Road To Jerusalem
By: Susan Dusse
MIRP: Per, thank you so much for this interview. Road To Jerusalem is described as “[an] experimental rock band with a fresh approach to heavy music [with a] unique mood and feel. Can you break that statement down? What makes it experimental?
Per: Yeah, the term rock music covers a lot of ground, and I think we are in there somewhere. However, there is no rock´n´roll about this band; rather a more spiritual and reflective nature to Road To Jerusalem. The three of us having had a long history in metal, the heaviness is just there, in our veins…so to speak. The sound of the band becomes heavy, even in a moodier, rock- type feel. The triplet based (swung 8th notes) rhythmic approach we are using in many songs opens up for new ways of delivering heavy music. Experimental in the sense that we are not clinging onto one sort of expression or sound; we are open to all the changes we will encounter on our journey.
MIRP: Where do you think the fresh approach comes from?
Per: I believe it has to do with the fact that we didn’t have a style, genre, or band in mind, at least no contemporary, and still don’t. When Michael and I wrote the first songs, the tonality and moods were inspired by Pharoah Sanders and the likes.
MIRP: I am in Portland, Oregon – USA, so I want to talk about the obvious connection we have to Road To Jerusalem. That connection is Josh Tyree, your vocalist, who is from here. I understand it was a mutual friend and a Facebook connection that brought you together. Can you talk about how that occurred?
Per: This wonderful soul from Portland wrote to me after having read a post of mine when we were looking for the right singer. The funny thing is that we were not even friends on Facebook at that time…he must have seen in somehow. He talked about Josh Tyree, and we got connected like that! Small world!
MIRP: I read that you said, “When I listened to Josh’s songs I immediately heard his voice as the voice of Road To Jerusalem.” Before you met Josh, can you identify whose voice came the closest to your vision?
Per: First of all, I needed a singer who was truly able to express feeling in the music. Someone with an emotional understanding, and the ability to perform. When you hear a real singer, the real deal, the raw talent, you are not in doubt. They stand out, and that is what Josh did. I was aiming for a wide-ranged singer with a natural higher pitch, sort of like a mix between Mercury, Halford, and Dio…something like that. I was blown away when I found out what Josh could do!
MIRP: “I have the best singer in the world,” is another quote I read from you about Josh. Do you recall the exact moment when you knew Josh was the perfect fit? Was it a song? A lyric? A note?
Per: We heard some demos, and the first song we heard was basically what made us connect. The vocals had a lot of the dramatics that I personally was looking for. However, they didn´t reveal what a beast of a singer Josh really is…but we knew immediately that he was the man.
MIRP: Road To Jerusalem is an international band with members from Sweden, Denmark, and the USA. How does that work with the extreme distance between some of you? Were location logistics ever an issue in selecting your bandmates?
Per: It was crucial to me that my writing partner was here in Copenhagen. At least that’s what I feel in hindsight. Michael and I…we have this connection, and it could never have been done with file-sharing across the world. That being said, I guess I was prepared to look elsewhere for a singer. I was picky. I wanted that unique voice. Just like Michael’s voice, it had to stand out. So, I was not surprised that he turned out to be American. We can work around that, it is a small world. He is here 90 days at the time, then out of Europe for 90 days. That’s how it works right now. With Andreas, he sent bass tracks for Andromedas Suffering (1st song), and I felt like, “Shit, have we played together in a past life?” He just locked in with me immediately; I was blown away.
MIRP: Road To Jerusalem “expresses the idea of a long journey that is not necessarily intended as an actual travel, but rather an emotional one.” That is a very deep statement, one that I imagine comes with maturity. Is there something in your life that has made you reflect and think so deeply?
Per: It is the sum of all our struggles in life that shapes us; the things we endure and overcome on our journey to obtain inner peace and balance. The road is long, rough, rocky, burning hot, freezing cold…it’s the Road To Jerusalem.
MIRP: “Road To Jerusalem is a path to one’s own life towards the center of the struggles that each of us encounter.” This is another very thought-provoking quote. How long has the idea of Road To Jerusalem been inside you waiting to come out?
Per: I believe the first initial thought already happened like in 2010. I was doing sort of a transition in my playing style around here, and continued to do so in the years that followed, and my need and desire became stronger. It was still just a thought; I knew that I was going to do it at some point. Due to personal issues, and also the vacuum after leaving Haunted, it was still a couple of years until the timing was just right.
MIRP: Why is now the right time for this band?
Per: It just feels so right at this point. There were some personal issues in the band, some things had to be overcome and taken care of. The wait became a little longer than any of us had wished, but the strength we had as a group, once united, told us that we picked just the right time.
MIRP: Could Road To Jerusalem have happened 10 years ago?
Per: No, that would not have been right.
MIRP: Musicians often have other genres besides metal that they love, or have other expressions that they need to get out. Like Night Flight Orchestra to some of Soilwork’s members, for instance. Is Road To Jerusalem that for you?
Per: I see what you mean. For Road To Jerusalem it is not a case of that. My story is like, I started playing when I was seven, and I was turned on to metal early. I listened to Deep Purple, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, etc. In 82/83 I heard Metal Blade’s Metal Massacre compilations and was immediately into Slayer, Metallica, Hirax, and so on. I tape-traded in the 80s…all the underground stuff. So, metal had been with me since a very early age. Already, when I did my first records with Invocator in the 90-95, I got into jazz – Coltrane, and my world changed. After Invocator I located to Copenhagen, started studying music with no real aim, and did not see myself joining another metal band. I was not hearing any new stuff back then that had an impact on me. Personally, I wasn’t in a good place, my drums were stowed away, and I was almost just about to call it, when Anders Lundemark from Konkhra called me up and asked if I could do a European tour with them. After some thought, and an initial “no thank you,” due to my personal circumstances, I finally agreed. We went on to do a couple of tours and an album together. And to this day, I still consider that phone call to have been the most important one in my life. It brought me back into music, and got me ready for the phone call I received about a year later from The Haunted. They asked me to do a US tour with Testament three weeks later. I wasn’t sure about it, but ended up saying yes. What should have been three weeks ended up becoming 13 years. So, for many years I was playing thrash metal, and loved it, but always knew I would be doing something else down the line.
MIRP: When I listen to the two available tracks, I hear influences from bands such as Deep Purple, Gamma, Led Zeppelin, etc. Are there any specific influences that you feel are present in Road To Jerusalem?
Per: That’s great, I have heard people mention Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple – the 70s vibe. Some of us grew up with bands like that, some grunge has been mentioned too, along with the jazzy feel on some songs. I am sure we all carry our individual musical history with us into everything we do, but as Michael and I started out, it was all about making music where we could bring some of the moods and tonality and rhythms of jazz greats like Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane/John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, etc., into a heavy platform.
As we went on with that, we sort of landed in this place together, where we can go anywhere! We don’t need to worry about painting ourselves into a corner, but rather, just be free in the music, allowing ourselves to express what we feel at the moment…and that is how this band is going to continue.
MIRP: “Behold in Now” and “Under your Skin” are the two available tracks. Are they a good representation of the rest of the album?
Per: I think the record covers a lot of ground, so there are more songs that would differ quite a bit from the two mentioned. But I would say yes, because the sound of the band is unmistakable throughout the entire record.
MIRP: When I listen to “Under your Skin,” (which I love) I’m a bit sad when it ends because I wish it was longer. I’m curious to know how do you know when a song is done? Is there a time limit you stick with? A formula such as intro, verse, verse, chorus, verse, etc., or is it just a feeling? If you felt a song should be 10 minutes, would you let it happen, or would you restrict it to a more common 3-4 minutes?
Per: We never really go for a formula, as far as structure. Maybe one thing we set out to do is follow our ideas through, and not mix the songs up with too many changes in the set feel, time signature, etc. For this record we were going for songs that were compact, like you mentioned, typically between 3-5 minutes. Some of these songs, because of the way they are composed, could easily be stretched out in a live situation…something that is more than likely to happen. Some songs will be built into through improvised intros, and so forth.
MIRP: Were there any other names for this project thrown around? If yes, what?
Per: Well, we talked about Sodomizer, but that was taken apparently, haha! Road To Jerusalem stuck with us. It suited the dusty sound of Andromedas Suffering, represented the beforementioned, as well as the time needed to get this band together.
MIRP: “Jerusalem” can be interpreted as having a religious connotation. Is the “Road To Jerusalem” a metaphor for finding God? Finding yourself? Finding your purpose? Finding the meaning of life? Something else?
Per: I would say it could mean all those things, or none. I am not religious; I am not a preacher.
MIRP: You are an amazing and respected metal drummer. I’ve seen you live a few times with The Haunted. You have an ease and comfort about you when you drum, like it is little effort. Is it as easy for you as it looks?
Per: Thank You, I never really thought much about the stage presence thing as a drummer, you know. I just like to settle in, and live in that world behind the kit.
MIRP: Do you have a structured regimen for drumming? Practice every day? Learn different genres, etc.?
Per: I have had periods in my life with little to no practice, and periods with intense practice. Nowadays, I play most days of the week. Some are practice on my own, some working on material. From 2009-2015, I feel like I made a transition in my playing. I caught up with a lot stuff I heard in my head, and got it out in hands and feet.
MIRP: Were you brought up in a musical family?
Per: Yeah, Lile my sister used to sing and play the guitar, my mom was in a choir, and my dad always played the clarinet and alto sax.
MIRP: What drew you to the drums?
Per: I guess they were the loudest, hahaha…Animal, Muppet Show, Peter Criss.
MIRP: Did you ever want to play anything else? Do you play any other instrument?
Per: For a while I wanted to get into the piano, and I still do. I would learn chords and scales, but I could never get all the work done to become “a piano player.” Michael, on the other hand, he is a great on the piano. We work a lot of songs out on the piano first… jam drums and piano.
MIRP: You were a vocalist back in the late 80s for band called Geronimo. Do you like to sing? Do you provide backup for Road To Jerusalem?
Per: Haha, yeah! You have done some research! No, I’ve never had any prospects of becoming a singer. We would play around, but I was always just a drummer.
MIRP: In preparation for this discussion, I spoke with some of my great metal drummer friends who are big fans of yours. Here is what they said about you. “Per was inspirational in my drumming technique.” “Per was the first melodic death metal drummer…on the forefront of creating the genre.” “He plays with such speed, beauty, emotion, and brutality, all with a phenomenal groove.” How do statements like that make you feel?
Per: It feels great! Those are nice words. I am honored.
MIRP: You exited The Haunted in 2012, and by all accounts, were successful in doing it without ugliness. In our age of social media and the ability to “vent” to the world, how do you think you were able to come out of that departure unscathed…with such class?
Per: Some things are in the marriage, like, to me, it would be that unworthy. After 13 years together, there is much history, and many emotions that have been shared; It is just a matter of respect. It all comes down to the fact that I respect my former band and its members. I am a very emotional musician/artist, as much as the next guy. I deal with these things on a personal level, and unfortunately the person closest to me at the time had to be a part of that. It may sound dramatic to some, but it was a major change.
MIRP: If you think back to when you joined The Haunted, in hindsight, was it the right move for you personally? Did you stay too long or not long enough? Do you have any regrets?
Per: For me personally, at the time, it was a great move. I had some great years back then in the early days. From doing “Made Me Do It,” with Marco…I have some great memories with him, and of that whole time. Just the whole vibe around the band back then was really inspiring. I remember just loving Anders’ tight guitar tone, and just felt real at ease playing with them. I have countless memories and have done shows all over the world with these guys. I have no regrets at all! All this being said, I would think that the chemistry within The Haunted today is much healthier than was the case around 2011-2012.
MIRP: I read a quote on Road To Jerusalem’s page that I will remember from here on out. It is a simple statement, but so powerful and applicable to every single person: “If there is no way, create one.” I assume that statement applies to Road To Jerusalem for you. What has been the biggest challenge in getting Road To Jerusalem off the ground?
Per: That’s correct. It applies pretty much to the whole mindset behind this band.
MIRP: You definitely created something beautiful with Road To Jerusalem. We know how Josh came into the band; how did you secure Andreas Holma and Michael Skovbakke?
Per: Well, Michael and I met in 2010, while he was in Konkhra. He was this young guy with all this talent…all the drive. We clicked, and shortly thereafter he started studying music. We were into some of the same music, and some years later we started jamming here and there. It was always close, like it was meant to be. Andreas was also like Josh; recommended through a mutual friend on Facebook. Holma was just the perfect choice! He really ties the room together.
MIRP: With band members from very heavy bands such as The Haunted, Scar Symmetry, Hypocrisy, Soilwork, etc., do you think the collective experience of playing death metal enhances or hinders Road To Jerusalem? Is there a need to step back from that experience, or does it translate easily?
Per: Because we have played and worked on this “language” besides playing in the mentioned bands over several years, it has translated naturally. But sure, it is a completely different mindset, playing style, and so forth. We never really thought about that. It’s not set out to be hard to do or play. We just play from the heart…the direct channel.
MIRP: You played your debut show recently. Did it go as you envisioned? Will you make any adjustments moving forward?
Per: It went great! We were prepared. We are a tight unit already, and it feels amazing!
MIRP: You are scheduled to play a festival in November. Beyond that, what are your touring plans?
Per: We have a couple of shows in Sweden in November. As soon as we have an album release, we are planning on playing as much as possible.
MIRP: When will the full 10 song release be available in Europe, America, and the world?
Per: We are still talking to labels to land the right deal. Hopefully it won’t be too long.
MIRP: You have a good social media presence and support from all around the world. How important is social media in getting music out today?
Per: I think it means a lot, for sure.
MIRP: Where can fans buy Road To Jerusalem’s music and merch?
Per: These things are all going to be announced in the near future, along with the album release, and so on. For right now, merch is only available at shows.
MIRP: Where can fans connect with and follow the band?
MIRP: It is a pleasure to interview you. We look forward to the release and to seeing you on tour!