|Amon Amarth came to West Hollywood during their “An evening with Amon Amarth” tour. At the occasion, Spirit of Metal had a little chat with the lead singer Johan Hegg. Check it out!|You guys are touring in North America and performing with no openers, with a 2 act concert. How did you come up with this idea and how did you choose the songs for the concert?
The idea originated from the fact that we were trying to get an opening act to go [on tour] with us but unfortunately at the last minute they canceled and we didn’t really have any plan “B” for that. So, our promoter or our agent here in the US came up with the idea of doing this “An evening with Amon Amarth”. We thought it was a fucking crazy idea, so we said: “Yeah, let’s do it!”
To play the full album [Surtir Rising] in the first set was the idea from the beginning. But then [for the second act] we just tried to put together the best set with songs we know people love to hear and mixed it with a few songs that we haven’t played in a long time or haven’t played in the US at all, actually.It seems that everything is working out really well for this tour. I saw in your website that a lot of the concerts were sold out. So, what is your overall “feeling” about the tour?
It’s been good. I mean… it’s obviously hard work for us. We do almost 2.5 hours every night on stage. And even though we have a small intermission between the two sets, it’s still kind of rough and you need to focus and be professional about everything.
The shows are pretty hard on you as a musician but on the other hand everything surrounding it has been very nice, pretty smooth. Obviously, as you said, the shows have been packed, so it’s always easy when we fill out the rooms…Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing / composing this album? Musically speaking… Did you want to achieve something specific with it?
I think the writing process is pretty much the same that we have done for a long time: we just get together in the rehearsal place and work with the ideas that we have, try to compose the best possible music that we can… and then I try to come up with lyrics.
The main difference for this album is that we actually sat down with the producer before we even started to write anything. We said: “So… what do we want to achieve with this album? We want to have a rougher, more aggressive sound.” So, I guess that was the mind frame when we started the writing process.
We had a more elaborate cooperation from our producer on this album, even during the actual writing process. He would come to the rehearsal place a couple of times, listen to the stuff that we had, and come up with pointers of what to change or what to maybe improve. He didn’t actually write anything for the album but he had ideas concerning the arrangements of the songs and all this stuff.
In that aspect it was different. Otherwise, it sounds boring, but it was just the usual (laughs).
What we tried to achieve is what we always try to achieve: we always try to write the best possible album we could ever write. It’s never: “This has to top this or that”. It is always: “You have to make a great album”. That’s the idea. And fortunately, we have succeeded again, I think.As you said: you always try to come up with a better album but, if someone who doesn’t yet know Amon Amarth, had to c
hoose only one of your albums… which one would you advise him/her to get?
(Laughs). Oh man… this is a tough one…If I could say one album, I personally would say it’s a very significant one for the band and the music that we create, it combines together the old and the new stuff that we have, even though we haven’t changed much over the years, it has all of the new era where we are working with Jens Bogren and also has all of “where we came from”. I would probably say: “With Oden on Our Side”.Musically, as an artist … have you achieved everything you wished for with Amon Amarth?
No, there’s a lot more to be done. I mean… as long as we think this is fun and we love doing this, we will continue doing it. I know that, personally, I have some cool lyrical ideas for the next album already. I think we even have some musical ideas. But, it’s nothing that we are going to start working with until we are done touring. Obviously, if you come up with something, you write it down and keep it for the next album to come…So, you guys don’t try to work on tour…?
No… we want to stay focused. When we are writing stuff we feel like we have to be focused on that and we don’t want to have any distractions around us. And tours are full of distractions; it’s not a good working environment when you try to write music. Not for us anyway… I know other people can do it but it has never really worked out for us.About all the bands that influenced you in the past… how do you see their influence on your music now, or do you see any?
It’s hard to tell, I mean, obviously all the bands that we are influenced by or, I would rather say that we are inspired by… I wouldn’t say you can really notice it in the music [their influence].
Maybe there are some hints of Slayer here and there, and there are hints of Iron Maiden definitely. But, it’s more that they inspired us to write the music that we, ourselves want to write… we don’t want to sound like them.Can you name a band that has followed a path, during their career that you admire and you would like to follow the same kind of path that they did?
It’s hard to compare yourself to other bands in the first place because every band is unique and every band’s path is different, you know? There are a few bands that I admire for what they’ve done and for what they’ve accomplished… if you look at bands like ACDC, what they have done and achieved… it’s just amazing! They never backed down one inch from what they wanted to do. I really, really like and respect that.
But that goes for many bands like: Motörhead, Slayer, Iron Maiden… typical bands that have always done what they wanted to do. So, there are a lot of bands to look up to and get inspiration from when it comes to that aspect. We always try to work our own ways, from the beginning… We made a lot of mistakes and we learned from them and moved on.
I wouldn’t want to change our path for anything else. Sure, there is some stuff that we could have done a lot better in the past, but on the other hand this is it, you know? You learn from it, you get stronger, you get hopefully smarter (laughs).
>So, you guys have done mistakes but your fans still love you! I can tell you that not every band has sold out concert every time they come here, in Hollywood at least. What is the key for that? Is it just because of the band or do you have something special in your concerts that keep the fans wanting to come back every time?
(Laughs) I don’t know… I guess, from what we hear, we do things differently than other bands. We were talking to our bus driver when we played in Lawrence, Kansas. There were a bunch of fans hanging out in front of the bus when we came. You know, we dropped our shit off and then we got off the bus, took some pictures, did some signing and talked to them for a while. And he [the bus driver] was just amazed! He said that after all the years driving a bus he had never seen a band do that… Never!
I don’t know… for us it’s common sense. It’s not a big effort. We feel our fans deserve it. The people who come up to the show, they deserve it. Obviously you can’t be there for everyone all the time… but we try to, you know? So, I think that’s important. It’s always been important for us to have that connection to our fans. Let’s face it… without the fans we wouldn’t be touring. We wouldn’t be selling out…
But I also think that they obviously like the music and come [to the concerts] for that sake…After this tour is done… What are the plans for Amon Amarth this year? Touring the entire year?
After this tour we are doing a European tour, then we pretty much have the summer off. We are doing only one festival in the summer: Tuska, in Finland. And then in August we will start touring again. It will be pretty much non-stop touring until the end of December. Then, we will have a break and we will see what happens next year. I’m sure we are going to do some more stuff.Any plans for your summer “time off”?
I’m going to take care of my house (laughs). My wife and I have a big old house in the country side. I need to work on it. It’s an old wooden house, it’s a big property. So, there’s a lot to do. It is nice… it’s a good place to live.You guys have played in the 70000 tons of metal last year … Are there any chances that you guys will be in the next one also?
Let’s put it this way… I would love to play there again but I’m not sure if we would want to go there again next year and I don’t think that they would like to have the same bands as well. So, for us, it would make more sense to skip the next one and maybe come back for the one after that.Do you have anything specific you would like to accomplish with Amon Amarth during the next year or two? Anything on your “wish list”?
We want to go to new territories, of course. We would like to play in Africa for the first time. I hope we will be able to go back to South America and do a more extensive touring there. We would like to go to Asia and do some more shows there: China, Japan, Korea… So... anything you would like to say to the reader of Spirit of Metal?
Check out the new album and we will see you guys on the road!