Amon Amarth interview (11/2008)
|Conducted by:||itsjoeymoose (in person)|
With Amon Amarth touring with Slayer, Trivium and Mastodon on the first show of the Unholy Alliance III tour, I caught up with the mighty singer of the band, Johan Hegg, outside the Apollo in Manchester, UK on 27/10/2008.
- First off, well done on getting the Unholy Alliance tour.
- Well, we're as happy as anyone!
- How did that come about, was that something you've been wanting for a while?
- Our management was approached by Slayer's management, so they basically wanted us on tour which is a big pleasure. It's definitely cool and also a great opportunity and challenge for us.
- This is the first show of the tour, any idea what you can expect?
- I've no clue what to expect! Obviously we just want to do a great show but we realise we're the opening band here, but that's the way it is and we're happy to be here.
- Have you been getting a good response from the UK crowd? The media attention has certainly picked up, I see you guys on the cover of magazines all the time
- The last few shows have been great and it's picked up mostly to the fact that we've been touring here. I mean, for a long time we hardly ever came here even though we wanted to. But it was hard to get shows here so we ended up doing tours ourselves to come here and that worked out fine. We've had some big tours here already, we played with Dimmu Borgir last year and the Download festival this year, which was really cool.
- You're already confirmed for Wacken 2009, are there any plans to do UK festivals like Download or Bloodstock?
- No British festivals have been confirmed yet, but we did Bloodstock indoor festival a while back so hopefully yeah.
- I find your older material is generally a lot slower and progressive with long track lengths, whereas with the last album and your latest 'Twilight of the Thunder God', the songs are much faster with shorter track lengths. Was that always the plan?
- Well we didn't want to get less epic or anything, it's more that we wanted to get more to the point and not waste time building songs with shitloads of riffs that wouldn't be repeated. Basically we just wanted the songs be more straightforward. It's just something that came about and wasn't really intentional but it also has a lot to do with the musical material we had to work with.
There is some epic stuff on there but it's less progressive, we just wanted to make it a bit simpler. Of course it's hard to please everyone as older fans like the more progressive stuff but I don't think it necessarily means these albums are worse and of course a lot of old fans like the new stuff as well but it's a balance and we always write these songs for ourselves and if the fans like it as well it's great.
- Some bands like Moonsorrow go the opposite and have 30 minute songs…
- Yeah well that was never really our thing in the first place, it's OK but that's not our style.
- Going onto the lyrics, are the songs on the new album connected at all? Like one big story?
- Well not exactly, it's been described as the most diverse album we've ever made and we certainly feel the same way. If you look hard you could probably find a theme running through the songs but that's more accidental if anything.
- After seven albums, is it hard to think of new lyrics and themes of Vikings?
- It is kinda hard to find new angles, but you can take inspiration from daily life or from a movie or whatever and turn it into my interpretation in Viking terms. But yeah it's very hard.
- Do you find yourself searching 'Vikings' on wikipedia to find some new angles?
(Laughs) - Well no but I do have some new ideas that I'm still working on that I haven't fulfilled. I don't want to reveal too much but it's kinda like a conceptual album but not in the sense that there's a story that binds it all together, it's more bound by a theme as such.
- I know some bands like to do albums based on one person or an old tale.
- Yeah that's not what I want to do but it will still be a theme running through.
- Chart wise the new album has been quite incredible, with Germany #6, Finland #10 and Sweden #11 being among the highest.
- Well yeah it's just crazy and amazing, I mean even here in England it got to #126. For us in Great Britain it wasn't exactly surprising but pleasing to see people are really into the band and supporting us. But yeah all over the world it's been great,
- How are you received in the United States?
- Yeah it's been great there as well, like #48 and Canada #35. It's great to see a band like us doing well there, seeing as our music is not really mainstream and especially with the vocals so yeah it's amazing and great to see the support from the fans.
- Talking of vocals, is there any plans to have contrasting vocals to yours? Say female or clean vocal passages for instance?
- I guess you should never say never. We've never really had an idea for any of those but if we did have a good idea then certainly we would, but not female vocals just for the sake of it. With 'Twilight of the Thunder God' we had L.G. Petrov (Entombed) come in for the track 'Guardian's of Asgaard'. We had an idea of two brothers for the story so that's why we wanted two singers.
- Well it was interesting, because personally I found they're not guest appearances that are instantly recognisable, like I only found out after I heard the song. But you also had Roope Latvala from Children Of Bodom, what was the reason for that?
- Well lets put it this way, truthfully Johan and Olly are great guitar players, they can write great riffs but they're not shredders, For the title track we wanted a shredding solo and the first person we thought of was Roope. I mean, he's a great player and we like what he does and he's also a good friend.
- Apocalyptica turn up briefly on 'Live For The Kill' as well, who's idea was that?
- Yeah both L.G and Roope we've known for a long time, but Apocalyptica was a bit of a long shot. For that song we had an idea to use cellos and we were originally going to use someone our producer Jens knew, but I think Olly was the one who thought of asking Apocalyptica. We wanted the guys to arrange it themselves, we gave them the riff but we just wanted to let them do their own work cos they understand metal.
- And cellos of course.
(Laughs) - Of course!
- Now you've already done one video clip of the track 'Twilight of the Thunder God' which looks great, are there any plans to do another song? Are video clips still a worthwhile medium?
- There's been some talk about it, but it's hard to get airplay. Our current video clip is running on MTV in the U.S and Europe and hopefully we can do another one, but it's a matter of getting the right song and the right idea and the right people I guess.
- Any song in mind?
- We've been talking about several songs, one of them is 'Guardian's of Asgaard' but we'll see…it's more something we'll think about later on.
- I understand you did some sort of meet and greet/BBQ for the fans in my home country, Australia, is there any plans to do that elsewhere?
- When we headline, like in the U.S on this tour, we try to meet our fans after the show almost every night but sometimes it's impossible because of time or space issues but we try to do that as much as possible. But yeah that BBQ in Melbourne was awesome but unfortunately I was ill and I wanted to save myself for the show.
- Good to see you guys engage with the fans as much as possible then.
- Well yeah I think it's only fair cos these guys support us and it's not that much to ask to give them a few minutes of our time. But yeah we're not really difficult people but sometimes it's too hard, but we try to hang out with the fans whenever we can.
- How important is the theatrics in Amon Amarth?
- Well stage props are quite important, we like to come up with things that look good and stuff that suits the band. It's not always possible when you're supporting of course. But we do wear stage clothes that aren't that different from what we normally wear, it's just a few minor things like the wristbands and drinking horns. We don't like to wear swords or anything and we like to make the point that we are musicians, not Vikings. I mean, we're Vikings at heart but we don't pretend to live in that age or style.
- Was that ever an option to dress with chain mail, war paint and blood everywhere like a lot of Viking metal bands do?
- No we never wanted to do that, don't get me wrong it's cool for other bands but it's not for us.
- It must be annoying having to put on all that costume and make-up every night.
- Yeah let's put it this way, I'm glad we're not doing that, maybe when we were younger but it's hard enough putting on the wristbands and all that gear!
- Obviously you're from Sweden, was there ever an option to sing in Swedish and English, much like another Viking metal band Thyrfing?
- Well for me writing the lyrics, singing is Swedish would seem weird, like it would be too close to home somehow. It feels more natural to sing in English. In the past we've had some parts sung in Swedish, but not like a whole song.
- OK, finally the most important question: Beard growing techniques. What can you tell me?
(Laughs) - Drink a lot of beer I guess!
- My beard has just stopped growing after two years.
- Well I dunno, different people have different beards! I started growing mine in 1992, I've had many different styles over the years but I'm happy with this one.
- Well I aspire to have a beard like yours one day.
- Well good luck with that!
- Thanks very much for your time Johan.
- Thank you.
Interview by Joe Garland.
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