Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Mikael Akerfeldt
Interview by Waspman

Live Photos by Mark Coatsworth of jollyrogerinc.com

The last time Opeth came through Toronto I had the chance to speak with Mikael Akerfeldt about many different things in the realm of Opeth. This time, the band's third stop in Toronto in the last two years, we chatted about Deliverance, Damnation, the new headlining tour, and lots of other Opeth-related goodies.


Well, I guess I'll get started by asking you about the tour. How's it been going so far?

It's been going great! We've broken percentage every time out, and we've had a bunch of sellouts so far.



Has there been a particular highlight thus far?

Well, they've all been great shows and the fans of been great, but I'd say Worcester was especially awesome. The venue was huge, and it was packed. The fans were just crazy, it was awesome.



How does it feel to be on tour with a legendary band like Paradise Lost? Have you had much of a chance to hang out with those guys at all?

Oh yeah, we share the tour bus with them, so we see them all the time. We party with them, they're great guys. We're mates with them now. It's a real honour to be touring with them. They're a band that I grew up listening to, so it's a thrill to have them open up for us on the tour.



This is your second full tour of North America, and your second stop through Toronto. You're becoming a North American band! (laughs)

(laughs) Yeah! We've actually toured more over here than in Europe! We were together for years before we ever played our first show back home. It's fun touring over here.



Will you, or have you, played any material from the upcoming DAMNATION album on this tour?

No, no. We're going to be keeping those songs a secret until the album is out. I can't wait to play them though! We're going to be doing a lot of touring in the next year, so we'll definitely get the chance to get those songs out on the road.



How has the DELVERIANCE material gone over so far?

Great, the fans seem to really be getting into it, and like hearing the songs live.



From reading about the new album on the Internet, it seems that the song "Deliverance" is really becoming something of a fan favorite.

Oh yeah, for sure. We see it too, especially live. Most fans seem to really be into the last outro riff of that song.



Is there a chance that you'll come out with a live album? The last time we spoke you weren't sure you liked the idea.

No, I don't think we'll do one. I just don't like live albums, I find them boring. We're kind of planning a live DVD, but I'm not all that interested in it. The company wants to do it, and we will, but like I say, I find them boring.



Also, the last time we spoke you mentioned that you were planning a video release. What is the status of that, or is the live DVD taking the place of that?

Yeah, that'll be the live DVD. We did do a video for "Harvest" for the reissue of BLACKWATER PARK. It was a kind of documentary video, done by a friend of ours who filmed a bunch of in studio and backstage stuff. It's kind of like "Nothing Else Matters" in that way.



Cool. I recall you mentioning that you had that footage before. Now, you've never done a video before this, do you think you'll get a chance to make any more in the future?

Well, we'll see! It all depends on the company and if we've got time. If we do, it probably won't be for another year or two.



Moving to your great new album, DELIVERANCE was initially planned to be a double release. What prompted the switch to releasing two albums?

Well, the plan was actually to have two releases, but to release them at the same time. The record company made the decision to release them at different times. I don't mind really, because this gives the fans, and us, a chance to digest DELIVERANCE before getting into DAMNATION. I can't wait for it to come out! (laughs)



Me neither! (laughs) DELIVERANCE is clearly your heaviest, angriest release to date. Was there anything that inspired you to create such a vicious recording?

No, not really. Basically it was just me and what I've been listening to lately. I've really been into a new Swedish band Patos lately. They've just released they're debut album, but it kicks ass! Also, I'm a collector, and I'm always buying old stuff on Ebay. The new Porcupine Tree is amazing too. Plus I'm always listening to the classic death metal stuff, old Morbid Angel and things. We stole a bit from Morbid Angel for this album. (laughs)



(laughs) In a way, I see DELIVERANCE as a bridge between your ORCHID era and your more recent releases like STILL LIFE, in that it's heavy and immediate like your newer stuff, but also kind of goes back to the much longer song structures of your older material. How do you view the album?

That's tough for me to say actually. I guess it is like that. There wasn't a real conscious decision to make the album that way, but...yeah, it's tough for me to say because I'm so involved with it.



Fair enough. On BLACKWATER PARK you had the opportunity to work with not only Steven Wilson, but also Fredrik Nordstrom. Now, on this album, you got to add Andy Sneap into the mix. How did you manage to bring all three of these great producers together for this project?

Well, it wasn't too hard actually. Steven was really the only actual producer on the album. Fredrik was always in the studio, but he was mostly just in the mixing booth and doing the technical stuff. As far as Andy goes, we just sent the album to him for mixing once it was done, so he wasn't really involved creatively. We were just lucky to have everyone available.



Anyone who has read your website knows how you met with Steven Wilson, and may have also seen that you wrote how you wished he were not in another band. Would the door be open to have Steven join Opeth on a full-time basis if possible?

Um...probably not. Steven is a great, talented guy, and a good friend, but I don't think he'd fit in Opeth. We like the current Opeth lineup, it's stable and we all know how to work together so I don't think that we want to tamper with it. Plus, I like Porcupine Tree's music too much to have them break up or anything! Actually, Steven and I are planning to work together on a project sometime in the future.



Have you had a chance to sit down and work on any songs with him as yet?

Not really, not yet. We haven't done anything for the project because we've both been so busy lately. I think it would be best if we wrote songs separately, and then brought all of our ideas together in the studio. That would be the ideal way for me. There are a couple of songs left over from Porcupine Tree's latest sessions that got left out because the other guys in the band didn't really like them, so we might use a couple of those. I've heard one of the songs and it's really great.



Going back to your website for a minute, it is one of the best band websites that I've seen, and you personally put a lot of effort into it. Is there someone who runs the site for you? How important is the website to the band?

Yeah, it's great. The one who runs it is actually my girlfriend. I never told anyone that before, because I wanted the website to come across as unbiased as possible, but I just don't care anymore. (laughs) She takes care of the whole thing for us. As far as the importance of it goes, I think it's very important! I'd say that our name and popularity surged after the website went up. I think the website is a great way to help get out name out there and for the fans to quickly learn about us, and other great bands.



What made you switch from the shrill vocals of ORCHID and MORNIGRISE to the more guttural growls of the more recent albums?

Yeah, that was a conscious decision. To me the vocals sounded weak, and I didn't like that. I wanted to have vocals that sounded powerful, not weak. I also made the choice to make Opeth into a more death metal band, rather than black metal-ish.



Can you predict where the Opeth musical path will take you next?

No, I can't really. There's not writing planned or done at this point, and we'll be touring for the next year to year and a half.



Do you think you'll get a chance to write while you're on the road?

No, probably not. I tend not to write while I'm on tour, I just don't have the inspiration when I'm out there. There's too much to do on tour as well! Partying, hanging out, talking to fans, doing interviews. This tour, there's also too many people on the bus with us and the Paradise Lost guys. Plus, I've got to find time to get married this year too! I really don't think I'm going to have any time to write this year at all.



Yet Opeth albums seem to come out on a fairly steady year and a half basis, and now you're going to have two albums in less than a year. How do you manage to come up with such complex material in so short a time?

Well, I'm really lazy, so what I do is give myself a deadline. I book the studio time as a reminder. That way I force myself to sit down in really write. Of course, I'm still usually not done by the time we get in the studio anyway. (laughs)



(laughs) Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to leave?

No, I don't have any other news really. I'm just excited to be out on tour and can't wait for DAMNATION to come out! It's the best Opeth album ever, extremely melodic, mellow, acoustic. We're really proud of it.


How do you think the fans will react to DAMNATION? It seems to me that Opeth is in the unique position to have a broad enough fanbase that a mellow album will still be as popular as your heavy stuff.

Yeah, I think so. Really though, I honestly don't care how well it sells. I'm proud of it. Sure, I think that some will love it, some will think it's too pussy sounding.

The closed-minded ones.

Yeah, exactly. I'll still think that it's the best album we've done.



Well, I'll be waiting impatiently for it! Anyway, that's all I had to ask you, so thanks for taking the time to do this.

You're welcome! Thank you!



Good luck with the show tonight!


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