festival – in the good sense of the word. I mean, the bands that play there are selected for the quality of their music, and not based on their popularity. Are you yourselves fans of any of the bands that will be playing there this year?

“The word <<elitist>> never really rings positive, but I get your point [Laughs]. I know very few of the bands partaking in DBE this year, but I know ROME, ALCEST and YEAR OF NO LIGHT and I like these bands very much, so it will be a pleasure checking them out and hopefully have a chance to meet them. These three bands all have a certain magic outer-worldly atmosphere about them.We are really looking forward to this dark eve.”

This isn’t your first Romanian interview, is it? Anyway, what would be your message to the readers of Cartea de Nisip? Some of them will surely come to see you in Alba Iulia.
”No, it’s not the first. I’ve had several, both phoners and mail… but it was years ago, so this interview comes right in time [laughs]. I wish all our Romanian fans a great dark bombastic evening as well and we hope to have the chance to talk to some of them. Our first time in Romania shall become an unforgettable one. See you there, friends and thanks a lot for the support, Gabriel. Cheers.”