“the main theme is about getting through a dark time and coming out of the other side”

SKYBLAZER is a project created by musician Johannes Frykholm and he has released debut Time For Deliverance. Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to Johannes about SKYBLAZER’s sound, the EP, mental health and favourite films/video games from the 80s.

Photo: Maria Niklasson / Logo: Frode Hovd

Hello Johannes, thank you for joining Rock Out Stand Out today. So first off, how would you describe Skyblazer to someone who hasn’t heard them before?

I guess I would say it’s a throwback to the early 2000s power metal sound; particularly around the time countries such as United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany and other places in Europe were all making a similar sound where it’s very melodic, synth based and the cheesy keyboard sounds. What I don’t have is the high pitched vocals but I make up for it with the arrangements and well thought out harmonies.

I was actually going to touch upon that there aren’t high pitched vocals and how lower vocals do make a nice change in power metal.

If you look at some power metal bands, they do have some more baritone based vocals. One of the bands that comes to mind is Orden Ogan, they’re a great example as while he doesn’t have a wide range he has a lot of emotion in his voice. My personal favourite is Mathias Blad from Falconer. He has the cleanest vocals ever but he can go really deep with his voice and really soft on the high notes yet he always stays on the mid range which is surprisingly nice to listen to.

Speaking of vocals, do you have any particular influences for your vocal technique or sound in general?

Not anything that comes to mind particularly but for me I have always been a classically trained choir vocalist. To me the most influential is Mathias from Falconer and to some extent Rock N’ Rolf from Running Wild. He doesn’t have a wide range but he always shows a lot of personality in his voice. I would probably say they are key influences.

You’ve released your EP Time For Deliverance. You mentioned on Facebook the songs on here were written when you were younger. Given Covid 19 and the pandemic, did that provide the opportunity to get those recorded or were you working on that before the pandemic?

It was definitely the pandemic that was almost the key giver to getting things done because before I’ve always gone back and fourth on those songs. Also a lot of the song ideas I had written were when I was a teenager but they were never finished or I tried to record them properly but never considered myself to have the skills to get them done. I would always start making something but then quit half way through or feel bad because I couldn’t get them done and just move onto other projects.

The first three songs on the EP were written way back in 2010 or 2011, they were when the first ideas were conceived. Lyrically, they have been re-written. The only one that is almost the same as the original was Man Or Machine, it was about the same thing but I re-wrote the lyrics to be in slightly better English.

There’s quite a few guest musicians and singers on your EP. Did you already have in mind which guests you wanted on your EP or was it a case of listening around and picking them?

It was a little bit of both I think. For some of the guests, I thought they were no-brainers for me but then from beginning I knew I had to have guest guitarists for the solos. I know I can do rhythm guitar well but I don’t really know how to sell a guitar solo that well. I know others that can do it and pack a lot more emotion into the the guitar solo, they also have better technique too.

For me the obvious ones to choose were from my own band so Fredrik Erixon-Enochson the bass player and he also masters music, he’s also a really good guitar player so he plays all the guitar leads on the EP. I knew others that I wanted to play on the EP as either they uploaded videos of them playing guitar covers on Facebook, I saw those and asked them if they wanted to be apart of the EP. 

I had also been in contact with Billy Jeffs from Memories Of Old as well as Marius Danielsen from Legend Of Valley Doom. So, I asked them if they wanted to be a part of it and they were really happy to be a part of it. It was really cool.

Did you have to record the EP online or were you able to get into the studio?

I did all my old stuff almost entirely at home. The only thing I recorded in a studio was the lead vocals as I wanted to get a better dry sound because I can get away with recording a dry sound at home, particularly for choir vocals. However, for lead vocals I wanted them to be as good as possible. I recorded the keyboards, lead and rhythm guitars at home. For all the guest parts, I gave them what they needed to record and they sent over the audio files which were then mixed and mastered. 

I particularly liked the songs Destiny To Seize, a real throwback to the eighties.

I was inspired by 80s sounding keyboards for that track but then I was also influenced by bands like Power Quest, they are my favourite band of all time. It’s power metal with that old school 80s influence that doesn’t take away from the speed or happiness of the music.

When listening to it, I was reminded of Sonic The Hedgehog.

That’s another one of my main influences, video game music. You see a lot of stuff now influenced by 80s, there’s a lot of Synth Wave stuff. Which is absolutely fine and I see that in bands I like such as Beast In Black but for me, 80s music isn’t so much about riffs, it’s about the happiness it brings. 

When writing the lyrics for the EP, did you have in mind it was going to be a concept EP or are these all songs on their own?

I sort of had a concept but the thing is I started writing a full length album and then I decided that these four songs would be better to introduce the project. That’s why they are all slightly the same theme but the main theme is about getting through a dark time and coming out of the other side. 

It’s no secret the COVID pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s mental health as well so this EP has come out at the right time.

I agree, music for me in the past few years has been influenced by the dark times. So I think I wanted to make power metal that sounded really happy because I want to take people back to those times.

Talking about mental health and keeping the conversation going, what do you think we could do more of so people feel comfortable talking about going through tough times and how it effects them mentally?

I think talking to close friends a lot is usually the most effective thing but you also have to show respect to people as well. People can be in a bad place mentally even though they aren’t showing it, so you have to be very patient with people. I think you should have a mindset that everyone around you could be mentally unstable and then you can show a lot of patience to everybody. Be patient with people and be more open to talking. 

Is there anything you do to help calm down when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

To me personally I think the best stress relief is to spend time with my girlfriend whether that is sitting and talking or going out for a walk. Usually a lot of the time we listen to music and play video games but sometimes the best thing to do is to sit there and listen to nothing. 

Is there a plan for a full length Skyblazer album in the future?

There is a plan for the future most definitely. The thing is the songs are already written but it’s only a solo project and so far I haven’t got any plans to record it with multiple musicians yet.

Going back to your influences in video games made me think of this question, do you have any favourite movies and/or videos games from that period?

In terms of movies I think the best ones ever made are Back To The Future. The Terminator 2 is also one of my all time favourite movies, I watch those movies almost every year and I never get tired of them. I always find new things to love about them every time.

With video games, both Metroid series of video games and The Legend Of Zelda are absolutely amazing. There are almost no bad games in their entire franchises. If I were to pick my all time favourites, they would be Super Metroid and The Legend Of Zelda:  Majora’s Mask.

Which universe of those films and/or games would you most like to live in?

Oh good question. I mean Terminator absolutely not. I like the western style of Super Metroid but probably The Legend Of Zelda as that is half way through. Yes there is a lot of monsters but you can always hide in the villages.

Which five game/film characters would have on your team to go on a quest?

James, Samus from Metroid, the Cyber Bellmont from CastleMania, Robo from Chrono Trigger as he would be good at analysing stuff and Bionetta but I fear she would go off and do her own thing. Samus would probably do that as well, I feel a lot of them will.

Do you have a message for your fans and our readers?

Keep supporting the metal scene and the smaller bands. A lot of bands and artists are really struggling with the pandemic, partly because there is nowhere to play. A lot of people are making music but are having a hard time promoting it and selling it physically at shows. Support your local bands by buying their merch. Support Rock Out Stand Out and like their page.

Thank you Johannes for talking with Rock Out Stand Out today and best of luck with the release.

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