Sweden, the land of ice and snow, is known for some great exports—IKEA, Volvo, and Abba. Add to that list of exports, great metal, as in music. Metal has always been a very dominant and popular form of music in Scandinavia and has never dissipated or fallen out of favor. Inheriting that proud tradition of Swedish metal is Linnea Vikstrom, a vocal prodigy, national star, and legendary vocalist for one of Sweden’s most popular metal bands, Therion, as well as the metal collective The Experiment No. Q is now striking out on her own and becoming the boss lady and leader of a new project, Quantum Field Theory (QFT), and the promotion of her new album, Live in Space. I was able to catch up with the Swedish star as she was in the midst of tour preparations, rehearsals, interviews and music making. We discussed her precocious talents, her amazing career trajectory and the history and future of metal music.
What was the impetus for recording the new solo project, Quantum Field Theory?
Well, you know, I grew up loving music and singing. It always has been my goal to somehow be a singer and musician. I got the opportunity to sing and perform with Therion when I was 18. It was amazing. My father was a singer, which helped, but I would have never gotten the job if I wasn’t good enough. I was really grateful for that and I was born into that network and I’m happy about that. Some people don’t have those contacts or network. Obviously, I have always had the need to express my musicianship. All musicians want that. I’ve never known what my sound is. The only way was to try my wings and go for it. After this album, I know what my sound is.
Are you touring behind this album?
We are planning on doing some touring and live performances. We have plans and some ideas, but when we actually do it and tour behind it, we want to do it with a big band and for it to be perfect. I don’t want to reveal too much yet.
How does Quantum Field Theory differ from your work with Therion?
It’s different in a lot of ways. First of all, it’s different musically from Therion’s sound. Now, I am the boss of this project or the man in charge. That’s the biggest challenge.
I started out at 18 with Therion and with a tour manager and a bandleader telling me when to show up at the studio. Now, I’m the one that has to tell people where to be and when. That’s the biggest challenge to have the role of the boss and be the person who pulls the strings.
Are you responsible for all business decisions?
Yes, I have to schedule studio times, rehearsals and know the other musicians’ schedules. I have to make sure people are available at certain times. It’s really not my biggest skill (laughs) I really have to work to be this organized. I’ve been surprised and it’s been my biggest feat. I’ve also had a lot of help from my drummer, who is also my fiancé. He’s really helped me out a lot.
Did Lennart Ostulund bring any of his studio experience with Led Zeppelin to the sessions (In Through The Out Door)? The drums sound huge on this album.
Absolutely, I believe he did. He placed some strange microphones on the drums. I remember we were in the studio and we recorded everything live. We had all the instruments in the same room while I was in the vocal booth. He actually opened the doors and put the mics outside the doors to get that natural reverb from the corridors outside and that big sounding drum sound. It also doesn’t hurt that we have the best drummer on the planet.
The bio says you recorded this album quite quickly. Did it really go that fast?
Yes, correct, we recorded it some time ago, but I remember when we got into the studio, the engineers and producer said: ‘you guys really rehearsed this.’ We only practiced two or three days before cutting it all live. We produced a pretty good quality product over the course of a few days. I’m proud of all of us and that we were able to do that. (laughs)
Do you plan on touring a lot behind this release? Will you only be touring Europe?
I really want to bring this to the US. I also really feel that this album could actually do well with US audiences. The little I know about this business, I believe folks there would appreciate it. I can feel it.
Have you played in the US?
Oh, yes, I was only 18 and I played with Therion in the US. It was like my second gig ever and we played Atlanta, GA. That was the only US gig of that tour. Then, we played several of those Metal Cruises. I also played the states when I was with Camelot.
What are the differences between American and European metal?
That’s a good question. That’s what I’m trying to say that I have a feeling. I think this album could do really well in America. I’m not sure why, but I think there’s a longer-running metal culture in Europe regarding metal probably because of Norwegian death metal and also because of thrash and metal music from New York City, too. It’s all the good 80’s metal and rock bands. I guess I was trying to figure it out. I’m not sure if I just invalidated my point of view. (laughing).
Other than you and Ghost, are there any other Swedish metal or rock bands that Americans should know about?
I would definitely say the band Dynasty. It has multiple members from QFT, my band.
Ghost will be the new Abba in 30 years. They are one of the biggest exports of Sweden. Speaking of icons, we just learned that Avicci, just died today. It’s really sad. 28 is too young. I have a lot of friends in the house music scene that knew him. He had a really great sense of melody. It’s bad news for Swedish music. He has been huge and I care about music, so that’s a loss.
Does social media help build your fan base in Sweden and the world?
Yes, It is important. I’m sort of a technical dyslexic. I’m really bad with it but I’m learning it. Releasing this new album is giving me a good learning experience. The generation behind me actually doesn’t care about Facebook. They love Instagram and Snapchat. I need to learn them and connect with the audience. It’s tough having a balance from having people to come into our lives and photograph us. What is the right balance? How much do we allow people in and navigate the right balance? I guess that depends on the band. If you’re Ghost you probably don’t want to be seen without their masks. We’re going on tour to South America in a few weeks. We’re touring with Devil. They wear masks and don’t want to be photographed without. They’re the opening act, but we’re respecting their desire to not be photographed.
There are a lot of space and cosmos themes on the new album. Why do you love space and exploration?
Yes, I love this stuff. I decided to make an album about it. I wasn’t that great at math or science in school, but now, in my later years, I really love it. That’s why I explore those themes.
Does radio in Scandinavia support metal music or is it mainly Top 40?
We have two big rock stations in Sweden that play only rock. They play Ozzy and Dio. There’s another station that plays heavier, newer stuff from today. The biggest radio station is public radio based on a percentage ratio. You have to play this percentage of music and a percentage of metal and rock. Hard rock in Europe is embedded and deeply-rooted in our system. You see people with long hair all over Europe.
What is your view of the future of heavy metal music? Will it always be around?
Absolutely. Heavy metal will always prevail. I really think there’s something about rock music that will always attract people, no matter what shape it takes. We can’t know what form it will be in the future, but it will always be around.