Interview: Anders Jacobsson – Draconian
This weekend gothic doom metallers Draconian have released their new album Sovran. That meant it was time for a chat with lyricist and growler Anders Jacobsson. What followed was an inspiring talk about the album, the new singer Heike Langhans and basically, life.
Are you excited about the release?
Yes I am! I haven’t thought much about the release date though, because I got the album a few days ago myself. So for me it is released (laughs). We are also not doing a release party or anything. We might do something with the band but not much else.
What does the album title mean?
It’s a word that’s not used very much anymore. It’s an old word for king or kingship. If you look at the cover or some of the lyrics we are hinting at that the only thing that is sovran is the connected universe. We are connected as a species with everything else that is living and breathing, even the universe. On the cover the eye depicts the one big consciousness and the constellation is a hint to our name. The earth and the trees represent the connection. I think that the universe is conscious in some way. We can experience that through our own eyes and consciousness. Everything has a source and that is the only thing that can be sovran. That’s what I wanted to say from the beginning. ‘No lonlier star’ and ‘Stellar tombs’ on the album hint at this subject on a more personal level. You start to think about everything that is bigger than you and that’s actually quite comforting. If we realise that we are al connceted I think we will have a better world.
Do you also hope to reach people with your lyrics?
I have always done that I think. Maybe not so much on the previous album because we dealt more with social issues there. But it’s always been the thing of Draconian. On this album we qo back to personal things, love and anxiety so hopefully we will reach people again.
How different is this album compared to the previous ones?
Apart from the obvious, Heike, the rhythm guitar is a bit darker. The thing I would have liked more personally was if the keyboards were a bit more present. To have a more spacey atmosphere. Style wise it’s still us, but it goes back to the 90’s gothic style. That was sort of on purpose. Johan Ericsson had been talking about going back to the older sounds, the older way of gothic doom, we wanted to glorify that by polishing it up. I don’t want things to get too overproduced. So many bands change way too much from their original self. If you have a fanbase of 20 years you can’t just change. I think that’s unfair to the fans.
You mentioned Heike Langhans already. She has replaced Lisa Johansson as female vocalist. I think Heike brings more emotional depth to the music, do you agree?
Yes I do. Lisa has a more schooled, rehearsed voice. She has more experience and you can hear that. Heike brings more emotion and has a frail innocence in her voice that resonates well with the music. It’s nice that people acknowledge that. She is much younger and some people will use that against her, but they haven’t. They have all been nice with the change! Draconian fans are suprisingly humble and almost like family. They travel with us a lot. We were away for four years trying to get the band together, but now when we play we still see the same people! It’s like we picked up right where we left off.
How difficult was the search for a new singer?
It took a long time. First we asked some people we knew from Sweden and Norway before we sent a message out. There were a lot of talented singers who wanted to audition but nothing felt right. After 20 years you tend to know what you want. When Heike popped up with some of her stuff it was a given. Something felt very right about her voice. She was actually the only one who auditioned for us! And she came all the way form South Africa! It was also her personality that worked for us. She is more part of the band than Lisa was. That’s good for me as well! If we write things together it’s going to be stronger. With Lisa it was understood that I would do everything by myself. With Heike it’s more a cooperation, I truly enjoy it! It’s refreshing for the band as well! She wrote most of the vocals herself and helped out with the lyrics too, she wrote ‘Dishearten’ all by herself.
Speaking of lyrics, they are very poetic sometimes. Do you have a favorite poet?
When I read poetry I read from the romantic age. English and Swedish. My favorite is Shelley and also Keats, Wordsworth and Byron. I haven’t been reading much lately but I do enjoy it from that age. Then it was more about emotion than doing things for discipline or work. For a dreamer like me that’s kind of perfect. I connect to everything they deal with: love death, delight, depression and anxiety. To feel lost in the world and not know what you are doing here. A lot of people in this genre might feel that they are on the wrong planet. The great thing is you can take most poems and turn them into songs. We did that on ‘A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal’. We also did ‘I am’ by John Clare, but we never added that on an album, because we never finished it. But that would be great!
You are quite outspoken on facebook about a lot of issues. Do you get inspiration from that as well?
Yes I did, espcially on the previous album ‘A Rose for the Apocalypse’. It’s about the collapse of the socio-economic society. We live in very interesting times, the world is unsustainable and you can see that. People are protesting all over the place. Things are falling apart and it’s a beginning of a new transition. I feel that there are a lot of people who are starting to think about these things. So I try to post a lot about how we can change things and how we can look outside our own comfort zone. I think all change starts with yourself. That’s why I also think about that we are all connected and we need to wake up and start helping and loving each other. And all the systems that keep us separated are the problems. I try to use my facebook as a platform because I do reach a lot of people. However some of them do get provoked because sometimes you challenge them too much. But I try not to have too many opinions beause people can research things themselves. It’s important not to have an opinion just for the sake of having an opinion. What good would that do. ‘End of the Rope’ on te previous album deals with that a bit. There a glimpes on the new album about this too, but the main emphasis is about emotions that the Draconian fans will identify more with. That’s one of out main strengths I think. That fans have always been able to identify with the lyris and some of them are really grateful for that.
The music is very dark. Do you need to be in a certain mood to write?
I found it hard to write Sovran. Because it took a long time to be finished we worked on the songs for too long. I overthought some of the lyrics, so I really struggled to get it all together. These days it’s harder to write for me. Inspiration usually strikes at the worst possible moment, before falling asleep or something! But I do use that, I don’t sit down and write. I use a notebook and just write down what strikes me. I can reconnect with that later. If I don’t write it down I will regret it! For the next album I want to delve in deeper to the stuff we were talking about.
Let’s talk a bit about touring. You seem to have a bit of bad luck with that!
We are planning a tour right now!! We will confirm it in a few days hopefully. We haven’t had a real tour in 20 years!! We have had bad luck and didn’t have the right management, but now we have two managers! Things are happening really fast now! The record label has made a big effort for the release and our booking agency is working hard as well! So finally things are happening!
You went to Holland last week for the Femme festival. I heard it was quite a succesful show!
Yes I’d like to think so! I was really feeling it! Heike was a bit frustrated because she didn’t hear herself onstage. But we had a great time, it was a great festival! A lot of friends came from America came to see us! It’s a very big probability that we will be back in Holland next year!