In a recent interview, Christofer Johnsson, the visionary behind Therion’s highly anticipated release, “Leviathan III,” opened up about the band’s creative process and the challenges of the evolving music industry.
On December 15th Therion have released the third installment of the Leviathan trilogy, Leviathan III. The band continues with their versatile and style-combining musical journey, which is also formed by the fundamental line of its predecessors Leviathan and Leviathan II. Reflecting on the trilogy, Johnsson revealed, “We wrote all the materials for Leviathan I, II, and III in the same writing session 2019-2020. The foundation with drums, bass and guitar was recorded all together and just vocals, choir, orchestration and mix was done separately.”
Characterizing the third installment, he shared, “The first one was more vocal and hit oriented. The second one partly hit oriented, but more choral and also darker and a bit more melancholic. On the third one we try to give the die hard fans who doesn’t prefer the most popular songs what they want. It’s the adventurous one in the trilogy.”
The intriguing track “Duende” had an unconventional genesis, as Johnsson explained, “Thomas lives in Spain, and one day when he was about to go to his home studio and write music, he passed the TV that was playing flamenco.” This serendipitous moment inspired the creation of a flamenco metal song, showcasing Therion’s diverse influences.
What songs came about the easiest and what songs were the hardest to complete?
“From the songs I was involved with, Twilight of the Gods was the one causing the most grief. I was still working on the ending until the very last minute before we had to record it.”
How does one know when a song is done?
“In a way a song could never be finished, because you can always fine adjust and add things for eternity. It’s just some point in the process where you feel you have enough songs and wants to record them, then you need to wrap it up and simply let it be the way it is.”
With the global music landscape evolving, how has the band adapted its approach to releasing and promoting albums, especially considering the impact of digital platforms and streaming services?
“The record company are still working with paper and online media, booking interviews and buying adverts. But I feel pretty much 50% of the promotion these days are done digitally via social media and such and there the artist has a more active role, as you need something drawing the attention of people.”
A few years ago it was quite known that the only revenue stream for bands was touring. However, with inflation, rising costs, overscheduling and much more, 2024 looks like a tough year for touring. Has that been the case for Therion?
For me that was never the case. Historically I earned more from songwriting money and royalties from album sales.
And in recent years when streaming has taken over, I still earn more from streaming than from touring, because I own the entire Therion back catalogue (I previously bought everyone else out), and have a steady stream of income from streaming.
I wouldn’t say touring in general looks bad 2024. It’s only Europe that is fucked and that is totally self inflicted with stupid sanctions against Russia which basically means Europe is shooting it self in the foot economically (while only marginally harming Russia), which has ended up with insane energy and fuel prices. On top on that energy prices has been pushed up even further by the pseudo-green hysteria where for example nuclear energy is disbanded in favour of wind and solar energy, which obviously can not replace nuclear plants (plus that it’s not a controllable flow of produced energy). This has cause the energy prices to rush even further. And our politicians of course don’t want to lower taxes on fuel/energy either, so a huge part of that cost is tax. So all in all, it’s mainly self inflicted factors that is the big problem in Europe. Additionally and as a problem for touring artists specifically, there are very unfair artists taxes, where we either has to get taxed double or do an insane amount of paper work (basically a form for each person for each gig for the entire tour), it has really created a very unfavourable economic environment for the music entertainment business.
But this is a European phenomena. Playing the US is also very unfavourable to European artists, because they ask insane money for an artist Visa. But at least it’s not bad for domestic artists to tour there. Then in Asia, Russia and Latin America, there are no difficult obstacles, we even played MORE in Latin America than we usually do at the beginning of this year. We did 18 shows in Mexico alone. So really, it’s not an issue for us at all with touring. We just avoid going to the US and will cherry pick the tour dates in Europe and don’t do too many shows in the countries with the dumbest tax rules and we also signed up with a new booking agent that has their own tour bus, so expenses are more under control. Still, we will probably tour less in Europe in the future. We did 58 shows in Europe in 2018. This time we do 30. Next time it will maybe be only 15-25, as we will cherry pick the best offers/circumstances.
On a lighter note, is there something you collect from travelling and touring? Can you share with us some of the souvenirs you have kept along the years that are dearest to your heart?
I have an entire display cabinet full of gifts from fans. Mostly from Latin America, but some also from other parts of the world. The one I hold most dear is a wooden dragon carved with a knife by a blind fan in Paris. It’s very detailed and it’s so amazing how someone can just feel with his hand on some dragon and then carve his own. It took him months to do it. It’s on my top 5 things to take if the house is on fire list.
Do you have a favourite lyric from this album? Or a favourite lyric at the moment?
”Twilight of the Gods” feel very suitable in our current times of unrest and chaos in the world.
A long time from now, when people still think of Therion, what would you like them to remember? What do you want its legacy to be?
A band that was pioneering and being one of the most diverse bands on the planet.