Interview: Thomas Henriksson / The Isolation Process


Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Korn, Katatotnia, Karnivool. These are only a few of the “big bands”, who released their new albums in 2013. I was really looking forward to some of them, others though I only felt like giving them a shot, but last year somehow I was really looking forward to the planned December release of a debut album of a fairly unknown band from Sweden called ‘The Isolation Process’. I have known about their activity through their previous existence in the form of band Lingua, but even though Lingua have called it a day, the majority of band members wanted to continue their activity. I was waiting to see what would be the band’s new musical path and often there are situations in life when you wait for something hoping for good, but nothing exciting really happens. However,there are also situations in which you hope for good, but what comes to you is even better than you actually expected, for me this is the latter. Recently I sat down with Thomas Henriksson, vocalist, guitarist the sound mastermind of The Isolation Process to talk about their debut album, as well as visions, vibrations and seeming coincidences.

The Isolation Process is based on members of your previous band Lingua, but musically it’s a different being which transmits different emotions. Could you explain what made you go in the direction of dark yet powerful simplicity, as that is how I perceive your music comparing to eg. Lingua’s last album.

Actually a lot of the material had been already written before Lingua decided to quit. I had some riffs, our bassist Anders also had some stuff, that didn’t quite fit into Lingua. I was writing stuff at home and I was thinking of doing a solo project, but eventually it ended up on TIP record. That is why some of the songs were created much earlier. „Simple gesture” for example was done about a year before Misha left and Lingua broke up. After that happened me and the boys wanted to continue, but we weren’t sure which direction it’d go, so I brought some of the stuff I had, Anders brought some of his riffs and we started working on them. When I was writing at home, I wanted to go back to the vibe of those heavier and darker Lingua’s songs, like „May crayons guide the sheep”. I like dark, moody, monotones music, which almost puts you into a trance. I like to play in low tunings, we play in drop A. It does create a dark vibe, yet for me it’s still fairly easy to sing in key A, which suits my vocal range. So dark music, somehow aggressive, but still post-rockish, post-hardcore kind of mix.

The power of your music is very much generated by your sound. A sound, that is like nothing I have heard in a long time. I think nowadays with all the possibilities the digital revolution has introduced and the fact, that basically anybody can record an album at home, it’s hard to find a band, that doesn’t sound like other band. However, you pulled off something different. How did you manage to do that? Did you have a clear vision for the sound of this album?

I had a vision, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to achieve it. I was thinking of the harsh, garage sound like the one of eg. Cult of Luna, but maybe not that trashy. I wanted some more definition to it, so I wanted to combine it with some modern sounds, like a more modern sounding drum kit for instance, a few more metal tones to the guitars. And layering. I just love layering. I think most choruses on the record have six, seven guitars on them. There is also a lot of hidden stuff. I’m not sure if you have have heard it, but there are many distorted strings or organs on the album. And again, layering. Even if you take a really easy, repetitive riff, but you layer it, play around with dynamics and make it grow and expand, it can get to the point where it becomes a big crescendo. So the vision was to create a powerful but still an organic sound, yet tight enough, so that everything in that low tuning could break through.

Another unique element of The Isolation Process’ music is your voice. In my review of your album I wrote, that with the depth, power, space and mostly the dense texture of your voice to me you are up there with the Pattons, Morenos, Tankians and Keenans. Truly, one of the most original voices I have heard in modern rock. I did an interview once with a female singer, who also has a special voice and she told me, that to her singing is a very intimate activity. That is why she struggles in situations like during Christmas, where all the uncles or grandmas ask her to sing some Christmas song just because they know, that she sings. I imagine that in such a situation it’s about this connection with inner self when you touch all the sensitive spots within you, so I wanted to ask you do you also have that kind of connection when singing?

First of all thank you for all those nice words, you really flatter me. To answer your question – yes, I do have such connection very much. When I sing I usually close my eyes. There are two reasons for that. One is that I tend to play wrong when I look at my guitar. It’s weird, but I play songs better when I’m not looking at the instrument and when riffs come from my muscle memory. And the second reason is that I like to dig deep into the song. More than the lyrics I mean here feeling mood of a song, actually being there to deliver it. So I understand what she means. I get that a lot too. People ask me to sing for example on karaoke nights just because I sing on a regular basis. That is true, but that fact doesn’t automatically mean that I want to do that during karaoke. If I don’t feel anything for that particular song, it will not work.

Thomas, eyes and muscles

(photo by Misha Seidini)

I also wrote in the article, that in most cases, both female and male singers, a voice is the impulse that comes to you from the outside and only after receiving it do you feel it within you, but your voice is the rare case of a singer whose voice is already inside. When you start to sing, I have a feeling that something glows up in me. That I do not receive any impulse from outside, that it is instantly inside.

Thank you, man. I can understand what you’re saying. I get that with a couple of vocalists too.

For example who?

Maynard in his early days, Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode, big influence on me. There are cases when the music starts and what I feel inside me is the same as what I hear in the sounds. It’s like the same reaction on both sides, so maybe that’s what happens between us. Maybe you and I vibrate on the same wavelink?

That is possible and if you push it a little further, that is actually the most beautiful aspect of music to me. You create and record your music somewhere there in Sweden, you put it out to the world, then it reaches me, I take it let’s say to my mp3 player and go out with it into my world and then all of the sudden the connection starts. I remember in December I was on the train somewhere in the middle of nowhere while moving from one point to another in Poland and listening to your album and I felt so much connection with everything your music emitted. Which is interesting, because after all we do not know each other. We are different people, live in different countries, speak different languages and probably think in different ways, but still, the connection take places and I think that what is special about music.

That’s what it’s all about. Usually when I listen to other artists I tend to not focus on the technical side of it. I do appreciate the skills of some of the musicians. But I listen to the music mainly for how it effects me. There are cases, when the music is good, but let’s say the vocals can’t deliver or vibrate on the same wavelength as I do, I just can’t listen to it. It has to be on the same vibe, otherwise it doesn’t work. So it’s cool what you’re saying. It can be someone from Japan or South America, but if there is a connection it doesn’t really matter. Music is a universal language. You can speak through music, you can tell stories through music. You don’t even have to understand the lyrics. They can be written in a language you can’t understand, but there still might be a connection through sounds. That’s the beauty of music.

Speaking of the language and lyrics, in this one I wanted to touch a little upon them. There is a part in the song „Underneath it all”, that got my interest and I wanted to ask you about it. I mean this particular fragment: „It’s all a big mistake, that’s why we suffer for years.”. Now, I don’t want to ask you what do you exactly mean here, so you can take the question in any way you feel, but I do want to ask you: why do we suffer for years?

Hmm, hard question. With this album for the first time there I put a lot of fiction into my lyrics. I don’t mean emotions. Emotions are there and they are real, but I was trying to put myself in other peoples shoes this time. In this case its a little bit post-apocalyptic. Different people trying to survive in different situations in the aftermath of an apocalypse. So in this case any mistake human kind does usually effects the rest of us and our children for years.

On a lyric path let’s move onto a quote now. Jean d’Ormesson, a French writer said once: „Coincidence is a meeting of two necessities”. Have you ever experienced a situation, which seemed to be coincidence, but eventually turned out it be a necessity?

(Long pause)

I know it’s a hard one…

But its a really good one. I actually like it a lot.

I think it is a pretty open question and I did ask it myself too. At the beginning I was trying to look for some particular situation, but then I wondered if the whole of our life isn’t actually a sequence of small coincidences, which eventually lead into those „necessities” coming together.

Definitely. All those little things shape us as human beings and ourselves. All those situations and decision eventually make you as a person I guess. You made a left turn instead of right and what did it do to you? There coincidences that turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you, so it is all connected. Its hard for me to pick one coincidence, but it’s really interesting. I like that quote a lot. It makes you think. That’s what I do with lyrics at times. I like to twist everything around. Let’s say a chorus starts with two sentences in first person and the second half of chorus is in third person. I like the abstract. That is why I like this thought, because you can apply it to different meanings.

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