Text: Ivana Kupková
Foto: Markus Johansson archive
MARKUS JOHANSSON is an American heavy metal guitarist and vocalist from Chicago who is known for the project SYLENCER. I briefly interviewed him not only about the project.
You released your debut album A Lethal Dose Of Truth last year. This album is very specific. How did the Sylencer project started?
The project began as just wanting to record an album, as if it were the only one that we'd ever be able to make. After years of playing out locally, it seemed like the thing to do was to really attempt to establish the material as seriously as possible. After bringing Larry Tarnowski on board for the second guitar spot and Kevin Talley for drums, the guests just started to pile up.
This album has been recording for a long time, almost six years, hasn't it? How was recorded?
While the process of releasing the album took just under seven years, we were not actively recording for that period of time. The actual time in studio was likely only a total of six to eight months over the years. Attempting to secure management and a record label for the project is what really slowed the process. As time went on, we began adding more guests, because it was something that seemed like a once in a lifetime type of opportunity. To have so many legendary artists contribute, and have some of your favorite inspirations as musicians on board, was a surreal experience. It was recorded mostly around the Chicago area, but a great deal was done in the Los Angeles area as well, notably at Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood. Many of the guests in other countries recorded their parts remotely, and sent the files back. This album was recorded all over the world.
When and how the decision came into bringing an enormous list of guests like of Jordan Rudess, Gene Hoglan, Rob Caggiano, Andy LaRocque and the others (former members of Helloween, Chimaira...)?
As I mentioned, it wasn't something that was initially planned. Once Kevin and Larry were added and the line-up was rounded out, I never would have thought that it would end up like it did. Gene was the first guest to be added, and from there Brendon Small came on board. After that, I just thought we would see how far we could take it. The more I reached out to people, the more they said yes, and the more I would freak out, ha ha. Everyone did amazing work, and it came out very well all things considered. At least I think it did!
I think the people's expectation of this album were high because of the musicians elite. How the reviewers faced it? And how about the fans?
Yes, with an album like this one, expectations were very high. But for this being my first studio Endeavor, it went very well. There were quite a few great reviews, and most of the 'bad' ones that I saw talked an awful lot, but still kept a hint of positive phrases peppered throughout paragraphs. Everyone expected something different, based off of the versatility of the guest list. There were death metal guys, thrash guys, power metal guys... and as long as the album was, I think it was a lot for people to take in. The age of buying an album, going home, and listening to it start to finish as an experience is pretty much gone. Some people still do, but we live in the MP3 age. All songs are singles, and with piracy, people aren't even always getting the actual product. There were a lot of great comparisons that were made, and even people who disliked it generally said things that I still found to be complimentary, despite how negatively they were said. It took some getting used to, as never doing this before, you aren't really prepared for a worldwide response. The fans that liked it, seemed to love it. And I suppose you would much rather have people love or hate you, instead of just indifferent about you.
And now about the band 4Arm. 4Arm is the Australian thrash metal band. You replaced John Paul Glovasa as a lead guitarist in the band. How did they find you?
They initially found me as I started speaking with (now, former) frontman Danny Tomb via Facebook. They needed a guitarist for the European festivals, and we just sort of went from there. Working remotely worked out great, as we met up in Europe and rehearsed in hostels before eventually taking the stage for the first time. Nobody believed it was the first time we were all plugged in together!
What are your plans with Sylencer and outlook for 4Arm this year?
Sylencer looks to remain a studio project at the moment, as putting together tours was a massive undertaking being without a record label, and having no outside support. The debut is out there, and I hope more people discover it, and tell a friend or two about what we did. I had multiple guests from the album say that they would do tours, so we will see if that can happen sometime sooner than later. I don't think I'll be doing another album for a while, although I had lined up about a dozen guests for a follow up. I'm not even sure if I would have guests again, but maybe it'll end up happening. Time will tell. 4Arm just completed a US tour with Slayer and Gojira, which I was not a part of. After the tour, frontman Danny Tomb stepped down, and after word got out, we got back in touch and I became the new frontman in the band. Craziness, ha ha! We are currently in the process of doing the next 4Arm album, which we hope to have completed soon, and out by summer or fall of this year 2014.