OPETH Interview with Fredrik Åkesson and Mikael Åkerfeldt
Interview and live pics by Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Frederik after Opeth’s 20th anniversary show in New York City. While I was told I’d only be seeing Frederik, Martin was also in the room hanging out, and a couple minutes in, Mikael walked in to answer some questions too!
Kyle Moore: I’m here with Frederik and Martin from Opeth, and I only have a few minutes with them so I’ll keep this quick. What prompted you guys to do this special 20th anniversary tour?
Fredrik Åkesson: Well it was as good idea because, there was talk about doing a Blackwater Park show, and then also Mike said “well it’s 20 years anniversary so we should do something special. Let play these long, a few select shows for the die-hard fans. I don’t think it was meant in this big way from the beginning, but uh, that’s just the way it turned out. Demand, there was huge demand.
Is it really exciting that you guys can fill a 3000 seat theater now, 20 years into your career?
FA: Absolutely. I’ve only been in the band for 3 years ya know, since I joined the band, in a way the popularity has increased even more, in a way. Not because of me, I’m not saying that, but you can see the last time we played here, it was with Dream Theater, we played two days but…dunno, it’s fantastic. Maybe its because we do these few shows, it draws more people of course people travel farther to see these shows.
KM: So ordinarily, you’d be doing slightly smaller venues?
FA: Yeah, I think around a couple thousand here in New York at least.
You guys have kind of reached an artistic and commercial pinnacle you’re your newest album WATERSHED. Now you have this song “The Throat of Winter” which is now on a video game soundtrack. What does this mean for the future of Opeth, now that you have reached this whole other audience of people?
FA: [Looking to Mikael] Maybe you wanna answer that one…It’s cool to be in video game, I think the songs very different than Mike wrote. I mean, of course it makes more people to know about the band, that’s good.
What about the Spanish guitar kind of outro that you…was that you playing, at the end?
What inspired that, how did that fit into the song?
FA: Mikaels’ riff inspired it, that’s beneath that solo. It was a Flamenco-ish type of riff, we just goofed around at Mikael’s house a bit with it, it felt cool to play more a bit like Al DeMiola style on it, on that particular part.
I know you mentioned that you’ve got the big new album that you guys are working on. What can we expect to hear, and when can we expect to hear it?
FA: Well I think what you can expect to hear is maybe a bit early, I only heard a little bit that Mikael has recorded back at his house, and it sounded very very cool, I think, very dark.
So would this be a transition away from what you guys were doing with Watershed, or even a deeper movement into that sound.
Mikael Åkerfeldt: Uh, don’t know yet! There’s a…I played a demo version, it’s a 10 minute demo now. He hasn’t heard all of it, by the time he heard it was like…
MA: But, there was some kind of traditional metal riffs that were good riffs, I think. But I think we’re gonna take those out, cuz they’re too traditional sounding. I think we wanna do something…different, you know? There was one riff I wrote that kinda set the tone for this song and I think, ultimately for the album, in a way, which was very different from anything we’ve done before. It’s just a riff, I guess, but it was really….something about it that just…feels like THAT’S what we should do, ya know what I mean?
You guys have never really written traditional metal though, so…
MA: You know, like…these riffs were good riffs and we could easily make Opeth songs out of it, but maybe it’s time to just…tweak out sound a little bit and go into new territories somewhat. I can’t say what the end result is gonna be for the whole album but for this song at least, I want it to be…different.
No album you’ve ever done has ever sounded the same…
MA: I don’t think so either, but they’ve been, I dunno…they’ve been…metal records. It’s really hard to explain, ya know it’s just that…this song I have higher aspirations than making it just a good Opeth song. I want it to set the tone, push us forward a little bit, as I said, go into new territories.
Mike, you made a joke at a show I was at some years ago saying something a long the lines of “we can’t shred for crap. If we could, we’d be rich.”
MA: We can now!
That’s what I was gonna say…
Now you have Frederik, who can certainly shred. What else, Frederik, do you thin that you bring to Opeth’s table, not just because you have this very virtuosic, technical guitar ability…you can also sing too! I didn’t know you did backing vocals, but that was really cool…
FA: That’s maybe one thing [laughs] Actually it’s up to the listener to…tell that. I feel that I have a hard time talking about…myself, praise myself in a way. It’s up to the listener.
MA: …I can tell that we can…one of the things is actually his vocals. Now we finally can do, because with Per [Wilberg] singing too we can do some of those intricate vocal arrangements that we’ve done on past records that we’ve never been able to do before. Now we can perform…those types of parts live as well. But Frederik obviously…it’s a lot with his guitar playing that really fits the band. Me and him as a rhythm player are tight to the point like where our engineer, who did the WATERSHED record, he wanted like one of us to record the rhythms, because that’s generally how most metal bands do it these days to make it really tight. But I insisted that both of us play the rhythm parts, and he was…for me it’s just normal, like you have two guitars…two guitar players in the band, are supposed to be able to play the parts tight together, but in the studio that’s how most metal bands do but we just…shared all the guitar duties and it was, I think it added a nice…richer type of sound actually to the guitar playing.
But there’s so many things about his guitar playing that…which is the reason why he’s in the band. Great solo, lead guitar playing, he’s a bluesy, nice feel type of player which he’s never been able to showcase in his previous bands I think, as much anyways, ya know? And great vocalist, great songwriter, and he’s very driven, which is nice. Playing with Peter in the last couple years was…he didn’t really contribute that much. To have Frederik come in and just…take charge was…refreshing.
I’ll do one more question and let you guys go, I’m sure y’all are tired. What is next for you guys, not just in terms of the new album? You guys kind of have unparalleled and unprecedented recognition, popularity, artistic…what’s the word I’m looking for…respect! Where else do you want to go? You guys are kind of at the top…
MA: I dunno. We’ve been around 20 years, ya know its…many of our dreams, so to speak, have been fulfilled. Everything for the last 5 years has been a bonus for us, if you know what I mean. But we still are quite excited of what we could do musically. We have a new lineup here that I think is great. With every lineup change that we’ve had we’ve always felt a bit rejuvenated. And that’s certainly the case now. This is the first album with Frederik, first album for Axe [Martin Axenrot.] We can probably do a few more good records and tours until it’s over, I think, but I don’t know what our goals would be so…just have a good time and ROCK!
KM: Rocking sounds good enough for me. Alright guys, thank you so much, I really appreciate your time. I had a wonderful time at your show, and I am looking forward to my 7th’s Opeth concert, whenever that would be!