THE WAYMAKER: What's Old is New Again
As each year of our life passes, it seems there are fewer things that surprise us, and even less so are these surprises something good. Then out of the blue comes The Waymaker. In these dime a dozen days of faceless bands, The Waymaker sounds fresh yet familiar, their sound an amalgamation of power and classic metal along with a splash of thrash, highlighted by the very effective use of female lead vocals. Tantalizing to say the least. True professional musician and Narnia veteran Christian Liljegren explains how The Waymaker came to be and what they are all about.
What was the genesis of your new band, The Waymaker, and who is in the band with you?
In 2018, Jani Stefanovic contacted me after nearly 8-9 years since we closed Divinefire. We always had a good writing chemistry--a good balance to create something unique--and we both needed the break to find a new energy and creative force.
It took a while but in 2019 the writing process went further and songs started to take shape. Personally, I wanted to use different voices--both female and male blended together--with metal for the future. In 2020 Katja Stefanovic, Jani´s wife, joined and The Waymaker was born. She is a very talented vocalist and I think we have a unique combination with our different voices that makes The Waymaker stand out as a band these days. So, all in all the Waymaker is:
Jani Stefanovic – Guitars, bass, keyboards & vocals
Katja Stefanovic – Vocals
Christian Liljegren – Vocals
How did you determine to use the name ‘The Waymaker’ and what is its meaning? (I think we know, but please elaborate…)
The band name was not easy to come up with, but we tried different things and then The Waymaker came up. Who is my Waymaker? Who is yours? Jesus Christ is my Waymaker but also we try to be Waymakers for each other, also for our kids and for each other as friends, brothers and sisters in this world. The name sounds good but it is also an important thing when we see so much chaos in this world. Who is your Waymaker? That is the question.
The Waymaker’s marketing states that they are "...a new way of melodic metal” and will bring "melodic metal into the future." What specifically about The Waymaker do you believe sets it apart from other bands you have been a part of, or any other band for that matter, in 2020?
We have a goal to take the listener further to develop melodic metal and combine different elements, and in my ears we have a unique modern sound. Of course, you can hear elements from the bands we have been involved in but designed in a new way of metal for 2020.
Jani is a good producer and very interested in taking things further and developing the sound. We wanted the songs to be very powerful but still very dynamic using our voices and instruments in a new way and I think we nailed it. We hope of course the fans like it too.
You’ve been creating music for many years now, with several different bands (Narnia, Audiovision, Divinefire, etc.). When writing a new song, what is the process for determining which band will record the song?
I am deeply rooted in hard rock/metal/symphonic & progressive rock so for me I always have song ideas in my head designed for different recordings with all the bands I am involved in. So it is very easy for me where the song will go. I have more things coming!
Your lyrics are always refreshingly bold for Christ and that certainly is the case again with The Waymaker. What is the process/inspiration for writing song lyrics?
For me it has always been a naive faith in Jesus Christ since I became a Christian in 1985, so my lyrics deal with things about life, relationships, world situations, etc. where my faith is central. I hear the music first and then I write lyrics that match the music.
Tell us about times you’ve been criticized for your lyrics.
You can´t please everyone. I write from my heart where the Holy Spirit leads me and I know my call, vision and mission are very clear. I want to be a voice in this world showing the hope in Jesus Christ to as many as possible. I don´t hide my message and that´s me. Either you like it or not. Many people need to hear the Gospel these days.
How did you get back together with Jani to form The Waymaker? Had you kept in touch with him since Divinefire?
We have kept in contact through the years but it had intensified the last two years as we both felt the call to do music together again with a clear message to show the world a Heavenly hope in Jesus Christ, our Waymaker.
The inclusion of Jani's wife, Katja, on vocals gives The Waymaker a unique edge compared to your other bands and has been done successfully by popular bands such as Lacuna Coil and Skillet. Katja's singing is excellent and a great find in the Christian metal world! Is including female vocals something you specifically wanted to do with The Waymaker and wrote into the songs?
For the last 7 or 8 years I had in my vision to share vocals with a female vocalist. We did it in Divinefire when we recorded Queen´s big hit “The Show Must Go On” with Maria Radsten on vocals and I liked how it broadened the sound.
Katja is an amazing vocalist that I saw live in 2003 at Bobfest in Sweden when she was fronting the Finnish band Random Eyes. We started with me doing vocals alone but very soon into the process I wanted to mix with a female vocalist. I thought why not use Jani´s wife, so I told Jani to ask Katja if she was interested in joining. It took a while before Katja decided, as she also has a solo career where she is doing albums in Finnish and English. She also has another band project together with Jani that we will see later on. Jani also sings lead in The Waymaker and that makes us even more unique by blending our voices and I like bands where there are several lead vocalists.
If they haven’t heard it already, fans are in for a treat when they hear The Waymaker’s cover of Stryper’s song “Soldiers Under Command”. I’ve often wondered how bands settle on a song to cover, when there are literally thousands (millions?) to choose from. How did you determine to cover this one particular song (albeit it’s a Christian heavy metal classic)?
The reason for me picking this song was simple. When I became a Christian in 1985 I heard this song on cassette in my Christian group at school where I grew up in a village called Habo, and it was right there when I heard this song and later when I saw the video on MTV that I wanted to form a Christian metal band. Stryper are the band who lit that spark so this is my way to show them my love for what they are doing and how they inspired me. The version is very cool using our different voices to blend it together.
I am very happy to have been lucky to tour with Stryper twice, once with Audiovision in 2010 in Europe and then with Narnia last year in South America. The song is so good and very few have done it and I had a vision to make this song for over 15 years and now we did it.
I hope the fans and Stryper like our version. The song has marvelous guitars and I am also very happy CJ Grimmark from Narnia guests on lead guitar together with Jani. The video we have recorded for this song is so cool showing my history as a young Christian metal singer wearing the To Hell With The Devil tour shirt in 1987. I was happy to see them in Stockholm on June 2, 1987, but the highlight was last year sharing the stage with Stryper and singing together with Michael Sweet in Brazil. The crowd went crazy! It was a big dream come true. I respect them a lot and am so happy we got to know each other and hope we will tour again together.
God Bless you Stryper and your ministry!
2020 is unlike any other year we’ve experienced. How has COVID-19 impacted you as a musician?
Of course this has impacted us all, especially all concerts that have been cancelled and rescheduled to 2021, but we hope and pray for the best to come.
I’m going to put you on the spot for a couple questions…of all the albums that you’ve been a part of, which is your favorite one of all time? Why?
I think the Long Live the King album with Narnia is my favorite. It has the power, strength and a very majestic sound and we still play many of the songs live with Narnia. It is not so easy to pick a favorite but you asked so Long Live the King is my answer.
Looking back, what is your least favorite album and why?
I think it would be the Wisdom Call album. It has good songs but the production isn´t there. Still many people like it but one album has to be picked.
You've been part of the music industry for many years now. Do you feel like you have accomplished what the Lord has set you out to do, or is there still a lot you want to accomplish?
I am very blessed to have been on this tremendous journey with the Lord, visiting many countries and reaching thousands on and off the stage. Still, my fire is there that the Lord put in my heart. I have so much passion for music and I want to reach out with the gospel these days. I still have musical goals to achieve, like working with a full symphonic orchestra or writing a rock/metal musical. Only God knows!
Are you able to make a living as a professional musician?
Sadly, no. I could have been touring a lot more but to be on the road 150 days or more each year is not my thing. I want to be home with my family and have a good balance.
If there was one thing you could change about the music industry, what would it be?
Still musicians get a very low share of income from their recorded music compared to labels and streaming services, but the Lord provides and I pray for better days to come.
When considering the current state of the music industry, COVID-19, etc., do you hope to tour for this album? What is next for The Waymaker?
Of course we hope to tour, but right now we have to focus on keeping everybody safe as this virus is a difficult thing to battle. After things settle, we hope to visit many countries including the USA where I never have been touring.
Thanks for all the support and please buy a vinyl album or CD for yourself or for a friend. That helps us a lot to keep this going and continue our ministry as The Waymaker. God Bless you Heaven´s Metal readers!