When you watch a video clip or listen to a song on your streaming devices, you only witness the finished product. When you visit a concert or a festival you witness the live music and the stage performance or your favourite artist! But before all that can be enjoyed, there are a lot of things taking place to make it all happen. Artists, musicians, bands, venue directors, they all have their own story to tell!
In this series I’m going to talk to several different people, to find out what the stories are behind it all! From a “big shot” artist, all the way to promotion and record companies. In this episode Anders Johansson!
Johansson has had a lengthy and successful career thus far, being part of bands like Yngwie Malmsteen and Hammerfall and still is going strong. Nowadays he’s founder and drummer of Swedish Tungsten and plays the bass in a project shared with his brother Jens (keys in Stratovarius). About these things and a lot more, I sat down with Anders for what turned out to be a great talk!
Hi Anders, First of all thank you for taking time for Maizter Underground. It’s a huge honour for us! How are you doing? Covid and all.
Hello there! Thanks for having me! Doing very well, thank you. Here in Sweden we hardly saw any restrictions except on live music and sports. A bit typical. What I did was spending time with my family and practiced more drums than I usually do.
People may know you as the former drummer of metal legends as Hammerfall and Yngwie Malmsteen. But you didn’t pop out of the ground and became a rock star instantly. What can you tell me about your youth and live in Sweden at that time?
When I was a kid there were hardly any rock bands that made it outside of Sweden. The prognosis of being a rock star was slim to none. I really wanted to travel and see the world so I thought there must be a way to combine the music with this urge. I practised all sorts of different music styles so I could join any band. The style of music was not so important. I had my goals set to join ABBA but when I was sort of ready they quit playing. I played in local bands with friends and when our town’s biggest and baddest metal band (Silver Mountain) suddenly needed a drummer I asked if I could join. They first were reluctant, me being only 17 and having short hair. But after trying out they were happy. We did a lot of local things and recorded an album but I felt progress was too slow. During this time I suffered thru technical engineering school which I really hated. This just convinced me that was not for me. Also during this period I was in the Swedish navy. Not my cup of tea back then. Nowadays I can more appreciate things like this. I guess you change with age.
How come you play the drums?
It was when my father played back in the 60s. I saw their drummer. An outgoing and energetic person, Egil Johansen. His son is a famous singer in Sweden. The son is named after my father Jan btw. Egil always had a joke. His kit sparkled. And I thought being a drummer is the absolute coolest thing one possibly could do. All other instruments didn’t interest me at all.
During the 1980’s you joined the band of Swedish Yngwie Malmsteen in America. You were in your early 20’s by then and you moved from Sweden to the USA. How was that?
It was really awesome. It was like charting new territories on a map. No one really from Sweden had done this before. This was before the band Europe and all the other bands that came later. No one had met Swedish people or even heard of the country. Our language freaked people out as well as our different behaviour.
If I’m not mistaking, you were part of Yngwie Malmsteen Rising Force for about five years. What made you decide to quit the band?
Things in the band went sour after changing record company and manager. The situation of being in the band started to tend to be more and more like a hired gun. And the usual thing with money. We got just enough to get by. I thought after five years things should at least be as good so we could get something more permanent in the States if we wanted. Not just our bills paid. There was never any bad blood with Yngwie though. He is less developed when it comes to contracts and such. But a terrific guy in general.
By this time you’ve made a name for yourself as an energetic, talented and passionate drummer. This undoubtedly changed your life. Can you tell me more about the way people treated you, and what the effect was on your personal life?
I never really thought so much about it. In music shops and rock clubs I notice that people treat me differently. With more respect. But after three minutes they realize I’m just like any other person. This is the case with almost all musicians really. They are just normal people with a passion. Then you have the real rock star types but they are usually cool when you are with them one to one. Usually these types are shy or have some psychological issues. They would be the same if they were working in an office but no one would think much of it. Or they would get fired.
All most people see, are the show’s you played and the video clips that you were part of. Obviously it asks for a lot of determination and practicing to maintain this high standards. Can you tell me how much time and effort you put in on a daily/weekly basis?
It varies a lot these days. I try in periods to do one hour a day but things get in the way. But as a kid it was as much as possibly possible. Hours every day. Even x-mas night etc.
During the years you have used several drum kits from several makers. Are the drums you use today more or less the same that you used when you started your career? Or do you use custom drums etc nowadays?
After joining Yngwie’s band I got endorsed by Pearl and Sabian. Then the kits took a big step up. After that they have held the same quality more or less. Top brands are all good. I have Tama now. Nothing custom or special.
Let’s circle back to your career. After your time with Malsteen’s Ricing Force you joined Swedish Hammerfall. A successful period followed. What can you tell me about you joining Hammerfall and that period in general?
It was a fun period. I first joined as a session guy but stayed for 15 years. We did a lot of thing I hadn’t done before. Travelled to different counties. Being on Swedish game shows etc. Played huge festivals as a normal thing. With Yngwie’s band we never really did the big festivals more than one off here and there. Hammerfall was based in Gothenburg which is only three hours from where I live. So it was very practical as well.
After your period with Hammerfall you started a band of your own with your sons Niklas and Karl. Soon after that joined by lead vocalist Mike Andersson. The band is called Tungsten. What can you tell me about the forming of this band and how things are going at the moment with the band?
I thought after being in other peoples bands it would be an idea to try to do something myself. I asked the best musicians I could think of. We all live close by so it is practical. We are four people so it is easy in cars (enough space). We thought of having a second guitar player at first but: the more chefs… the worse the soup J
Right now we are about to release album three. Doing videos and planning the release.
In 2019 news reached us you joined Manowar. A massive name in the music scene all over the world. How did that happen?
Word of mouth, the metal music industry is not as big as people might think. Great guys. Very talented. Huge arenas. Fantastic songs.
During all these years of shows, festivals, studio’s and so on, what was the best show or venue you ever played?
There are very many cool places. Cool for different reasons. Sometimes the catering might be spectacular. Sometimes the backstage area. Sometimes just the vibe you personally might have that day. All arenas are cool just because there are a lot of people and it feels like a huge sports event. The small clubs are cool too. You can see the people’s faces. I really don’t have a favourite place. I like playing in continental Europe. The small villages. Or the bigger but still nice cities. One might go to a café during the day. Having Apfelstrudel with some strange chocolate drink. That sort of thing. Playing an alp town in Switzerland, with mountains all around. Or like we did with Manowar, playing on the Norwegian islands of Svalbard, way above the arctic circle, that was really cool. Playing Hawaii with Yngwie was also special.
Next to playing in famous bands, you also play as a duo with your bother Jens. What can you tell me about that?
When our father was turning 80 (even though this was imaginary because he died when he was 37) they asked if we could play on Swedish TV. We said yes… I borrowed an uptight contra bass from Per Stadin the bass player in Silver Mountain. Practised by myself for a few hours. Only two songs. Hadn’t played bass before really. We didn’t even rehearse together before. Like assholes J I messed up. Of course. But after this we rehearsed and started playing gigs. Nowadays it is a natural ting.
Throughout the years, you played with well-known artists and bands. Till this day people can approach you to play drums for their musical projects. Is there anyone you played with during this time that impressed you from the start or inspired you in a way you didn’t imagine?
Here are some people in general, not just session work though.
CJ Grimmark and Narnia. They impressed me. Playing with greats like Jonas Hellborg impressed me. John Sykes impressed me too. Marty Friedmann… his dedication inspired me, great musician. Unorthodox and very talented. Hammerfall’s dedication. Joey DeMaio’s intrepid dedication and talent. Yngwie of course. Eric Adams…what a pure talent that guy is. Hulkoff. Björn Olsson, Owe… The list goes on… there is a lot of talent out there for sure.
You build your career up from the ground till the point it is now. Looking back, are there any things you regret or would have done differently?
Not really. Hard to change your personality I realize. I wish I would have tried to be more outgoing back during the time in Yngwie’s band. Met more people. Kept in contact. Maybe I wish I wouldn’t have been complaining to myself as much in different situations as I did. But hard to change now. Just learn the lesson. Try better now. I wish I would have been even more “in the now”. I still was a lot and thought about it, but even more so.
Besides music, what do you like to do with your spare time?
I used to go to the gym and do martial arts. Been out of it since Covid.
Gadgets in general
You have travelled the world and seen a lot. When you’re on tour, do you get the time to visit the country itself as well? And if so, what made the biggest impression on you?
Yes, I get out. When musicians say they just see airports and hotels they say this because they don’t have the drive to get out. They are lazy. The odd (for me) places. China’s rural areas. South America. Alaska. Hawaii. Svalbard. Japan. Soviet union before the fall. Syria before the war. India. Really happy I got to see all this.
When you started playing drums, did you ever imagined it would end up the way it did? And what if it did not work out, what would you have become?
Noo way! Never thought it was possible.
I was planning reluctantly to become a civil engineer. Glad I didn’t. I’m an ordinary engineer now though but never worked as one.
After all this looking back, let’s take a look to the future. What are your plans for the coming months? Music wise that is.
To play with Tungsten and my brother Jens. There are gigs lined up for both bands.
Is there anything else you wish to add?
No, you covered a lot. Very nice questions. Interesting and a bit unusual in an great way!
Thank you for your time and willingness to talk so open about all the things we discussed.
On behalf of everyone at Maizter Underground I want to wish you all the best with all you take on in the future!
Nowadays Anders Johansson is the founder and drummer for Swedish Tungsten. With Tungsten Johansson is in the process of recording their third full length album named BLISS which is set for release in early 2022. Furthermore Anders Johansson plays in Johansson Brothers together with his brother Jens. Although both brothers have a long and impressive history in the metal scene, when together they play jazz music. During November ’21 they will play eight shows all over Sweden.
To make sure you won’t miss anything Tungsten or the Johansson Brothers release or announce, please follow them thru the following links!
Anders Johansson FB Profile: