So let’s start with how you like recording videos, and if you feel like film stars? Who is the best in front of the camera and who has the biggest problem?
Wow, that was a while ago actually. It kind of feels wierd standing there singing to the recorded song, and I guess you feel sort of uneasy at first, but after eight hours of shooting you’re too tired to care anymore. All in all it’s pretty much fun shooting a video, even though we’ve only done it twice, but I wouldn’t say we’re feeling like filmstars or anything. We don’t get payed enough for that – hahaha. I’d say we’re all equally good, or bad if you want. None of us really have any experience of shooting videos so we’re all pretty much in the hands of the director.
Other than that, can you assess the importance of a promo video for a band of your kind – is it a good marketing strategy or just a thing done for fun?
Very hard to say. A couple of years ago shooting a video was just a huge waste of money. At least for a band such as AMON AMARTH. There was just not enough TV channels airing the videos, and those who were would probably not have been interested in airing a video of a pretty unknown band as AMON AMARTH. Today it’s different though, and we’ve already had a lot of response from people who’ve seen the video and thereby heard AMON AMARTH for the first time, so I think it has some kind of impact. Part of shooting a video is just for fun, but of course it is also for marketing.
The Album “Fate Of Norns“ has been out for some time, so what’s your impression so far? There has been a tour for the album with IMPIOUS, DISILLUSION so you must find some songs boring already, hehe?
Well, so far the response for the album has been overwhealming really. Hardly any bad words at all actually, and I think that is great. The tour we did with IMPIOUS and DISILLUSION was fucking great. Nearly every show was sold out, and we had a blast with the guys in the other bands. Of course I can only speek for myself, but I wouldn’t say there’s any song that I find boring to play. I just like some of the songs better that’s all. In fact, even the old songs from way back are fun playing if you ask me, but I wouldn’t go home and listen to them on the stereo, if you know what I mean – hahaha.
Any memories of the stopover in Prague?
Well when we played Prague last time, we played at Club Black Pez and really didn’t have time to go into central Prague which is a shame really. Prague is a beautiful city, especially the old town is fantastic.
You are a big football fan (Djurgaarden) and also an active player. I can’t imagine with your figure running on the pitch. Do the other bandmembers also play or just sit at the beer? What other leisure activities bind the AMON AMARTH posse?
Yeah, Djurgården is my favourite team, but I don’t play football anymore. I used to be the keeper when I was a kid, but I quit playing15 or 16 years ago. Nowdays I play more for fun when I get the time. Othewise I just go to the games and stand among the supporters. Ted (bass) is also a big Djurgården fan, so he and I go to as many games as possible, but the other guys are not really into football at all. I guess the other “leisure” activities that we indulge in is mainly beer drinking, which is perfect to combine with going to football – hahaha...
I’d like to visit Sweden one day. I imagine all metalheads there sitting t the table drinking Czech beer … actually, what‘s your fave beer brand? Do you know any Czech words?
Well, Czech beer is very popular in Sweden, but it’s also a bit more expensive compared to domestic brands when you go to the pub. Still, I prefer a cold Staropramen, Pilsner Urquell or Starobrno any day compared to virtually any beer in the world. Czech beer is just the best in my opinion, and I always buy Czech beer at the liquerstore. Preferably I buy Staropramen or Starobrno, but I also like to try other beers. There is a pub here in Stockholm called “Soldier Svejk” that serves a wide selection of Czech beer. It’s expensive there, but you always get the best beer there and the people working there know everything about the different beers, so that’s one of the best places to go for good beer. I don’t know too much of the Czech language except Pivo and Nastravie. That’s about it.
Your person means your beard, it’s cool to watch at the show. How long has the beard been growing? Did you wake up one day and said „I will not shave“? Do you také any special care of it – comb, cut, wash or just let it grow?
I’ve had a beard since ’92, or at least that’s when I started grwoing it. I don’t know why I let it grow. I guess it has a lot to do with my dad. He’s had a beard for almost as long as I can remember, and I guess I wanted to try to grow one myself when I got old enough. A beard is like the hair on your head. You need to brush it, wash it and sometimes cut it to keep it healthy. Besides, if you don’t keep it clean it’ll strat to itch.
How do you view current status of AMON AMARTH on the metal scene? I appreciate you kept going through the years to get where you are now. All of us have certain plans and goals so what have you already achieved what else would you like to achieve with AMON AMRTH?
We’ve been doing this for almost 13 years now, but only recently we feel we’re starting to get somewhere. I wouldn’t call these years a waste of time, and I don’t think we would have done anything differently if we had to do it all over again, but of course it’s been tough sometimes. Your goals and dreams change over the years. When we first started out our goals was no bigger than maybe landing a contract with a label and releasing a CD, but now the goal is to finally be able to live off the music. Until recently we never really made any money from playing in this band, but now we’re at least able to pay the bills when we come home from touring.
Your painter for“Fate Of Norns“ was Thomas Ewerhard again. Can you make us familiar with the cooperation, exchange of idea, etc? Did you ask for the particular picture or just let Thomas come up with something?
We’ve worked with Thomas since “The Avenger”, and I think he’s done a great job for us concidering we’re always short on time for the covers. Usually we have all the ideas and we know what we wnat, but for “Fate Of Norns” Thomas pretty much had free hands. We just explained to him who the Norns are, and their place in Viking Mythology and he came up with a couple of ideas. The one that we liked the most became the cover of the album
Does Thomas work for you only or for other bands as well? Your cover art has certain unified style typical for your band now. Or do you plan a step from the established formula like IRON MAIDEN did?
I know Thomas does a lot of work for different bands, HYPOCRISY for instance, but I think we’ve been able to develop a certain style with our covers. Mostly I think it’s becuase we’ve been very much involved with the covers ourselves, but Thomas is also a very good artist with many good ideas. I’m not really sure how IRON MAIDEN worked with their “formula”, but I doubt we’re anywhere close to their genious when it comes to album covers – hahaha.
Speaking of IRON MAIDEN, I heard you originally played in a heavy metal band, so was it anything like it? And what did it také to move from heavy metal to death metal?
Then you heard wrong. The only band I’ve been in is AMON AMARTH, though the band was called Scum when I started in ’92. It’s been Death Metal all the way, but we’ve always had a lot of Heavy Metal influences in our music.
Listening to“Fate Of Norns“ and your previous records it seems you develop to slower and more melodic tracks. More epic, I’d say, like viking ballads. Still its typical AMON AMARTH. How do you feel about it?
Well, we never plan ahead when it comes to writing songs, and we don’t believe in forcing our creativity. We are very spontanious when we write songs, and basically the songs we feel are the best that we have, will be the ones that end up on the album. Sometimes they’re slower, sometimes faster. It all has to do with inspiration and ideas. If we don’t have any good ideas for faster songs, we won’t write faster songs, but that doesn’t mean we’re never going to write another fast song. We try to mix it up on the album, some faster songs and some slower, to make it more interesting.
I must admit that compared to“Versus The World“ I was surprised by the slowing down, but that’s fine now. Looking for a song like “Death In Fire“ I figured that the track “Fate Of Norns“ could represent it, so can you introduce the song in detail?
Well, I don’t really think there is much to say. It’s a very emotional song, both musically and lyrically. The song is very melodious, with harmonies and melodies running through the entire song. Lyrically it’s about a father burying his 6-year-old son who died.
Speaking of „hits“, what are your fave tracks from “Fate Of Norns“ and from the entire discography? Fans would probably vote for “Death In Fire“.
I guess I look differently upon the songs than the fans since I write the lyrics, and they are so personal to me, but for “Fate Of Norns” I would say that my favourite song, at the moment, is the title track. I like the music and I’m very satisfied with the lyrics for it as well. Looking to the entire discography it’s difficult to pick one favourite song, but “Amon Amarth” from “Once Sent From The Golden Hall” and “Across The Rainbow Bridge” and “Thousand Years Of Oppression” from “Versus The World” are two of my favourites because I’m satisfied with the lyrics on those songs.
METAL BLADE did a special edition of “Fate Of Norns“ in dogopack with a bonus DVD with a concert from Ireland. Many bands release DVDs now, do you plan anything similar or just wait till some cool material appears? How would you imagine a DVD for AMON AMARTH if you had unlimited resources?
Well, the show was actually taped in Reykjavik in Iceland, not Ireland. We do have plans for a real DVD release, and we’re collecting material for that at the moment. The main theme is going to be a live show, and we’ll try to cram as much bonus material in there as we can get our hands on. We don’t believe in excess productions and stuff like that, so we’re going to keep it fairly simple, and I guess we would do that even if we did have unlimited resources.
AMON AMARTH always sang of viking mythology, history … it’s a fascinating topic for me as well as the whole history about it. Can you make us familiar how people today remember the viking days in the form of holidays and traditions?
That’s nearly impossible for me in an interview like this. In Sweden we celebrate Mid-summer which originally is one of the big sacrifise “holidays” in Viking history. There was also something called the “Midvinter Blot” – roughly translated into “Mid-winter Sacrifise” – which was a three week festivity surrounding December 22nd which is the darkest day of the year. When christianity made it’s way into Scandinavia they let people keep a lot of the old customs, and that’s why we in Sweden basically have the x-mas holidays from December 13 until January 6. Just a couple of examples.
Here in Czech you hardly find literature about the topic. I guess it’s different in Sweden. So where do you study the things about the topic? Books, tv, films, internet … anything you could recommend?
I read a lot of old viking sagas and legends, and books of mythology and historical events. There are also some cool movies on the topic, especially from Iceland. I’m thinking of “The Flight of the Raven” and “The Shadow of the Raven”, by Icelandic director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson, two excellent viking movies.
In January 2005 you are supposed to go to Mexico. What’s your experience of playing outside Europe and what do you expect? I suppose most of your fans are here in Europe, right?
Well, we went to Mexico for a four show tour in February, and it was great. Indeed we have more fans over here in Europe than over there, but we still had quite good shows there. Especially in Monterey and Mexico City.
Johan, thanks for the interview and good luck in new year. Please finish this with a promotion for “Fate Of Norns“ tp Czech fans … Take care!!!
Thank you, and keep the banner of Metal high! Nastravie!!!