Interview: Cult Of Luna
I felt that when we had recorded this album . . . if I was happy with it then it's pretty much the only thing that matters, and if other people like it then it's kind of a bonus.
Cult of Luna returned last year after a long hiatus with the stunning A Dawn To Fear. The album was voted record of the year by Echoes And Dust and has received admiration the world over. We had a chat with the band’s vocalist and guitarist Johannes Persson to discuss the album and the return of Cult of Luna along with the band’s forthcoming tour of North America, how their last European tour went, the Mariner album with Julie Christmas, and what the future holds musically for both him and CoL.
E&D: You’re just about to head out on a North American tour. Are you looking forward to getting back on the road?
JP: Yes, I love playing live. That’s one reason why I do this in the first place, and going back to North America will be great, and also to play a couple of cities we have never been to before. Seeing the world is one of the most rewarding things about being in a band. I haven’t seen Dallas yet. Haven’t seen Mexico City.
E&D: With playing somewhere like Mexico for the first time in the tour, do you enjoy playing territories that you’ve never played before?
JP: I love seeing places that I haven’t seen before, yeah. After doing this for many, many years, most places I haven’t seen before are all the remote places. People in those places are usually very receptive and thankful that you got through there and see their city or their country, and there’s not a lot of bands coming to Mexico compared to the US.
E&D: Will you be playing a lot of material from A Dawn To Fear?
JP: Yeah, I guess so, I’m not really sure yet. I’ve kind of zoned out from from this tour. Actually, I’ve been busy doing other stuff but I guess it’s time to start talking about that. I think we had a pretty good set in Europe that went down very well. We wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t change much. I think the dynamics of it worked perfectly for me, and my voice actually survived the whole tour, so that’s a good sign and maybe we shouldn’t change a winning concept.
E&D: How did the European tour at the end of last year go what were some of the highlights of the tour?
JP: I would say that it was probably the best tour we have ever done for many reasons. I mean, the turnouts for one – I honestly think that we are continuously getting better and the support acts we had were great and we couldn’t have asked for anything more with them. It was a good dynamic build up with A.A. Williams, Brutus after that; and they are two the most talented bands and fun people to hang out with. The highlights I mean, for me, we didn’t have one shitty show – all the shows were good, the people were super. The enthusiasm that London and Paris gave us, we couldn’t have asked for anything more. They were, for me, both amazing shows.
E&D: Will Cult of Luna be playing any festivals in the summer at all?
JP: We are not going to do as many as we did last summer. First, we said no to everything but now . . . I think we’re gonna do a few . . . I mean, the problem is the distance – so, a lot of travel, and we can do a weekend here and there but like every show we do, it takes three days to do it. To go there and play a show, it is a weekend for every show. Last year we did, I think it was close to fifteen festivals. Some of them were in the same run, but it was still exhausting and also, that’s not the only thing I wanted to do in life – just going back and forth from airports and festivals. So we’re probably gonna do some festivals, but not many.
E&D: A Dawn To Fear was Echoes And Dust’s number one album for 2019 and garnered so many plaudits worldwide. Were you pleased with the the reaction the album has received?
JP: Of course, the only weird thing about that answer is management trying to rationalise people saying nice things, but I think people more often contact you when they like it than when they hate it, so it’s a kind of an uneven balance. but yeah it’s been really good. I wouldn’t say that I’m going to stop freaking out just before the release thinking that everything sucks, because maybe either we were actually getting better or I’m just getting more secure in the material, but I felt that when we had recorded this album (it was mixed seven or eight months before it was released) so I thought if I was happy with it then it’s pretty much the only thing that matters, and if other people like it then it’s kind of a bonus.
E&D: How did it feel releasing new Cult of Luna music and touring after quite a long hiatus?
JP: It didn’t feel like a long hiatus. I mean, we did the album with Julie Christmas and that kept us busy for a couple of years. We have never been a band for many years that practised all the time, it’s kind of a semi-intense thing. For me, it’s a day-to-day thing: I do band-oriented things every day but not all the guys in the band do, and we meet up very seldom. Writing this album, I felt like it – and I don’t write all the songs – was getting the machine restarted, I think it went as fast as it could. We had the demo two years ago, and then we booked a studio a year later. We met up every three months and so it didn’t feel like it was that long a time, and time moves very fast.
E&D: Will you be working on any new material for Cult Of Luna in the future?
JP: I don’t know, maybe. Hopefully. We are right in the middle of the touring cycle and I am writing a lot of stuff. I’m writing this project I have with James Kent. We’re going to perform live in Tilburg at Roadburn – 60 minutes of music. I’m going to Paris tomorrow and then, the second this interview with you finishes, I’m going to write ten minutes of music for it for tomorrow. I’m keeping busy and I’m trying to learn all the songs for the Julie Christmas set that I’m going to play . . . so I’m learning those songs too. I’m thinking of writing Cult of Luna stuff but not until the summer.
E&D: How was the experience of doing the Mariner album with Julie?
JP: It was a long time ago. I have a hard time recollecting but the good thing about it was that we didn’t feel any pressure from anyone. It wasn’t supposed to be played live. We didn’t even know at the time that it was going to be released. There was no pressure for anyone. I wouldn’t say I lowered my standard when it came to writing, but I kept stuff that I would maybe feel a bit insecure about in Cult Of Luna, making this a comfortable thing because it felt like she’s gonna work this out. She’s gonna make this sound good because Julie’s one of the best vocalists around; and we just gave the songs to her, like she can do this and It’s gonna work out.
E&D: Did you feel more pressure when it came to working on the new Cult of Luna album?
JP: I think I dodged that bullet by thinking that, sooner or later, we are going to do something that people hate and it might be this record, so I didn’t care! I think the only pressure that I feel is it’s not a pressure – it’s more about us trying to keep a standard. That’s something I put on myself when I write, but that’s nothing that anyone else but me is aware of because if I’m writing a song, for example, and then I’m finished and I’m not happy with it. . . that is like me putting pressure on myself. Nobody heard it, so there’s not a heavy pressure like when we don’t have a time schedule or anything like that and I’m talking about my own writing. I think one aspect of the whole thing is that we’ve been doing this for such a long time. I know that this band has all these talented individuals and whatever we come up with will be interesting in some way. I like the process of working with these people.
E&D: Would you work with with Julie Christmas again, if the opportunity came up? I know you’re doing the live thing, but would you do another album at all?
JP: I could see us doing it, of course, but right now it’s all theoretical. I have so much to do now I can’t even think about starting a new project or a new idea; but yeah, I don’t rule it out at all.
E&D: What does the future hold for for Cult of Luna?
JP: Right now, we’re talking about doing shows and planning, that kind of thing. Maybe doing something in the fall, I don’t know. We literally haven’t decided anything yet. Right now, I have had to go through three hours of hell going through the visa process for the North American [tour] and that’s the only thing that I can think of right now in terms of the future. So, we are just talking about shows at the moment.
Photo of Johannes Persson: Simon Kallas