Prior to the release of Seventh Wonder’s most anticipated album to date, “Tiara”, Lyrical Spell Magazine writer Andrea caught up with Stefan Norgren (drums) to discuss the concept behind this new effort, connections, touring, ProgPower USA and the “Welcome to Atlanta” live DVD, plus other interesting details.
''Hello! How are you doing?''
Stefan: ''Fine, thank you. Chilling at home and feeling happy about the release of our 3rd new single “The Everones” which just came out recently.''
''Let’s start with a little presentation. Who is Seventh Wonder and how was the band formed?''
Stefan: ''We’re a Prog Metal band from Stockholm, Sweden. Formed around the year 2000 by core members Andreas Blomqvist (bass), Johan Liefvendahl (guitar) and Andreas ”Kyrrt” Söderin (keys). They began writing music inspired by the likes of Dream Theater, Yngwie Malmsteen and Symphony X to name a few. Music that they themselves wanted to hear, music that was the opposite of mainstream yet still melodic enough to be accessible to a wide array of listeners. They were soon joined by my predecessor Johnny Sandin and later by Tommy Karevik. After the fourth album “The Great Escape” Johnny left and I came in. We did some shows and festivals and just as we began writing for album #5 Tommy was offered the amazing opportunity to become the new Kamelot vocalist. He stuck with us though and now, finally, the new album is only weeks away...''
''Now that the release of “Tiara” is approaching, how are you feeling? Nervous, anxious, excited…?''
Stefan: ''Let me tell you, we’re all really excited for this, but I think I am more than anyone. It’s been an excruciating wait for me to finally be able to share what I do with my brothers in the band with the world. Sure, there have been singles off the new album and separate tracks as well as a live DVD that have come out that I have been a part of but you know, it’s really that first proper album that counts. I wouldn’t say I’m nervous because whether or not this is a killer record is not even a debate. It’s just insanely good if I may say so myself. The reactions to the already released tracks have been overwhelming too.''
''Is there anything new on this album that makes it special? Did you do something different in some way?''
Stefan: ''That’s a tough one for me to answer as I haven’t been a part of any previous recordings. It does have some darker, heavier and more sinister elements for sure. Also
my approach to drumming is a bit different from Johnny’s. He was really comfortable with fast Power metal-esque stuff and did that brilliantly whereas I’m a bit more about the dynamics and
groove. Some listeners will be able to tell the difference in drumming personality, if you will. Other than that, this is classic SW all the way through!''
''How long was “Tiara” in the making? Can you talk a bit about the writing and recording process?''
Stefan: ''Hehe... I’m almost reluctant to admit how long it’s been, but the first bit of music that I heard that would eventually make the album was an early embryo of what would become the title track. Tommy played it to me off his phone when we were in the Netherlands for ProgPower Europe in the fall of 2011. Then we wrote a bunch of core structures for several songs in ‘11 and ‘12, but the process was obviously slowed down by Tommy’s other commitment (although we’ve massively benefitted from it as well), the huge deal of our performing all of “Mercy Falls” at PPUSA in ’14, the DVD production of that show, record label negotiations, a bunch of new born babies and other things. To sum things up, the four of us have steadily been working on new stuff all the time when Tommy’s been on tour, then he’s brought his song ideas and lyrics and melodies for our stuff and we pieced it all together. We recorded it in our own studio in Stockholm.''
''Did it start out as a concept album, or did it naturally progressed into one?''
Stefan: ''It naturally progressed into one, that’s exactly right. We began realizing that although the stuff we were coming up with was sounding very SW, each song that we wrote begged to tell a different part of the story, even before there were any lyrics written. It was so diverse and interesting. We began feeling that, “holy shit, guys, this is gonna have to be another concept album!”''
As far as I can tell from “Tiara’ Song”, this is a continuation of the storyline from “The Great Escape”. ''What can you tell me about the overall concept of the album?''
Stefan: ''As you point out, and as many of our fans instantly spotted, there is a connection between this one and “The Great Escape”, yes. I won’t go as far as saying it’s a
continuation, but it might be... to some listeners. It tells the story of a planet, and of a humanity in free fall. We are living way beyond our means and ripping the world apart with our way of
life. A superior outside presence calls us out, dooms us. Salvation can only come from the one innocent, pure thing left in this place. A young child, “Tiara”. Can she save us? Who knows. What I
love about this concept is how skillfully Andreas B. and Tommy have multi layered the story. To some it’s going to be a sci fi story straight up, to others this will be much more about an
inner journey or a reflection upon the concept of humanity.
''Who came up with the idea for the storyline?''
Stefan: ''This is Tommy’s and Andreas’ baby all the way.''
''Who wrote the lyrics for the album, and how long did that take?''
Stefan: ''I already answered the first part but when it comes to the time it took to write it I’d say the basic plot was created a few years ago in a short while but the actual lyrics were written over the course of about 6 months right at the end of the recording process for the album.''
''What’s your favorite song from the album, and why?''
Stefan: ''I’ve had the whole mastered version on my phone for more than six months so it’s varied a bit, but the closing track “Exhale” is my favourite right now and has been for a while. It’s a 10 minute classic SW epic that includes every element any SW fan could possibly desire in one of our songs. Everyone in the band really went above and beyond on this one and Tommy’s vocals are so f**king insane on it that everytime I hear it I still have to pinch myself, haha. He was also the relentless whip across my back in the studio on the day that I recorded it. The drums alone took 12 hours to record! Nearly killed me, but I’m really happy he gave me such a hard time because the song turned out absolutely amazing!''
''I know there will be a release party in October, so what can you tell me about that?''
Stefan: ''We have this great location in downtown Stockholm secured where fans and friends can sign up to attend and then we’ll all hang out for an evening of SW fun. We’ll have a rock reporter talk to us on stage about the new album and the band as we listen to the record track by track, Q&A, there will be goodie bags with special Seventh Wonder stuff for all who attend (including a unique T-shirt for the occasion), opportunity to pick up merch including CDs and vinyls, we’ll sign anything anyone brings, take photos with fans etc. It’s gonna be one hell of a night.''
''I know you don’t play live that much, but will there be a tour in support of this album? Even a shorter one?''
Stefan: ''Yes. Just recently our headline slot for day 3 at ProgPowerUSA XX next year was announced. We are so God damned psyched for it! PPUSA is where it’s at for anyone into Prog metal in the world and for us to be invited to headline, on their 20th anniversary no less, is beyond awesome! We’ll be sure to squeeze in as many shows as possible before that though. We’ve been on a long hiatus when it comes to live shows, but we are rehearsing right now and it’s more fun than ever and is quite frankly starting to sound pretty damn great!''
''I want to talk a bit about the DVD, “Welcome to Atlanta”. For many people a live version of “Mercy Falls” is a dream come true, and I know you feel the same. What can you tell me about the show at ProgPower USA?''
Stefan: ''It was the highlight of my drumming career so far for sure. There are quite a few songs on it that are insanely difficult on pretty much every instrument and the amount of preparation it took was almost shocking. Up on that stage just as we were about to begin I could feel my level of focus was higher than I’d ever experienced before. The cameras were rolling and we all knew we’d have one shot at it, that’s it. Usually bands will record several shows on a tour and then edit as needed, but we literally had to nail an hour and a half of really hard to play music on the first attempt. We’re so proud of how it turned out. Plus Glenn and his crew are absolutely super to work with and the fans that made it there are phenomenal and so, so dedicated.''
''Heather Musgrave brought so much intensity to key scenes in the show. How did the collaboration with her came about?''
Stefan: ''She did a splendid job indeed. I was not involved in how her participation came about but I think one of my band mates had reached out to the promoters to see if they could recommend a suitable actor for the part. She came over to our hotel for a meeting the day before the show and all the details were figured out.''
''“Day 2” seems to be a more relaxed show and the interaction between everyone on stage is really fun to watch. How was it for you to film this concert?''
Stefan: ''It was good fun in that this was a much more intimate setup. Sure it was in the same room and on the same stage, but only special gold badge (I think that’s what it was called) ticket holders had access. So there was a much smaller crowd. The tough part was that it was at like 10 AM if I recall correctly and we barely made it out of bed for it, haha. Mind you, this was on the morning right after our night show and a bit of an after party…''
''To wrap up the shows in Atlanta, you played a beautiful medley - “Seventh Wonder Odyssey”. Will it be played again, or was it exclusively for that set?''
Stefan: ''Nope, that was a one off thing exclusively for those who attended. We do plan to play around with some acoustic versions of our songs in the future though, but it
will be a bit different from what you saw on the DVD.''
''Can you tell us one thing about the band that the fans might not know?''
Stefan: ''OK, there’s a funny link between myself and the rest of the band from way before I joined the band. About 10 years ago I played the Metal Heart festival in Norway with the band I was in at the time, Lion’s Share. Travelling back to Stockholm at night I realized I’d left my drum stick bag with all my sticks, tools and various parts somewhere at the venue. I made like 30 phone calls in panic and managed to get hold of the festival promoter. He told me there was another Swedish band there and he said he’d inform them about it. I thought this was a lost cause for sure. The following Monday, a guy named Andreas (Kyrrt) called me up. Said he’d been told about it and he and the SW guys had searched through the venue and back stage area, found my bag, and brought it back to Stockholm. I was so damn happy! About 3 years later he contacted me again and asked me to audition...''
''What are your goals and dreams for the future, personally and professionally?''
Stefan: ''I’m very proud of the fine young men my two young sons are growing up to be and seeing them achieve happiness in life is of course number 1. Professionally I teach music, I create music and I perform music and being able to continue doing that on a comfortable level, where other people’s lives are affected in a positive way by that, is a dream of mine. Also, I really hope that “Tiara” gives Seventh Wonder the push I think we deserve and that we’ll be able to perform live all over the world.''
''If you could give us any kind of life advice, what would it be?''
Stefan: ''At this point, given the way the world is and the direction I think we’re unfortunately headed I’d say: Be nice! There are hundreds of millions of complete assholes in this world and not being one of them is an excellent start! Take on the world with an open heart but a well informed brain. Oh, and for goodness sake, make sensible life choices on a daily basis FOR the environment, not AGAINST it.''
''Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview!''
Stefan: ''Thank you!''
“Tiara” will be released on October 12th, via Frontiers Records. You can pre-order the album: http://merchbooth.net/seventh-wonder/
Pre-order (CD/LP/Digital) and stream singles from the album at: http://radi.al/SeventhWonderTiara
Limited edition colored vinyl, t-shirt bundles, and more are available from Frontiers’ webstore here: https://www.frontiers.shop/seventh-wonder/