Avatar – Vocalist Johannes Eckerström
By Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Leading a merry dance between melody-strong structure and darker vocals, rather than crushing
Toes, Avatar’s Black Waltz has all the right moves. Getting beneath the album psyche vocalist Johannes Eckerström tells how only a little coaxing was required to bring out the shady side…
So it seems new album Black Waltz is hitting US shelves on February 14th, or Valentine’s Day, was this a conscious decision?
Johannes Eckerström – Not from our side. We just wanted to get it out as close as possible to the European release. It also happens to be drummer John’s birthday though, so heavy partying will ensue.
It’s not your typical hearts-and-flowers sort of present is it?
Johannes – Since we’re not doing this out of guilt or in order to get laid, no.
I understand though the album is already out in Europe – have you had any feedback yet?
Johannes – Hell yeah! It’s going swell! Here in Sweden we’ve reached the highest position in the charts in the band’s history and internationally our plays on Spotify and similar places have multiplied many times over. Got some awesome reviews covering our backs too, so it seems to be a big eye opener to many.
The album was accompanied by a making of video – but what I found a nice touch about this was the amount of effort that was put into maintaining the character of the band – why did you choose to do so?
Johannes – It was the next step to take. We see every aspect of the band as parts on the same painting. What we present is a complete work of art, not just including the songs and album cover. We bring the total package. It’s simply better rock’n’roll, according to us, to do so.
In the video it says that jamming and improvisation became a key part of the writing process – how much of this was carried through to the final cut?
Johannes – We’re usually extremely prepared when we enter the studio, knowing exactly what to do with every part of the songs. This time, on the other hand, a couple of the tunes we’re more sketch-like when we started recording. A cool riff here, a nice little melody there and so on. We brought so much confidence in our ability and in the concept as whole that we trusted ourselves to create some magic on the spot this time. It was totally worth it and the result can be heard on tracks like Let it burn, Smells like a freakshow and Use your tongue, mainly in the structure and in the drum takes.
The statement ‘sometimes we played the music, but mostly it played us…’ – can you elaborate? It sounds as though it was a very organic process.
Johannes – Once we figured out where we wanted to go with this album, it just happened. We didn’t really need to try to make sense out of anything. Instead, we let the songs become what they needed to be, without forcing into something else. We let brutal be brutal, weird be weird and awesome be awesome. It was all about confidence.
In the past you’ve had songs sparked by game characters, but what was the inspiration behind Black Waltz?
Johannes – I’ve gotten back to being very personal again, without really slapping my life story in anyone’s face. The main inspiration has been whatever the music has made me envision and feel. I didn’t need to look around for ideas for the lyrics. The influences found me. I guess that the result therefore is very psychological and common themes are misuse of power and self-destruction.
The accompanying video to ‘Black Waltz’ is very visual, but in a dark way – what were you hoping to capture here?
Johannes – The song has this dark circus feel to it in itself and meeting Bryce from Hellzapoppin gave us the golden opportunity to visualise it in a very cool way. As the lyrics in a way is about exploring ones mind it felt really fitting to have some great artists explore what they could do with their bodies.
Did you attempt any of the crazy stunts yourselves?
Johannes – Bryce was busy teaching the girls on the set, so I never had the chance. Hopefully I’ve grown enough balls the next time I meet him to learn a couple of them.
I believe this year holds some tour possibilities for the band – anything you can share with us?
Johannes – Only that it’s our top priority and we’re working on making a US-tour happen day and night. We’ll come as fast as we can. It’s a promise.
Will you be looking to try and translate the imagery of the album onstage?
Johannes – Totally. Avatar is an audiovisual band and we’ve got all kinds sweets for hungry eyes and ears. It will be explosive.
Finally, if you could dance the Black Waltz with anyone, who would it be?
Johannes – Good question. If you by that mean getting in to someone’s mind and explore his or her hidden rooms, I’d go for Lindsay Lohan. We’re born the same year on the same day and lately I’ve been very curious about what makes her tick and not. My obsession is mild and I don’t think I’ll become a stalker since she hasn’t done anything half decent since parent trap, but still I’m fascinated.
Johannes – Thank you!
Interviews by mail are usually not this interesting and fun to answer.