ARCH ENEMY Interview with Michael Amott
Interviewed by EvilG
start out about Arch Enemy and their popularity in Japan. I've always
wandered why Arch Enemy are so huge in Japan, is it a result of
marketing , or the fans who like the band more than some other
countries? And tied into that, why was "Wages of Sin" released
over there so many months before everywhere else?
Ummm, A) Japanese Metal fans have very good taste (laughs). B) I
don't know why. No, we seem very lucky. We're a melodic death metal /
extreme metal band, whatever you want to call it, going into Japan in
'97 and we're the biggest extreme metal band out there. We have been for
quite some time now. Every album seems to get bigger and bigger, which
is sort of going against the trend out there, because most bands are
selling less and less. The market has really gone down there. We defy
those rules and just keep marching on, and Wages
of Sin is our biggest album to date out there. Pretty cool. I
don't really know why. I think we combine the brutality with this
melodic guitar stuff in there. They're really into the "cult of
personality" out there somehow. They've kind of picked up on the
guitar playing brothers angle a little bit maybe, I don't know. We're
just so damn likeable. The rest is just business. Unfortunately it's
music business, not music friendship you know. I don't really want to
talk about it to much now. It's the wrong place (referring to him
calling from Century Media's office). No haha, seriously we're just
happy that the album is coming out now. We're psyched about that!
Regarding some of the topics being covered in the lyrics on the
album. First of all, what is the title in reference to; "Wages of
We thought is was cool. It sort of sums up the entity of the album
somehow, the feeling of the album. It's always hard to find a title.
Sometimes you just want something that sort of gives you an idea of what
the album is about. We just thought that did that. Also we thought it
sounded like a classic album title you know, like an old Priest album.
That kind of a feel to it.
In terms of some of the lyrics on here, I know you write a good
part of the lyrics so what things inspire you to write lyrics? Is it
personal experience or something you've read?
Yeah, mostly personal experience. Sometimes stuff I've read. There's
a little bit of fiction in there sometimes, but usually nowadays I write
mostly personal stuff. The more I know the less I believe, haha. The
more I see, the older I get the less I know, type of thing. When I was
eighteen I knew everything about the world, you know? Now I know
Yeah, I know what it's like. The more you learn, the less you
realize you know.
Yeah, I guess.
you were announcing your new singer for the band, you posted some sound
clips up on your web site. You didn't say anything about who the singer
was, just "Check out the clips", so I assume it was deliberate
as a way to shock people, right?
Well, it's because we wanted people to judge the music first. On our
hard-core fanbase. We didn't want them to be put off by, "What's
this??". If they heard beforehand that we had got a new singer and
it's a girl, maybe, I don't know. Maybe I underestimated out fanbase
because when they actually did find out who it was, everybody has been
like, "Fuck yeah!". I was expecting a 50/50 percent; 50% would
be into it, and 50% would be not into it, but it's been like 1% you
know. There's always going to be that 1% who prefers the first album.
Everybody seems to be into it, and it's been really really cool. It's
been really well received.
So obviously now that the initial shock of "Wow, that's a
woman singing", people are not so stuck on the fact that she's a
woman and they look at her more now as a vocalist?
Umm, I don't know...
More a bit of both! Haha...
So when you play live now, and you're doing some of the previous
Arch Enemy songs, how does she interpret the songs live? Does she do it
to suit her own style, or does she try to remain faithful to the
so much more aggressive now. It's like throwing out your pet rabbit and
getting a Rottweiler or something. It's a lot more brutal, more in your
face. When she auditioned for us, the way she looks and everything, it's
just so impressive to us that she could do that. She's like twice as
loud and twice as intense as our old vocalist, and he's a pretty big
guy. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure it out that this is going
to turn peoples heads, you know. Apart from that I think she's really
got a talent for doing this, and it's really really cool musically. The
image thing is cool too, I mean she's obviously got a more striking
image than our old singer. A most Metal thing, Hehe! That's kind of a
bonus, I mean to be honest this band was in desperate need of a strong
personality as well. The main selling point on the old stuff was kind of
the guitar playing brothers. This is kind of more interesting. A lot of
magazines need an angle as well. It's true right? So we're getting so
much more coverage done for this stuff now, because everybody is
freaking on how there's a girl in the band. The Beauty and the Beast so
to speak. The demonic voice in this woman is interesting to people I
guess, but that's like a side effect. We didn't go out there looking for
a female vocalist, we went out there looking for the best vocalist we
could get, which happened to be a girl. So that was pretty cool.
If you don't mind me asking, what were the exact circumstances
surrounding Johans departure, and was it a mutual agreement that he was
(Long pause and then laughter) It was tough because we had known the
guy for a long time. We had a little stuff with the guy, our old singer.
But you know, we decided to go forward. It was best for the band. He
wasn't really cutting it live, and our fanbase wasn't crazy about him
really. Going to an Arch Enemy show in the past was like going to a
tennis match; people were going "There's Chris. There's Mike.
There's Chris." and nobody was actually paying any attention to our
singer. Now it seems to be more of a balance. We kind of needed a strong
personality up there.
Can you ever see a day where Arch Enemy might have a song, or even
part of a song, with clean melodic vocals?
Well I don't want to say "No", you know. It's music, and
whatever you choose to do to express yourself is cool, I think. We want
to stay on the extreme side of the fence. We're not interested in
wimping out. We leave that to other bands! I know what you're saying and
we might do that, but it might be in a different way than you might
expect actually. I thought it was important with this album that because
we have a female vocalist we came harder, more aggressive and more
brutal than our previous couple of albums, even though we had a female
front, you know. I think that was pretty cool. So we'll see what we do
on the next album. We don't think too hard, we write stuff that feels
good to us. Whatever comes out comes out, but we do consider our fanbase
when we write music as well. Fans are part of the band I think. I hate
bands that say "We just write for ourselves, and if people don't
like it, we don't care", I mean that's bullshit I think. You don't
have to find a record deal then, if that's your attitude. I think fans
are part of the band and we do consider them in out song writing without
having the cynical approach. We are the fans as well, if you know what I
Sure. One of my favorite things about Arch Enemy is the lead
guitars, and has been since day one. What do you think are some of the
differences in style between yours and Christopher's?
I think it's cool when you can hear two distinctive styles when it
comes to twin guitar shit. I think it's cool if you can hear the
personality. I'm just really into conveying emotion, that's really the
music. I think we play off each other really well. I've always liked the
twin guitar thing with Maiden, Priest, Slayer and stuff like that. The
Megadeth stuff they did when they were really cool. I think we certainly
have different styles. He's more technical, somehow faster than I am,
and I have other stuff that he doesn't have.
Obviously you're not just involved with Arch Enemy, you have
another band Spiritual Beggars.
Yeah, it's not so active at this point. I don't know we just kind of
changed the situation a little bit. We decided it was getting out of
control with everybody playing in different bands. We just said now Arch
Enemy is the main focus or you have to go. We got a really good album
and now with this line-up is just feels so cool. It seems as thought
we've got the foundation to actually go out there and do something and
leave a mark, so to speak in the Metal scene. I think we should take the
time this album deserves this time. We decided that Arch Enemy has to be
the number one priority, that's just the way it is. Feel free to leave.
If you want to go, you gotta go. In the metal scene everybody is playing
Especially your bass player....When you did your Spiritual Beggars
project, did you feel that it helped you keep focus for what you wanted
to write for Arch Enemy?
It's part of developing as a musician you know. It's part of taking
it to the next level all the time. I'm always trying to improve my
playing, not that I actually sit and play seven hours a day, I don't do
that. When I play in every project I try to develop. It's a natural
process, I think everybody goes through it. I'm extremely self-critical,
I've never really been pleased with anything I've done.
The day I'm 100% satisfied I'll probably just quit because I've got
nothing left to prove to myself. But yeah, I can be like 99% happy,
which I am with Wages of Sin.
I think that's right up there with the best stuff I've done. Just the
way it came together, how the album was mixed and he just brought out
all the stuff that's been buried before, I think. It just makes me happy
when I listen to it, the way it comes across listening to it now, a year
later, the way he handles it. I think every record, if it's a good one
is kind of a documentation of where that band is at that point in time.
I think this one came out just the way we wanted it. So that was cool.
besides the new album, is there any other album from your past, like
maybe with another band like Carcass or something that...
Yeah I mean, Heartwork
is one of those albums that... haunts me.
Yeah I guess you get a lot of questions about Heartwork
Yeah, but it's cool. Something I'm proud of you know? It's not like I
was in a hair band or anything. I haven't really gotten anything to be
When you first decided to form Arch Enemy, was the plan at the
beginning to ask your brother to play with you?
Well I wanted the twin guitar thing, and my brother wasn't even
playing officially at all at that point. He wasn't recording or
anything, he was just kind of a bedroom guitar player you know, but he
was just blowing me away. He was just developing so fast on the guitar.
I said it would be really cool for him, a good start for him and his
career. He's just stuck with it now you know, haha. And he loves it!
You played (guest appeared more or less) in the other band he's
in, Armageddon. What did you think? Is there still plans for more
Armageddon, or more involvement for you? There's been two Armageddon
Yeah, and he's done a new one as well. That's really going in another
direction, that whole project. It's kind of melodic. He does the vocals
now. It's a three piece and it's really melodic, and it's kind of more
rock. I don't know, more Rock/Metal, old school Metal, whatever. There's
a lot of guitar playing on there. I think it's cool to let people do
what they want to do, but it shouldn't interfere with the main band. I'm
really supportive with him doing that. He really loves the more melodic
stuff and with him doing that, he gets it out of his system. Then he can
concentrate on making it really brutal with Arch Enemy.
Right. One other question regarding your former band Carcass. I
was wondering if you have an update for everybody on what Ken Owen's
I haven't met him since then, but from what I hear he's in a
wheelchair. He'll never play the drums again or anything like that. It's
pretty fucked up. He had a brain hemorrhage when he was 28...just fell
down...out of nowhere. He just got married, bought a new house and he
just falls down; 28 years old. Now he's living with his parents and he's
in a wheelchair. He was in a coma for a year. He's slowed down a lot
from what I hear physically, you know. It's very very tragic.
Do you stay in touch with the former guys you were in Carcass with
at the time?
Yeah I talk to Bill Steer all the time really. Sometimes Jeff to, if
I'm playing in England, and he'll come out.
I guess a lot of people have always asked, is there ever a chance
for some form of a reunion or a one-off reunion or show or anything,
with the lineup that existed for Heartwork
(except for Ken Owens of course)?
Well, I don't think I could happen now because Ken is obviously
handicapped really, and Bill Steer is totally into blues nowadays. He
doesn't really get into metal at all anymore. He'd have to go to
"Blues-Rules.com". But you know, he doesn't really get into
those sort of things anymore at all. He's finished with that.
Yeah he did the Blackstar album... Oh wait, Bill Steer, right! I'm
thinking Jeff. Haha
Yeah, he quit the music business altogether. He's doing really well
though. I'm not even going to tell you what he does, it's pretty
So tomorrow night you're playing in L.A. I guess you're pretty
psyched to finally be playing a show over here with your new lineup and
Have there been talks of perhaps a North American tour for
"Wages", or would this have to be something that waits until
the next album is out?
No, we're definitely going to be touring here with this album. Stuff
will be confirmed very soon. I can't say right now, but you'll be
hearing about it, if not anywhere else on ArchEnemy.net, our web site.
We put up stuff.
What would you consider to be a dream tour for Arch Enemy?
I'd like to go out there on like a mixed metal bill, really. We'll
play with anybody. Anybody that will have us. We've toured with all
kinds of bands in the past, from really extreme death metal bands to
power metal bands, whatever you want to call them. I think we can
appeal, we seem to go down with all kinds of metal fans. It's pretty
So how about the next album? This album has been out for a year
(on import anyway). I guess you're been writing or maybe rehearsing new
Yeah we have. We've got a bunch of new stuff, and hopefully we'll be
recording before the end of the year. We don't want it to take this long
again, you know. Two years, or two-and-a-half years is just ridiculous.
So do you think a new album could be out this year? Or would it be
early next year?
Early next year, I think. That's what we're aiming for, we have to be
sort of realistic. Yeah, we've written a bunch of new stuff and it's
cool. It's really....(laughs) I have to hype it, it's "off the
hook." It's cool, it's quite extreme. But we've only really written
1/2 of it yet, around five or six songs which is kind of more brutal
than Wages of Sin. We
might just add a lot of melodies and stuff to it. It's in its embryonic
stages I guess.
So how do you think Arch Enemy has progressed musically over the
past few years? What would you see as one of the biggest changes or
I loathe power metal. I don't want to do anything that has any
connections with that.
You know, it's just that generic Judas Priest rip-off type stuff that
comes out of Germany all the time. It's really annoying. It's like
everybody is trying to rewrite the "Painkiller" song. It's
like "We're Judas Priest trained professionals, do not try this at
Do you want to name any specific bands?
No, no. You don't get that stuff too much over here I guess.
Well I'm a big fan of both, the new power metal bands from Germany
and the melodic kind of death metal stuff too. So I'm one of the ones
down the middle.
Yeah, it's cool you know, but it's too much.
Well I agree, there are too many copy bands.
I just get bored of people waving the eighties metal flag somehow.
The eighties, I mean that was cool, but if you don't progress from that
it's totally uninteresting to me. You can take influences from a bunch
of different stuff and make up something new. Just playing within that
little, just drawing influences from five classic metal albums and just
try to rewrite those songs over and over again, regurgitated. I don't
know, it's not music to my ears anyway. It's not being creative somehow.
To each his own. We've had a little bit of going that way sometimes in
our songwriting but we just want to get more extreme actually. More
intense. Find new ways of being melodic without being cheesy!
In general, what is your opinion of what is going on today in the
realm of Heavy Metal? Do you think the scene is better now than it was
in the nineties, or even the eighties?
It's different. I think there's more variety than ever, isn't there?
There's a lot of variety. Like here, it seems like in the States that
grunge never died really. There's so much post grunge. There's so many
bands that sound like Pearl Jam, still today. You've got everything
going on at the same time here. Like in Europe that died down. You got
mega bands that sound exactly like that, like Pearl Jam over here still
are really big, it's kind of weird. I mean there's a lot of variety for
sure. Too many bands probably somehow. It's a lot the labels fault I
think. I think labels sign too many bands at too early stage possibly.
There's never really time to develop bands you know. Just give them
small budgets, throw them into the studio and release five albums a
month. It's like throwing five pieces of crap at a wall and one sticks.
They just go for that, they should promote them some more. There's not
enough quality control. I think the good bands stick out anyway, it's
probably always been like that. It's just the nature of the business.
So with regards to Arch Enemy again, what goals are you still
aiming for attaining that the band hasn't reached yet?...Besides
global domination of course.
It might sound cheesy, but it's kind of a new start for us now with a
new line-up. Wages of Sin
is like the beginning of a second phase for the band somehow and we're
just excited about it. The music is coming out really easily. It's
coming out really good, it's just exciting for us to be playing. It's a
stimulating combination of musicians. It's very very cool.
Is there any other happenings with the band that I could pass
along to people, that maybe I didn't ask you about?
We're going to be touring Europe. We're going to be touring the
States for sure, and I think now it's just about going out there and
playing live. There's so much work left for us to do. We're the reigning
kings of brutal metal in Japan and have been for years. We've really
dominated over there, but we have all the work left to do over here you
know, and we're prepared to do it. We're excited about going out to all
the small places. It's going to be fun.
Cool. Well that's everything I wanted to ask you about so far, so
I'd like to thank you for your time of course. So all the best of luck
with your upcoming tour here in North America. I know a lot of people
will be excited about that.
Yeah, hopefully we'll come your way as well.
Sure, come up to Canada!
Yeah we'll be there for sure.
Right on! Okay man, thanks alot.
- Transcription by Joel-