Therion (Thomas Vikstrom)
On the occasion of the release of "Sitra Ahra" we had a nice talk with the kind singer of the band, Thomas Vikström.
Article by Federico Botti - Publish on: 17/09/10

Is this Federico?

Yeah it’s me!

Hi, this is Thomas! I am sorry I am calling you a little bit earlier, is that ok for you?

Yeah, don’t worry. It's ok, that’s fine! So, what’s up Thomas? Where are you now? Are Therion touring somewhere?

Yeah, I’m out on town with my daughter, we’re just walking around, it’s been warm in Sweden, and it’s the last chance to see her before the tour kick-off! We’re having a little bit time off right now and in the middle of this month we’ll start to rehearsal for this tour, we’re going out to Christopher’s (Johnson, n.b.A.) place in the middle of the woods and start out a camp there.


Your World Tour will come to Italy too, on November 9th: what do you think about the Italian audience? Does Therion have many fans here?

I hope so! I’ve never been to Italy, this time will be my first time! I’ve only been in Rome, touristy, and it was fantastic, absolutly astonishing, and I’ve also been to Turin.. Turino… You say Turin?

Torino!

Yeah that one, the capital of Fiat! And the food… Wow! I’ve never done before, this will be my first time in Italy (laughing) I think it’s gonna be great, I’m really looking forward to it!


Now let’s talk about the band: I think you can imagine what my question will be. The hottest news regard, of course, Snowy Shaw: can you tell us what happened?

Yes, I can tell you what happened. We did the three gigs in Mexico in June: on the plane, he took us aside and told us “I have recorded the new Dimmu Borgir album and I will go with them”. We were very shocked but we were taking it because we had the new album coming out and we had the tour line up already done… So we had to sit down after Mexico and ask ourselves what to do: “Should  we take another one instead of Snowy, or should we do it with only three singers?” I mean it’s easy to find someone to tour but he has to be the right guy, and like Snowy it’s very hard because he has a special. So after a while we decided: “Ok I’ll do it myself I’ll be the only male singer, we have to cut out the growl parts, the growl songs”… But then after, it was a lightning from heaven or from hell maybe, I got an email from Snowy saying that “Hi Thomas. How are you?" then he told me that he so regretted for his mistake, and he said “That’s life!” And I sent him back an email saying “Hey come back, the door is open, we have still the tickets for you!


therion_intervista_2010_03_01Yeah, I read that you were more than happy to have him back with you.

Oh yeah, we’re too old to be angry for things like that, this doesn’t help, so we are happy that he took that decision! (laughing) Now we’re back as it should be, the magic is back.


So what is Therion’s current line-up?

On guitar of course Christopher Johnson; we have a drummer called Johan Koleberg that before played in a band called Lion’s Share; Leven (Mats, the other guitar player, n.b.A.) is still in the band but not touring, he left for personal problems that he had to sort out, it’s not a secret that he had a big drinking problems he’s trying to recover from. We are very sad but when you come closer you see that it is a horrible disease actually and you cannot really help it… Then we have me and Snowy, Lori, (Lewis, n.b.A.) Katarina (Lilja, all singers, n.b.A.); we have a new guitar player, his name is Christian Vidal, he’s from Argentina, he’s something really special: both me and Christopher when he started to play on the record we just dropped our jaws! And he’s also able to copy what Kristian Niemann did, which is very respectful, I think! And on bass guitar in this tour we have Waldemar Sorychta who cooperated a lot with Therion before I was in the band.


Let’s have a closer look at your new release, “Sitra Ahra”: first, what does the title mean?

The title is Hebrew and means sort of like “the passage to the unknown”, “the passage to the other side, which we don’t know so much about yet”. But the lyrics are very complex, I didn’t write them myself, Thomas Karlsson did, he wrote all the previous Therion albums lyrics. He’s really a poet, he writes the lyrics not from the musician point of view but from the poet point of view. It’s a  nightmare the question on what the songs are about because I really don’t get it!

Don’t worry, I won’t get into this topic!

(laughs)


On the band’s MySpace page, Christopher introduces “Sitra Ahra” as the fourth album of a quadralogy: can you explain us the process behind its creation? Is it linked to your previous albums someway?

I don’t really know what he means! Christopher is also a really complex guy, sometimes none of us
in the band knows what he’s talking about! I think this is the last part of a quadrology, and I think “Sirius B” and “Lemuria” are part of it too… Lots of stuff in “Sitra Ahra” is written around that time, when they recorded “Lemuria” and “Sirius B”, they are leftovers; it sounds so bad but it just means that they didn’t have enough space in the album.


Yeah the songs sound so fresh and brand new!

Yeah, the song "Sitra Ahra" is brand new for example, we have other new songs on the album of course, but some of them are from the old era.


That song is really astonishing!

Great, I am happy because that’s my song, I wrote that! I was asking Christofer “how about making a new CD, is it time now? Do you have any title?” “Yes it’s gonna be called “Sitra Ahra”!” “Ok!” So I went home and wrote the song.: I wrote just the 95% of it, just random words, and I sent them to Thomas Karlsson who made those astonishing lyrics.


What about the artwork you chose for the album: what does it represent?

What you see in the artwork, behind the flying meteor or what it might me, you can see the circles and the lines symbolizing the tree of life… And also if you google “Sitra Ahra” you can find that symbol.


Let’s talk a little bit about you: your career is very long, you’ve been the lead singer for a lot of bands (some of them were really important in their genre, like Candlemass and Stormwind)…

Yeah, it took me thirty years to find a home in a band! Those bands were great for me but it was never really “home” for me, it was like session work, even though if I really liked and enjoyed it…
But Therion for example, it is like my band, feels like I have a place in a band that I care about,
like a little baby, and their music fits me perfectly.


Did all of the past experiences change your way of singing or have you always tried to remain the
same through the years?


Well I’ve done so many styles, I’ve also being singer in opera and musical thetre, my trademark has been that I can change my voice into many different styles. The only thing I’ve never tried is growl because I can’t, and I didn’t make hip hop or anything like that, but I am of the philosophy that you should try as much thing as you can before you die.


Looking at your biography on Wikipedia, it seems that your father has always been an important source of inspiration for you: is this true?

Yeah true, it’s the true inspiration. When I was young  he was a big opera singer: for me it was a little bit… you know… teenagers want to be independent, and so I started to listen to heavy metal instead, but it was not fun because I liked it and he accepted that! He was pretty close to opera indeed, but he was actually a Freddie Mercury fan. So I tried some classical stuff and I actually took part in some musicals which I really like. Therion is the closest to musical theatre you can found in rock I think, it’s fun, it’s great! It’s not the story you tell but it’s like something new happens all the time!


therion_intervista_2010_02



Therion always fascinated me for their lyrics and, in general, for the peculiar atmosphere of each record. “Sitra Ahra” is surprisingly powerful, it brings your mind to far, exotic and mystic places. In your opinion, where does the band take its inspiration from?

Christofer and Thomas are members of an association called “Dragon Rouge”: I don’t really know what they are doing behind that closed doors; Thomas is kind of a professor in cabalism and mysticism, I’m not, I’m an ordinary guy, but I still like it, I am still a fan of their fantasy. How should I put it to sound not wrong… They put yourself as a very important person, like “I believe in me and you should believe in yourself”… You don’t have to be an asshole to do that, you can still care to other people, but it’s you first… That’s what they say when you are on a plane, “before you put a mask on your kid put it on yourself”.


This is the band's 14th album: how can Therion be so prolific and sound so modern in each album they release?

Because they have a new singer! (laughs) No, I’m kidding! When you like what you do it still feels fresh. Every album I make with Therion is a commercial suicide: I cannot write out of what other people want me to write, I can only write what comes, that’s the cool thing in Therion, there is no rules.


Well Thomas, the interview is almost over: would you like to say something to your Italian fans and to our readers?

Ok, buongiorno SpazioRock this is Thomas Vikström from Therion: I look very forward to come and make my first gig in Milano, Italy, I heard a lot about you and I now it will be fantastic, and I am looking forward to it… And plus, the food!


Good luck for your tour and for the upcoming album, take care!

Thanks to you for your nice interview, keep in touch, bye!




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