We had the pleasure of talking to Roy Khan and Tore Østby about CONCEPTION’s new album, “State of Deception,” the meaning behind the title and the music, production details, working with Elize Ryd, and the current state of the music industry. Here’s what they had to say about everything.
Hello! How are you doing?
Roy: For the circumstances, I believe we’re doing pretty fine! Thanks! Sitting around waiting for this corona chaos to come to an end like everyone else. Crazy times!
The album was released on April 3. If you could describe “State of Deception” in a few keywords, what would those be?
Roy: “State of Deception” is a status quo both in how we see the world around us and on a more personal level, how we feel inside.
What can you tell me about the album in terms of lyrical content, musical styles, and production?
Roy: That’s a short question setting up for a potential very long answer, but I’ll give it a try; the lyrics deal with various themes we believe are current today, spanning from climate change worries and political issues to doubt and inner turmoil. Musically, I would say we are somewhere in the landscape between prog rock and symphonic power metal, but always with focus on nerve, groove, and intriguing melodies. The production is all about making sure the songs shine at their brightest so that what we want to say or portray have the best possibilities to affect our listeners as intended.
Tore: We always write from the depth of our heart and soul, always pushing ourselves and each other to the next level. We don’t really plan or calculate what we do, we follow the path of the music. It’s been quite a rewarding journey both writing and producing the album. The production is also about getting the most expression, groove, and a powerful but dynamic sound that allows all the details to shine through.
Did you have a game plan about what you wanted to achieve when you entered the studio, or did you just go with the flow?
Roy: We don’t really have any formula or game plan as such, but obviously this is not an altogether subconscious process. We did for example have a pretty clear idea about which songs should go on the EP and which tracks were meant for the LP already two years ago.
Tore: You could say the overall plan was to enhance the mood and expression of each track, but let the music do the talking.
We are all influenced by different things as we get older and experience more. For you, what has changed as songwriters and how you approach music?
Roy: I still write songs pretty much like I have been since a while back, but I definitely feel the years add patience and certainty about what you want to say and how you want to express yourself.
Tore: I can only copy that. There is more musical experience and of course I have developed sides like orchestrating and producing over the years as well, which is also a part of the whole experience. And everything we see, hear, taste, and otherwise live through in our daily lives is influencing what and how we express ourselves in our music. What has been really nice on both the new album and EP is that I feel Roy and I work and connect even closer in the songwriting now than before.A
The title “State of Deception” is a very intriguing one. Are we deceiving ourselves, on a personal level, with false hope, or is society deceiving us with propaganda? What is the story you are telling on this album?
Roy: Thanx! So many dramatic things have happened just the last few years; a true realization of how we affect this vulnerable planet, fast uprise of right wing politics even in countries you’d never imagine, “fake news”, certain countries are taking surveillance of their people to flat out frightening levels etc. We see the world getting more and more polarized at the same time as we have the best possibilities ever to make the human race “harmonize” and prosper. I think this is a weird paradox. In this reality where everyone can seek their own truth backing their own beliefs, I am afraid we lure ourselves into deep waters.
Tore: Challenging times indeed, and I think people today feel even more pressure on how to be, react, fit in, be popular etc. Social media contributes both good and bad for sure. And for the world, hopefully we will come to a place of more solidarity now that we are facing a common enemy with the corona virus, one that doesn’t make a difference between where you are from, what you believe etc. The album may have a lot of darkness, but it also has hope of getting through to better days.
Just like on the EP “My Dark Symphony” there is a lot going on in the background, to enhance the mood of the songs, and make it an immersive experience for the listeners (for instance on “No Rewind” and “Anybody Out There”). How long did it take to get all these arrangements ready?
Roy: Since we are doing everything ourselves these days, we make sure we get the result we want before we call it quits in the studio. I can’t say exactly how long each of these songs have taken since they have been worked on in several different locations in Sweden, Norway and Germany, but let’s just say “quite long”. This is not the type of production where the band show up, plug their instruments in and just hammer down the tracks on the fly.
Tore: These arrangements do take some time. Some come faster than others. Writing the basic arrangements are normally done fairly quick, it is all the work of enhancing them and make them sound authentic that is the most time-consuming. Small production details can sometimes take a lot of time. You can work for days on a few seconds, or get a big section done in a moment. For me, it’s also a matter of getting the main arrangements down when the music manifests itself. For example, I got the idea of the basic music of “Anybody Out There” on a holiday in Portugal. When this music came to me, I simply had to spend some of my holiday getting the basic orchestrations down on my laptop.
Talking a bit about the singles “Waywardly Broken” and “By The Blues,” I feel like they offer a really good glimpse on “State of Deception” as a whole. Do you think these songs complement each other as well as the album?
Roy: Yes, I do, but at the same time I feel our songs are so different it is hard to reflect a whole album with just two songs. L
The track “Of Raven and Pigs” offers a healthy dose of aggressiveness both guitar-wise as well as vocally and lyrically. What made you write such a track?
Roy: We are not particularly analytical in our songwriting approach. CONCEPTION has always had a foot in the “progressive camp,” but we also dig stuff that appeals to our primal instincts. Tore came up with this simple yet unique and powerful riff that pretty much carries on throughout the song. Arve added a snare-driven beat perfectly complementing the guitars and I jammed on top of that again. Along the way, we changed parts and rearranged until we felt we had a complete song with a red line through it. In the end, all elements have to fit – lyrics included. The words have to emphasize the music and vice versa. Tore’s solo on this song is really something, by the way.
Tore: It’s all down to maximize the expression of what we want to communicate. And I think Roy’s performance is extraordinary on this track. It’s showing new sides of his performing abilities and he really got the approach down.
The ballad, “The Mansion,” features some wonderful vocals from Elize Ryd. What does she bring new and fresh to the album?
Roy: Elize has the type of voice that can pretty much do anything. When Tore and myself wrote this song we felt the high and shiny vocals I had put down on the mid part would be best with a female voice and I quickly launched the idea of asking Elize. We are truly happy that she wanted to bless us with her talent on this song!
What do you hope fans will take away from this record?
Roy: I hope they will play these songs for a long time and that the thoughts and ideas we bring to the table will make people sit down and produce some thoughts of their own, but hey, I believe you can play many of these songs as you party and have a generally good time too.
Tore: According to the incredible feedback we had from many already, the album seems to have the ability to take people on a journey, to go inside the music and escape the world for a while. I hope they will find both energy and comfort, pleasure and challenges.
I really like the artwork accompanying both the singles as well as the album. What can you tell us about that?
Roy: I don’t want to explain too much as to give people a chance to interpret themselves, but they are meant to somehow reflect the essence of the different releases. Once again we have collaborated with Seth Siro Anton whom by all means is a true artist. His style fits our music and atmospheres perfectly.
CONCEPTION had some shows planned for April and May, but these were postponed until early 2021 due to health restrictions. Any updates on this front?
Roy: Like for everyone else, this corona crisis has affected our situation too. Most of our gigs and events have been postponed. You can find out everything about this and more by checking in to our homepage: www.conceptionmusic.com
Tore: We are very happy that our team managed to reschedule all the gigs that are affected in such a short time. We were really looking forward to getting out and sharing these fantastic moments of live music with our fans. Now we have to wait another year, but it’s great to have the actuals dates set already so we have something to look forward to!
And on that note, is the 2020 summer camping weekend affected in any way at this time?
Roy: For now, we are still set to do the camping trip in August as planned, but obviously we need to monitor the situation closely and follow government advice and regulations. Info about all these things can be found on our official site.
Tore: I would expect the world to come back to a more normal state until then, but of course nobody knows how this will develop. A pre-listening party will be difficult to have after the album is released, but we will for sure go through with all the other events as soon as time allows it.
What are your biggest wishes, dreams, and hopes regarding this new release?
Roy: I hope our fans are able to follow us on this, our musical journey, and that this “State of Deception” will amuse them for a long time.
Tore: That it touches as many people as possible!
The music industry has changed a lot since CONCEPTION’s early days, back in the 1990s. What is your take on the new ways music is being distributed nowadays especially considering streaming platforms like Spotify and iTunes?
Roy: There will always be a market for good music. With new technology and all kinds of platforms for exposure of your art, we feel the possibilities are close to endless. At the same time, competition is harder but we have no fear in that regard. We believe our songs will inevitably find their listeners.
Tore: The best thing about all the development is that it allows us to do everything in a closer connection with our fans!
A follow-up to that one, what do you dislike the most about the art world?
Roy: Art is a hard thing for me to dislike regardless of genre, form, idea, or presentation since it, in its very nature, should be 100% free of prejudice and boundaries in my opinion. Even mass-produced stuff based on customer demand can be art, but normally not that appealing to me.
Tore: Ignorant and intolerant people who think the art that appeals to them personally is the only art that matters.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Roy: Thanks for supporting us with your interest in this article and, last but not least, I know we’ll meet out there at some point. Hopefully in Finland! Until then, please enjoy “State of Deception” to the fullest!
Tore: Take good care of yourselves and each other, we will get through these challenging times as we always do! Stay safe!
Interview by Andrea Crow