Originally posted in Valkyrian Music.
Formed in December 2012 between Stockholm and Gothenburg, THE END OF GRACE have been under my radar practically ever since. I made sure to be present on their live debut, at Rockbitch Boat 2013, and took the chance to interview them at the time (read it here). Now, exactly one year later, the boys played the same event… and there I went again, and had a chat with them, again. I sat down with Johan (clean vocals/bass), Jimmy (guitar) and Thomas (drums), and eventually Kriss (growls) joined us. And what was supposed to be just a quick catching-u, ended up being quite a long conversation, both riveting and amusing.
Renata: It’s been exactly one year since your first show, but you’ve played quite a few meanwhile. What was the best and worst experience you’ve had so far?
Jimmy Bergman: The best experience was when we were on tour with OUTTRIGER. It was so much fun!
Thomas Manell: Actually… no! ‘Cause Johan wasn’t there!
Jimmy: Yeah, I know, but it was really amazing for us!
Thomas: What do you have to say about that, Johan?
Johan Hagman: Well, I had the best time of my life when you were out there touring, so… (laughs)
Renata: So for you, Johan, what was your best show?
Johan: It was NOT the OUTTRIGER tour… (laughs). I don’t know. It was really fun last night, actually. It really felt like people stepped out to the plate. After one year we’ve hopefully grown together that much, so it felt good, it felt cool. I think that was one of the best shows. But soundwise it must have been Sticky Fingers because they have the best sound. Now the worst show…
Jimmy: That was also the OUTTRIGER tour (laughs). There were like… four people!
Johan: Ha, now I get it. But we had so many shows with crappy sound…
Jimmy: Definitely Kryptan!
Johan: Oooooh! Sure, sure! Kryptan!
Thomas: It was very well set, we got hotel rooms, food, beer…
Johan: Too much beer…
Thomas: True, we had too much beer. Anyway, they took care of us but the show itself was just… terrible!
Johan: The sound was terrible and we got drunk. After that we decided not to drink again before shows.
Thomas: Robert (Åkerlund, guitar) was sooooo pissed, yelling at the sound guy. We had programmed all the sound before, the soundcheck took like one hour and a half, two hours – which is extremely long for a soundcheck – and then when we’re supposed to start playing, everything that they had memorized is gone! As for the funniest experience, I think it was with SEVENTRIBE. That tour we played in Linköping, Gothenburg and Stockholm? That was really much fun. And the Rockbitch Boat this year and last year. It’s a good event, there are lots of people… and we get to hang out.
Renata: I remember that last year, your first show was also the first time the five of you were playing together. That’s still your MO, rehearsing separately?
Johan: Didn’t you hear our soundcheck last night?
Thomas: That was rehearsal! (laughs)
Johan: That was the first time we’ve all played the new song (“Final Burden”) together, so that was rehearsal. We can’t rehearse but people can tell that we focus on the positive sides. We do what we do and it works.
Renata: Speaking about “Final Burden”, the reception by the crowd was so great! Were you expecting that?
Johan: I think people are embracing the new sound. That new song is harder and I think people like that. I saw what bands the kids out there had on their t-shirts and it’s right down our alley. And we’ve been talking about sounds for soooo long… So if one song, that no one ever heard, gets that reaction…
Thomas: It’s such a good thing!
Renata: Which reminds me that you, Johan, were afraid of ruining the TEoG sound given your hardcore preference/influence, but after listening both “Beneath The Waves” and now “Final Burden”, I don’t think anything’s ruined at all – just as I expected!
Johan: Ah, but “Beneath The Waves” was written long before!
Jimmy: It was maybe the first song we did with THE END OF GRACE.
Johan: Anyway, it was never a problem. We’re so open now, we have the sound that we’re aiming for. I was unsure at the time but it’s really never been a problem.
Renata: So in comparison to “Lost In Transition”, what can the fans expect from this upcoming new album?
Jimmy: Faster riffs. And more riffs in the songs.
Johan: Yes, much more riffs! More breakdowns too.
Jimmy: Really fast drums…
Thomas: Yeah, we’ll see about that… (laughs).
Johan: Cleaner. Better.
Johan: More… us, in my opinion. More Kriss, more me, more Jimmy, more Robert, more Thomas… You know, we can send a metalcore song to Thomas and then he grooves it up. That’s the funny thing – we want the drums in a certain way but then he… I can’t explain it! It gets groovy! All of a sudden it’s groovy. What the fuck, this works! It’s not supposed to, it was supposed to be a drum machine! (laughs) But yeah, faster, heavier, and even more focused on the choruses.
Renata: On that first gig, Robert was still a stand-in guitarist, replacing Sulan Von Zoomlander. What did he bring to the band when he became a permanent member of TEoG?
Thomas: Yesterday me and Johan were talking about how Jimmy and Robert work together as guitarists. Not just how they play but what they do on stage – taking each side, jumping on the speakers and just giving it all to the audience. That’s one of the things that tells you how well they work together.
Johan: They have a healthy rivalry. If Jimmy does something, Robert has to do it too but he has to do it a bit better. And then Jimmy has to best him… you know?
Thomas: And you said that it makes YOU want to do better!
Johan: Exactly! Hopefully I can make them do what they do and feel comfortable around me, ‘cause I can’t play bass that well, I just focus on banging my head and then they can focus on doing their shit. And then all of a sudden they’re standing on speakers! (laughs) It feels like they get fired up from each other and it’s “fuck it, I have to do better than him”.
Renata: So you’re more consistent, more whole as a band?
Johan: I hope so! But it comes with baggage. We’ve been playing together for so long (Jimmy, Johan and Robert played in ROAD TO REPENT before THE END OF GRACE) and we all know each other so well that it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing it as we used to. The same problems, the same issues, same discussions… That hasn’t been a problem yet but I believe it won’t be as we’re more open now.
Renata: And you’ve been through that before, so now you know how to find a way.
Thomas: You’ve learnt from it.
Johan: And especially with this band, where we never see each other. With the other band it was three times a week, but this time we never see each other.
Renata: You don’t have time to get tired of each other.
Johan: Exactly! It’s a blessing and a curse (laughs).
Renata: Last time we also talked about making a video (which you ended up doing for “Beneath The Waves”) and how the budget was the biggest obstacle. What we didn’t talk about was – if you had an unlimited budget, how would you like to make a video?
Thomas: Personally, I’m not a big fans of videos where you just see the band standing and playing in a certain scenario. I’d like to try animations and stuff like that. Try to build a story – fiction or whatever. That would be cool.
Renata: Any special storyline in your head already?
Thomas: No, that would depend on the song.
Renata: Something according to the lyrics then. And you guys?
Jimmy: I’m with Thomas. I don’t like to see just the band, I want a story behind it. It’s more fun to see.
Renata: Animation too or… ?
Jimmy: I hope for a big production actually. Girls… cars… you name it.
Johan (while Thomas laughs): What the fuck?! Have you even heard what you’ve said? “We want girls, we want cars”… whaaat??? (laughs).
Thomas: One of my favorite bands nowadays, I think I actually like their videos more than their music… (pauses) well, they’re both good.
Johan: They are called THE END OF GRACE… (laughs).
Thomas: They’re called OK GO – definitely no metalcore but I love their music videos. They’re in them themselves where they do all these fucked up things. In one (“This Too Shall Pass”) they have these Rube Goldberg machines and they jump from one to another, just like a domino. They drop one domino and it goes all the way around through the whole music video. That kind of things! So it’s interesting to see the video.
Renata: It catches your attention.
Jimmy: Girls… cars… (laughs).
Johan: BRUDAR (girls in Swedish)! Well I don’t have a problem with a performance video. I think it’s cool, more old-school-ish, but it depends on how you do it. it’s not good to see a performance video shot from one angle, you have to do something else, something special. Like in BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE’s video “Tears Don’t Fall” where they introduce the water, and then you have their song “Hand Of Blood” where they go SLAYER and it’s raining blood and shit like that. That’s cool. Of course I could see something with a storyline and I think lyrical meaning works really well.
Renata: You’ve told me last year how the expression “deathcore popcorn” came about. Tell me now about the “angry pop” hashtag that I’ve been seeing in all your Instragram photos!
Jimmy: Yeaaaaah… that was me. Again (grins). There’s this band that I won’t say the name where the guy hates metalcore. He called it “angry pop”. But I actually think it’s perfect for us! We ARE an angry pop band! So I took it!
Thomas: And Kriss is here! We can do all the questions again… (laughs).
Renata: Is there anything about this past year that you want to share? Something that’s happened or that you’ve planned for the near future?
Jimmy: World domination! (laughs).
Thomas: Jimmy is moving to Gothenburg, close to Kriss, and I only have two hours of driving to Gothenburg from where I live…
Renata: So it’s not world domination, it’s world chaos…
Thomas: Ha ha, yeah, it’s world chaos! But I think that’s going to change a bit how we’ll work from now on. We will be able to rehearse and Johan and Robert can come down once in a while.
Kriss Panic: I happen to know a flashy new studio.
Johan: Progress! We’ve got a practice room! And we’ve got an album…
Renata: Any idea of when it’s going to be released?
Johan: Let’s say… we don’t. It’s better that way. We’ve got the songs. That’s it for now.
Renata: What about “Final Burden”? Will it be released as a single?
Johan: It’s just a new song. I don’t know about the other guys, we haven’t talked face-to-face about it yet, but in my opinion it’s just a new song.
Thomas: You’re so mysterious! (laughs)
Renata: I think it’s good to keep some things to yourselves. Nowadays things are posted on the internet so on-the-spot, every idea that later it doesn’t sound so good anymore or just can’t be fulfilled. I remember, for instance, someone posting “TEoG is so unstable!”, when Sulan left, because you’ve had all those line-up changes before. But that’s common in the beginning. So many major bands went through it but at the time there was no Facebook to post about it and so you’d only come to know the line-up that would be playing a show or recording an album.
Johan: It’s so easy to post stuff on Facebook. It’s better to be a bit more careful. But when it comes to stability, this band is not unstable AT ALL. There will be no more line-up changes. I don’t think any of us would want to keep on playing if someone would quit right now. It’s a special feeling. If Kriss would leave, how would we ever find someone who could… what did Robert say? It was in Swedish and I can’t find the right words in English.
Thomas: Oh yeah, last night! It was so beautiful!
Renata: Call him!
Johan: He’s asleep, he’s hung-over (laughs). It was something like Kriss being able to suck the audience in and make them feel like they’re right there in your face.
Thomas: Exactly! That Kriss can make that person in the back of the room feel like he’s in front of the stage. His way of entertaining. He really REALLY entertains the audience. That is something that’s unique and it has become a sort of a trademark for us. We’re a live band after all.
Kriss: This is maybe weird for a singer to say, but my inspiration on stage isn’t any singer. It’s actually Jimi Hendrix. I see myself inside Jimi. I don’t always sing the same way ‘cause I think that makes a better show. If you’ve seen us a bunch of times, and you see the same thing over and over again, I think it gets boring. So I change it. Not all of the time, I’d say 90% of it it’s the same, but I switch things around a little bit. I think music is organic and you can change things, especially on a live show. When you write music, in your head it’s dead on. but once you’ve sung it or played a bunch of times, you think “oh, I wish I’ve done this way, I wish I’ve done it that way” and it’s always a kind of progression. Maybe not so much with the guitars, but with vocals it’s fun to do.
Johan: And there’s room for it.
Kriss: That’s why I love you guys because none of you goes “uh, what the fuck?”. It’s fun, you know? Have fun on the fucking stage! Enjoy what you do! That’s the more important thing. And the crowd sees you having fun and that you’re digging it… We’re on a journey for every show, so follow us!
Thomas: Like yesterday. I think we had a great crowd, considering the fact that we were the first band out and people were still drinking in their cabins or whatever. But we had a great crowd who built a fucking mosh pit! That gives you a special feeling.
Renata: That thing you’ve said of “enjoying what you do” being the most important thing. I totally agree. I think you have to please yourselves first. It pisses me off when some people accuse a band of disregarding their fans just because they wanted to try something new.
Kriss: I think it’s a fine line. As a band, from a business side – which I deal with (Kriss is a promoter and band booker for Klubb Defused at Sticky Fingers) – sometimes you have to put yourself out for others. We are a metalcore band, by definition, and within those boundaries you can mess around but… SLIPKNOT have made pretty much the same album for four albums but they love it. They’ve now changed their sound and developed it. I think that’s the way forward. I don’t think we’ll be needing to make a radical departure from our sound, we’re not going to turn into SABATON anytime soon, but you can evolve, you can grow the music. And for us, the way we’re set up – living in different parts of the country – we do our best to put up the best possible show that we can. But I think that from day one it’s just been about the energy. Pure pure energy. I believe that if you’re going to do a show and people come and pay money to see that shit, you’re not going to just stand there. We’re not a dance band, we’re not going to be still… we get into it, it’s fuckin metal! You shake your head and jump around the stage. That makes for a great show, it’s what people want to see. If you’re on a boat like this, with 30 bands, how do you separate yourself from the others? I figure you just go in the attitude “I’m going to blow everyone away in this fucking killer live show”. And I also think heavy metal fans are very forgiving about certain things. To me the most important thing is to see a killer live show, people giving it all. I think the crowd respects that more. I know a lot of bands who can stand there and be super tight but that’s not a live show to me, that’s listening to a cd. And if I want to listen to a cd, I can do that back home. I want to see some guys shake their heads up and down. I had my club night and I saw I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN. They played at Sticky Fingers at the small stage and I’ve never seen a band make that stage look so big. It’s the tiniest stage, you’ve seen us on there, and they just made it seem huge. And I think that’s the key, if you can nail that. Last night the stage was really small but we made it look fucking huge. We opened up. We’ve played with some bands and they’ve not learned how to use the stage yet, while we just kind of go in and… If there’s something to jump on, we’re on it! If something provides me a fucking hangoff, I’m doing it! I’m going to bring this fucking whole show into your face. Jump into the audience… I’ll join your moshing! You know, let’s do this!
Thomas: It gets more natural to do that because we’re not getting together that often. So every time we meet for a gig it’s like… I’m going to be super Swedish now, but it’s like when you let the cows out in the spring, they go super happy.
Johan: We’re like cattle, that’s what you’re saying…
Thomas: Yeah, we’re like cattle, man (laughs). I love these guys, both as persons and as my fellow musicians. Being up on stage and playing with them it’s the best thing I know. And that reflects itself, people can tell. You can go up and do a great show as a band but it can be fake, like a built-up show. But it comes natural for us. Being us is enough. (Addressing Kriss) what was it that you said about a year ago, in Stockholm, at Pub Anchor? “I’m just being me” or something.
Kriss: Oh, right! “I don’t do pressure, I just do me”. In the beginning I had nerves doing shows with the boys, but now it’s just a relaxed and calm feeling. It’s like a relationship you have with someone, in a sense that when you first start you’re always a bit tentative but then, after a certain amount of time… It’s like my relationship with my girlfriend, I wake up in the morning and it’s just natural. And that’s what it’s like being on stage. Right now it’s just natural, everyone’s very comfortable with what’s going on. I have to say I’m super stoked that Johan’s back ‘cause he’s poured the energy back into the band, especially on this boat. We just missed that, it’s just not the same. Niklas (Aggemyr, THROUGH THE CRACKS) did a great job but we can’t replicate Johan. He’s that little bit of glue that binds us together.
Thomas: And for those of you who can’t see it, Johan has a tear in his eye. (laughs)
Kriss: One thing I love is watching all of us develop as human beings, not just as musicians. Like Johan getting married, I’m getting married next year… we are all in a different place, we’re not that band just going out trying to score chicks. We’re just about playing music, literally. And I think that’s more positive. We’ll have a drink, as we did last night, have some fun, but it’s more focused on the music. And I think that’s a more positive thing for us because that really comes out. We’re not worrying about other shit and we’re more together as a band because of that.
Johan: We want to be positive. We are all positive beings.
Kriss: We were talking about lyrics… how do you write metal that’s positive? It’s quite a difficult thing! ‘Cause the way I sing it’s pretty brutal at times, so how do you turn that into positivity? Me and Johan had talked about it and I think you can still be angry but positive at the same time. Obviously it’s metal, we’re not going to sit and write love songs in that way. We ain’t gonna be Barry White… (laughs)
Johan: As Kriss said, metal, traditionally, is angry and it’s a great way to get all your frustrations out. And most lyrics are kind of negative. And I think the future is being able to write songs about positive things because, like I said, no one in this band is a bad dude.
Kriss: I’m a badass dude, what are you talking about? (laughs)
Thomas: But he has a big heart.
Johan: That’s the thing! Everyone has a big heart! Why should we not show that in our lyrics? There’s not a song in the new album that involves anything negative.
Kriss: I think we’ve developed. It’s still angry but we’re just taking a different perspective on things. We’ve changed as human beings since the first stuff came out. I think we’re just trying to connect with people from a different angle, it’s more about personal experiences than anything else.
Johan: Just take “Final Burden”. It’s an angry song but it’s anger towards yourself, to what you’ve done, what you have to become to be a better person. We all want to be better persons, we all NEED to be better persons. Why not write music about that instead of “I wanna fucking kill you”? (starts singing SLIPKNOT’s “Disasterpiece”). Nothing wrong with that, but… I’m really really proud of the lyrical meaning for all of the songs now because we’re all positive dudes, we should make music about positive messages.