About Me

Interview with Paganizer

Beyond the Macabre is the last album by the Swedish band Paganizer and the 12th in 23 years. One of those careers and one of those albums that satisfies all the points of those who yearn for “old” Swedish Death Metal.
We were chatting with the founder (vocals and guitar) Rogga Johansson, a gentleman with numerous projects and over 100 releases under his belt.

M.I. -  Hello! This is Ivan! Thanks for this interview. We know your busy guys.

Congratulations on the last album. For me, the best you've ever done. It's The Tower of the Morbid, but a few steps up. Much more refined. A pure display of Swedish brutality.
Thanx! I´m very happy you like it.

M.I. -  By the way… Do you give much importance to the reviews/critics of your work? Do you tend to think about them or work in a way not to do it again, something that the critics or even the fans didn't like very much?

Well not really, no. I mean it’s always nice to get a good review but then again, it’s also rather fun to get a total hacksaw review too. I don’t care what people think about my music as long as they at least think something, people who dislikes it is at least better than people who don’t think anything at all about it. I think the only reviews that matter really is your own, what you think could be changed to next time, stuff you weren’t happy with.

M.I. - At the beginning of your career, you released albums more frequently. Now, they are more spaced out in time. Any specific reason?

I would say simply because labels want it that way. if it was up to us, we could release an album every year as we did at times back in the day. But labels need more time these days to sell stuff, the market for albums I guess is smaller, and they wanna sell so they make their money back before they want another one, which I understand totally. We are older too, with families and some have lots of work etc. So it’s nothing we complain about too much, even if it’d be fun to release an album each year indeed.

M.I. - About the last album… What is the main theme of Beyond the Macabre? Did the state of the world, with the pandemic, confinements, etc., have an influence on the writings?

Oh, hard question haha. I think its as usual, dark lyrics, sometimes with a horror movie feel and sometimes with an existential twist. We didn’t feel we wanted or needed to change anything, so there’s no lyrics in special towards the pandemic or such this time.

M.I. - What is the big difference between Beyond the Macabre and The Tower of the Morbid?

A bit better song maybe? A bit more push ahead and more melody incorporated here and there. Also, the production is better, and I think all in all its just a bit better of an album.

M.I. - The album ends with the epic “Unpeaceful End”… Two questions: the song counts with the participation of Karl Willets. How did this collaboration come about?
What does this song at the end of the album mean? Any restlessness? Is there anything left to say/do?

I think I got Karls contact from Dave Ingram, and Karl wanted the current Paganizer album. Then I just asked him straight out, if he wanted to guest on a song, and he said yes. He said he usually don’t do much guesting at all, but he felt happy to do it for us, so that was a real cool thing that made my day.
Well I don’t think it says anything special haha, we wrote it to have a good closing song, and the song is about a very bad person simply getting his does, being taken by demons I guess. But I guess it could have been a last song for Paganizer, but it wasnt apparently haha, as we are working on the next album right now.

M.I. - The cover was designed by Juanjo Castellano. What did you said to get him to get your idea right? What do you want to convey through the cover?

I think the basic idea was thrown back and forth a few times, and then we gave him the go ahead. It’s basically Viking warrior souls ascending to the otherness or something. We wanted a really good death metal cover, and as usual Juanjo did his best and it came out killer.

M.I. - Time passes by everyone... Being more mature, looking back and comparing to the present moment, what are the big differences you find in your state of mind, motivation, ease in coming up with ideas for songs, etc?

I think I’m always gonna be like 19 years old mentally haha. So, it’s pretty much the same for me, having a few beers and writing some riffs, putting a song together. I thought that it would get harder and harder through the years maybe, but it seems Im just doing the same thing and it is cool, its simple riffs and simple music, and simple lyrics too, but I still think its fun.

M.I. - In the beginning, naturally, there were a lot of comparisons with the Old Swedish Death Metal bands. Do these comparisons still happen or do you think Paganizer is already in its own category?

I must say that we never have sounded much like any other band at all, and I don’t say that because I think we are creative or special, because we are not. But we never tried to sound Stockholm or Gothenburg, we just did some crust type verses and put some melody here and there and then had some heavy riffs, and it came out as we sound. So our sound don’t remind of any other band really, I don’t think so at least. We are simpler and more basic and stupid haha.

M.I. -  Your name comes from the repulsion you feel towards organized and “corporate” religion. But does that mean you are not religious at all? More than 20 years later, does it still make sense to be labeled “pagans”?

I guess we are not pagans maybe, if you want that to mean that we are practicing some heathen form of religion instead. We are just very much against the oppression that religion brings, so in that way i think our name is still great for us.

M.I. -  The band`s line-up has been relatively stable. Even though Rogga does most of the lyrics and melodies, does having the same people around for so long, who know each other so well, simplify the recording processes? On the other hand, isn't there a risk of getting into “automatisms” and not thinking much about things and just comply?

Yeah, we have had really only just two drummers throughout the decades, Jocke and Fiebig, so it’s rather stable. We live in a small town, and its rather far to bigger cities, so I’m happy we have managed to stay together even if it has at times been rough. It makes it simple indeed, and I don’t know really if it makes things stale or automatic, I mean after all its the same songwriting process over and over again as well. I think it works for us at least.

M.I. -  Rogga… With so many projects at the same time (Paganizer, Bloodgut, Dead Sun, Echelon, Eye of Purgatory… The latest Battle Axis, Catacomb, Formaldehydist…), how do you find time for everything? How do you manage your work and what do you prioritize?
More importantly: how do you decide which lyrics and melodies go into which project? When you write something, is it already thinking about one of them or later you see which one fits better?

Actually, I’ve only recorded a new Revolting album this year, done nothing else at all besides writing for Paganizer. But yeah, I find time I guess, I write music very fast, so that’s maybe an answer.
Usually, I just sit down and decide which project to write for. But of course sometimes I write riffs or maybe a whole song, and then afterwards think which project it might fit best for.

M.I. - You have played at least one time in Portugal. Braga, I think. What do you remember of that time, what did you think of the Portuguese crowd and when can we see you again in Portuguese lands?

Yes, indeed it was! I recall it was a great gig, even though we had some initial gear problems, mainly with my guitar, but it got solved after a while. the venues were nice, I recall we drank a lot of stark bock beers, and there was this guy who had his dog with him at the show... I thought it must’ve been not very nice for the dogs hearing really. The gig was great though and the crows awesome. I would actually love to do a reprise again, and play Spain and Portugal, 20 years later. Maybe Ill ask Rober from Machetazo who was the tour manager if we should do it again really.

M.I. - Concerts, tours, festivals… Where are you going this year and next one?

Nothing planned so far. We have had some serious downtime, but just a few months ago we started rehearsing again with Paganizer, so I guess next year will be when we start gearing up again, and try to do some festivals or weekend gigs.

M.I. -  You said that you were preparing the next album… When can we expect it?

Yes indeed. We are rehearsing right now, 9 of 10 songs finished as well, so we plan to record the album maybe in December with some luck.

M.I. - Okay, last question: what have you playing in your car right now?

Furbowl - The autumn years. One of my fave albums. If you haven’t heard it, check it out.

Listen Paganizer, on Spotify

For Portuguese version, click here

Interview by Ivan Santos