Arch Enemy Interview
with Michael Amott and Alissa White-Gluz
Interview by Öna Helveti
Photos by Ashlinn Nash
We join Alissa White-Gluz and Micheal Amott in the Century Media Records offices in Camden Town, right by the Camden Lock in London, UK, and just a bridge away from arguably the most frequented metal bar in the area. The setting is pleasantly metal on a tranquil spring afternoon.
Arch Enemy has received a lot of publicity lately, following the announcement in March that Angela Gossow will be stepping down as a vocalist. Plus their new album, War Eternal (2014), is on its way out. We are curious to find out more.
So you have a new album coming in June, would like to tell us more about it, what are the running themes of War Eternal?
Michael: It’s not to be taken literally, it’s not about war it’s more about…
Alissa: I think that the title of the album – War Eternal – went paired with the album art. It paints a very good picture of what most of the lyrics will send you around and what theme of the album is. Michael and I happened to write from similar inspirations even though we have very congesting styles of writing lyrics. If you look at the artwork and you think of war eternal, it’s almost like this cyclical thing that happens were from the second year you’re born, you are dying. You are born into the hands of Death and everyone wants a piece of you, whether it’s religion, politics, bureaucracy or corporations. As soon as you’re born you’re a commodity in a certain way and that’s something that we address and even on a personal level everyone is sort of fighting the war at some point: internal, eternal war.
We are aware that you have released an official video for the new album title track – is it just on YouTube or have you released it on other platforms as well?
Michael: For now it is just on YouTube. We got one million views within four days…
Alright, that’s great!
Michael: Crazy! [smiles] So yeah there’s a fair bit of interest. And it’s great. I mean, it might be a part of the DVDs or something later. We actually shot three videos with the director called Patrick Elias, so there’s two more singles to come out that we have.
What’s the next one?
Michael: Mhm, next one .. [hesitantly]
If you can reveal that!
Michael: [turning questioningly to Alissa] I don’t know if we can reveal it… Maybe no [laughs]
Alissa: Yeah you’ll have to wait and see! [smiles]
Okay. Will it come out before you release the album though?
Michael: Oh yeah a lot of it is going to come out before, not sure if all. We’ll see. [pause] Well, at least one single is going to come out before the album.
Can we talk about the line up changes? Alissa, when did you know you’ll be joining the band?
Alissa: Well, I have been friends with Angela for a few years. You know, sort of exchanging… she would give me advice for touring, we were doing the same thing essentially. We could relate to one another. And at some point last year she wrote to me, basically just said: Michael needs to talk to you. So at that point I went to discuss with him and Angela what was going with Arch Enemy and they presented me with an opportunity to sort of join in because Angela was still working for them – she’s the band manager. At that point we took one step at a time and made sure that logistically it would work.
Where you fully involved in the recording of a new album?
Alissa: Yeah. I mean, when I joined, Nick and Michael have already composed demos for five songs and they showed them to me which back then was just the music and then in the end I wrote five out of ten of the lyrics and Michael wrote the other five and we just took the time necessary to build the album into what we wanted it to be.
Great. When are you performing live for the time since Alissa joined the band?
Alissa: Our first show is at the end of May
Michael: In Bukarest, Romania.
Do you all live in the same country? Because, Alissa, you are Canadian aren’t you?
Michael: We’re spread out. Three of us live in Sweden – me, drummer and the bass player. Fairly close to each other. We have rows of space. It’s kind of “the spiritual home”.
How do you go about recording and rehearsing then?
Michael: Both Alissa and Nick [guitarist Nick Cordle, from US] are very flexible, they’ve spent a lot of time in Sweden in the last year and that’s not really a problem. I mean, we still do it in the old school way, I mean we didn’t make this album on the Internet, it’s still us, five people, together. Everybody showed a lot of dedication into this project and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s great to have that new energy in a band. And like I said they are very flexible, it’s not like “oh I can’t stay in Sweden for three weeks, that’s not possible for me because…”.
It’s more like everybody wants to work. The logistics of course are more… I mean, I don’t know how to find world class [artists]? – I was looking for the best singer in the world basically, and it’s not like – yeah, she lives just an hour from here!..
You know it is not going to happen. You have to look a bit further. When we found Angela she lived in Germany – and so forth. But it’s just a relief [that we found Alissa]. I guess it’s something on paper that people would be like… I guess when you’re in a smaller band you’d be like: “Oh we can’t afford that”, or “It’s not going to be practical for whatever reasons”. But for us it’s [different]. And now we gonna go on a road to start touring, May 23rd in Bukarest, Romania.
Are you touring in Europe first?
Michael: Yes, Europe first. We are going to hit European festival circuit hard, all summer and August.
You are playing Alt-fest, aren’t you?
Micheal: Yes, we’re. That’s when we come back to the UK, our first appearance, and then we are going to go all over the world, we’ve got a US tour –lining and lined up, then we gonna do Asia and Japan later this year, then we’re going to come back on the European tour..
Micheal: Yes. And then we’re already booking for January, February, March and into next year. We are already booking festivals for the next summer as well. Looks like we gonna be busy. That’s what we do with Arch Enemy, we go out and we play live, that’s what we enjoy doing. Love being on stage and meeting our fans basically.
Alissa, will you be involved with your previous band at all, how did the parting go?
Alissa: Well, I had planned on doing Arch Enemy and my former band [The Agonist] and even continuing doing Kamelot because I was in a position where I was used to working a day job forty hours a week and going to school and doing Kamelot and whatever other bands. So for me it wasn’t unheard of to think of being in two or three bands and I had intended on doing that but when I told them about that I was going to be involved in another band, they actually kicked me out.
Alissa: So yeah, I didn’t have a choice in that matter but now I have that much more free time to dedicate to Arch Enemy. I have no more association with The Agonist, for me the band was three albums long, now it’s something else. It has nothing to do with me anymore. I am still proud of the music I did make with them but for now I am looking only at Arch Enemy. Actually, I am still going to do Kamelot when I can because they are a great band and it’s so much fun to play with them, I am actually also going to play with them at Sweden Rock [Festival].
What about Angela, is she going to be involved with a band other than being a band manager? Will she do a few shows?
Michael: No. I think that she was very clear in her statement that she has ended her singing career.
It’s just probably one of those few things a lot fans will be thinking about.
Michael: I think it’s the first time I hear about it but yeah… I mean, we did almost twelve years with Angela and I understand the questions now but once we get out there and start performing with a current new line up – this a new chapter for the band and it’s just how it is.
If you missed us in the last twelve years, there’s no way of going back to that! [smiles]
I am excited about playing live, we haven’t toured since 2012. The band’s definitely excited about getting out there. We’ll be travelling to Germany in mid May and we’ll be doing pre-production there, we’ve got a new show coming together, like visual elements and a lot of new equipment, a lot of looking at the equipment we had, there’s lots of moving parts in the light production and we gonna do some big rehearsals down there and then we gonna jump on a bus and travel to Romania. That’s were we start, I think we all are looking to that moment very much. That’s something – “that’s why I am in a band!” Probably initially, it was just a big excitement of being a part of live concert or something.
Have you got three tours coming up, is that right? European, US and…
Michael: The way we do Arch Enemy in the last ten years, we’ll be on a road for maybe two years.
Okay. And then another new album?
Micheal: Yeah. We’ll see [jokingly and motioning to Alissa]..if she can still be in a same room as me.
Alissa: [laughs] We’ll see. We’ll see about that.
Michael: I think we’ve got a really great thing now. Everybody is really focused, really dedicated. In the past we’ve had members maybe here and there that have fallen by the wayside, that kind of lost it and drifted away from the band in their interests and their private lives.
But I… I don’t know what letter combination it is, what I suffer from, my condition but it is something where I am dedicated to Arch Enemy and playing in this band. Always thinking it’s what I do every day.
You are not thinking of ceasing any time soon then?
I think I was born to play a guitar. I don’t believe in fate and that but I think the way my life had turned out… The past, it’s too late, I can’t really go back to it. I have no education, no formal education, no work skills. I’ve never had a job in my life except from playing, doing what I do which is a full time job. I have a lot of skills because of I’ve done up to this point, because of my experience in my field. But it’s not something I could apply in, like, an office job.
I think a lot of people would be disappointed if you tried that!
Michael: But I thought about it because when other people around you quit you sort of start questioning your own choices in life, “what kind freak I am portraying, still think like I have more to offer even though I’ve done all of this I still feel I got all of this inside me.”
It’s a curse I guess but it’s fine I enjoy it. There are always parts that we don’t enjoy, maybe early mornings [both laugh], early rides..
Can I ask about Spiritual Beggars? Are you going to be touring, how are you fitting in with Apolo?
Michael: That’s great, I mean, Apolo’s fantastic and we’ve just played two shows in Japan.
Alissa: Yeah, I just saw them in there.
Could you say you have a special connection with Japan?
Michael: Yeah, I’ve been going there since ‘97, my first time was with Arch Enemy, my first album. Including promotional visits between three bands that I have been involved in, this was my 35th visit.
Alissa: Oh, wow.
Michael: I have to get a visa every time I go. It’s thirty five times that I had to apply for a visa. No wonder why I run out of passports all the time! [laughs].
Japan’s been really very super supportive from day one of Arch Enemy, like, when nobody else really picked up what we were doing. They are very dedicated. We have a lot of melancholic melody in the music and I think they pick up on that. But you can’t really analyse why you’re popular in certain countries and why they like certain something. You’d drive yourself crazy.
Thank you guys!
Alissa & Michael: Thank you.