AMARANTHE are a musical evolution within the community and in the short space of five years since releasing their first album their fan base has grown and becoming the hot topic of conversation. They have a new studio album due to be released and a tour with SONIC SYNDICATE coming up. I caught bassist Johan Andreassen for a chat a couple of days before appearing in Russia for a few days. We spoke of ‘That Song’, the new album and AMARANTHE being dubbed aerobics metal.
So Johan, how are you doing this fine evening? Apart from having a wet dog on your lap.
I’m doing well, I’ve just come back from a rainy walk with the dog and I’ve just packed up for the Russian tour that we go onto tomorrow. So everything is just dandio.
Is that with SONIC SYNDICATE or does that not happen until much later?
Oh these few shows are our own in Russia; they’re taking place in Moscow, St Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. Then we go onto the European tour with SMASH INTO PIECES and SONIC SYNDICATE; that starts around I think 22nd October.
Out of interest why Russia for your warm up shows so to speak?
We’ve been doing shows in Russia for the last four years and the reception from the crowds has always been really good. Russia has crazy fans and I mean why the fuck not, they are entitled to some great music as well so we’d thought we’d go over there and show them the ropes.
That surprises me to hear that Russia has crazy metal fans as you’d normally expect that from Finland, Norway and Sweden where Metal is a culture.
Well this is just a theory and I’m in no way passing judgement but I think they are in some way starved of music and they will welcome any sort of new music from outside of Russia. As most of us know Russia has been a quite closed off country and I think that still lives on. It’s been almost thirty years since the boarders got opened but I think they are still very starved to music and shows. You rarely hear about bands going to Russia to play so they greet us with open arms and it’s great.
That being said about Russia being quite a closed off country, was it difficult to get to play there?
It was actually quite easy; we filled in a form, have a petition or an invite from a Russian promoter then we send our passports over and we receive the visas a week later. So it’s really quite easy.
That’s good to hear, these venues on your Russian tour; are they ones you’ve played at before?
Actually the one in St Petersburg we’ve played twice before; it’s a really cool basement club. The one in Moscow, if I remember rightly, we played there last time; it’s a really big venue with a huge stage.
Now you’re about to embark on a tour with SONIC SYNDICATE and SMASH INTO PIECES; so are there any countries or venues you are looking forward to playing? Whether it be the first time or going back.
Well all of them actually; we’ve always been very spoilt when it comes to playing venues across Europe and most of them have been extremely good and also extremely professional as well as open heartedly welcoming.
Spain is always interesting; they don’t have that much ticket sales, a lot of people just walk up to the door. So you never know how many people there might be; you get nervous because you see the ticket sales but then you turn around on stage to see it’s a full house.
So sometimes you don’t know how many people will attend until you get to the venue; do you notice this happening in some countries more than others?
I think Spain is very special when it comes to that because they don’t do pre-sales, a lot of people don’t buy tickets in advance. They just go to the show; it’s very interesting and very surprising in a good way.
That tends to happen in the UK too. Do you notice this?
Yes, well that’s very special for Spain at least then there also some places in America that’s just the same. It’s quite fun because you get this nervous edge before the day; you don’t know how many are going to come then you suddenly see a one hundred or two hundred meter line outside the venue which you makes you realise ‘shit this will be a packed night’.
I bet that’s always a nice surprise to see.
Yes it is.
So this European tour, excuse me for stating the obvious is to promote your upcoming album Maximalism. I have listened to the album and I’ve got to say it’s great. This is just my opnion but I noticed the album contains the industrial vibes from your previous album ‘Massive Addictive’ and hints from your roots in your debut. Was this intentional?
I think it’s part of our musical evolution; we started out extremely hardcore, which included a lot of hard produced songs in the first album but now somehow we loosened up a bit, not that we take it any less seriously more that we want to expand our sound. We developed as musicians and verses just like anyone else. It’s been six years since our first album and a lot of things happen in six years; what we did back then was spot on, on time for that particular record. If we had done that record now I don’t think we’d have the same success as we do now as we did back then. If we would have released Maximalism six years ago it would have been the same thing. I take it you have seen the comments regarding “That Song” stating how we’ve left our roots.
Actually a fellow journalist and I were talking about this; I didn’t see the comments per say but he said he thought “That Song” was the odd one out. I really liked it personally.
The comments are half and half on who likes and who hates it; you either love it or you hate it. In my opinion I find it so hilarious; we are actually causing a controversial with “That Song”.
Here’s the thing, there’s been such uproar about “That Song” stating we’ve left our roots, going commercial and selling out. Some stated they won’t buy the album. It’s so funny because they’re saying we sold out by releasing a song like “That Song”, they’re calling it a sell out song and saying they won’t buy it. Tell me this, if you won’t buy it how can it possibly be a sell out song? We would be a sell out band if we wrote a song you actually wanted to buy. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind criticism, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but that statement contradicts itself.
Since the fifties; Rock, Metal and Punk have always been about creating a controversial, now people are saying we’re not true to the Metal scene. But what is true to the Metal scene? Metal is supposed to be controversial, not about doing what people expect of you. We’re just following this sort of path that was created by this whole music genre but people seem to forget that. Someone stated “I would love the new album to be ‘The Nexus’ on repeat for an hour”, well yes that’s a great song thank you for that acknowledgement but wouldn’t that be extremely boring? To buy an album that sounds exactly like everything else we’ve done.
I really don’t take it too seriously as people are entitled to their own opinion. What I don’t like is when people are rude when trying to express their opinion, it’s when they’ve run out of arguments and they feel they have to use bad language, turning it into a battle but that’s up to them.
It’s funny to see how strongly people react and judge AMARANTHE from just one song, then they state “I love everything they’ve done until this point but this is complete crap and I won’t be buying the album.” I just think it’s their loss really.
It’s certainly something different; alongside heavier tracks like “Supersonic”, “Off The Rocks” and others.
If you look at it from my perspective from writing “That Song” all the negative comments only makes more people interested in listening to it. People want to know how it sounds and what it is so they want to listen. It gives us so thank you.
I suppose whether the attention is good or bad it’s still attention at the end of the day that’s getting people to listen to your track and giving your video views. In a way it might introduce people to AMARANTHE, even those who aren’t into metal.
Yes exactly. Our audiences have always been very open minded; if you’re going to like AMARANTHE then you have to be open minded, it’s just how it is. We’re not like any other band out there.
Actually you are right there, I got that instant from your first sounds of “Leave Everything Behind”, hearing three lots of vocals and thinking this is different.
That’s how we’ve always done it; we’ve always been a bit different to everyone else, that’s why we got so far so quickly. Things have happened really quickly and rapidly for us; I understand we are in a really good position right now. Despite the negative comments on our first single from Maximalism I think we’ll really benefit from that.
When the album comes out the end of October, those who were hesitant before are going to recognise the familiar AMARANTHE sound. Even though it’s a natural development from the other albums.
My journalist friend and I agreed there were some of the old roots in there from the first album so I think fans will recognise that.
It’s a little bit of all previous albums in this album.
As you said, your sound is different to any other band out there. Who are your musical influences?
We are six extremely different people; but I can say this much that a lot of the influences from our songwriters [Jake E and Elize Ryd] is ABBA, especially where the harmonies are concerned. So we have some ABBA influences in our foundation. We also have influences from a Swedish metal band called SOILWORK. There’s so much.
The rule we have is that we don’t have any rules; if we like it, we like it and we do it whereas if we don’t like it we don’t do it.
Me; I’m more in the punk side of the band. I’m a huge fan of FOO FIGHTERS and THE PRODIGY, the house gods. If I don’t know what to listen to then I will put the iPod on shuffle and listen to the whole back catalogue.
So we are all very different; especially Henrik [Englund Wilhelmsson], now this might come as a surprise from our mighty growler and someone who does harsh vocals, his biggest idol and this is the honest truth, his idol is Michael Jackson. He knows all the songs and can do them by heart; he’s a huge fan. He is also a fan of an Amercian band called ATTILA.
That’s just how it is for all of us in the band; we so extremely different but yet again we are very much the same
Speaking of being open minded I noticed most of the metal community are open minded and that’s coming more into light. Would you agree?
If you shot it down before trying it you basically start listening to the same stuff. Music gives you a sense of something and it doesn’t matter what music you listen to; if it gives you that feeling then it’s good. I always say there are two music genres; it’s good, it’s bad. Those are the only two genres. How it sounds has nothing to do with it; if you like it , you like it and if you don’t, you don’t.
Music particularly metal has so many sub-genres; what sub-genres AMARANTHE have been dubbed by?
That’s a tough one as we’ve had so many different descriptions of AMARANTHE it’s ridiculous. If I had one euro for every strange description I wouldn’t have to tour the world to pay the rent. I’ve heard AMARANTHE been decribed as shlagga metal and aerobics metal.
To be honest, aerobics metal is a term I use myself. A lot of people have said that they don’t like listening to AMARANTHE normally but they do like to work out to it.
There’s been so many descriptions of our music it’s ridiculous. Personally I don’t want to label us as that would mean putting us into a corner and I don’t want that to happen. I’d rather give people the opportunity label us if they feel the need to. You either like us or you don’t, is a label really that important?
So to round up, what do you have planned for the future?
Well we have the Russian shows this weekend, we have a video release coming up for “That Song” directed by Patric Ullaeus as always. We then have the European tour stretching over a month then time off in December and January. In February we will be appearing in 70,000 Tonnes Of Metal Festival – The Metal Cruise; I can’t say at the moment but there will be a shit load of shows next year and we will be travelling all over the world.
Thank you very much Johan, it’s been a pleasure and good luck with the shows and album.