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2nd October 2009
METAL DISCOVERY: Because your music is so original and difficult to categorise as such within the established subgenres of metal, what are some of the more amusing labels you’ve read journalists labelling you as?
JOHANNES BERGION: I think most of them it’s more like ourselves; they’re trying their best to describe the music, and we are still doing that. We have…I can’t say this in English, but we have some Swedish phrases that we try to describe the music. I like ‘cabaret metal’; I like that one.
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(Johannes Bergion on Diablo Swing Orchestra's live dynamic)
"...we are more like rock ‘n’ roll musicians in the way we look live because we’re not standing still for a moment."
Johannes in the Hope and Anchor pub, Camden, London, UK, 2nd October 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview and Photography by Mark Holmes
Official Diablo Swing Orchestra Website:
Borderline Hymns EP (2003)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Cheers to Johannes for his time.
Official Diablo Swing Orchestra Myspace:
The Butcher's Ballroom (2006)
Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious (2009)
MD: Cabaret metal?! That’s a new subgenre!
JB: Yeah, that’s my personal favourite. I think that describes it. You can see a theatre in Germany in the thirties like we are playing…for me, it’s a nice picture and I think labelling the new record is also…
MD: Yeah, you’re in a genre all by yourselves.
JB: Yeah, we are always like this. Every festival we play, and every gig, we are always this wild card every time. So it’s really nice sometimes that we don’t have people who know about us before, and they have five bands that sound the same, then we always surprise people, and that’s always nice.
MD: You played ProgPower USA last month and from feedback I read on the festival’s forum it seems like a lot of people were either indifferent to your music or didn’t particularly like it before they saw you live and then checked you out, and seemed to become instant fans.
JB: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: Is that a general reaction when people see you live?
JB: Yeah, I think it is like that because when you look at us live that is what we really should do because then the big gestures and these really small dynamics…when you see it live, then you can really see what this band is…what we actually are out for. Because the record, you don’t really care so much what happens; you just listen to music but when you see it live you can see we are doing everything, and we have small dynamics really big, and Annlouice doesn’t sing big all the time. She sings really small, and really creepy, and then she can, you know…so, yeah. They told us at ProgPower that a lot of people there were like “yeah, I will check out one song and I will probably go.” But it was really crazy in the end because we have trumpets and trombones on the record and at ProgPower we didn’t have that with us, but I played kazoo instead, and people were going crazy about it. I think that they had probably never seen a kazoo on a metal stage!
MD: Finntroll use them, but not in the same way I guess. Have any discussions ever taken place with the ProgPower Europe organisers?
JB: We were supposed to play at ProgPower over here last year but it was cancelled. I haven’t really heard about it since, but it’s someone else in the band who takes care of that. We have different jobs in the band, so I don’t know so much about it actually.
MD: ProgPower Europe is actually this weekend, and it’s the first one I’ve missed in six years, so you’d better be good tonight!
JB: Well, I hope you’re happy afterwards then! That’s also a thing with us, I think that it’s different that we’re not metal musicians. I mean, we’re like crazy on stage. For me, and this is of course my personal opinion, I don’t know about the rest of the band, but we are more like rock ‘n’ roll musicians in the way we look live because we’re not standing still for a moment. We’re really crazy on stage and metal bands, in general, are standing more like, you know, the guitarist’s standing more like this. We’re more like indie rock bands that are really crazy. We’re more like that, but we don’t play their music! I can’t describe it, but you will see it tonight.
MD: Is that a kind of un-Swedish thing to do in a band because I’ve heard Swedes say that the Swedish people are more reserved and don’t express their emotions so much maybe.
JB: Yeah, if we talked about Sweden and Swedish mentality, it would take hours! There’s so many things to say about that, but I think it’s like the same thing we say that all Swedes talk about the weather the whole time, you know?
MD: Yeah, it’s the same in the UK!
JB: Yeah, I know, but we are really crazy about it, and everybody is always like, “ah, he’s a typical Swede” as a bad thing, but I like talking about the weather all the time! I think Swedish people are like…maybe you have a more stable mood when you’re more melancholic, being happy but at the same time you’re a little bit sad. I think the general mentality in Sweden is more like, yeah, in buses you sit on your own seat and you’re really quiet, and the dream is to have your own little red house with white stripes with a lake and stuff, and people have that as well, you know. But we talk about the sun and when the sun will come and, when it does, people go mad. You can go out in other countries and people don’t really care so much but in Sweden it’s like we’re sitting there with our sunglasses that we bought last week, and everyone goes out because it’s sunny and you’re so happy about it! I think the same with us when we’re playing music. I think there’s a lot of Swedish bands that are really interesting looking live and don’t be like this before but when they perform, they’re…so I wouldn’t agree with that. I think onstage Swedish people can be really crazy. We have this in us and you will definitely see that tonight. And then, of course, I’m not so Swedish because I talk all the time! The Swedish are considered to be not so talkative but I like both sides, I think that’s why. You know, we can be really focussed, and we can really explode also.
MD: I wrote in my review of the album that it just made me want to get up and dance…well, it did make me get up and dance like a complete cock because I don’t do dancing really, and look like a cock when I do…
JB: [laughs]
MD: Do you generally get more dance pits than mosh pits at your gigs, or what kind of reactions do you get in the crowd? A lot of jigging?
JB: Yeah, it’s all that, because we want them to dance, and that’s a nice thing for us to see. From my point of view, from the stage, this is not a metal audience anymore, and I think that can be a good thing. You know, I like metal music, but it’s like you put something new to them and you want them to move. I think it’s hard to stand like this listening to us. I mean, I love those bands…one of my favourite bands is The Haunted from Sweden and they are like so different from us. I love that, you know, the anger and everything that’s crazy about listening to them, but I think we are so far away from that. So, I think, the audience is kind of relieved they can be more like funny, and they can laugh, and it’s also serious at times. You know, it’s a fun thing, the show.
MD: Do you have any non-musical influences in the band for the music you write?
JB: I think it’s hard to say because we have so many different influences. I have influences that they had never heard about for my cello playing and for the things that I do, and I think that Daniel has a lot of influences for what he does, and like Andy who is a really good funk bassist from the beginning, and Andreas who is more like an old-time seventies drummer guy, but he has developed into something beautiful. I think that everybody has so many different…and Pontus, for a long time, got really into this electronic music, you know, dance music and stuff like that and you can, of course, hear that now also. So everybody has so many different interests, so it’s hard to say that you have these specific bands. I know that everyone in the band likes Muse, for example.
MD: I can hear a little bit of Muse in your music too.
JB: Yeah, we have so many influences and different bands but…I love Muse, I think they’re great. We don’t discuss influences so much. It’s more we show each other like, “can we do it like this?” and then that reflects what you’re into…and then people just follow, and we try other ways out. And, of course, it’s also happening a lot of things in the studio that everybody’s like “ohhh, that’s nice, shall we try that?” We had a perfect producer this time, Roberto Laghi; he was the perfect guy.
MD: Yeah, the production on the album is absolutely perfect.
JB: Yeah, he has his heavy background, like he knows how to make them. He did the last In Flames record, Hardcore Superstar and Mustasch. So he has this really heavy background but, at the same time, he’s really open-minded and he loves Tom Waits and stuff that we like, so he was just the perfect guy. A lot of things on the album was not decided before we went into the studio, it was in the studio that a lot of things happened also.
MD: Did he mix the album too?
JB: Yeah, he mixed it; he did the whole production.
MD: I noticed your website’s a little out of date…like 2007 was the last update, and it’s kind of geared towards ‘The Butcher’s Ballroom’ and that artwork. Are there any plans to get a more up to date website going?
JB I think definitely. I think because MySpace was such a big thing for us that MySpace became more…maybe I wouldn’t say important but more to the fans who were looking for different things on MySpace. Maybe we focussed on that page more.
MD: Finally, what plans lie ahead for DSO in the coming months? You only have one other gig booked after this one?
JB: Yeah, we have one in Germany, and we had a gig in Holland but it was cancelled. We are looking forward to this Summer. Before we released the second album, we were really underground - all the advertising and everything for the band was effort from the band because we had no label that could really help us with it. Even though Candlelight signed us and licensed us later on…
MD: And Lee Barrett’s picked you up now.
JB: Yeah, Lee Barrett has picked us up for this one. Now, I think, we are in a different situation and it’s a really nice compliment. He’s a great man, and I think it’s important for us that he wants the band to play. He wants the band to have a lot of gigs. He really wants it, and we want it as well.
MD: Yeah, and the man who discovered Emperor and Opeth, so do you expect to get really big now with him behind you?
JB: Yeah, we really hope so. He’s been terrific with us. So we will have gigs all year and, this Summer, I hope we will have a lot of festivals to play.
MD: Hopefully in the UK!
JB: Yeah, hopefully. And, or course, we already have plans for new songs, so everything is just going along at the right pace.
MD: Yeah, and hopefully after tonight big things will happen in the UK for DSO.
JB: Yeah, I really hope so. Like in Mexico, we had no idea because they were really crazy about it. It was amazing.
MD: Cool. Right, thank you very much for your time.
JB: Yeah, thank you very much