Antihero Magazine photojournalist Scott Martin recently spoke to former Amaranthe vocalist Jake E about his new band Cyhra.
Scott Martin: In 2008, when you and Olof Mörck started the band Avalanche, which became Amaranthe in 2009, what was the musical direction you wanted to take the band towards?
Jake E: From the beginning the band was not a band, it was just a project between me and Olof Mörck. We discussed a lot of different things back then, we wanted to make some kind of weird time strategy going on, because we were making this really odd musical pattern, almost Meshuggah-ish but not a Meshuggah timestamp, maybe like 7/4 or something like that. We wanted to do some kind of strange mixture of genres that had Bon Jovi vocals on top of it. That was the first issue, but then we slowly progressed into what we sounded like on the first album. But as you can hear on the first album, we still hadn’t really decided on which path we should take. There are some songs that lean toward one direction, and ones that lean toward the other. This was all we were doing in the beginning.
Scott Martin: Did you always have the intention of having three singers?
Jake E: No, not at all. From the beginning, we decided to just make, or try to make, an album with guest musicians. Me and Olof were supposed to write the songs and also play on the songs of course. But we intentionally had the idea of inviting musicians from the Gothenburg Metal scene. We had Richard Sanders, the keyboard player from Evergrey. We had Peter Iwers, who is now in Cyhra, from In Flames. And a lot of other different musicians from the Gothenburg area. Which has been infamous from, you know, At The Gates. Hammerfall. Evergrey. We have so many bands here, you know?
And one of the guys that we asked was Andy Solvestrom, which growled in a band called Within Y back then. And this guy just fit in so well with my vocals. And we had a friend of ours named Elize that didn’t have any connection to the metal scene at all and so when we put all our voices together we just figured out that this is a cool concept and maybe we should pitch that idea of doing an Avantasia album, and instead focus on starting a band. So that’s where Amaranthe came from. It was me and Olof, and then having an idea about making one thing, and then it turned out to be another.
Scott Martin: At what point did you notice that the band had changed the musical direction that you set out for?
Jake E: I would say from my personal point of view, it would be when we recorded the Massive Addictive album. You know like half of the album was the old Amaranthe, and half was the beginning of the new Amaranthe. And then it just continued to the Maximalism album.
Scott Martin: When you announced your departure from Amaranthe did you finish out the remainder of the tour?
Jake E: No, the whole story behind everything was that I’d already decided in March of 2016 that I was going to leave the band. But I fulfilled my duties to the point where we did the tour with Helloween in Japan, and the last show for me was set to be in Tokyo, and which I also did. And we already then had the backup plan of Chris Adam Hedman Sörbye (Smash Into Pieces), to replace me on the European Tour. I think that the original idea was to actually have a full-time replacement for me on the US tour, but that never really happened. So, Adam did the US tour as well and now we’re in the end of March and to be honest I don’t know who’s going to replace me yet.
I left the band as a singer, I haven’t left the organization, I’ve just left the band as a musician and a songwriter.
Scott Martin: What is the meaning behind the band name “Cyhra“?
Jake E: It’s used as a surname in some countries with a different spelling. It also means tons of different things if you search for it on Google you can find tons of different definitions. One of the definitions around the meaning, with another spelling, is moon, for example. But I don’t want to go too deep into that because the name is from a different culture than my own. I don’t want to offend anyone, because maybe it means something completely different. But for us the main reason was that we wanted to have a band name that looks cool and sounds great.
Scott Martin: Can you tell me a little bit about how Cyhra was formed?
Jake E: I have been friends with Jesper for a long time, probably 10 years. We met for the first time when I was working for In Flames as a pyro technician back in the day. That was also when I got to know Peter. we had been friends since then. I was considering to make a solo album, and I would say that I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I’m probably going to write some songs as well. And he asked me “Would you do the vocals on my solo album?”, and I said “Of course. Would you be interested in playing guitar on whatever I’m doing?”, and he said yes. And then we started to talk about what our solo albums, projects, whatever it was meant to be would sound like and when we were discussing that we just realized that okay, we want the same. We want to make the same album. So that’s where it all came to be and then we decided to start writing songs together.
So, we were actually talking over a cup of coffee on a Friday and then on Monday we actually sat down in the studio and we started working on the first song. So that was really, really good. And then when we’re doing the same thing there we didn’t know what to do. But after a couple of songs everything started to come together.
Then Jesper said “Okay what are we going to do?”, and I said that I had the perfect drummer for this band, and that’s Alex Landenburg. I said that you are going to love this guy. And a couple of months later we all met, and Jasper and Alex became best friends instantly. And then Jesper said that “It would be cool if Peter would like to join”. And so we asked him and he was still the bassist for In Flames, and he said “Yeah absolutely, I will gladly jump on board of this ship. But just to let you know I am going to still be a member of In Flames as well”. We were cool with that and then things happened like they did. Peter eventually decided to part ways with In Flames. So now we’re here recording the first album.
Scott Martin: Describe the musical sound you are going for with Cyhra?
Jake E: It is hard to describe what we sound like because we’ve been writing for almost a year. We’ve been influenced by so many different bands. We are of course influenced by ourselves. Because like, as the main song writer in all our different projects before. You know like Jesper has his touch of things, I have the touch on my side, and also the other guys. Of course, you will find similarities in our former bands. But I won’t say that we have reinvented the wheel in any way, but it’s still something that sounds really, really fresh and new. Even though music is music. You could always probably find similarities. But I would not say that it sounds like old Amaranthe, or that it sounds like In Flames. But you could completely, you know, recognize yourself within these boundaries.
Scott Martin: Describe who is in the band and what other bands they have or currently are in besides Cyhra?
Jake E: We can start with the drummer his name is Alex Landenburg, he also plays in Rhapsody. He also played with Annihilator, Stratovarius and he was in Masterplan for some time. So, he’s been in tons of different bands. Then we have Jesper Strömblad, who played guitar for In Flames, and also The Resisted, and Dimension Zero. Then we have Peter Iwers who had been playing Bass for In Flames for 20 years. He also has a band with some other dudes called Stoney Mountain.
Scott Martin: I guess it’s safe to assume that Cyhra will not incorporate the 3-singer combo anytime soon?
Jake E: No, it’ll probably never happen. I can actually tell you that that’s a chapter that I’m done with. From now on I’m going to sing myself.
Scott Martin: Can you describe the songwriting process?
Jake E: It’s been really mellow. You know like, we actually have a cool way of doing that. I have a songwriting studio, and we went there at night, put some coffee on, sat down with a blank piece of paper, and started working. And at the end of the day usually we had like, you know, the schematics on the lead song. Then we would work like a week or two with that song and then we would go all through the song together again. It seemed like it would take around 50 times or so for us to come up with a guitar riff or some keyboards or some vocal lines. And the next day Jesper would do the same thing. Then we’re just throwing ideas back and forth, and you know moving and removing, and stuff like that. As a songwriting team, we’ve been working perfectly together. I think that we’ve never had any form of argument over the songs. That was really really cool.
Scott Martin: 2017 has been quite a whirlwind year for you. With the departure from Amaranthe and the forming of Cyhra and with your old band, Dreamland. And not to mention producing the current Ember Falls release. What do you enjoy more? Recording or producing?
Jake E: If I had to choose it has to be two things. Essentially composing and writing songs, and perform live. So, these two things are what i like the most. It’s about the diversity that comes with both. You know like if you have a day job when you work at a store or whatever and at some point, you get tired of just doing the same thing all over again. But then you could always change that thing by doing some other actual work. And that’s what I’m doing as well. So, I think it’s important not to get stuck in the same pattern all over. So, you know like I already started doing this thing with acting and stuff like that which is also really exciting. Because you learn so much about yourself. Or you try to find, I guess that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to find my own boundaries. You know like how far can I go until I reach the point where, okay this is, will just be a waste. Or like to find your limitations, more or less.
Scott Martin: Going back to what you said earlier, about not only recording and producing you have been doing some acting. Tell me a bit about how you got into acting?
Jake E: Back in the days, about 10 years ago I started out just for fun being an extra in some small TV shows where you would see my back and with no acting of any sorts. Then last year I wanted to take up this career again so I got a role in this Swedish Movie called ” 1%: The Voice Within”. I have a small part as a character named Jenn’s, and that character is building up to something that is well…. I can’t really tell you about to much of the story. It’s a small role, but it is essential to the film. Then I went over to the states last year in October to film a short independent film that has no production company behind it. It is just a couple of guys that are making a movie, that I got a lead role in that one and then I have some others coming up that are in pre-production right now. They are all small roles, but they are very interesting to start doing this. Because you know that every role leads to something else.
Scott Martin: Are you currently producing any other albums besides the Ember Falls album? I assume you’re producing the Cyhra album?
Jake E: I am producing that of course, but we have co producers. We have a guy named Jakob Herrmann which is producing the drums, and also engineers the guitars, and bass. And then we have Jacob Hansen that is going to produce and record the vocals. But of course, I see myself as a co-producer in that because it’s my songs. So, you know as a songwriter you at some point have the last say.
I’ve actually been working a little bit. Not producing, but more as a song writer coach or helping out with the song writing part on the next Engel album. Nicholas Engelin, from In Flames has another band called Engel that i have been helping them out a little bit with songwriting. But I’m not producing any other band at the moment. It will probably come at the end of the year. Right now, I just closed my calendar and am just trying to focus on just doing the Cyhra thing at this moment.
Scott Martin: What are the biggest challenges you have faced early on during the recording, producing of the Cyhra album?
Jake E: I put a lot of beliefs in myself and what I’m doing and what I’m capable of and all that. But when you have a brand-new band and you’re writing songs, and then when I send it to the labels for the first time. You know that was a critical moment in my own career because I’d already decided to leave Amaranthe at that point, you know you never know what to expect. You will have like ten music labels saying “No, we’re not interested.” So that was a big thing of course. Because like I said I already decided to leave Amaranthe, and all of a sudden I think there was like 3 or 4 songs in my head, and I sent that out to the labels. The whole time I was thinking to myself if someone was interested in Cyhra. There was a couple of days where I was a little bit nervous. Because like, what would I do if no one wants to have my songs? But in the end, we got the contract with the label we wanted.
Scott Martin: What record label did you decide to go with for the Cyhra release?
Jake E: We signed with Universal. The same label as Amaranthe actually. And I found that that was a really good decision from my point of view because I’ve been working closely with them for almost eight years, and we have had a great working relationship with them. You know how to set up things. You know how to contact them. And you know what to demand and what you cannot demand. So like it’s a really good decision to continue to work together. And I am really happy that they believe in what I am doing even though I’m not in Amaranthe anymore. So that was good. I’m really happy for that.
Scott Martin: What are Cyhra‘s plans or the remainder of 2017 and moving further into 2018?
Jake E: Our main objective is just to make the best album possible, and hopefully we can go out on a great tour to support some other act in October or November and then go out and promote the album as much as we possibly can.
Scott Martin: How do you think that the fans of Amaranthe and In Flames will take to this band?
Jake E: To be honest, I’m a little bit nervous sometimes that, okay, maybe they won’t like it, but I know that they will. I am so certain about this that I’m probably going to eat my own shorts after I’ve said this, but it doesn’t matter. I’m glad we do that, but I am convinced that both the fans from Amaranthe and In Flames are going to love this album, because it’s going to be an absolute killer album. I’ve never felt this way about my own music before, which, it’s really, really good.
Scott Martin: What other singers inspire you to be the vocalist you are today?
Jake E: It changed along the way, of course. When I was young and the reason why I started to sing from the beginning was Joey Tempest from Europe and Michael Kiske from Helloween. I had them as my idols and role models back in the day, but now I am getting inspired by new acts such as Thirty Seconds To Mars and bands like that, which has singers that sound nothing in comparison, but they sing in a complete different way. I’m trying to combine all these things into what I’m doing today, and of course, after some time I think that I’m almost complete with my own voice. I’m almost there where I know that I’m comfortable with this.
It’s Jake E. This is the way Jake E sings. I’m not trying to sound like anyone else anymore and so on. This is my way and this is my sound.