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Majestically heavy. Mammoth-sized riffs, huge pounding drums and thunderous basslines. Dynamically blending ultra low crushing doom vibes with brighter and more atmospheric soundscapes. Kongh are a versatile, yet uniform and ultra heavy experience. Swedens new doom and sludge masters just returned home from their first tour through Germany. A talk with Kongh's founding members David Johansson and Tomas Salonen about beer, touring and their debut album "Counting Heartbeats".

Kongh. Pic: Hanna Hultman

So you've just returned home a few days ago from your first tour ever. how was it? good/ bad experiences... what did you guys learn?

Tomas: It was totally awesome! German people can really rock!

David: it was a good tour overall, we had lots of fun and everything went well. I personally learned not to party 100% every night, haha... All shows were pretty good in my opinion. The venues were all great, but in different ways. The last show, in Berlin, was at a really cool venue but it could have been more people. High On Fire were playing in town the same night. Might not be the best band to compete with audience-wise.

Tomas: I was sick and had a fever so I dont remember that much of the first gig in Köln...

David: Köln was awesome. Lots of people, great bands on the bill, and they even had a cute chicken living at the venue.

Cool. So I assume you got the chance to drink some German beer as alcohol is a bit expensive in Scandinavia. Any favorites?

Tomas: I drank a lot of Kanone Hell. Petty good.

David: Yeah, that's one of the big differences between Scandinavia and Germany. It's cheap booze - and you can buy it everywhere! Awesome! I don't know about my favourite German beer, never looked at the bottles... hehe.

Tell me about beer from Sweden... what's your favorite one?

David: Norrlands Guld is my personal favourite. Everyone who knows me knows that as well, because it's basically the only thing I ever drink (except for Grafen Walder, that's German, isn't it?). Since Lidl opened up stores in sweden, we became major Grafen Walder drinkers.

Tomas: Mariestad. Damn good stuf! When David and I started Kongh, we always drank Grafen...

David: Yeah, me and Tomas became friends (ie founded Kongh) at the same time that Lidl opened... we used to go there and buy loads and loads of Grafen Walder, lock us up in the rehearsal space and go crazy.

So you founded Kongh 3 years ago. Tell me a little bit about the history of the band. So we learned Lidl beer took an important part...

Tomas: Uhm, I hope people dont think we´re alcoholics when they read this. We didnt have any actual songs, just jammed for hours and hours...

David: Yeah, Lidl had an important impact on us back then. We never wrote anything while being sober. We started playing together around that time (summer 2004), but I wouldn't call that Kongh. It was more of a two man crazy drone band that would become Kongh in a year or so.

Like Sunn o))) inspired drone?

David: Yeah. Very slow and massive. Not really like Sunn o))) because we always had drums and rhythms. We had these very long and slow jams. Sometimes it was also Khanate-ish.

At which point you came to the decision to make this a real band?

Tomas: We had a clear vision of what kind of music we wanted to play, we didnt even know each other then... but the music lead the way...and the beer...

When joined Oskar your bass player the band?

David: It was pretty early that we realized that we needed a bass player, because we wrote two songs that we really liked and we wanted to be more serious. I think it was in the winter of 2004/ 2005 that we started to look around for a bass player. We actually had one for a short while called Gurra. We liked Gurra, but by some reason he never really joined the band 100%. During spring 2005, we continued exploring our sound, actually finding our "Kongh" style. In may or something we wrote "Zihuatanejo" and "Turn Into Dust". That's when we turned really desperate to find a bass player. Then a guy named Stefan joined the band in summer 2005.

So how did you finally meet Oskar?

Tomas: It didn't fully work out musically, so we started looking for another bass player. There arent that many heavy bass players in this area so we´re very lucky findig Oskar...

David: Stefan was still in Kongh while we were working with the "Demo 2006" songs, and during the studio sessions in spring 2006, he left, and in came Oskar.

Tomas: Yep, David and me recorded the demo, found Oskar and the rest is history.

Kongh. Pic: Magnus Pettersson

You released your first album "Counting Heartbeats" last July via Trust No One Recordings. How did you meet Tim (owner of TNO)?

Tomas: Was it myspace Dave? We have always been fans of Switchblade and knew his record company...

David: Yeah, I think we asked him about that a while ago, and he said he found us on myspace. Our first contact with Tim was when he mailed us in the summer of 2006 and said he liked our demo. We had been in touch with some labels before and we almost signed with a french one, but when Tim e-mailed and said he wanted to release our stuff we changed our minds.

Besides other musical influences, what provides inspiration for creating such sounds?

Tomas: Life itself...

David: The will to create something powerful...

Tomas: ...And beautiful in a ugly way...

Let's talk about that "heartbeat" theme, about the title "Counting Heartbeats". There are phrases like "heart is responding" etc. What can you tell?

David: With the lyrics, I don't want to give anything away, like.. "these lyrics means THIS".. the important thing is what the reader thinks when he read/hear it. I want the messages and titles to remain a little mysterious and suggestive, cause that's really the point of all the lyrics.

Seldon Hunt did the artwork for "Counting Heartbeats". Do you think it is important for the artwork and the music to relate?

Tomas: Really important! it has a lot to do with the atmosphere and the feel of the music...

David: Of course. We want all of our covers to have the same kind of theme as we think the music have. It needs to be uniform. An ugly album cover can really ruin the whole album. Or at least prevent some listeners from picking it up.

Most of the album's artwork shows nature. Is there a connection for you between Kongh's music and nature? To me there's a big relation when listening to drone or really heavy music. Not per se of course. We spoke earlier a bit about drone. So your music evokes strong pictures of landscapes, mountains, water, big heavy clouds etc. - you get the picture.

David: I see what you mean, and I agree with you. Stuff like that, landscapes, mountains, big clouds and water, that's the kind of things I think about when trying to put our music and our vision into pictures. You know, everything big, heavy and majestic is an inspiration to us.

Tomas: Just as long it relates to the music... a sunny beach wouldn´t maybe the beach in Zihuatanejo then...

David: But who knows, maybe there will be sunshine in our music to as well in the future? The sun is part of life too and we might explore that side as well. That doesn't mean it'll be Blink-182 though.

Sure, and there are some lighter and brighter moments here and there on the album...

David: Of course. It's important to let some light in every once and then and as I said, we want to reflect life in our music, everything isn't dark all the time...

Tomas: If we lived somewhere sunny and warm we probably wouldn´t play this kind of music, so I thank Sweden for the fucked up weather.

David: Sweden is beautiful, in the summer! But the Swedish summer is like the bright moments on our album - very short! It's beautiful in the winter too. in a depressing, isolated kinda way.

Do you guys have new material written, what about recording plans?

Tomas: We have some new material, not whole songs though yet...

David: Got a short tour with Switchblade soon, then we're planning a longer European tour coming spring. and hopefully we can record again in late 2008 or something, cause we plan to play live as much as possible during 2007. We can't be on constant tour though, because we wouldn't be able to do it physically, mentally or economically. Goal #1 for 2008 is to play live pretty much AND write the whole next album. If we're fast, we might be able to enter the studio in late summer/ early autumn. Or what do you think Tomas?

Tomas: Yes, probably, we work fast during the writingprocess, but the thing is that the songs doesent get the shape and sound until months later, then you know what to change and so on...

David: Yeah, the songs needs a month or two to "breathe"... or else we might get some great ideas when they're already recorded.

How's the writing process usually? Start with jamming?

Tomas: Naw, usually it's a riff, then work from there, probably jam around a riff...

David: It differs from song to song I think. Sometimes someone already wrote like 5 minutes of music on his own, then we don't need to work so much together. Or else there's only one riff, then there's a lot of work with some jamming included.

The same songs on the demo and album sound so much different. Sure, the production is different, but what's up with that?

David: Those songs, "Zihuatanejo" and "Adapt The Void", are played pretty much the same on the demo and the album. BUT they do sound different as hell on the album, and I have no idea why. Well, we've discussed this endlessly while being Grafen walderized... without success.

Ok cool. That's it, cheers guys!

David: Our pleasure man!

Tomas: Yes, our pleasure!

Interview conducted by Magnus Jaschke in November 2007.