Arch Enemy interview (02/2010)
|Conducted by:||Doc Godin (in person)|
Arch Enemy - A band who over the past 10 years have progressed from staple opening-act to headlining, world-tour machine. Long past their days in obscurity, these household metal heavyweights embarked on a North American in support of the new compilation of re-recordings The Root Of All Evil. Upon their stop in Calgary lead guitarist/main-man Michael Amott sat down with us [me] from MS to discuss live albums, re-recordings, and the highly publicized Carcass reunion. Enjoy.
Doc: So, new tour! How is it going so far?
Michael: The tours been going exceptionally well. We weren't expecting it to be this good, because you know with the economy in the US, and I guess it's the same situation in Canada probably?
Doc: Yeah, it's pretty much bombing all around.
Michael: In Europe as well. We didn't come here in '09. We stayed away from the US and Canada for 2009. We toured almost 2 years ago here...except it was in the smaller room upstairs*.
* The MacEwan hall venue is broken into 2 halls, the upstairs ballroom, and the hall itself (which is roughly the size of an airport hangar).
Doc: You guys do stop through here quite frequently, I've noticed it was 4 or 5 times since 2005?
Michael: Yeah I think so...
Doc: I think the first time was opening for Cradle Of Filth if I recall correctly...
Michael: Yeah, that was '04 actually. Overall we've just been overwhelmed with how good the tour is going - good numbers, good reviews, so it's like..."Whoa! Shit!" We kind of thought maybe Canada and the US isn't that great for us anymore, you know, we should stay away. Then we made this special record, The Root Of All Evil, which is re-recordings, not really a real new album, so we don't really have that momentum of a brand new album, that whole push from everybody and the record label or anything. It was kind of a special situation, we're kind of pleasantly surprised, we're very excited about it.
Doc: I was speaking with Lauri Porra of Stratovarius a few months back and he mentioned how there really isn't the same crowd pull in North America as there is in Japan or Europe, do find that to be the same with Arch Enemy as well?
Michael: No, but we're also sort of in a different sub-genre than them. We've been coming over here since...Well, really working it since 2002. We've been coming over consistently supporting Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Slayer. 2003, 2004, 2005 we've been doing tours like that, coming over and doing Ozzfest, we've done a lot of headlining tours in clubs and stuff. It's just been really consistent for us over here. The US and Canada is kind of an important part of what this band is about. A lot of our fans are in Canada.
Doc: I've noticed over the years your tours have been getting progressively bigger names to it, does it seem surreal at all that you've got a heavy-weight band like Exodus opening up for you guys?
Michael: Yeah. I mean, obviously they're a great band from the 80's, it's obviously something we listened to, especially their first album Bonded By Blood. I bought that and was really into it. So yeah, it feels great, it's an honour to have them opening up for us and they're doing a great job. They're still putting out really great aggressive records now so it's just great. I guess it's surreal in a way, but I don't really see it like that, we kind of knew them beforehand so there's kind of that mutual respect. It's a good feeling - this whole tour there's been a lot of good atmosphere.
Doc: Then there's the other two bands on the tour - Arsis, who have been gathering a lot of attention, and then Mutiny Within - who haven't received much publicity, have you checked them out yet?
Michael: A little bit, it's not really my kind of thing. The clean and aggressive vocals, I'm kind of over that. I do like Arsis a lot. Arsis and Exodus were two bands we definitely picked, the ones we really wanted on the tour. As far as the opening band, they were recommended to us, they are a new band on Roadrunner records, they really wanted them on this tour, just to bring out a new name. They'll probably end up being totally massive because they've got that wide appeal.
Doc: Really melodic, really accessible.
Michael: Yeah, they're really great kids, really great people. From a music point of view it's not what I'm into. That's going to come out wrong in print isn't it? It's going to sound like "Michael hates them!' [Laughs].
Doc: Don't worry, I'm careful with that. Anyways, with this hefty touring, you've also got Spiritual Beggars and the Carcass reunion, you've obviously got a lot on your plate, what keeps you enthusiastic about it all without getting fatigued or bored?
Michael: I don't know, I guess I'm just really relaxed all day, try and sleep as much as I can. Don't drink too much. I'm also a vegetarian, very careful with what I eat, and have been since I was a very young kid. I don't really know, you just got to pace yourself - I know that's a cliche, you can't come out here and think you can just party your ass off, because then you can't play at the level I want to play at. For me the real high of the evening is the show, just being on stage and playing music is a great feeling.
Doc: The Carcass reunion...That started off in '07 was it?
Michael: '08. June '08 we played our first reunion show.
Doc: It seemed to take off with great success, were you expecting it to do that good or were you expecting just a one-off show?
Michael: Well first we only booked Wacken in Europe for a very nice amount of money. More people got interested so it was like "Ok, maybe we should do some more festivals..." It then turned into like 25 festivals. We did a US run, Canada as well (not up here though), Japan, New Zealand, Australia, South America. Yeah, we did a 5-6 month period brief world tour you could say. Also, South Africa.
Doc: That's a rare stop. Considering how well the reunion came together, is there any chance on you changing your mind on new material for Carcass?
Michael: I'm very open minded. I like working, I love playing guitar, it's what I do. I wake up every day thinking about music, and working on something to do with the band or the bands. The other 2 original guys have been more relaxed about working. They've got other stuff going on as well, it's been so many years, so everyone's got different lives. I'm very single-minded, I'm not boasting or anything, but I'm very driven. It's natural for me, I just wake up and start working. With the Carcass reunion you've a couple characters coming back after a whole bunch of years. Playing the old stuff was kind of easy in a way. They came over to Sweden, we spent a week revisiting everything, then they came back for another week later on and we just sort of fine-tuned everything. We put together a great show, I think it was a great representation of what Carcass was, it still sounded quite fresh I thought - it was a good show, a good tour. As far as writing new material that's a whole different thing - connecting on a creative level, but I'm open minded.
Doc: Going back to Arch Enemy, you discussed how you were worried about not having the same push from a new album for this tour, why did you decide to just revisit old songs as opposed to creating new stuff?
Michael: We haven't had time really. We've been on the road constantly. The band took a 5 month break, and in that time I went off and did the Carcass thing. So it's been pretty hectic. Now we're putting together a new record. On the road we've been sort of tracking ideas, I recorded a song last night in a hotel room in Regina. There is new music coming but we're sort of looking at the profitability, this is a business after all even though the fans don't want to hear about that. New music vs touring, touring is where it's at, that's what pays our bills. Now the majority of fans rather download albums for free, now you can go see how many downloads there are for The Root Of All Evil. It's a lot more than what the Soundscan figures are for CD sales. That's just the reality of it, I'm not one of these guys who's going to sit around being bitter about it. It's like "Ok, this is the situation", so you just change your business model a little bit. But you know, new music is very important to me and we're still writing new music. As I said, last night I wrote a new song.
Doc: With the re-recordings, were you trying to keep close to the originals or was this an attempt at modernizing the older stuff?
Michael: Well, you know it is the old songs, it's not like techno remixes or anything like that. It's not an industrial metal sound, it's still in-your-face, extreme metal. We had Andy Sneap mix it, we wanted it to sound like Arch Enemy 2009/2010. Arch Enemy now, playing the old stuff. All the old albums are still there, it's something in addition to that, we're not trying to replace that or anything. The old albums are still there and the old stuff can still be listened to. Download it or buy it or whatever, that music will never go away, we wanted it to be something that felt good to us. Now we can play a few of those songs live because people can check them out and go "whoa, these are actually pretty cool songs." A lot of people didn't like the old vocalist. The recordings were also different back then - more muddy, it just doesn't sound like Arch Enemy does now...We tried to update them a little bit.
Doc: So obviously many of those songs were recorded before you had a large worldwide following, or had any big "hits", how did you go about deciding which ones the fans would want to hear?
Michael: Oh we really didn't care, we just picked the ones we wanted to do. We're really selfish in that way, we write music for ourselves. I think Arch Enemy is in a fantastic position because we're in a sub genre of music that's totally underground in the reality of it. We make a nice living doing exactly what we wanted to do. No compromise - we own our own recordings, we're self-managed, we own our own merchandise, our own publishing. This our little business, our own little enterprise. We do it on our own terms, exactly the music we want to make, we can go out and play it all over the world, and have a great fan base. We're not the next big stars or anything like that, we don't give a fuck about that shit. There's still a lot of really cool music out there that's not in the mainstream media but still has a very large fan base. The great thing about extreme music and metal is that the fans are so loyal, we've got a great relationship with the fans. At the same time, it is a selfish thing, because if I wanted to really please everybody, I wouldn't be playing this type of music - we wouldn't have Angela screaming on top of everything, we'd be mixing it up with good-cop, bad-cop vocals.
"I'm falling through you - rawr rawr rawr" [Michael sung this in a nasally voice which was what I'm pretty sure is a fairly accurate metalcore impression]
Whatever, you know? That would reach a lot more people, but we hate that stuff. So we'd just rather do full-on, balls-out extreme stuff: Screaming, but have a lot of classic harmonies, hard rock/heavy metal guitar parts. We sort of put melody in there but it is on our terms, it is what we want to do.
Doc: With the new recordings, have you heard any feedback from Johan (the original vocalist for these songs)?
Michael: Yeah, I talk to him all the time, especially online. Because I tour so much it's like pop on chat or whatever, so I mean that's cool.
Doc: Has he expressed any thoughts on the re-recordings?
Michael: Well his thoughts on it don't really interest me in a way. He's still a very good friend of mine but we didn't make this record for him. We made it for the fans, for the new fans of the band that has grown so much since the days he was in the band. We remain really good friends, but it's not something that we talk about a lot. He didn't really contribute, he wrote one set of lyrics on the album, the rest were all my lyrics, and my music. As I said, there's full respect to his time in the band, those albums are still available - we just reissued them actually, remastered, extended booklets, more pictures and stuff like that. Johan contributed to the liner notes of those re-releases as well. So that music is still there, it's still in tact if you want to listen to that.
Doc: Another thing that's relatively new in the Arch Enemy camp is the Tyrants Of The Rising Sun live album & DVD, I have to say it's one of the most pristine sounding live albums I've heard...
Michael: [Laughs] Well, all I hear is mistakes.
Doc: Have you guys ever considered skipping the studio entirely and recording a live album of entirely fresh material?
Michael: That's a pretty good idea.
Doc: The MC5 did it with Kick Out The Jams.
Michael: Yeah, I've only got their debut. That is a pretty cool idea considering a lot of people think we sound better live than we do on CD or MP3 or whatever it is you listen to. I don't know though, I think metal fans really like studio albums. There's something about the live setting that can't be replaced. I guess that's the reason we put out a second DVD just a couple years after Live Apocalypse. With that one we had the opportunity because we had a sold out tour in Japan, one of our biggest tours ever over there, I just had a feeling we should capture this - we should film this. Even though it cost us a lot of money, because we front everything ourselves, we're our own company. So I thought "Let's spend the money", we flew a guy in from England who's going to direct it on the spot, set up the whole thing and film the extras. We got the second largest TV corporation involved - Fuji TV, and they filmed the show. It came out really nice. We've got a unique career over there, we're the biggest extreme metal band in Japan, and we have been for a long time. So it's kind of like we've got this unique career there, and people always hear about it but they don't know much about it, so we get asked a lot about it in interviews and by our fans - what's it like? Why are you popular in Japan? We thought if we made this DVD maybe that will answer some questions.
Doc: Well, that pretty much wraps things up, any last words to the MetalStorm readers?
Michael: MetalStorm readers...We're just excited to be back in Canada. Thank you to the Canadian fans for their support, if this is a Canadian website...
Doc: It's actually sort of based out of Estonia. It's an international website.
Michael: Estonia?! Yeah, alright, I guess it's a global thing. We've never been to Estonia, but we'd love to go there. Been to Finland a bunch of times, but never made it out to Estonia. How the hell did you get hooked up with an Estonian webzine? [Laughs]
Doc: Don't ask. Thanks for your time and good luck on the show tonight!
Special thanks to Kerry & Leila at RebelMusic for setting up the interview
||Posted on 17.02.2010 by Former EIC. Now just a reviewer guy.|
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