Sabaton Interview with vocalist Joakim Brodén, Keyboardist Daniel Mÿhr, Guitarist Oskar Montelius
By Carlos M. Llanas
Sabaton is amongst the most intriguing and promising power metal bands around. They travel a different path than your normal “Slaying Dragons, fucking wenches, and drinking beer” power metal band. That’s what sets them aside from the “norm”. Let’s face it…have any of you ever seen a fucking dragon? I didn’t think so. They take a more realistic approach to the music…and that approach is war, perseverance, nations under turmoil, and the remembrance of a fallen soldier. From the Cliffs of Gallipoli, to the skies of the isles, Sabaton covers it all with remarkable accuracy, outstanding musicianship, and one hell of a live show to boot. I had a chance to talk to the friendly Swedes about their plans for the future, their race against time, their first headlining show in the U.S, Pär Sundström’s health, and their temporary replacement Emil Wigelius. Here is what they had to say!
The last time I saw you guys here in Texas was in San Antonio with Accept. Unfortunately, you guys only played a few songs due to a really tight schedule. Tonight, however, you are headlining the show! How does it feel to finally play a full set of your greatest songs for the first time as a headliner here in the U.S?
Joakim: It’s fun of course! We’ve been the supporting slot for about eighteen shows, so it’s going to be good to be able to play a longer set. It’s a shame that Pär had to leave the tour because his knee is fucked up, but they are patching him up as we speak. Emil Wigelius is the jack of all trades though! He’s done everything from bass tech to merchandise. He’s learn ten songs or more, and I will also be playing bass for a few songs as-well!
How long did it take him to learn these songs?
Joakim: About two days for a support set of seven songs.
Are you serious? That’s great.
Joakim: He’s a good bass player! Trust me, he’s heard the songs many times before while he was selling merch haha.
Mÿhr: Yeah he knows them well. He’s been working with us for three years more or less.
Joakim: He’s been with us for 200+ shows. So he knows when to play and when not to play. All we had to teach him is WHERE to play. He already knew where all the stops were and all that. Song’s like “Primo Victoria” are very easy to play; “Cliffs of Gallipoli” is a bitch though.
Mÿhr: We play “Cliffs of Gallipoli” in a different style live. It’s not as chopped up as it is on the album. It floats around more; we change the tempos a lot. He had a fun time playing it for the first time last night because he had been practicing with the album version. He was like “Woah you guys are slowing down….now you’re going faster…whats going on!?” haha
I read that the gig in San Antonio tomorrow was going to be a free show. Whats up with that?
Joakim: I don’t know, but I heard the same. As far as I know, the city is supporting the live music scene, so they do one free show a month.
Does that affect you guys in anyway?
Joakim: No. It’s the same thing. We go on stage and we rock our asses off and hope that the crowd does as-well.
You recently announced that you are releasing a new album in 2012 properly titled “Kings of War”. When will you guys start recording this album?
Joakim: The 2nd of January. We are writing on tour for the first time. Lyrics only though. Most of the music is written already; not everything though. There is still some arranging to do. Recently, I’ve been sitting down and turning on my iPad to write lyrics or do research, because I can get on the internet and everything I need is there.
So about how much do you have completed for the new album?
Joakim: Lyrics not much at all. When it comes to the music it is well over 50% completed.
Are you going to be trying anything different with this album or is it going to be the same process as “Coat of Arms”? Maybe a change in producer?
Joakim: Well, we will be working with Peter Tägtgren from start to finish for the first time ever. He mixed “Art of War” and did the drums for “Coat of Arms”, but we’ve never worked with him from the beginning to the end. The album is more related to “Art of War” than “Call to Arms” since it is going to be a concept album.
Can we look forward to another world tour to support “Kings of War”? And bring it back to the U.S. hopefully?
Joakim: Oh yes! The tour will start at the end of May in 2012 and It will go on till August or September in 2013.
Let’s talk a little bit about Pär. So what actually happened to him that he had to leave home and unable to finish the tour?
Joakim: His knees hurt so bad he could hardly walk. We were scared that it was something serious, but thankfully it was nothing too bad. They are patching him up as we speak and he will be back after this tour.
How bad did it affect you not having him around during these shows?
Joakim: It’s like I told Pär. We are still kicking ass, but we are a little less effective at it hahaha! We miss him. Except for the first two nights it hasn’t felt strange at all. Every time we do something fun or when we are joking around in the tour bus we look around and Pär is not there, and it is hard because we’ve been playing together for eleven and a half years.
This is the first time that he has ever missed a show right?
Joakim: Yes! Actually Oskar is the only one now that has never missed a show!
Oh really! How do you feel about that Oskar?
Oskar: GREAT! haha!
Mÿhr: Don’t worry we’ll make him. We are going to book a secret show somewhere and not tell him haha!
Joamim: I come in second. I’ve only missed one show once.
Mÿhr: I missed a tour =(
You guys are playing “Rockstad: Falun” in 2012. I read that the festival was originally supposed to be a special show for Sabaton. Can you give us a little history on the festival?
Joakim: It started in 2008 as a release party for the “Art of War” album.
Mÿhr: It was only supposed be a one time thing.
Joakim: We named it “Rockstad: Falun” which means rock city and Falun is the city where we are from. We just thought we would have a fun release party, so we reserved a hall that had 1,400 seats and it sold out. So we thought, “Hey let’s do it again next year!” and it became a yearly thing. Also, it is our hometown show so this year we had U.D.O, Chris Boltendahl, Van Canto, and Frédéric Leclercq from Dragonforce join us so it was fun. When it comes to stage production and pyro, we push the big nuclear button for “Rockstad: Falun”.
Your live album “World War Live: Battle for the Baltic Sea” came in at #7 in Poland its first week of release, #26 in Germany and Sweden, and #62 in Switzerland. Why do you think it reach so high in Poland as opposed to the other countries?
Joakim: I don’t know about Sweden. We hate the distributor there. That is our lowest chart position in Sweden ever. We have never charted lower than what we did in 2005 with “Primo Victoria”. I don’t know what the fuck they were up to in Sweden to be honest, but we will not work with the same people there again…ever. It is not O.K seeing that we are one of the best metal bands in Sweden. Every album we have done since 2005 has charted top 10. We switch distributors and all of the sudden we have charted #26. As for the distributors in Poland, they have been working with Sabaton for the second time so they learned the ropes a bit. #26 is O.K for a live album in Germany I guess. Regular studio albums usually get better chart positions.
Mÿhr: Poland is just Poland! It is expected to get a good reaction from fans and the crowds.
Do you think that songs like “Uprising”, “40-1”, and other songs with really strong military history helped you reach that position?
Mÿhr: Oh yeah! Absolutely.
Joakim: Hell yes. Without songs like “Uprising” and “40-1” we would not be charting in Poland. We would not be playing in front of 3,500 people in Warsaw.
I would love to see that show in Poland.
Joakim: That was special. We did a show on the 7th of September on the battlefield where the “Battle of Wizna” actually happened. It was the battle that “40-1” was written about. There was 10,000 Polish people there and after midnight it was the 8th of September, so It was the day that It actually happened 70 years later. We played “40-1” all hell broke loose! Dude it was crazy. The crash barriers gave away and there was 40 or 50 Polish military personnel holding the crash barriers!
I bet it was a great feeling to see the Polish fans go crazy!
Joakim: In a sense yes! but when you see that happening you get worried that people are going to get hurt, and we don’t want that to happen.
You guys just finished the ten date “Power of Metal” tour with Grave Digger, Skullfist and Powerwolf. How was it overall and was this your first time playing with Grave Digger?
Mÿhr: No actually. We had opened up for them and Therion in 2007. It felt a little strange now, because the tables have turned and now we were headlining and Grave Digger were opening up for us.
Joakim: The tour was great! All of the bands had a lot of fans and the crowd reaction was fantastic.
Let’s talk a little bit about the cruise. It sold out recently!
Mÿhr: It’s great! It is cool because it is our cruise and we get to bring all of the bands that we want to see!
You guys are doing a first ever double show during the cruise. What made you decide to do that?
Joakim: Well, we didn’t want to repeat the same show over and over again. A huge percent of the people that go on the Sabaton cruise are hardcore Sabaton fans. They will see three or four shows when we tour. We just want to make sure that we have something special, not only because it is our cruise, but to do something different. We noticed that on the last cruise, you could recognize everyone in the first three rows even though you didn’t know their names haha. So we would hate to give them the same thing over and over.
Hopefully they don’t throw you in the pool this time haha.
Joakim: There is no pool on this one hahaha!
Mÿhr: It would be funny if they threw you in the water though!
Joakim: Oh no it would not! It is fucking freezing!
You did a guest appearance with Van Canto on a version of “Primo Victoria” for their new album. How did that come about? It is not very often that you get asked to sing for five other singers and a drummer.
Joakim: It actually started when we asked them to join us on-stage at “Rockstad: Falun” last year. We asked them to do back-up vocals for the encore songs. Between two songs the lights go out, so it is pitched black, and you hear “Through the gates of hell….as we make our way to heaven” and it wasn’t me singing. The lights go on and Sabaton is gone and only Van Canto was on-stage singing “Primo Victoria”. While we are talking about this they said “Yeah we can do it no problem…on one condition. We get to cover the song for the new album and you get to sing as a guest with us” and I said “Sure! Sounds easy! No problem!”
A few months ago you guys were the main supporting act for the metal gods themselves…Judas Priest! From what I read and the videos I saw it was a race against time just to get to the venue! You guys looked really nervous.
Joakim: Specially Oskar! Judas Priest are HIS gods!
At any moment did you ever think “Fuck..we are not going to make it.”
Mÿhr: The whole time haha.
Joakim: We heard about the possibility about there being a flight strike; they closed the airports. So we thought “We can make it”, because we have two drivers, so the bus would be rolling at all times. Once we were at the point of no return, they canceled the fucking strike. So we have four hours to get to a ship that will depart in 3 1/2 hours…we actually made it with 15 minutes to spare and we start to think “We made it!”…until we get to Germany where there is a lot of construction. It took us one hour to go three miles. Out of pure luck, somebody was following our progress on the internet. This person owned a helicopter, so we get a call and they tell us “If you pay the landing fee to Berlin or the arena where you are playing I can take you”. We had to do it man it is Judas Priest and we couldn’t let all of our fans down. Also, we thought “Hmm…landing at the arena would be pretty cool.” Before we could make a decision we got a call from the road authorities in Germany and they told us that the road to Berlin should be clear…so we just took the bus. We arrived 40 minutes before opening. Lets just say that it was the quickest set up we’ve ever done with that kind of production hahaha.
Oskar what did you think about Ritchie Faulkner on guitar for Judas Priest?
Oskar: I was surprised! I think he did really good. He looked good on stage and fit right in with the rest of the guys. He is a really good guitar player.
Yeah I just saw them last night and he looked very natural.
Oskar: yeah like if he had been in the band for ages.
Aside from the new album, what is next on the agenda?
Joakim: Album, touring, album, touring. There is nothing else we want to do really. I think we will keep going, but in 2013 we want to take a break. Not a two year break or something like that. More like two months off to relax and stuff like that. Other than that, I don’t feel a need for a vacation. We actually get paid to go all over the world and play heavy metal and drink beers.
Mÿhr: It could have been worse haha!
I want to thank you guys for taking the time to sit down with metal-rules.com and talking metal with us. Any words for the fans reading at home?
Joakim: You know I get asked that question a lot, and I always fuck it up. I never have a good answer. Do you have anything?
Mÿhr: No I hate that question haha. That question takes me the longest to answer!
OK lets change it up then. What is your favorite quote?
Joakim: Mine is from General Swartzkoff who lead the desert storm operation. He said “Any soldier worth his salt should be anti-war, yet there are things still worth fighting for.”
Mÿhr: “Fuck it. Drink beer”
Good enough for me. Thanks guys!