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 Mike Andersson!
Swedish native Andersson has a long and rich career so far and can be known for his work as energetic lead singer for bands like Cloudscape and FullForce. Today he is lead-singer for Swedish Tungsten but also appears as quest at other people’s bands and projects. About Tungsten, Mike’s youth and a whole lot more, I sat down with Mike for an epic and open talk!
Hi Mike! First of all, thank you for making time for Maizter Underground. It’s a real honour. How are you doing? Covid and all?
Hey Patrick. Thanks for reaching out and inviting me to do this interview. I’m doing fine considering the current state of the world in a pandemic. Sweden has had a lot of restrictions but, not really any forceful current laws like locking people in their homes like many other countries did. Sweden works a bit differently, right or wrong, good or bad and there is a descent explanation why Sweden focused on “restrictions and recommendations” instead of temporary laws resulting in expensive fines if not followed/obeyed. We do not yet know which way was right or wrong among the different countries but, the truth will come out eventually. Personally I followed the restrictions 100% like most people did but, sadly there are also those who can’t take the responsibility and do what they have been told. However, I am vaccinated and am extremely happy to re-enter the live stage again. A few shows have already been done and now lately Gothenburg and Stockholm in Sweden. Let’s hope it stays this way.
You’ve build quite a career for yourself so far, but let’s begin at the start. When you were a young boy, growing up in Sweden, how was that?
I grew up in a small village 10 kilometres outside of Helsingborg called Fjärestad. I had a nice upbringing with caring and loving adoptive parents, brothers and a foster sister (yes, I am adopted…for good reasons of course). When I was really young like 5 – 7 years old I was really interested in machines, farmer machines, cars and stuff hahaha. But, my musical interest came incredibly early even before I learned to speak properly, at the age of 4. Growing up in Fjärestad felt safe but, the close distance to the Swedish city of Helsingborg made me very “worldly” and open minded and not like a typical “farmer boy” so to speak. To make the adoption story short since I mentioned it. My biological mother was very young when she gave me birth and wasn’t mentally ready to have a child. I lived with her my first year in life which I don’t remember of course. My father was, by rumours I heard in later years, a decent man where I might have inherited my musical veins. When I was around 1.5 years old my grandparents decided that my mother wasn’t good for me (they felt that the risk of me ending up in a catastrophic situations was simply to big) my grandparents arranged for me to be adopted. My biological father was left out, even though he had said that he would love to keep me. Because of my mother (they only had a short romance) my father was left out and because of that, he kept everything about me as a secret in the years that followed. The only one that knew about me was one of his sisters and his wife that he married a few years after I was born. After I was adopted I kept in contact with my grandparents considering they lived decently close to where my “new life” was established in Fjärestad as an adoptive child. Many years later when I was about to become a father myself to my own son (who is 20 years old today, 2021) I started to dig in to my past to learn about my biological origins. I knew things about my biological relatives on my mother’s side thanks to my grandparents.
I knew I have a little brother in Helsinki, Finland (my mother met his dad many years after my birth, moved to Finland and in 1987 my little brother was born). When it comes to my biological father I didn’t know anything at all so, I had to go to authorities in Sweden and population register to get information. At this time I was 24 years old and I got to know my father’s name, also found out I have an older half-sister and an older half-brother. I contacted them all separately (including my Swedish talking brother from Finland) like the man in the box which turned out to become quite an interesting, funny story but, I leave that part out for another time, hehehe. However, since that day back in 2001 I have maintained a close and caring contact with both my brother and sister from my father’s side and also my brother in Finland on my mothers’ side. When Tungsten played in Stockholm recently my half brother and sister were there with my nephews to attend at the show (they live close to Stockholm). However, naturally I see my adoptive and foster siblings as my real siblings considering it’s them I grew up with, played with, cried and laughed together with. Same thing goes for my adoptive parents. They are my “real” parents that made sure I got a safe childhood with lots of love. Sadly my adoptive Father passed away back in 1988 and my adoptive Mother past away in 2015.
At what time music got a more prominent role in your life?
The first band I played in was in 1987 as a lead singer and rhythm guitarist, when myself and a friend since school (quite well known drummer Peter Wildoer (James LaBrie, Darkane)) formed a band called Dammer. A year later we renamed the band to Zanines. The band also included my dear friend Christofer Malmström (Darkane) on guitar. Christofer was one of the first friends had in life and that was already at kindergarten…I still wore diapers hahaha. The band existed from 1987 to 1991 but then we put the band to rest because we all found different paths in music and genres. Peter and Christofer started to play death metal which years later led up to forming Darkane, and I turned more to the AOR and the progressive metal scene. Being a member in a bunch of different local bands followed during the 90s.
From 2001 till 2016 (if I’m not mistaking) you were part of Swedish Cloudscape. How did that happen and can you tell me something about that period?
Sure thing. In 1996 I joined a Helsingborg based band called Doctor Weird that was working really hard to find a record deal and they seemed to have something going so to speak. Even thou I was a lead singer, I joined Doctor Weird and a keyboard player. Doctor Weird lasted for about 5 years and the hope to find a record label never came true, even thou several attempts were done. I got tired of stepping on the same ground all the time, having some members being lazy or not being efficient enough to “get things going” and some members simply left the band so, I suggested that we reformed the band. Now as a new band with a new band-name (Cloudscape) and with me as a singer (the Doctor Weird singer was and still is, by all means a superb singer, but he chose to leave the band). I asked the remaining band members if it was ok if I became more of the “bandleader” to get things going and try to connect with the music industry. This time without having to vote about everything and without sharing duties amongst all members in the band all the time. That really made decision making very slow in the past. Thankfully, this all this gave fruit! We signed with German label Metal Heaven for the European territory, with Marquee/Avalon in Japan and Nightmare Records in the U.S to release our music. Our first album (Cloudscape – s/t) came out in late 2004 in Japan and the rest of the world in early 2005. A lot more albums were released the following years and Cloudscape also did a 3.5 week long European tour together with Danish symphonic prog rockers Royal Hunt.
The last album by Cloudscape (Voice of Reason) was released in January 2016 but eventually we decided to put the band to rest in late 2016. Cloudscape existed from 2001 to 2016 and it was a very important time for me as I developed a lot as a musician during these years and we had crazy fun together. The band wasn’t put down because of harsh feeling between the members…it was simply the difficulty to reach to a broader audience and make the band grow that eventually placed us in a mental situation where doubts and lack of inspiration put out the flame.
During these years you did several guest sessions for other artists. Sometimes backing vocals, mostly leading vocals. How does this work and how does it feel for you?
It’s always an honour to do a guest appearance and just get the question. But, I don’t say Yes to all offers and invitations of course. Sometimes I have to say “no thanks” due to lack, having other obligations or simply being too busy. Other times I simply don’t like the music that I am asked to sing on and so forth. Everything is about timing and of course “knowing” where I lend my voice so to speak. I have sung 2 songs on my friend Magnus Karlsson’s Freefall albums (the debut that was released in 2013 and his third Freefall album entitled We are the night released in 2020).
In 2010 I sang a song called As The Crow Dies on Arjen Lucassen’s second STAR ONE album called Victims of the Modern Age. That was huge for me back then. I will never ever forget when Arjen called me up the day after receiving the demo-vocals being totally in awe and extremely happy about the result. That was an extremely proud moment for me receiving that response from the tall Dutch musical genius, Arjen Lucassen.
I have been a guest on quite many albums by now as you probably know. I think well around 20 different albums by now J.
Although you have built an impressive career as singer, it isn’t your main source of income. How do you combine things?
Well, sometimes it can be a bit difficult but, when I was interviewed for the day-job I have now, I was totally honest and told the boss about my musical situation that I also am a professional and touring musician. It’s like a “give and take” thing. I do my best at work being a good part of the company and they respond with giving me my artistic freedom. I know musicians that aren’t this fortunate and have been fired from various day-jobs over and over again. I would be over the top stressed to live like that! I mean, I also have a lovely and understanding wife and family to care about and think of too, being a good husband and father. This far, everything works perfectly fine, even thou I am very busy from time to time.
During your career things must have changed. Not only the music or the crowds, but life in general. How did you experience this and did it influence your way of making music/singing?
Well, my life didn’t change that much because of the pandemic except for the obvious changes. I lost a day-job because of the pandemic but found another day-job instead. The live-scene was dead so at that moment, with Tungsten we could focus on finishing our 2nd album faster than planned instead. The worst thing about this period of time was the dead live-scene though. Not being able to perform live on stage, and the fact we (my wife and me) couldn’t go to Gran Canaria to visit her family there, was hard. We usually visit Gran Canaria at least twice a year. She was born in Las Palmas and we have relatives and family there. But, apart from what I just mentioned life has actually been absolutely ok despite the pandemic.
During your time with Cloudscape, you joined (or co-founded) Swedish heavy metal band FullForce. How did this came to be and what can you tell me about that period?
Fullforce came to life in 2009 when my friend, and bass-player Magnus Rosén (ex-Hammerfall) called me, and asked if I was interested in starting up a new band with him and ex-Hammerfall guitar-slinger Stefan Elmgren. I thought this sounded interesting even though I knew I had to work parallel with Cloudscape. Stefan asked his past partner in Hammerfall, Anders Johansson, to join us on drums (he still was active in Hammerfall during this time) and I asked my friend and guitar-slinger CJ Grimmark from the band Narnia (I became friends with Grimmark a bunch of years earlier so, I already knew about his top notch personality and skills as a guitar wizard). When we planned to start recording the first album entitled One, Magnus decided to leave the band and he was replaced by lesser known bass-player Tommy Larsson (ex-Heed) who also did a quick stint on bass in the band Dream Evil. We signed a record deal with hard-rock label SPV/Steamhammer for the world market except Japan. In Japan we licenced the album to Marquee/Avalon. One was released in June 2011 and later in September the same year we did a small tour as support to Tobias Sammet’s band Edguy. As special guest we also had the ex-drummer of Scorpions and Kingdom Come, James Kottak and his own band called, Kottak. We did shows in Sweden and Germany. In 2012 we released our second album called Next Level and, before we recorded this album, CJ Grimmark decided to leave the band due to personal circumstances. No hard feelings whatsoever (we are still the best of friends) and he was replaced by another guitar-hero, Stefan Rosqvist (ex-Cloudscape, Dawn Of Oblivion). After releasing Next Level in the summer of 2012, we did 2 shows in Sweden as support to Queensryche. However, shortly after starting work on our third album, the band slowly came to an end. We were dropped from SPV/Steamhammer after they were acquired by a major label who somehow took over the financial responsibilities.
Next to being a musician you are a father and a husband. How do they look to your career and how do you combine things as a true family man and as a musician?
My wife and family are proud of what I do and they support me 100%. Respect, understanding both ways, empathy and so are guiding lights. I love being away with Tungsten performing live but, it is always wonderful to come back home to my wife and family. If it wasn’t for my wife being so understanding and supportive, I would never would have been able to pull this off. She is my everything and my passion in life along with my 20 year old son who is studying to become a electrician and my step-children (a 14year old boy who lives and breathe football, a real true talent and a girl, or rather woman, who just has turned 20 years old and is studying graphics and science).
I am not schizophrenic hahaha! But, there is “Mike the artist” when I’m doing music work, and there is the caring and supportive Mike. First and foremost I am a father and husband. I absolutely love the time at home with my family.
In 2016 you joined Swedish heavy metalband Tungsten (former Strokkur). How did that happen?
Anders Johansson gave me a call and simply asked if I was interested in joining a band the he had started up with his sons Nick & Karl. Anders and I met the first time back in 1994 after a show with Dream Theater in Malmö, Sweden. Next time I met him was in 1999 when my old band Doctor Weird, was the supporting act (if I recall correctly) to Hammerfall in Helsingborg, Sweden. It was the last show with the original drummer in Hammerfall, and Anders was there to check things out since it was already decided that was taking over drumming responsibilities in Hammerfall.
In 2006 I recorded a so called “All-star project” album under the name Planet Alliance where Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear, Allen/Lande Project, ex-Last Tribe) and me were the main composers. Anders Johansson recorded drums on 2 tracks for this album and other famous artists like Bob Daisley (ex-Ozzy Osbourne, ex-Gary Moore, ex-Rainbow etc), Mattias “IA” Eklundh (Freak Kitchen), CJ Grimmark (Narnia), among other great musicians of decently known fame, were included in the line-up. 3 years later Fullforce was born and I really got to know Anders in a much more friendly and personal way. So, that’s why I got the honour to become the lead-singer in Tungsten. Anders has always been extremely encouraging, a dear friend and kind of a mentor to me. He is very wise and thoughtful, a highly skilled drummer, funny to be with and basically a damn good friend that I hold very dear.
His sons Karl & Nick I actually met for the first time back in 2006 when we recorded the Planet Alliance album. They were around 10 and 12 years old at that time. It is so freaking cool to be friends and bandmates with them in adult life. They are highly skilled musicians like their father and uncle, Jens Johansson. They are very mature despite their young age and all those things combined is what makes Tungsten so unique and gets the band going.
Tungsten released two albums thus far (We Will Rise and Tundra). What does Tungsten have in store for us in the (near) future?
Well, lots of work! Video shootings, live shows, preparations for our 3rd album which will be entitled Bliss. Bliss will be released during summer 2022 but an exact date is yet to be confirmed thou. There is never a dull moment in the Tungsten life hahaha.
Are there any other projects or bands that you are part of? Or borrow your voice?
There are a few yes but, nothing I can reveal at the moment (feeling secretive 😉 )
Is there anything else you want to add / tell people?
Be humble, be nice, always tell your loved ones that you love them. Show appreciation and respect. Help the weak…be cool….be metal…
Please use common sense and respect the restrictions due to the pandemic. Be nice to yourself, be nice to others…a good mantra that I try to follow is; “Treat others the way you want to be treated yourself”.
And for God’s sake, DO NOT FORGET TO LISTEN TO TUNGSTEN!!!!!!!
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!
As we speak Mike Andersson is in the middle of promotional things regarding Tungsten and their new upcoming album named BLISS. To make sure you won’t miss anything Mike releases or announces, and to make sure you won’t miss anything of TUNGSTEN, please follow Mike and TUNGSTEN through the following links!
Mike Andersson FB Page