When I arrived at the venue where they were playing at, my interviewee just walked out of the bus on his slippers, barely awake. Wasn’t too happy that I was the first person he saw, especially not when I told him that we were supposed to do an interview. An hour later he was willing to talk to me, and the black clouds above his head had cleared away. This is what we discussed:
How is it that you guys manage to surpass yourselves with every ablum you put out?
Uhm, well I think we like to make music that is interesting to ourselves. We have a lot of musical influences ourselves and we try to mix them in our music. We do what we like, we don’t really care what other people think.
Do you think that this is the final Opeth line-up?
Well we’ll see, you never know. I mean Martin Lopez is in the band, but he’s recovering from an injury. But if he doesn’t want to be in the band anymore then we’ll need a new drummer. But you know, we had a fairly stabile line-up, people always ask us why so many member changes, but since the first album there have only been two different line-ups. And we have an additional keyboard player now, so hopefully this is the final line-up yeah.
So why did you choose such a progressive direction for this album?
I think its again the music we listen to, and this time the songs were written and rehearsed before we went into the studio. We had some time to think things through you know, usually it’s kind of done in a rush, we put the album together in the studio so we wouldn’t have any time too fool around with the structures. If you would want to record a song like Atonement now you can because it is done.
Did you expect when you started out with Opeth you would have a video playing on MTV? I was lying in my bed yesterday, and there is was!
Actually no, you know we decided to go for the long songs so we figured there’s not gonna be any radio airplay or a video. And if you want it, it is still going to be an edit.
Yeah I know, that takes the feel out of it a bit.
Yeah, I don’t know if there’s going to be a video for a real Opeth song, a ten minute video.
You could make a short movie for that! Okay, when you read the lyrics, they’re kind of depressing. But are you all happy people?
No no, we’re all happy people. But I’m into melancholic stuff a lot, most of my record collection consists of that. But I’m a happy person you know, I occasionally go to the pub with some friends and everything. But when playing music I find it more interesting to write in minor chords than in major chords.
Explain to me why it’s easier for you guys to write a ten minute song instead of a short one.
It’s a habit I think because when we started out we wanted the long songs. You know we wanted put all these things in our songs, like acoustic parts. There were these bands that told us that you don’t need to write three minute songs to write good songs. We started doing that and created all this freedom to put all sorts of things in our songs. When you’ve got like an eight minute song and you want to pt something else in it, you just can because it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a long song anyway. We got used to that kind of format I think, plus it’s natural for us, It’s more difficult for us to write a short song.
What parts do you prefer personally, the acoustic or the brutal parts?
I love both, it’s fun to play both of them. The acoustic parts are always welcome because we’ve been playing the brutal for quite a while, hence the Damnation album. But I think the dynamics are the most interesting about it.
Do think that joining Roadrunner Records will allow you to reach a bigger audience?
I think that the idea is to reach all the potential Opeth fans, but there have been several cases where the fans come out to us and say that it’s really hard for them to get our albums. I don’t know what that’s like here in Holland but there just are a lot of people that would buy an album if they knew about us and we think that Roadrunner gives us a great opportunity to do so.
Yeah, because Opeth is a pretty weird band between all the other stuff they’re signing lately.
Yeah, we signed despite the fact that they have a lot of crap bands on the label, but to me Roadrunner is also a classis label. They used to have a lot of great bands. And also when we release an album and Nickelback releases an album, those two albums have nothing in common, but if we were singed to Nuclear Blast and we would release an album and Dissection would release an album, those two would have nothing in common either. So I think we’re alone in that sense, on Roadrunner.
Are there any bands on Roadrunner that you like?
Well I used to love Obituary, the new album is all right you know. It’s pretty funny that they’re still out there, but I don’t like any of the new bands though.
No Slipknot, Chimaira…
No no, well Chimaira are some pretty cool guys though. But I’m not a fan of today’s metal, I just think that everything sounds the same. And I don’t think that just because I’m getting old but it’s also because one band find a recipe that works, and then everybody else tries to do it as well. Especially in the United States, a lot sounds the same.
Al right then, do you consider Mikael’s lyrics to be poetry?
Well I think he’s got a poetic touch and that suits the music really well. We couldn’t for instance write political stuff. We kind of need the melancholic, romantic if you want, lyrics. Dreamy almost. And the songs say exactly what the lyrics are all about, so we need the melancholic because that goes for the music as well. People sometimes ask us ‘what is this song all about’ but there’s no real answer. Of course Mikael has a pretty good idea what it’s about, but the point is that anyone can read it and interpret it along with the music in its own way. And I think that gets you more interested. When I was young I used to read all the lyrics and make my own ideas with them. I like it when you don’t really know.
How were you’re feelings when you did the seated shows on the tour for the Damnation album?
It was a fun thing to, it came out pretty cool and I think it’s a daring thing to do for a metal band. The first ever show we did for the Damnation tour was in Toronto, and when we did Europe we just did a three week tour in the US, and I’ve never been so nervous in my life. Because when you have a seated audience and you play mellow songs, everything is quiet. And you’re not used to that, usually when you’re done everybody makes a lot of noise. And during the song it’s loud and you headbang and if you fuck up you’ll be like ah dammit. But when you do it like this you feel like you have attention on you the whole time. I think we learned a lot from that, and it was cool to play.
Okay, do you think that Mikael could do a stand-up comedy show?
Yeah! He’s good at being the frontman, not only when we play the songs but also between the songs. He’s joking al the time, talking a lot, depending on his mood. But he’s never been one of those guys that screams the names of the songs they’re about to play. He’s a real English-style gentleman. Obviously we’re on stage with him every night and he’ll say something he said the night before, but sometimes he comes up with all this weird stuff which is pretty funny. Me and Per always look at each other and laugh when he’s going at it again.
I don’t know if he cold be a stand-up comedian because obviously there’s a musical crowd so everything he says is related to music, but he stands a good a chance, haha!
Okay, last question, total bullshit. In movies, who do you prefer, Arnold Schwarzenegger of Sylvester Stallone?
Stallone, I think he’s a way better actor. Rocky, he’s not bad in that I think.
Ahh, you’re the only band that says Stallone, all the other bands say Arnold. I did this interview on the previous tour here with Martin and he said Stallone as well.
I don’t think that Arnold is cool since he needed to be the governor.
(at this time we start discussing the movies and I almost got him to say that Arnold is better but…)
I’ll say Stallone though, because I was a Rocky fan when I grew up.
(And I’m not even going to type out the rest!)
Okay, thanks a lot for this interview and good luck with the show!