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THE METAL OBSERVER - Interview - OPETH - Online Mar 2006

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Opeth - Wisdom? That’s a tough one. (Per Wiberg) - Online Mar 2006

Wesley and I were fortunate enough to be able to catch up with OPETH’s Per Wiberg a couple hours before the OPETH/DARK TRANQUILLITY/DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND show at Mr. Small’s in Millvale, Pennsylvania on February 18, 2006. Many thanks to Per for the excellent interview, the rest of OPETH for posing for pictures with us afterward, tour manager Jimmy Eicher for facilitating everything and Roadrunner Records for setting it up.


K: First question, of course, is always “How is it going?” How has the tour been?

It’s been good. I mean, it’s pretty early in the tour—this is just the fourth date tonight—and we’ve been struggling with jetlag and the usual stuff, but I think it’s been pretty good. We’ve done pretty good shows I’d say. The crowd’s been pretty good and I think we’ve played well. Well enough.


K: How are the crowds here as opposed to anywhere else you’ve played, say Europe or Japan or anywhere?

Well, we’ve actually never been to Japan with this band. But let’s say that it’s pretty much the same. I would say that maybe our different records people react to differently. Since “Blackwater Park” was maybe a little bit of a breakthrough album in the US, it’s maybe a little bit more overwhelming of a reaction to those song over here than elsewhere.


W: How’s the reaction been to the new songs live?

It’s been really good and I think that people are happy that we do “Ghost Of Perdition” in the set as well. We do three songs from that album and it’s been good.


K: I was wondering, how is it different being with Roadrunner Records as opposed to previous labels and have the fans reacted in anyway.

I wouldn’t say it’s that different compared to any record labels really, apart from the fact that we got a lot more press to do nowadays [laughs]. They’re not involved at all with the music or the presentation, so everything is pretty much as before. Except for, I think, well, I guess that most people understand that Roadrunner is a somewhat bigger label than what the band used to be at so of course there’s a lot more press stuff to do. That’s cool, you know. That’s why we signed with them.


W: Aside from working with OPETH, you’ve also done some stuff with SPIRITUAL BEGGARS. How do the dynamics between the two bands differ? I mean, how is you relationship to SPIRITUAL BEGGARS different than your relationship to OPETH?

Well, it’s pretty different kinds of music, although both bands are categorized as Hard Rock/Metal bands, you know. I’ve been playing with SPIRITUAL BEGGARS a lot longer than with OPETH. The music the BEGGARS do is a little bit more spontaneous, it’s got a Rock and Roll vibe to it, it’s very much how you feel that day is how it’s going to be on stage. Since OPETH songs are a lot longer you have to be maybe a little bit more careful with set lists and have to stick to set lists a little bit more to get a good flow on the show and also to make it enjoyable for us before.


K: I meant to ask this question before the last one, but some people just know you as “the new guy in OPETH.” Would you mind giving us a little bit of background about yourself and what you’ve done in other bands?

I’ve been more or less a session guy in Sweden since the late ‘80s. I started playing music to pay the bills. I’ve been playing all kinds of music, actually, not only Metal and Hard Rock but lots of Blues stuff, even Hip Hop…oooooh! I’ve been doing lots of stuff. I’ve been on the road for more than fifteen years at this point. [I’ve done] recordings with a lot of Swedish artists. I don’t think they’re bands that if you’re into Metal and Hard Rock you’d know.


W: Before “Ghost Reveries,” you did the “Damnation” and “Deliverance” tours with OPETH. What was your relationship with the band before that?

Well, I knew the guys before I started to play with them. Sweden’s a small country and it seems more than a few play Hard Rock and Metal. Everybody sort of knows each other. Actually it was Mike Amott who introduced me to this Mikael. I live in Stockholm too and we started to hang out together. We started to, not with any great ambition, we started to play music together. We tried to write some stuff and then they recorded “Damnation” and “Deliverance” and went out on the road and Mikael asked me to play keyboards for “Damnation” too, cause they needed a guy to do that and I said “yes.”


W: What would you say are some of your favorite OPETH moments from back in the old days before you joined the band, like some of your favorite tracks, albums?

I’ve listened to OPETH since they put out the first CD, so I’ve more or less followed the band and I like “Orchid” a lot when it was released. It felt kind of fresh to me because it was a new take on the more extreme Metal. It had a lot of acoustic passages and interludes and also song structure, what was more related to ‘70s progressive music than a lot of Metal bands at the time. I liked that. The first album I did with SPIRITUAL BEGGARS was an album called “Mantra 3.” We recorded that in 1997 and these guys were recording “My Arms, Your Hearse” in the very same studio because Fredman had double-booked the studio because he’s a messy guy [laughs]. There was a little bit of friction there for sometime because everybody wants to get their stuff finished. Then I heard “My Arms, Your Hearse” and I was actually completely blown away by that album. I think it’s still maybe my favorite OPETH album because some albums are like a symbol of a time in your life or whatever. I really like that album and I think it still holds up very good.


K: This is sort of a generic question, but what are some of your influences, both musically and non-musically?

Musically, it’s…when I was a kid growing up, my parents were huge Jazz and Blues fans, so that kind of music has always surrounded me. If it wasn’t for Jimi Hendrix, I wouldn’t have started playing music, so that’d be the biggest influence for me. Then as you grow older, you know…I liked Hard Rock, Metal. I was a teenager in the ‘80s, lots of exciting stuff for that time, you know. I was heavily into VENOM and all those bands. I was also playing other kinds of music later like, like Blues and maybe some Jazz. I’m basically into music and not really a genre.


K: Well, that takes care of another question.

W: What are you thoughts on the current Metal scene? Are there any bands out there that really stand out?

I think there’s always this debate that all Metal sucks nowadays and some say “Oh, it’s never been better.” I guess I’m always a little bit on the in-between. There’s so much music coming out nowadays. If you compare to ten years ago, or at least my guess is that there has to be a lot more bands nowadays. It seems like it anyway. Of course, there’s lots of good ones.


W: The internet’s definitely spurred that along.

Yeah and I think it’s good. It’s a lot easier for younger bands to present themselves and spread their music. It’s up to people—if you like it, buy it. If you don’t, don’t spend time whining about it. I like a lot of bands like HIGH ON FIRE, they’re a really really good band. I love CLUTCH, but they’re also a band that has been around for ages. We’re fortunate enough to have Devin on this tour with us. He’s an awesome guy. I love STRAPPING YOUNG LAD.


W: You mentioned CLUTCH. I know you recently got off the Sounds of the Underground tour with CLUTCH. How was that whole experience?

I liked it a lot. I had a good time. I think we made lots of new friends on that tour. I don’t think when that idea got presented to us, we thought that “Yeah!” we were all over it. It was just a good way for us to get back together and start playing live again, because it had been more than a year since we’d played a show, so I think we just did it for our own sake. It was a short set and it was good. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. No huge bands, either, compared to Ozzfest, so no huge egos. Everybody was helping each other out, both bands and crew, which is a good thing to see.


K: When you’re not playing with OPETH or anybody else, away from music, what can we find you doing?

Graphic design. But there’s not a lot of time nowadays that I don’t spend doing something that’s concerning music.


W: What would you say is next for the band? Are you taking some time or getting right into the writing process?

Oh, I can’t see that happening in the near future. We’ve got more or less the whole of this year planned. We have three days off when we come back from this and then we’re going to do a couple of concerts in [countries in] Europe we haven’t had a chance to do yet, like Greece, Turkey, Israel. Then we’re going to go to Australia and New Zealand. Then it’s summer and that usually means festivals. Then it’s South America. Then someone was talking about “Guys, you need to get back to the U.S.” later this year.


K: Do you have any personal goals with music?

I think the goal is to constantly evolve, you know. Trying to be a better musician, try to discover new things. I think being a musician, you’re supposed to be a curious person to be a good musician. There’s always stuff to learn in every genre of music. I guess that’s my ambition, to never stand still.


W: I’d like to thank you very much from us, “The Metal Observer” and all our readers. Do you have any last pearls of wisdom you’d like to share with us?

Wisdom? That’s a tough one. You can’t get a lot of wisdom from us musicians. I don’t know. “Stay heavy?” That’s always a good one.


K: Thank you for your time. We really appreciate it.


1995: Orchid (CD, Candlelight)
1997: Morningrise (CD, Candlelight)
1998: My Arms, Your Hearse (CD, Candlelight)
1999: Still Life (CD, Peaceville)
2001: Blackwater Park (CD, Music For Nations)
2002: Deliverance (CD, Music For Nations)

2003: Damnation (CD, Music For Nations)

2005: Ghost Reveries (CD, Roadrunner Records)

Keith StevensWesley D. Cray

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