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Amon Amarth - Viking Spirit

Discussion in 'Metal Interviews' started by Perkele, Apr 4, 2003.

  1. Perkele

    Perkele Myself

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    Amon Amarth - Viking Spirit
    Interview with Johan Hegg


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    Amon Amarth is known among both death metal fans and viking metal fans alike. Musically they belong to the death metal genre while their lyrics are dealing with Scandinavian mythology and related themes, as Johan Hegg himself stated: "We are a death metal band, in my opinion. If people want to call it viking metal, sure go ahead. To me the viking metal bands are Enslaved, Einherjer and Bathory. I think we are a melodic death metal band and our lyrics deal with the vikings. You can say we are a viking metal band, I don't really care about that but when pepple ask me I usually say we are a melodic death metal band."
    The album Versus The World, released last year, made them more widely known, so we expect 2003 to be busy year for them. I had the opportnity to interview the band's singer Johan Hegg, who's done 200 interviews already!


    - After making so many interviews and getting I guess different feedbacks, how do you feel about the album now?
    - I'm very satisfied and very proud of it. I think we've really managed to evolve both soundwise as well as when it comes to songwriting.

    - Despite of the good welcome the album received, there are some fans who are not so happy with this album and with the new direction you took
    - Really? Actually, to be quiet honest, I haven't heard that many fans complaining about the new album. The responses from the fans I've heard were awesome so far. But it's true that the new album is more melodic, it's more harmonic but it's still pretty heavy, even when it's slowed down. It's just something we needed to do and we wanted to do. I mean every once in a while we have to try to find a new path. Now this album is the path we chose to take. In the end I think most ppl will see the songs as they are. Because in my opinion this is the best album we've done so far. Maybe we won't keep doing it but at least we gave it a shot and I think we made the best out from the situation. I can understand ppl's reaction because it's more melodic especially considering to the last album 'The Crusher'. But if you look on all our releases I would say this album is probably like all the previous albums combined into one piece. We wanted to do an album that we ourselves, enjoy and that's how it turned out now. We never really plan too much ahead. I mean we had an idea making the album more melodic and more melancholic mainly because of the lyrical concept we wanted to use which is dealing with the end of the world in the norhtern mythology. We weren't making a melodic album for sort of a commercial thing.

    - You said, the new album is like a mixture of all your previous one, how much do you think did you develop since the first days of AA?
    - As musicians, as handing the instruments I think we developed a lot. My style of singing has changed a bit through the years too. But the basic elements of AA is still there, we haven't changed too much when it comes to writing material and I don't think we will. But we will try to keep growing and evolving within the frames we set up for ourselves. We are better musicians now and in my opinion and we are better songwriters too.

    - You worked in Berno Studio now because you couldn't go to the Abyss. What was your experience like there?
    - It was very nervous. I mean we chose it because we knew it was a good studio, but when you worked with the same people for so many albums as we have - we worked with Peter on the three previous full length albums -, you get comfortable. The Abyss was sort of our second home, so changing the studio was a bit nervous thing for us. We didn't really know what to expect, working with new people can be always stressful but it worked out well and Berno is a great guy to work with. He is very experienced, knows very much about recording and about music in general and Henrik is also a cool guy to work with. I think we got a really good connection with those guys and they really helped us getting the best out of this record. I mean they are not producing or anything, they are engineers but Berno of course came up with hints and tips on how to do the stuff. If we felt it didn't really work he could guide us into the right direction, he helped us out. But everything is written by us. He helped in the sound of the album. He worked in a different way we have ever worked before. First of all he didn't want us to send him any our previous albums, he didn't want to hear any of our previous stuff. He wanted to start fresh with us, not having any old baggage you know. Second, we didn't use any reference album at all, we sort of sat down and talked about what kind of sound we wanted, which is I think, also very different from how most of the other bands work. We felt we needed to do it that way because we wanted to have our own sound, we don't want to sound like anybody else. I feel we managed to get our own sound, by doing our work this way.

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    - What do you think, how would sound the album if you could have worked in The Abyss?
    - That's very difficult to answer. I think it would be pretty close to what we have today but I don't think the difference would have been so big as it is now between 'The Crusher' and 'Versus The World'. The main reason is why I think that is because we as a band were so comfortable up there. Peter knows our sound from before so I guess he probably would have gone for that and we would have not disagree with him. I mean, he's done great jobs for us for all the previous albums, but bringing new ppl to the production is giving new energies to the music, it gives new possibilities to change a bit more soundwise. It was sort of the edge to move on.

    - Sure, from the first moment it sounds more dynamic.
    - Yeah. But I think one of the main reasons for that is not the chaning of the studio, is that how we mastered it. We mastered the album at Berno Studio instead of taking it to cutting room, like we did with the previous albums. Because that way Berno could knew what we were after soundwise, could master the album for a couple of days instead of just master it for a couple of hours. In the cutting room we worked really fast, so he could really take his time to go through it. I feel that was a very important part getting the sound to be as good as it is.

    - How much time did you spend in the studio with 'Versus The World'?
    - Four weeks. Mostly 99,9% of everything was ready when we enter the studio for recording. That's how we like to work. Spending a lot of time in the studio, working on material and trying out new ideas can be very good of course but the way we see it's a waste of money. If you are well prepared, you can save a lot of money, that is better spent on other stuff. I would probably like to have 6 weeks in the studio now, that would be the optimal time because it would give time to carefully listen to everything we do but at the other hand we don't want to overdo it. We like to be spontenaous, we like to go with the flow and not to think much about what we are doing. If you overproduce and album, that's not good either. We spent 8-10 hours each day in the studio. A normal day started at 9-9:30 at the studio. We had breakfast there and a cup of coffee and then just started to record. I usually went through about three songs a day, which is a very fast work for a vocalist. I don't like to mess around, I wanna do it quickly, the way it is supposed to sound, I wanna do it right away, I wanna have it done. I try to be quick but on the other hand that could be really straining on the voice. At the next album I would like to do two songs a day maximum, really try to get the best out of every song.

    - I think you can be completely satisfied with the vocals on the new album. You sound much more powerful and much stronger and heavier.
    - Yeah, that's one of the thing I was aiming for. We were talking about the vocals for 'The Crusher' that all of us in the band said was too much high pitched and maybe not very powerful. Now all of us wanted it to be heavier. We discussed it and everybody agreed it should be heavier and I already thought about it even after recording 'The Crusher'. I wanted to do it also darker and beside this the lyrical concept is a darker matter too, it's dealing with the end of the world. It was more suitable to use darker and more sinister vocals.

    - Beside, basing on the lyrics, what is the meaning behind the title of the album?
    - The main meaning actually is how we've as a band struggled to survive within the music scene through the ten years we've been around. That is what is the song is about and that is what the title want to express but it is also how we live our lifes in general. It's not easy to be a metal head and stand up for yourself and your beliefes. Sometimes it feels like you are against the rest of the world. But it's just mainly about us, as the band.

    - Is it in connection with all the songs?
    - It's not a complete concept, it's just the main concept on the album. But there are some apocaliptic thoughts about our carrier. The reason we chose 'Versus The World' as a title and the song itself is because maybe this is our last quest. Because at the time we wrote the song and I wrote the lyrics we were at the worst part in our carrier, where we didn`t see any future for the band. We have a couple of rough thing and lots of others that happened with us and it`s been tough. We`ve toured a lot, we were away from our homes, which is what you have to expect but at a certain point it`s very, very tough. We felt we were really tired from everything. We felt this is our last album and we felt we are going to call quits. And just before entering the studio it all turned around for us. Everything started feeling better again, we started to see how good this album could be and everything was like changing into some positive energy. We realized that we wanted to take it as far as we can.

    - It's a bit surprising what you are saying, considering that 'The Crusher' album was successful..
    - I think that kind of down period in our carrier is a reaction to that. As I said we struggled very hard to get there, where we are today. And it's not easy to walk the long way, we always tried to go this way for some reason in tensional or unintentional. We never sent any demos to record labels for first of all, we always wanted them to contact us and that's how we worked all the time which is perhaps a pretty tough way to go about it but we felt when we are gonna get find, it's gonna be in our terms.

    - Concerning to your very own way and to the fact that the band is more than 10 years old, are you satisfied where the band is now?
    - Looking back, of course I could picture us being in a higher position now. But I don't think I would have wanted to do anything differently because we've learned so much through these deals we've been through. It's not always been bad, we had lot of good times as well. We've learned so much, we've got so much experience. I mean we can be really proud of how we worked to make the band grow. I feel this is the best way we could have ever done it.

    - Do you think if the band had still the same line up as it's had in 1992, where would be AA now?
    - I don't think we would be still around. To be quiet honest, both Anders our first guitar player and Nico our first drummer are great guys, we are still friends with them but they didn't develop in the same paths as we did, they didn't grow as musicians in the same path as us, which really made it impossible for them to continue. Nico realized that and he left the band himself and Anders, we had to fire him. We've always been honest to each other in the band, we told them straight up what it was about and there's no hard feelings now, it's just the way it had to be. Nico is playing some rockabilly-punk stuff now.

    - Your sister wrote one of the lyrics, 'Thousand Years of Opression'. How did she come into the picture?
    - I was working on the lyrics for that song and every idea I had, I wasn't satisfied with them. I took ideas, started writing about them and then threw it away, got a new idea, wrote and threw that out again. My sister lives in Vancouver and she sent me an e-mail, that was like a little story, sort of her view on life in general and stuff like that. And when I read that story, I immediately thought 'man, I could have written this, this is like my opinion'. I realized that was very close to how I felt about things and I asked her if I could use it as our lyrics and she said: sure, go ahead. So, all I did is just to make it suit to the music. The lyrics itself worked very well with the song structure in the music. Probably it's my favourite lyrics on the whole album because of the way it suits to the music.

    - Your lyrics are mostly dealing with Scandinavian myths and legend and other related stuff, how did you get interested in that?
    - I must have been 9 or 10 years old when I first started to reading about it in school and I was hooked immediately. Some of the legends are so amazing and cool, it's unbelievable. The mythology of the vikings is almost the coolest thing ever written down basicly.

    - Do you have a favourite 'story'?
    - It depends. In the book of Edda there is a story of the creation, and the perish of the Earth and the universe. That's a story I really like. The story about creation and about the Ragnarök, which is the end of the end of the universe in the Scandinavian Mythology.

    - Seems, you will never be fed up with this subject?
    - Maybe someday.. haha.. It's something that I really enjoy reading about, something that is really intrigue and intersting. The mythology itself almost became a philosophy of life for me. I dont't believe in religion but it's more like a guidance, an advice on how to live our life.

    - The band's name Amon Amarth is coming from the book 'Lord of the rings'. Have you ever thought about writing lyrics based on the book?
    - No. For me 'Lord of the rings' is a cool book but to write lyrics that's like the book … for me it doesn't feel right. I don't think I could stand for those lyrics. I would never do that.

    - To which bands could you compare AA?
    - I think we don't really compare with anyone .. ha-ha. It's pretty difficult for me to say, I think we are very unique but I think if you ask somebody else, he would say we sound like this or that band. I think we managed to find our own style in between the Gothenburg scene and the Stockholm scene if you want to make it simple. We are someway in between Entombed and Dismember or At The Gates and stuff like that. But I think we have our unique style of music. But I would bet every musician you ask probably thinks the same.
    And it's not really up to me to say. I'm not really look upon it that way. My main interest to write music I can stand for and I enjoy performing.
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    - How much influence do the nowadays bands have on AA`s music?
    - Not too much. Of course you listen to other music and you get inspirations from different things but I wouldn't say it has abused the music we write. I mean it's like every inspiration we have had musicly in our carrier, I wouldn't say they are very evident in the music that we ourselves write. It more as inspire us to keep on writing our own material basicly.

    - And do you think AA will have impact on the upcoming bands?
    - With any band that is growing, getting a bigger fanbase of course have a bigger impact on people in one way or another. If we can inspire people to start writing their own music, that's great. But that's not something that I think about everyday. Just the other day I read on the forum about a guy who started to play drums because of our drummer. People asking me for advice for how to sing better or differerently.

    - That's the best feedback you can ever get from the fans.
    - Yes, I think so too. It's very cool and I'm happy to share the little things I know if that can help them.

    - How much do you take part in the forum's discussions?
    - I answer if I feel I have somethign to say, something to contribute with. Otherwise I like just to pop in and read what they are talking about, to see the reactions to different thing and stuff like that.

    - You've played at several summer festivals last year. What are your experiences like?
    - Playing at the Wacken Open Air was unbelievable. We started playing at 12:30 in the afternoon and it was like 12 or 15 thousand ppl there watching the gig. You can't beat that feeling, it was unbelievable. The whole crowd was getting into, we've had got a great response, which was really cool.

    - Is there any own song you are tired of?
    - Actually not really. I mean I don't listen to 'Victorius March' everyday but that's one song that we play almost at every show and for some reason I've never grown tired of it. It's been with us since with 97 and I don't know for how long we will continue playing it, it's there, we have to play it. For me personally I enjoy playing it every time.

    - What other songs do you like to play live?
    - 'The Last With Pagan Blood' from Avenger. It's one of my favourite live songs.

    - You are going to play with Onkel Tom in the spring. Whose idea was this tour?
    - It's called the Wacken Open Air Road Show and the guys from Wacken wanted us on this tour. They contacted Metal Blade and booked us. I think it's gonna be cool, it's just a short tour, nothing really big. Only Germany, Austria and Switzerland I think. It's gonna be cool, especially since the first hundred liters of beer are free at the clubs. We are gonna be the first ones at the bar.. ha-ha

    - You toured a lot during the years. Do you some story you could share with the readers?
    - The funniest memory, I guess, is when Olli got so drunk he fell asleep and fell down on the stairs. He couldn't bang his head for 4 days becuase he had such a headache and jaws were aching and everybody was laughing. And he couldn't remember how it happened. That was pretty cool.. ha-ha.. And it's like a two in one answer, isn't it? That is one of the funniest thing that we have been through but for Olli this is one of the worst.

    - Is there a place where you would like play at again ?
    - I would like to go back to Budapest. We played at the Summer Rocks two years ago, that was a cool show and Budapest was is a nice town. I remember walking forever...We were in the city one day at a medieval restaurant. When we were going home to the hotel, we weren't really sure where it was, how far it was and we started walking. We walked forever… over like an hour definitely. So we said, alright, that's it for now, we are taking a cab. We saw a cab and we stopped it, jumped in and told him the address of the hotel and in 2 minutes we were there. We were almost there already.. ha-ha 15 minutes more walking and we would have been there. But at least we saw the Swedish embassy in Budapest. And I've learned one Hungarian word, 'Egészségedre'… (cheers)

    - The 10th anniversary of the band was last year. Did you celebrate it?
    - We've tried not to think about it. Not to feel too old… haha. You can say, our celebration was putting out the viking edition of the album with the bonus songs. It's our celebration for the fans, our birthday gift for the fans. We were thinking of different things to have as bonus material. We just put together everything we found basicly. One of the ideas we had was to release a DVD and we worked on it but we weren't able to finish it in time. That's something for the future. We have the material, we have a bunch of stuff that we would like to do. We just need to take our time to make it as good as it it possible.
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    - How much of your dreams, goals you had in the beginning has come true?
    - So far I guess there is only one dream left. First of all the dreams and the goals we've had have changed. It was getting and album deal, going on tour, playing in the States. Now what I would really like to do is gonna tour into South-America, just like in Japan. Japan seems to be opening up, I'm not sure about South-America, but you never know. Things can happen really quickly. And at the moment the main dream for me is that I hope that someday I would be able to make a living out of the music. We still have our regular jobs which is very demanding because you can't really focus with 100% on the band. And it's tough to go on tours when you need to take time off from work without getting paid and stuff like that. Luckily we all have bosses who understand this is something we dream about doing and who are really supporting us.

    - You become 30 this year, what would you like to get as a present in connection with the band?
    - Oh… a tour to Japan. That's sort of been a dream for me for years. I wanna play there, I wanna experience it.

    - As we said before 'Versus The World' got positive reviews and there was a big interest for the album. How important, do you think, this album may become in the band's life?
    - It's a new step. We took a bigger step forward. I think this album without the backing of 'The Crusher' or without 'The Crusher' wouldn't have been made, this album would not have had the foundation to come across as good as it has. Thanks to 'The Crusher' album we were able to make a huge step with this album. I hope that we can continue on this path and still keep developing in the music and our style and keep growing as a band.

    - Beside touring, what plans AA have for 2003?
    - We are slowly starting working on the new material for a new album but I don't know when we will be able to record it, this year or just in the next year. There are so many things happening around us now, I have a very hard time to see how we could ever get done by the end of this year. But of course we have to look forward a bit.

    - Thanks for your time, last words are yours…
    - Egészségedre! Hope to see all the Hungarian fans on the road someday.

    http://www.amonamarth.com
     
  2. hibernal_dream

    hibernal_dream A Mind Forever Voyaging

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    Good Interview
     
  3. SMiM

    SMiM www.metalobsession.net

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    Great interview...... if only they would come to Australia!

    - SMiM
     

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