Q: When and where was I born?
A: On the 25th May, 1962, in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Q: How tall am I?
A: 194 cm or 6,4 feet.
A: 104 Kg or 229 pounds.
Q: Where did I grow up?
A: Mainly in Stockholm and later in Malmö, Sweden.
Q: When did I start playing drums?
A: When I was around 13 years old. But started more seriously at 15. Before that I had taken piano lessons for five years. My brother, Jens, and I went to these lessons together. We played everything by ear so as the pieces became more difficult we had a harder time. We kind of faked looking at the sheet music while playing, but this situation was not possible in the long run.
The teacher used to play the stuff we were going to have for homework before we went home and we rode our little bikes as fast as possible to get home trying to remember it. Sometimes the teacher didn’t play the piece and we were lost trying to interpret the sheet music.
Q: Was I self taught?
A: Yes, totally. I used to check other drummers on vinyl records. Back then we had record players that could be slowed down from 33 rpm to 16 rpm. My brother had a cassette player where he installed a turning-resistor (potentiometer) so we could slow down tapes as well.
Q: How many hours a day did I practice?
A: As many as possible. I went to school as well so a lot of time was wasted there. We had a lot of homework as well. I was never really into school but had pretty good grades anyway for some reason.
On weekends and days off it was five to six hours a day of drumming. Not alone, but with bands or with my brother Jens. On schooldays I played from one to three hours a day. I used to get up early before school to try to put in some extra playing. I set my alarm earlier so I could manage this.
Q: Did I play only metal?
A: No, I tried to play everything. I thought it would broaden my chances to become a professional drummer.
Back then, in Sweden there weren’t that many that had become professionals. Touring outside of Sweden was unheard of.
Q: First band?
A: Slem (phlegm or mucas), it was Instrumental music. Started as a rock punk (not punk rock) band, but later turned into a fusion band. It was myself with some school mates and Jens, my brother. The guitar player Erik Borelius went on to become Sweden’s number one acoustic player. Back then he was wild and energetic (still is). He used to tune up the guitar to F. “More coiled energy…more snap and power!” he used to say. Nowadays all cool players tune down. Erik also played without distortion. The distortion came from your ears overloading since he played extremely loud, and fast!
Q: Do you prefer metal?
A: Not really. As long as it is good or it is a job I play anything really. But somehow I seem to play metal mostly. It started when I as a 17 year old and i joined Swedish band Silver Mountain. From there I went to Yngwie’s band. And after that I have gone from metal band to metal band. Right now with Hammerfall.
But I have also played a lot of fusion and rock as well.
Q: When did I record a record the first time?
A: 1981 with Silver Mountain. It was a collection album with many bands.
1982 a full length album. It got released in all major territories. It was unusual for Swedish bands back then. I think we were pioneers some how.
Silver Mountain is often overlooked as an important neo classical evolutionary step.
I recorded only these two records with them. Later in the 90’s we did a re-union record with old songs that hadn’t made it onto the first studio album. The guitar player sneakingly put on some new instrumental songs he made, sometimes using the actual drum tracks from the “real” songs. Re-cycling!
Q: Military service?
A: Yes, unfortunately. It was mandatory in Sweden. I ended up as a signal surveyor in the marines.
It was tedious, long hours in school and after thatlong hours in a secret base. We didn’t get to crawl around in mud that much, though. I guess that was OK. Also my lieutenant Åkesson was nice enough to let me have a drum kit in one of the rooms we didn’t use. So I practiced for a few hours a day.
At one of my shore leaves I met Yngwie in a music shop. And we went to jam in his rehearsal room. We stayed in contact after this.
Q: When did I move to the states to play with Yngwie Malmsteen?
A: In the spring of 1984. I first came out just to visit. But in the middle of everything he quit Alcatraz and asked me and Jens to join his own band.
We recorded Marching Out a few months after his first solo record, Rising Force, even though it got released a year later. We played a lot and I recorded three studio albums with him during this time. The band was actually pretty big, we played large venues all over the world, but we were not as big as the real big bands. In Japan and Soviet Union we were a huge band. We played the largest venues they had.
Q: Why did I leave Rising Force in 1989?
A: It all started when we had yet another new management, our third manager in five years. Nigel “Tomcat” Thomas was OK as a person, but was often thinking too short term. The band got alienated more and more from Yngwie. We even took different flights sometimes for some reason. Yngwie didn’t seem to realize the problems growing. Yngwie has a reputation of being an asshole but in my opinion he is just a blunt and straight forward guy. Sometimes overreacting a bit, but meaning no harm. When they decided to fire Joe Lynn Turner and our record company decided to drop the band I realized the big times were over. My brother had quit a few months before me to join Dio’s band and it felt the “magic” we had, the trade mark sound, was gone. There were also money issues. There were not really any bad feelings between Yngwie and me, I just felt like I wanted to do something else and I was sick of being exploited. I still think some of the times with this band were the best I had as a musician and as a person.
Q: What did I do after Yngwie?
A: I went to L.A. to find other possibilities.
I started to record demos and records, film music, jingles (even did a talking one) everything you could think of. I auditioned for some bands. I even acted as an extra in a few movies just for fun. Lambada, Pump up the volume, Marked for Death, Terror on Elm street (TV series) etc etc.
Q: Did I play with other famous bands in L.A.?
A: I auditioned and didn’t get to play with: Kevin Du Brow’s band and Joe Satriani.
Satriani tried out Steve Smith (great drummer) as well as me, and he didn’t get it either, so it was not my playing they didn’t like. But I think we just had different approaches, me and Joe. I remember him actually turning down his volume when playing solos. Quite a difference from what I was used to. I tried out for John Sykes’ band Blue Murder around this time. They had tested literally 100 drummers, and I was the best one according to them, so I joined. Played with Sykes for six months and we recorded a bunch of stuff. I got along pretty good with them, us being fellow Europeans. In the end though, it went sour. We had the same manager Yngwie had had and he probably didn’t like me since he remembered some funky stuff that went on during the time with Yngwie. The manager, Larry “the amazing” Mazer, was an OK guy for sure, but there is a definite cultural difference between Europe and the States that make things difficult sometimes. I finally got fired with the words: “It’s not your playing…it’s your attitude!” They tried to rehire me a week later, but I had a long European tour with my brother and Jonas Hellborg lined up so I didn’t rejoin. During this time, I started to play with Jörg Fisher from Germany’s Accept. We recorded an album with our band Billionaires Boys Club.
Q: Did we tour with Billionaires Boys Club?
A: After the record Something wicked comes was released we did some gigs. Our singer Mark Boals tried to get as much money out of the tour as possible. He also had some odd demands that made it impossible to continue with him. First calls, tickets and five star hotel suites for him and his manager were some of the things he needed to be able to tour. We recruited Göran Edman as a singer instead. And we did some gigs but never a large tour even though one was lined up.
Q: Was this around when I started my record company?
A: Yes, Jens and I got by a fortunate incident , for us, the rights to all our dads recordings. Our dad, Jan Johansson, was a famous jazz piano player. He is mostly known outside Sweden for composing the Pippi Longstocking theme and for playing with Stan Getz. But he made a bunch of records under his own name as well. These are still selling today, you can get them from www.heptagon.se
Q: Did I move from the states to Europe in the early 90’s?
A: Yes, I did. During the record company dealings I did a few records under different band names and with different people. One in particular stood out from the early 90’s. Jonas Hellborg group featuring The Johanssons/e. It was called “e” because all songs were in the key of E.
Q: What other projects and bands did I play with?
A: Quite a few, please check the discography section of this website if you are interested. Some were merely projects, some real bands, and some just as a guest drummer.
Q: The Johansson brothers?
A: Yes, there was an attempt to create a band with continuity. Jens and I were the main guys. We didn’t think of this to become a big touring band, though. Or we would have had a different band name and had let the other musicians be let in more on all the creative and financial parts. We took our last name just so the record stores could file the records under our other solo records thinking it would be easier on everyone. The third record was mainly aimed for the Japanese market.
Q: Solo efforts?
A: I did two solo records. Shu-tka and Red Shift.
First one was me playing everything. But we made up musician names and fake names for the instruments. I played wooden chairs, steel ladders etc. But we named them with Arabic names to try to make it more serious. I felt bad lying about all the details while talking to journalists. As a joke I put one of these fake musicians as a co composer. The Swedish publishing rights society had some problems finding him in Nepal.
Red shift was a bit more “electric” and straightforward. Some fake names there as well. It was mainly me and Jens who played on this one.
Q: Did you also play on Jens records?
A: Yes. Jens Johansson/Fission is by far the best drumming I did. It was a lot of odd meter and fast complex playing. We rehearsed a lot before we recorded.
Q: Allan Holdsworth?
A: He played on one of Jens and my records. Johansson Johansson Holdsworth/Heavy Machinery. We had this bunch of tunes laying about we didn’t know what to do with. They were recorded since we had extra time and tape after we were done with the second Johansson Brothers record, Sonic Winter. The songs were merely grooves and jams in 4/4 but also a bunch of odd meter songs. When Allan added his parts, the record became really OK. He is one of the all time greats.
Q: Shawn Lane and Mike Stern?
A: Both played on Jens solo album. Shawn and I played in a few bands and constellations apart from this. We were on a few tours together as well. Shawn was a really great musician and an interesting person.
Q: When did I join Hammerfall?
A: In 1999. I first joined as a session/touring drummer. It was never meant for me to stay. But they asked me to join permanently after our first summer festival season. Ten years and five world tours later I’m still in the band. With them I got to do things I’d never done before. A lot of TV-game shows and the like, touring countries I’d never been to and headlining monster big gigs in Sweden. It’s been really fun and interesting.
Q: What do I do in my spare time?
A: I hang out in dojos and gyms. I do Taekwon-do and Shotokan-karate. I have a house and I’m technically interested so I deal with all the problems that might occur. I have aquariums and sometimes I breed fish. My record company takes up some time as well.
A: Any really. As long as it has a twin pedal, OK snare drum and the usual sturdy stuff. I don’t care so much about sizes, layers of wood and all that as long as it has good sustain and tone. I have one kit for practicing (Premier), one for recording (Pearl) and one for touring (Tama). Right now I have one of Simon Phillips’ Tama-kits that I “inherited”, for touring. The best kit I have ever had. I didn’t change any of Simon’s settings. It’s kind of cool to play it exactly the was Simon played it. Did this mostly as a gag at first, but his settings works fine.
Q: Why a twin pedal?
A: I started using them back in the eighties already due to the fact that some sound engineers panned the two bass drums left-right hard in the PA. I also used to get only one of the two drums in the monitors. Or one sounding way different than the other. It also saves a channel using a twin pedal.
Q: Is it true I don’t use monitors?
A: Yes. And no. Nowadays we have a click for me to follow since we have smpte-code running the pyro. In general I think it’s just a matter of getting used to not having monitors. You see these huge mountains of speakers behind the drummers. I don’t get it. The drums sound pretty loud themselves. And the band you’ll hear from the PA, backline, sidefills and their own monitors. I usually don’t say anything, I’ll just un-plugg them. Yes, I don’t use monitors on huge festivals either. If I can manage, anyone can.
Q: What sticks do you use?
A: Pro-Mark hickory 5B wood tip.
A: Meinl. Assorted sizes and types. But something that cuts a bit. Since I play with earplugs it’s needed.
A: Evans G2′S mostly. Power reverse dot on the snare. EQ4 on the bass drum.
Q: Why earplugs?
A: It’s too loud for me playing drums, the snare really bothers me. I have the kind that cut the level the most. The cheap ordinary ones you get at your drugstore. Not the musician type since they dampen too little. Yes, the feeling goes a bit playing with earplugs but rather the feeling right then than the hearing for the rest of your life.
Q: How did I practice as a kid?
A: As much as possible at all times. In as many situations as possible. Back then there was no youtube or transcribe-programs so we slowed down the LP-records. And used my brothers tape recorder that he modified with a slowdown button. Nowadays it’s not at all as much practicing. But I try to keep in shape so I play one hour a day if possible.
Q: How do I prepare for recording?
A: I listen to the stuff and write it down in my own sheet music. I play the stuff with the music in headphones. Then I come somewhat un-prepaired since the producers will change it anyways (since they want to make themselves more than just recording engineers to make up for their salaries:-)). I have an easy time un-learning and re-learning so it’s no problem for me.
Q: Preparations for touring?
A: Same thing. Listen and play at home if it’s new material I’ve never played before. Or just rehearse a few times with the band. I play somewhat more freely than most new drummers, due to my age and background, so it’s just like talking. If you have learned the language of music and drumming you just “speak”, hopefully tight together with the others. Sometimes the others speak a different dialect