Posted on June 27th. 2017
Questionnaire by C. on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM
Interview conducted in October 2016.
One of my favorite prog-metal discoveries over the past 5 years, I first became aware of Seventh Wonder like many other fans: by way of Tommy Karevik, when he joined Kamelot. Blown away by his vocal talent and stage presence, it was not enough to delve into Kamelot’s back catalog, but I also had to hear the band he had fronted before filling those big shoes left behind by Roy Khan. In many ways I ended up liking Seventh Wonder even more than Kamelot! So when I was given the opportunity to interview the band’s bassist, Andreas Blomqvist, I decided to invite some fellow fans to join in on the fun with me, and to submit some questions of their own about the new DVD, Welcome to Atlanta, or anything else they might never get the chance to ask again. After many months of crossed wires, lost e-mails, illnesses, and hospital visits, this interview that took place last autumn has now finally seen the light of day!
C.: This upcoming DVD commemorates the band’s first (and only) time ever performing their concept album Mercy Falls. Is this something you have always had in mind to do, or was it something you had to be convinced of after seeing how many people wanted to hear this in its entirety?
Andreas: It is really a little bit of both. I have always felt the need to film a proper live show to bring to the fans, and I have always wanted to play Mercy Falls in its entirety, so I guess it makes sense to combine the two activities. But yeah, I know there was a great pull from the fans for this too, so that made it easier to persuade the boys to do it…There is more to the story, though. With Tommy out and about so much with Kamelot I realized in 2013 that we weren’t going to be able to get an album out that year, and probably not 2014 either. That’s when I started acting on this, to really make it happen. It was in a sense something we could do, with minimal presence from Tommy, and still produce something that fans would love. I didn’t expect it to be two years, though…
C.: What made you decide on ProgPower to be the place where this one-time only event would take place?
Andreas: I contacted some different promotors about this project and in basically every aspect Glenn blew everybody else out of the water. Add to that our amazing experience there in 2010, and the decision was easy.
C.: Was filming a DVD of the performance always part of the plan, or was it something that came along later, once the wheels were set in motion to perform this album live?
Andreas: No, no; that was the plan from the get-go. The whole thing was to capture a front-to-back gig with Mercy Falls on camera.
C.: For those of our readers who are not familiar with your music, can you shed some light on the album’s concept (without giving away major spoilers, of course), and exactly why such a story works so well in a live setting?
Andreas: The story starts with a car crash and a man is rushed to the hospital. At the same time somebody arrives at the mysterious town of Mercy Falls. As the story progresses, we are introduced to the inhabitants of Mercy Falls, and two seemingly vastly different characters’ paths cross, after which something weird starts to happen. How this related to the man in the car crash? Well, that’s for you to figure out. Oh, and there is a bit of a twist at the end. I am not sure it lends itself to being played live in any certain aspect. It is a concept album, and as such it is intended to be experienced as a whole. The trade-off is of course that you can’t play any other songs that people want to hear too.
C.: The original Mercy Falls album relied heavily on voice-acting and segue ways that tied the story together, so I really liked the “less is more” approach on the DVD, where you let the music do the talking and used very little by way of “special effects” to explain the story (as opposed to a DVD such as Dream Theater’s Live Scenes From a Memory, which contained actors and scenes that filled in parts of the storyline as it went along; or Queensrÿche’s Mindcrime at the Moore, which relied on stage acting to explain the plot). Was this a conscious decision to omit those things from the beginning, or did you find that it wasn’t feasible for the live performance?
Andreas: It was a conscious decision, yes, but not a willing decision. I would have liked to do it more like what Dream Theater did, or even what they are doing now with The Astonishing, what with movie scenes in the background and whatnot. However, there was simply not room within the production budget for any of that, so we had to keep things to a minimum. We had a woman [Heather Musgrave] come on stage with us to illustrate two key points in the story, and worked some with the lighting. Some further effects have been added in the post-production phase, but that’s about it.
C.: There are two new studio tracks on this live DVD/CD package as well: “Inner Enemy”, which fans first got to hear back in 2014 right before this live show took place, and an entirely new song, “The Promise”, which is a brand-new song that is about 10 minutes long. Can you tell us anything about those?
Andreas: Sure. About the time that I already allude to, that is, when I realized that we—for the first time ever—were going to fail to deliver an album as promised, I strongly felt the need to do something. I came up with the idea to do two songs, like a mini-concept, and release those with accompanying videos. We wrote and recorded two songs—intentionally very different in style—and planned to do videos for both. As it turned out, we only managed to get one video done, which was “Inner Enemy”. The other song just laid there in the studio collecting dust. Now, when it came time to finalize the live product, I learned that Frontiers meant to release it as a CD too. I was supportive of that because I was so incredibly happy with the mix, but I strongly felt the need to add something extra. I’d hate being one of those bands who just releases old stuff again and make hardcore fans pay for stuff they really don’t want. The one thing I figured I could do was to add a new song. Me and Tommy sat down and redid the lyrics for the song, and Tommy redid all of the vocals, which also added some time, but clearly was worth it. Those two songs tie together and constitute a mini-concept of sorts, and just might be a little hint about what’s to come…
C.: This leads to the next, most obvious question: is a new album on the way, and when can we expect to hear it?
Andreas: Yes, there is! [As of October 2016] It is written and arranged and a lot is even already recording. We are in the middle of the recording right now; most of the drums and keyboards are done, and bass and guitar tracking just taking off. We’ll do the vocals during the fall and mix and master come winter. We will be done with everything right around New Years’ , at which point Frontiers takes over and then it is up to them to release it.
Some fan-submitted questions about the upcoming album…
(From Patrycja Serkowska): Will the new album be a concept album or have a particular theme?
Andreas: Yes! World-exclusive news right here for ya! It will be a concept album and we are happy with the story.
(From Robson Brito Leite): Will you ever write another 30+-minute song?
Andreas: Probably not!
(From Patrycja Serkowska): Any plans to feature guests musicians?
Andreas: We really haven’t done that too much. Maybe we’ll find some places where we can use Jenny [Karevik] again, which we all love to do, but probably nothing beyond that.
(From Felicia Tripodi): Any plans to make a video (or videos) for the album’s singles?
Andreas: There will definitely be at least one video, yes. I am guessing it will time the release of the album more or less.
(From Valerie Marchu): Will there be any songs pertaining to Swedish folklore or literature (i.e., “King of Whitewater” or “The Great Escape”) on the new album?
Andreas: As I just answered earlier, this is a concept album, and I can tell you that is not the concept we are working on. It is, however, a dear topic for me and Tommy to right about, going back to both “Taint the Sky” and “Banish the Wicked” on the Waiting in the Wings album.
C.: Any plans to tour for the upcoming new album? Perhaps a visit to North America for those fans who did not get to see you at ProgPower and would love to see a Seventh Wonder show without having to go to Europe? (Speaking of which, your European fans are also asking if there will be a European tour!)
Andreas: Really hard to say, but I guess the short and sad answer is no. We don’t really have a booking company working for us, but if the opportunity presents itself we will certainly go for it. It is trickier than ever though, to piece that in between all Tommy’s Kamelot activities, but with a little bit of luck…We’ll definitely do some minor runs through Europe though, I guess I can be pretty sure of that, even though nothing is settled there either.
Questions about the band’s history and musical influences (includes fan-submitted questions)…
(From Victoria Grimalkin): Can you tell us a little about your musical training? How did you choose the bass guitar as your instrument of choice?
Andreas: I started playing a little bit of acoustic guitar when I was 14, after finding my sister’s old one. I started a band and played guitar and sang. The summer when I turned 17 I had gotten my hands on two videos (yes, VHS kids!), one was Cliff ‘em All by Metallica, which I borrowed from a friend, and then the Black Sabbath story which I picked up [while] vacating in England. At this point I was already a fanatic Iron Maiden fan, and after spending a summer watching how these guys—that is Cliff, Geezer and Steve Harris—handled their instruments, I simply fell in love with it. I just loved the way it looked and how it seemed to feel when they—all proficient finger style players—hammered away at their instruments. I borrowed a bass from a friend and started playing. The first couple of years, I only played simple stuff though like Metallica, Sabbath, Maiden, etc., and I didn’t know diddley about musical theory. In ’99 I went to audition for a new band called Mankind, where I first met Johan. I had known Johnny since before in two other bands called Explicity and Blue Man Down, and another guitar player named Jon Björk. When I saw them play, and I saw the stuff they wanted me to do, my jaw was on the floor. I realized I seriously needed to develop my chops. I started practicing furiously, and got great guidance from both Johan and Jon. In 2000 I met Marcel Jacob, and after he heard somebody commend my playing, he took me on as a pupil, and I really think he made me a better musician as well as a better bass player. Then I have learned a lot from playing with both Kyrt and Tommy, who showed me the beauty of clever key changes and harmonies. So, while I can’t say that I can read music,, although I guess I know in theory how it worked, I have a pretty good understanding of music theory and can certainly apply it to my playing, and especially my writing music.
(From Patrycja Serkowska): Who are your main influences or what is your main inspiration for writing music?
Andreas: As I just described Steve Harris, Geezer Butler and Cliff Burton are the reasons I ever started playing, but it is clearly Marcel Jacob, and possibly Thomas Miller from Symphony X who more directly influenced the way I am plying today. But, even though he is no bass player, I think it is safe to say the Johan Liefvendahl probably has had more impact on me than I even realize myself.
(From Valerie Marchu): What was the most difficult song for you to write?
Andreas: Since I wrote “The Great Escape” pretty much by myself, except for the vocals, that was definitely the most challenging song to write. If I am to speak for the whole band, it definitely was “Inner Enemy”. We struggled so hard to try to write a short and catchy song, we almost killed each other in the process.
(From Lucinda Muris-Eleveld): Who writes most of the lyrics? It is it a team effort, or is it shared between one or two guys, or does one person write the bulk of the material?
Andreas: In the beginning, I did all the vocals; then Andi, our first singer, started to write some too. From the point where Tommy joined the band, him and me do it together. Normally we just divide the songs up between us, but if there is a concept, we work a lot more actually sitting down together.
(From Victoria Grimalkin): When writing a song, is the bass part the starting point or is it the melody first?
Andreas: It is never the melody, Tommy always adds those in the very end, and so did we, me and Johan, before Tommy was in the band. It is not certain it starts with bass though, some songs got started when I was playing the piano, others on guitar, but probably at least 4 out of 5 times it is on bass.
(From Patrycja Serkowska): Would you ever consider writing a song in Swedish?
Andreas: Hmmm…probably not. I guess I would like to try, but I’d let Tommy decide on that one, as he is the one who needs to be comfortable with it. It is hard to explain, but somehow it just might feel… well, corny… I don’t know. Maybe if it is the right song in the right situation.
Miscellaneous fan-submitted questions…
(From Lucinda Muris-Eleveld): What are your other “extracurricular activities” outside of Seventh Wonder (i.e., work, hobbies, etc.)?
Andreas: Well, I work for a living! As do everybody else, I am afraid… I have a Master’s degree in electrical engineering and an MBA, and I own and run my own business that I started with a former colleague in the field of Medical Technology. We are nine employees and growing. In addition to that I have a wife and four kids, so that takes up some time. I love working out and have run a marathon and am currently playing running back for Djurgårdens American Football team, although I busted my knee pretty bad this pre-season, so it is very unlikely this old geezer will ever set foot on the field again. Other than that I love movies, beer and home improvement. Oh, and I love to cook. I am also an active Christian and frequently go to Hillsong Church in Stockholm with my family. It really makes life a lot better for me and having God in my life is a richness. Looks like I maybe will start playing bass at their services soon, but we’ll see…
(From Lucinda Muris-Eleveld): On behalf of the European fans, any plans to get a European web shop? The shipping from the U.S. is SO expensive!
Andreas: Yeah, I have heard more and more complaints about that. I haven’t really looked into it yet, but I guess I should.
C.: Since you are a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, like myself, I have to ask…so now with Teddy Bridgewater’s injury, what do you think the Vikings’ chances are for Super Bowl victory this year? (Skol Vikings!)
Andreas: I am super happy with the Bradford trade. I thought he never got a real shot in the Rams, so maybe this is a great opportunity for both us and him. The team looks solid, so maybe it will work out. Can’t say that I wasn’t bummed when I heard about the injury though. This was like going to be our year… But we beat the Cheesheads [Green Bay Packers] yesterday, so I can’t complain! [Editor’s note: it wasn’t our year!]
C.: Thanks for your time, Andreas, and your willingness to answer all these questions! Good luck with the new DVD and can’t wait to hear the new album! Hope to see you in concert in the U.S. one of these days! Any last words for the fans reading this?
Andreas: Huge thanks to everybody for sticking with us in spite of half a decade without much of anything. I hope it will be worth the wait, and now at least we have plenty of cool things to look forward to.
(From the Seventh Wonder Americas and Beyond Facebook page): Please tell Andreas we all love him very much!!!
Andreas: Thank you! I am in awe over your patience and am so grateful for your continuing support!
*Thanks to Jon Freeman at Frontiers Records.
*Special thanks to Jim Wilkinson at Wilkinson Image & Design
*Extra-special thanks to the Seventh Wonder Americas and Beyond Facebook page.