AMON AMARTH (Fredrik Andersson) INTERVIEW
Last time I spoke with Amon Amarth’s drummer Fredrik Andresson was one year ago, when the Viking warlords landed on UK soil for what was a number of amazing shows in support of Dimmu Borgir. Now, having just released their latest well- received opus “Surtur Rising”, the Tumba-born and bred quintet is once again found opening for a more commercially successful act, something that frustrates but does not disappoint this quite skilful skinsman. In the packed stage area of the London Forum and only a couple of hours before hitting the stage, Fredrik was kind enough to explain the process by which the band’s eighth studio effort came to life, what it is that the next few months have in stall for these fine warriors and also how they manage to cope with life on the road.
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis
- Hi Fredrik and thank you for doing this interview. It is very nice to have you guys again here in the UK. I have noticed something that can be described as a ‘pattern’ going on in the sense that every time a new Amon Amarth album comes out, you always come here first in support of a bigger band. Now, if my memory serves me right, this is the second time that you are opening a show for Children of Bodom.
Fredrik: Last time we played here in support of a bigger band, that band was Dimmu Borgir. We did a support tour for Children of Bodom in the States at the same time and maybe that is what you are thinking of.
- You are right, however, the main question is this: in the early days it made sense to be a support act as you were still trying to establish yourselves and all, but nowadays? I mean, if you see the queue outside the venue tonight you will find many kids wearing Amon Amarth t-shirts so it begs the question why to come here as a support act and not as headliners. What is it that you still have to gain as a band by opening for people such as Children of Bodom?
Fredrik: It’s not only about what it is that you can gain as a band. When we were approached to do this tour, it was…we were told that this was to be a Metal Hammer ‘Defenders of the Faith’ tour and as we like Metal Hammer and we want to support them, so we agreed to participate. Then later on things changed in that respect, but as we were looking forward to touring with Children of Bodom again we decided that this would be a good tour to be a part of. It is not so much what it is that we are to gain from this as a band, then, you see? Obviously, we never managed to have a sold out show of this capacity before when being the headlining act so this package kind of made sense. Maybe had we not been a part of this package, this show tonight would not have been sold out by simply having Children of Bodom and Ensiferum. It’s all about bringing good quality bands together, playing Metal and having fun – that’s what it’s all about!
- Ok, point taken, however for fans of Amon Amarth such as myself, having you guys perform a forty five minute set is not the most preferable scenario, as I hope that you understand!
Fredrik: I understand your frustration and it is also frustrating for us to know that we can only choose eight songs to perform for our fans – eight songs from eight albums no less (laughs)…we couldn’t do it any other way. Since our latest album (note: “Surtur Rising”) was going to be released at the end of March and we had both a US and a separate European tour already scheduled, this was the only free time we had to do these shows. The only other option we would have had was to do our own headline tour this same week in competition with Children of Bodom and that would have been even worse I think. It would not have been good for anyone – it is much better this way!
- Good point. Tell me Fredrik, why on earth is this called the “Ugly World Tour”?
Fredrik: Well, that is the name that Children of Bodom gave to their tour (laughs). Since we only take part in one leg of that tour we could not have a say in it.
- Ok. I believe that tonight’s show is the last on UK soil, with many more shows lined up in the US and Europe as we previously said. What was the impression that you got of the UK this time round? Were you happy with regards people’s reaction?
Fredrik: Yeah! We did this last time with our previous album, which was basically to start touring the very same day that the album was released and the one thing that we noticed is that it takes a week for the fans to kind of realise that we are also playing some new songs in our set. On the first couple of shows people are just standing and watching not knowing how to react to what they are hearing. Fans are also now getting into our new songs and these crowds over here have been really amazing; we have had many good nights and it’s been really fun to play for such people.
- Fredrik, I have to say that I am very impressed by the new album. It is slightly more dynamic than its predecessor and blends in elements both old and new, thus keeping both old school and new fans satisfied. I assume that was exactly what you were aiming at, right? Was that a conscious decision or something that happened naturally?
Fredrik: I guess it was both! When we sat down at talked about the new album we indeed wanted for it to be more aggressive and more brutal and kind of go back to our roots a little bit. We wanted to write songs that were not necessarily intro-verse-chorus-refrain so we decided not to think too much about the structure of the songs but let things happen naturally, which is how we used to write songs in the past. With the introduction of different producers you get new advice in the studio and then you get a little bit boxed in when writing songs. We decided to think less about it and let instead the songs have their natural flow and so I think that the dynamics of the album and the songs turned out sounding very natural. If we had really gone for our original plan to make a brutal album, then half of the material of the album would not have ‘made it’ as they did and thus we would have to continue writing new material. We, however, felt confident with these ten songs that we have made and they all seem to have a natural flow when placed one next to each other so…
- I am happy that you used the word ‘dynamic’ on a few occasions so far as I find that it is a word that truly describes “Surtur Rising”. I also think that, to a very big extent, you are responsible for this happening as your drumming is such that pushed each composition to the maximum! There was always a head banging feeling in your playing, but this time there is a real urgency in it!
Fredrik: Even with regards the drums, we opted for a more natural sound by not using any digital triggers – they only one we used is an acoustic trigger that helps sample the kick drum and is being used as a sound replacement which helps you achieve a precise sound. Still, everything that we play…we kept a lot of dynamics in my playing. Also in parts we allowed ourselves to elaborate and to do stuff that we have never done before, such as to have a softer passage in a song and let it kind of go into a slower mood or something. In previous albums, it was kind of like a taboo in the band but I guess that now we are much more mature and developed as a band that we can allow things like that to happen.
- If by that you are referring to atmospheric passages like those in “”Töck’s Taunt: Loke’s Treachery Part II” or in “The Last Stand of Frej” then this approach has definitely paid off in my humble opinion. I found these moments to be quite rewarding; like the ‘calm before the storm’ situation.
Fredrik: We have always wanted to achieve such an effect before but not in such a full-blown fashion – not to get that low or that slow as we did here. I guess that we’ve realised that…that’s also something that you get from becoming a better musician and thus manage to pull off the kinds of things that you really want to pull off.
- I believe that the fans also play an important role in that. Do you believe that fans of Amon Amarth are understanding to the point of allowing you with enough ‘space’ in order to expand artistically?
Fredrik: I think that it’s more that we are confident in what we are doing ourselves. We are obviously writing the music for ourselves first and foremost. Of course as an artist you would lie if you were to say that you don’t want other people to like what you are doing; we love the fact that many people like what we are doing, but we are still writing stuff that we are confident with and which we are proud to be presenting to them.
- Another impressive fact about “Surtur Rising” is the fact that it scored pretty high on the Billboard 200 in the States – much better than “Twilight Of The Thunder God” did three years ago! Now, that is slightly strange when taking under consideration America’s preference for more melodic music.
Fredrik: We reached number thirty four this time round and we are pretty happy for that. We have been constantly growing as a band, increasing our fan base as we go along so you could say that this has been a step-by-step process for us. I believe, however, that the result that we got for this album are the benefits that we reap from the work that we did in the past. These results do not necessarily reflect this album but more what we have done before.
- And so we will know how high “Surtur Rising” scored in the conscience of your fans by analysing the results of your next studio album, right?
- So it feels like you are one step ahead each time a new album comes out!
Fredrik: Basically yes.
- I read an interview with Johan (Hegg: vocals) a few days ago and I was quite impressed by the fact that he mentioned that he was slightly stressed when the time came to record the new material, attributing the pressure to people’s high expectations. Did you share similar feelings?
Fredrik: I was more relaxed. I believe that those who were more stressed were Johan and our guitar player Olavi (note: Mikkonen) because they are the main song writers and so they feel that they have to produce new songs and also pressure in order to…how should I put this by using the right words…to come up with new ideas within the boundaries of the Amon Amarth style. If you are aware of a specific date when you are to go into the studio, as this day is coming closer there is also pressure that’s accumulating. This pressure is also a result of the need that we all feel to improve as we want to make an album that is better than the previous one. I was a little bit worried for a while that we wouldn’t be able to make it but then the worst thing that could have happened would be that we would have to postpone the recording and subsequently the whole release. In another sense I was not too worried as we are used to such a way of working as we normally write most of our songs at the very last minute and put the finishing touches a week before we enter the studio. That’s how it’s always been. I know that in the end we always end up making a good album. Johan and Olavi felt more pressure being our main songwriters but, as a band, we were pretty confident that we would end up making a good album.
- With regards promotion, there is relentless touring involved. Are there any plans for a video release?
Fredrik: We are going to record a video when we get to the US; we still haven’t decided which song it will be and so we will see how thing will turn out. We were a little bit…we felt that our fans expect a little bit too much from our videos in the past. We spent a lot of time and effort into creating the best possible videos that we could and still people are requesting that we present them with short stories of film quality. We cannot do that, especially when the only place that you can really showcase your videos are placed like YouTube. Ok, granted, you can see a video in HD there but it is still on a computer screen and as a result it feels a bit ridiculous to spend so much money in such a project. So we decided that we will take things down a notch by making this a more basic video by having the band performing live or something like that.
- You are a man whose musical activities expand beyond Amon Amarth. Are you still in the mode of working on other side projects at the moment or has something changed in that respect?
Fredrik: Well, now I don’t really have time to get involved in other stuff but every once a while I go and jam with my old friends. Of course Amon Amarth is my main focus and that is also where I put 100% of my energy – anything else will only happen if I have free time and energy.
- This kind of lifestyle is pretty relentless, taking up most of your time and energy and not always allowing to you express yourself as an artist to the extent that you would perhaps wish to at any given time. Do you feel at this stage in your career and with the amount of success that Amon Amarth are gaining that you are in a position where you can say that you are happy with the way that your life is evolving, or are you too concerned of all the things that you currently cannot do?
Fredrik: Hmm…that is a very tricky question (laughs)…I think that the only thing with regards the touring is that it is so easy to just get stuck in the daily routine of doing nothing (laughs). I always decide before a tour that I should practice a little bit more on pickups or do something a little bit more creative but at the end of the day I…sometimes just getting up and brushing my teeth will be an effort (laughs) so it’s kind of hard to get too involved into something else! I am very satisfied with my life and with where we are as a band – how could I not be? I am living the dream, you know?
- Most of the artists that I know have something special that they do in order to mentally escape from the daily routine. What is your thing?
Fredrik: Usually, we have reached that point where we have realised that we really don’t have to hang out together all the time and so if I want to go somewhere I will go off by myself, venturing into a town or something like that. When you live so tight together with a certain group of people as we do it is actually very nice when you get to have some ‘alone’ time. I have also been practicing a lot more on this tour and that is something I am quite keen on at the moment as I feel that it leads to personal progression.
- I asked you that question as we have a Scandinavian in our family and, though quite sociable, he is also in need of having his own space – something that, as far as I am aware, is quite a Nordic approach to things.
Fredrik: That is true.
- Fredrik, after such a bold and successful effort, what do you reckon will be the next step for the band? I know that it is quite early days still, so what I am mainly aiming at is a general feel here.
Fredrik: There have been a few talks already amongst us but there is nothing discussed that we will reveal at this moment in time – we like to keep things to ourselves for as long as possible. I also know that, whatever we feel about things now might be totally different in a year’s time so nobody really knows what will happen. I think that… (note: long pause)…I don’t know (laughs). I guess that we will try to come up with something different as we feel that we always try to do something that no one expects from us but in the end people are saying that we don’t, so I guess that we will have to try even harder next time.
- Fredrik, thank you once again for your time. It was a real pleasure talking to you once again. Good luck with everything and keep doing things as you do because it makes a lot of people happy!
Fredrik: Thank you.
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