Interview with vocalist Johan Liiva
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: April 27, 2013
NonExist is a project started by the dynamic Swedish duo of Johan Reinholdz (Andromeda, Skyfire, etc.) and Johan Liiva (ex-Carnage, ex-Arch Enemy, Furbowl, etc.) They play a melodic and progressive mixture of Thrash and Death Metal. The band's debut album, Deus Deceptor, was released by New Haven/Century Media in 2002, and it received a lot of praise from the press and Metal fans all over the world.
10 years passed with no news from the band and no one knew whether it still existed. Then news of a second NonExist album popped up out of nowhere. That album, From My Cold Dead Hands, once again with both Johans and programmed drums, has only been released digitally thus far but Abyss Records will be releasing it on CD and LP, both including special bonus tracks.
Vocalist Johan Liiva wanted to share a few thoughts of his about this latest opus, the future of NonExist and what's going on with his other bands; Devourment, Hearse and Furbowl
Luxi: So Johan, how did it feel to work with Johan Reinholdz again for the sequel to NonExist's debut album Deus Deceptor? It's been 10 years since that debut was released by Century Media/New Haven Records.
Johan: It felt great indeed! Now, some 10 years later, with all of what we've been thru and the experience we gained, well, it was about time. Back then we never really knew what this band was all about, but now we do. We enjoy doing this so much a third album is already underway. The time was right to get this thing rolling again!
Luxi: Was it easy for you to say yes when Johan R. suggested that you jump on this train again? Did you have any concerns about whether you would still have "it" after so many years or be able to follow-up Deus Deceptor?
Johan: Well, this is something we've been talking about on and off since the debut, really. In 2011, however, we reached the point where the pieces of the puzzle came together once and for all. Of course I had some doubts whether or not this would work after such a long time, but I'm totally satisfied with everything and I think the album is as fine a sequel as it could be!
Luxi: Did everything work out for you, with regards to the recording process, the way you planned?
Johan: After Reinholdz recorded the demos with vocal lines, they were sent to me to practice. I wrote the lyrics of just one song this time. Then we decided on a date to start recording my vocals, which we divided into four different occasions over the summer of 2012. It was damn hard work, but everything turned out just according to plan.
Luxi: You chose to record From My Cold Dead Hands at Multipass Studios whereas the previous album was recorded and produced at Peter Tängren's Abyss Studios. Why didn't you want to do everything at Abyss Studios again? It seemed to work well on Deus Deceptor?
Johan: First, it was a matter of budget and second, it suited us much better to record it by ourselves. We felt freer to do so whenever we wanted.
Luxi: You once said that the new NonExist album would be slower, heavier and more melodic than its predecessor, and it would contain more keyboards, too. Did you stick to this plan or did some spontaneous things take place while you were recording this opus that led to a more diverse sounding record than you could have ever even imagined?
Johan: For me it turned out nothing like I expected, hehe! It's amazing how things tend to develop during recording sessions.
Luxi: It might be too early to ask but I was wondering if there are already any songs on this new record that are favorites?
Johan: For sure, I have my own personal faves; "Flesh Falls from the Bone," "Dark and Tortured Universe" and "From My Cold Dead Hands" are the ones I love the most, for one reason or another.
Luxi: Matte Modin (of Defleshed, Dark Funeral, etc. fame) did the drums for NonExist's debut album. Who was sitting behind the battery during the recording of From My Cold Dead Hands?
Johan: Well, this time we chose to go for programmed drums, mostly due to (once again) budget reasons. It was also because they were already done and ready. I think it turned out freakin' awesome. I was a little' worried at first, but the end result had me convinced it was the right decision, especially since Reinholdz put such an enormous amount of effort into the rolls, fills and other tricks and now I wouldn't want it any other way!
Luxi: How did you split up the actual songwriting process for this album? Or is this basically Johan R's creation from the beginning to the end, or, at least, most of it?
Johan: Yes, all the songs as well as most of the lyrics, except for "Presence Everlasting," which I wrote, were created by Reinholdz. Next time it'll be a little more balanced and I'll contribute with lot more lyrics.
Luxi: I mean this as a compliment but, your vocals on NonExist's debut reminded me of Jeff Walker's (Carcass). The more raspy parts were different from your vocal style with Furbowl or Hearse? Was it easy to change your vocals to the style you used on Deus Deceptor and did you also try to obtain the same style for From My Cold Dead Hands?
Johan: On the debut I tried to find a new style, one with a higher pitch. This time, however, I'm back with my more "normal" voice but still experimenting a lot, flirting with the sickness a throat can actually come up with when under pressure, hahaha!!
Luxi: People age (which I guess is normal, he-he!), but has this caused any problems for your vocal delivery, maybe forcing you to forgo some registers that you cannot do any longer? Aging really sucks, doesn't it Johan?
Johan: Yeah, aging has two sides to it, I guess, but as for my vocal delivery, the only thing I felt this time was that I was terribly rusty and unused to recording. I haven't done much growling since the last Hearse album in 2009. I could feel a difference but I just can't put my finger on it. Still, it's natural that the body and physical abilities change, for better or worse, as the years go by. :)
Luxi: What about these cover songs that you planned to record? Which of them will you use for the regular European version, and which ones will be saved for later use, like a Japanese edition of From My Cold Dead Hands?
Johan: The covers (Coroner's "Masked Jackal," Megadeth's "In My Darkest Hour," Atomic Rooster's "Death Walks Behind You," Eucharist's "Greeting Immortality" and Merciless' "Realm of the Dark") were, first and foremost, meant for promotion only, however, some of them will also be featured on the physical releases. Which ones, exactly, we will let that be a surprise, hehe... ;)
Luxi: Are there plans for a limited vinyl release of From My Cold Dead Hands, or maybe a special die-hard fan pack, including a NonExist T-shirt, exclusive poster, a set of NonExist pins, logo patch, logo sticker and some demo mixes from the recording sessions? Now that would be pretty killer, wouldn't it?
Johan: Hell yeah, that'd be totally awesome but, for sure, there will be a limited edition on vinyl, sooo... watch out!!
Luxi: Do you have plans to play any shows right after the album has hit the stores?
Johan: So far we've only played that fest in Gothenbürg at the end of last year, but we're looking for shows, small or big, long or short, all the time. We have no plans other than we have contacted dozens of festivals, but nothing's been decided. Let's wait and see what happens, we'll keep our eyes open and keep looking for some good shows out there.
Luxi: NonExist has always been, more or less, a project type of band. Any plans to make it a real band that operates full-time? Or do each of you have other bands that simply cannot be sacrificed or abandoned in the name of NonExist?
Johan: Well, it's a long "story" really. When we first started, back in 2001, we were truly going for it, to kick ass and tour and all that. But things happened (for example our record label shut down) and I got a job (to re-build my economy, etc.) plus Hearse kept me busy, so it all went down the drain. Now, however, the time was right to start NonExist again. We've got three members for live purposes and are ready to roll at almost any time. Still, music as a full-time job? Nah, not for me, anyway. It's too late for that.
Luxi: What about Hearse? The band's 6th album has been in the works for quite a long time. What's the latest update?
Johan: Most likely, there will be no further activities with Hearse. We made 5 great albums as I see it, but who knows, maybe we will do something again some day.
Luxi: Will there new life breathed into some of your previous bands like Devourment and Furbowl?
Johan: Devourment no, but we're actually considering recording and releasing a 7" with Furbowl. Keep your eyes and ears open for that one, most likely we will do this, it's just a question of when...
Luxi: Back to NonExist for one last question; what can we expect after From My Cold Dead Hands?
Johan: We're already writing new songs for the third album. Four songs are as good as complete and another two are half done. I am writing lyrics as often as possible with some writer's cramp in the works every now and then, but I'm hopeful. Let's do this soooon, hehe...!!
Luxi: Thank you for your time Johan and thanks for blessing us with another NonExist record after all these past years. If you have any last words to conclude this interview, then by all means...
Johan: Thanks for the support Luxi! It's always nice hearing from you! Hails and check out the new NonExist album out there peeps!! Ugghh!! \m/
|Other information about Nonexist on this site|
|Review: Deus Deceptor|
|Review: Throne of Scars|
|Review: The New Flesh|
|Interview with guitarist Johan Reinholdz on January 9, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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