Interview with: Draconian vocalist Anders Jacobsson

Draconian - band logo

Anders Jacobsson of Draconian No, this is not a power metal band even tough the root d.r.a.g.o.n comes to mind. Draconian are rather a gothic doom metal band who's managed to create a worldwide fan base, growing as slowly as their music goes, but also as persistently and at the same high standard. Since their formation in 1994, the band has went through more than a fair share of hardship, yet has managed to release several well-accepted releases, with the most recent one being "The burning Halo" - a compilation album of covers and re-makes. Vocalist and longtime band member Anders Jacobsson was kind enough to answer some of my questions and shed some light on Draconian's dark music.

First of all, how are you doing Andres? What have you been up to lately?
I could be doing better at the moment. Too many loose threads in my life at the moment and this is not very good in my world. But I’ll come around.
I haven’t been up to much. Been working a little and also doing some pre-productions of songs from the coming album. We are entering the studio in September. I have some writing left to do and some arrangements to follow through.

Let's jump right in and go down memory lane… how did Draconian start?
We started out in 1994 just as a few friends listening to darker metal and playing together. When I joined the band got more serious and the sound got more atmospheric since at the same time we added keyboards to the sound. Back in those days all we had fresh ideas and we were quite forth going.
The first demo was recorded in October 1995 and it got great reviews all over. We actually though that demo would take us somewhere, but it never really did. We’ve gone though a lot of difficulties during the years and we’ve also been slow and less productive in longer periods during the nineties. It wasn’t until 2002 when we added Lisa and recoded the demo "Dark Oceans We Cry" when things started to happen for us.
We’ve done a lot of good songs before we got signed, and it’s kind of sad that we never recorded them. Back then we had a sound which personally was very dear to me.

Draconian - promo photo by Fredrik Karlsson

You started out as more melodic death metal oriented and now do doom/death with some gothic elements – how would you explain the changes in your music over the years?
Ever since the first demo there has been a romantic aspect of our sound, and to me I think that is the best part of our sound. The second recording we did was something that I call a crazy experiment, but the production was terrible and we never released it. Apart from that, we’ve evolved this distinctive and dark romantic sound… and all the songs we made between 1997 and 2000 were romantic goth-metal songs, and to me this was the period I think Draconian really had something unique. I’ve mentioned it earlier but I think it’s very pitiful we never recorded much of it. We had some really great songs that I would like to revive some day.
In 2000, we decided to go into a darker and doomier approach with the "Frozen Feature" promo which was very successful… and I guess we had our new start from that point.

Some categorize your music as doom metal, some as Gothic Doom, some as melodic Doom metal and some just Gothic metal – how would you describe your music?
We started out as a kinda gothic/heavy death metal project with some black metal vibes, but then we got more gothic, and I think we’ve always been a kind of gothic metal band. To me Doom Metal is something else than Draconian. We might have done some doom songs, but I don’t consider us a doomband, no.
I think we are dark Gothic Metal with influences from doom and death metal.

Draconian: The burning halo (album cover)What can you tell us about your latest release – "The burning Halo"?
It started out that we got a lot of mails from fans who wanted us to re-release "The Closed Eyes of Paradise", but we wouldn’t since the production is terrible. So we got the idea that we will re-record some songs and release it as a mini-cd, but for some reason it ended up with a whole album with 3 parts; first 3 new songs, then 3 re-recorded songs from “The closed Eyes..:” and 2 covers. It was planned to record 3 covers, but there were some problems, and I can’t remember what it was exactly.
The album got really delayed and there were a lot of problems during the recording and the technicalities and stuff. You see, we recorded it ourselves in our own studio, but that wasn’t the real problem… the real problem was bad luck.

What about the two covers in it, why did you choose those two and what responses did you get on them?
Well, we thought it might be cool to cover something different, and most members in the band are really into old progressive rock from the 60’s and 70’s. The Ekseption cover, "On Sunday They Will Kill The World", was a quite dark song to begin with, so we thought it would be cool to make into a doom song. I think that cover got quite good! The Pentagram cover, “Forever My Queen”, got mostly bad response, and I can understand that because it differs a lot from the rest. Now afterwards, I think we put that cover on the album for the wrong reason. It stands out too much and the mix of it is too messy.

Other than the covers you did on "The burning Halo" are there any cover's you'd like to do?
There’s a lot of covers I would like to do. But well, I would like to cover “The Park” by Uriah Heep with Lisa on vocals. I think that could be really cool if we also added some darkness to it. I’ve been thinking about that for years.
I would reeeaally like a cover of Marillion's “Out of this world” as well. That would be sooo beautiful with Lisa on vocals. I would also like to cover that song which was meant to be on the album; "Gothic" by Paradise Lost. We used to play it live.

Are you currently working on any new material? When can we expect to hear some of it?
We are currently working on the pre-production for the new album, which we are going to record in September in Fascination Street studio. I have no idea when Napalm records intend to release the album, with a little luck, perhaps in December or January.

What is your favorite activity as a band?
I think the live-part is one of the most exciting things. Too bad we are jinxed and never get to play live, but to be on stage in front of a grateful audience is a great experience.
Another is the feeling you get when you have recorded a great song you are happy with… like you have accomplished something. These feelings remind me of why I am in a band to begin with.

What is the most non-metal related thing you do?
I am not sure I understand the question… If you mean side-project and stuff, I think its Johan and Bergis’ (our former guitarist) industrial/electronically project; Das Arbeit. They can be found on MySpace. Check them out here.

Which current bands/releases do you listen to?
A lot of Marillion and also lots of Porcupine Tree. I’ve recently discovered Red Sparowes as well - Really cool band! I’ve been listening to the new Rush album a lot as well.
I am going through a VNV Nation period… like their older stuff like the “Empires” album. The new Officium Triste album, the new Trail Of Tears and of course the new Elend rocks my world right now. Warrior Soul is/was a great band and lately I’ve listened a lot to them. Really cool party music.

Draconian's music can be described as bleak, depressive, dramatic, epic and dark- where do you get all the darkness from? What inspires you to write the music, is it the lyrics or the other way around?
I guess I get it from life and the world I live in… or both worlds; the one I live in and the one inside; how they combine and how it makes me respond. But yeah… the lyrics are heavy, but it’s this kinda music you know. They are combined and certain things should just be as they are.
I am quite sure Johan gets inspired to write music when he reads lyrics I’ve written that he likes, and when I hear stuff he’s made I get inspired in return as well.

Would you describe yourselves as generally blissful or gloomy?
I think the aura of the band is gloomy. That is important for the sound in general. There can be no good gothic/doom music without gloom. Blissful and “happy” music is generally pathetic because it feels corny and shallow.
But as persons… well, I don’t know, some of us perhaps. I can only answer for myself. I think most members are acting out and are dealing with their demons when they play. This kind of music is great when it comes to that. It’s like therapy.

It's a common belief that doom metal increases depression and other negative psychological conditions, do you think doom bands are somehow responsible to the increase in the percent of the public in need of therapy and anti-depressant medication?
It’s also common that people are idiots! So yeah, some do believe this but they are nothing but small-minded fools, just wanting to blame something; find a scapegoat. That’s always easier, you know.
People who are suicidal or depressed don’t get that way because of certain kinds of music. The only thing the music can do is to remind them of what they already feel or know. It’s something in their heads… in their minds.
I got an e-mail from an upset mother last year. Her son had killed himself and "Arcane Rain Fell" was probably the last music he heard before he died. We used to get a lot of mails about the song “Death, come near me” ever since we first released it on demo in 2002. I can understand why this song has got such attention, but let all know that I would never suggest anyone to kill themselves. This song describes how this world can tear people down, and in this case it was me… and I am still breathing. But let’s say that something on our album made this guy take the final step to leave this life, it doesn’t really matter, because with people like that it’s just a matter of time anyways. I’d like to think that our music was his last comfort. We cannot take any responsibility like that poor mother wanted.
And suicide in general… yeah, it’s egotistical but your life is your own. I either will or can not pass any judgment.

There's quite a lot of underground doom out there, and as a band generally associated with it, I'm sure you know some bands…could you recommend some to your listeners?
Apart from the bands all know like My Dying Bride and old-Anathema and such, there is actually some great dark metal out there. Like Officium Triste; their new album is completely amazing. I also like the new album from Distress. It’s not doom really, more dark metal with a lot of feeling and intensity. A new Danish gothic band called Akoma just released their new EP, and I must say it blows me away.

Most albums, underground or not, can be obtained through the internet these days thru file-sharing software and websites – do you think this contributes to bands or damages bands?
Both. For smaller bands like Draconian I think it's more a benefit than a loss. People get to know us and if they like what they hear, more people will come to our shows. But it has no real benefit for big bands such as Metallica. They just lose a little money, but still they complain, even though they are millionaires many-many times over. Greedy bastards!

What do you think about the whole MySpace bands phenomenon?
Kinda confusing. I think it’s a good thing and all, because it contributes a lot to the bands and they can reach out more… but I think MySpace is a very messy and confusing website to begin with. It’s not very user-friendly. But well, I have nothing against it.

Are you spiritual/religious in any way? If so, how does it combine with your music?
I am not religious, but I am spiritual. Most of my values and how I view things comes from this. It combines with our music very well since I think there’s a lot of spirituality in the pain and suffering I describe. My spiritual side has a strong effect on how I relate to the world. I live with this every day, and of course it hurts but it's only a matter of times before I pick up my spaceship and leave this terrible place, hehe.

Draconian - promo photo by Fredrik Karlsson

As a reporter in a web `zine I've always wondered how bands react to the critics, so how do you react to reviews about your albums?
Mostly I react very positive because we’ve had such luck with the critics. For some strange reason people tend to love our music and that makes me really happy.
For each good word I feel a reward. A few times I’ve read bad reviews but most of them has been quite silly, so that’s nothing I take too seriously.
I find it strange some people complain about how slow some songs are, and at the same time they know what kind of music we play. We are labeled gothic doom metal. What do they expect? Strapping Young Lad??

There's a sentence that goes something like: "Human life is so fragile, you could never know if you're even gonna finish the sentence" – which sentence would you like to live to finish saying?
I guess I have to be boring and say that I have no idea at the moment, hehe. But anyways, thanks a lot for the interview and the support.

Thank you Andres for doing the interview, I hope you'll channel your feelings into the album-in-process, and allow our readers to not only ponder about the last question, but have some other introspective thoughts. Best regards.

Ofer Vayner
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