Interview mit Mats Johansson von Axewitch

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There are bands that like to take it slow and there is AXEWITCH: Founded in 1981 the Swedish heavy metal act released its last album in the mid-eighties and therefore took a good 35 years to come up with a worthy successor. Usually when a band returns after such a lengthy hiatus there are not a lot – if any – founding members left. That is not the case with this group from Linköping, which – with the exception of bassist Tommy Brage – still consists of all its original members even after three and a half decades. We spoke to drummerMats Johansson about the past, present and future of one of Swedens oldest metal bands.

Hello Mats! Thanks for taking the time for this interview. How are you? I hope that you and your family are well!
Thank you. We are slowly getting there… Hoping the pandemic will be over soon and that people will enjoy our new album.

AXEWITCH were among the first wave of Swedish heavy metal bands, yet the band has been dormant for a very long time. Why is now the right moment to come back?
The idea was actually that we would start recording immediately after the gig at Sweden Rock 2008, but the writing and recording took much longer than expected. Lasse our bass player jumped the ship and it took some time to find a new one that could fill his place. We could start recording seriously after Björn had joined. We didn’t want to rush anything so we decided to take our time writing the material. No sense in stressing anything out. The songs were written during the recording process and it was quite time consuming. We never planned to make a comeback specifically this year, we just went with the flow and let it happen.

Das Cover von „Out Of The Ashes Into The Fire“ is your first album in over 35 years. Would you say that the feel of the music is still the same as it was in your early days?
We never had any ulterior motives with the record. We just tried to write and record as good songs as we could. We have received comments several times that the new songs do not sound like the old Axewitch at all, but how does the old Axewitch actually sound? Is it like on Pray for metal or like on one of the other records? Hooked on high heels from 1985 sounds quite different from the previous records from 1982-1984. A good song is a good song regardless of whether it sounds like the early 80’s or has vibes from the present. We are all older and a lot of water has flowed under the bridges since the last recordings and it would be strange if we have not developed at all in 35 years. But we feel that the songs do have a certain Axewitch feel.

How would you describe the new album?
As I mentioned earlier, there was no ulterior motive with the sound on the record, but we all think that the old Axewitch is represented in the music, but you can also hear that it has been many years since the previous records. It’s a pretty honest album that is by no means innovative for the genre but it reflects how Axewitch sounds in 2021. But it’s still old shool metal we think.

Most of the band’s members that play on „Out Of The Ashes Into The Fire“ are with AXEWITCH since the early days. Was there ever any doubt that you’d be able to „get the band back together“?
No, we have always been friends and have had good contact over the years so it was no problem to get the band back together.

How did the songwriting and recording sessions for „Out Of The Ashes Into The Fire“ go down?
Axewitch has always been a riff / guitar based band where the songs are built around a riff written by either Magnus or Anders. Song melodies and lyrics that are usually written by Anders or Björn are then woven into the music. The songs are usually not planned to get a certain vibe but they shape themselves through the writing process. We started the pre-production in a friend’s (Ronny Max) studio out in the countryside but the distance became a bit too strenuous so we moved the whole project to the city of Linköping where we continued recording. Some time later we got the offer to build a studio together with two friends and it resulted in The Metal studios where the album was finally recorded. We have recorded and produced the entire album ourselves, which was a learning process in itself.

Das Cover von For the new album you decided to re-record the songs „Nightmare“ and „Axewitch“ from your first demo tape. Why did you choose to do that?
I really think we wanted to get a hint about how the old Axewitch sound would change to the present with digital recording methods. These two songs only stayed in the demo stage and were only released on compilation albums. Therefore, we chose them to be test objects, so to speak.

Your new album is beeing released through Pure Steel Records. How did this collaboration come to pass?
Our very good friends in Mindless Sinner signed a contract with Pure Steel Records. Through them, Pure Steel learned that we were recording an album and asked us if we were interested in signing for them. And we did…

Right now this seems to be out of the question but will there be touring activities for AXEWITCH once we get back to some kind of normal? Any chance to see you in Germany?
We’d love to play Germany and any other country for that matter but due to the pandemic no plans have yet been made.

The COVID-19 pandemic affects all areas of life but it seems that touring bands and venues are hit especially hard. How do you feel about that, having to promote a new record in times like these?
It is what it is … We have hopes that we will be able to have a release party at least here in our hometown Linköping. Plans have been made together with Hell yeah rock club to have a release party sometime this summer depending on the situation. We simply have to adapt to the pandemic. Of course, we hope to get the chance to play in Europe and in the rest of the world when the pandemic is over. Unfortunately, there may be a risk that the interest is waning after some time without being able to promote the album when we release the record in these times, but we can only hope for the best. We will try to keep the interest in Axewitch burning while we wait for better times. We have a couple of cards up our sleeves…

Finally, let’s do our traditional brainstorming. What’s the first thing that comes to mind regarding these topics?
Pray For Metal: Where it all began. A self-produced mini lp recorded before there actually was any major interest in Swedish metal. The sound reflects a bunch of young guys with a great love for hard music.
Pandemic: Anxiety … A lot of concern about the well-being of family and friends. Also affects planning of the future.
Summer Festivals: Unfortunately, I do not think there will be any festivals this summer due to the pandemic. I think we have to aim for next summer instead.
Nostalgia: It’s amazing that old bands and records from the 70s and 80s are still played and loved by so many. Vinyl has grown tremendously in recent years.
New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal: There are many bands out there that do a great job waving the metal banner high. Lots of re-unions by older bands and lots of newcomers… The underground movement of old shool/traditional metal is stonger than ever.
AXEWITCH in 10 years: We will still be the same grumpy old farts we are now but hopefully with more experience of life. Playing old shool metal and drinking beer at the retirement home.

Thanks again for your time. Would you like to add a few closing words to the readers?
Thanx a millon all of you metalheads out there. Really hope you enjoy our new album and hope to see you at a venue sometime in the near furure… You ROCK!!!

Ein Live-Foto der Band Axewitch

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