Interview conducted June 6 2019
Interview published June 27 2019
Swedish melodic death metallers
Amon Amarth put out their new record Berserker on May 3rd and accordingly
was published a few weeks earlier, featuring bass player Ted Lundström.
Yet, as there was open spot in early
June at Sweden Rock Festival to talk to guitar player Johan Söderberg,
Metal Covenant saw an opportunity to do another one, using a not so different
set of questions. So, here's a chance to see if these two band members
look at a couple of things in a similar way or from different angles.
Tobbe: What can you say about a new Amon
Amarth record without coming out too cliché?
Johan: Well, we like that it is the same and
we like that we are a little cliché. That's our style, you know,
to keep the same concept. We want to have the AC/DC style and not change,
although we change a little, but there isn't any bigger change.
Does it get easier or harder for you guys to make records? I mean, you
get more routine and experience for each record, but at the same time
there's a greater risk to repeat yourself and end up in the same kind
Johan: Well, it's always difficult to come up
with riffs and stuff that you haven't heard before. Oftentimes it's
like "This is similar to that song. This is too similar to that
one.". But in recent years we stopped caring about if it's a little
bit similar to something else. Nowadays we're thinking more in terms
of "Is this good or not?".
And we have also stopped caring about if it sounds
like some other band, like "This is too much Iron Maiden."
and 10 years ago we wouldn't have used that stuff, but today we don't
give a shit if it's too similar to Iron Maiden. If we think it's good
we will just keep it the way it is.
Tobbe: You and Olli [Olavi Mikkonen, also
guitar] write the music and it's pretty funny that the info sheet for
Berserker says that Ted is also contributing to the songwriting.
Johan: Yes, but that's because we share the royalties.
The royalties go into the band; I don't receive them personally, you
know. Everything goes into the band and then we pay salaries to everyone.
That's why it says so. Previously it was more like: maybe I've done
a half song and then Olli the other half, on some songs. And some songs
I have done myself and some songs he has done himself.
On this record actually Olli wrote all his songs
all by himself and I wrote all my songs all by myself and then Skägget
["The beard". Nickname for vocalist Johan Hegg.] of course
wrote the lyrics. But everyone can change stuff a little bit, like "We
ditch this part. Let's do this part twice instead.". With stuff
like that everyone can contribute to.
Amon Amarth's music is heavy, fast and melodic and how many albums can
a band make with this kind of style without having to change more than
you have done on the last couple of albums?
Johan: I think we could go on forever. Just look
at AC/DC, you know. They've been doing their style since forever. They're
not changing anything. And nor does Slayer, really. I think it's good
to have your own style, so people recognize it, like "This is Amon
Amarth and they sound like this.". If you look at a blues artist.
Blues is always the same chords; it's just different sounds, you know.
Tobbe: When you release a new record today,
do you release that record because you really, really want to make another
record, or do you release a record just because of it, like "That's
the way it's supposed to be."?
Johan: We have kind of a cycle, you know. We
release a record and then we tour that record for 2-2,5 years. And when
you've done that you're starting to get tired of touring, like "Oh
damn, touring is tiresome!" and then you want to start writing
songs instead. And then you're doing that for a year, just sitting at
home writing, then you're recording, and then you're kind of fed up
with writing songs and then you're feeling like going out playing again.
Tobbe: It's one thing when you're younger,
but how are you able to get that urge to be out on the road when you've
Johan: I enjoy being on stage, you know. And
to see the audience, I get a kick from it. Even though you're so sick
of touring when you've done it for 2 years on a record and just want
to go home, when you've been at home for a year you get the urge back.
You start longing for that damn tour bus, you know. Sometimes when we're
home we visit other bands that come to town and hang out in their tour
bus and, like "This is really great! I wanna get back to the tour
Tobbe: Over the years you have added more
regular heavy metal to your music, although intense heavy metal, but you
started out as a death metal band, so where do you think Amon Amarth's
music will end up in the end?
Johan: I don't know, really. The thing with heavy
metal influences is that that's the kind of music we like to listen
to ourselves. Like I said, we used to think like "We can't use
this because it sounds too similar to Iron Maiden or Judas Priest.",
but in the last couple of years when we stopped caring about that our
music sounds more heavy metal. But, you know, Skägget can't sing
heavy metal vocals. He's number one in the world when it comes to growl
vocals, but he will never be able to sing like Bruce Dickinson.
think we can't change so much more, really. Maybe a little bit more
towards heavy metal. I think the last 3 albums are in the same kind
of style and I think we will keep that for a couple of albums more and
we won't go back closer towards raging death metal, you know.
Tobbe: Besides getting more skilled as players,
how do you think that the early records like Once Sent From The Golden
Hall  and The Avenger  would sound like if you had made them
today? Even though you personally weren't in the band on the first record
Johan: Everything is clearer now, you know.
On Avenger, for example, we added a lot of guitar stuff that made everything
kind of blurry. And we never played single notes in the melodies, but
it was more kind of a constant chewing. Now we play long notes instead,
in certain parts, to bring forth melodies.
Tobbe: This change of style has made the
Johan: Yes, I think so too. It's definitely more
appealing to a broader audience. If you listen to the old records on
a crappy stereo it sounds very buzzing, you know. It's hard to distinguish
anything. It's just a fucking roar and bellow of rage. That's appealing
to a certain audience, but more people are attracted by hearing, you
know, clear melodies and hearing what the singer is singing, although
His voice has gone through a great development
over the years. In the beginning it was mostly just shouting. Just bawling,
you know, whereas now he has a great technique.
Tobbe: I'm drawing a parallel to In Flames,
even if they have changed style a lot more than you guys have, but at
the same time, like you said, it attracts a larger audience, and is this
something that's considered when you're writing the songs?
Johan: At least that it will interact with the
audience. Nowadays we make riffs more like "This is catchy. This
will get people going. They want to jump to this. They want to sing
along to this.". That's the way we're thinking. In the beginning
we were, you know, death metal and everyone was looking at the floor
and spinning their head and with their hair in their face all the time.
It works fine when you play in a small indoor
club, but when you play at those big arenas and shit, like with a large
Iron Maiden production, you can't act like that all the time, but you've
got to interact more with the audience. Even if I sometimes headbang,
I look at the audience through the hair anyway and I never just look
down at the floor, you know.
A lot of bands are popular for, like, 5-10 years, besides giants like
Metallica and Iron Maiden, and where in this span is Amon Amarth today?
Are you worried about losing the grip, or are you perhaps just trying
to secure your position, or do you believe that you can make it even bigger?
Johan: Our goal is always to grow with every
album we put out. At some time in the future it will obviously decrease,
but so far we have grown with every album we've released up to now and
I think we can still grow for at least a couple of years more.
Tobbe: Do metal fans get older and older
or is that just something I misperceive?
Johan: The thing with us is that now we have
just reached a place where we have started to get a regeneration. People
who started listen to us in the beginning have gotten kids who also
have started to listen to us. On the last album [Jomsviking, 2016] suddenly
there were 12-13-year-old kids in the first row, who sang along to the
songs, you know.
It's awesome, because that's the absolute best
you can get; that the ones who were older than us when we began still
listen to us, and that the ones who were in the same age as us still
listen to us too, and then their kids listen to us as well. I started
to listen to Iron Maiden when I was around 12 and now my daughter is
around the age where she, even if she listens to other music for the
most part, could go to an Iron Maiden concert if she wants to.
I have friends whose kids listen a lot to us
as well and my neighbor's kid also listens to us and they're, you know,
12-15 years old. It's perfect, as we will keep on growing as long as
they grow up.
Tobbe: When you have reached a certain,
pretty high level in your career, is it easy to relax too much and lose
Johan: Yes, it's probably easy, but we think
about it. We think, you know, "We can't start to relax now, just
because things are going well. We must always keep working.".
You guys were over 30 when things started to happen on a larger scale
and in what way was it good for the band that you had reached a certain
age before success came?
Johan: If we had been this successful as we
are today when we were 23, we would have died by drugs and alcohol within
a year, you know. Not because we're doing drugs in that way, but we
would have certainly been exposed to it and everything would just have
been a big party. Now we're so old that we can't party in that way.
So I think it's better to reach success later in your career.
Tobbe: Do you sometimes feel that you're
kind of living in a bubble or in your own world?
Johan: We probably do, but we don't feel like
it. I feel like a regular dude. When I'm with my buddies at home, they
don't think I'm different in any way. We see it just like any other
job, although we think it's a really great job.
Tobbe: Is there anything that could make
you give up this career and do something else outside of the music?
Johan: Well, maybe if the fans just stopped
listen to us and we simply couldn't keep doing this. Then I would have
to do something else, you know. I have quite a lot of spare time when
I'm home and then I'm able to do a lot of other stuff.
When we've finished an album and started touring,
I don't sit there writing songs when I come home, but when the whole
touring cycle is over, then we start writing songs. It would have been
too much, I think, if we would have been touring and writing songs at
the same time. You would get tired of it; the same, you know, with just
music all the time.
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