Theme Switcher
Switch to:

Notes about GDM Themes
Click to learn more about GDM themes


Not a member yet?
Click here to register.

Forgotten your password?
Request a new one here.
Site Stats
Album Reviews: 6860
Comments: 16579
Ratings: 4791
Forum Posts: 21868
Articles Hierarchy
Articles Home » Interviews » Elevener - 2008 Interview: Johan Bergquist
Elevener - 2008 Interview: Johan Bergquist
Interview with: Johan Bergquist
Written By: gdazegod
Dated: 8 August 2008

One of the great surprises in the AOR world for 2008 is the Swedish duo going under the banner of Elevener. The duo in question are Johan Bergquist and Andreas Broden, who hail from the power metal capital of Scandinavia - Gothenberg. Johan Bergquist is better known in his role as keyboardist with Swedish hard rockers M.ill.ion, who have released an album coincidentally at the same time as Elevener. GLORY-DAZE may eventually get to M.ill.ion, but the immediate focus is Elevener, due to the pure AOR music on offer. Though there are an abundance of superb releases during the early part of 2008, we found it fitting to award Elevener as 'album of the month for July 2008', and it joins some very very good releases awarded ['album of the month for 2008' prior to July. GLORY-DAZE editor gdazegod talks to Johan Bergquist about the power of eleven, and why it is that kaleidoscopes collide..

Thanks for spending some time with the GLORY-DAZE readers Johan!
You are most welcome - the pleasure is all mine!

Johan, even with your current role in M.ill.ion, it kinda came out of left field that you would be responsible for such an amazing album as this. Where exactly does your melodic inheritance come from? I could guess, and say the entire Scandi AOR and melodic rock scene of the 80's, but I'll let you answer this one..
I'm glad to hear that you like the album! I realise that people didn't expect me to be involved in something like Elevener, since M.ill.ion is a much heavier band. That being said, M.ill.ion is also very melodic and since I joined them there have been more and more 'accusations' of me making AOR-choruses, haha! The style of Elevener is a style that Andreas and myself tried to play during our late teens, so this genre is something we grew up with. We actually didn't listen that much to Scandi-AOR when we grew up, but at the same time you couldn't really escape it. It was everywhere back then! I remember that I played Fate - 'A Matter Of Attitude' and Pretty Maids - 'Future World' very much. Andreas listened to TNT a lot, but we both listened to heavier stuff mostly. I was a huge fan of Fates Warning, Dio, Ozzy and Saxon. Andreas listened a lot to Yngwie Malmsteen, Queensryche and Cinderella. To be honest I thought that much of the great 80's AOR was too wimpy when I was a teenager.. so I have had the chance to rediscover it as an adult. The funny thing is that even though Andreas and myself listened mostly to heavier stuff, the songs we wrote back then were undoubtedly more AOR than hard rock/metal.

How come we didn't hear about Elevener sooner? You guys seem to have snuck under the radar like the Stealth Fighter! lol!
Haha! ? Well, we don't consider ourselves to be the biggest thing since sliced bread and that may explain why you didn't know about us before you heard the album. My honest opinion is that the world contains enough self-promotion and there are already enough bands and artists that try to create a hype around their music, and that actually puts me off quite often. I realise that a band/artist has to do some promotion and I must say that I am very happy to do this interview with you! It's just that we thought it was better to get the music out first. Of course I could have tried to get some press-release out earlier this year that would have said: 'Wow! We just recorded a great song and it turned out real good and it will be on our great debut album.' But that would not have made the music on the album any better, would it? We'll rather leave it to the listener to decide if something is good or not, hence the pre-release silence. I am more than happy to promote the album, but I try to keep away from the areas of marketing and self-promotion.

How old, or recent, is this material?
Most of it where written during 2007. The oldest song on the album is 'Say If You Want' and that one was written in 2004. 'There She Goes' was finished early this year and is the most recently written.

Did you have to shop around the labels before your deal with AOR Heaven?
A friend of ours runs a new label and he was very keen on releasing our album. However, because M.ill.ion were on Metal Heaven I thought that it would be appropriate to inform them about Elevener and that we had recorded an album and were aiming to release it shortly. They asked to hear what we had come up with and then we got a tempting offer from AOR Heaven/Metal Heaven, which meant we had to turn down our friend. Thankfully, there are no hard feelings because of that. We didn't shop around with this album more than what I just told you. I just couldn't cope... that's how career-minded I am! :-)

I was suitably impressed when I heard it. So many good tracks, and hardly any weaknesses across the album. Did you have a wide variety of material to select from, when finally choosing what went on the album?
We have put a lot of time and effort into the making of this album. We had at least 40 songs to choose from, which was necessary since Andreas is hyper-critical and wouldn't settle for some of my 'soundtrack-AOR' as he called some of my ideas, haha!? I happen to write quite a lot of stuff, though it is not always as good as I might think initially, but then Andreas never hesitates to tell me when anything is below par. That includes the keyboard sounds as well, haha! We know each other very well and have an open communication about the music of Elevener. Thankfully we share the same taste in music most of the time, and in hindsight I am glad that the 'soundtrack-AOR' was left out!

Reading across the Internet, some have mentioned your vocals sound like a young John Wetton. I've been with this album for a couple of weeks now, and I would suggest to many that you sound uncannily like Canadian melodic rock hero Stan Meissner. Have you heard of him?
Actually someone else mentioned Stan Meissner in a review just recently, and since I haven't got any of his albums I checked him out on myspace. He's not an artist that I've been listening to, though I did recognise the song 'River Of Fire'. I take it as a compliment if you think I sound anything like Meissner! My voice isn't the typical AOR-voice, but hopefully it suits the music of Elevener anyway. I would guess that my biggest influences as a singer are Fish & Ian Anderson(!). Someone mentioned that I sounded like Gregg Rolie and other reviewers have mentioned Cetera, Paich, Michael Morales, and all of those are great musicians and me, well I am just me. Some people think that my vocals suck, so my feet are still very much grounded. Hopefully my voice is personal enough to help give Elevener a distinctive sound, for better or for worse.? Btw, I will need to check out Stan Meissner more. I liked what I heard! (you won't be disappointed.. Ed).

You and Andreas seem to have settled on playing a style that showcases a 'who's who' of the melodic rock/AOR scene. However, is it all just a big melting pot when it comes to sitting down and writing tunes?
It is a big melting pot, but our aim is to create pure AOR. We have both listened and played a wide variety of genres, but what comes most naturally for us is the style that you hear on 'When Kaleidoscopes Collide'. However I think we benefit from having listened to, and played, a lot of different stuff. I like to think that it helps us from sounding too generic. Andreas and I have known each other for decades, we share the same taste and have the same references and therefore we work very well together. If I say 'more Steve Smith' then Andreas will know which style I am after. At the same time he might tell me to 'play less Steinman and more Peterik', haha!?

Where are you at personally with your commitments on other projects, such as M.ill.ion and now Elevener? No problems dividing your time equally?
Hopefully I won't have to choose between M.ill.ion and Elevener. Elevener is not a full band at this stage, and that means I am able to fulfil my commitments with M.ill.ion. I had a very hectic period during October '07 to April '08 since I recorded both the new M.ill.ion album and 'When Kaleidoscopes Collide', pretty much at the same time. It wasn't intended to clash like that but I tried hard to finish both albums before relocating my studio in April. Most of the promotion and business for M.ill.ion is being handled by either BJ or Ulrich so I am able to invest some time in Elevener. I am very glad that I am able to do that, since this Elevener-album is very important for me.

With you being a keyboardist and all.. what are the prominent instruments you are using (both hardware and software) on the album? (question for all our tech and gearheads out there!)
I am as far from being a 'gearhead' that a keyboard player can possibly be, but I'll try and see if I can remember some of it. I have used a few sounds from my Ensoniq TS-10, other than that it's mostly software synthesizers. I have Kore (Native Instruments) but I haven't used many of those sounds. I have actually used Hybrid and Xpand (DigiDesign) very much. I also used Tassman & Ultra Analog (Applied Acoustics). Some of the sounds have been lined through my old Tascam mixer before they where recorded. I use an old master keyboard from Roland but I am afraid I can't remember the name of the model, could it be A-50?

And who in the world of ivory-bashers, has given you the inspiration to continue on in your craft as a keyboard player?
I actually don't look at myself as a keyboard player, though I must confess to playing the keyboard a lot, of course... (I had played many more gigs as a bass player than as a keyboard player when I joined M.ill.ion). But to answer your question: Surely there are keyboard players that are an inspiration to me. I am a huge fan of Mark Kelly (Marillion), Rick Wakeman and Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater). I listened a lot to stuff like that during the 90's. I have only one Heep album (though that is about to change) and maybe half of Purple's albums, and I haven't listened to those as much as some might think when they hear me play with M.ill.ion. I love to play the grand piano and Bruce Hornsby is one of my favourites, as well as Jim Steinman and Roy Bittan. From the AOR-horizon I must also add Dennis De Young, Jim Peterik and Didge Digital (FM). Ooops, I mentioned quite a few names there… If I had to pick only one keyboard player it would be Mark Stanway (Magnum).

Guitarists talk about this all the time (favourite solos etc), so are there one or two particular keyboard solos that stand out for you?
There is a fantastic intro/solo by Kevin Moore on 'Only A Matter Of Time' from the first Dream Theater (and imho best) album 'When Dream And Day Unite' (I agree with you whole heartedly Johan.. Ed). I could name tons of stuff by Saga! They have made some fantastic music and the keyboards are brilliant! I have a VHS-tape with Yes from the 'Union' tour and Rick Wakeman's solo on 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' is simply breathtaking. Just when you think 'Aah, that was a great solo', he goes 'all in' and delivers some merciless stuff... pure magic. That VHS-tape is pretty much worn out in that particular spot.

Have you had any feedback from Ulrich, Jonas, B,J and  Per (M.ill.ion bandmates) as to the Elevener album?
Both Ulrich and BJ like some AOR and I know Ulrich has heard all of the album and he thinks it's great. Don't know if BJ has heard all but I think he will like some of it, since he liked the demos. I know that Per liked some of the stuff very much but I am not sure of how much he has heard. Jonas heard 'Say If You Want' back when it was written and liked that one very much, but I don't think he has heard much more than that. (I even think he played on the demo of that song). All in all, everyone is supportive and there is room to explore the world outside of M.ill.ion. As an example, Jonas had his own band called Mental 10sion which was all about raw metal and a far cry from the wimpiness of Elevener, haha!?

Was there ever a temptation to extend your playing style from M.ill.ion (particularly that 'rock organ' sound a la Deep Purple, Uriah Heep) into the Elevener mix?
No, not really. I don't think the songs would have been improved by that. Though I can see why you ask, seeing as I use a fair amount of such organs with M.ill.ion. There are some organ on 'Say If You Want' but we didn't want Elevener to sound like hard rock and therefore organs weren't really an option. Partly because my vocals don't fit well for harder rock, but mostly because we wanted Elevener to be pure AOR. The keyboard/organ style I use in M.ill.ion is something that I have learned for the last few years, whereas the style you hear on 'When Kaleidoscopes Collide' is my 'natural' style!

Can I ask about the album cover. It's incredible! What do all the graphical elements mean? And what point is being conveyed when connected to the album title 'When Kaleidoscopes Collide'?
The album cover is meant to be a bit mystical… so I would rather not give you my interpretation of all the graphical elements.? After all, it would just be my interpretation and not an definite 'answer' regarding the meaning of the cover art. Though I would like to tell you what lies behind the title and that way you might look upon those elements the same way as I do ;-) I have a dear friend whose name is Kate Moore, aka 'Batttttty', and she is the one who suggested the title. Kate and I have been in contact throughout the recording of this album and she knew all the lyrics. I instantly liked the title when she suggested it. The title is of course meant to be read metaphorically and this is my personal view on it: All the lyrics deal with love and love lost. If you look at two lovers as two kaleidoscopes you might see what lies behind the title. When in love, life can become very intense and this may cause an almost delirium-like effect, like when looking into a kaleidoscope. That's when life borders on magic. Though as we all know, love may come to an end, sometimes as a result of things being too intense, too magical. Then reality catches up and your visions lies shattered on the ground, like when two kaleidoscopes collide. However, the shattered pieces may actually, through their reflections, guide you onwards in life. I like if people make up their own mind regarding the meaning behind the album cover and I do believe there are many ways to interpret it. I can fully see if some will find the album cover and/or the title to be a bit too abstract, but I like both a lot!

And what about the name.. Elevener? At first glance, it suggests perhaps a prog/power metal band name.. How did that come about?
We chose a name that we liked and didn't think much about how it would be perceived. We could not force ourselves to come up with a more typical AOR name. I'd rather have a bandname that makes people frown, than use something more of a cliche, 'appropriate' for the AOR-genre. Of course we use cliches in our music, but we don't think of them as being cliches. We do our thing seriously and I am actually quite annoyed by bands who use all the cliches but seem to do it with a sarcastic smile. Anyway.. Eleven has traditionally been known as the number of enlightenment and I actually felt a bit enlightened a few years ago. There where some circumstances that made me realize that time is not an endless resource in our lives. The modern man often acts as if there will be loads of tomorrows, but in reality our lives can change dramatically (or even end) earlier than we expect. Me and Andreas had been talking for years about recording an AOR-album together and one day I decided to try and realize that dream. I took a loan, tried to learn the gear and here we are now. Dreams can get too old to become true and I didn't want that to happen. This album means a lot to me personally and I hope that I answered your question somewhere in all this, haha!? I might also add that there is some kind of new-age belief where people claim to see the number 11, anywhere and very often. Those people call themselves 'Eleveners'. I'm not one of them but I happen to like 11.

Do you have a deal with AOR Heaven beyond just this album?
They do have an option for a possible second album. So far we are very pleased with being on AOR Heaven and I have no reason to believe that that is going to change.

I'm guessing the musical climate and current industry situation would make it unlikely to turn Elevener into a band/live situation?
I don't rule out any possibilities at all regarding this issue. If the circumstances are right I would love to go out and play those Elevener songs with a full band! Though I won't form a band unless there is a substantial interest in seeing us. I can't recruit good musicians and then ask of them to pay to play. There are some musicians here in Gothenburg that I have in mind, and I strongly believe that a great band could be put together if we are approached with gig-requests.

And what does the near future hold for the two of you? Any further projects in the wings.. etc?
We are right in the middle of promoting the European release of 'When Kaleidoscopes Collide' and there will also be a Japanese release (Avalon/Marquee) on August 20th. Furthermore I am (still) looking for a new place to set up my studio. I will be playing some gigs with M.ill.ion in the coming months and we will soon get together for rehearsals. I also hope that me and Andreas can get together during the fall, to demo some of the new Elevener material. The release of 'When Kaleidoscopes Collide' has gained more interest than we had hoped for and hopefully you will be hearing more from Elevener in the coming years. To get involved in any other bands/projects is not on the horizon for me or Andreas.

Thanks for the opportunity to get a few words in there Johan. Great chatting to you, and thanks for the opportunity and for a great album - already in my top 3 for the year! Cheers!
I am truly happy to hear when people like our album and I hope you will keep on enjoying it! Thanks for your interest in Elevener & thanks to Glory-Daze for helping to keep AOR alive!

All written content on this website is copyrighted.
Copying of material without permission is not permitted.

No Comments have been Posted.
Post Comment
Please Login to Post a Comment.
Rating is available to Members only.

Please login or register to vote.

No Ratings have been Posted.
Search DDG