AMON AMARTH’S Bassist Ted Lundström

AMON AMARTH’S Bassist Ted Lundström

@ HMV Forum, 23rd October 2011

Interview by Rhiannon Marley

Photography by Sabrina Dersel

Roll up, boys and girls. Grab your weapons, sharpen your axes. Because guess what? The Vikings are de-boarding their ship again!

Anyone who thought strapping boys of 10’ 3”, with gargantuan beards and titanium balls, disappeared at the end of the 11th century would do well to stop and take in the Scandinavian corner of the metal world. Even a snippet would do!The ongoing right-hand-of-the-father staple of the romanticised Viking image among its talent is evident of two things: their mythology is a force with its own postcode and social security number, and manly men are still more than doing it for us ladies.


And Amon Amarth offer bucket-loads of both.The 19-year-strong clan of hairy hunks has battered its way with an inventory of nine studio albums, videos pulling tens of millions of YouTube hits, and more line-up changes than their combined testosterone volume.

But as Metal Rules talks to bassist Ted Lundström about avoiding writer’s block, the pros and cons of the www, and Lemmy’s Nazi memorabilia collection, I’m not sure how ready for battle he is: he was snoozing on the very couch we’re sitting on just a couple of hours ago…  

Rhiannon Marley (RM): “We’re seven months in now from the release of ‘Surtur Rising’. How do you think the reception has fared?”


Ted Lundström (TL): “Well, the reception has been very good, y’know; all the touring we’ve done has been very successful, and the sales of the album have been really good. Good reviews – it’s been good!”


RM: “And were you guys surprised by that, or did you think all the positive feedback was well-justified?”


TL: “Oh yeah. Personally, I think it was deserved, but of course, when you release a new album, you start from where the old album ended. The last ones were successful, so of course we knew this was going to be good. It was a good step to take from there. It’s been very good – it’s doing better than the last one, so that’s always good!”


RM: “I suppose it depends on your constitution of an up and a down as a band, as well… What are your thoughts on the sound of Amon Amarth across your career so far? Considering different albums, line-up changes, etc, do you think you’ve chopped and changed anything, or that you’ve been pretty consistent in sound and style?”


TL: “Well, we had a slow and steady progress; we’ve just matured as people, and I think that also shows in the album: that we never really stepped out of our past. We’ve done it slowly, so that nobody will be surprised if they hear our latest album compared to the other ones. We’ve always tried to make it more exciting, but it’s hard, ’cause in the end, when you work for a year to write an album, it’s what you like most yourself that’s gonna end up on the new album, so we just do what we like ourselves.”


RM: “So you’d rather stay quote-un-quote ‘true to yourselves’ than cater for the critics in your writing?”


TL: “Well, some people, it seems like they’re jumping back and forth, and trying new styles, new directions, etc, and it’s never really been our thing to do. We’d rather be doing what we’ve always done.”


RM: “Speaking of your past albums, when you’ve done a good few, it must get harder to keep refreshing your ideas. How do you renew your inspiration, and prevent yourselves from getting ‘writer’s block’?”


TL: “I don’t know…that’s, of course, the toughest part. You can always write music, and stuff; that’s kind of easy, if you want to do it the same way. But you really have to challenge yourself. And we try to really push each other; if our singer, Johann, writes a lyric, and it’s always about Vikings and battle… [Laughs] We’ll try to push him to maybe try another angle, or try this and that. The same thing with music: if a riff is maybe too alike another one, we try to do at least a little bit of steering to the side.”


RM: “I read an interview with Fred earlier about what he considered to be ‘true’ and ‘untrue’ metal…you’re obviously receiving a lot more mainstream attention as a metal group nowadays. How do you think things like Facebook and YouTube affect music, and also the dissemination of metal music in particular?”


TL: [Referring to Fred] “Well, he’s the master of the internet world! [Laughs] But I don’t know; it’s a good platform for music, the media, like that. But at the same time, it’s very…quick…very fast, digital…could be here one day, and totally gone the next. I’m of the old-school. Of course, I use the internet a lot! [Laughs] But I don’t use it really as a ‘tool’.”


RM: “Do you think the internet concerning music is an ephemeral thing? Do you think the power the web has over how music is accessed has staying power, or that it’s transitory?”


TL: “What do you mean?”


RM: “Things like YouTube: you guys have over 12 million hits for ‘The Pursuit of Vikings’ video, for one example. That’s got to help when it comes to people recognising the group or being exposed to your music. Do you think that kind of exposure will stand the test of time?”


TL: “Yeah, I mean, it’s really good in the way that we can reach a lot of people really quickly. Like in the past, you recorded a music video because it was supposed to be on MTV; today, the only way you can see that video is on YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, etc. It’s like the new video: the sad thing with that is that usually, people watch it in really low resolution, and you wanna spend a lot of money on the video. You won’t really get the final product, or it won’t be as good as it would be on a big screen. It’s both good and bad.”


RM: “I’ve got to touch on the old chestnut of the Viking thing. Do you think there’s now a capital with it to match the culture? Is it something that makes a lot of money as well as being something for which bands have passion?”


TL: “Yeah, I mean, for us, it’s been really successful. We used it not because we wanted to be like…we didn’t really want people to know us as a ‘Viking metal band’, but still, that’s what we were interested in. And it worked really well, y’know, because you stand out a little bit, and as you said, more and more people get interested in it. Even if you go to South America, or somewhere far, far from Scandinavia, where we’re from, they know a lot about these old gods and stuff. But it was the same thing when we grew up: we read about the old Greek gods, and it’s always interesting. It’s tales and stories. It doesn’t matter if you believe in it, if it’s a religion, or if it’s good stories: it’s always gonna be a good thing. It’s very good visually for us: stories like that give you good album covers, and good stage possibilities to do cool shows.”


RM: “Your scenery is always great. Do you think there’s one particular album from your discography which is most defining of your sound as a band? Or even for you: one which exploits your capabilities as a musician the most?”


TL: “No, I can’t really point out one album. Usually, it’s always the last one you’re most happy with, ’cause that’s where you are right now. It’s always aiming to be one step better than the last album. I think our last one is the most mature one: the best one both production-wise and music-wise, as musicians. That’s my favourite. Maybe not the album that took us the biggest step in our career, but it’s still the best so far.”


RM: “In terms of your own influences and inspirations, is there any one style in which you feel the most at home, or are you pretty wide-ranging concerning what you appreciate?”


TL: “Yeah, I’m very wide in my taste, so I can’t really say anything…I like to be open for everything: both musically, and everything else.”


RM: “Well, of course, you’re a musician. But even some musicians or music fans are pretty intransigent concerning what they will or will not listen to. Musical snobbery; musical fascism…”


TL: “Yeah, that’s true. Also within the band, some people are more aiming for this one special style or genre, or something. But I’m very open for everything.”


RM: “That’s always a good thing! I’ve got a couple of lighter questions for you before we wrap up. If you could take five musical personalities, live or dead, past or present, to dinner, who would they be?”


TL: “That’s a good question! That’s one of those you have to think for a while to work out…I’d probably grab a few old heroes, of course. That would be nice. Of course, Gene Simmons and Steve Harris: they’ve been the biggest inspiration for me since I started playing music in the band…”


RM: “Are you a big Maiden fan?”


TL: “Yeah! That was my first really big band, as a fan. I like collecting the albums and stuff. Who else? I guess I’ll have to continue with bass players: Duff McKagan – would be nice to see what kind of stories he has. And we can’t really skip Lemmy, of course – probably has tons of stories! [Laughs] I read his book, and he seems to be a really funny guy.”


RM: “Did you watch the documentary on him?”


TL: “Yeah, I’ve seen that one, too. He seems to be very, very cool.”


RM: “I couldn’t believe his Nazi memorabilia collection!”


TL: “Yeah I know! That’s crazy! Well, you’ve gotta have some interest in life, and apparently his was that! His was probably not the best one if you’re into public pleasing!”


RM: “He’s probably one of the few people who could get away with it…”


TL: “Yeah, anybody else would have been destroyed by the media immediately.”


RM: “He just seems not to give a shit at all. This last one might be slightly easier… Desert-Island Disc: if you could take three albums with you to a desert island, what would they be?”


TL: “That’s a tough one! It’s tough because I could probably name three, but if you asked me tomorrow, I’d probably have three different albums! I’d have Iron Maiden – ‘Killers’ – that’s when I started to listen to them, the first two albums. They’ve still got a special place in my heart. And also I think it’s the best cover of album, and the coolest. I like that album a lot. I’d also pick W.A.S.P. – either the first, or ‘Crimson Idol’; and I would probably have Hammer Horde – ‘Under the Mighty Oath’ as three.”


The hollering from the winding queue outside continues. The after-partying – immense, according to Ted -, continues. Amon Amarth continue. Catch them on the remainder of the ‘Surtur Rising European Tour’, blazing a trail of tresses and treasure. And with their own legion of warriors behind them, it doesn’t look like the boys have much to fear. Looking forward to seeing them onstage later tonight; until then, it’s Malibu-and-coke-o’clock for Sabrina and I…


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