INTERVIEW WITH SCREAMER, SHAKEDOWN SUZIES AND THE EMBODIED GUITARIST JONATHAN AAGAARD MORTENSEN
Date: August 16 and 22, 2021
Photos: Johan Thunberg (first, third, sixth and seventh photos), Screamer (second photo)
GUITARIST JONATHAN AAGAARD MORTENSEN IS A BUSY GUY! THE SWEDISH GUITARIST HAS BEEN A MEMBER OF BOTH SHAKEDOWN SUZIES (SLEAZE TYPE ROCK) AND THE EMBODIED (MELODIC METAL) FOR MORE THAN A DECADE AND NOW HE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE BAND SCREAMER (CLASSIC METAL). SHAKEDOWN SUZIES HAVE RELEASED TWO ALBUMS TO DATE — ‘THE CHASE’ (2017) AND ‘A BUSINESS DOIN’ PLEASURE’ (2020). THE EMBODIED RELEASED A SELF-TITLED ALBUM (2011) AND ‘RAVENGOD’ (2016). SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH MORTENSEN TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SCREAMER, SHAKEDOWN SUZIES AND THE EMBODIED.
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on joining Screamer! What attracted you to join the band?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: Thank you brother! I really hope it will be a bright future and that my talents are valuable for the band in the coming years. Me, [drummer] Henrik [Petersson] and [guitarist] Dejan [Rosic] have been friends since more than ten years back. We first met when Screamer did a gig in my hometown. Agust [Ahlberg, bassist in Shakedown Suzies and The Embodied] was with me and we really liked the band. Never had the pleasure of playing together though. I was intrigued because they play a genre right between my other bands. I’ve always wanted to try playing and writing more traditional metal and now I have the opportunity to do so!
Sleaze Roxx: How did you get in Screamer? Did you have to tryout?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: I think it was sort of a tryout… I’m not sure really [laughs]. I had a talk with Henrik who invited me down to their place to jam some music and drink beer. How could I say no? It’s the two best things in life! So we tried some Screamer songs together and later that evening, they told me the reason they wanted me to jam was Anton Fingal’s departure from the band and they’d thought of me as a replacement from the start. So, being in the situation I am, I just needed some short time to think about it before I said “yes.” I wanted to make sure I could do the band justice as opposed to someone mindlessly saying “YES” and then failing in making the effort needed.
Sleaze Roxx: Where are Screamer currently at in terms of writing, recording and/or releasing new music?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: The next album is currently in the works and news will come soon on the social media platforms. Sometimes when recruiting someone new, it will be a question of going back to look at things and maybe I’ll say something like “Hey guys, how about we do something like this instead” just to give my input to the band and hopefully put some of my influence on the sound.
Screamer‘s “On My Way” video:
Sleaze Roxx: I believe that you’re one of the founding members of Shakedown Suzies. What prompted you and Ricki to form the band?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: Yeah, it started out as a quarrel between us when we lived together. Erik [“Ricki Rascal” Gripestam] came home from a show — I think it was Crazy Lixx and Crashdïet who played — and told me something about me not being able to write such songs . He probably has a different story [laughs]. But I said “OK, let me have two days and I’ll give you four songs.” I think it was “Not so Innocent Rosie”, “Nasty”, “No Tomorrow” and “Wild Nights” from the first album. We asked a couple of friends to jam the songs and so it went on until I moved to Gothenburg for a while. I only had my mind on The Embodied then. But back in 2018 or something, we talked about the first album and that it wasn’t really what we wanted to do. So I took a week to write the new album which became ‘A Business Doin’ Pleasure’ and felt more content about how it turned out. We did a couple of gigs but then the pandemic hit us…
Sleaze Roxx: Shakedown Suzies released their debut album ‘The Chase’ back in 2012 but fairly soon after went on a five-year hiatus. What happened there?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: Yep, it was sort of the combination of me moving to Gothenburg and the momentum we had in The Embodied. I put more faith in that band so we said it was fine to leave it at that. My personal life became a bit more prioritized as well and I wasn’t that interested in Shakedown more than to jam together and drink beer. Fortunately, Erik began sending us feedback we received on the album and most of it was really good, which triggered the idea of getting back together to do some shows and doing another album.
Shakedown Suzies‘ “Get It On” video (from The Chase album):
Sleaze Roxx: Were things different when the band members “reactivated” Shakedown Suzies five years after first going on hiatus?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: Well I mean, we’re close friends even though we didn’t play in the band at the time. We felt a bit like the sound needed to be more sincere to who we are and it usually is a rite of passage to release something. You later on think about as “a bit too juvenile.” I’m a big Motörhead fan and wanted that incorporated in the sound together with as fun guitar work as I could write at the moment. We are a bit more realistic about what we can accomplish now as well. It’s not that dead serious anymore and we can fool around with ideas in a broader way than before.
Sleaze Roxx: Shakedown Suzies released their sophomore album ‘A Business Doin’ Pleasure’ last June. That was really when the Covid pandemic was in full swing. Do you regret releasing the album at that time?
Jonathan Aaagaard Mortensen: I would say both “yes” and “no” to that. On one hand, it still got out to people and I for one, really liked the idea of providing a great summer album even if people couldn’t go see shows. And on the other hand, yeah, the fucking pandemic… I would have loved playing more shows with the new album at our back! But I am sure we can do many songs live from of that album in the future!
Sleaze Roxx: How did you guys come up with the album title ‘A Business Doin’ Pleasure’?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: Mostly because of Erik’s ideas, he has so many it sometimes gets exhausting [laughs]. But it suited us and the vibe we wanted to provide for the listeners. I’m not really sure we had any more thoughts about it as it made perfect sense right away and is a kick-ass name for an album! Sometimes, the surface of things are more important than there being a deeper pseudo-meaning to things [laughs]!
Shakedown Suzies‘ “Alibi” video (from A Business Doin’ Pleasure album):
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] What are the differences between Shakedown Suzies’ two albums?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: ‘The Chase’ is a lot more punk than rock n roll and as I mentioned before, a bit more juvenile than other things I’ve done. I believe we tried too much to make a record in the line of other sleaze bands in Sweden at the time but fell short in the end. “ABDP” feels more right in your face and a lot rawer in everything. I took my time turning the arrangements upside down before I sent it to the guys in the band. Before we went to the studio, everyone had their say of what to change or what to keep. We also didn’t have any thoughts about sounding like anyone this time around. We just wanted to deliver a plain ol’ whiskey-reeking album with songs to party to for all the gals and gamblers! For myself, I really like the fact that we move a bit closer to heavy rock n’ roll instead of the heavy metal parts.
Sleaze Roxx: What are Shakedown Suzies’ plans for the rest of the year and 2022?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: We’re moving our rehearsal room from a shit place to an actual studio. We’ll be setting up and begin writing / recording our third album. I think it’ll give us a boost to have at least one more record out there. We’ll probably do some gigs around Scandinavia but are looking out over Europe as well. It’s a bit tricky now though as Erik is a father of two and Agust just had a wee baby.
Sleaze Roxx: You also play guitar in The Embodied. How did you end up joining that group?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: I actually started that band together with my long-time friend Chris [Melin]. We have played together on and off for about 20 years if memory serves me. After an earlier project went to shit, we spoke about doing something new together and called upon some of our earlier members and formed the band with an intent of being a bit more heavy metal than the Gothenburg melodic death scene. We had a good start opening for Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy, kept on doing shows around Europe until the pandemic hit us. I think the problem with the band would be that we’ve been less productive than one should be, only releasing two albums in the last ten years.
Sleaze Roxx: Interestingly, The Embodied appear to have elected to lay low while the Covid pandemic continues, which seems kind of the opposite from Shakedown Suzies who released their sophomore album last June. What was the thought process there?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: We had problems with finding the right lead singer for The Embodied and he came onboard just before the beginning of the pandemic. Most of us have spent time with our families and have just been writing songs for the band. I think we have discarded about three albums worth of songs so far [laughs] but we are almost too picky on what goes out under the name The Embodied. There’s also the difference in having Erik in Shakedown Suzies. He’s always thinking about new stuff and knows how to handle social media and that sort of work. I’m just a guitarist and songwriter. If it wasn’t for him, I believe that it would have been quiet in camp Suzies as well.
Sleaze Roxx: I understand that The Embodied band members just recently decided to disband the group. What led to that decision, and especially when you have about three albums worth of songs kind of ready to go?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: It had been brewing for some time and I think we tried to keep the band together way past its end. It’s like a relationship you know… It has its ups and downs and you usually work through it. But this time it was Chris who said he was done and as he’s one of the founders. I don’t believe it would have lasted much longer even if we wanted to continue. I’m more of a creative part of the band. The organizational parts were handled by him so for me… Yeah, I just wanted to end The Embodied and see who’s with me in recording the songs under a different flag. We might release it under a new name. Just to be clear, we’re still great friends and hang together regulary!
The Embodied‘s “Death by Fire” video:
Sleaze Roxx: You’re still in Shakedown Suzies so you’ll be doing “double guitar duty” so to speak [laughs]. Do you think that it will be difficult to juggle three bands at the same time?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: There will always be times when I need to choose what band to prioritize but it depends on what aspect of being in a band we’re looking at. The creative part – writing music and recording won’t at all be a problem. In fact, it’s easier to have an outlet in different bands when writing songs. The part where it will get tricky though is the live shows. Right now, it’s only Screamer who are out playing so that’s sorted already. Most things have a way of solving themselves if one is creative!
Sleaze Roxx: How do you juggle playing different styles of music as Shakedown Suzies play more sleazy ’80s era music, The Embodied are/were more melodic metal while Screamer seem to be more classic metal?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: I really love exploring different styles of music. At one point I planned to start a blues band but well… that didn’t work out at all [laughs]. I’m a classical guitarist in my roots and know that you really need to explore as many genres as you can to find your own sound in playing guitar. Sure, there are times when I become a bit too metal for Shakedown or Screamer and vice versa for The Embodied but that’s when my bandmates let me know. There’s a difference in the feel of how to play each riff and each passage in each band. I find it intriguing now to learn more about the classic metal feel even though I take my inspiration mostly from the bands from the classic metal scene. Earlier, I tried doing things in a progressive spirit, but I need to tone that down for Screamer a bit. They have some really fun songs to play and a mindset in songwriting that I really can learn from as they’re all great musicians. I really look forward to what’s to come in this mix of influences!
Sleaze Roxx: Which style of music do you prefer to play?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: Not to be prude or pretentious, but I love playing classical Spanish songs on the guitar. I can really let go and flow with the music. On the other hand, one can’t deny the influence of playing a sweet riff on the guitar that everyone bangs their heads to. I usually prefer the riffs that are so heavy you need to sign up for weight-watchers!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] In Shakedown Suzies and The Embodied, you seem to go by Jonathan or Jon Mortensen but for Screamer, you’re going by Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen. Why is that?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: I am a man of many names [laughs]! Nah, I just think it ended up like that in the bios and someone catches on and keep writing it different. My full name is Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen — for now at least [laughs]. You’ll probably see me using “Jon” with Screamer in the future as well. Aagaard is my family name fram back home in Denmark, the country that is like Sweden but for grown-ups.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you would like to mention?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: Well, it might be that I’m working on a solo album no one knows about until now [laughs]! It’ll cover the more progressive side of me. Let’s call it atmospheric metal, but who knows what you guys will say later on.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! You really do cover a lot of genres. Last question for you, what are your top three albums of all-time and why?
Jonathan Aagaard Mortensen: Pride & Glory’s self-titled record. It’s an amazing album with Zakk Wylde. I love the roughness. Iron Maiden’s ‘Seventh Son of A Seventh Son.’ This blew my mind back when I was 15 years old. It’s truly a masterpiece of heavy metal which surpasses most in the same genre. Rory Gallagher’s ‘Tattoo.’ If I’d ever would start a cover band, it would have something to do with Rory. Damn! It’s great music that I never get sick of. As I think I mentioned to one of your questions, I have soooo many bands, musicians and styles I would want to say inspired me. The top three albums change for me with every week [laughs].
Shakedown Suzies‘ “Hair of The Dog” video (from A Business Doin’ Pleasure video):