Opeth Frontman: 'I Haven't Been Listening To Death Metal Since The Early '90s'

Dave Pehling of KTVU.com recently conducted an interview with vocalist/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt of Swedish progressive metallers Opeth.

Opeth Frontman: 'I Haven't Been Listening To Death Metal Since The Early '90s'
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Dave Pehling of KTVU.com recently conducted an interview with vocalist/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt of Swedish progressive metallers Opeth. A couple of Blabbermouth.net excerpts from the chat follow below. KTVU.com: "Heritage" seems the biggest departure sonically for Opeth since "Damnation". Was the absence of death metal elements - specifically the brutal guitar riffs and your trademark growl - a conscious aim to step away from that at the outset, or did you find your songwriting moving naturally in that direction? Mikael: More or less naturally. I felt that we couldn't really do more with that sound. I felt as a songwriter I had kind of perfected that formula and couldn't really take it anywhere else. And I didn't really want to. I tried a little bit, but it didn't really work out. I was just gravitating towards something else when I was writing this record and ended up with an album that was a bit more rootsy. I'm tired of contemporary metal production. It sounds so f--king slick and there's a lack of dynamics. I wanted to record in a different way too. So having that in mind, I guess the songs took shape in a different way than they have before. It's also a matter of me not listening to death metal. I haven't been listening to death metal since the early '90s, you know? Even when we did the first record ["Orchid" in 1994], I was more or less done with listening to metal. I didn't anything interesting was coming out. Yet we were just finding our feet and starting a career of our own, and we were a part of the whole genre. But ever since that basically, I've been gravitating towards liking this type of stuff more and more. Given the intricacy of Opeth's music, do you generally stick with a specific, rehearsed setlist for a whole tour, or do the songs change from night to night? Generally we are a little bit of both. Lately we've been going out on a limb a lot. We might not have practiced a song as much as we should have, but we'll be like, "Let's just play it tonight," just to get it over with. Because that's the best practice, just to play it live. But on this tour, we are sticking a little bit to the same setlist because there's such a strict time thing going on. We have to play exactly one hour and ten minutes. The first couple of shows we went over by five minutes every night and our tour manager was saying, "You have to do something! You have to change," because people are getting pissed or whatever. So now we have a set list that's perfect for the timing and it also happens to be perfect for us. We love playing these songs that we're playing and it really showcases all of the aspects of this band. It's a lot of new material and some very calm songs and in the end we play three rather heavier songs. By doing that, it kind of shows that we're quite versatile. It almost sounds like a different band. As a spectator, I think that would be interesting. I'd like to think that we come across as interesting at least. One aspect of your concerts I've always enjoyed is the contrast between these dark, brutal epics you play and your hilariously deadpan stage banter. I've had more laughs at Opeth shows than at all other metal bands' shows combined. Do you think much about what you are going to say? Is it all off the cuff? And is that a way to provide some comic relief to the intensity of the songs? Well, I don't really think about what I say. Sometimes I can say stupid things. People will kind of remind me afterwards, like "What the f--k did you say there?" and I'm like "Uh, I don't know. I can't remember." I have some type of sense of humor, but I think what makes it funny is that it's unexpected. People don't expect that... well, now they do when they go to the shows. They're like "Tell a f--king joke, Mike!" and then I don't know what to say. But I think the fun thing about what I'm saying - if you write it down, it's not really funny - it's just that in that situation and because it's a bit unexpected, it becomes funny. People are more used to going to metal shows where the front man is doing the cliche type of talk, like, "Get your horns in the air!" or "You guys are the f--king best!" That kind of stuff. I can't really find that in myself. I can't do that and keep a straight face. I think it's fucking ridiculous, you know? So the way I am onstage when I talk between songs is a bit of a distorted and boosted version of me offstage I guess. And that's all it is. I'm not really funny like a comedian. But sometimes the vibe is right and it becomes a fun situation. I especially like to make fun of myself and the band members and metal in general. Read the entire interview from KTVU.com.

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    GazzaCee
    haygoe wrote: umm does anyone even listen to death metal
    Well, over 9000 people have bought the new Cannibal Corpse album so far. God knows how many have pirated it.
    hriday_hazarika
    Minivirus2 wrote: Respect Mikael like nobody else, but if he was so turned off of metal/death metal by the time Opeth was hitting thier stride, why did he keep it up for so long?
    To show everyone else how to write metal.
    ks_10
    The sad moment when UG thinks that people do not know who Mikael Akerfeldt is. "Opeth Frontman : 'I Haven't Been Listening To Death Metal Since The Early '90s'" ... Tch ..
    Minivirus2
    Respect Mikael like nobody else, but if he was so turned off of metal/death metal by the time Opeth was hitting thier stride, why did he keep it up for so long?
    AnnihilationUK
    Guarentee'd every metal band since Death Metal started has been influenced by it - and still are.
    Reflection92
    at least there's hours of old opeth still there to listen to when articles like this indicate that mike is done with the growling days...R.I.P
    xplosive59
    No Offence to anyone, but Death Metal (on its own, not progressive death metal or technical) is sucha redundant genre. It is better that he listens to a variety of music so he can bring more to the table in terms of song writing and it keeps the music new and fresh, same reason Death became more progressive around the Human-era, Chuck obviously wanted his writing to get more complex and therefore didnt write the same album over and over again. I like Mikael's music taste, he stated Camel as one of his major influences and they are one of my favourite bands of all time as well as countless other bands that he enjoys.
    haygoe
    GazzaCee wrote: haygoe wrote: umm does anyone even listen to death metal Well, over 9000 people have bought the new Cannibal Corpse album so far. God knows how many have pirated it.
    well at least cannibel corpse has interesting album covers thats the only good thing
    andriusd
    Just get a clue, people: death metal, like any other genre of music, is not about growling vocals and tremolo. Just because some elements of Opeth's music are borrowed from death metal, doesn't mean Opeth's music IS death metal. You can't separate ideological content from the music. I don't think death metal was called DEATH metal just because the guys played extreme - there has always been the pseudoidological thing being associated with the music. It's like body and soul - they go together, and if you separate them, it's not THAT anymore.
    Absurder22
    xplosive59 wrote: No Offence to anyone, but Death Metal (on its own, not progressive death metal or technical) is sucha redundant genre. It is better that he listens to a variety of music so he can bring more to the table in terms of song writing and it keeps the music new and fresh, same reason Death became more progressive around the Human-era, Chuck obviously wanted his writing to get more complex and therefore didnt write the same album over and over again. I like Mikael's music taste, he stated Camel as one of his major influences and they are one of my favourite bands of all time as well as countless other bands that he enjoys.
    Artists make redundant music, not a awhole genre. There's plenty of bands out there doing interesting, progressive things and staying within death metal, and not just releasing the same album over and over again. Also, I don't mind Mike not listening to Death metal anymore(it's been pretty apparent for awhile anyways), but if he's going to not educate on the scene he should stop saying things like the images are so cliche or it's dead because he hasn't been paying attention and therefore knows **** all.
    latinromans
    Of course remember when your playing on the death metal circuit constantly for over a decade you don't necessarily have to listen to the music on your spare time (he must here it live plenty to unless they go solo every show) to be aware of whats going on in your scene.
    Human371
    Reflection92 wrote: at least there's hours of old opeth still there to listen to when articles like this indicate that mike is done with the growling days...R.I.P
    never know, they still play heavy songs live so perhaps they'll visit that ground again. he hasn't explicitly ruled it out, and Opeth always does the unexpected