Leif Johansen


21 Guns (2002)


So Lief, it's great to hook up with you, how are things?

"All is well here in Oslo. I have just built a new studio that is totally happening. So I have all of my "Toys" in place"

21 Guns became a much loved band after the debut album was released. But I feel that the sales and promotion of the album weren't what they could have been - the album was so strong, it seemed criminal it did not sell 5 million units!
"I couldn't agree with you more! The record business is a funny and fragile thing. There are too many people in high places who are insecure and have a habit of hiding their heads up their asses!"

How many did it sell worldwide?
"Good question!!! I still don't know myself. What I do know is that the albums we did sell were sold to the right people. I meet people all the time that say the album never left their CD player... That makes me warm inside"

What went wrong in the promotion of it, or was it a victim of the grunge revolution?
"I think a lot of bands were effected by the "Grunge scene" It was the backlash of the Nirvana story. All the record executives were/are looking for that one artists that they can sell millions of with little effort on their part. Nobody wanted/wants to invest time in developing an act like they did in the old days. Artists were guaranteed three records.
They had time to develop a sound and a songwriting style- not to mention a fan base. All that has changed now."

What were your favourite tracks off the debut release? Personally I just adore These Eyes, Marching In Time and Knee Deep!
"Those are good tracks but I always think about how I felt when I wrote them. Tell Me was a song that just feel out of the sky for me. I saw a picture of a mother holding her son after a drive by shooting in L.A. and the whole song wrote itself.
Jungleland and Little Sister are also two of the first songs that Scott and I ever wrote together, so they are at the top of my lits. I also love Walking! OH hell I love the whole record. Especially since I can listen to it now with a little distance and perspective!

You went on to record or at least demo a second record. Why did that not come out at the time (1993-4)?
"Good question.... Scott and I were going through a lot of business at that time. We were changing management and singers so it is amazing how time flys. I was also going through a divorce. Strange period in my life cycle!!!"

Why did Tommy leave the band?
"Tommy was just as frustrated as we all were about the sales of the record and all the business bullshit around it all.
We had a manipulating manager, an ever changing record company-(we had 6 different A & R men to relate to. And on top of it all Tommy got married. His wife had some ideas of her own. He is now divorced....."

He seems to be a very personal, very private guy - do you see him often?
"I can see you have never met Tommy! ha ha He is the funniest, ludest individual I have ever met. He should be a comedian. He lives just two blocks away from me. I see him now and then on the street and we try to meet up but the man likes to fish and camp out on the weekends. So it is hard to find the time."

So at what point did you decide to make the Nothing's Real album?
"It was always in the works. It was the never ending record production. The curse of 21 Guns is what I call it. I do not remember the exact date we started or when it was finished to be honest. I am just glad that it is finished"

Did you think of many singers to use, or did you go straight for Solli (Sons Of Angels vocalist)?
"Solli is a good friend and when people say that their are a million singers out there, they are dead wrong. Finding the right singer is a very painful experience"

Were you happy with the sales/response from the Japanese only initial release of the CD? "I guess I am stupid but I never think about sales figures. I love the process of making records. Writing the songs is like therapy to me. I have to admit that looking back I am not too happy about record sales."

You then released the CD through Z Records for Europe, at what point did you starting think of a next release?
"Scott and I love working together so we are always thinking about the next release. This most recent album "Demolition" was actually a seed that I planted in Mark Alger's ear.
I was sitiing on so many demos that I thought had a bit of charm to them and I sent the to Mark. He used some of them on the Nothings Real CD and then he came up with the idea of a CD with only the demos on it. I love it!"

Were your thoughts to go with an all new studio release, and if so, what prevented that from happening?
"We are planning a new studio CD as I write this. I will talk to Scott later today and work out a time schedule and such!"

As we have it, Demolition is due in stores now, and is made of songs you planned to have part of the second album after Salute. Can you take us through each song, and tell us where these songs came from?
"Greed was from the wales session. Inspired by all the Greedy Sons of Bitches that were surrounding us at that time. We had a lawyer who took 20% then our manager took 20%(who was sleeping with our lawyer by the way) and finally our accountant took 5%. Not much left for us and our producer...... Lot of greed going on!!!"

Gotta Get Up
"Song about getting your ass out of the chair and winning over your obstacles... Everybody can relate to that!!"

Bad Lovin'
"This is a song that was inspired by somebody I met while on tour years ago with a group called A-HA. She was a young dutch girl who had led a very rough life. I wanted to mend her wounds but I felt helpless. I still wonder how she is today"

"This is my all time favorite song. Paul Mcartneys masterpiece"

Blood Gone Bad
"Song about how screwed up we can get through the faults of our parents and then we we take a stand we sit with all the blame"

Never Say Die
"This is Scotts motto"

Cry Me A River
"Relationships are the reason we are on this planet but we never seem to get it right. This is a song about a guy who just wants a little more time before he has to dive into it again"

White Lies
"It was written so long ago that I cannot remember what went behind it. It has a nice hook to it"

The Picture
I wrote this song when I was totally frustrated with all the pain around me. Do we need to hurt the people around us? Is this the picture in black and white?

"Cool groove.... Tommy sings it well... The message or what I was thinking at the time escapes me"

Do I Do
"Another song about women" I have a tendency to get all caught up with the people around me. Most of the time they abuse my good intentions and I have to ask myself. Do they have souls?"

Now, the production quality varies quite a lot between some songs - what process did you go through to prepare these songs for release?
"Not much... ha ha They have that thread that goes through them all because its one of our songs but it is rather diverse- I will give you that. But that is also what makes it interesting."

Are you happy with the result? There are certainly some fine melodic rock songs on there!
"I am very happy! They were songs that were not going to see the light of day in their present form. So I am a happy camper that they are coming out. Hats off to Mark Alger"

It's great to hear Tommy's vocals again, with him so quiet, there have been rumors that he died last year and other silly things.
"In a way he has died... He is writing songs for other people and he is not doing "The singing thing" anymore. Which is a shame because he is incredibly talented!!"

What chance is there that he will come forward to do an all new 12 Guns studio album with you in the future?
"We have talked about it actually.... Nothing is impossible."

And Lief, what other things have you planned this year to keep busy?
"I have my own production company so I have many artists that I produce. I also have a solo album that I am finishing off and another band called The Fog Prophets" So there is a lot to do!!!"

Is there anything I have missed that you would like to add?
"Thanks for all of your interest in 21 GUNS. We enjoy what we do but we haven't been on the road in years and it is easy to forget that there are people out there listening"


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