If you have been reading this blog for a while, you already know how I feel about Graveyard. In my opinion, Graveyard leads the pack when it comes to this renaissance that the classic psychedelic rock scene has been experiencing and I honestly believe that nobody does it better. Graveyard has released three of the most consistently stellar hard rock albums of the last 20 years and the band continues to grow, winning over audiences the world over and with every visit they conquer the US leaving a trail of melted faces in their wake.
Graveyard’s journey has been a fruitful and exciting journey but it has also had its share of road blocks and detours. The biggest blow to the band came from the departure of long time bassist/founding member Rikard Edlund in 2015. Not being a band to take things lying down, Graveyard forged forward by recruiting former lead guitarist Truls Morck as their new full time bassist and hit the studio to begin work on their as of now untitled follow up to 2012’s Lights Out.
Graveyard has been on the road here in the US as support act for The Missing Link tour featuring headliners Mastodon and Clutch but us here in Atlanta were treated to a rare one off headlining performance. Before the show I had the chance to catch up with lead guitarist Jonatan Ramm for our 3rd interview together. Jonatan, as always, was a blast to talk to and we talked about life after their friend Rikard, how the new recording process challenged them on their new album, and what songs he really enjoys playing the most live.
Jonatan, thanks for taking the time to do this interview today.
Don, thank you for wanting to talk to me again [laughs].
You realize this is our third interview together? I feel like I should’ve brought flowers or chocolate or something to celebrate!
[laughs] Yeah. Hopefully we can do this again when we come back after the new album comes out.
You guys have been out on the road as the opening for the Mastodon/Clutch tour. Graveyard as of late has been used to being pretty much a headlining band. How hard is it to adjust to playing only 30-40 minutes?
Yeah, it feels really short but it’s been good. They are all nice people to travel with and everything has been great. We haven’t had any real problems except the tornados and plane crashes [laughs]. It’s been good but like you said, it has been a while since we’ve done a support tour. They have treated us very well and it’s just good to be back here in the States.
Have the audiences been receptive or hard to win over?
Yeah, they’ve been receptive. We are going on earlier so it’s not always packed in there. People are usually still coming into the venue while we are playing.
Have you been able to see a difference in audiences you’re playing for on these shows versus the audiences you usually get as a headliner.
Yes, it’s hard to explain, but when we have our own shows it’s a little more of a mixed crowd. On these shows, everyone seems to have more of a common interest. Not everyone but it’s a little bit more, well, the fans seem to be bigger with more muscles and what not [laughs].
I totally understand. I personally don’t like those bands and it sometimes bugs me when people say stuff like, “How can you not like Mastodon and Clutch yet you like Graveyard?” I just feel that these bands are just different from Graveyard in so many ways such as the lyrical content and the vibe is so different.
Yes, I agree with you. It’s different and I’m sure that’s a good thing. I hope we can give them something back but it’s been great to have new people hearing us every night. It’s always hard when you’re playing for the hardcore fans of one or two bands to try to get in there and make an impression but it’s been good. Sometimes we have a few more Graveyard fans in the crowd which is always nice [laughs].
It must be cool to look out into an audience and see a Graveyard shirt or two on someone. Does that trip you out to this day when you see that?
Oh yeah. It feels really good especially when you’re on a support tour. I kind of always expect that there are going to be just the main band’s fans out there but when I see it it’s very nice. It makes it feel a bit more comfortable to know that there are people out there that know us and are fans.
At this point you guys have three albums under your belts with another on the way. How hard is it to make a setlist these days?
Right now, it’s pretty easy still but when we get to this fourth album it’ll be a lot harder. We’ll have a lot to choose from and then we’ll have to mix in a little from each record. Mostly, we’ve been playing somewhat of the same setlist for a few years. It’s not exactly the same. We try to change songs out now and then.
What song do you love playing live the most and why?
Ah man. I think once in a while I always get tired of some song [laughs]. I really like the slower songs. I love to play “Hard Times Loving” and “Slow Motion Countdown.” We haven’t played “Thin Line” on this tour since we have a new bass player (Truls Morck) and we’ve been recording so we didn’t have great amounts of time to rehearse. With that song, you just never know what’s going to happen in that song so that one’s always fun to play.
What Graveyard song hasn’t been in the set list for a while that you would love to play again?
I think it would have to be “Thin Line.” We’re not done playing it or anything. We just tried to focus on getting to as many songs as possible and it just didn’t make the list this time. That song, to me, feels a bit more like its jam based and it’s a fun song to play. Next time we’ll play it for sure.
Well, I’m still waiting to hear “Right is Wrong” so one of these days you guys need to rehearse it so you can play it for me! I’ve been dying to hear that one live!
[Laughs] Oh yeah, yeah. You love that one. We will. We played it a lot after the first record came out. Sometimes you get a little lazy especially when you get more songs to choose from you just forget to pick up some of the older songs and you forget how to play them. There are a few songs from each record that we’ll say, “Oh, this one is really hard to do live. Let’s wait on that one.” [Laughs] We figured we would do a tour someday where we would play all the songs that we haven’t played much live and that would be cool.
That would be amazing. Or maybe do a tour where you let the fans pick the setlists.
Oh, that’s a great idea. I like that.
Good. I’ll send you my setlist ASAP.
[Laughs] You should do that. I’d like to see it.
Are you guys performing any new material on this tour?
We have been doing one new one because it’s always easy to get a little too ahead and say, “Yeah, let’s do four of them “and then you’re sick of them before the album even comes out. We have been doing one called “Shunken.” It’s just a working title and it’s a kind of silly name that doesn’t really mean anything. I don’t think it’s even a real word [laughs]. It’s a more up tempo song, especially for this new album. This song is more of a boogie song. It’s fun.
The last couple of US tours you had Johan Grettve filling in on bass for Rikard and this year you announced that Truls Morck has taken over bass full time. How has the dynamic changed within the band with Truls on bass now?
Rikard actually made the decision to leave the band and it was something we could all feel coming even thought it was something we didn’t really want to see happen. We wrote most of the songs for the demos before Truls came into the band but he’s been involved in the process of making the album. He’s a very talented bass player and he’s been contributing a lot. He’s a very steady guy and he’s great to have in the band. If Rikky would’ve been in and we would’ve recorded this album the way we’ve been doing it, with a new producer, new sound guy, new studio, I think it would’ve been very different. I mean, it would sound like a Graveyard album but Truls brings something different. He thinks of music differently but it fits the music very well.
So with Rikkard being gone, you don’t feel that the overall vibe of Graveyard has changed much if at all?
No, I don’t think so. The music is still there as it’s been since the beginning. I just feel that it’s been good for the music in the band and it turned out to be as good as it possibly could out of that situation. We’re very happy.
Sometimes change is something that needs to happen in a band to keep things together. Even though it can be unfortunate on a personal level, it’s important to keep the band as a whole healthy and happy so that the music doesn’t suffer.
Yeah, exactly. I think maybe the parting can help him as well. I haven’t talked to him in a while. Hopefully it will get him into a better place.
Truls was actually the guitarist that you replaced in Graveyard. Is that a little weird at all?
[Laughs] No, everything has been great actually. When we were writing songs for the new album, we called him up and asked him if he’d come by and help us out. He just came by and it felt good immediately. He’s a great guitar player and a great bass player as well. Axel actually called me up and asked me what I thought about Truls and I told I thought he was great! I think it was a good thing that he was in the band early on and now he’s back. He’s a very easy guy to be around and he likes good music.
Part of what makes Graveyard so great is your now signature production on the albums. It’s always so warm and raw. Will you be taking that approach with this album?
We went to a really nice studio this time and it’s huge. One of the reasons we wanted to try a new studio was because you could use the room so much. We tried to keep the volume down and it made everything in that room sound so different. Like, if you just really pushed the drums hard it sounded too much for the room to handle but if you were just not beating them so hard and if you lowered the amps you could actually hear how big the sound was in the room. It was a new experience for us and a little hard. At first, we did 10 songs in one week and then we came back and figured we should redo a few of those because of that kind of sound. I don’t think we’ve ever played or recorded the songs this fast but it was a lot more to think about and to be cautious of instrument levels. It was a good way for us to do this and pretty much everything is live with just a few overdubs. It just feels really good to do it that way when you have to get really into it. On this album there’s just more space and more air in the songs. You can tell what’s going on and really see the sound picture.
When I listen to each of the Graveyard albums, there is definitely a progression of growth in the songwriter from album to album yet the Graveyard sound just always stays perfectly intact. Do you feel that growth continues with this new one?
Thank you for saying that by the way. Definitely. We’re still the same band. We haven’t changed drastically in any way. We kind of do the same thing that we’ve always done but we try to focus a little more on how we write songs. That’s the fun part. We still have the same way of writing songs. We jam on everything to make sure it’s fun to play and that’s the most important thing. Then we narrow it all down to make sure we get to the most important parts to get a proper song out of it. It’s the same process really. The sound is still the same. You’ll still be able to say that it’s a Graveyard album.
Since Graveyard’s appearance on the scene nearly 10 years ago, it seems that so many bands have come forward playing this classic sounding hard rock/occult rock kind of thing. Why do think this kind of music is seeing such resurgence?
To be honest, I don’t have a clue but I like it a lot too. These kinds of bands are all out there playing live and that’s a very good thing because there’s really no other way to do it really and get good at it. It is hard to tell sometimes if they are playing with a true interest in that kind of music or if they are just playing it because it’s what is hip or because that’s what a certain record label wants. I think it’s great that people are out and playing and listening to more different kinds of music than just what’s on the radio. It’s fun to listen to bands that have the same kind of influences.
I totally agree and sometimes I feel like you can tell right away if a band is truly sincere about the music they’re playing of if they’re just riding the wave of what’s cool at the moment.
Yeah, I think so too. I hope so [laughs]. Usually I’ll give something a few tries to see what I really think. There are some bands that sound like they’ve been listening to one group and all they did was change the riffs around a little bit and that’s not fun. I want something that comes from them; their own thing.
You guys are pretty much honorary Americans at this point. What is your favorite American food to indulge in when touring over here?
I always look forward to the veggie burgers here. I don’t eat meat and the veggie burgers here are very, very good. I’m also very excited about Whole Foods [laughs].
What have you been listening to a lot of lately?
I’m like an old man [laughs]. Of course I like to see what’s new and stuff but I pretty much like a lot of old music. Last night I was listening to RL Burnside. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Kenny Rogers stuff lately. I’ve been also listening to a lot of blues, I love Nina Simone, and as always, I’ve been listening to a lot of early Fleetwood Mac. I always have them on.
I never asked you about this but since you’re such a huge early Fleetwood Mac fan, how do you feel about the Buckingham/Nicks era.
Ah, you know…
Go ahead; you can be as mean as you want.
[Laughs] To be honest, I never really put it on. In my head, Fleetwood Mac is Peter Greene’s Fleetwood Mac and it’s going to take a lot to change that for me. I don’t have that eras records any longer. I sold them a long time ago [laughs]. I mean, it’s not that bad and it’s not that I have anything against that kind of Fleetwood Mac stuff. I don’t know what the deal was but to me, it would have been obvious to change the name after that time period but I don’t know. I just know that when I hear the name Fleetwood Mac, I think of Peter Greene’s Fleetwood Mac.
What does the rest of 2015 have in store for Graveyard and the fans?
The new album will come out in September and we will be back in the States for a tour. We will be doing a couple of Swedish shows right after we release the record and then we will do maybe a 2-3 week European tour and then shortly after we’ll be back in the states. After this record comes out we’re just going to go tour and play as much as possible.
Can I put in my request for a song tonight?
Sure. Of course. What is it? I can’t guarantee we can play it [laughs].
“As the Years Pass By, the Hours Bend.”
Oh yeah. Fuck yeah we can do that one [laughs].
Jonatan, this was so much fun catching up with you again.
Thank you so much, Don. This was fun to do again.