There is little to compare the sound of Cult of Luna and hardcore band Riwen but they are both soaked in the craft and passion of vocalist/guitarist Johannes Persson. His new project prowls a whole new landscape of sound and invention, creating an intensive and brutally imposing provocation unique from but no less gripping and impressive than those cast by he and his Cult of Luna band mates. Having the chance to look into the heart of Riwen thanks to Johannes himself, we asked him about his new exploit’s seeds, approach to writing and recording compared to his ‘day job’, and much more…
Hello Johannes and thank you for sharing time to talk with us.
Can we start with the spark which brought Riwen into existence and what inspired the exploration of the hardcore bred sound of the band?
I love what we do with Cult of Luna and that we have spent a lot of effort to make our live show what it is but it can be frustrating with all the hours of preparations each day on tour. I felt like I needed something less complicated than the Cult of Luna Juggernaut. I just wanted a band where I could show up with a guitar, crank up the volume and just play. So last fall I wrote 14 songs in 14 days, inspired by bands that I listened to during my teenage years such as Judge, Integrity, Battery, Chain of Strength and so forth. When I had the music I started to call a bunch of friends. The end result is Riwen.
Hardcore is a style which has gripped personally over the years?
I wouldn’t say that. I listen to all kinds of music and I haven’t kept any track on what is going on in the hardcore scene after the 90’s. Everything I hear that I think is what hardcore is today sounds like over produced pro tools cut and paste start/stop metal and does not appeal to me. But the punk/hardcore bands that I got into when I was a teenager still sticks with me and I still love that kind of music.
What have been the inspirations which fired up your taste for hardcore and which maybe tipped some influence into Riwen and a sound which is more than simply hardcore in many ways we feel?
I have always had a leaning to band that took it seriously whether they were writing about political or personal stuff. So there are too many bands to mention (more than in my answer above) but the important thing is that I never got a vent for my love of fast and aggressive hardcore and that is why Riwen is what Riwen is. I know we are bringing something new, or at least, unconventional to the table and I am who I am and my personal writing has probably bleed over the classic hardcore that I wanted to write. For good or for Ill, that’s for the listener to decide.
You have just released your three-track self-titled EP; did you have any specific hopes for it?
No, we just wanted to get a few tracks out there so we could start playing shows.
You are joined in Riwen for the EP by Christian Augustin and Fredrik Lindkvist. How did you all originally meet and was there much persuasion getting them on board for the band?
I have known both of them for many years since they were playing in a band from my area called Totalt jävla mörker. Christian has been playing live as a stand in drums for Cult of Luna for the last couple of years so we know each other very well. I actually didn’t plan to ask Fredrik since I knew he quit Totalt Jävla Mörker and I thought he didn’t wanted to do any more screaming vocals but Christian convinced me to ask and I am so glad I did.
I am right in thinking that the line-up is different now?
Since we recorded the EP we have been joined by Christoffer Röstlund on bass and Marita Jonsson Mätlik on guitar.
Your sound and release is obviously something very different to Cult of Luna, did this make or dictate a different approach to songwriting and the recording of the EP to that general with the ‘day job’?
It is totally different but it is hard to explain. This might sound strange but with Riwen I have much lower standard of what I let slip through the riff writing conveyer belt I have in my head. With Cult of Luna I keep 1 out of 100 riffs but with Riwen I just write and whatever comes out I keep. The music is no less important to me but it is a very different outlook on the writing and a very cleansing experience.
The EP is raw and aggressive, brutal at times with an energy and primal intensity which suggests it was recorded live in the studio. How were the songs recorded?
We recorded the songs in a small mouldy DIY studio in Umeå. We recorded it during 6 hours in a cold and dark winter night. I told Fredrik (that recorded the whole thing) that I was going to give him two takes on each instruments. If I screw up then that is what is going to end up on the record. A few of my favorite albums of all time are a few of the worst recorded and played records of all time. If you play with sincerity it will come out on the recording even if you do some mistakes. I also love the idea of catching a moment. If you do something wrong and keep it you have caught the moment in where you recorded the song. If you spend days on a song and make sure everything is perfect you have killed the emotional life of it. If everything is fixed so it sounds spotless there is no way you can tell if the recording is 10-20 years old but if you keep the mistakes you have recorded a ”now” moment.
Did you go into that process with specific goals or rather it was letting something new for you evolve organically?
My only goal was to write music that interests me. Whatever happens here on is totally unknown for us as for anyone else.
The caustic sound which ignites the release has an honesty and personality which for all its raging also seems to fuel songs with an intimacy or personal connection to the band. What inspired the songs and their lyrical premises?
It’s a hard question to answer since I have only written the songs for myself and no one else. So of course they are very personal but that is the nature of song writing. When it comes to the lyrics it is Fredrik’s contribution so I don’t have much to say about that.
How has the EP’s release been received and looked at by especially Cult of Luna fans?
I honestly don’t know. It hasn’t been reviewed in any major magazine as I know but that is nothing strange since EP’s doesn’t usually get that much attention. Haven’t heard anything from any Cult of Luna fans yet…but this is very different music than CoL and I don’t expect that people will like Riwen just because they like another band I’m in.
Do you think it took them and the music world’s expectations by surprise, their assumptions coloured again by your Cult of Luna successes?
I don’t think it is a secret that we came from the Umeå hardcore scene but I have no idea of what people expect from us as musicians. I am a very diverse person and I want and need to do a whole lot of different things to satisfy my creative lust and this is one of them. Next time I might turn 180 degrees and do something completely different.
Being just a trio initially, is there a form of freedom and maybe even excitement live and creating music which is especially for the former of the two things more restrained by the bigger size of your other band?
We are not a trio anymore even though we were at the time when the EP was recorded and I must say that it was very tempting to keep it that way. Creatively it is much easier but in the long run I think that it is good for a band to have many members. Tension is always going to be created and I think it is better to have many people to be able turn to when you feel aggravated. If you only are three and somebody is getting on your nerves it might create an infected situation for the group. The more people the more diluted the conflicts are.
Tell us about the live side of the band, again it is a different beast being just the three/five making a vat full of compelling and furious noise?
Again, we are five now and we have only done one show so far and to be honest I didn’t feel it any different from Cult of Luna. Even though a live situation is a collective effort en responsibility I always play for myself and hardly know that the other members are there, except for the drummer.
Can we expect Riwen to be an on-going presence when other commitments allow?
I don’t know. Cult of Luna is always going to be my first priority musically and I have many more things that I want to do. Apart from that I am a parent and my family comes first. But it feels great to have this vent and even though we will not keep this pace of writing 20 songs in a year we will be able to tour and do shows every now and then.
What is next for the band and yourself?
We are just about to go into the studio to record our album. Hopefully we’ll be able to record about 15 songs but we need to have some bar of quality so I don’t know how many that will end up on the album. We have a few shows coming up but nothing booked outside of Scandinavia yet but I hope that we can get out in Europe next summer for a couple of shows.
Thanks again Johannes for taking time out to chat with us.
Thank you for the interview.
Read the review of Riven’s debut EP @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/riwen-self-titled/
The RingMaster Review 03/12 /2014
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