The Sonic Ride: Johan Borgede of Astroqueen on the Band’s Hiatus, Reunion, and Future

The Sonic Ride: Johan Borgede of Astroqueen on the Band’s Hiatus, Reunion, and Future
Astroqueen during the Into Submission era (photo credit: Riffipedia).

Astroqueen released their full-length debut, Into Submission, in 2001.  It is a cult classic in the world of stoner rock and metal.

To date, they have not released a second album.

And for years, it has bothered me.

I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon Astroqueen.  I had to be in high school, scouring internet message boards for new bands to listen to, when I came across “Serve the Sun.”

Immediately, I was drawn to their sound.  The riffs were fuzzed out and heavy, but played with pace and power.  The vocals were commanding and passionate, yet had that perfect stoner rock affect.  And the bass and drums perfectly complemented them both. I was all in.

I quickly found a copy of Into Submission, and the rest is history.  To this day, it is one of my favorite albums.

As years went by, I kept waiting for new material to be released by the band.  Which it was, in drips and drabs: a split EP with another band, a Black Sabbath cover on a compilation album, a three-song EP, but never the long-awaited follow-up to Into Submission.

How could a band that produced such a masterpiece never make a second album?

Determined for answers, I turned to what brought me to the band in the first place: the internet.  I knew that the band had promoted their release of Into Submission on vinyl in the last couple of years through social media, so I decided to check it out.  To my surprise, they had recently posted photos from recent gigs and in the studio with Andy LaRocque, the King Diamond guitarist who produced their debut.  Could it be that Astroqueen was back in action?  Feeling optimistic, I decided to message their Facebook account to see if they could answer these burning questions for me.

I was met with a very gracious and thoughtful response from Astroqueen’s drummer, Johan Borgede.  I was able to ask him everything I ever wanted to know about Astroqueen, Into Submission, and the band’s history.  Below are his answers regarding the band’s formation, new recordings, their future tour plans, and the possibility of that second album many of us have been waiting to hear for 23 years.

Johan in action behind the kit (photo credit: Clemens Mitscher Rock & Roll Fine Arts).

This Day in Metal: From what I understand, the band started out in 1998 in Stenungsund, Sweden.  How did the band form?

Johan Borgede: The band started much earlier, but under other names.  In the beginning, it was very much focused on harder music, but it was around 1997 we got our eyes on bands like Kyuss and Fu Manchu.  Me and [lead singer/guitarist] Daniel Änghede started playing together when we were about 10 years old and we rehearsed in his room at his parents’ house.

The early beginnings of what would become Astroqueen, 1990 (photo credit: Astroqueen on Facebook)

TDIM: Who were your major influences?  I know you list early Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Fu Manchu, and Kyuss on your Bandcamp page.  Any bands that I’m missing? Any particular records that were influential in developing your sound?

JB: The band as it looks today have different influences. Me and Daniel Änghede have a classic heavy metal background.  [Guitarist] Daniel Tolergård comes more from grunge and lo-fi.  Mattias Wester, who played bass with us at that time, almost exclusively listened to death and black metal. Artists who always have united us have been Metallica, Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, but also other types of  "heavy metal" like Deftones and early Korn. The first Korn album is a masterpiece.

TDIM: When the band first started playing shows, what was the stoner rock and metal scene like around you?  What other bands were coming up around the same time?  Gothenburg, known for the melodic death metal style, was very close by.  Were there any difficulties coming up as a band with a different sound in that area?

JB: Astroqueen was started when the internet was really undeveloped and because of that we didn ́t know any other Swedish bands in the scene.  It was the American bands which influenced us.  Daniel [Änghede] then got in touch with bands like Dozer, Lowrider and Demon Cleaner through chat channels like mIRC or something [like that]. It was only then that we understood that there was a scene in Sweden. To come from Gothenburg has not been a disadvantage for us, and I think that "the Gothenburg sound" has only helped us to find our own style in stoner rock.

TDIM: How did the band end up getting signed to Pavement Records in 1999?

JB: It was via a guy named Tony Jelencovich [Transport League]. I think we sent him a demo when he was about to start a club called Belsepub and he was looking for bands. He ended up liking it so much that we got to play it on one of the first nights [the club opened] and then he sent it to the record company Transport League were signed to.

After some time, we got a reply that they liked the demo and wanted to sign us. The label had a pretty clear metal orientation with bands like Malevolent Creation and Transport League.  It was also the record company that wanted us to record with [King Diamond guitarist] Andy LaRocque, which suited us well.

TDIM: I consider Into Submission to be a classic in the stoner rock/metal genre.  I remember being immediately into it when I first heard the album in 2001.  Do you have any particular favorite songs from the record?  Ones that hold particular meaning?  Ones that are your favorite to play live?

JB: This is a difficult question…I guess we all like “Lua Vermelha” quite a lot but live, personally, “Soulburner” is a favorite to play.   “Planet Dust” is probably the one that means the most to us, I guess it's because it's one of our first songs and it has been around for a long time.

TDIM: What was it like working with King Diamond’s Andy LaRocque on Into Submission?  How did he get involved with the band?

JB: As I said before, it was the record company that wanted us to record with Andy and since we always liked King Diamond, it felt right.   It turned out later that Andy is a really nice guy and he understood us very well and what we wanted to achieve with the record. I also think that he helped us [to get] on the right track many times without interfering too much.  Andy is definitely a person we will work with again.  We were actually in his studio remixing some songs about a month ago [March 2024].

TDIM:  You guys released a split with Buffalo after Into Submission.  Were there plans for a second full-length record? What events, if any, transpired that prevented that from happening?

JB: Almost immediately after Into Submission was finished, Pavement went bankrupt and the release was delayed. Once the company got back on its feet, it felt like there was no money for marketing and it didn't really happen that much.  It was then quite clear that there would be no second record on Pavement and we then started to record a new demo.

TDIM: What prompted the band’s hiatus from 2004-2005 until recently?

JB: That demo was then used on the Buffalo split. When it was released, it was as if we just lost the desire to start looking for [record] companies, and then we decided to take a break.  That break lasted for almost 20 years...

TDIM: The band reformed officially around 2014, but, correct me if I’m wrong, it seems like you guys didn’t start playing again live until 2022.   What inspired you guys to get back together and hit the stage again?

JB: I think it was around 2011 or 2012 that Daniel started posting some old stuff on Bandcamp and we noticed that we had quite a few streams on Spotify. Then we started talking about starting to play again, mostly for fun, but it only resulted in one session in 2013. At that time, everyone was busy with children and work. Daniel Änghede and Daniel Tolergård also played in several other bands that took time.  So, we didn’t do anything more after that even though we had fun and talked about it a lot.

The Daniels (photo credit: Clemens Mitscher Rock & Roll Fine Arts).

TDIM: Into Submission was recently re-released on vinyl for the first time in 2022.  I was very excited about that release, and from what I recall, the records sold out fairly quickly.  Did this have any impact on the band’s decision to play some shows and record new music, or was it all part of the plan after re-issuing the record?

JB: It definitely had a big impact on us. The reception of the news of our reunion is what drives us and we never thought we would be active in this way again.  The plan from the beginning was just to release Into Submission again and nothing more… maybe some t-shirts.  But now, we play more live than we did back in the day and a new record is in the works.  We will probably never be a touring band because everyone has a job and family that takes a lot of time, but we would love to do a couple of gigs in US in the future.  Time will tell.

TDIM: I know that the band has recently recorded new material, again with Andy LaRocque.  What can you tell everyone about it and when can fans expect it to be released?

JB: This is actually not new material but three songs we recorded with Andy after Into Submission. These songs were only released on a few compilations, but we thought that the songs were so good that it was worth remixing them and releasing them now as a 12".  Everything is pretty much done and hopefully the new 12" will arrive before the summer. It will be a teaser in the wait of the new album that will hopefully be released in 2025.

TDIM: The band has played a couple of festivals over the last two years, including Fuzz Festival in Stockholm and Freak Valley Festival in Germany, along with a handful of local shows in Sweden.  You're scheduled to play Desertfest in the UK in May.  Are there plans for any further shows to coincide with the release of the new material the band’s recorded?  And, selfishly, is there any chance the band would consider playing Desertfest’s US counterpart festival in September?

JB: We are very happy to have been booked at so many great festivals and gigs in the last two years and we will continue to take bookings as long as we think it’s fun. As I wrote earlier, we will probably never be a touring band, and we will keep it to five to ten gigs a year. This makes it difficult to get finances to play in US, but if the right opportunity comes, we will definitely take the chance to go over the pond. We'll see if Desertfest US gets in touch!  We also get some questions from South America and that would also be fun.

Click the picture to buy tickets for Desertfest UK to see Astroqueen live and make me jealous.

TDIM: Thank you for being so gracious with your time and responses. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the Astroqueen fans out there?

JB:  Thanks, it was fun.  To all the Astros out there, you guys are the reason we're playing again and as long as people come to our shows and buy our records, we'll keep going. Rufus for President!

Best regards,

Johan and Astroqueen

Daniel A, Johan, and Daniel T (photo credit: Astroqueen on Facebook).

As Johan said, Astroqueen is currently preparing a new 12” record of previously written material to be released by this summer, and fans (like me) can look forward to their long-awaited sophomore album in 2025 if all goes right.  We’ve already waited 23 years…what’s one more?

Though the band has different priorities now than when they first started out, they have a few tour dates planned in Sweden, as well as an appearance at Desertfest UK in London in May 2024.  You can check their social media channels here for more updates as they come:


The band also released a re-recorded version of "Tidal Wave," originally from a 2003 session, yesterday on Spotify.  It's Astroqueen's first new recording in nearly two decades.  You can stream it here:

If you’ve never listened to Into Submission, and you consider yourself a fan of the stoner rock and metal genre, do yourself a favor and go give it a spin.  I could not give it any higher of a recommendation.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to start my campaign to get Astroqueen to Desertfest US in New York.

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