Opeth. There is not a lot that can be said for Opeth that has not already been said, they don't care for the limelight, in fact Mikael himself said that he is not good with interviews at all. Quite a statement from a band sweeping all before them; grammy nominations, top placings in many metal magazines, they are the toast of many a town in fact. I have a little chat to Mikael about rap/hip-hop, how much metal in 2001 disappointed him, the new double CD and heaps of other crap. It is quite an interesting read. Dear readers, please do read on.
Hello and thank you Mikael for taking the time out from your busy schedule to answer these few questions for me. Firstly, are you happy with how things turned out for "Blackwater Park", nearly one year after its release in 2001? In terms of fan and media feedback?
You could probably say I'm happy with how the album's been received. We got #1 of year or top placings in most metal magazines, we got nominated for a Swedish Grammy, we sold almost the double amount compared to "Still Life" and stuff like that. In the eye of most regular people this is what success is. For me, I don't care at all about "flashy" things. I've got a good life right now, that's what counts, "Blackwater Park" is a fantastic record and it has done us a lot of good. It has put us in a different spot than before, so yeah, I'm pretty happy!
"Blackwater Park" was certainly a venture into a more progressive field, than what Opeth and certainly death metal has been previously associated with. More so than "My Arms, Your Hearse" and "Still Life"; "Blackwater Park" was less 'hard' and perhaps more melodic from an Opeth viewpoint, are forthcoming albums likely to stay in that frame of mind, or will we see another musical shift from Opeth? Into perhaps rap or hip-hop, for example?
As I'm writing for 2 separate albums right now I can say that next release(s) will definitely be the most melodic + most disharmonic we've ever recorded. It's gonna take the listener through singer-songwriter stuff, through psychedelic stuff, to rock and hard rock and through to extreme metal. Rap? Hip-hop? Are you insane?? No, those elements have nothing to do with Opeth! We have a pretty wide range to our music already and we don't really need anything else than we already have. We will continue with our style, which is a style in itself but also a very kaleidoscopic one. Rap/Hip hop?? That'll be the day...
Speaking of new and forthcoming albums; you guys are scheduled down to a record a newbie sometime this year, including a double CD package with a serene half and brutal half. Why the split? I always felt one of the cool aspects of Opeth was that many songs were spliced with hardness and softness.
It will be 2 separate CD's, not a double CD. We take everything into consideration with a release like this. It has to look great, exclusive as we don't want the fans to think that we're trying to milk 'em for money. It's all about our artistic taste. We want two separate albums whose artwork runs in similar themes, like a black and a white CD. Our goals with these CD's cannot be reached by putting out a double CD disc. However, people will never understand what we want anyways, so fuck it! I don't really care if they can afford to buy 2 or whatever...this is for us, if the albums don't sell, fuck it, I don't care! It has always been a case of us recording for ourselves...we got signed doing that, we didn't need to put on masks or suits to be more "accessible". Let's make one thing clear right now. I hate the industry and I don't care for anyone else's opinion than my own and the other guys in the band when it comes to take this band to where we belong. That includes the fans, their opinions wouldn't get us changing a original "plan". Don't get us wrong, we love the fans we have, but they are fans of us because of our integrity and the fact that we're deliberately taking distance from the scene and from what everybody else is doing. This 2CD thing is a dream of ours, and we're gonna make it happen, that's where our job is done. It's up to the label to sell it, and it's up to the listener if they're into it and if they wanna buy it.
In regards to the new, yet untitled album, are there going to be strict guidelines when recording songs, i.e. "This song is pretty hard, lets chuck her on the first CD. No wait a second, it's a bit too mellow, definitely belongs on the second CD"? That sort of mentality?
I guess when I come up with a part or section it pretty much makes it's way to it's "home" by itself. The heavy CD will be pretty "normal" for being an Opeth CD, maybe a bit harsher and sicker. It will still have mellow parts. It's the other CD that's the real experiment as we will drift off into psychedelic domains with that one... it will not only consist of mellow songs such as 'Harvest' or 'Face of Melinda', but also dark calm music and space rock elements.
Any tentative titles yet for the 2 CD new album? Is each CD going to be titled separately to reflect on the mood of each album or is Opeth going to stick with one overall title for both CDs?
Nothing as of yet. I haven't made up my mind whether I will write concepts again or what the fuck I should do. What I know is that the CD's are going to be between 50-60 minutes each. There will probably be two different titles, but titles connecting them with each other. I haven't started with the lyrics yet, I'm a "last second" kinda writer anyways.
"Blackwater Park" was beautifully illustrated by Travis Smith (also known for doing cover art for Iced Earth and the new Winds album), will we being seeing a repeat performance from him for the new record[s]?
We've talked and he wants to do it. I love Travis work, especially the new King Diamond album is great! We hope to work with him again, and I think he's pretty psyched about doing artwork for these two CD's.
Steve Wilson did some great vocal work on 'Bleak', was this a one off for Opeth or are you looking to perhaps have some more guest vocals in the future for new tracks? Or was it the fact that Steve Wilson worked with you guys mixing that enabled him to do some guest vocal work?
We are avid fans of his, I've been into Porcupine Tree since 1995 and just to work with him was great. I think we connected in a great way musically. Me and Steven plan to do some recordings together in the future too. Well, as I said we, or mostly me and Peter are huge fans of Porcupine Tree... we had a wish for him to sing some lines on the album, but we didn't dare asking. Luckily we didn't need to... there was this part that was too high for my voice, so Steve did it instead! It turned out great I think! We won't bring in any other guests I guess. Steve's one of the very very few fellow musicians we actually admire, so he's the only one we'd be interested in incorporating. I saw somewhere that Dave Vincent is singing on the Satyricon album. That's pretty fucking cool! I've never been into Satyricon really, but this I gotta hear! He's the fucking best when it comes to screams + I've been wondering what the hell he's doing these days.
With all the great CDs that passed through my hands this year from the metal scenes around the world, it was extremely hard to pick favourites. What caught your attention this year, metal release wise?
Man I'm sorry; I think it's all shit! Katatonia's new disc is awesome, but it's obvious I'd say that right? I am not impressed with metal bands anymore in general. I guess I was a bit excited about all these reunions of old bands, but it turned out to be predictable bollocks music (Iron Maiden). I have problems with new bands...it's so shallow and predictable... Porcupine Tree did a B-side compilation and wiped the entire musical scene clean... with a B-side!! That's only my taste, and I guess I haven't heard it all. No, I'm not excited about anything put out in 2001 really.
Is Opeth ever going to release a keyboard driven album? Personally I think it would be pretty interesting...
We are going to use some piano and maybe some vintage keys for the next albums. But we won't have the big choirs or cheesy string sounds, hell no! I like the stripped down sound of a grand piano, I like mellotrons, especially if they're a bit out of tune, I like Rhoads and Wurlitzers, I've grown very tired of Moogs since all the so called progressive metal bands use it all the time. I like Hammonds too... we did one rehearsal with a keyboard back in 1992, and it did truly sound like shit! Lately we've learned a bit more on how to use instruments properly and perhaps our taste have improved with the years too...so I'm rather excited about giving it another try.
Opeth has been a band that from "Orchid" has constantly blown fan and media away time and time again. Do you have any idea why that is? The fact that people don't get bored through 20 minutes of 'Black Rose Immortal', the fact you have brutal death one second, and harmonious music another. People should be raising eyebrows, and saying 'How in God's name does that music work?' but they don't and they love Opeth. Why?
I don't know, my taste is always gonna differ, even from my own fans opinions...they say "Morningrise" I say "My Arms Your Hearse"... it's never gonna change. Since the first record we have done music for ourselves, we were a mature band even back in 1993, so our CD's sounded "real". I compare to whatever other bands there is out there I think most bands really have that urge to become something...like rock stars. I had those dreams when I was a kid, and since I let go of that ideal, I have understood that it don't make no difference in the end. We are a proud band, we've had some success lately and that is strictly due to the fact that we don't really give a shit about anything.
Does Opeth (or any one of the individual members) ever get sick of composing metal tracks?
Since that's not all we do, no. I do most if not all the writing in this band, so I wouldn't say I've ever gotten tired of it. For me it's a great challenge to do something that will impress me, I'm the best judge for my own music, past and present. I've had side projects, I have some now, I don't really need 'em since Opeth basically don't care what musical style a riff or part is as long as it sounds good. I play with other people as I like to challenge myself and maybe learn something new. Right now I'm doing a thing with the keyboardist from Spiritual Beggars. He's a very experienced musician, he's been playing in bands since the early to mid 80´s, so it's a joy playing with someone who immediately understands what you want or who can get you into playing something you've never played before. This "project" sounds almost like a krautrock band playing soundtracks...
What are your fave Opeth track from each of the five albums?
Tough... 'Face of Melinda' & 'The Drapery Falls' are good...
Are you ever going to write happy lyrics with Opeth? It tends to be depressing a little, but I guess that is Opeth to a point. I thought "Still Life", lyrically, was extremely sad. You guys need to have some more happy moments.
[laughs], yes maybe we do. I can't write about happy stuff, basically I don't know how... "The sun is shining today, I'm having a stroll in the park, feeding the doves with crumbs of bread"...is that it? I get more satisfaction out of writing in a darker manner...but hey, everybody else is doing it within the metal scene. I understand we don't deviate from the pack because of my lyrics, but that's just my taste.
Any big and upcoming tours for Opeth or are you solely working on the new album and then promoting it afterwards?
It's basically only work from now on until the summer. We have a string of festivals booked this summer, but no tours. We will probably record in the summer too...
Well Mikael, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you again for answering these questions and wish you the best of luck with Opeth and whatever other ventures you are currently involved with! Any final words to the many fans that you have acquired over the past years?
Well, all I can say is thanks for the interview + thanks you to any fans reading this. I'm not good with stuff like this...feels like I'm holding a speech or something.
Entered: 2/28/2002 5:24:41 PM