Interview conducted July 15 2017
Interview published August 8 2017
At this year's edition of Gefle
Metal Festival in Sweden, day two was headlined by prog metal masters
Opeth, who treated the audience to a top music experience, as usual. Some
hours before, Metal Covenant was escorted backstage for an interview with
the band's superb guitarist Fredrik Åkesson,
who celebrates his tenth year in the band. It was a pleasure to meet the
calm and humble Fredrik again and a nice, interesting chat was had.
Mozzy: Last time I met you, we spoke about
Opeth's upcoming show at Wembley Arena in October, which I attended. That
was a prestigious gig, how did that go do you think?
Fredrik: Oh absolutely, I remember that. We played
this extra long set, which we only did there plus in New York and at
the Opera house in Sydney, Australia. Oh, and in Los Angeles as well.
So it was only four gigs and it was special. And to play at Wembley
was great, although it was a bit downsized.
Mozzy: Exactly, the stage was pushed forward
a bit on the arena floor. Mikael (Åkerfeldt, vocals/guitar) joked
about it, calling it an intimate gig.
Fredrik: Yes (laughs). It is a bit of a prestige
thing, I guess, to play at Wembley. Apart from the cut-off part, it
was sold-out, they say.
Yes. I bought this event t-shirt there, actually, with the date on the
Fredrik: Oh, cool! Next time in London we hope
to play at Hammersmith. That would be great because it is so legendary.
Mozzy: Oh yes, that would be something.
Fredrik: We always try to play at new places
in such big cities as London and New York. We have managed to get to
play at different venues
Mozzy: Yes, I've seen you at other venues
in London, actually. For tonight's show, you have a longer time to play.
Fredrik: Yes, not as long as London though.
Mozzy: No, but I saw your setlist at Download
festival, for example. On instances like those, you really have to cram
in your songs. That must be difficult.
Fredrik: Yes, it gets tricky for us considering
the length of some songs. We have based the set a bit on what we did
last autumn. There are a couple of other songs tonight though. But in
the autumn this year we're doing a UK tour with Enslaved and then we
will alter the set a bit. But it will be good tonight. It will be quite
a hard, intense set.
Mozzy: And Martin (Axenrot, drums) is on
double duty tonight (playing with Bloodbath during our interview), but
he has done that before, I guess?
Fredrik: Yeah, and he was here yesterday as well,
partying. He is a strong dude. He is a machine, a beast (laughs).
Mozzy: Mikael (a former Bloodbath member)
has not thought of doing a guest appearance, then?
Fredrik: He is not here yet, actually. Me and
him, and our families, have been to Gotland (Swedish island) and he
is on his way here. He will be here around six and then he will have
to warm up a couple of hours before we're on.
How has the response live been of the songs from the latest album?
Fredrik: Very good, I think. I think it was a
good idea to release a couple of lyric videos on Youtube before the
album came out. We chose to play those songs live, like Sorceress and
The Wilde Flowers. And now we have added Era as well, which we did not
do last autumn. So I think it feels good, like people are digging the
Mozzy: I was going to ask about Era, actually.
That one is a bit more direct, with a clear chorus too.
Fredrik: Yes, it is a little different for an
Opeth songs, with a melodic chorus. Micke (Åkerfeldt) often calls
it our 'cock rock' song (laughs). There may be some truth in that, perhaps.
Mozzy: It is nice to include it in the setlist
I guess, for the audience.
Fredrik: Yeah. But it is rather intense too,
and snappy. It is hard to play with that rhythmic riff (hums it) forever
before the chorus comes (laughs).
Mozzy: I had a look on setlist.fm and noticed
that you played Napalm Death's You Suffer recently, as a joke I suppose.
Fredrik: Yeah! We do that sometimes.
Mozzy: That one is easy to fit in (it's
four seconds long).
Fredrik: Yes, we could do eleven songs tonight
Mozzy: Speaking of covers, I was at Bloodstock
in 2010 when you did Rainbow's Catch The Rainbow. That was just epic.
Fredrik: Oh cool! Yes, that was a bit emotional.
Heaven And Hell (with Ronnie James Dio) was supposed to play that year.
Then we got their slot, which felt weird. So that was special. We have
never played that one live except for that gig.
It was awesome. It has actually been named as one of the top five moments
in the history of Bloodstock.
Fredrik: Oh, that is cool, I did not know that.
I am a big Dio fan. We also did a little tribute to Dio on the Heritage
album, on the song Slither. It was a little tribute to him and the Rainbow
Mozzy: Yes, that was cool. You have been
in the band for 10 years now
Fredrik: Yes! Time flies. There have been some
gigs by now.
Mozzy: Do you reflect on that, that 10 years
have passed, and how has it been?
Fredrik: It has been lots of fun. It is an inspiring
band to play in. I feel that I have grown into the band, after ten years.
We still get along great and the future feels interesting. I think all
of us agree on that, including doing the next record. I feel that I
have developed my playing as well during this time.
Mozzy: I guess Opeth is a good band for
that, as it is so diverse.
Fredrik: Exactly. You always try to come up
with something new for every record, and not walk the same path, you
Mozzy: Was it easy to come into the band
from the start?
Fredrik: Yes it was. But it took a lot of work
from a guitar playing point of view. Especially with all the arrangements
as they are quite complex and the songs are long. You have to remember
it all. Many people say, 'how do you remember everything?' One has to
trust the muscle memory, and practise a lot. The acoustic playing was
hard work at the beginning, but now I feel very comfortable with that.
was very much about learning Mikael Åkerfeldt's playing style
on the guitar, how he writes riffs, and getting to know that. So now
I can recognise it sometimes, as in the beginning it was so much new
stuff to take in. But we try to challenge ourselves as well.
Mozzy: Is there some particular highlights
during your ten years in the band?
Fredrik: Well, there have been some cool concerts
one can look back on. The first time at Royal Albert Hall was huge,
to play there. And in recent times, when we played at Red Rocks, which
we recorded for a DVD. We are looking at film clips from that now. That
is a classic arena, in Denver. It was great to play out there in the
desert, with the big cliffs and so on.
when it comes to the craziest
audience I have to mention Santiago, Chile. They sing along to the guitar
melodies like at an Maiden gig. You get goosebumps standing there. And
it can be to unexpected melodies as well. Otherwise, there are incredibly
many memories, and crazy stories (laughs).
Mozzy: I can imagine. And you have been
at so many places as well by now. You were in Mexico recently, for example.
Are there any particular places you would want to go where you haven't
Fredrik: Well, last summer we were in Iceland,
where we had not been before. So that was very cool, I've always wanted
to see Iceland. We played a gig with Meshuggah, which was fun. But other
We have done a tour in Asia before, and we're going
to Japan this autumn. We're playing at the Loud Park festival. I'm looking
forward to that because Michael Schenker is playing. We have not played
in Africa, but that is not common.
Mozzy: I think it's South Africa, mostly,
where bands play.
Fredrik: Yes. That has been considered for us.
And we have played in Dubai once. We have covered the continents quite
Mozzy: It must be exciting to play those
more exotic places, to see which reaction you will get as that must be
impossible to know.
Fredrik: Yeah. We played in India, and even
at the Maldives one time which was really special. But in India, the
interest for hard rock and metal is massive. Someone said that there
are two million people in India that listen to Opeth, which is difficult
to understand. No one is buying any records (laughs). So those gigs
have been really big, but it was a while ago. It was very cool and different
to come there. When you walked outside the complex where we lived there
was an ape family just outside the door and you just went 'oh, hi' (laughs).
Mozzy: And it must be a big thing to get
the see the world as well.
Fredrik: Yes, it is of course. Sadly, we don't
really have time to see that much. But that gig at the Maldives, we
actually visited one of those paradise islands which was a luxury.
The last album only came out last year, but has there been any writing
for the next one?
Fredrik: Not really. I have recorded a bunch
of embryos, but Micke writes most of the material. I co-wrote one song
on the last album, Strange Brew. I have some small ideas recorded but
I have not played them for Micke yet. He wants to focus on the last
part of touring for Sorceress and then see what feeling he has for the
I assume we will just be on tour for the remainder
of this year and then maybe it's time. He said the other day that his
fingers are starting to itch. The writing is a fun process also. We
have been going to Wales for the last albums.
Mozzy: I was going to ask that, if you're
going there again, to the classic Rockfield studios.
Fredrik: It is possible. It is a good working
environment for us, where we can focus and get a lot done in a short
time. You get sort of a Zeppelin feel there as well, with some mystique.
Mozzy: It seems to a special place for sure,
where lots of classic albums have been made.
Fredrik: Yes, Rush have been there, and Priest
recorded Sin After Sin there. It is a real cult studio. And it is a
bit like living at a farm.
Mozzy: The British countryside is beautiful.
Fredrik: Yes. And it is so leafy up there in
Wales. Plus there is a great pub a 20-minute walk away, in a smaller
town with a population of about 3000 people. The pub is from the 10th
Mozzy: Great. Me and a friend are going
to Bloodstock next month and we will spend two days before the festival
in a smaller town just to go to those really traditional, old pubs.
Fredrik: Cool. Those are the best, I love that
English pub mentality. And Bloodstock is a favourite. There is not much
nu-metal at that festival, so to speak (smiles).
Mozzy: Speaking of pubs, Opeth have had
the name on a couple of beers. Are those sold-out now?
Fredrik: Yes, we did two. One was limited, the
Imperial Stout. That had a bit higher percentage and could be matured
up to 25 years, in a bigger bottle. The other one, Communion Pale Ale,
was a 33 centilitre can which was brewed up in Leeds. Me and Axenroth
went up there and tasted it. Unfortunately, it seems to be difficult
to get hold of in Sweden.
have been nagging our management to arrange it. There has been talk
about that Brands For Fans company which has had drinks with Motörhead,
Ghost and others. So let's hope that happens. But it is still in production,
so in England it could be found, you could have a look there. I heard
it could be found on tap in pubs.
Mozzy: Cool. There will be some pints for
Fredrik: And I know people who have bought in
the store, so you should look out for it there too. If you like ale.
Mozzy: I sure do (laughs). What about a
solo project, is that something you have thought about?
Fredrik: Yeah, that is something I have though
about for a long time. Doing some kind of hard rock/metal/guitar record.
Let's see if there will be some time to focus on that. Opeth always
comes first of course. I always present all of my ideas to Micke but
I have a lot of stuff recorded which could end up in something good.
I should do something.
Mozzy: I remember when you played with Southpaw.
Fredrik: Oh yeah! That was a bit of a project.
Mozzy: I saw you supporting Dio in Sundsvall
(Sweden) in 1998.
Fredrik: Yes, that was really cool. We did four
gigs with Dio I think. In Gävle (Sweden) I got to sit with him
for two hours and he told some Rainbow stories which was awesome.
Mozzy: I remember we waited for him to come
out in Sundsvall, to meet him. But we left, which I regret.
Fredrik: Oh. He was incredibly nice and really
took his time with fans.
also: review of the
gig the same day