Interview with Guitarist Richard Lagergren of Portrait

Guitarist Richard Lagergren of Swedish Heavy Metallers Portrait has a wry sense of humor. Some of his zingers include: the document that contained his answers to my (emailed) questions was called “Portrait vs Metal Underground,” some of his answers are subtly cheeky, and his answer to my final question was not so subtle at all, but I could only read it in a deadpanned voice.

But beyond Lagergran’s comedic stylings, he took the time to answer a few questions for us, which we appreciate! Lagergran gives a unique perspective into Portrait’s style of trad metal, details on the recording process for recent released full length “Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae” (reviewed here), why Sweden seems to be in the middle of so many “revivals, and a few other golden tidbits. Enjoy!

Bloodofheroes: Let’s start with the obvious – what the heck does “Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae” mean?

Well it is Latin obviously, and can be roughly translated into “crime against the heavenly majesty”, or if you will, “blasphemy” or “sacrilege”. The term derives from early modern Sweden, where intentional blasphemy was regarded one of the most serious crimes one could commit, leading to death penalty. People like Portrait would be the first to the gallows of course.

Bloodofheroes: When listening to the album, the thing that really stood out to me were the solos – how do you/Richard/Christian approach the writing and playing of those solos to make them so phenomenal?

Well, at least for my part, little or nothing in my solos were improvised. They were all composed, just like the rest of the songs, and were always equally important to me. I never wanted to waste it by just shredding out some noise nonsense. It should have a meaning and serve a purpose, otherwise we could better skip having solos. Probably many guitarists within metal give too little thought to the solo parts.

Bloodofheroes: Classic and traditional metal has a pretty broad range, from Black Sabbath to NWOBHM and everything in between. Did “Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae” end up sounding like you expected, or was the end result surprising?

You mean, if the album turned out to be like we expected it to before we wrote it, or if the recording turned out to sound like we envisioned it before entering the studio? Either way; yes, more or less so. You know, there are always those small things you could have done better and perhaps pictured differently, and I’m still not 100% content, but content enough I guess.

Bloodofheroes: How does “Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae” differ from your self-titled debut album? Is there anything on your first album that you deliberately included or excluded from “Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae”?

During and before the period of writing for this album, one or two songs would come up which were by all means fine, but that we in the end did not feel were Portrait material. We did not go any further with those. Where the debut album had a few songs sprawling in different directions, I think we know better what to do and are more consequent now. And yet at the same time more varied.

Bloodofheroes: Of course traditional metal is a big influence on your music – what are some influences that aren’t as obvious?

I’ll listen to quite a wide variety of music and not just metal either. It is my conviction that music today made by people only listening to metal, or worse, only one kind of metal, will generally be dull. I do believe that anything you really like might influence you, though tracing the exact sources can be more difficult. Anyway I’m gonna try and answer your question with some examples I can think of right now. There is a part in the song “Beast of Fire” which has a bit of an early Ulver feel to it… perhaps not the first kind of band people would think of in connection to us. “The Passion” may have that dash of “De Mysteriis…”. Yngwie Malmsteen might come as a surprise when talking influences too, I don’t know? Maybe not when listening to “Der Todesking”. Ah what the hell…

Bloodofheroes: You share a label, country and musical inspiration with Ghost – how well do you know those guys?

I may know one of the members a bit, but that’s pretty much it I think.

Bloodofheroes: It seems as though Sweden in general is becoming a hotbed of the traditional metal/rock revival with bands like Ghost and Grand Magus and yourselves – why do you think that is?

I have no good answer to this question. But for the last decade there’s been a trend of rock/metal music, in all its forms, going backwards over here. Even the youngest newcomers seem to start out by listening to old or old sounding stuff these days. That’s not really unique for Sweden I suppose. As for why this country keeps pioneering certain “waves” or “revivals” from time to time, well, the social climate for music and other art has in many ways been good over here through the years. It’s quite easy to form a band over here; you are supported a bit even financially by educational associations etc and whatnot. There are quite a lot of people into rock/metal in one form or another, and most of them will play an instrument… But really, I don’t have a clue right now.

Bloodofheroes: What did Per Karlsson bring that was missing with your first vocalist?

The voice and capability to sing our songs, plain and simple.

Bloodofheroes: It is a warm summer day and you are relaxing and enjoying your favorite beverage – what are you listening to?

When drinking I will generally want rather rock based music. Frequent is stuff like Motörhead, AC/DC, Kiss, Rose Tattoo, Thin Lizzy, Blue Öyster Cult, Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses… Nothing comes along better than that after a crate of beer. When I want to go for something harder it’s usually the old school stuff like Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, Bulldozer and Grotesque. Classic, catchy stuff with a lot of attitude, you know. Riffs played on the A string rather than E. You get the picture I’m sure.

Bloodofheroes: If there is one core message from Portrait that you’d like to leave Metal Underground readers with, this is the time to say it!


And with the most succienct interview end ever in the books, don’t forget to check out Portrait’s goings-on at their MySpace Page or Official Website.

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Joel is indebted to his high school friend Joe B. for giving him “Kill ‘Em All,” “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets” for his 16th birthday. Now that he works from home for his day job at a small ad agency in Chicago, he can play those albums, and Meshuggah, as much as he wants.