Sounds of the Underground 2007
“…Everybody was sort of involved in the recording process one way or another; it sort of strengthened the band and the unit as we are. We’re a team!”
2007 marks the “Return of the Gods,” as in Sweden’s Amon Amarth to our shores. This year’s Sounds of the Underground crowd got the chance to see what a no nonsense-devastating act is like, which is all in preparation for the bands’ first headlining tour this coming autumn. Join us in conversation as we caught up with the band’s larger than life frontman, Johan Hegg as he discusses bus woes on Sounds, their latest album not to mention most epic CD to date, With Oden On Our Side, and more…
Karma: Tack för intervju igen Johan och välkomen tillbaka!
Johan: [Laughs] Oh, really good!
Karma: [Laughs] Tack, I’ve progressed since the last tour; taking lessons.
Johan: [Laughs] Öööhhhh, nice!
Karma: In regards to this tour you guys have had some ups and downs with your buses I hear. We heard about you unfortunately missing the entire North Carolina show.
Johan: Actually the NC one was before, the other one our bus broke down on the border of Canada.
Johan: Yeah, the tranny went!
Karma: Dang, that’s rough.
Johan: So this is our second bus.
Karma: Wow! Well here’s to hoping this one will carry you until the end of the tour without incident. Speaking of this tour, it’s nice to see you on Sounds, of course it adds as an awesome promotion tool for your upcoming headlining tour in the fall…yeah!
Johan: [Laughs] Yeah, of course that’s one of the key reasons we’re here, to maybe get some kids who normally maybe wouldn’t have checked us out to come to that show too. I mean, we want to do a good headlining tour and get a good response. To do that, we need to be seen a bit more, pretty much the big reason for us to be on this tour.
Karma: And of course, this adds to your current fanbase here that you would have won over with two tours with Children of Bodom.
Johan: Yeah, you can see that with the two shows we did with Children of Bodom really have helped out a lot. I mean we have more and more response from shows like this here in Chicago for instance, like areas where we normally didn’t have a good response previously, we have a good response now.
Karma: Well that’s awesome to hear.
Johan: Yeah, it’s really been picking up for us and it good to see a lot of kids come out to see us.
Karma: What can be said about Amon Amarth’s musical progression in regards to the new album?
Johan: For us the main, the main progression is probably production wise, I mean in recording and building of the whole album is totally different from what we had done before. Now we don’t have to have day jobs on the side anymore, now we can focus 100% on the music.
Karma: That is awesome!
Johan: So we can actually work more and harder with the material that we have that we couldn’t do before. And also for the first time we actually use a producer in the right sense; a person who actually takes all the material, and molds it into a unit so to speak. So it’s not like the guitar with one sound drums then another sound…it doesn’t really fit. But the production on this album is much better.
Karma: Would you consider using a producer going forward?
Johan: Definitely, yeah! I mean I would really hope that we could use the same studio [Fascination Street in Örebro] again because I really enjoyed working with Jens [Bogren]. He really got the best out of us for this album. I think we still have something to get out of that co-operation.
Karma: How have you evolved as a musician both musically and personally and as a unit since the [Once Sent from the Golden Hall] early days? In what way and how?
Johan: Musically I mean there’s only minor changes, the music is pretty much the same as Amon Amarth has always been but there are some stuff that we’ve incorporated into the music and this album has a lot of melodies into it both with harmonies and stuff like that. The solos are more intricate on this album than we’ve ever had before which is kind of a new feature for us but it’s also one of the elements that really got brought forward with the fact that we could work with music fulltime this time around. We could actually start to work out details in a better way than before!
Karma: And by the way, With Oden on Our Side is simply amazing!
Johan: [Beams] Thank you!
Karma: Having said all of that, what have you learned about your band mates along the way as well as yourself?
Johan: [Laughs] I don’t know, I know these guys pretty well, we’ve been friends and all that stuff, we’ve always been close as a band. As you know we’ve had the same lineup since ‘98 so I don’t know if there’s stuff to learn about them really. [Laughs]
Karma: Anything you learned during the recording of the album?
Johan: Not really, that’s the one thing I really enjoyed about recording this album from previous one is that all of us were in the studio the whole time, even if we didn’t really need to be there. [Smiles] We were there, you know! So everybody was sort of involved in the recording process one way or another. Really, it sort of strengthened the band and the unit as we are. We’re a team! It really gave us a stronger feeling of that.
Karma: It shows with the album as it is your most epic yet, with the way you’re beaming, you can tell just how proud you are of it!
Johan: Yeah, it’s probably in my opinion, the best we’ve ever done. It’s like I keep getting the question, “which one is your favorite song?” [Laughs] I have nine, you know! [Chuckles softly] It’s true actually, what’s funny about this album also, all of the other albums you know when you first record them, you love them. I still love the albums a lot but, after a couple of months, you don’t listen to them anymore because you heard it so much and you play the songs live. But this album, I can still listen to it and I think it’s good; I mean I listen to it every once and a while. Maybe I don’t listen to the whole album but I don’t know, it just sticks in there!
Karma: Well that it does!
Johan: You know, the only thing I can say against this album is there is one song we could have explored one little, little part about it more and that’s “Gods Of War Arise”. But the song is great, but I think it would have been better if we could have gotten a chorus going on in it, like that came back…but… After it didn’t happen, I think it would have been better, but it’s still a great song.
Karma: What happened why you weren’t able to delve further into the “Gods”?
Johan: It was something that we came up with in the studio, by then it was sort of too late to do something about it. We didn’t have the right ideas to actually rewrite the song, you know in a good way. It was good as it was but it was hard to rewrite it to work in a chorus, but stuff like that happens.
Karma: Who do you feel (besides yourselves) have impacted the metal landscape with images of Viking lore have given the subject matter justice, in your eyes? Ex. Enslaved…
Johan: For my part, one of the major bands in that area is probably Bathory. Those are at least the first one metal wise that I listen to that actually wrote about Vikings in a both historical and a mythological sense sort of like we do, even though I mean we are not similar in that way though. Still, they were way before us. They influenced a lot of bands probably but they were not really the reason we started singing about Vikings. They are definitely in the back, probably as some kind of inspiration though.
Karma: Having said that, Viking Metal or singing about the subject matter is on an upswing. How do you feel about other bands trying to cash in on this craze, does it anger you or no?
Johan: Not really, I mean I don’t really care what other bands are doing really. If they want to do it, do it, you know. I can’t say, ‘You can’t do that!’ If they are interested in it and if they feel they have something to say about it, and they get an idea about it, sure! I don’t think that Viking mythology per se is specific for just Scandinavians because it is a nature [based] religion and all nature religions are similar. Even the Native Americans have a thunder god. And so like if you go to different nature cultures of the world, they sort of have the same gods, like gods of fertility, sun god and all that stuff.
Karma: That’s definitely another way to look at it, you bring up an interesting point.
Johan: In Scandinavian mythology, what’s so unique about it is that it is written down, the whole thing; not very common in other nature religions really.
Karma: That’s an interesting point. [Smiles] Switching gears, name a band in metal where if they did not exist, it would change the very face of the genre.
Johan: Slayer definitely! That’s not entirely true, if you want to go deep and say, ‘this is the band for the metal scene’ I would say Black Sabbath. They were one of the first really heavy metal bands out there, I mean even when heavy metal didn’t exist, they were there and did what they did! They were one of the first ones, but everything is like different steps. I mean they started the whole thing pretty much but they wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for other bands. Everything is pretty much evolving from there. But I would say they were the forerunners of metal.
Karma: I know I asked you this question last go round but for this album, if you could hear someone cover any of the nine songs, who would do and which song would you choose?
Johan: Ouch! [We all laugh] That’s a tough one! [Clears throat] Geez, one band? [Chuckles again] What the hell! I dunno, it has to be somebody good but I’m not really into covers myself so this is a tricky question. I don’t know, Motörhead have anything? Haha, just to say something! [Laughs heartily]
Karma: All right, I’ll let you slide on this one.
Johan: I don’t know, it would be cool for Motörhead to do a dirty kind of production thing! [Laughs] It could be heavy as hell, you don’t know! And from this album, it’s really not their style at all so that’s still difficult [to answer the question] as well. I would say either say “Asator” or “Valhall Awaits Me”.
Karma: Öööhhhh, now that could be special!
Karma: Any special messages for your fans?
Johan: Yeah, pick up the new album and see you guys out on the road. Cheers!
Karma: Ja, skål! Tack så mycket Johan!
Johan: [Chuckles] Var så god!
Tack Johan och pressen avdelning också!
oClick here for previous interview with Johan
o Here for Photos / Review of Amon Amarth on the first Children of Bodom tour
o Here for Photos / Review of Amon Amarth on the second Children of Bodom tour
o Here for Photos / Review of the band during SOTU