DATE OF INTERVIEW:
7th April 2011
METAL DISCOVERY: So how’s life on the road so far with Bodom because you’re only on the UK dates, aren’t you?
TED LUNDSTRÖM: Yeah, this is the only part we were able to fit in our schedule and we’re enjoying it. We’ve been touring with them before and they’re great guys, and the crew, and the shows have been great.
(Ted Lundström on Amon Amarth's aspirations for future shows)
"If we have the money, and space, and stuff, we’d love to do things…like Viking fighters to perform on stage because our music is theatrical itself. We’d love to have pyros and big stage shows. The bigger, the better so if we had the opportunity we’d have shows that would blow everybody away."
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Official Amon Amarth MySpace:
Official Amon Amarth Website:
AMON AMARTH DISCOGRAPHY
Once Sent from the Golden Hall (1998)
The Avenger (1999)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Wisely, as I’m sure many would agree, changing their name from Scum to Amon Amarth in 1992, the Swedes rise to prominence within the scene over the past nineteen years reached new heights two and a half years ago with the release of seventh studio album ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’. And they look set to capitalise on this new found popularity with new full length release 'Sutur Rising' which has already charted at number 34 in The Billboard 200 in the States, shifting 15,000 copies in its first week of release, and number 75 in the official UK album chart. Over in the UK as main support on the British leg of Children of Bodom's 2011 European tour, Metal Discovery spoke to bassist Ted Lundström in Nottingham, a couple of hours before Amon Amarth hit the stage at Rock City...
Ted Lundström backstage at the Rock City, Nottingham, UK, 7th April 2011
Photograph copyright © 2011 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
MD: An incredible new album…
TL: Thank you.
MD: Yeah, absolutely amazing. Two and a half years, of course, since the last one although I gather you started writing for the new one back in January last year?
TL: Yeah, something like that. We had a long time touring where we didn’t write anything while touring but then we stopped touring and started writing. We actually had a few months off first and then started writing. It took us, maybe…I don’t remember when we entered the studio…maybe October, but between January and October we did a few shows but we also wrote the album and had some time off.
MD: How did you contribute yourself to the writing?
TL: Not too much with writing. It’s more when we arrange the songs and then, of course, everyone has their say and ideas more about lyric directions and stuff.
MD: And you used Jens Bogren as producer for the third time for this album – what’s your working relationship with him in the studio in terms of how you want your music to sound and how he helps you get that sound?
TL: Since this is the third time we already know each other really well so it’s got easier now. It takes a few albums before you know exactly where you want to go and then, of course, he’s a producer so he sometimes wants us to go a little bit that way at the same time we want to go that way so there’s always a little bit of discussion. But it was part of the whole writing process – we rehearsed for a few months and maybe had four or five songs done, then we did some demos and send it to him, then he came up and listened to everything and changed some ideas and stuff. But once in the studio, he’s the master with the controls. You know, we did our part and he’s like a slave driver!
MD: And Johan, as in frontman Johan, he’s quoted on the press sheet as saying you wanted a more “aggressive and rougher sound” this time round. Do you think you achieved that?
TL: Well, I think we got a little bit more edge on the guitars and bass. At least that’s what we asked for because Jens tends to like the softer sound more whereas we want to have a rawer sound. At least we got halfway, maybe! [laughs] But more than the last one, I think, and the drums was more of an acoustic sound, a more old school sound.
MD: Yeah, you can hear that in the mix, I think.
TL: In the kick there’s a lot of a click thing normally in this kind of fast music but we wanted to have…we like the acoustic sound as well and I think we got a good mix between them.
MD: The drums weren’t recorded in Jens’ studio; they were recorded in Park Studios?
TL: Yeah, Park Studios in Stockholm, where we live.
MD: Why did you decide to record the drums out of Jens’ studio?
TL: Jens has a new studio so the drum room, or the studio room, is very small so if you want to have nice drums you need a bigger room so you can get the “room” sound. That’s the reason we did the drums there, then we moved to Jens’ studio to do all the guitars and everything.
MD: The cover art by Tom Thiel is absolutely amazing again but how much input did the band have in the concept? Did you tell him the kind of thing you wanted or did he just go off and create something?
TL: No, we had an idea; we sent him some sketches and stuff. Because we know his art from before we just came up with the idea, we had some sketches and sent them to him, and told him “so this is what we want but you still have a free hand”. Then he sent us a sketch and we changed some bits so we were part of the whole process. But, I mean, he’s a great artist and we love his stuff so you’re never worried that it will go wrong.
MD: The music’s so epic sounding so you need epic artwork.
TL: Yeah, it has the feel of it.
MD: So are you good artists in the band? You said you sent him sketches…
TL: No, no, not really. It was just rough stuff.
MD: Just stickmen then?!
TL: [laughs] Pretty much, yeah! It’s more like that but we write our ideas on paper and he does sketches from those.
MD: ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’ was your most successful album to date in terms of chart positions and record sales, and the new one’s been getting really good reviews and critical acclaim already, so how do you rate the two albums against each other? Do you think you’ve bettered ‘Twilight…’?
TL: I think this is a better album than ‘Twilight…’. I think, maybe, overall it’s a better album but I think ‘Twilight…’ seems, at least so far, to have the more instant hit kind of songs whereas these are more even over the album. But it depends because you never know when, after you’ve just released an album, even working with the songs in your head, it’s just full of everything you did over the last year so you have to take some time off and then you have some songs as growers and some songs don’t grow after you’ve recorded them. So it’s difficult to say, really, what it’s going to be like in a few months when everybody gets into it.
MD: Yeah, so you’re too close to the music to judge it in that way.
TL: Yeah, it’s really tough because everybody has a different opinion, and we’ve got to choose a song for a video and nobody knows which song to take. Which one is the best? I don’t know, I don’t know!
MD: Do you have any ideas at the moment?
TL: Well, we have a few songs we were thinking about but nothing’s been decided yet.
MD: Rather amazingly, the new album’s entered the official UK album chart at number 75 which, for death metal band in this country, is amazing. Did you realise you’d become that big in the UK?
TL: We knew we were growing pretty much on the last two albums, and particularly the last album gave us a kick. Of course, we didn’t expect to do this good but it’s the same thing, we just got the charts from the US and we entered at number 34…
MD: Yeah, and 15,000 copies sold over there I read.
TL: Yeah, that’s also amazing…for a band of our style.
MD: I’ve also read you’ve made the covers of over twenty big metal mags around the world for this album so is there a feeling in the band that you’re really hitting the big-time now?
TL: Yeah, definitely, you know when you’re on the cover that you’re the main band in that issue so it feels really good, especially that we’ve started growing in more countries. We’ve been big in Germany and then slowly, these countries, they come one by one. We get on the lists, on the charts…we came on the chart in the Czech Republic, for example, and that’s also very unusual, apparently, for a death metal band. So it’s really nice.
MD: So hypothetically, if Amon Amarth really hit the big-time and you had a much bigger budget for gigs, would you want the show to be a much more theatrical experience with more Viking imagery and so forth?
TL: Yeah, yeah, that’s what we aim to do. If we have the money, and space, and stuff, we’d love to do things…like Viking fighters to perform on stage because our music is theatrical itself. We’d love to have pyros and big stage shows. The bigger, the better so if we had the opportunity we’d have shows that would blow everybody away.
MD: Do you think you would’ve got this big if you were still called Scum?!
TL: [laughs] Who knows! Probably not! [laughs] I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it that way!
MD: Does it ever get frustrating when critics label your actual music as “Viking Metal” because, obviously, “Viking Metal” means a whole different kind of thing in the scene.
TL: No, I don’t really care. I know Johan has said he doesn’t really agree with the label “Viking Metal” but, of course, we’re a metal band and we sing about Vikings so it doesn’t bother me but when I hear “Viking Metal” I think about the Pagan bands, like more old school instruments and stuff. That’s more my opinion, but I don’t know, as long as they call it something… “something metal” then I’m okay with it.
MD: Yeah, as long as they call it “fucking great metal” then that’s the important thing!
MD: You covered System of a Down’s ‘Aerials’ recently…
TL: Not an obvious choice…[laughs]
MD: Exactly, yeah, a very unusual choice of song! Are the band big System fans, or fans of that song in particular?
TL: I think everybody likes System of a Down…at least some songs because some songs are really good and some songs are not so good but this song has a special history within the band. When they released the ‘Toxicity’ album we were on tour at that time and our tour driver was playing that music all the time, and then we got into a fight whether it was good music or bad music. Then we started to sing it all the time we were on tour as a joke. In Japan, we went to one of those karaoke places and we had to sing System of a Down. People think we did a cover of that song because it’s a mainstream band, to sell more records, but that’s not the case at all. It’s just a long, long history.
MD: It’s a really good version because you put your own stamp on it too. The band name is a reference to Tolkien and ‘Lord of the Rings’, of course, so do you think you’ll ever venture away from the Viking imagery and do some Tolkien-themed stuff?
TL: No, I don’t think so. When we chose the band name…it’s always tough if you’re a new band and all the good ones are taken, and we just happened to find that one by accident because I was reading one of Tolkien’s books at the time and…I just thought it looked cool, and had a cool meaning, and everybody agreed.
MD: And then you went off and sang about Vikings!
TL: Yeah but, I mean, Tolkien is very influenced by Northern mythology anyway and you can see that in the movies and stuff, so it fits but we would never do any Tolkien thing. We’ll leave that to other bands.
MD: You’re touring the States after these Bodom shows and it’s billed as “An evening with Amon Amarth” which sounds very civilised!
TL: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: What’s this all about then?!
TL: It’s quite a short tour to be over there only for a few weeks so we decided…because a few years back our very first album was going to be re-released and re-mastered, and we wanted to put something extra on there because, of course, the record company wants to do more re-releases to sell more albums and we think it’s a bit of a rip-off, more or less, to pay to buy the same thing again, so we decided to do these shows and record them. So we did four evenings in a row; we played just the first album, the second album, and then we had some extra songs. So we decided to try a similar thing over in the US where we’ll play the new album in its entirety, then a break, and then come back to play the more classic songs to make it a whole evening just with us. It’s going to be interesting to see if…it seems like people are looking forward to it. If it works out we might try it somewhere else. As I said, for a few weeks, it’s a good place to try it out.
MD: Definitely. And you played on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise recently – how was that experience, on a cruise ship? It seems like a really bizarre concept.
TL: Yeah, it is. Even though we had those kind of cruises between Sweden and Finland, they are all just twenty four hours and it’s a bit different from a cruise ship where rich, old people dress up and go to dinner! So it was quite different; there was no backstage area so it was everybody together like a big family. It was really fun. We didn’t know what to expect but it was a great time. I think all the people working on the boat, to them it was also a very fun experience. I think they enjoyed it because they’re used to a completely different kind of people on the boat. But it was nice.
MD: The final thing I was going to ask – obviously it’s twenty years next year for Amon Amarth so are there any plans to celebrate the occasion with any special shows perhaps?
TL: Yeah, that’s the plan. The plan is we’re not gonna do many festivals or things this summer; we’re gonna stay out of that and just do a few summer shows, and then next year we’re gonna try to do a whole summer. We’ll try to do a twenty years anniversary thing and maybe bring out a boat or some cool stage show, or something. It’s definitely gonna be something special. That’s the plan but, I mean, that’s next year so we’ve still got plenty of time to plan.
MD: Absolutely, yeah. Right, thank you very much for your time.
TL: Thank you very much.
Fate of Norns (2004)
With Oden on Our Side (2006)
The Crusher (2001)
Versus the World (2002)
Twilight of the Thunder God (2008
Sutur Rising (2011)