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Interview conducted May 24 2019
Interview published July 21 2019

Metal Covenant met up with Sabaton's bass player and driving force Pär Sundström earlier this summer in order to talk about the band's new record The Great War. [Out July 19th]

Tobbe: Already with the first song (The Future Of Warfare] I can feel a taste of that you have created a record that is dark, yet at the same time both progressive and symphonic as well.

Pär: That's probably a good start, to explain it in that way. It's quite difficult to us, I must admit, right now, to tell what the record is like. I have done this a few times, but at the same time, you know, it's too close yet. We need some time to push it away to give us some distance before we can really tell what the record really is like. If we listen to the songs we analyze them in the wrong way. Not like songs as a whole, but as parts of songs, and it has always been that way, and I think we won't get away from that, but we need some distance to be able to see the songs as songs.

Tobbe: I think it has a different production and sound picture.

Pär: That's for certain. I mean, we have made this record with Jonas Kjellgren and earlier we have worked with Peter [Tägtgren] and they have to some extent two different ways to look at sounds and how to work to get the final sound on a record. We have worked with Jonas many times before too, but never on a full record, but on individual songs, and that was part of the reason why we chose to make the whole record with him.

A couple of years ago we did a Manowar cover, Kingdom Come, and the reactions from fans were extremely positive about the actual sound production. We thought it sounded great too, so we said "Let's make the next record with Jonas and then we evaluate after getting some feedback from people.". Personally we can continue with both Jonas or Peter; it doesn't matter. So, it's more up to the fans to decide.

Tobbe: You have presented the record in a kind of new way to some people already.

Pär: Yes. Quite a few people have listened to the record. We have a different format that we wanted to have, that we created with, you know, videos and whatnot, that was, like, the ultimate way to listen to the record. We have presented it with animations, videos, and the whole record as a long story. It's pretty cool to see people watching it, as they tend to forget about time and space. It feels like "Wow! Great!". So they're sitting there with their beverage; beer, wine, or maybe mineral water, and staring down on the iPad, and when it's over they just sit there looking at a black screen, and that's really cool.

So that's one of the highlights on this promotional tour, to see people listen and see their reaction. One of the greatest things we know, and I think that Jocke [Brodén, vocals] shares this viewpoint as well, is to present our new music to people. It's so great and one of the funniest things that exists. To play live, well, it probably comes in second place. To present music comes in first place. And it's not so often we are able to do that, like every second or third year, and you can't present it in this way every time either.

Personally you didn't get to experience the record in the optimal way [I listened to it in Mp3 format.] and it's something you download and later delete and therefore something that's not worth so much. Like, our record isn't worth anything. Even though you maybe get to listen to it in your own optimal way, like in peace and quiet, maybe in your home or in a place you find comfortable and maybe it might turn out well anyway.

But I did an interview recently where a guy told me that he just got the record and told me that he listened to it in his car on his way to the interview and I'm thinking "What do you think about the record then, really, if the first impression of a record is that you're sitting in a car on your way here since you've had so much to do so you haven't listen to it before?". In traffic in a big city in Germany and I think that's sad, because no one should have to experience our music in that way.

Tobbe: Could someone look at this record and say that it's Sabaton, but not just the usual Sabaton?

Pär: Well, we do what Sabaton should do, so in that way we're home safe. We do exactly what we should do. Maybe we have taken a different direction, maybe it sounds a little different, maybe there's some improvement. Of sentimental reasons the first record you hear with an artist is the one you love the most, but here's an interesting thing I've heard when I have talked to people now: "The record is either the best one, or the second best.", and if it's in second place they draw parallels to that it might be at the same level as The Art Of War [2008] or at the same level as Carolus Rex [2012].

No one has mentioned our two latest records even though they have been the most successful [Heroes [2014] and The Last Stand, [2016]]. Maybe not in Sweden, where Carolus Rex is in its own division. But abroad Carolus Rex can't compete with Heroes or The Last Stand. There are different kinds of fans, of course, and those who listen extremely much to us often find that, like, there are two records that have a heavier theme and more a concept and that's The Art Of War and Carolus Rex, and there is where most of those fans are, that really grab hold of a record and say that this is their record and that that one means the most to them.

And we haven't been able to come close to that with Heroes and The Last Stand, but now we're there. If I'm gonna summarize all comments it's like "It's the best one or it's just as good as my favorite record, and that's the best one of all you've made so far." and when I then look at the average this one is the best one ever. And it's great to have that with you, because I know that this is... Well, it should be our best record, if not 400 journalists are wrong, which they probably are from time to time. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Was it difficult to pick certain subjects to write about? Even though you have written about a specific period, a rather short period in history, there are thousands of different occurrences to write about that took place in those 4 years.

Pär: Yes, there are. It works kind of like this: Jocke is responsible to put together the music and while he is doing that I'm doing the text thing and collecting subjects and so. Then we sit down with demos and texts and try to pair them together. You get a feeling, like "This song says this. This song sounds like this.". But a lot of interesting subjects will always have to be put aside because there are always more histories than there are songs.

A couple of times we've had a song that we couldn't find a fitting subject to and then we had to go back and find one. But yet we stand quite ready. I mean, I collect stuff all the time. On a day like this I get about 50 e-mails with different ideas from fans and then I read about it a little bit and think "Well, this fits well with this theme." and then I put it in a certain catalogue. I have a huge collection. We had 10000 ideas sent to us already on Coat Of Arms [2010] and that's 9 years ago and today we are a lot bigger.

So a lot of ideas are coming in, but we don't go out on social media and encourage people to send e-mails and ideas, because in that case my inbox would die for sure. We did a thing on our official history channel, where we talked about this, like "This is how it works. Send ideas and maybe we'll write about it.", but some channel translated it into "Write to us and then we will make a song out of it.". I was at home and went away for a little while, like a phone call or something, and then I checked my inbox and there were over a thousand e-mails there within an hour. I thought that something must be wrong, and then I saw that they all had the same topic, "Song suggestion".

And they just kept on coming, and I just couldn't keep up with the pace. My assistant, she also checks my inbox, panics as well. So we tried to go through it together and find what is important. And just when we were almost done, they replayed it, 3 days later, and then the e-mails started coming again. But we're anyway happy that people care about this and commit to it. I like the whole idea of fans coming with ideas and so.

Tobbe: You mentioned your own YouTube channel and what's the status of that one today?

Pär: We launched that channel on February 7th. It took 8 months to get it running. It actually took 15 years from a first idea to execution, but 8 months from decision to launch. So it has been running for a couple of months now and we knew that it couldn't turn out bad. I mean, does it make people happy? Of course it does. It's a great thing. We know that. We watched the first episode and felt that it was good and felt that it was cool and that this is something that our fans will like.

It's not for everyone, but the ones who choose to watch it will enjoy it. And now we have reached, you know, goal number 2. We set up several goals with this channel. Goal number 1 was to launch it on the whole, goal number 2 was to reach 100000 subscribers and now we're in phase 3, where we will try to elaborate the concept, because now we have decided to proceed. We will start looking at format, concept and in what way we can expand the channel. So now a quite interesting job starts again, with keep on being creative.

However, we have quite a few ideas already. When we started working on this channel we had numerous ideas. We had so many ideas that Spartacus, one of the producers, had to cool us down a little bit, like "One step at a time.". I'm rather talkative, I'm quite driven and I have many ideas and this is a wonderful project to work on. It's fun too, like "What do we make out of all material?". You know, with the first episode, 40:1, I was so excited and prepared a lot for it, so I talked for almost 45 minutes nonstop about emotions and stories around that song.

Everyone in the studio was all quiet and the director applauded me and said "I have tears in my eyes. What a great story you've been telling us. But what do we do now when we will try to edit your 45 minutes to 4 minutes?" and I was like "Well, I have a great story that I want to tell people.", but in this format it doesn't work.

But it's filmed and recorded and I have a feeling that we're gonna use it someday. We will probably soon get to the opportunity where we are able to do it. It has been quite stressful to people to get this thing running too. It's quite a big machine, but everyone has been working overtime.

Tobbe: And stuff like this makes the machine bigger and bigger. Maybe another idea is launched soon.

Pär: Well, there are a lot of ideas. I have a project folder and it's quite large. I have an assistant and she goes through my e-mails and everything and sorts it out. After she had been working for 2 weeks she told me that she had been creating over 100 different project folders and just one of them is about making a new record.

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