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Interview with Christian Liljegren of Audiovision

The musical career of vocalist Christian Liljegren got its start in the early nineties as a member of Modest Attraction, a 70’s influenced hard rock act that put out a pair of well received albums in The Truth In Your Face (1994) and Divine Luxury (1996).  Later forming Narnia with guitarist Carl Johan Grimmark, the artist lent his abilities to five albums and a live DVD with styles ranging from neo-classical metal to melodic metal to power and progressive metal.  Four albums were also recorded as a member of Divinefire, a group combining elements of the melodic and the extreme, while side projects – one album each – included Flagship (progressive rock), Wisdom Call (metal/hard rock) and Audiovision (melodic metal).  After taking a break from recording and touring following his departure from Narnia in 2008, Liljegren returns in 2010 with the sophomore release from Audiovision, Focus.  Angelic Warlord recently conducted an online interview with Liljegren, who goes into detail about the full spectrum of his career, the new Audiovision album and future plans as well.

Audivision live pic

I want to start by discussing the earlier moments of your musical career.  First, please name your musical influences while growing up.  Also, what vocalists inspired you?  And what were some of the first bands you were involved in?
Hi Andy!  First I want to say big thanks to a great site and to all people who had followed me during all the years since the MODEST ATTRACTION days in the early 90's. Please continue to support the work of ANGELIC WARLORD.

I grew up in a family where music was a natural thing and my father sang in the church choir. I started to sing in a very early age and when I was 11 years old I decided I wanted to be a good rock vocalist and since then I have been working hard. My first band was SEVEN SEAS. I formed this band in 1986 with my brother Simeon Liljegren, who also is involved in AUDIOVISION. Our musical influences were ACCEPT, IRON MAIDEN, STRYPER & JUDAS PRIEST. Lots of twin guitars and our bass player Christian Eriksson sounded like STEVE HARRIS in IRON MAIDEN.
 
We only did some demos and the band ended in 1987 and then I was involved in a lot of bands, among them were VENTURE & TRINITY before me and my brother joined a band called BORDERLINE IN 1989. The style was more melodic hard rock like EUROPE, STRYPER & PETRA. We released two singles which are rare items on Ebay these days. I still have a few copies left if someone is interested. We toured a lot in SWEDEN and the band split up in 1991.
 
The vocalists that have inspired me and still do were BRIAN CONNOLLY (THE SWEET) RONNIE JAMES DIO (RAINBOW) FREDDIE MERCURY (QUEEN) JOEY TEMPEST (EUROPE) DAVID COVERDALE (WHITESNAKE/DEEP PURPLE) JOHN SCHLITT (PETRA) & ROB ROCK (ANGELICA ,JOSHUA & IMPELLITTERI)

Please tell me about your experience with Modest Attraction.  How and when did the group form? What led Modest Attraction to pursue a 70?s influenced hard rock sound?
When BORDERLINE split up in 1991 both me and my brother SIMEON LILJEGREN wanted to form a hard rock band with strong 70's influences like THE SWEET, RAINBOW, URIAH HEEP & DEEP PURPLE and with a strong passion for Christ in our lyrics. We met MICK NORDSTRÖM drummer of XT & LEVITICUS and he had the same passion as us. Together with guitarist STEPHAN MOHLIN, MODEST ATTRACTION was founded and had a solid line-up for 4-5 years.
 
During this time we also met the WEINESJÖ brothers of VENI DOMINE and did concerts together several times as MICK NORDSTRÖM engineered some of their early VENI DOMINE demos. We had a unique sound those days when the grunge era was big. Our albums THE TRUTH IN YOUR FACE (1994) and DIVINE LUXURY( 1996) received very good reviews in the media and sold OK and we even got a best of album released in JAPAN in 1999 several years after the band has split up.
 
We also had custom made clothes done by Simeon's wife Jenny Liljegren and we really pushed the 70's hard rock image hard with a strong focus on JESUS in our lyrics.  Jenny Liljegren has done the clothes as well for AUDIOVISION. Please see our new video INVITATION on Youtube, as we are really blessed to have someone working for us and to have good clothes that are unique. We think it is important to look good on stage and in pictures. Something special without losing the main focus of what we are doing.
 
Modest Attraction did two smaller tours in GERMANY & SWITZERLAND and the response was super. We did a tour with SEVENTH AVENUE & CHRYZTYNE, two great  Christian bands from GERMANY. We also played with bands like URIAH HEEP & GLENN HUGHES, two musical bands/heroes for all of us who loves the 70's stuff. It was a big highlights in MODEST ATTRACTION'S career. During the last trip with MODEST ATTRACTION to Germany we met Matthias Mittelstädt of MCM MUSIC.  In Germany I introduced my new vision and band NARNIA and the rest is history. We did a reunion concert some years ago when PETRA was doing one of their FAREWELL tours IN EUROPE.

I would now like to ask a few questions about Narnia. How and when did the group form?
In mid 80's I was listening a lot to bands like YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, RAINBOW & EUROPE. I felt already then that someday I wanted to do this kind of music neoclassical hard rock and metal with a straight forward message about Jesus.  This style of music is so majestic and for me very close how I see the gift of music God has given us. I am a rock evangelist and this is my call and my personal vocal style suits perfect for this kind of music and my passion for this style is still huge. More about that later.

In January 1996 I got a dream and vision to form a band called NARNIA. I had met Carl Johan Grimmark in 1993 when he had his band SENTINEL and I was blown away by his guitar playing and also to write songs. I was in MODEST ATTRACTION during this time but we felt it was going to end. We wanted different things.
 
I shared my vision with Carl Johan Grimmark and he was in. During this period Stephan Mohlin the guitar player in MODEST ATTRACTION quit the band and Carl Johan stepped in and did the last tours. More and more both Carl Johan and i felt we wanted to focus more on NARNIA and left MODEST ATTRACTION in 1997.

It was a bad time for neoclassical metal only. Japan showed interest during this time so we focused to make the debut album AWAKENING and hopefully it will be released in Japan. When the AWAKENING album was ready we know that a MAGNUS SÖDERKVIST a known A&R for melodic hard rock in Sweden had good contacts in Japan so we hired him to show NARNIA for the labels in JAPAN. MAGNUS SÖDERKVIST runs CATAPULT MUSIC GROUP these days.
 
We got fantastic response and 9 different labels wanted to sign NARNIA and in the end we signed with PONY CANYON same label as YNGWIE MALMSTEEN & JOE LYNN TURNER (RAINBOW). This was the start of a great adventure.

The AWAKENING album was released in Japan July 18, 1997. We then got in touch with MCM MUSIC Germany and our new manager RAINER MITTELSTÄDT have been working hard for NARNIA since then together with his brother MATTHIAS and helped us to get the deal with NUCLEAR BLAST and then later on with MASSACRE RECORDS.

I am extremely proud of the NARNIA years and will forever have a special place in my heart.

Which are your favorite Narnia albums and why?  What are some of your best experiences and memories while in Narnia?
My favorites albums are AWAKENING, LONG LIVE THE KING & ENTER THE GATE.
 
My best experiences with NARNIA are to name a few:

1. Promotional trip for LONG LIVE THE KING to JAPAN
2. Our tour together with RONNIE JAMES DIO.
3. To play in MEXICO with SAVIOUR MACHINE & MORTIFICATION
 
I am so blessed to have these experiences and to see what God is doing through are songs and lyrics. Thanks again for all wonderful support during all the years for NARNIA.

What led you to join forces with Jani Stefanovic and form Divinefire?  Of the four Divinefire albums which one stands out the most and why?  What are some of your best experiences and memories while in Divinefire?
In 2004 I got a letter and a CD from Jani Stefanovic and the band RENASCENT sent to my label. To be honest I don't have too much time to listen to every band. I got so much but please continue to send me material to my label www.liljegren-records.com.  I'll do the best to respond back because I really want to help Christian bands out with their music. It was the same with RENASCENT but when I started listening and read their lyrics and I was blown away by the power of God so I called them up and Jani answered. We talked a long time and he also told me about his passion for melodic metal.
 
I had been thinking for a while to combine the majestic melodic metal sound with the more extreme metal elements with a powerful message about our mighty king JESUS CHRIST. I had talked about this with my younger brother Hubertus Liljegren, singer and guitarist in SANCTIFICA & CRIMSON MOONLIGHT, during 2003 when he guested on the first AUDIOVISION album THE CALLING. He thought the idea was really cool but it has to be very good and well done and includes lots of symphonic and orchestral arrangements.
 
Now, talked and shared my ideas with Jani and he loved it and the day after the he wrote the music for the song THE WORLD'S ON FIRE and within a month we had written all the material for our debut album GLORY THY NAME. The same man MAGNUS SÖDERKVIST from CATAPULT MUSIC GROUP was hired and again the Japanese labels loved it and we ended up signing with KING RECORDS, one of the biggest labels over there. They have STRYPER, EXTREME, UDO from ACCEPT and many many more.
 
The really wonderful thing with DIVINEFIRE was that we had created a new style in metal and God has done marvelous thing through our albums. The best thing with DIVINEFIRE so far was the tour in JAPAN in 2005 and the fantastic response and love we received from the Japanese fans and still receive from fans all over the world.
 
My favorite albums are GLORY THY NAME & INTO A NEW DIMENSION. The song NEVER SURRENDER from the first album GLORY THY NAME has a very special place in my heart. I know many DIVINEFIRE fans wants to see a tour with this band. I leave this into the hands of God.
 
The Flagship CD, Maiden Voyage, you recorded with Linus Kase is one of your more overlooked and underrated.  What are your thoughts on Maiden Voyage?  Do you see yourself recording a second album with Flagship?
I receive many emails from people all over the world asking about how many ideas and songs I have in my head.  The fact is that I love hard rock, AOR, symphonic & progressive music and metal but I have always tried to separate them in different recordings and bands. You can't mix them in one band that is the reason for so many bands and releases and I am blessed to fulfill most of my music musical dreams and visions. I still have dreams and visions that are not fulfilled yet.
 
Regarding FLAGSHIP, this was my way to show my passion for symphonic rock and musicals. I love bands like KAYAK, STYX, KANSAS, NEAL MORSE mixed with elements from musicals like LES MISERABLES, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA & JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR that I love. When I am in NEW YORK and LONDON I try to see these musicals as these are timeless for me and I can see them over and over again.  The great thing is to handle your voice in different ways. The FLASGHIP album was so fun to do with all the vocal parts and harmonies.
 
I am very proud of this album MAIDEN VOYAGE and I got many requests for a 2nd album. I don't think it will be another FLAGSHIP album. Linus Kåse is occupied with his band BRIGHTEYE BRISON, who are also doing progressive and symphonic rock.  Olov Andersson our keyboard player in AUDIOVISION and I are planning an album in the future to follow up where FLASGHIP ended so only GOD knows when it will happen.

Divinefire - Glory Thy Name & Farewell

Is it an accurate statement that the first Audiovision album, The Calling, was more of a project than a full band effort?  What led you to record the album and why?  Are you happy with the way it turned out?
In 2003 when the vision of AUDIOVISION took shape I was involved in NARNIA and I had songs that didn't fit into the NARNIA concept but I wanted to do something with these song ideas. I presented my idea for my friend, guitarist and producer LARS CHRISS (LION' SHARE & ROAD TO RUIN) and he had songs he presented to me that I liked a lot and he offered to produce the album. LARS also had good contacts with musicians that I like and respect.
 
The rest is history and the album features many of my musical heroes among them JEFF SCOTT SOTO ( MALMSTEEN & TALISMAN), BRUCE KULICK (KISS),TONY FRANKLIN (WHITESNAKE, BLUE MURDER) MIC MICHAELI (EUROPE) and more. In total over 20 different musicians are involved and play on the album.  Of course you can hear their trademarks on the album blending with my songwriting so it was a cool mix and a major album in my musical career.

I am very proud of THE CALLING album and to have all these great musicians involved. The album received great response and was released worldwide in 2005.

Focus, the soon to be released second CD from Audiovision, comes across as more of a band effort than a project.  Is this an accurate statement?  Also, what led you to work with Torbjorn and Thomas Weinesjo (guitars & drums), Olov Andersson (keyboards) and your brother Simeon (bass)?
I really needed a big break from touring and recording to get the passion back to make music when I left NARNIA in 2008. When my break was over, I wanted to form a fresh NEW touring and recording band with the influences from 70's and 80's hard rock and metal.

To use the AUDIOVISION name felt natural as I wanted to perform songs from THE CALLING album live and I loved the name.
 
I wanted co-operate with my brother SIMEON LILJEGREN on bass & vocals again, who is a great song writer and also has fantastic power and charisma on stage. We played together in several bands SEVEN SEAS, BORDERLINE & MODEST ATTRACTION between 1986-1996 where we and recorded several albums and toured a lot.
 
Two other musicians were Thomas & Torbjörn Weinesjö from the band VENI DOMINE. I know they are dedicated to the music and the vision I wanted with AUDIOVISION so it felt great to include them. Torbjörn the guitar player is a good songwriter, especially in the heavier direction and more epic elements.

The final member to introduce is my close friend Olov Andersson from the symphonic and progressive rock band GRAND STAND on keyboards, who create symphonic and beautiful rock music. Olov and I have been talking for years to form a band in the style of RAINBOW, WHITESNAKE & DIO all in all to include the best elements we know from the 70's and 80's in a fresh production of 2010.
 
11 months later and we are here ready to rock with a new album FOCUS and two videos are filmed to promote the new album FOCUS. I am so happy for this band and the joy we have together. All songs on FOCUS are composed and written by all members in the band.
 
Since then we have played shows in SWEDEN, NORWAY & GERMANY and we did a small successful mini tour with STRYPER in SWEDEN and GERMANY in January 2010 where we tried the new songs for the first time and the response was great. It is wonderful to be back again on the road!

What are your thoughts on Focus?  Are you happy with the way the album turned out?  What are some of your favorite songs off the album?
I am very happy the album turned out. The songs are mixed in different ways and the Spirit in the album is very strong.  We wrote all songs together in the band so it is really a good teamwork and the unity in the band is the best I have ever experienced.
 
It was also a very good experience to work with producer ERIK MÅRTENSSON, who is working with big productions and great names such as GIANT, the members from TOTO & SURVIVOR, JEFF SCOTT SOTO and many more. He is a melodic master producer and I have worked with him on several albums with vocal productions for DIVINEFIRE as well on the HERO & INTO A NEW DIMENSION album. We will continue to work with him for the next and 3rd studio album as well. I am working on another album called GOLDEN RESURRECTION with him as producer, planned to be out in Japan later this year.
 
My favorite songs on FOCUS are KEEP THE FIRE BURNING, INVITATION, THE SON WILL COME & THE GATE , all of which sound fantastic live so we are ready to rock the people out there!
 
The music and lyrics are straight into your heart and we want to show the world the love of God in a straight forward way without compromises.

Why did the group choose to record a cover of Stryper’s “The Way”?
I have always loved THE WAY since I heard it for the first time 24 years ago on the TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL album in 1986. It fit perfectly with our other material and I had a good vocal arrangement in my head in the middle of the song like QUEEN.
 
I am very happy it worked out and then of a sudden we got the chance to open up for STRYPER.  GOD'S agenda is marvelous and OZ FOX loved our version and the other too. STRYPER has an important place for CHRISTIAN heavy music and it 's great that we are friends with them and their crew. STRYPER's way to express their faith together with bands like BLOODGOOD & PETRA have influenced me a lot and strengthen my faith in Jesus Christ and of course I pray that my lyrics on my albums will do the same for people all over the world.

Does Audiovision plan to tour or play any live shows?
Yeah we started this year with shows with STRYPER in SWEDEN & GERMANY.  Several countries and promoters have showed big interest to book AUDIOVISION
 
We have just started to do concerts both electric and unplugged on the KEEP THE FIRE BURNING TOUR 2010/2011. Please check out our site www.audiovisionsweden.com and www.myspace.com/audiovisionsweden for more updates and my site as well www.liljegren-records.com.

We will play where God leads us, so agencies and promoters out there please get in touch with me on christian@dotmusic.se regarding all the details for AUDIOVISION shows. Enter www.dotmusic.se or email info@dotmusic.se for more information about booking AUDIOVISION.

What led Audiovision to sign with Ulterium Records?
I have known EMIL WESTERDAHL the owner of ULTERIUM RECORDS for some years and I have helped him with distribution and connections in JAPAN for his bands. I know his heart and his fire to do a great work and I wanted another label to release the album so I can focus more to be a rock evangelist. Emil was the right choice and we are a strong team together with him, our churches and prayer groups to make the ministry AUDIOVISION as powerful as possible. I presented EMIL to the other members and very quickly it felt natural to work with him and we have a very good communication. Please pray and support EMIL & ULTERIUM RECORDS releases. He is a man of God that wants to spread the good news through his label.

What does the future hold for Audiovision?  Is a third album planned?
Yes a 3rd album is planned . We have already 60-70% material written and ERIK MÅRTENSSON will produce it. We will record next year and I think the plan is that we have it out SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER 2011.

What other projects are you involved in (outside of Audiovision)?
I am very proud of my work in NARNIA and DIVINEFIRE. When I took the break from music in 2008 I really needed it as I have done 19 albums since 1994 with MODEST ATTRACTION (3 ALBUMS) NARNIA (6 ALBUMS + 1 DVD), WISDOM CALL, FLAGSHIP, BEAUTIFUL MIND, A SOLO ALBUM IN SWEDISH UNDER MY OWN NAME CHRISTIAN, DIVINEFIRE (4 ALBUMS) AUDIOVISION plus touring all over the world.
 
Many artists are always pushing their latest album but honestly the new AUDIOVISION album FOCUS is my best vocal performance ever. My voice have never been better and I am now 39 years old. I love every song on the album and can listen to the album over and over again without getting tired of it. That is a good sign and I have listenED to it lots of times. It has all the good elements for a great hard rock/metal album.
 
When you mention DIVINEFIRE I have some exchiting news for all the readers out there!  As I have mentioned before, I needed a break in 2008. Now that the energy and fire is back I plan to record more albums in different style of hard rock and metal. Regarding DIVINEFIRE we have now decided that there will be more studio albums in the future. The 5th DIVINEFIRE studio album is planned to be out in late DECEMBER 2010 or early 2011. We needed to do the FAREWELL album to start a new chapter of the band.
 
Andreas Passmark is not a member anymore and my brother HUBERTUS LILJEGREN from CRIMSON MOONLIGHT has stepped in.  So the three members are me, JANI STEFANOVIC & HUBERTUS LILJEGREN. It is really cool to have two bands where my brothers are involved. We will continue in the musical direction we did with GLORY THY NAME & INTO A NEW DIMENSION, so the DIVINEFIRE fans will be happy when they hear that we are back and the new album that will be recorded this autumn in between the touring with AUDIOVISION.
 
My passion for neoclassical hard rock/metal has been huge since the day I heard Yngwie Malmsteen for the first time in 1985. Then when I formed NARNIA in 1996 our first two albums, AWAKENING & LONG LIVE THE KING, were heavily influencd by neoclassical hard rock. These days you don't hear this style so often. I really miss it so when I signed the band REINXEED to my label, LILJEGREN RECORDS, I met TOMMY JOHANSSON, a new guitar hero and a great vocalist and also a great songwriter who has the same passion for this style as me. We have now formed a new band called GOLDEN RESURRECTION and we have written songs for a  debut album that follows the musical tradition of MALMSTEEN, RAINBOW, and EUROPE and songs I did on the first two NARNIA albums AWAKENING & LONG LIVE THE KING.
 
We will record the debut album of GOLDEN RESURRECTION this summer so the NARNIA fans that have been waiting for new albums in the same style as AWAKENING & LONG LIVE THE KING for years will be very happy to hear GOLDEN RESURRECTION. Erik Mårtensson who produced AUDIOVISION will produce GOLDEN RESURRECTION as well.

Please provide an update in regards to your label Christian Music Sweden.  What upcoming releases can we expect to see on CMS?
 I have just done a total re-start of my label, www.liljegren-records.com, and will be more active again and release more albums and sign new artists. Interested bands please send your material to
 
LILJEGREN RECORDS / CM SWEDEN
Attn: Christian Liljegren
Siktvägen 31
73632 Kungsör
Sweden
 
I lost my web address so I have now created LILJEGREN RECORDS www.liljegren-records.com instead of www.cmsweden.com. Please check out my site for more updates.

I would like to close by thanking you for agreeing to do this interview. Any final words for the Angelic Warlord readers?
Again I am forever thankful for your support through the years and please search the kingdom of God first. This is the most important thing. Looking forward to meet you somewhere in this world or in heaven!

IN CHRIST WE ARE STRONG!
Christian Liljegren
Singer of AUDIOVISION, DIVINEFIRE & GOLDEN REUSRRECTION

Interview by Andrew Rockwell

 

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