PAGANIZER - Get paganized!
The first half of this detailed conversation with Rogga Johansson is part of our current print issue Legacy #109 – and has been translated to German for that purpose. Here is the entire interview covering the newest PAGANIZER-album “Land Of Weeping Souls” as well as some other aspects.
Since “Deadbanger” PAGANIZER unleashed an album each year or at least every second year – the only longer break has been in between “No Divine Rapture“ and “Carnage Junkie“. Now there has been a similar break after “World Lobotomy” and the 20th anniversary compilation in 2014 – no album, just a bunch of 7” singles and MCDs. Did your obligations as a father thwart the development of PAGANIZER or did other projects demand your priority? Did you feel a burn out syndrome at any time throughout the last 25 years as a songwriter?
During the years everyone in the band has both started families as well as other bands, so it’s not just my side projects that have made the albums come a bit less than before really. After so many years and so many releases you also tend to feel that there isn’t really any rush anymore to release albums. We do try to release MCDs and split-releases a bit more often though. So far we haven’t felt that we haven’t had anything to say with PAGANIZER, it’s just that these days we take it a bit slower as we are lazier, haha.
On the previous tour (not the current one) Peter Tägtgren had his son behind the drumkit – same story, but as a full member with Udo Dirkschneiders son in U.D.O.. Did you already rehearse or record some stuff with your kids – or is the Rotpit a playroom exclusively for men?
My kids are a bit too young to play on the albums yet, haha. But Vincent has actually done a "growl" at the end of a song, nothing that’s released yet, so he’s a recorded artist now, haha. I have recently built a small rehearsal room with a full set of gear like drum kit and guitar amps etc, at my father in-laws house, so as soon as they kids feel ready there will be stuff for them to play on when they want to learn instruments or sing.
Is it by the way directly in your house – or part of a bigger rehearsal complex in and old factory building or bunker? Are you in general a social guy that loves to meet people, have a few beers and talk about music/equipment? Is the Rotpit your refuge to leave the world outside or a centre of communication?
The Rotpit is actually two places, the main place is at a bunker, or it has been a few different bunkers through the years. It’s where we rehearse and record drums and vocals and guitars. The other place is simply at my home, as the past ten years the work with computers has made it easy to record guitars and bass at home, instead of needing to do it at the actually rehearsal/studio. To me The Rotpit has always been a refuge indeed, where I can go to just play, record and have a few beers, either by myself or mostly with the drummer. Almost all PAGANIZER-material of the last fifteen years has been the work of me and a drummer, so it’s always been just hanging out drinking some beers and then rehearsing and recording stuff that we come up with.
Most of your label contacts and projects are based on the exchange via internet. You are not touring too often, so I guess there are many dozens of musicians from your projects and label bosses that you never met in real life. Is this also a sort of protective mechanism for you, to keep a distance and to be able to end cooperation without long discussions face 2face?
Through the years it has become more and more this way indeed, and for me it works very well really. I am not a social person, I have problems meeting people, especially people I don’t know and if there’s lots of people around. So yeah there are many of the guys I work with that I have never met, but I would love to meet them of course, but often it’s simply just down to logistics as some live far away, like Kam Lee in the USA for example. But I’ve also met a lot of them too, both when they’ve been in Sweden and also met up when I’ve been out on tour and doing gigs in Europe.
You announced an album called “Critical Mass Collection” on vinyl when you were interviewed for our #94, talking about “20 Years In A Terminal Grip”. What happened to this material?
“Critical Mass” is actually a Swedish magazine, and that’s a compilation-LP that they released, so it wasn’t an album of our own. We are on the compilation with a previously unreleased song called ,Captor Of The Ancient’. It’s a bit of a different song than usual, more epic and with some keyboards and stuff in there too.
At least you resurrected your old industrial band and added spices of that to Megascavenger as well (I was a bit shocked to be honest – for me one of the less necessary projects) – is it time for some more diversity? Are you finally bored by your death metal-terrain?
Well my old industrial band Evangelicum is making a new album as we speak. It will be the first album as we didn’t do anything since the unreleased MCD in 1995 actually. I’ve always been into that stuff, but never felt that I need to incorporate it in my bands, but on the last Megascavenger-album I felt I wanted to do something different, and used some ideas from Terminal Grip back in the 90s, the band that later changed name to PAGANIZER. I understand it’s not for everyone, but to me it’s a music style I listen to often myself and have done for over 25 years, so it was a fun thing to get to do really. For the next album I am very sure I will continue this way, so maybe then the next album isn’t something you should check out, haha!
Ironically enough you released a solo-album this April that I still have to order. Does it feature any different vibes than old school death metal? It is a completely independent production without Matte etc. – did you resurrect one of your old drum-computers for that one? How many of the 500 CDs of the pressing did you receive from Chaos?
Well in a way it’s of course just death metal indeed, but I have also used some keyboards to make it a bit more epic. It’s much more towards later Edge Of Sanity or Demiurg musically. There is no drum-computer on the album, I asked Brynjar and Johan from The Grotesquery to join me on drums and bass for the album, and Brynjar mixed the album as well at his studio. I’m really proud of this album, and it shows a bit of a new side of me I think. It’s really dark and heavy as always, but it has more of an epic feeling too. If you liked Demiurg or if you like Edge Of Sanity, there’s a chance you will like this album very much I think. I didn’t know how many CDs were pressed, haha, I’m often not knowing stuff besides the music... I don’t know how many albums I will get, I hope that there will be some copies for me in a package soon though, haha.
In a few hours I’ll drive to Munich for a Napalm Death/Lock Up/Brujeria-gig. Do you feel the need for another more grind oriented album?
The last gig I actually went completely mad at was a Napalm Death-gig a few years ago, we played the same festival. They still do killer shows, and I’m a big fan of most their stuff, even if I’m more prone to the more death metal oriented stuff than the very early stuff. Yeah lately I’ve actually thought that it would be cool to do a real grind album again. We often used to have grind-songs here and there on the PAGANIZER-albums, and the Bloodgut-albums are grindcore. Maybe I will check around and ask if anyone wants to do a grindcore-album with me later this year indeed.
I tried to get all the PAGANIZER-MCDs and vinyls on small labels, right now I’m waiting for the “Sherdil” tapes I ordered in Poland a few days ago. Why this format – will there be a vinyl or CD edition later?
Cool, I’m very happy you are a collector of our stuff! Well, the format came from that the label that only does tapes, and he’s a nice guy and we wanted to do a release there. There will be a CD-version indeed soon actually, with the “Sherdil”-songs as well as some other vinyl only songs from the past couple of years. I think it will be out late this year, on Iron Blood Death Corporation, and it has some excellent artwork by Jonas from Puteraeon.
I read about that last release before the new album quite late, but since I’ve been at the Schwarzer Adler-gig back then I needed to have it, though I don’t trust my tape deck too much anymore. Will you release the other songs from the show later? Maybe on the 25th anniversary release in 2019?
We have most of the songs of the Schwarzer Adler-gig mastered, and we also have a fully mixed gig from Stockholm from a few years ago. Then we also have a full gig from Spain over ten years ago on DVD. So we are actually thinking to maybe do something special with all that and more stuff, perhaps for the 25th anniversary would be cool indeed.
Do you have all the rights for your older releases back? Do you dream of a vinyl-box with all the albums at least – or maybe also the MCDs? For the first years of your existence vinyl pressings were a huge risk and most labels avoided them – now it is so trendy that smaller labels have to wait several months to get their stuff fabricated at the pressing plants.
I think we basically, or soon, will have the rights to all our stuff. If not, then often the labels we have worked with are good people, so if we had something like a vinyl-box planned I think they would agree that we did it. Our drummer is a vinyl-freak and is always talking about that he wants a box set, at least with the albums he plays on, haha. So yeah it’s a dream indeed, so if any label wants to do it just let us know. We would love to do it indeed.
Are you a vinyl-junkie at all? Don you still buy lots of underground releases, do you have a search list with vinyl/tape/CD-rarities from the late 80s or early 90s? Or do you produce so much death metal by yourself that you are not interested to listen to it in your free time anymore – except a handful of classical albums maybe?
That actually something partly true, which you say. When you do much music yourself, it often takes time from listening to other music. It’s not because you love your own stuff so much, but it’s something you think of all the time. I’m not a vinyl-junkie though. I actually am one of those that stopped getting vinyl many, many years ago and switched early to CD. I have always kept one LP though through the years, and that’s the Massacre "From Beyond"-LP, haha. That’s the only one I still have, besides a copy of the stuff I have done myself of course. I do get new music still though, or mostly not new music but albums from years ago, both stuff I missed out on and stuff that I maybe sold many years ago and now I want back. I guess one of those Discogs-people that hunt for cheap CDs online to fit into the collection every now and then.
Is ‘Angry All The Time’ your state of mind, are you rather seldom relaxed? Guess this feeling of being pissed is the fuel to your creativity. Can you imagine a perfect world that would make you write your personal “Cold Lake”-album?
Well, it’s every normal person’s state of mind I guess, haha, with all the shit that constantly goes on everywhere. People are extremely shitty; it’s just an ongoing thing through the ages. A perfect world couldn’t exist I think with humans in it, too much wrong things in this humanity to be able to behave normally. But yeah, if we burnt away most of humanity I would make the soundtrack, I guess it would sound more like extreme fucking metal though than the “Cold Lake”-stuff, haha.
Is every of your albums, singles or MCDs the complete result of a certain song writing-session, or do you always puzzle songs from different sources together? What made the ten songs of “Land Of Weeping Souls” an entity?
Mostly the albums are one session so to say, and then the MCDs often tend to be different sessions or different songs all collected together. Not always but mostly. "Land Of Weeping Souls" is actually a session during a few rehearsals, where we put the entire album together. Two of the songs are older ones which we did a few years ago, but we changed them up a bit and then wrote eight more songs, during maybe two months while we also rehearsed them. So this is indeed a new fresh album, with the idea that we should make our best album since our own favourites like "Dead Unburied" or "No Divine Rapture" over a decade ago. And I actually think we made it happen too if you ask me.
What/where is this land? Is it like the opener a phrase taken from a horror movie? Guess you can identify with such a lost soul?
Oh I don’t know really! It’s indeed like a place beyond this realm where you could dwell forever, I guess suffering the things you did in this life. It’s sort of a horror movie-theme, but also more a state of mind, a place where you suffer and pay for your ultimate wrongdoings. I’ve always been a huge Fulci-fan, and the feeling in his movies is something I feel is present in many of these songs, and the awesome artwork of Daniel Troma Johnson captures perfectly the feeling of the album and its title as well.
‘Your Suffering Will Be Legendary”: Your first song about “Hellraiser II”? What does this movie mean to you, do you remember the first time you’ve seen it? Was it with an older brother or cousin, did you shit your pants but at the same time feel a morbid fascination?
Actually this is the follow-up-song to ‘Even In Hell’, from the "Dead Unburied"-album. So I guess it’s our second song about “Hellraiser II”, haha. If you listen to the song, it’s not just the title that’s connecting them, the main riff is also in a way in the same style as the main one in ‘Even In Hell’. Shit man, I remember “Hellraiser II” too much and too badly, haha. I don’t remember when I checked it the first time, but at a later point I checked it after I had smoked some weed, as a teenager and I had a total freak out. I thought the movie was real and I was totally fucked up for weeks after that, haha. I guess for some people weed and horror movies is cool, but not for me, haha, not when I was a teenager at least. Still today I can remember the feeling, even if today I don’t feel the “Hellraiser”-movies are so horrible anymore, but more they are classic ones with a great feeling. But back then at that time, I indeed almost shit my pants, and more haha!
Movies like “Shocker” had a soundtrack with metal bands – like Megadeth covering Alice Cooper. Did those cross references lead a young horror addicted Rogga to metal or was it just the other way round: Did the lyrics and artworks of your favourite bands influence your taste for movies and literature? Guess you prefer the movies instead of books? Can you watch the same stuff dozens of times or are you always hungry for new (or old, but obscure) stuff? Which films did you watch lately?
I loved that movie “Shocker”, very fun one, but I haven’t checked it in so many years, so I don’t know if it’s still any good or if it hasn’t aged well. I started listening to heavy metal as a kid, maybe just six years old or so, as I had some older friends and got to borrow and copy tapes from them with the usual stuff like Accept and Iron Maiden. My dad also got a VCR very early on, as a gift from his work, so early on there were lots of movies at our place. At first it was mostly action movies, but when I started middle school a few friends and I got to know an older guy who had hundreds of movies, mostly action- and horror movies. So heavy metal and horror movies has always been an interest I guess since I was a kid, like it was for many people in this scene – it’s indeed something that goes well together. And all the posters of those bands made their mark too. I had Venom- and WASP-posters on the walls as a kid, I even had Venom-posters on the wall before I heard the band, haha! And I must say I never was a fan of Venom really, haha. I love to read too, as a kid it was Stephen King, and then I came across an old translation of HP Lovecraft stories and was hooked, and later when I could read in English I started reading more Lovecraft. I can indeed check out the classics many times, but the older you get it takes longer between as you know them too well I guess, and you at least try to check out new stuff even if today there are so many new movies that aren’t great at all. I don’t know the last movie actually... It’s been too long. I’m waiting to get “The Void” soon I hope. With kids it’s mostly the children’s movies all day on the TV, haha, so at night we mostly check series. I really loved “Stranger Things”, I think anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s dug that.
I hope if you’re going to play live again the next years ‘Forlorn Dreams’ will be a safe candidate for the set! Groovy as hell, but with this evil Necrophobic-undertone. Did Blackmoon (R.I.P.) have an influence on your riffing and melody writing in general? In my opinion also parts of the ultra-fast title track have some black metal undertones.
We are hoping to start again with the live-shows next year, mainly as usual in Germany, our favourite place to play and visit. And yes, ‘Forlorn Dreams’ is also one of my favourites, so I would want to play that song live indeed. Necrophobic is a great band. I’ve always liked them a lot, so that’s a cool thing that you hear that in the song. They are one of the bands that never did any shitty stuff at all, only really excellent stuff and I think indeed it’s a part of the way I do melodic riffs. And you are right about the title track too. There’s some slight black metal styled riffing in there. I’m no black metal fan deluxe, but I love the classic stuff like Darkthone and also stuff like Naglfar.
Is it Kjetil’s lead guitar or an effect that sounds like an air raid siren that you sue in ‘The Insanity Never Stops’?
It’s indeed an air raid siren, I thought it would fit in that part, haha. The insanity never stops, so what better than to sound the siren and call for everyone to flee for their lives, haha!
Are you a ‘Selfdestructor’, do you have to fight back nasty desired and urges that are not healthy – are you sometimes your worst enemy?
Yes I think so. I think many of us are that way really. There’s something in us all that we don’t like, or actually there are loads and loads of stuff we don’t like, but we do anyways. Eating, drinking, drugs, anything you can do too much of it’s easy to overdose on. And often you can’t help yourself really; I mean what’s the most usual feeling for most metalheads you think? Waking up the day after and feeling like shit as you had fifteen beers instead of maybe eight, haha. That’s self-destruction in its most basic form I think.
There are two songs at the end of the album where the titles already indicate the musical roots. ‘Soulless Feeding Machine’ made me think of the third Grave-album immediately and the intonation of ‘Prey To Death’ sounds like the hookline of Bloodbath’s ‘Breeding Death’. Coincidence or intention?
I would say coincidence actually. ‘Soulless Feeding Machine’ is a zombie story, which explains the title I guess. And ‘Prey To Death’ is as wordplay with the title of the old Sho Kosugi move “Pray For Death”. The story of this song is that you are actually hunted by death, like a hunter and its prey. And I didn’t think the hookline was close to the Bloodbath-song, haha, or I didn’t notice I mean.
Has Eaten been a sort of tribute to this Swedish all-star-band and their groove machine with the same title? Will you release the material written under that banner sooner or later?
Again it’s sort of a coincidence, as my project Eaten is as ugly music as possible and not at all anything reminding of Bloodbath actually. We wanted to do something like Impetigo, and I think we got it rotten enough to be in the same style at least. Actually I think the songs are released in one form, as some sort of extra tracks of the second Bloodgut-album, but only on the digital release online. I hope one day maybe we could release the Eaten-project like a 7"-EP or something like that. It would be very cool I think.
You just joined the reborn Danish/Swedish monster Thorium. But would you also love to jam around with Bloodbath if they’d ask? Do you prefer their more Swedish sounding earlier works with Dan Swanö or the American sounding later material?
Very much Bloodbath related things now, haha, and I don’t even know the guys, besides Dan. I don’t know why they would want to ask me to jam with them, but yeah if they would need a growler in the future and asked me I would think about it of course. It’s a great band, and to answer your question I prefer the early albums, but the new one is also awesome. It’s just the more American sounding album I’m not very much into.
The new artwork is created by Daniel Johnsson again. It looks like a follow up to the birthday-compilation-cover. Do you want to use him for albums and check other artists for smaller releases?
We love to work with him. He’s also done the "Cadaver Casket (On A Gurney To Hell)"-artwork, which is a personal favourite of ours in the band. Yes, we would actually love to keep him for album in the future. We have always liked to use more unknown artists for our EPs or mini-albums, and we will still do that indeed, as there are so many great artists out there.”
How did you recruit your stunning new lead guitarist Kjetil? Has he been introduced to Echelon by somebody else and you picked him up for PAGANIZER and your Speckmann-collaboration? It seems like he came out of nothing – but he doesn’t look like a teenager on the pics I have seen. What did he do before – has he been involved in the black metal scene, using pseudonyms? He was involved in Blodsrit, right?
Kjetil isn’t a teenager indeed, haha. I guess he’s a few years young than me, like 35 or so. He used to play in a rock band called White Laces, but he’s a thrash metal guy since childhood. Actually he started playing first with our drummer Fiebig in his black/thrash-band Mordenial maybe five years ago, and then when Dennis moved we asked Kjetil to join PAGANIZER as well. Then it was fairly easy to have him on the Johansson & Speckmann- and Echelon-stuff, as he wanted to play on the albums and he’s such a great guitarist. He also contributes lead work on the latest albums from Humanity Delete and Severed Limbs actually. I don’t know if he was involved in Blodsrit, perhaps he’s been doing some guest solos for them.
Too strange that the second Mordenial-album will just be released digitally – fake news by metal-archives? By the way: Do you know what happened to Dea and Another Life? A second album was announced for 2012… I love his debut and the demo stuff tremendously.
That’s not true I think. The CD-version will be out indeed of the new Mordenial, sometime after the summer. I know they have layout for a CD-version done, and are printing merch too. So I think that’s just some misunderstanding. Dea isn’t doing any music for a few years actually, he became too lazy, haha. Sometimes you need a break I guess, and sometimes I guess you feel maybe you don’t have the lust for it anymore. I know he started doing songs years ago, but the past few years I don’t think he’s done anything at all with Another Life. I love that album too, and I tell him sometimes he needs to get working on it, but nothing yet.
Your band name and the Mjolnir-symbol would be the best gimmicks for an Amon Amarth-tribute-band – ever thought of making some bucks with a melodic Viking album? Do you at least like their old albums?
Haha yeah? Maybe it would. I love Amon Amarth. The first album is awesome, but I love all their albums really. I’m a huge fan. Well I don’t think there are huge bucks to be made for people playing Viking metal, haha! I mean if you’re not Amon Amarth. But if you’re curious I can actually tell you I wrote a few songs years and years ago, and the demo versions of them are actually extra tracks on a Peruvian version of the "Dead Unburied"-album. So if you want to hear me doing some epic Viking death metal, you should dig up that release! The songs are called ‘Orthwolves" and ‘Born Of The Snow’. They were not supposed to be PAGANIZER-tracks, but instead material for my old Viking metal band Svitjod, which only did an unreleased promo sometime late 90s or early 00s. I don’t think that promo is even available online though.
Could you ever imagine writing a biography – or do you regard your life in general and that of you as a musician specifically as completely boring?
Haha yes, completely boring! Well when I was younger there was much chaos, stupid and shitty things happened a lot, you know how it is to be young and stupid. But I don’t know if it would be a good story, maybe just sad, haha, and I don’t think I would want to think back on some of the crap that has happened, or some of the utterly stupid things one has done. After all, it wouldn’t be a fun read, there’s no rock star stuff, only drunken chaos and hellish pandemonium, haha!
Guess you have an archive of all your recordings: Did you already record your 666th self-composed song?
Well I think I own all releases I have done, some old demo-recordings are gone though which is a bit shitty, as I would indeed want them in digital form to keep them. And I must count then... I have done quite a few songs, haha, I have no fucking idea how many. Maybe it’s more than that, haha, who knows... who has the time to count that shit, right? Haha!
Björn Thorsten Jaschinski