Amaranthe interview (07/2014)
|With:||Olof Mörck, Joacim ''Jake E'' Lundberg, Elize Ryd|
|Conducted by:||Ivor (in person)|
In person at the restaurant of spa hotel Laine, before the gig at American Beaty Car Show in Haapsalu, Estonia, 19.07.2014.
I get to the spa hotel by getting very, very vague directions from the local band-manager. Surprising even myself, I end up at the right place with barely a wrong turn. Even before I can say hello I had already gotten two comments on my Freak Kitchen t-shirt, showing that the band know their fellow home-town musicians. It takes a bit of time while I grab some water, the band takes a picture with the hotel staff, and so on. We start our interview with Olof and Jake, as Elize gets her dessert which in its apparent goodness keeps her occupied and listening for the first part of the interview. A short while later Henrik joins us, mostly listening.
How was your trip?
JE: Today? It was actually terrible. We went up at 6 o'clock in the morning but we came here on time. That was good.
OM: We made it to the boat.
ER: 3 hours of sleep.
How do you like it here? It's a nice view!
OM: Yeah, it's pretty. We like the small boats on the channel.
ER: The food was also very good, I just have to mention that.
(Here some hotel staff come to check if the rest of the band have already left. It appears one of the staff didn't get to be in the picture with the band.)
OK, let's start with the big thing. You have the 3rd album coming. You said it was done. When is it coming out?
OM: Yes it is. It's coming out in the middle of October.
October. You've also said that amaranthe means the never fading, and something that stays fresh forever. To some extent the second album was kind of similar to the début. What can the listeners expect from this new album in this context of being fresh?
OM: I think they can expect something that is actually very fresh. Just like you said, I mean, there were a lot of similarities between the first and the second album. I think that was one of the points that we had as well. Because we were really, really happy with the sound that we had created. So, we wanted to explore that a bit more, you know, take it a little bit further. And we are doing that with this record as well. But we're also introducing a lot of new elements. Not only building up on what we have done before. I think it's important also... especially since it's been not that long time since we released The Nexus record, I think we will really need to show with this album that it's not just another release that sounds the same but it's something really new.
Because the interval between the albums is kind of short, what, a year and a half, or something like that.
OM: Yeah, exactly. Because we are a hard-working band. And when we looked at the schedule we realised there's no idea of sitting around, you know, and just waiting for no reason at all. Might as well just get to it.
So you're not becoming stuck creatively?
OM: Absolutely not. Completely the opposite.
How did the recording sessions go?
JE: It went well. We're working with Jacob Hansen this time again. Been there for two albums and, you know, we start to know each other and he knows our sound. It felt on this album that everything went smoother than it's gone before. Because we didn't have to tell him "do like this." He did it before we even said it. That worked out really, really well. And this time we actually recorded more or less in the summer. And the two other albums we have been recording during the winter. So, now we could enjoy the sun and have a cup of coffee in this garden and the atmosphere was much better this time as well.
ER: Yeah, totally.
OM: Yeah. When you're recording an Amaranthe album, it's such a huge project. Because it's like two and a half months of recordings. It's a quarter of a year that you spend in the studio. And before we had, you know, not so smooth recording processes. So, yeah, I was trying to jinx it all along the recording, I was always saying that I'm not going to say it's super smooth because everything had been going so well and I didn't want to screw it up. But it was really nice this time.
JE: I think that we have more or less decided that we never, ever record an album during the winter again. Or, record it during the winter but somewhere where it's summer. (Laughs.)
OM: Yeah, exactly. (Laughs.) Thailand or something. Exactly!
How is your writing process in general? How do you write an Amaranthe album?
OM: It's a pretty relaxed process. Usually I do have some musical idea that I have been working with.
ER: Like a beat.
OM: Yeah, like a beat, exactly. And I sit down with either one of these two guys (ed: hmm, Elize?), or all three of us, and we just work, you know, on something from there. It's pretty much the same way that we've always been writing since like 5-6 years back. So, it's very relaxed process I would say. What do you say Elize?
ER: Ah, I agree. It's only one time that I made up the riff first and then sent it to Olof and then we created a song from that. But it hasn't happened since "1.000.000 Lightyears." So, I can't say it's like that any more.
OM: Also "Stardust."
ER: Oh, yes, sorry, "Stardust." But on this album I just got, like, keyboard sounds and different chords and it's very easy to get inspiration from the music.
You're an interesting band in this sense that - I wouldn't say unique - you have three singing voices in the band. What is the biggest challenge in writing for this kind of a set up?
JE: We had another interview yesterday and it's actually quite the opposite. It's actually easier to do it this way. Because, like, if you have one singer you can only work with one range. Now we have three singers, you can let another singer continue with that person's range where the other one's ends. So, all of a sudden you have a wider picture to draw you musical painting in, if you describe it like that. Elize said it yesterday that if you have a part that you really feel that "I would like to have this kind of mood in it but I'm a girl I can't do it," or I want to have female vocals on it but I cannot do that. We all complete each other.
Does it happen that sometimes somebody is a bit neglected or under-used?
OM: Not really. You mean one of the vocalists? I think that we always try to balance it. I mean, there are a few examples like "Burn With Me." Because sometimes the growl might not fit. And it's the same thing with a guitar solo. Sometimes a song doesn't require a guitar solo and then I don't play one. It's not really a big thing. I mean, of course, Henrik has a huge ego, so there's a lot of fighting if he's not on the song.
HEW: (Laughs.) Not really, yeah.
OM: No, not really, yeah.
JE: No, he's actually just happy if he can go out in the audience and watch the show for a couple of songs. (Laughs.)
HEW: Yeah, I always do that. (Laughs.)
JE: I get paid to watch the show! (Laughs.)
This is an interesting bit to know about you. Which brings us to the question. You're "the new guy." How does it feel to be in a working band?
(Laughs all around.)
The New Guy: Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson
HEW: In a working band? (Laughs.) Never been in a working band before. (Laughs.) No, I haven't, actually. It feels great. Real fun to see all world's ends and whatever.
Was it challenging to take over the duties?
HEW: Ask them!
OM: Probably not.
JE: Probably not. The thing with Henke is that Andy had a lot of time off, a lot of shows and tours that he couldn't do. So, Henke filled in for Andy. Which also got to that point where he didn't have to feel nervous or anything because he was coming in to the band through the back door in a very comfortable way. And the day that we asked him do you want to be in the band, he didn't have to sit down and think about "Oh, I wonder how this is going to be? Shall I do this? Or shall I not do this?" Because he had already seen all of it.
HEW: Yeah, at that point I got to know the guys. I loved the band and I wanted to be in the band. I'm glad!
So, you kind of slowly went into it.
OM: Yeah. And I just learned yesterday he threatened Andy to leave the band, threatened to kill him if he doesn't leave the band. So, that's pretty much how it happened.
JE: Have you seen Andy, by the way? Lately. (Laughs.)
OM: Now that you mention it... (Laughs.)
Have to call him, right?
OM: Yeah, exactly.
So, what I wanted to ask. Ah, you were supposed to release a documentary The Story So Far. Has it been released?
JE: No, we decided to draw that back and do it at another time because we were not supposed to release the album now when we are doing it. We were supposed to release this kind of documentary. It would be too tight upon each other. It's better to actually release the album first and then let this thing be something that comes next.
So, the documentary will come at a later time?
JE: Yeah, it will come.
OM: It's a great one.
May I ask why did you decide on a documentary as such and not kind of an add-on to a live performance?
JE: Because we had this photographer that has been with us from the beginning, since we started the band. He's a professional photographer and film-maker. And he just had tons of material and he asked us if we can't do something with this? And he cut this thing together and we added some interviews with the band and stuff like that. You can see the band from being on the smallest stage ever to the biggest stage in Japan where we also were. Instead of just having all this material in a drawer somewhere it's better to let the fans see that.
Yeah, but what I was asking is if you considered adding a live performance, a full show.
OM: I know what you mean. But I think that we have been talking about it. But since the band has only officially existed for three years, we only released two records, it's kind of hard to make a really, really good DVD from a live performance. I think it makes a lot more sense now that we have a third album coming out, you know, to think about doing that later. And, you know, who knows how we end up using the documentary. Maybe it will be a package like you're saying. But before of the release of the third record it didn't really make a whole lot of sense to film a live performance. Because we would have to play all the songs from both albums.
Yeah, the lack of material would kind of show.
OM: I think so, yeah.
You're doing quite a heavy touring. Is it tiring?
JE: We never get tired of playing. Because that's what we love to do. But of course your body says no sometimes.
HEW: Today we're tired.
JE: Like today, when you have to go out 5:30 in the morning.
ER: Three hour sleep is not enough for me, actually.
ER: I need eight... ten... twelve.
JE: But you get tired of your regular job as well. We're fortunate to have this job instead. I don't think that we should complain about it.
OM: It is really tiring but just like Jake says, you know, going up at 6:30 every morning to go to a factory to work there, I think it's probably a lot worse. At least for me. So, we're not going to complain at all.
What's your touring routine in general?
OM: What do you say Elize?
ER: Being hungry. Searching for coffee constantly. Fight with the guys.
So, you versus all the rest?
ER: (Laughs.) Yes, always in my corner. Yeah, fighting to get the best spot in the car, 'cause I always get the worst one. Because I'm the smallest.
Which one is the best?
ER: The best one is when you have your own seats.
When you're driving.
JE: Yeah, exactly!
ER: The best one is beside the window so you can lean on it and rest. The worst part is when you sit in the middle. And I always have to sit in the middle 'cause I'm smallest and youngest.
HEW: Sometimes you get bunks.
ER: Yeah, but bunks are nice. Yeah, on tour, when we do a long tour, we have a tour bus and that's good. But in Finland we had a van and now we're travelling in a van, and in US we had a small...
OM: Air plane!
JE: As the band grows a lot of these problems also disappear.
ER: And that's what we wish for. To have a better and more normal kind of living. Right now we feel like animals getting transferred in a cage.
JE: But I actually think that most bands are feeling like this. It doesn't matter.
ER: I know. Everybody has to do it.
JE: On all the tours we've been doing with the tour bus, sleeping in your own bed, after five weeks on the road you feel like a herring.
OM: Yeah, it's something that everybody needs to go through. But I think it's really important to try to do things that are part of the tour. To try to stay sane. For me personally, if it's a nice city, like if you're in Rome, or Milan, or Barcelona...
ER: Or Estonia!
OM: ...yeah, or like Tallinn, I try to go down-town and see the city. Get a vibe from that.
ER: Yeah, another one of the positive parts is just trying to get the routine like if you were at home. It's of course hard but it's the best for the health if you try to live healthy on tour, like eat well, and do funny stuff. Go in a spa, like now! We should do that.
Yeah, I read the sign outside. Although, you might want to go swimming. It should be quite warm.
JE: It's actually the same sea that we've got.
Yeah, but this is probably a warmer spot. It's supposed to be 20 degrees.
ER: Maybe we could do that later after the interview and go take a swim.
I don't have my, ugh, swimming clothes.
ER: It's fine, we can go natural.
(A pause and laughter.)
JE: I don't know if that was an invite... (Laughs.)
Yeah, was that an invite?
ER: Oh... yeah, I think so, apparently...
How do you prepare for a show?
ER: Eat. Sleep.
Do you do any warm-up exercises?
OM: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, ideally I try to play like an hour of guitar before we go up on stage. Usually it's not more than maybe 15-20 minutes. But if you don't play anything at all then it's really, really bad. That happens sometimes. So, I usually have like a practice routine of like 15 minutes to an hour that I try to go through. And then you go through the whole process of changing your clothes, puttin on the make up... No, I'm kidding.
HEW: Yeah, I'm putting on a make up. (ed: can't tell if serious or trolling.)
ER: I think that's part of my warm-up. I thought about it that sometimes you don't feel like putting on any make-up. And the guys don't wear any make-up...
HEW: Yeah, we do.
ER: ...so you don't have to wear make-up. I don't know where it comes from that because we're girls we have to wear make-up. But I would just feel very natural and the normal me if I didn't put on my make-up. Because it's part of the show, I think. Like, when I do that I get focus and get into my stage role.
OM: Persona, yeah.
ER: So, that's one of the most important things for me. I mean, I can put on a make-up and then I take it off but then I would come back to my normal me again. So, that's part of the whole thing. And also put on the clothes. It's the same as if you're an actor. I'm an educated actress. And it's always like the role is in the clothes. It's the most important thing. Especially the shoes.
So, what you want to say that you would like to go on stage without the role?
ER: I could do that but then I would lose my... It's like when you're a... (Here she asks for a translation from Olof.)
ER: ...stewardess or a... kock? (Laughs.)
(Others start laughing.)
ER: ...chef you have your working clothes. And it's exactly the same for us artists. I don't think I've seen any artist going up all natural on stage. I mean, it also wouldn't be as fun to watch, actually, if you just walked... Like, would you like to see me perform like this, in flip-flops, shorts, t-shirt, yeh-yeeh?
JE: Yeah, depends. (Laughs.)
ER: All right, it could work. But it's part of the process to get focused.
OM: You can put it simply. Like, how many times have you seen Bruce Wayne kicking ass compared to Batman?
OM: It's when he puts on his uniform he becomes Batman and then he kicks ass. And we're kind of like Batman. At least I am. (Laughs.)
ER: And as I said before, just to make sure: eat well, sleep is the best thing for the voice to be able to perform for 75 minutes. It's very important to sleep.
When you go on stage what is your biggest challenge?
JE: To not fall down?
OM: Actually, he has a point there. We played a show in Prague, I think it was. And the stage was so dark... No, it's even worse in this place that we always play in in Hungary, in Budapest. When you walk in on stage it's really dark, there's a lot of smoke everywhere. And there's just a lot of holes in random spots, you know, where you can trip and fall down like three meters. So, walking on that stage is a challenge because you need to watch where you put your feet or you might hurt yourself bad.
JE: Yeah, and we always add something extra to our shows. We put minds out on stage and we don't know where they are.
OM: You know, to keep up the adrenaline.
(They all start laughing.)
JE: Yeah, and you wondered where Andy went... (Laughs.)
ER: I just have to fill in. The biggest challenge is always to get the audience into the show.
And your band being as controversial as you are, it's more kind of a love or hate thing in metal community.
JE: Yeah, that's a cool thing with Amaranthe. Either you love us or you hate us.
JE: There's no in between there.
And how do you cope with these people that don't like you, especially on these big festivals, you know?
OM: Usually that's fine. There's definitely a connection with what you were talking about with the challenge. Because usually that doesn't really show in a festival. You could expect that when we play at Wacken for example, there's a lot of, you know, true metalheads there. And I was thinking that maybe there will be some kind of reaction here.
ER: Maybe I get shot on stage. That would be awful. (Laughs.)
OM: Yeah, exactly. That would be difficult. A challenge! But it hasn't really been like that. I mean, even, you know, on the big German festivals people have tended to accept us really well. But there's one notable exception. When we played in our home town earlier this year, I think it was. Our first show of the year. We're thinking, yeah, it'll be awesome, we haven't played in Gothenburg for a long time. But the show was... Like there's a Gothenburg sound thing, and everybody was at least 40 plus. And people really didn't dig us that much.
ER: No, they did not get into it. They were so cold. And mean.
OM: Yeah, that was a challenge. But I think we managed quite well at the end of the day.
ER: Yeah, that's a challenge to not get them to affect you when you're on stage. I mean, I like what I'm doing and I have to stand for it. I can't allow them to put me down or make me feel bad about what I'm doing.
How do you cope with mistakes on stage and all the mishaps that inevitably happen?
JE: It's a live. What should we do about it? The other thing you can do is just to make sure you're not doing the same mistakes again tomorrow.
OM: Yeah. Everybody deals with it in a different way. When it comes to actual performance mistakes, playing mistakes, stuff like that, I never play mistakes. So, that's never a problem for me.
OM: Yeah, exactly! No, but it's not something that you can think too much about. I mean, if you do fuck up at some point then, just like Jake says, you try to make it better the day after. If you make repeated mistakes then you have to think about what's actually wrong with all those situations. But I think that, like I said, everybody copes with it differently. We have a drummer and he gets really upset if it's not 100% perfect, for example.
ER: Me too. I can't stop thinking about it if I make something. It's in my head until I do the next show and if I correct my mistake then I can finally relax. But before that it's almost impossible.
What has been your biggest blunder on stage?
OM: I think the biggest challenge with this band has never been the musical aspect. Because we have some really, really good singers. I think everybody can perform well musically, and stuff like that. Usually there's not a whole lot of fuck-ups in that aspect. But I think the really big challenge with the band like Amaranthe is to get a good flow in the show. And I think that's where we've had our biggest blunders. We of course have the keyboards on backing tracks since we don't have a keyboard player and I think our biggest blunders have been in that aspect when, you know, the whole technical aspect of it breaks down. And that can affect you. That's actually a big challenge to not let that affect you.
JE: Or when the backing tracks machine won't land in US, for example. Stuff like that.
ER: That was pretty rough.
JE: But for some reason we always manage to get out of these problems. It's actually more stressful to have technical problems than having a sore throat or something like that.
OM: I agree for sure.
OK, one kind of a serious question about touring.
(They all look at each other appearing to be taken aback.)
I see you have a show coming up in Kiev in December. Not to bring politics too much into it...
JE: But let's do it. (Laughs.)
...how do you feel about playing places with unstable political situation?
JE: We would never play there if the situation would stay as it is now (ed: implying that MH17 was shot down just 2 days prior to our interview). We have already moved the show two times and for the time being the thing that happened yesterday and stuff like that you can just wait and see. Of course we want to come to our fans and we don't want the political problem in the country affect them to be able to see us or not. Because it has nothing to do politics.
OM: It has nothing to do with those fans either. They are not the ones behind the politics.
JE: No, exactly! They are not the one to blame. But the only reason for us ever cancelling a show in a territory like this is when it comes to our own safety of course, us and our crew.
Olof Mörck and Elize Ryd
ER: It's not like we're scared that someone will come and, you know, kill us or something. No, it's not what we're afraid of. If we take the plane and something happens and we're not able to fly back home, for example, and we may get stuck there. Then we'll have to cancel even more shows. That's why we have to make our decisions to move the show. 'Cause we're not like "Oh, no, we're so scared! We don't want to go there 'cause maybe someone hits us." You know. It's not why we cancel a show. And we try, as they said, to stay out of politics 'cause our music is supposed to make people...
OM: Feel good and not think about those things.
ER: Yeah, it's an escape. For me it's been an escape with music. And I think it's good to separate the musical world from politics. But we support the people that need support...
ER: ...and we understand that it feels bad that we're not able to go there. I don't know if we're able to go now but we'll see what happens.
JE: We'll see what happens. For example, we went to Tunisia and supported them in their revolution just a couple of weeks after everything fell down. And there were armed guards everywhere. But we decided to go there to support them because they needed us. Because they didn't have the free press. They didn't free music. They were not allowed even to wear band t-shirts before we came there.
How did it go?
ER: It was awesome. One of the coolest experiences.
JE: It was fantastic. It was three thousand people.
OM: Definitely a high point in our career I would say.
JE: And this was in the beginning of our career as well.
OM: It was our first show abroad, actually. It was a strange experience. Even though the foreign department of Sweden was warning against going to Tunisia and that situation was really unstable. But after playing the show and seeing the happiness in their faces - not, of course, only because we played the show but because they could go to a show and you know see that whole rock concert big thing. That was a super cool experience to be part of.
I have to say it's probably not something that you would have imagined your first show abroad to be.
OM: Definitely not.
But I have to say about Kiev is that three of my students went there just in the beginning of July and these guys came back all right.
JE: Yeah, exactly. I was on the phone with our former tour-manager. And he's now the tour-manager for Thirty Seconds To Mars and they were there in February or March when it was really, really, really tense and big things going on. And he said that everything was cool. But the thing was that the day after they left there were riots exactly where they were the day before. So, you never know.
ER: Actually what they did was they sent home some our sports people from Sweden that played football and ice hockey. They had to leave and go home for a while to Sweden in case something happens.
OK, that more or less covers what I wanted to ask... Any last words?
JE: Any last words... (Laughs.)
...before you know... How was the question? Ever been shot on stage or what?
(We drift off in some small discussions, Jake going down to the restrooms, the local band manager coming around, and so on.)
ER: We want to add that it's very nice to be here for the first time and what we've seen so far has been great. Even the food is very good.
You already said that. You really like that food. (Laughing.)
ER: I know. Is it a classical Estonian dish, this cheese baked... (ed: referring to the dessert that was probably some sort of a cheesecake or something.) But if you go to Estonia, you readers, you should try these desserts, it's very good, brie cheese baked, warm with strawberries.
OM: There you go!
(Here we draw the line in the interview and chit-chat about random stuff about languages and whatnot.)
Thanks to the band for taking their time. It was nice meeting you all, hopefully it'll happen again sometime.
Posted on 27.07.2014 by
I shoot people.
Sometimes, I also write about it.
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