Interview - Views: 1395
Jonas Kjellgren of Scar Symmetry
Interviewed By: Patrick Rennick
Transcribed By: Patrick Rennick
View All Reviewed Media For This Artist
Patrick Rennick: Scar Symmetry is something of a death-metal super group with members of Unmoored, Altered Aeon, and Theory in Practice, making up the band among others. Could you talk to me about how Scar Symmetry got together?
Jonas Kjellgren: Well, after I recorded that Altered Aeon album I came to the realization that Henrik Ohlsson was the best drummer I had ever recorded so I asked him if he wanted to form a band together. Henrik wanted to do this, to try something different, a kind of music we hadn’t played before. I was talking to Christian Älvestam, our vocalist about the band and he said that he wanted to join. I didn’t ask him, he just said I want to be in the band! I said, well I have to talk to the other guys first but he was just like no! I want to be in the band! So I said, ok! (laughter) you’re in. Our bass player, Kenneth Seil hasn’t been in any metal bands at all, he’s a bass teacher who teaches at a music school in my town.
PR: What is this music school called?
JK: Savesta Music School. When I was 14 or 15 years old I got to play with him. When you go to school in Sweden you have to try different jobs for maybe three weeks or so at a time and I wanted to work with him so finally we got placed together and that was very fun. I asked him to play bass because I know that he is very, very good. He was very interested to be in the band. He has kids and everything and is a bit more grown up than me. He’s 35 and I’m only 28 but it has worked out good. He has never played metal at all.
PR: Wow, I definitely wouldn’t have thought that after hearing the record.
JK: Yeah, he was basically like, “Oh you want me to play this fast? Ok, cool. There are only 6 strings to play on? Wow!"
PR: I understand that you were once a vocalist for the death/thrash band Carnal Forge. Could you talk to me about your experience with that band and why you left?
JK: Well, it was very fun to be in that band at the beginning but since I’m a guitarist I got tired of singing in general. When we rehearsed I wanted to play guitar also but you know we can’t have three guitarists just pumping the e-string (laughter). Also they wanted to give it all in that band. I thought of the band as more of a hobby and I didn’t think it would be nice to the other guys if I was not able to give 100% when I was only giving about 50%. I started Scar Symmetry right before I quit the band and I thought, this is much more fun, I want to do this much more.
PR: You are also involved with the bands, Pexilated, Centinex, and World Below, would you mind telling me a bit about these bands and what it is like juggling your time between all of them and Scar Symmetry?
JK: Yeah well with Pexilated we quit in 1994 so it’s a bit of an old band (laughter). It was a thrash band that was similar to Testament, I played guitars. With the other bands it is not really a problem. World Below is a Doom Metal band so it’s totally different music. We never rehearse or anything with that band. We’re actually going on a European tour this November so we rehearsed yesterday for the songs we are going to play but usually it doesn’t take much time when we only rehearse maximum, once a month. We basically play some gigs, record an album, and then we don’t talk to each other (laughter).
JK: Centinex is almost the same thing. We almost never rehearse, only right before going on tour or recording an album. So, it’s not a problem. If I was only in one band I wouldn’t have enough to do. I think I’m very fast at writing songs, for example the new World Below album took me three days to write.
JK: (laughter) Yeah, so then I say, what do I do now?
PR: Well speaking of writing albums quickly, Scar Symmetry was formed in 2004; merely a year after you have managed to release the acclaimed, Symmetric in Design. Could you talk to me about recording this album in such a small time frame?
JK: Well, it was a bit hectic because when we started the recording we only had seven songs ready that I had made, and they were not really ready yet. It was just a bunch of riffs in no particular order. We tried to create songs from those. First we recorded the guitar and then we would try every drum beat on that riff. Then we would select which beat was best. Then suddenly Per Nilsson, the other guitarist came up with songs. He was like, well I can do some songs too if that’s ok with you? And I said, yes of course! So, this album was really put together in a studio. I’ve never done this before but it was great. When you are standing in the rehearsal room just bashing out you don’t really hear what you are doing. When you are playing you can’t hear yourself too well. In the studio you record and then you listen, “Oh, maybe that was not so good, and such." You can also focus on the technical aspects such. We might say, oh this is a good riff because it has 24 notes in it. But when you listen to it, it might sound like shit. So, for a lot of the riffs on the album when we listened to the guitars the drummer, Henrik would say something like, are you joking? Because it was too simple for him. But, then we laid down the drums and it sounded very good. Then we had to record the vocals. For me, when I listen to the album I mostly listen to the vocals more like in pop music maybe. In technical death for example you would probably listen to the guitars. Anyways, it was very fun to do.
PR: In addition to playing guitar on the new album you also laid down some keyboards as well. Do you have past experience playing keyboards in a band? How long have you been playing each instrument?
JK: No, it was my first time.
PR: So, how long have you been playing the keyboards?
JK: I bought a keyboard and was playing it for maybe 5 years. I was determined to learn how to play so I could play piano and everything from score sheets so I could play with anyone but, I just ended up testing every cool sound that it made (laughter). Sometimes I would just push down one key and (Jonas makes a keyboard sound), "Oh wow!" But, I am not very good at playing the keyboard.
PR: Well I bet there are some people who would disagree with you there. How long have you been playing the guitar?
JK: For a very long time, since I was 7 years old. My uncle is a professional guitarist in Sweden (Eric Anderson). He is playing with all the big pop artists. I had access to a lot of instruments when I was younger with guitars and keyboards lying around everywhere.
PR: I have read that in making Symmetric in Design, your goal was to create a, “fresh and heavy form of catchy death metal without any boundaries whatsoever.” I have also read that in addition you wanted to, “incorporate every style of singing known to metal.” Can you talk to me about what led to these ideas?
JK: Well, that statement is more of a promotional thing. We didn’t think so much about it when we did the album. We didn’t even talk about whether we were going to use clean vocals. It just happened naturally. We tried this and that and it sounded good. Rock on! (laughter) We had known from the beginning that we wanted to have keyboards however. Lots of people hate keyboards that’s why we wanted it (laughter).
PR: What are your thoughts and reactions to the final result of the new album?
JK: Well, we got pretty good reviews here in Europe. Also I read a few from the states and they have been mostly positive I think.
PR: What about your thoughts, are you satisfied overall with the album?
JK: Yes, it is the fist album I have ever done with any band that I can listen to. We recorded it one year ago and I can still listen to it today and say, this is good I like this! Usually when I am done with an album I have gotten very tired of the songs. After one week I am usually saying, oh no, lets do some new songs!
PR: When reading your lyrics I noticed a common theme was to display opposites such as, death/rebirth, god/devil, beginning/end, and war/peace among others. Was this a conscious decision? If so, what is the significance of it?
JK: It was the drummer who made all the lyrics. I think that he has very good ideas. He is something of an intellectual. I have had some very strange conversations with him that I did not really understand (laughter).
PR: Did he ever talk to you about the significance of any of the lyrics?
JK: Yes, he explained them to me several times but I don’t understand. It just goes right over my head.
PR: The music is also based on opposites as well. With the vocals for example, there is a constant contrast between harsh and clean. Is this also tied into the concept of symmetry? Talk to me about how the themes of symmetry impacted the songwriting on this disc.
JK: No, it was the concept of our vocalist I think (laughter). All the music was done before we even started with the vocals. I can say that first we did guitars, drums, bass, and then vocals. But, after we did vocals we started with the synthesizers. That’s why it doesn’t sound so unnatural when the vocal style switches in the songs.
PR: Well, seeing as you’re not too clear on the lyrics you might not be able to answer this one, but lets give it a try. The last song, “The Eleventh Sphere,” seems to transcend the idea of symmetry. I believe this has something to do with the number 11. But also the song is about the melding of opposites. What is your interpretation of this last track musically and lyrically?
JK: No. But, Henrik actually had something to say about this one, I could read it for you if you’d like?
Henrik Ohlsson: "The eleventh sphere is about astral traveling. This one is performed through the system of Kabbalah (A body of mystical teachings of rabbinical origin, often based on an esoteric interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures). The person in the lyrics travels to the sphere that was created when God’s goblet of creation cracked, and the liquid inside it ran over, thus creating a sphere of nightmares, unwanted ideas, and everything that goes with the night side of creation. The eleventh sphere is simply a place you got to love."
PR: That’s very deep and very metal. Many have been comparing Scar Symmetry’s sound to that of Sweden’s Soilwork, what are your reactions to this?
JK: Well I guess they have harsh and clean vocals. But, that’s about it. I really don’t know. I haven’t listened to much of them. I think that with the exception of the vocals we sound more like Nevermore. Also I’ve noticed that with Soilwork their vocals are more high pitched. Christian, he does deeper growls.
PR: How would you classify Scar Symmetry’s sound?
JK: Oh, I don’t know, that’s hard! I don’t know we just play music! (laughter)
PR: Have there been any opportunities for Scar Symmetry to play these songs before a live audience yet?
JK: Yes, only one time in Stockholm, Sweden.
PR: What were the reactions to the material?
JK: Very good, it was a fucking great gig! It was sick, it was so great, it was amazing! It was the best gig I have ever done! Everything sounded so superior to anything I’ve ever done live because we are so tight and Christian sang like a god or something. We were playing at a small club and it was packed.
PR: Can we expect any tours in the states?
JK: Yes! I hope so. We’re finishing our new album now. We just have to finish the vocals. It is going to be called, Pitch Black Progress. As the name implies, this album will be darker, heavier, and faster.
PR: Can fans expect Scar Symmetry to stay around and continue to make records or is this “super group” a two record thing?
JK: No, no, no. We want to do this full-time. Everyone in the band thinks that they have had more fun playing in this band then any of the other ones they are involved with. We are going to do this as long as possible. Unless everyone quits the band and I’m the only one left, then it’s not going to happen (laughter). But, I think what makes this band special is that everyone is a truly good musician and we feel very fresh. Everyone comes from different musical backgrounds and it makes a very good mix. I want to continue forever with lots of touring and everybody in the band agrees on that! We want to tour everywhere!
10/5/2005 8:50 PM
Scar Symmetry fucking rocks, I had to special order Symmetrc in Design from Metal Blade Germany, but it was totally worth it, it's definitely one of the best melodic death albums I have ever heard. It would abso-fuckin-lutely sick to see them live in the states.
10/5/2005 12:21 AM
Wow, they move fast. Can't wait to hear the new one, and a US tour would be killer. The ultimate in catchy melodeath.
Pawel Minion Opinions are mine
10/4/2005 11:51 PM
Hey how about you find out what the hell happened to Spiral Architect...now there was a good band...
Soil Symmetry...pfffff...give me good production and a solid guitar and ill play the same exact riffs...throw in Jonas Renske, someone from In Flames and like...the backstreet boys...and t will be the album of the year.
It's a guilty pleasure...and I am ashamed of listening to their album...b/c it sounds so darn catchy and like everything else.
Yeah yeah....good vocalist...
Stupid Gardenian...stop breaking up and make a classic once again! So we don't have to put with these All Star rip offs anymore...
3 ppl will see this rant...so I might as well say something random like...Heart of Darkness is the best novella I have ever read. Or...I look like Harry Potter and have been meaning to sue his british ass for libel...or character defamation...whatever it's called, my lawyer didn't go to school.
And uhm...if there would be one power in the world that I could have...I would have...hmm...the serious response would probably be flying or teleporting or invisibility. But the retarded one would be to get all the bitches I can.
Uhmm...wait...I'm involved...uhmm...I already got my life bitch with me, so I guess I have that power.
Now where was I...yes...Scarwork...pffffff
Top of Lashes