Aftermath by Silver Mountain.
Jonas Hansson is a name that has a lot of importance in the world of Swedish Heavy Metal. He is the founder, leader, main songwriter and guitarist (and at times vocalist) of the band Silver Mountain, widely regarded by many as one of the first Metal groups in Sweden, starting out in the late 70s. The group is also regarded for being the first band of Jens and Anders Johansson.
I had the opportunity of doing an interview with Jonas, who not only has been carrying the Metal flag throughout the years, but has also done work as a director, as a sound engineer and constantly being involved in the music world. It was a great interview and I thank him for taking the time to answer my questions.
Hello, Jonas, thank you for doing this. Welcome to MusikHolics. Have you been in recent times?
Hi! I’m doing okay.
How has the pandemic affected your plans in the last year or so?
Not much. Some loss in clients.
For people that perhaps have lost track with your career in recent years, are you currently working on new music, whether it’s Silver Mountain, solo or any other project?
Yes, I am currently producing and arranging the music for “The Baskervillefiles”, which is a graphic novel with music and several different artists. I also play on two songs on Magnus Rosen’s solo album that will be released soon. I also direct videos etc. and I am currently working on doing videos for the band Mad Invasion… and I always work on new music. 😀
Let’s start from the very beginning: How did you get into music?
I was singing live the first time at three years old. Got piano lessons when I was seven. I was digging music and when I heard Deep Purple’s Made in Japan and that was the first time I told myself “this is what I want to do”. It was just so cool and powerful and something different.
Which were the albums that influenced you the most throughout your career?
As above, Made in Japan. A lot of DP in the beginning but also Alice Cooper (Killer), Rainbow, Ten Years After, Led Zeppelin, Sweet, Black Sabbath, West Side Story, Carmen and Uli Roth and his solo-albums.
Who were the guitar players that left the biggest mark on you?
Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Roth, John Maclaughlin. Also Gary Moore and a few others.
Silver Mountain playing Dio’s Stand Up and Shout. Jens and Anders Johansson on keyboards and drums, respectively. Jonas on vocals and guitar.
One can listen to your evolution through your career, especially with Silver Mountain. From your own perspective, how do you think you have changed and evolved as a musician?
I always wanted everything to be original and every time I did a recording I asked myself what I wanted to hear, and not just to play what I was able to play. This was quite challenging since I a lot of the times heard stuff I couldn’t play. That way I evolved in the guitar playing. I worked as a producer/engineer for many years and by working with various styles and artists I learned a lot and how to mix and match my playing to anything.
What do you think are the aspects of being a guitarist that are not discussed enough?
Many guitarists focus too much on the guitar and they forget about the music.
What can you tell us about the first bands you had in the 70s before what would become Silver Mountain?
Well. I started playing with friends from school with various line-ups. When I was fourteen we played at a prom-thing and the guy who was fixing the DJ-equipment came by and heard a little thing and a few months later he hooked us up with a trio in Spain who decided to bring “Pippi Longstocking” to Spain and they needed a young Swedish band. We got that gig. Our second show was at the Pamplona bullfighting arena and in front of 15-20.000 in the audience. It kind of got me excited. The band’s name was Zaturnus. After that, Fire came and we started to play among the youth-centers here in Malmö.
What do you remember of those first groups, the first couple of shows and the first original songs you tried to write?
Writing songs came naturally but everything was so blues-based and I wanted to get away from that and added more classical thinking to my music. More melodies and not so straight forward.
Of course, the Swedish Rock and Metal scene in the late 70s and early 80s wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now. How it was back in those days?
It was a struggle but we who believed in it just kept going and doing our thing.
What were the biggest challenges of making Metal music back in those days in Sweden?
Probably the attitude of society.
Man of No Present Existence by Silver Mountain.
You guys released a single in 1979, Man of No Present Existence. What do you remember of making that single?
That was very fun. We met the studio owner while partying in the city and he invited us up. He was building the studio and we were hanging there a lot so when we decided to do the fiest single it was an easy choice to do it there. There are a lot of funny stories about the studio but it would take up the whole interview (laughs).
There was a point in the making of the band, I think it was around 1982, that you got the brothers Jens and Anders Johansson at keyboards and drums, respectively. How was the process of getting them into the band?
The previous version broke up and we needed a drummer for starters. A friend told me about Anders Johansson but I had heard him and he was a jazzy type of player and I wasn’t interested. Suddenly one day he was banging at the door at our rehearsal room and I let him in. He knew our songs and that was impressive. But he needed to play less and harder. And he played harder eventually. Everyone else was using twin-guitars and I wanted to do more neoclassical stuff than just the two-guitar. That’s why I wanted Jens (Anders’ brother) to join. And so he did, half a year later.
In 1983, when you guys released your debut, the band had already been around for quite some time now. What kind of shows you did back in those days?
Mainly local shows at places that were cool for us, like movie-theaters, amphitheaters, youth-centers etc. We also did a national tour with Torch and Axewitch. Playing all over the country.
And how was your songwriting process back in those days? And how it has changed ever since?
I heard stuff in my head and then I play it. Sometimes I play, improvise and something comes up.
How you got the record with Roadrunner Records?
We got a deal with the studio Ljudspåret in Gothenburg and when the guy was pitching it for distribution, Roadrunner wanted to buy us out. And so they did.
King of the Sea by Silver Mountain.
Your debut album was 1983’s Shakin’ Brains. How was the process of making that album?
We went to the studio on a weekend and recorded everything and a couple of weeks later we went up a weekend and mixed it. So, kind of very fast.
Looking back after all those years, what do you think about that album?
It was somehow innovative and true to what I liked. The sound could be better.
You did the vocals for this album. Were you always interested in being a singer or was that something you did out of necessity?
I started singing because it was needed and there were no singers around then. But I didn’t mind doing it.
A little afterwards, the Johansson brothers left to join Yngwie. How did you react when that happened?
Jens left first and he was supposed to come back. Since Yngwie was just doing a solo album and was still in Alcatrazz. But suddenly Anders went over and some time later I heard from other people that they joined Yngwie. They never contacted me and told me. That kind of pissed me off but I understand why they joined him.
By the time we get to 1985, you release the album Universe and you have Christer Mentzer on vocals. How did you get him into the band?
I wanted a singer for this release and through friends we found Christer.
This album maintains the style and spirit of the debut, in my view, but the songwriting I think has improved. Would you agree that it shows a much more mature vision of you as a songwriter?
Don’t know. Just came out that way.
Prophet of Doom by Silver Mountain.
Musically speaking, what was your vision with Silver Mountain?
To play heavy music with great melodies and to be Rock stars.
You released a live album of this tour, Hibiya – Live in Japan ‘85. What can you tell us about it?
We got invited to play in Japan and of course it felt right to do a live-album. Just like DP did and the reason I started to play.
You actually took a bit longer for the third album, 1988’s Roses & Champagne. Was there a reason behind that?
It was hard to find a good singer.
This album is certainly a bit more polished and melodic than the previous one. Was that a conscious decision or a natural progression on your part as a songwriter?
It was the way I felt at the time and what came out. Maybe I tried to be a little more commercial somehow.
Where Are You by Silver Mountain.
Afterwards, Silver Mountain disbanded and we didn’t hear anything from the band in the 90s. What was the reason behind that?
We didn’t reach the goals that I expected so I decided to move to Los Angeles and try my luck.
What were you doing in the 90s?
Moved to LA and was close to join some big acts but I had some bad luck, I guess. I started engineering/producing stuff in LA and did a lot of studio work. Later I got involved in Hollywood and the movie business, doing music for blockbuster movies among other things.
You had a short project called Legacy and their self-titled debut in 1998. What can you tell us about that particular group?
Actually it was in a studio and I was the sound guy. Marten Andersson walked in with another project and we became friends. He had this project (Legacy) in the works and asked me if I wanted to collaborate with him, and so I did.
Mission of Mercy by Legacy.
You also did your own solo project, Classica, in 1999. What do you remember about the making of that album?
I went to the movies and saw Immortal Beloved with Gary Oldman. When I came out of the theatre I was excited and touched. That’s when I decided that I wanted to do something more classical/movie-oriented. I wrote a lot of various pieces during that year and when I had about 80+ songs I picked out the ones that I would like to work on. And the result is Classica.
What was the difference between an album with Silver Mountain, Legacy and your own solo project?
Mainly different people. The songs on Jonas Hansson Band/no.1 was made for an Alcatrazz-reunion-thing that never happened. So those songs were intended for Graham Bonnet to sing. In Legacy, Marten wrote the songs and brought in the players.
Throughout the years you developed a career as a music engineer. What can you tell us about that?
When we started to do recordings I was looking for certain sounds and the engineers couldn’t find them so I started to tweak the knobs. Working with various acts in LA developed my knowledge and I think my ears were pretty good.
You eventually got the lineup of the first album together for a new record, 2001’s Breakin’ Chains. How that came to be?
It was just the time for that. I was home at Christmas and met Anders and we started to talk about it. There were so many songs that needed to be released.
How was the experience with the guys of the original lineup after all those years?
Well, we didn’t meet much since we all did it on different locations. But it came out alright. Keeping the spirit but with a more updated sound.
Classica by Jonas Hansson.
You didn’t make another Silver Mountain album for fourteen years. Why was that?
We all did other things……and the market was swamped with bands.
What do you think of the band’s latest album to date, 2015’s Before the Storm? How would you describe almost six years later?
It was a demo from 1980 and when I was asked about releasing it, I took a listen and realized how good it was. I didn’t remember us being that tight that early.
Which is your favorite Silver Mountain album and why?
Don’t really have a favorite. There are some good and some bad stuff on all of them, I guess.
Your band was one of the first in Sweden to play Heavy Metal. What do you think of Silver Mountain’s legacy in your country throughout the years?
I know we were an inspiration for a lot of bands and fans but since we didn’t come from Stockholm we got less attention.
Breakin’ Brains by Silver Mountain.
Any advice for a musician starting out?
A lot of practice is good but most important is passion. And to play the impossible.
Greatest lesson you have learned in your career?
Don’t trust people too much.
Thank you for taking the time to do this long interview, Jonas. I highly appreciate it. Any last words for our readers? Where can people follow you on social media?
Well, thanks for asking. I am involved in a bunch of different projects but when I have the time I will do a new album with my music. What it will be, I don’t know yet. I can be followed at facebook.com/thejonashansson and jonashanssonvideos at YouTube.