"It was an awkward situation, too, with me being kind of naked": Graveyard's Joakim Nilsson on darkness, recording in forests, and running into famous musicians in the sauna

Graveyard group portrait
(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

Swedish hard rockers Graveyard have been part of the retro-rock revival since 2006 with their potent mix of heavy blues, 70s swagger and gritty rock’n’roll. After a brief split in 2017, they re-formed after just a few months and in 2018 released Peace

Now, five years on, they’re back with their new, sixth album, appropriately titled 6, a dynamic, bluesy trip that’s rich in introspection. And vocalist/guitarist Joakim Nilsson is here to tell us all about it. 


It’s five years since your last album. What’s been going on in Graveyard’s world in that time? 

The first two of those five years we were touring. The last tour we did [before covid] was with Clutch in Europe, and then we did a tour in the US with Opeth. The plan all along was to start recording and writing songs after that tour, but we weren’t able to just focus on writing music. It took a little longer than we were hoping. 

Did covid delay everything? 

I guess. I mean, everyone got covid at different points during the period, so we had to wait that out. But not really, except that we couldn’t play and make money. We didn’t have any lockdowns here in Sweden, so we were kind of free to do what we wanted. The new album was recorded in two studios, one being Silence studio which is in a tiny rural village in one of the darkest parts of Sweden. 

What made you decide to do that? 

We started out by going away to the forests in Sweden to Silence studio for about a week. The original Silence studio was also a record company that released a lot of Swedish prog albums back in the day. I think going there was about focus – being away from normal life, where we could just focus on writing. But it wasn’t possible to do that for a long period, with family stuff and things back home. So the rest of the album we did in our producer’s studio.

What inspired 6 lyrically? 

It’s mostly Jonatan Larocca-Ramm [guitar] and Truls Mörck [bass] who wrote the lyrics, and the ones Truls wrote are about isolation. Not to do with the pandemic, but more the isolation of your thoughts. And it’s the same for Jonatan: to do with darker feelings that are inside. But I don’t think it’s a darker album; it’s more a contemplative album. 

What did you want to do musically with the album? 

The only thing we discussed before was that we wanted more of a guitar-driven album. The last one, Peace, was a little more focused on rhythm and bass – most of the songs on that album were done by Truls, our bass player. The songs on 6 were done by me and Jonatan, the guitarists in the band, so it was natural that it was gonna be more focused on guitars. 

You’ve done some amazing tours over the years, with bands including Motörhead and Soundgarden. Have you ever been star-struck? 

I don’t get star-struck. It’s just people. Although… I did get a little bit starstruck when I met Mark Lanegan. We were in Finland, and there were these saunas right in the backstage area. I had just got out of the sauna, with a towel wrapped around me, and I met Mark Lanegan outside. I had a little talk with him, and I just couldn’t find the words. It was the only time I’ve been star-struck. It was an awkward situation, too, with me being kind of naked.

Hannah May Kilroy

Hannah May Kilroy has been writing about music professionally for over a decade, covering everything from extreme metal to country. She was deputy editor at Prog magazine for over five years, and previously worked on the editorial teams at Terrorizer and Kerrang!. She currently works as the production editor for The Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Guardian, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer.