CANDLEMASS Guitarist MATS 'MAPPE' BJRKMAN: 'I Am Not A Criminal'

CANDLEMASS guitarist Mats "Mappe" Bjrkman, who was recently sentenced to two years in a Swedish prison for grand theft, has spoken exclusively to Sweden Rock magazine about his court case and how it might impact the band's future activities.

Bjrkman was convicted of stealing CDs worth approximately $490,000 from the distribution warehouse of Entertainment Network Scandinavia AB, where he and an accomplice shipped the CDs to Stockholm retail outlets.

Bjrkman initially denied the charges against him, but his alleged accomplice, Stefan Hkansson, has admitted his role in the theft and has implicated his colleague.

The guitarist stated in court that he didn't understand why Hkansson "lied" about his involvement in the theft scheme, suggesting it might be because Hkansson was trying to protect others.

The following are a couple of short excerpts from Sweden Rock's interview with Bjrkman:

Sweden Rock: Why did your former co-worker accuse you of being an accomplice?

Mats: "He's on trial in three different cases and this is the one that has received the biggest amount of publicity, mostly because I apparently am a 'famous rock musician.' He's, among other things, been busted for selling large amounts of alcohol illegally, which is something I think he has done through contact with serious criminals. All the money that he has made from that is something he has 'transferred' to the CD sales because he can't rat those people out.

"I am not a criminal, but sure, just like I've sold some CDs, I've helped him sell CDs. But these are CDs that I've been given or gotten through my dealings within the music business. It's not a secret that record label people in Stockholm sell boxes of CDs to different stores, but it's nothing people like to talk about."

Sweden Rock: Have you discussed how it would affect the band if your conviction was upheld on appeal?

Mats: "No. With CANDLEMASS we've never planned far ahead, but concentrated on the here and now. I've learned a lot through this trial and in the court of appeals, any evidence must be a lot stronger, and we will be able to counter the prosecutor's arguments in a much better way when we're there."

Sweden Rock: Won't you have trouble getting a working visa for the planned tour in the USA [which kicks off in May]?

Mats: "It'll actually not be a problem. That's the tragic thing about the papers claiming that 'Mats Bjrkman from CANDLEMASS will be spending the next two years in prison.' The court of appeals will hear the case sometime in the fall, so even if I have been convicted in the district court, that verdict has not become legally binding because I've appealed. The district court's verdict has no meaning at all as far as the band's plans are concerned.

"I'm really looking forward to touring the USA and recording the next CANDLEMASS EP. The material is great and Leffe (Leif Edling, CANDLEMASS' bass player and main songwriter) is a genius!"

Sweden Rock's entire interview with Mats "Mappe" Bjrkman can be found in the magazine's brand new issue, which hits stores in Sweden on April 22. It also features, among others, interviews with THE HELLACOPTERS, MANILLA ROAD, GRAVEYARD, GRAND MAGUS, NSTROND, WHITESNAKE and TIAMAT, and an exclusive tour report with HARDCORE SUPERSTAR and CRASHDET.

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