Guitarist Johan Söderberg
***Interview By The Crimson King; Live Pics By Lord of The Wasteland
At the end of the month, you guys have your new album, TWILIGHT OF TRHE THUNDER GOD, coming out. The album is following up the huge success of your last album WITH ODEN ON OUR SIDE, which you had done extensive touring for over the past 2 years. So my question is, how did the extensive touring of the past 2 years effect the writing process on the new album, and in what ways did the writing process differ from that of previous albums?
Well, we didn’t start to write this album until the last month of the previous album’s touring. It was on the headline tour we did in December last year in America when Olavi [Mikkonen, guitar] and I started to write most of the songs, I think. Of course when we got home we started to rehearse and would rehearse every day like a regular job for at least a month.
TWILIGHT OF THE THUNDER GOD – 2008
Was that substantially different from other albums? Did you have more time to actually work on writing the songs?
Yeah, but we had the same situation on the last album, WITH ODEN ON OUR SIDE, as well. We concentrated for a couple months on writing the songs. In the old days, we would only rehearse one or two evenings in the week, and it was much more spread out in that time. Now it is much more concentrated, like a regular job.
Now you guys sort of buck the standard conventions of many metal acts, in that you have not had many line-up changes over the course of the band’s history. What added element does this familiarity within the band bring to both the creative process and the recording process?
I guess you learn something with every album you make. You get more comfortable with writing songs, and recording in studios. The longer you do it, the easier it gets.
Concerning your style, many people have noted that it does not change very much from album to album, and in actuality this is one of the best qualities of the band, in that you consistently deliver a good product for your fans. I am interested in hearing how you think your style has evolved both over the years, and in relation to the new album?
Yeah, the biggest change I can see is that we are writing simpler songs nowadays than in the past. They are catchier and more easy to grab on to.
On the new album you guys have a few guest appearances on songs like “Guardians of Asgard” and “Live For The Kill”. How did these collaborations come about and did you have them in mind when you wrote the songs?
Some of them we found out when we wrote the songs, but some of them, like the Apocalyptica part in “Live For The Kill,” we came up in the studio when the song was already written. That’s basically the biggest change compared to previous albums. We needed to do something new, so we did some guest appearances.
So did you enjoy the experience of working with these different artists?
Oh yeah. It adds a new dimension to the songs
One of the other songs I wanted to ask you about is “Where Is Your God?” The track is up there with some of the heaviest stuff you have ever done. Was there a conscious effort on your part to really bring up the level of intensity on that song, or did it just come out that way in the writing process?
I don’t know, basically it just came out that way. That is one of the songs that me and Olavi wrote like 50/50 together.
Well that in itself is something you are now doing more than on previous albums, the collaborative writing, is it not?
Yeah, we started that with the last album. Usually I write two or three songs completely, he writes four or five songs completely, and then we do two or three songs together. Usually on those we do together, our styles of writing mix in a nice way, which maybe gets more brutal.
WITH ODEN ON OUR SIDE – 2006 / WRATH OF THE NORSEMEN DVD – 2006
I want to talk a bit about the multiple versions of this new release. The first question I have to ask is who came up with the idea for the bobbleheads, and what did you guys think of them?
That was one of the guys at Metal Blade who came up with the idea. It was very fun. I always kind of wanted to have a doll of myself (laughs).
(Laughs) Well, you are kind of immortalized now.
In regards to the other formats that the album is being released, this really is a value-added product in that you not only have the new album, but also a live DVD, and a corresponding live CD in some editions. Talk a little bit about the idea behind doing this, and do you feel that putting out a product like this is necessary given the current state of the record industry?
Yeah, I think this is a good way to make people buy the album rather than downloading it. But also, it’s like, we want to give a very nice package for a nice price to the fans. It is more valuable, but it also much more fun to have this nice package rather than have it on the computer with no cover or anything.
Well I absolutely have to agree with you there.
It’s just that this new digi-book is very nice looking. I was amazed when I saw it myself.
In the bobblehead edition, you are also putting a comic book adaptation in with it. Was that something that was your idea or the label’s idea? What was the thought process behind that, because I think the story in that book has a lot to do with the title track from the album right?
Yeah, yeah. It was the record label’s idea to make a comic for promotion on the album. But then we decided which song it would be and the story behind it. It’s basically the title track in a comic book format. Same story as the title track but with pictures to it.
FATE OF NORNS – 2005 / VERSUS THE WORLD – 2002
You always hear bands talk about the ups and downs of writing and recording a new album. For you personally, what was your favorite moment in the process of doing this new record?
I think it was when we wrote the song “Guardians of Asgard”. That one came together very smoothly in the rehearsal place, like we used to do in the old days when everyone contributed small parts to the song, instead of me or Olavi sitting at home and making a song almost complete, and then take it to the rehearsal place and show it to the guys. This song was really like in the old days, you know, everyone throwing ideas in and it was very fun to write.
So that one was more of a collaborative endeavor than say any of the other tracks on the album?
Yeah, yeah definitely.
Now the first video for the title track just went live on your Myspace page. The scope of that video seems to be the biggest you guys have attempted to this point. First off, what was the experience of doing that video actually like for you?
It was very fun. I don’t know if you’ve heard about these recreation markets. Lots of people go to the Viking village and have lots of battles and stuff, like a festival for people who are into this reenactment fighting. So it was much like going to one of those as a spectator and then we jumped in there and recorded a video.
Can you talk a little bit about the creative force that went into your decision to go in this conceptual direction with the video?
We felt that it was too hard to make it like the story in the song, or like the comic book. That is kind of too hard to make the video with this big snake and Thor and stuff like that. We felt like, let’s just do something that fits the music well and not pay too much attention to the lyrics in the song. Like, let’s just have lots of brutal fighting that goes good with the music.
Can your fans expect to see more videos from this album, and have you decided which songs they are going to be for?
The plan is, I think, we are going to do another video, but we haven’t decided on any song yet, or any ideas behind it. But yeah, we are going to do another.
Let’s talk about the tour a bit. What can fans heading out to see you this time around expect to see from this show?
I think we are going to do a very nice mix of songs from both the old albums and, of course, the new album. We are going to try to have a bigger production, with more lights and stuff, then we have had before in the States. It will be a good show.
I have seen you guys live a bunch of times. Personally I have always enjoyed that moment during the show where you guys take a pause, bring out the drinking horns, and salute the fans. Do you remember when and how it got started, and whose idea it was to do it?
I don’t really remember whose idea it was and how that came about. I think from the beginning it was only Johan [Hegg, vocals] who had the drinking horn, and then sometime we just decided lets all buy a horn and do the toast. I don’t know who came up with the idea but we always found it fun to do.
In regards to the set-lists, how exactly do guys go about picking and choosing which songs will make the live set?
It’s always very hard job to decide what songs you are going to play on the tour. This time we tried to not pick too many songs we played on the last U.S. tour. We skipped a lot of songs we played on that tour and exchanged them for songs we have not played in a very long time. And then we have the new songs, and of course the classics that we always have to play, like “Death In Fire,” “The Pursuit of Vikings,” “Runes To My Memory,” and “Cry of The Blackbirds.”
Do you guys have a plan to mix up the set-list from night to night, or do you put the set list together and then just kind of stick to it?
Usually we decide before we go on the tour and then just kind of stick to that. But usually before we go on the tour we rehearse two or three extra songs. So if we feel like, after two or three shows, this song is not working too good then we change to a different song. But usually we do try to stay to the same set-list every night.
Final question regarding set-lists. This may sound a bit funny, but I received numerous requests from the guys at our site to plead with you to put “Metalwrath” in the set-list this time around. So I am just going to play messenger here and see if there is any chance we can toss a little influence into the mix here.
(Laughs) I don’t know. I don’t want to disappoint anybody. We have decided the set, but I am not going to tell you if it is in there or not (laughs). Tell them they are just going to have to come and see for themselves (laughs).
THE CRUSHER – 2001 / THE AVENGER – 1999
(Laughs). Ok fair enough. Now after the U.S. tour, you guys head back to Europe and jump on the Unholy Alliance Tour with Slayer. What does it mean to you to be playing with a legendary band like that, and what, if anything, do you think you can learn, or take, from that experience of touring with those guys?
Yeah, you know it’s very, very cool to be able to tour with them. The biggest, the coolest thing on that tour is going to be when we play in Stockholm in this ice hockey arena. It’s where I went when I was a kid to see the old great bands like Iron Maiden and Accept and Motley Crue. It’s like, when I was a kid that was my dream to play in that place, and now we are going to play there. It’s fucking awesome.
Cool. So this will be your first time playing there?
ONCE SENT FROM THE GOLDEN HALL – 1998 / SORROW THROUGHOUT THE NINE WORLDS – 1996
Awesome. Now probably the biggest buzz I have heard around the shows you are doing this year, falls around the Bloodshed shows that you guys are doing in December, where you are taking the original four classic albums, and playing each one in its entirety on four different nights. What led to the decision to do this at this point?
Yeah, we always talked about this. Like you said, those guys who wanted you to tell me they want to hear “Metalwrath,” we have lots of the old fans who always want to hear the old songs. We thought maybe we were going to do some shows where we only played the old songs, but now we came about this idea to play the first four albums back to back in four days like you said. It basically to give the old fans what they have been asking for, for a long time. So with those guys you have to tell them they have to fly over there if they want to hear “Metalwrath” (laughs).
(Laughs) Oh, so I guess that means that it isn’t in the set for the U.S. then?
(Laughs) Well it’s definitely on the set list that month, on the night we do THE AVENGER (laughs).
Well for those guys who can’t get over there, are there any plans to record the shows for a possible DVD or live CD release?
Yeah, I think we are going to record them. Then the “Metalwrath” guys can buy the DVD at least (laughs).
(Laughs) Looking back on the history of the band, you guys have been consistently gaining fans. With each release, you are getting bigger and bigger, each tour you are gaining more and more fans. If there is one thing that you can center on that has attributed to this growth, what would it be?
I think our music is very catchy and easy to grab on to. As we do more tours, where new audiences come and see us then, it’s easy to catch on to us. If you hadn’t heard us before, and you go to a show where we play, opening up for a band, I am pretty sure most people who like metal music should like our kind of music because it is easy music.
Cool. Last question here, and it is kind of a general one. I am wondering what you see the future holding for the band, and where you see the band, say maybe five or ten years down the road from now?
I think we are going to keep doing what we always have done and we are going to keep growing all the time. I think we are going to keep doing this as long as we think we are still accomplishing a new goal. So yeah, we are going to continue.
Thanks to Sarah at Metal Blade Records for setting up the interview.
AMON AMARTH–Official Site