Mats Levén is a Swedish singer, songwriter and producer born in 1964. Some of his most notable collaborations are those with the guitar legend Yngwie Malmsteen, the symphonic metallers Therion and the doom metallers Candlemass. In 2011, due to the Firewind Apollo’s singer family problems, Mats was called in to replace him for the rest of their European tour. Levén also began touring with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 2016, and he also sings with bands such as Treat, Swedish Erotica, Gus G (solo) and Krux. In 2019 Mats released his first solo album entitled “Skyblood“. We had the honor of having a chat with him for you, enjoy the reading!
Hi! Welcome on Metalpit, it’s an honor for me to interview such a great musician like you! How are you?
Hey! I’m fine, thank you for asking!
Please, tell me more about your band Prins Svart.
I actually joined Prins Svart full time last year and on April 23rd 2021 we released the new “Sanning | Makt” – a 77 minutes double album! It’s also very interesting to finally sing in Swedish, still the international fans don’t seem to bother that much about the language barrier. They seem to really like the Spotify singles released so far. Our pre-order campaign is open now and we have quite a few awesome products for sale! (Prinssvart.bigcartel.com)
Given the actual global situation I think you also had to cancel concerts, promotion tours and projects. How are you dealing with this moment?
Sure. I just got very creative. I’ve written & recorded a lot of stuff mainly with Prins Svart but also a new album with Ludor, guest appearances with Therion, Yossi Sassi, Royal Hunt etc.
Please, tell me the records that influenced your private and musical life the most.
Too many to mention (laughs)
“Made In Japan” – Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel’s 3rd album “Melt“, “The Wall” – Pink Floyd, many David Bowie records, “OK Computer” – Radiohead, “Achtung Baby” – U2, “The Number of the Beast” – Iron Maiden, “Destroyer” – Kiss etc…
“I Am The Fire” is one of my favourite albums of all time. Can you tell me something about its songwriting and what it’s like to work with Gus G ?
I actually met Gus the first time when I played with Yngwie in Thessaloniki and Gus was just a kid! It’s very easy to write with Gus, normally he’d send me riffs/ideas and I would come up with melodies and maybe some kind of arrangement/new part that would fit his idea. We co-wrote 4 tracks on “I Am The Fire” and a 5th track, “Blame it on me“, was written by Fredrik Thomander and I. I love to work with Gus, it’s always great to do live shows together and I really dig his simple setup on stage as well – he doesn’t need a lot of fx etc – he’s such a good guitar player.
Have you got any particular memory about italy?
I helped Firewind on a tour in 2011, Wolf supported; we played in a small bar in Pisa, good times! I also remember playing in Firenze, Rimini and Rome with Yngwie in 1998. I did a couple of small shows with Vitalij Kuprij in 2009, the Italian backing band were such nice and great players! And of course Therion, I remember a great show in Milano at the Transylvania club. I had to run from a soccer game (Inter-Bologna) at San Siro to get back to the show in time, the back door was closed so I had to pierce through the crowd (the match was sold out…) and up by the side of the stage ha ha! By the way, just ordered all the Prins Svart picture discs from Bologna!
Do you remember about the Italian tour with Gus G solo band? It was back in 2016, did you enjoy it?
Yes, with Arthemis! Such nice guys, I actually met Andrea at NAMM in 2020; we played at a bike meeting, Phil Campbell was there as well.
During your long career, which musicians have you enjoyed playing with the most and why?
Impossible to say really, so many great musicians… It was awesome though to play a bit of “Stargazer” with Cozy Powell ha ha! I’ve done many shows with Fredrik Åkesson (Opeth), he’s a favourite and old friend. Uli Roth, Rudy Sarzo, Yngwie, Mikkey Dee… I better stop there or someone will get pissed I didn’t mention them!
Is there a band you would like to sing again with?
I’d love to do some more shows (and albums) with Krux, great band.
What’s the secret of a long and well articulated career with great musicians like Malmsteen, Gus G, Apocalyptica, Tran-Siberian Orchestra and Candlemass?
Well, I’ve never played with Apocalyptica (just a few backing vocals on one album) , but I would love to sing with them live though! Maybe one important thing is to be well prepared, professional and being on time (laughs).
What are your hobbies? Do you like movies?
I don’t have much time left except for my family and work but sure. I love movies and I’ve actually started editing videos with Premiere Pro more and more as well. Plus my wife and her family are movie workers.
Have you got a playlist that you listen to daily? Maybe also including songs from underground bands?
No, I need to rest my ears from all the music I’m working on myself.
Feel free to end this interview the way you prefer and thank you very much for your time. As a young fan of your music and live performances, I hope to see you live as soon as possible. Ciao!
Big thanks to anyone who’s supported me through the years, hope you have a couple of minutes to give Prins Svart some attention and I hope to be back in Italy soon!