Three years ago there was a riot at the Sabaton headquarters. It resulted in the departure of four members who decided to start anew. Three of them are still active in Civil War, keyboard player Daniel Myhr is one of them. With a life full of adventure we were left with a lot of questions. Why is it just out while the record was finished last July? How is the relationship with the other Sabaton guys? And do they ever get tired talking about Sabaton this much? He gladly picked up the phone to have a little chat about the new record ‘Gods And Generals.
“We’re extremely happy that ‘Gods And Generals’ is finally out. Our first thought was to release it in November last year, but the plans changed and we had to wait almost a year before it came out. The album was actually finished in July last year, so we have been very anxious for it to be finally released. We were a little bit sad that we had to wait such a long time.
I’m not totally sure why we had to wait so long. We think that our label, Napalm Records, got a little bit cold feet, because there were a lot of good bands releasing albums at the same time as we planned ours. They were afraid that we would disappear in the masses so they wanted to postpone the release a little bit.”
It sounds like there is a lesson to be learned from the opener ‘War Of The Worlds’?
“Actually, that song is not about war at all. It’s about the environment and how Mother Earth is fighting pollution. So it’s about the destruction of the earth, more or less.”
So that’s the only track that’s not about a real war then?
“Let’s see, now I have to think here. Well, the title song ‘Gods And Generals’ is actually not really about war. It’s more written about someone who finds an old diary of a family member who was experienced war. So the person reading the diary is taken back to how the situation was then, most of all during the American Civil War.”
“The longer ago the event took place, the easier people seem to forget.
We can keep them reminded this way.”
Some of you came from the band Sabaton and they make songs about wars and conflicts, just like you do now. Is that something you just do, whether you’re in Sabaton, Civil War or any other band?
“It turned out to be something that we just do. When we started the band we didn’t put up a certain topic that we were going to write about. The fun is that we have the freedom to write songs about anything. That is why we have songs like ‘Gods And Generals’ and ‘Sons Of Avalon’ from our previous album ‘The Killer Angels’, they’re not about war at all.
But Patrik (Johansson, vocals) writes all the lyrics and he is extremely interested in history in general. Especially the fifteenth and the nineteenth century in Europe and the American Civil War. So he is always reading books or watching documentaries and he actually always wanted to write about it. That way he decides the topics of the tracks.
We are no longer forced to write songs about war, we just got stuck at it. It’s such a good topic to write about and there are so many battles and historical events to choose from. We just pick stories here and there and piece an album together.”
Well, the last veteran of World War I has already passed away, while the last veteran of World War II will probably do the same in the next ten years. How important is the passing on of the stories of the battles they fought, to the younger generations?
“Not in that exact way, that we think the actual battles are important. People will have to keep in mind what things have been going on. So it’s not to point out certain battles, however they might be important in the way some events turned out. It’s just a reminder for people so they will still know about it. The longer ago the event took place, the easier people seem to forget. We can keep them reminded this way.”
But is that something you think about, something you do on purpose?
“It’s more something that comes with the writing about our own interests. We choose stories and events to write about, because, especially Patrik, is interested about these events. It was the same in the past, with Sabaton, you just write about interesting stuff. You actually learn more and get more interested about history, even more than we did at school.
But Patrik, he is a living encyclopedia when it comes to war. He knows a lot of things that no other person knows. Sometimes it’s even like he’s just making stuff up, but when you look it up, he’s actually right!”
“It took like two minutes and then everything was just, gone.”
When you left Sabaton some time ago it looked like a very serious argument you had back then. Now you are going to open a couple of shows for them this summer. Are you on good terms with your old bandmates?
“There was a time that it was a little bit tense between us and they were away all the time, so we never got the chance to properly talk face to face about it. So it was like a silent conflict, but then we met them last year at the Graspop festival in Belgium. Then it almost felt like normal, just because we didn’t had the chance to sit down and talk about it properly. That was the biggest issue. It took like two minutes and then everything was just, gone.”
Do you feel relieved now that you have talked with them about it?
“Yes, actually, it does. I mean, you could be walking around at home and thinking “What would be going on with them?” and be processing it all by yourself. When we got to talk with the other part of the conflict it was such a big relief, because we had no clue about what they were actually thinking. But in a couple of minutes it was like nothing actually happened.”
“The tracks are more developed, without over-doing it.”
When I came up with these questions I was kind of nervous to ask about Sabaton. Are you never getting tired of people asking about your former band?
“People will always be curious, of course. A lot of people has followed us from the very beginning of Sabaton and they saw us get to the ‘Carolus Rex’ album and everyone was just very surprised we left. They asked about it a lot and it will just be something we have to live with, whether we want or not. I don’t really care if people ask me about Sabaton, it’s just a part of it all.”
Going back to the record. Have things improved in the recording of the album, if you compare it to the first?
“The entire recording process changed, actually. We got a new guitar player, Petrus Granar, as a solid member and he got more involved on the writing of the album. He helped us a little bit on ‘The Killer Angels’. Getting him in and starting to do arrangements developed the writing process. Before it was mainly me and Patrik writing the songs. We’re not really good at the rhythms and the guitars, so getting Petrus in was very good. He’s young, he’s hungry and a brilliant guitar player. He actually has an amazing amount of ideas. That way it changed the most.
Also, this time we got to sit down and process the song a little bit more. On ‘The Killer Angels’ it was more like: We have an idea and all of a sudden the track was finished. We didn’t do much more about it. They weren’t completely finished ideas. So that’s what we got to do now. We developed the ideas, adding small things. A little bit of strings here and some more choirs to make it a little bit more special.”
Does this album feel more complete then the previous one?
“Yeah, it feels a little bit more complete then ‘The Killer Angels’. I’m very happy and satisfied about how that album turned out to be, but if you listen to it we will always think “We could add a little bit more, just there.” With ‘Gods And Generals’ we don’t think it needs that extra touch anymore. The tracks are more developed, without over-doing it.
We went a little bit more for perfection. I don’t know what we will do on the next album, maybe we’ll develop things more and get stuck with loads of extra stuff. We’re trying to avoid that as much as possible.”
“Petrus is young, he’s hungry and a brilliant guitar player”
‘Braveheart’ and ‘Schindler’s Arc’ seem to be based on movies with the similar names. Is that where the inspiration for the tracks came from? Or are it the stories behind the movies that inspired you?
“Well, ‘Braveheart’, I think everyone knows that story from the Mell Gibson movie, but it’s also a part of the Scottish history. I don’t really know how Patrik came to the idea of writing ‘Braveheart’, but I think most of the idea came from watching the movie and that he decided to read about it some more, afterwards. It’s not such a common knowledge thing here in Sweden, apart from the movie.
Then of course we have ‘Schindler’s Arc’ of which the original idea came from the movie. But Patrik read the book also, if I’m correct. The track is not actually historically correct track. We mention him and his rescues in the song, it’s not something that happened. It’s more written from the eyes of someone that could have been there, one of the Jews that he saved from the Holocaust.”
Do you, and the rest of the band, also watch a lot of movies about war to get inspiration?
“I watch a lot of movies, but I don’t watch war-based movies, not anymore. I was watching a lot of them when I was in Sabaton, but it’s not the genre that has my personal interest. I’m more into horror b-movies and sci-fi.”
Now that your second album is out, what kind of goals is Civil War going to achieve?
“Our goal is to have fun, actually. When we left Sabaton, at least for the three of us that are still in Civil War, we felt that we were so tired of touring. Now that we have our own band we can do it on our own terms. We can set our own goals and we can keep it on our own level and try to maintain a privet life as well. That was very hard before, because we were touring for two hundred days a year. So, our goal is to have fun, but also to be out there and keep our family life alive at the same time. We want to find some sort of balance.”
“We could start a Reggae band and people would be like: ‘Oh! That sounds like Sabaton!'”
When you left Sabaton, was that the missing ingredient? Did you stop having fun?
“It was one of the things that was part of it. Touring is a lot of fun, but it’s also quite boring. You’re traveling most of the time and you just lay in bed and watch a movie, waiting to get to the next place. So it was a lot of wasted time as well. People started to miss home and stuff like that. Of course, touring is a great deal of fun, too! That is what we want to keep now. Do a tour here and there, but not too long and make sure we’re not away for two months. Two to three weeks, maybe once or twice a year to keep ourselves rolling. It might develop itself into something bigger, but we’re never aiming to do two hundred days a year. That’s never going to be our goal.”
If you look back on what Sabaton is doing, have you ever regretted the decision of getting out of there?
“No, I never regretted getting out of there. I’m very happy with how things are going now. Some people might think I’m an idiot for saying this. Being out there touring and being a rock star might seem to be a dream for many people, but I’ve been there and have done that. I’ve been away on tour for two hundred days a year and it’s not always fun. There are greater things in life than just being on the road.”
“We want to find some sort of balance”
You mentioned that the record was accepted great, now that the reviews are pouring in. Are there things you hope they give extra attention to, or thing you hope they don’t mention?
“No, I actually don’t know if there’s something certain they should put their attention to. But of course we will always have to live with the Sabaton stamp. Something I noticed in the reviews is that people started to say that we are getting further and further away from Sabaton. That’s something that I’m quite satisfied with, actually. They start comparing us less and less with them, but I guess we’ll never get away from the stamp of being in Sabaton. Mainly because we play the same kind of music, Heavy Metal, comparisons will always be there. It wouldn’t matter what we do, we could start a Reggae band and people would be like: ‘Oh! That sounds like Sabaton!'”
Well, that’s it concerning my questions. Is there something you would want to add for the readers?
“This is the part that I’m usually the worst at: being spontaneous. Well, if I’m not totally wrong we will show up in the Netherlands this autumn. We’ll be getting on the road with Powerwolf and Orden Ogan and we’ll probably show up in The Netherlands as well. We hope to see you there!”
‘Gods And Generals’ is out now through Napalm Records.