Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Ripple Conversation With Simon Ohlsson Of Vokonis


It all started as Creedsmen Arise but soon they emerged to the world as Vokonis. In just over a year the band has made themselves a name in the Swedish heavy underground and beyond as they released the debut album “Olde One Ascending” (Ozium Records) this summer. We hooked up with guitarist and vocalist Simon Ohlsson to get the full scoop on Vokonis. 

What have been your musical epiphany moments?
S: My musical epiphany was the first time I heard The Smashing Pumpkins. There’s this magical moment in their track Cherub Rock when they slam their Big Muffs to transform their sound to that warm fuzzy wall that I instantly fell in love with. And hearing Mastodon for the first time. I didn’t know something could be so aggressive and raw but still have that progressive feel to it.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
S: That process have evolved as I have evolved as a musician. At first I would jam on my guitar and eventually come up with something worthwhile. Now I mostly (due to time constrains) arrange the songs in my head without even playing them first. Then I bring the idea to the rest of the band and either it doesn’t work and we scrap it or we make a song out of it. We try to be picky about what songs we spend our time on.

Who has influenced you the most?
S: Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. He has the sound, the songs and the balls to do whatever he wishes. He’s my number 1 musical hero. Other than that I have to mention the twin guitar maestros of Mastodon. Their contributions to metal is enormous.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
S: This will come out as a cliché but I guess I take my inspiration out of everyday life. I can get really inspired whilst listening to music or watching a movie. But I get true inspiration from current events or how the world is nowadays. It’s gone to shit.

We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
S: We hail from the city of Borås which is known for being a rainy city. So I think that actually have played a big part in our sound. Rain can feel depressing at first but I’ve embraced it and now I find it soothing. And it lets me and the guys go and rehearse what we love without feeling guilty of not being in the sun.

Where'd the band name come from?
S: It’s from the song King Vokonis Plague. That name came to me and it resonated with me. So we decided to call ourselves that.

You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
S: The Big Lebowski or Alien. Those are my favorite movies that I can watch a thousand times without growing tired of them.

You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).  You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
S: That would probably be Opeth’s epic track from Watershed called Hessian Peel. To me that song embodies all that they are. They’ve got the folky parts along with death metal and they end up with this hard-rock jam. It’s a ride for sure.

 What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?
S: We want to give the audience a sense of journey. Like they travel somewhere in their minds and let our music be the soundtrack to that. I always try to write songs with a narrative sense. So I guess I want that to translate well to our audience.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
S: We had this one crazy moment this summer where a guy in the woods invited us in to eat pancakes with him and his wife. That was probably the strangest thing we’ve ever been asked to do. They’re great people and we had a lot of fun but we didn’t really know if we were going to get robbed or something.

Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
S: We always want to give a great show. We’re not really a band that would stand and drone on a few chords for half an hour. We have that punk-mentality when we’re always moving and maybe play a little bit too fast. We want people to enjoy themselves and lose themselves to the music.

What makes a great song?
S: The overall feel of it. A song can have some great riffs and a huge chorus but no heart to it. You kind of feel it when you play it if it has the energy you’re going for or not.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
S: It was a really catchy hard rock-grungy kind of thing that I in retrospect am not proud of at all. It’s very predictable but we had a lot of fun writing and playing it.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
S: That we managed to write a whole record and make it sound like one big piece of music. I always respect a record that sounds like one big song. And I think we managed to do just that with Olde One Ascending. But I’m really proud of these new songs we’ve been writing this past summer. I think we really elevated ourselves and have written some great songs. And a huge reason for that is we've spent so much time together as a band.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
S: A lot of people haha! I have my personal favourites Opeth, Dinosaur Jr. High on Fire and a lot more. Two bands that I think is really at the top of their game is High on Fire and Mastodon. I don’t think they’re done making great albums anytime soon. Mostly because I think both of their latest albums are to me some of their best achievements.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
S: I will probably get a lot of hate but digital and CD. It’s convenient and it doesn’t sound like shit. I mostly listen to music in my car on my way to or from work. So it’s more or less out of necessity.  But I love me some vinyl.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice.
S: I do enjoy the occasional beer or whiskey, but my answer would have to be neither. I don’t really drink a lot. If you see me drinking something it would probably be some tea.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
S: That would be AA Musik. He’s got a lot of record and he’s a real music lover. So go and have a visit!

What's next for the band?
S: Playing a bunch of shows in Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The thing I look forward to most is recording our new album in November.

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
S: Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak with you. It's been a pleasure.

-The Void

Photo cred
Live at Klubb Undergången by Andreas Nilsson
Group photo by Jens Eliasson

Hear the album:

Live at Studio Underjord

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