14 Burning Questions for Civil War
Hailing from Falun, Sweden, Civil War formed in April 2012 after several members of Sabaton decided that they were tired of constant touring, but not finished with music. Carrying on the historical theme, Civil War cut their self-titled EP in October of that year. The following year their debut full length ‘Killer Angels’ was released to critical acclaim, achieving gold status in Sweden just two months later. In time, the band attracted the attention of Napalm Record, signed a record deal and released their second full length ‘Gods and Generals’ featuring such hits as ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Bay of Pigs.’
Due to the time difference between the Midwestern USA and Sweden, the following interview was conducted via email. Speaking on behalf of Civil War is vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson and for Metal at the Gates, our Editor-in-Chief, Brett Kihlmire
Brett Kihlmire – So we all know Civil War came about after several members of Sabaton decided they were done with Sabaton, but they weren’t done with metal. The burning question here is why the band decided to go with a history theme like Sabaton? – Of course, we’re all happy you did!
Nils Patrik Johansson – To be quite honest, they wanted to write about other stuff, but since I’m a real history nerd and since I write the lyrics, history is what we deal with, haha. But who knows in the future, I write about everything, so we’ll see.
BK – How did you get involved with what would become Civil War?
NPJ – I knew Daniel Mullback’s drum tech, Gunnar, and when he told me that four guys were about to leave; I said: if they need a singer: here I am. Gunnar called Mullback immediately; Mullback called me, we had a meeting and…..we had a new band. I came up with the name Civil War as a little joke against Sabaton. I must add that we are good friends with the Sabaton guys. No hard feelings. Everything is cool between the camps.
BK – As the name and your costumes would suggest, the band’s name was inspired by the American Civil War. Was the band originally going to be themed after that particular conflict or was Civil War always going to be broad in its subjects?
NPJ – As I said above, the name had nothing to do with the American civil war from the start, but we have always been interested in that war. The first modern war, so it was natural to write a couple of songs about it. Those songs turned out well and the label demanded some kind of image. Denim and leather was not enough, haha. So it was not much to think about. My coat is tailor made in the US and costed too much. But I love it. It’s a musician’s frock the union soldiers used.
BK – As for the costumes, Confederate imagery is offensive to a lot of Americans, well, the ones who lack a good historical education. Has there been any backlash to the use of confederate costumes?
NPJ – No, at least I haven’t heard or read anything about it. I mean it’s just costumes.
BK – Let’s talk about your voice. It’s definitely unique and helps the band stand out, so how did you go about crafting a unique singing voice? Are there any major influences?
NPJ: I am influenced of the old heroes: Coverdale, Dio, Gillan, Tony Martin and also of Blackie Lawless and Bruce Dickinson.
BK – Moving onto your lyrics. The band certainly touches on subjects that often go overlooked in history class and heavy metal such as William Wallace (Brave Heart), The Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis (Bay of Pigs), and even Napoleon Bonaparte (I Will Rule the Universe). Are these subjects picked at random, out of pure interest, or do they hold a special meaning to you?
NPJ: I read a novel by James Ellroy that was dealing a lot with the Cuba thing. My lyric work to that song is influenced by that book. I think it’s called American Tabloid. About ”I will rule….”. Well I asked the guys if Sabaton had a song about Napoleon. They hadn’t. So….open goal, haha. It was pretty much the same with Braveheart. So the lyric ideas can come out of the blue or from books or from…well anything.
BK – What are some subjects that Civil War might be covering on the coming album? As a big fan and a dedicated student of history, may I recommended Bien Dien Phu from the Second Indochina War, or the German Condor Legion of the Spanish Civil War?
NPJ – Ok, thanks…I will check ’em out. On the next album we will actually go deeper into the American civil war. It will be the final part of the trilogy, so we will end it with dignity.
BK – Are there any subjects that are simply off limits due to political reasons such as the ongoing conflict in Syria, ISIS, or the American War on Terror?
NPJ: You’re right man. We don’t wanna deal with those subjects in this band. It’s too close and too scary. If you wanna hear me sing more political stuff, I recommend Astral Doors.
BK – Final lyrical question, I promise – who is the main lyricist of the band and how do you/they go about coming up with interesting subjects to discuss in your music?
NPJ: I guess you can skip this since I’ve already told that I write all lyrics 🙂
BK – So, before the second album Civil War secured a deal with our friends, Napalm Records. What have been the major challenges for the band before and after signing with Napalm?
NPJ: The challenge for us is to continue writing songs that we can stand for. Another challenge for us as a band is to keep up our good spirit. We have become very good friends. Talking every day, hanging out etc. Napalm was a necessary step for us to climb a bit higher on the band ladder!
BK – Speaking of the second album, two of your members left the band. Do you care to elaborate why they left, and why the band hasn’t pursued replacing them?
NPJ: Oskar left because he was pretty much burned out since the Sabaton years, he just did not have the spirit anymore. But he is always welcome back. Our door is open. With the bass player, Stefan, it was another thing. We couldn’t work with him anymore. It was impossible. We will not bring in any replacements for the guys. We are a force of five now. That’s perfect for a metal band.
BK – Being American, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Civil War live, but hopefully one day. So tell me what a Civil War show is like. Also, will Civil War ever cross the ocean and rock the USA and Canada?
NPJ: A Civil War show is full of energy, sweat and metal. We also aim to actually sound as good live as on albums. Civil War will always give all we have: on stage and on albums.
BK – What does the band have planned for the remainder of 2016? Obviously, the busy summer festival season is on fast approach, so have you locked in any festivals just yet?
NPJ: We have turned down almost all offers this summer to focus on the album and also on our families. There’ll be touring in Sept-Oct.
BK – It’s been quite a while since the ‘Bay of Pigs’ video. Is there another video on the horizon?
NPJ: Yes we released a new one in November 2015. ”Braveheart”. Directed by Patric Ullaeus. Epic. There’ll be a new one to the first single of the new album of course.
BK – Finally, it hasn’t been a year since the last album was released, but metal bands are a creative bunch. Are there any plans for a new CD or EP just yet?
NPJ: We are working like hell now with the third full length. We say no to gig proposals and stuff since we wanna focus 100% on that album. It is set to be released in October.
Be sure to check out the official video for ‘Bay of Pigs’ from Civil War’s latest album ‘Gods and Generals’