>Oh lord, a live interview with Mikael Åkerfeldt?!?! I'm light-headed...Check my pulse...Am I hyperventilating? I think I wet myself...Grab the Huggies... This interview was done in the VIP lounge (yes, I was a "VIP" for a few hours) at the Canyon Club in Dallas, TX, after OPETH had finished their 55 minute set of sheer musical artistry. I had to miss NEVERMORE to get this, but it was a small sacrifice in order to briefly speak with such a mighty Metal-mogul.
The questions were written on a napkin, and this was only the second live-interview I'd ever conducted (the first being six hours earlier with Peter Lindgren, quite possibly the nicest person I have ever met, who actually made sure I got this interview!). Forgive me if I couldn't get some more detailed responses, but Mr. Åkerfeldt also seemed a bit "weary" after playing the show, and I could tell he was itching to get to the pool table and beer bin. Regardless, he was a total gentleman, despite being totally shitty at pool. Enjoy...
So, a question for our readers first: how are the crowds responding to OPETH, and how do the US crowds compare to the Canadian ones?
Well Canada is a country that's definitely very hard to compete with. They are absolutely crazy there! But we've had a very good response in America as well, it's just that the crowds are a bit "different" in Canada, they're completely insane.
You guys rehearsed a grand total of THREE times before recording "Blackwater Park"! Does it all just sort of "come together" when you all get into the studio?
Yeah I think so. I wrote the music, recorded the demos, and sent it all out to the other guys in the band. We all live in Stockholm, so I gave them tapes of some ideas for songs.
You do most of your writing on acoustic guitar right?
Yes. Almost everything's written on acoustic.
Did Steven Wilson from PORCUPINE TREE help you out mostly with vocal ideas and such?
Yeah, I wanted him, because I like his production-style overall, but he couldn't be there for the entire time, so we asked him just to help out on the lead guitars and the voice. Like on "Still Life" we always [double]-tracked every vocal line, but he didn't want to do that. We were like "hmmm...yeah let's try it out," and I think it worked out fine!
Definitely! I also must ask about this "no bad albums" issue. Care to comment?
Well when I say that, that's what I mean, y'know? We don't make music for anyone besides ourselves, and that, to me, makes sense. It's our band, as long as we like it, that's all that matters.*
So you work in a record store as I understand, and I also hear that you have a habit of blowing entire paychecks on new records?
Yeah, that's true! I sometimes choose vinyl before food! And it's one of my dreams to own a record store of my own someday.
The song "Harvest" on "Blackwater..." was a bit of a departure for OPETH in a way. Most of your songs aren't "unplugged" all the way through...
That was one of the songs that was pretty much finished beforehand. The octaved vocals in the verse is something I've always wanted to try out, cause I like the sound of that, and I could do it, because basically the [melody] is too low for me, so when I would sing the verse with my low voice, it sounded a bit off. So, I just figured if we did some octaves it would sound really cool.
Any chance of you and Dan Swanö doing some more future collaborations like the BLOODBATH-thing?
I'm not sure, with him he could call me up one day and say "just come down and stay with me for a week and we'll record some stuff!". I've pretty much got all the time in the world, besides the fact that we're touring right now, and he's working constantly, so I don't know. He's pretty much out of the Metal-scene. He's still doing music, but he's not gonna do any touring, he's just putting out some albums when he feels like it...
I heard some news of a new side-project of yours, I can't recall who it's gonna include, but I remember reading that it would be with lots of dark acoustics and keyboards. Do you have any idea what I might be referring to here?
That's something that I've been wanting to do for a really long time. There's a guitar-player in Stockholm that I've really admired for a long time, and he's gonna be involved in it.
What's his name?
[says a Swedish name that is hopelessly impossible to discern, sorry - Gabe]...
Alrighty...Who will be on keyboards then?
It's the keyboardist for SPIRITUAL BEGGARS. I've written some stuff, but I'm still not really sure if it's gonna be for OPETH or for that project.
Yeah, I was just gonna ask if there's anything written for the next OPETH-opus...
Well right now I'm feeling sort of drained, musically. I just don't have a lot of music in me right now. I have to have some piece of mind and just sort of take it easy before I start writing again. I play guitar every day when I come home, and I don't have to work every day, I just work when I want, so it's nice. The guys at my work don't have any choice [laughing].
Any chance that you might spontaneously decide to switch producers and studios for this next album?
Well I think what really matters with that isn't so much the producer and studio, it's really about your OWN state of mind. In any studio, you can do something good if you've got quality music to work with. But we really like being in Fredman, and I'm pretty much guessing that we're gonna go back there for the next album. Then again, it doesn't really matter to me in the end. Fredman's cheap for us, and we get a really good production there...
It sure doesn't "sound" cheap!
No, but it's cheap in comparison to many other studios. We were talking with the guys in NEVERMORE, and they recorded at a studio here in Texas actually, and it was, like $800 a day! We did ours for $300 a day.
Ok, now to the good part for me: who were some guitar heroes of yours that made you want to play?
Well, first it had to be guys like Yngwie Malmsteen. I liked the fact that there was this spotlight on him as a guitar player. Some of those more progressive player are really great, like Robert Fripp and the guy from CAMEL, Andy Lattimer (sp? - Gabe). I'm not too much into the technical side of things anymore, because I think Yngwie has done it all. I can play some of that fast stuff, but I'm not that into it really...
And your vocals...Everyone is very impressed with the way you are able to play a show and switch in and out of the lower, growling vocals to the clean vocals so effortlessly. How do you practice these things?
Well the first time I tried the screaming vocals, I just did it my way, I didn't know how to do it really. Now, I do it differently, I use a kind of "compressor" in my throat. It's perfect for a microphone, because it doesn't sound very loud, it's not too loud in volume, but it works on recordings and at our shows very well.
And last but not least, what are some of your favourite albums at the moment?
Well, I didn't bring any of my own records on this tour, so I've mostly been listening to what everyone else brought...
Well thank you very much for doing this interview, Mikael! Great show tonight and good luck with the rest of the tour!
Thanks. Now I'm gonna go beat Martin's ass at pool...
1997: Morningrise (CD, Candlelight)
1998: My Arms, Your Hearse (CD, Candlelight)
1999: Still Life (CD, Peaceville)
2001: Blackwater Park (CD, Music For Nations)
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