Canis Lupus… one of Sweden’s oldest goth /dark bands talk about their upcoming album and goth days of the past, present and future… by Tzina Dovve…
Tzina: As I understand, Canis Lupus date back to 1999. How and when were you formed, and who are the current members in the band?
Andreas: The very first seed was created one day in the summer of 1999 when I happened to hear our old vocalist Robert sing along with a Type o Negative song and realized that he actually was a pretty good singer. We were friends and neighbours at the time, but I hadn’t really heard him sing before, so I was pretty surprised that he had such a good voice, and when we spoke about it, we more or less decided that we should form a band together. I had been playing in different bands since my early teens, mostly Death Metal with elements of Doom and Gothic Metal. Robert, however, was more into Industrial stuff but, we shared a common ground in Gothic Rock so, naturally that was what we were going to play. But, we needed members, forming a band with only a drummer and a singer isn’t going to be very exciting. I ́m not saying it can ́t be done, I ́ve seen really cool examples of such bands, but it wouldn’t work in this style of music, so we asked Daniel Sandberg if he would be interested in joining us on the guitar, which he was. Shortly thereafter, we found our bass player in Daniel Lindmark on a drunken evening during Augustibuller in August of 1999, a local festival in our hometown Lindesberg. As I recall it, we asked Christer if he was interested in joining as well on the very same drunken evening, and low and behold, the very first lineup of Canis Lupus was completed. I believe the first rehearsal took place the day after, and only weeks later we were joined by Tony on guitars followed by Anna Karlsson on keyboards. During the years we ́ve had quite a few line-up changes, but the current one consists of me (Andreas Valette) behind the drums, Mikael Wester on the bass guitar, Tony Lindén and Christer Pilblad on guitars and Daniel Sandberg on vocals and occasionally on guitar.
Christer: The swapping of instruments… Daniel S played guitar in the beginning and left because of his military service. Tony joined on guitar. Daniel S came back and replaced Emelie who had been replacing Anna on keyboards. Tony left and Daniel S swapped back to guitar, and we started adding keyboards on backing tracks instead. Then, the bass player Daniel L left and Tony came back to replace him…
It’s a mess there around 2002-2004… But, when Daniel S rejoined as our singer it’s his third round of joining the band in three different positions. He just won’t leave. At least not for long, haha. Tony has played both guitar and bass, and Mikael is an ex drummer from a punk band that we had, and I was the lead singer… We could go on about who played with who in what band and on what instrument for a long time.
Tzina: What prompted you to start a band and give it the name Canis Lupus? What is the story behind this title?
Andreas: I wish I could give you a well thought out and deep answer to this question but unfortunately I don’t think I can give you one because the reason behind the name is quite simple.
Robert studied biology at the university at that time and as I recall it he suggested that we should call the band Cytochrome at first. Cytochrome is a kind of protein and he thought it sounded pretty cool and although it does sound pretty good it just didn’t feel right. A little later he mentioned that we could call ourselves Canis Lupus, that it is the Latin name for wolf and after a little reasoning back and forth it kind of stuck with us. There are a few wolves in the woods surrounding our hometown so it just seemed kind of proper.
Daniel: At first, I felt dubious to the name, since it was hard to pronounce, and I was worried that it wouldn’t really ”stick” with people, but I have grown much more fond of it over the years, and now it has a special meaning to me. I like the idea of outsiderness that the wolf represents. It’s something of a paradox in modern society, being the ”enemy” of civilization and yet, playing a very important part in our ecosystem, in which we are also a part of and cannot exist without. So, I think that our view on wolves says a lot about who we are as human beings. Do we view the world as here for us people to take and dominate, or are we one creature among many, here to co-exist, as part of a bigger whole?
Tzina: Who is the main songwriter in the band? Where do you get your inspiration from to write music and what are your musical influences?
Christer: I wrote most of the songs on the new album. But it’s not by decision of the band, it just happened to be that way, this time. I write a lot of different songs for different projects and mostly I just sit at home with my acoustic guitar and the feeling I get from what I play tells me if it’s a Canis Lupus song or something else. The inspiration is, as for many songwriters, life itself. Frustration, anger, gloom, passion, despair, etc. Everyday life feelings. The first part of the lyrics are often written when I sing a melody over the chords, and from there I develop a story, and then I take it to the band.
My musical influences… I grew up listening to my mother’s rockabilly records, started listening to hard rock and metal in school, got into punk in my mid-teens, new wave, post punk, synth, industrial, and so on when I was about 25-30 years old… In short I listen to artists and bands from a number of various genres. Johnny Burnette to Judas Priest, The Church to Ministry, Pixies to Kraftwerk.
Andreas: Just as Christer said, this particular album is mostly written by him but, in the past we have created our music in different ways. Someone has an idea for a melody or a guitar riff, for example, and then we build around that and see what happens. Sometimes, we just jam a little bit to see what comes out of it.
I particularly remember one time when I had been playing around with a few synthesizers in the computer software that we use. I just created a loop and was fooling around with delays and reverbs just to see what would happen. Then, I had to leave the rehearsal for an hour or two to help my parents with some stuff and thought nothing more of it, but when I got back the guys seemed pretty excited for some reason.
–“You know the loop you were playing around with? We made a song out of it while you were away”, they said, and that song turned out to be “Mantra”.
We all have our different influences that we bring to the band and I think the mix is what creates our sound. Personally most of my influences come from the metal world, but I listen quite a bit to prog rock, jazz, industrial, classical/opera, chiptunes and of course Goth.
I don’t think most of it is too obvious, I at least try to take my influences and “gothify” them to suit the band, but I guess that some of them can be found if you know what to listen for.
Daniel: I like the fact that we all contribute to the music one way or another, and that no one’s ideas are left unheard. I also love the fact that we’re all involved in the music production as a whole, and not just being into our own instrumental parts. It’s always been like that, and it’s part of what gives us a unique sound, if I may say so. I grew up with punk rock, goth and darkwave music came into my world in my late teens, and for many years I was very much into that scene. Now I have so many influences, but the stuff I liked when I was 19 is still just as good today. That will always be a part of who I am.
Christer: In the beginning Andreas wrote most of the lyrics, before Robert started writing. All lyrics on our first demo, that is not to be mentioned by name, were written by Andreas.
Tzina: After a number of self releases a collection of some of your old demos and eps was released by Gothic Music Records back in 2013. How did this come about? Are there any plans for the rest of your older material to be released at some point?
Tony: Yes, this is an odd one. Somewhere around 2011, while we were pretty much dormant, we started discovering people had created and published videos containing our songs on youtube.
As we got into contact with the people behind the videos – and the fans of the videos – through comment fields and facebook messaging it turned out that our music had started spreading itself on social media without our involvement. I believe it was through some greek fans we got in contact with Oskar from Gothic Music Records and this eventually led to us releasing ‘Shape of the ghost’ containing some of our already recorded songs.
I believe we are a bit conflicted about releasing the rest of our old songs.
While we do really love the old songs (and still play a few of them live on a regular basis) we have a new vocalist now, and it doesn’t really feel right to release albums with old stuff when we could focus on recording new material. We have considered re-recording some of them so maybe they will show up with a facelift along the way!
Tzina: As l understand, you have recently signed with the Brazilian label Deepland Records. How did this collaboration come about?
Tony: We started recording some of the songs that are going to be on the forthcoming album around 2016. At that point, we hadn’t really decided exactly what to do with them.
We made plans on releasing singles on digital platforms for a bit, but due to a change of vocalist again we only got to ‘Rise’ and ‘Fall’.
Fast forward to late 2018 and we had a bunch of songs ready and started thinking more about releasing them physically, either ourselves or on a label.
We had already been contacted by Nanda on Deepland Records about releasing something on their label some time ago, so we ended up renewing that contact and working out a deal.
Tzina: You’re due to release a new album this month. What can Canis Lupus fans expect from this album? What will make this album different from the rest of your releases?
Christer: First, it’s an album with songs fitting together, recorded for this purpose and not for three or four different demos. The album has a kind of a hidden story, call it a concept album if you like, of a relationship gone bad and the struggle of learning to live with the consequences and how to restart. Depending on how you interpret the lyrics it could be a story of relations between people or the relation between mankind and society, the environment and the earth. Or a band, if you like. It’s up to the listener.
There is a fun fact about the lyrics of the last song, The Shaping of the Ghost”. Our first release was posthumous, we did not exist and the record was just a shape of the band, a “Shape of the Ghost”. When we restarted in 2015, I thought about how we were reforming, shaping the Ghost again. So, I used all our previous demo titles and all our previous song titles, from 1999 to 2006 in the lyrics. It also fits well with the theme of the album, that we are in the last song rebuilding something once again. From dust we are building a civilization of what used to be ghosts.
That is also why we kept Thomas’ vocals on that track. Thomas became our singer when we restarted but had to quit so Daniel replaced his vocals on the other four tracks when he joined the band. But since Thomas was our way of shaping this ghost/band, he got the final track. As a way of both saying thank you and closing our circle.
Daniel: It is much more coherent than anything we’ve ever done before. It’s a story of heartache, isolation, loneliness, and overcoming hardships, painted on an apocalyptic canvas, with the world ending and being born again, both literally and metaphorically, so it’s quite multi-layered. Musically I think we stick to our guns pretty much, we have found our sound and our format and it feels great to make new music again.
I rejoined the band after a long break, having been the guitarist since our start and now taking on the role as lead vocalist. When I heard the new stuff that the guys had been working on I immediately loved it. But I must admit I had doubts as to if I should be the one singing it. I do feel much more comfortable now that we’ve done a few gigs, and recorded a new album together. It’s a new sound for sure, so best not to compare it too much with the old stuff. We are the same band, but a new band at the same time, if that makes any sense.
Tzina: Do Canis Lupus have any plans for upcoming shows when the world finally re-opens? How has this lockdown affected your band?
Tony: Obviously, we can’t really go on a tour supporting the album release right now, so we just have to wait and see. Needless to say, we can’t wait for this to end so we can meet our audience eye to eye again! Until then, we work with what we have available and wash our paws thoroughly.
The lockdown is not gonna stop us from having a release party, so we decided to have it online! There will be a live streamed concert taking place on may 17th, no audience of course, but our friends at QTECH will be there broadcasting it on the internet.
Tzina: How do you view the dark scene today? How much do you believe it has changed over the years? Do you believe it is much different in your home country from the rest of the world?
Tony: The dark/goth scene wasn’t that big in Scandinavia when we started out, and it isn’t huge now either, but it stays alive, hehe!
Compared to Sweden, the scene is a lot bigger in and around Germany, and judging from our social media statistics, it seems to thrive in South America too!
Daniel: Although definitely still alive, it’s not very big in Sweden, so most Swedes look to Germany and other parts of the world. It’s great to see it coming to life in new places. It makes everything feel fresh and fun again. I was very into the goth scene in Stockholm in the 00:s. When Canis was on hiatus I started DJing, and the scene was very much alive then, although quite small, like everybody knew everybody. I don’t go out as much anymore, but when I do I always feel at home in goth clubs and festivals. It’s a friendly community.
Tzina: What does the word ‘goth’ mean to you? Do you believe there is some sort of goth revival at the moment? Are there any new bands you admire?
Tony: Personally, I have had a fascination and felt a strange comfort in darkness since childhood, so when I discovered goth music in my teens it felt natural to embrace the aesthetics surrounding it. Today, I think the word ‘goth’ to me first and foremost represents the goth community, and secondly the music. I am the last person to ever engage in a discussion about what music is goth and what is not.
I am excited to see old favourites like Funhouse and Morlocks getting active again, we can hope this can lead to a goth revival in Sweden! Regarding new bands I admire, Grave Pleasures springs to mind. If they can be considered new, they have basically been around since 2010.
Daniel: Personally I agree very much with what Tony said. I’ve always been very comfortable in the dark, wearing black clothes, and watching horror movies. The aesthetics of it just speaks to me, and when I get creative, the stuff that comes out is usually pretty dark, not sure why, I guess you could call it melancholy, but it doesn’t make me sad, rather the opposite. I’m quite happy in the dark. I do hope for a goth revival. In the past, when we were playing a lot, I was really updated, now I find myself digging deeper into the old stuff, and now that we’re active again I’d like to open up more to new music. Most bands I like are pretty old, haha.
Andreas: I ́ll be happy to fall in line with Tony and Daniel here, the darkness just seems to be a natural part of my life, the word Goth itself is something that describes that part of me and the community at large. It doesn’t really claim to be Gothic but somehow I do feel affiliated to the culture anyway. I guess to be Gothic means to find beauty in darkness and to embrace it and let it fill you up rather than trying to escape it.
Sadly I ́m not very updated on the scene nowadays but I think there might be some kind of revival going on and I’m really happy about it. It warms my heart to see the culture gaining speed again.
It made me really happy when I heard that Funhouse has woken up again. I regularly listen to the “Flames of love” album in my car because it’s a masterpiece so I’m really looking forward to hearing their new stuff. But there are some of the newer bands that have really caught my attention, Angels of Liberty, She Past Away, Brotherhood, Miazma and Sonsombre just to mention a few of them but there are quite a few more. The future seems promising.
Tzina: Anything else you would like to share with your fans? What can they expect in the near future?
Andreas: We ́re not really sure, most of our plans had to be put on hold because of this Covid-19 pandemic so all of our shows have had to be postponed until further notice. But as we said before we are going to livestream a show on the 17th of May so keep your eyes open for that one.
The work for the next album has already started as well, there are a few songs and ideas for songs that we didn’t include on the upcoming album “Dust and the Civilization of Ghosts” that we will continue to work on. In other words, the next release is already being worked on so it will hopefully not take as long to finish as “Dust…” has taken.
Christer: Because of Covid-19 I guess every band needs to be more active online and so must we. It won’t just do with an instagram picture every other week and so on. We, as well as everybody else, will have to be more active and definitely interactive with our fans in almost every possible way now. Streams, chats, short clips, videos of what we ate for breakfast… Almost anyway, haha. Well, to not scare my bandmates, we all have to work a little harder to be seen when we can’t do gigs for that purpose for some time.