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Interviews   

Doubt everything – Even Cult Of Luna


To Cult Of Luna’s Johannes Persson, one of the saddest things these days is the lack of critical sense shown by music enthusiasts, journalists, and, society as a whole. But it’s all good, because his disappointment turned into artistic inspiration: Cult Of Luna’s upcoming album, Vertikal, revolves precisely around this subject, against a background of revolt inspired by Fritz Lang’s movie Metropolis. Said lack of critical sense can sometimes lead to regrettable actions.

A few months ago, Johannes dropped a media bomb to our colleagues over at Metalorgie, when he announced in the middle of an interview that the story of Holger Nilsson and his wife’s murder, which was supposed to have inspired the album Eternal Kingdom and the book that followed, was a complete lie, meant to test the critical sense and meticulousness of the press. Johannes tells us what this experience meant and what consequences it had on him. At the end of the interview, he emphasizes the importance to not accept any information blindly and to question everything.

« The best way to lie is to convince yourself that you’re telling the truth! (laughs) »

Radio Metal: You told our colleagues of Metalorgie that the story of the murder of Holger Nilsson’s wife, which was supposed to have inspired the album Eternal Kingdom, was a fake. Apparently you wanted to use this to criticize musical journalism. Do you miss being intellectually challenged and criticized by journalists? Do you think musical journalists are acting as fanboys, and not as professionals?

Johannes Persson (guitars, vocals): I think that’s the best question I’ve heard in a long time. You ask a perfect question, and I say yes. I agree with that. Let me say that not only the story of the murder was untrue, but Holger Nilsson never even existed. The whole story was a fake.

Is it true no one had figured out this story was a lie?

People might have. It would have been strange if they hadn’t. But no one confronted us about it, which I think is quite sad. The thing is, we took the music out to the world, and no one asked us about it. Then we released a book about it, and the minute we did that, people started to wonder. There’s a tradition in the literary scene to check facts. They care if the things you say are true or not. So we immediately got caught. Even before it was released, we were confronted by a local journalist who had checked the facts and who said: “OK, guys, this doesn’t add up!” And he was right, it was a lie.

How did you feel when the lie was discovered?

To be honest, at that time, I was not really happy about it. The guy wrote an article in the biggest newspaper in northern Sweden. He wanted to interview us, but he didn’t want to wait until the book was out. We wanted to test more people than just him. But since he caught us before the book was even released, we thought it was too early. So we didn’t tell him anything then. But afterwards, when the book had been released for a couple of months and we told him we could talk, he didn’t want to interview us anymore. So I had mixed feelings. In one way, it was good, and in another, not so good.

When the truth wasn’t yet out, how did you feel about the fact that you were telling people bullshit and no one realized it? Was it fun, or sad – or both?

After a while, I forgot. It just became a story I could tell over and over again. The best way to lie is to convince yourself that you’re telling the truth! (laughs) It was kind of the case here. There are two aspects to this. First off, it’s not fun to lie and fool people. So in that respect, it didn’t feel that good. But like I said, after a while, I stopped thinking about it. Like the answer I’m giving you, it was just something that came naturally. We had a journalist that came up to us in the place we said Holger was from. We guided him through where he was supposed to have lived and all that. So that was lying to somebody’s face, and it was not funny. But people lie all the time. You exaggerate or downplay things, you’re not completely honest. Lying is in every one of us, and it’s not that hard.

« If you call yourself a journalist, you have to put up a high standard of truth-telling than anybody else. A journalist is somebody that digs for news. They shouldn’t let the news come to them. »

It’s said that “when you lie long enough, the lie becomes the truth”. Do you think this story is now part of the truth?

(laughs) No, the truth is something objective. But wasn’t it Joseph Goebbels who said that? (laughs) [note: actually, it was]

Do you think you’re the only artists to do something like that, or do you think there’s nothing true in metal? Especially in the crazy stories bands tell the press about how dangerously they’ve lived their lives?

Well, that’s our point, from start to finish: everybody does this, every band you talk to. I remember when we released Eternal Kingdom, Mars Volta released an album where they said they were inspired by something that was fake, in fact. That’s bullshit, they’re lying through their teeth. And no one has the guts to tell them: “Look, you’re treating us like children. You might as well fuck off”. But I’m not only talking about lies, I’m also talking about values – values that bands have, that should be confronted and questioned. The music business kind of romanticizes the rock world: “You live a dream lifestyle, trashing hotel rooms, blah blah blah”. This is boring, childish, juvenile bullshit. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the question: “Do you have any exciting tour stories?” And you know exactly what the journalists are after: did you piss in somebody’s mouth? Did you trash hotel rooms? It’s boring and it’s bullshit. Music is not about acting like a child. I take music to be something much more serious than that.

Don’t you think this is a problem about people in general, and not only journalists? Nowadays, people read things too quickly and don’t try to figure out whether what’s written is true or not…

Yes and no. We all have a responsibility to analyze and understand the world around us, you’re absolutely right about that. But the problem is, if you call yourself a journalist, you have to put up a high standard of truth-telling than anybody else. A journalist is somebody that digs for news. They shouldn’t let the news come to them. That’s one of the reasons I don’t do e-mail interviews. I’m not saying e-mails are totally uninteresting, but it’s just a back-and-forth game: question, answer, question answer. And it’s gonna be reported exactly like that. It can be interesting, of course, but it’s just boring to me.

« The music business kind of romanticizes the rock world: ‘You live a dream lifestyle, trashing hotel rooms, blah blah blah’. This is boring, childish, juvenile bullshit. […] Music is not about acting like a child. I take music to be something much more serious than that. »

Do you think that society nowadays is easy to manipulate?

Again, yes and no. I think there’s a side of humanity that’s easy to manipulate from different sides. There are a lot of over-critical people. I’ve studied this Illuminati and conspiracy theory bullshit that people are feeding each other, like the theory that says 9/11 was a Jewish or Illuminati conspiracy. That’s bullshit, people are not checking facts. Being critical is good sometimes. Be open-minded, but don’t lose your brain.

Back to the new album. Fritz Lang’s movie Metropolis was the inspiration for this record. What drove you to do that?

You’re totally right. There are a few misconceptions around it, and one of them is that Vertikal is a concept-album about Metropolis. It’s not. It’s very much inspired by the German expressionist, art-deco movement. Before we started writing music for the new album, we sat down and wrote a manifesto on how we wanted the music to sound. The last two albums had kind of a country-ish feeling to them. There’s a rural environment connected to them, very much inspired by the nature of Sweden. So we thought we had to take the next album into the future, in a big city. So we wrote down exactly how we wanted the album to sound. It was going to be based around repetitions, around a monotone feeling, very industrial, with straight lines. Everything had to be very un-organic. It had to be bleak, dark, depressing.

So the movie had an impact not just on the lyrics, but on the music as well?

No, no, it had no impact on the lyrics. It’s not a concept album. The artistic era had an impact on the overall feeling of the album. We tried to interpret that artistic era into music.

« We should all be very critical of what we think we know. »

Metropolis pictures a world that’s split in two, between the rich and the poor, in an underground city. Do you think this metaphor is currently relevant?

It’s been the case since the dawn of man, I think. But the most important connection between what I have written and that movie is that you need to be skeptical and critical. When the workers rebel, they put their faith in a leader that turns out to be a robot. They’re not critical towards him, and they destroy the whole city. They have decided what they think, they already have their opinions, and they’re not open to arguments. That’s my experience with people: they think they know, and that’s very sad. We should all be very critical of what we think we know.

Even if this is not a concept-album, do you think you could still bring some elements of the movie on stage? Like videos, for example?

Why should we have videos on stage? We’re a music band.

Have you heard about the concept of a live band playing a musical score to a movie? Could you be interested in that?

I think that could be interesting, with a silent movie, for example. But that’s not what we’re about. Our inspiration goes into everything: the music, the artwork, the production, and of course, the live aspect. We just have to wait and see.

That’s all for me. Do you have one last thing to say?

Hardest question of them all! I have five words to say: think, and then think again. That’s my last two cents! It’s hard to answer, because we have to think for ourselves! But good one, good question.

Interview conducted on December, 2nd, 2012 by phone
Transcription: Saff’

Cult Of Luna’s official website: www.cultofluna.com

Album Vertikal, released on January, 29th, 2013 via Indie Recordings



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