“The song ‘Radio Headphones’ is about mass produced shit on the radio that most of us have to listen to but don’t really want to listen to.”

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With their EP being released today; I interviewed THE FAMILY’s frontman Matthew ‘Bax’ Baxendale for Distorted Sound Magazine. Here we speak of their EP, society’s fixation with social media and their recent rising from the ashes of former Hardcore act DEAD HARTS.

So Bax, how are you doing this evening?

Not bad thank you, it’s been a long day at work and a good weekend where we shot a new music video for our next single. It went really well.

Could you tell me more about this music video?

Yes of course, it’s for the second single we are putting out from our new EP and the first single we’re doing a video for. The track is called ‘My Kind Of Scum’. We filmed the video Saturday, we had a full day of shooting and it looks really cool. There is a lot of different concepts to the video and it’s really fun. I think everyone will dig it when it comes out.

‘My Kind Of Scum’ is the kind of song that will go down well at live shows, so I can imagine they will enjoy the video and single.

It’s definitely one of the more energetic songs and I think it’s the best song on the EP.

It’s my personal favourite on the EP as well, it has a punkish vibe with a groovy beat, would you agree?

Yes I definitely agree with that, it has the punkish aspects yet in the verses it has a more folkish/Queens Of The Stone Age vibe to it. That’s what we were going for.

I was actually trying to think who you sounded like on the EP and now you’ve said Queens Of Stone Age I can hear that now, at first I thought of Foo Fighters.

We take massive influences from the Queens; we’re trying to incorporate them into our sounds as much as possible. Giving what we’re trying to do with our sound.

You might have been asked this already but why the change in musical direction? You were originally fronting The Dead Harts who are more Hardcore and screamo, now you are a more melodic piece.

We’re into the heavy music and stuff. Personally I’d say this is the music I have always been into like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, things like that; growing up they were my favourite bands. Me and Dom, who used to be in Dead Harts, have always wanted to try something like that and it’s something we wanted to do. However whilst we were in The Dead Harts with loads of touring it was hard to try and start that up. When we realised Dead Harts were coming to an end, that’s when we decided to start it up and give it a go.

What point did you realise The Dead Harts were coming to an end?

I’d probably say December 2015 I think, we were touring with an American band called Strayed From The Path. We’d been touring for about 8 months of the year, so a lot of touring. We were all in different places in our lives so one of us wanting to start The Family and our drummer owns quite an established clothing company so he wanted to focus more on that. We just all wanted to do different things really.

How many of the original members of Dead Harts are now in The Family?

I started Dead Harts in 2009 but there is also Don who played guitar in Dead Harts. He now plays bass in this band. So me and him are in this band and the other two we’re really good friends with. One of them used to be a stand in for us.

Is that from session, live or both?

With Josh, the other guitarist, he’s just been a long-time friend of ours. We had a few problems with finding bass players so it was handy having Josh coming and standing in really.

So you are due to release your new EP this Friday, I would like to hear about the recording process behind this? You got some people who have worked with some big names to master and produce this record.

Yes, we had a producer called Pete Hutchinson. He’s a good friend of ours, we haven’t known him for too long but we worked alongside him in a London studio called Prego Records. A lot of pop artists worked at that studio such as All Saints and John Newman, things like that. So yeah we got to work with Pete which was amazing and we didn’t want to work with anyone else. I’m not usually keen on the recording side of things but Pete made such a great experience.

The second half of the record we moved the studio from London back to our home town and set up a pop up studio in there. We finished the EP off there. That was a great experience because it was much more homely environment and we had quite a lot of time to do it.

Out of curiosity, why did you choose to record in two different places?

We’ve actually nearly recorded a full length so the first four tracks we recorded in London. It was a great experience but due to the cost of housing everyone was a hit money wise. Since we got along with Pete so well he suggested about moving the studio to our home town and we house him. I don’t think we’d have done it any other way really.

I am keen to know what the themes and messages are within your music, reading your press release it mentions talking about being in a media capitalist society.

I do all the lyrics so I write about the stuff that is personal to me at the time. For example, the song ‘Radio Headphones’ is about mass produced shit on the radio that most of us have to listen to but don’t really want to listen to.

The songs also look into the media side of things, particularly the social media. Particularly how driven society is by social media and how the world would crumble if it wasn’t there. We try not to fall into that category as much, I don’t have any social media myself I never have. I can see the benefits to it but there are also a lot of bad parts to it as well.

So we wanted to keep the EP relevant to what’s happening now and it can be an EP that everyone can relate to.

I’m curious to know what the song ‘My Kind Of Scum’ entails.

This song is about those particular people who conform to these ideologies set by society and they’re trying to be people they’re not. They’re trying to live a life on the Internet but you go to meet them in real life and they’re not who you thought they were or they turn out to be really boring and no personality at all.

Whereas online they have this presence and seem like a great person but they hide behind their computer screens or any other means of media so they’re not our kind of scum if you get what I’m saying.

There are those who grew up with Social Media as part of their lives.

I grew up in the nineties where it would take half an hour to load up a page and things like that. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against social media. Whether you like it or not, it’s part of our lives now and it’s kind of how the world works now. I don’t like the idea that people live their lives by it now, they’re so sucked in by it all now. What happened to the days where you used to bring your friends around to hang around in the park or at the pub? Now we just talk to people on the Internet.

It’s like you go to Starbucks and see people at their laptops. Everyone has their point of view and I’m not saying mine’s the right one. I think there’s a lot of people who have a lot of angst towards that way of life now. So yes I guess that’s what it’s all about.

So you’ll be off on tour with the band While She Sleeps very soon.

Yes we are, one more date sold out last week so that’s two dates out of five that have sold out already.

Suppose this will be great exposure as this will happen after you’ve released the EP.

Yes it’s good, we’re very fortunate to be playing these calibre shows this early on when we’ve only just come out as a group. The guys from While She Sleeps have always been good friends of ours, we’re both from Sheffield and we can’t thank them enough for inviting us to come on tour with them.

Will this be the first time performing as The Family?

No, before we properly came out as a band we played about five or six shows. We performed under the name The Family but we didn’t have any social media so nobody knew who we were and didn’t know about those shows. We did play with some really cool bands. A couple of weeks ago we did a show with a band called Black Peaks, they’ve supported Deftones at Wembley. We supported Black Peaks who are also really good friends of ours.

To round up, are there any other plans for The Family?

We’ve got some more shows in the pipeline, including a nice little tour in September with a cool band that I can’t say too much about. We’ve also hopefully got a couple of festival appearances and we’re looking into finishing off the full length album by the end of the year. Hopefully this time next year the full length will be out. We’re just working hard as fuck really.

Find The Family on Facebook and their EP ‘Welcome To The Family’ is out now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It shows that you don’t have to necessarily be a heavy metal singer to start singing heavy metal.”

Over the past few years BATTLE BEAST have become one of Finland’s rising stars in Heavy Metal. Their powerful music reaching the airwaves and their passionate live performances gaining interest on a worldwide scale. Could they join the list of Finnish Metal legends along the likes of NIGHTWISH, SONATA ARCTICA and CHILDREN OF BODOM? Most definitely. ‘Bringer Of Pain’ is due for release in less than a month via Nuclear Blast Records.

Here’s what happened when I interview her for Power Of Metal Magazine.

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How are you doing this morning?

Actually, I woke up an hour and a half ago; this is the life of a musician. Last night I was at a gig with one party band, it was a long night and we did five sets.

Wait five sets in one night?

Yep [laughs]. I am professional singer so I don’t do just Battle Beast, I do different kinds of stuff. I’ve always wanted to be that kind of singer that does different kinds of music, for most musicians that’s normal as they don’t want to stick to just one style.

What other styles of music do you sing other than Heavy Metal?

Well Heavy Metal is actually the newest thing for me as a vocalist, I’ve listened to it since I was a teenager but back then I didn’t think I’d be able to be a Heavy Metal vocalist. My history as a vocalist; I’ve been singing since I was a kid; so pop stuff, blues and soul music, a lot of different genres.

At some point, I started singing more blues and rock music then I started singing Janis Joplin and that was where I found the raspiness in my voice. That was when I was about nineteen years old, I’m now 28.

That’s surprising to hear since you are new to metal when I think you are one of the best metal vocalists around.

It shows that you don’t have to necessarily be a heavy metal singer to start singing heavy metal. For me personally, it’s about using my voice as much as possible in different ways and to use different sounds. That’s an interesting thing about the human voice, there’s such a variety of sounds in your voice alone. So, that is something I am really interested in. I also give vocal and performance coaching because I feel it is very important to pass it on, the knowledge that I have.

I have a question from a fellow vocalist:  she wants to know what techniques and strategies you use to get that fire and passion in your voice.

She can find my contact details on my coaching page Sing Like A Beast by Noora Luhimo, she can actually have some Skype lessons with me if she wants to. In the future I hope to have a Sing Like A Beast clinic for groups of people who want to have a workshop in performing and vocals. My main goal is that I want to go touring with that concept and spread the talent around.

In Finland is quite hard to become a professional musician? In the UK, it is quite hard to become a professional musician.

It’s not too complicated but you have to have so much passion and determination. You have to be compulsive with it; when I go to sleep, I think about and when I get up I think about it. Music is the most important thing in my life and it has to be if you want to become a professional musician, in a good way it’s a disease. You just have to do it, those people who have that mindset tend to become professional musicians.

People should always think about this perspective; what is success? Is success to do with money, with fame or with being happiest person on the planet? I would pick the last option, it doesn’t come from the money and the fame. When you keep being good to people that are close to you, that is the most important thing. You must remember, even if you get the money or the fame the people are the most important thing. Nobody likes to celebrate alone.

I also think giving people tips helps, people feel so much pressure about getting successful or you know becoming a professional musician. That is something you stress about but I think you shouldn’t stress about it, you just have to do a lot of work; that means you have to sell yourself all the time. There are times and places to do it, just not funerals or weddings. Weddings can be a good place to do it. You always have to sell yourself as you never know where you will find contacts, so always keep your business cards with you, always talk to people about what you are doing and don’t talk down on yourself. Don’t say things like ‘I’m not so good’ or ‘I do a little of this’ because people don’t want to hear that, so always bring up the best qualities about yourself. That is not lying, that is selling yourself and you don’t have to lie if you tell the truth about yourself when you say ‘I am good at this and that’

That’s what I have been doing all my life and that is why I’m here now.

Let’s talk about Battle Beast’s upcoming album ‘Bringer Of Pain’; I read in the press release that your music relates to what you have said so far, about doing your best and not giving up. I take it that’s the message behind ‘Bringer Of Pain’ too.

Yes, that is true, this is the first album with the latest line up of the band. Before this album, there was only one song writer but we had to go separate ways with him two years ago, due to artistic and personal differences. So, we couldn’t fix the situation but think after the two years it was the best decision we could make because we are now doing the stuff we love to do and in the way we love to do it. So, in the end I think everything went quite right

This album has that touch of Battle Beast and it contains that something for everyone. You don’t necessarily need to be a Heavy Metal fan or a dancing queen to not like this record. I think having different kinds of music on the album is good as you can have it as background music. It’s not just heavy guitars and it’s not just disco music; there’s different elements to the record that is our thing and I think you can hear that signature sound in the album that Battle Beast are known for.

I found that too when I was listening to the album on the way to work; from the first listen I felt that power that Battle Beast are known for.

Yes, and as a vocalist I felt I could bring all I got on that album, I thought I can show people how many different sounds I have. There are also many kinds of moods in the album and that is something as a vocalist when I interpret the song. That’s the most important thing that I interpret the way the song demands me to do. If the song, for example Beyond The Burning Skies I want to give that feeling of flying over the ocean and being full of hope. That is something that has to reflect from my voice.

People have asked why there isn’t the raspiness in my voice for some of the tracks; if the song doesn’t require it I won’t use it.

Do you have a personal favourite song on the album?

I really love each song in different ways, they are our little babies. It really depends on the mood; right now, my feeling is the same as Beyond The Burning Skies as it reflects the situation we have right now. We’re going on a new tour in USA and Canada, we’re also going on our second headline tour across Europe. We have so much hope for that. We have a lot of great stuff coming that we’re really excited for. Sometimes I can feel the same mood as Bastard Son Of Odin, it’s a fun song to sing and I can’t wait to perform it with Battle Beast.

What can fans expect from ‘Bringer Of Pain’?

They can expect ass kicking music, I think this is more powerful than before. When you put the first track on, say on your way to work, you can’t stop smiling and you get this sort of energy punch. Even you get off on the wrong foot this album will give you that energy back.

Finally, a fellow fan wanted to know what your workout plan is?

Different kinds of exercises and good nutrition always works. I love cycling, that is my favourite thing to do along with other cardio stuff. I also like running and jumping with a rope; that’s particularly important as I jump a lot on the stage. Sometimes I do boxing, I go to the gym. I like to try different stuff. The most important thing is to keep active.

Thank you so much Noora for taking time to talk to the Power Of Metal, good luck with album release and tour.

‘In my opinion I find it so hilarious; we are actually causing a controversial with “That Song”. ‘

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.

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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.

‘Maximalism’ is due for release via Spinefarm Records 21st October 2016 so pre-order your copy here. In the meantime find them on Facebook, Twitter and their official website

“I love to do the songs on the guitar and strip down the songs we have”

Anneke

Anneke Van Giersbergen is one of the most underated vocalists around, really versatlie and talented. Find out what happened when I caught up with her on one of her UK dates on her acoustic tour.

Hello Anneke, how are you doing?

I’m fine thanks, I’m really happy to be in the UK. It’s good to be back, I’ve been here so many times with The Gathering, only the last couple of years we have been returning with The Gentle Storm. So every half year is fine because I’m catching up.

Is this your first time in Southampton?

I think so, I think I was here with The Gathering a long time ago. I’m not sure.

So the tour has been going well?

Yes, lots of nice people coming to the shows. I’ve been travelling with friends and actually the bass player of Agua Anneke is here, we go back a long way. My husband and my kid is here, we have a car full of people with merch in the back and my guitar. That’s how we travel and that’s really nice.

How do you find the balance between being a professional musician and a mum?

For me it’s the perfect world, I’m never homesick when they are with me. I don’t mind where I am in the world as long as they are there. Yet again I tour a lot by myself, so it’s cool when my boy is with me. Only today he has tonsillitis, a fever so he’s at the hotel so you know he’s a warrior. It’s cool but shame he couldn’t be here as he could be running around.

Talking of being a musician and a mum, Simone Simmons (EPICA) recently took part in a documentary that explained what that was like. She sometimes had her boy in the studios as she recorded, was that the same for you?

Yes, ever since he was a baby I took him wherever I could and so they grow up where they become used to touring, being around lots of people. When you travel to South America the flying is so heavy that we never take him, there are a lot of times where I am away from him and my parents, well what we do without parents. So they babysat a lot of the time and my husband was in the band so of course we’re always together.

Now Rob isn’t in the band and I do a lot on my own, so he’s home a lot with him. It’s a juggle but I think every working mum is juggling their work and their kids. So I don’t feel any different to hard working mums but its great if they can come along, like you can bring them to the studio and they’ll have a good time. It doesn’t matter where he is as long as he is happy and healthy.

I bet he loves telling his friends at school that his mum’s a rock star.

Yes, sometimes he Skypes to the classroom because he comes on tour when he’s in school and he gets given homework to do. So it works out.

So this is your last date on the UK tour, were there any highlights?

To be honest, everywhere. Everyday has been different but everyone in the UK is funny; I tell a lot of stories at this kind of gig and I always get reactions, people have a great sense of humour and we laugh a lot. That’s so cool.

It’s different from a rock show where there is a lot of high energy whereas this is singing songs, talking and being at one with the crowd in an intimate way.

What made you decide to do a solo acoustic tour?

I do them all the time, so every once in a while there’s just these tours in between everything else. I like to do them because it’s one way to express yourself that’s different to heavy metal, singing really loudly and moving on stage. The other thing is to be quiet, tell stories and to be very personal; more personal than if you were on a rock stage.

I love to do the songs on the guitar and strip down the songs we have. I also perform cover songs, I like to perform a variety of stuff. I always plan some of these tours throughout the year, just to do it because I love it so much.

It seems that acoustic shows talent in a different way. Actually at its best, particularly the vocals would you agree?

It’s super different; at a rock show you can sing loud all the time and it’s such a high energy thing. With an acoustic show, of course you’re allowed to make a little mistake and talk about things, I usually talk about my day. It’s like coming home, creating an atmosphere of just being together and enjoying the moment rather than somebody going to watch an artist. It’s more like, we’re here together and we invited ourselves here then we are here together. If we project that energy wise, people will pick up on that. We have good crowds, rock people are such a nice crowd.

Speaking of imperfections when performing, how do you personally feel about computer magic such as auto tuning?

If I make a mistake, I make a joke about it. I don’t like making mistakes, it’s never perfect. I pick a long setlist and some nights it’s chaotic and I’m all over the place. So every day is different, you feel different every day so sometimes you’re tired. Every day you feel different and that’s good.

It’s the sound of what’s going on now, my boy listens to pop music and it shows there’s a different generation of news sounds and new ways to record and produce. I find it really interesting.

The youth of today actually are going back to Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and vinyls are coming back. So it’s a new wave. The music nowadays is really really good, very different to back in the day but that’s not a bad thing.

As a solo artist you’ve collaborated with some amazing talents, who was your favourite?

I really loved working with Devin Townsend. He’s such a nice person, he’s such a genius musician and I learnt a lot from him. I learnt about vocals, recording, singing, everything really; we talk a lot when we see each other. I think that was one of the highlights of my career, playing with him.

I understand a lot of talented people are divas, which is fine because it makes them interesting in a way. Devin is very modest, hardworking and very honest about himself. People adore him and I know why.

If there is anybody you could collaborate with dead or alive who would they be?

Freddie Mercury with all of Queen, Freddie is one of my true heroes in everyway; recording, singing, writing.

To round up, what are your plans for the rest of the year?

I’ll be touring and doing the acoustic solo tour in Holland. We have shows with The Gentle Storm, the last one in December. Then I’ll take a break in early 2017, I’m already working on my heavy new album; that will released in one half of 2017. So there’s a lot going on.

Thank you very much Anneke it’s been a pleasure.

“In a way it’s new but with old school features that can elevate the album as an art form again.”

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This was my first interview for Distorted Sound magazine, it was with AVATAR frontman Johannes Eckerström and we chatted about various items such as their latest album, about songs being radio friendly and tales about animals.

How are you doing on this lovely evening?

I’m doing well, now there’s a blue sky outside and here I am trapped at the top of my tower doing press.

You are releasing a new album soon; I noticed that it seems a little more radio friendly than your previous material.

I think it might be to do with the fact we had a wider pallet on this one, it kind of comes with the territory of a concept album so it’s possible it’s more radio friendly. That wasn’t the intention mind. It’s definitely more a dynamic piece so that might be part of it, from a musician’s standpoint in often goes hand in hand with radio airplay so it’s possible.

Actually thinking about it tracks such as “For The Swarm” doesn’t seem friendly for the airwaves.

Yeah exactly, that particular one has a riff then a chorus then a solo then it’s over in less than two minutes. It might not be radio friendly now because it’s too long but in the 1960s that was the right amount of time, if you look at the early Beatles hits a lot of those hit that two minute mark. It’s never a number we look at. I don’t if there’s one on this album but there always seems to be at least one song on every Avatar record so far that is three minutes and thirty three seconds long which is the perfect radio length now. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.

Thing is we let label people choose singles, we don’t write singles. I think if we were to do that it would injure our art.

I guess if you try and write a radio friendly single there are so many things you’ve got to take into account, is that right?

I think that’s a way to compromise while writing and I think that goes against the whole idea what heavy metal is. Like “oh for this album we made really big compromises and the record is pretty OK” like who does that. So trying to make a radio friendly record would mean a lot of compromises, I mean if a song were to be a successful single that’s awesome. However there will always be “I have a great idea but is it radio friendly enough.”

So would you say if you were to write a radio friendly track would it limit your creativity?

Yes exactly, I guess it could be a great challenge for some songwriters I think. You need some kind of framework for yourself to conceptualise your work even if it isn’t a concept album. Either way it is helpful to conceptualise your work, and maybe that’s a brilliant frame to have every song to be three minutes and thirty three seconds long. I don’t think that’s for us.

Going back to your album that I personally enjoyed, who are your personal influences as I could hear pretty much a bit of everything from Doom to the track Black Waters that reminded me of Clutch?

Well I haven’t listened that much to Clutch, the riffing on Black Waters was written by Tim [Öhrström] who has a lot of influences in heavy groove and a lot in his playing so that helped. For that was one song I ran with and we started to work on the song together. For instance there was some influences from the Johnny Cash song God’s Gonna Cut You Down, with this weird dark blues that feels kind of epic. It’s nice when Christian people do it as you get under and over tones that gives you a virtual feel.

So what are your personal favourite songs on the album or do you not have a favourite?

The thing we always say is if you have one favourite there is something wrong with the rest of the album and we have to start over. We’re really hard against ourselves when writing like that, right now some stuff is fun, not in the way of being a favourite song but those containing something a bit different to what we have done.

In this case Sky Burial was fun to create as it was so focused on the orchestral side of it and I did most of the arranging. The satisfaction of doing something completely different and to put it out because I am sure every songwriter writes a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with their main outlets. Sometimes you tend to do something completely different that is connected to your main outlets and in this case the orchestral piece that fits the concept of our heavy metal album.

I really liked the tracks For The Swarm and The Eagle Has Landed, The Eagle Has Landed had circus type feel to it.

Yeah I guess in that sense, it’s interesting. This is the song that breaches the most to the last album so you can see some kind of stronger connection and where people can recognise us. I guess it’s good to have one song where people recognise us and we take them on a trip.

I was particularly interested in the themes on this album, I was wondering what the artwork on the track Fiddler’s Farewell displaying a cricket by a gravestone represented.

So the whole album is a fable about this owl, it’s presented as a one hundred and nine verse epic poem. This was an original story made up by Avatar, one of the ideas to create this fable was to use ideas from existing fables but we put our own twist onto them.

Fiddler’s Farewell for instance started out by being part of that idea. There is a fable called The Grasshopper and The Ant, the ant is working all summer long to provide food for the winter while the grasshopper is playing around in the sun with his fiddle. The ant warns him that while it’s nice and warm now, winter is on the way and they need to prepare for harder times but the grasshopper tells him not to worry. When winter comes the grasshopper is starving and is about to die so the ants give him food. So everyone is fine at the end and he [the grasshopper] learns his lesson, being the kind of story where everyone survives.

In this case, the idea we came up with was around the motive of us not being as good at learning lessons as well as we should and it doesn’t turn into the wisdom when it should. So what if the grasshopper doesn’t learn his lesson, so another summer comes and he’s still playing his fiddle whereas the ant works himself into the grave. Now it’s too late because there is no-one to take the grasshopper in when he’s hungry. In our telling the ant either works herself into a grave or gets stomped to death. In Tooth Beak And Claw there is a battle going on and between that and For The Swarm there’s a battle taking place where the ants are scattering everywhere and this ant gets stomped in the action. This results into a pointless death for no reason whatsoever and winter is coming so this grasshopper won’t survive on his own.

I’ve personally never heard of The Grasshopper and The Ant, is it quite well known?

With fables you are re-visiting childhood memories, I saw this particular fable in some sort of animation. It was based on a children’s book so yeah it’s out there, it isn’t that obscure.

Hearing you talk of that particular fable reminded me of the Disney Pixar film A Bugs Life, but the grasshoppers are bullies rather than friends.

Yeah, that’s a different perspective. When writing fables we use animals ruthlessly and we do whatever we please.

It’s seems to be underrated now, using animals in tales.

If we revive it we would like full credit [laughs]

From what I understand there’s also going to be a book, is this the first time you’ve done something like this?

Yeah it is and it was hard work. It’s not a novel, it’s more like a poetic form that. We decided that one form will give it the fable feel to the whole thing to frame it in an interesting way and we ended up with too much text for an album booklet alone. To release something like this would be desirable; we’re a generation who streams our music now rather than buy the physical copies. This fable book with the release will make sense to people who buy vinyl’s and someone listens to their music on Spotify or anything in-between. In a way it’s new but with old school features that can elevate the album as an art form again.

To round up, what can fans expect from the brand new record?

Well, that’s a good question. It’s a painting with a very wide pallet, that’s for sure but at the same time it was built on the same principle as to what heavy metal is for over forty years now. You think, you write and you think of the best riff you can. Then you figure out what the drummer is supposed to do as it hard to make sense of the record with the right groove where you make sure it’s a good groove and take the solo where it needs to go. To me that’s the simple truth of any form of metal and that is what we have done. We don’t like repeating ourselves or what others have done so we really play around with our influences and our own playing ability.

It’s a journey that begins with Regret and finishes with Sky Burial and after Sky Burial it’s on a loop after that and we start over. A little like Lord Of The Rings where Frodo goes to destroy a ring and then ends up back at the Shire where he thinks, wow things have happened. So it is a trip that I hope people are up for and that they enjoy it.

“As we haven’t played here before, we have to win the crowd over every night.”

I have interviewed many bands over the past five years; some in your usual locations such as their tour bus, backstage and at the venue. Other locations aren’t as expected, such as a restaurant, a park and this time on a stair case. This is where I interviewed Swedish Heavy Metal band BLOODBOUND after opening for Metal titans SABATON and ALESTORM. Here’s what they had to say.