Opeth: 'The Band Will Continue For As Long As There's Good Material In Us'

UG writer Duncan Geddes caught up with frontman Mikael kerfeldt to talk about the new recordings, new members and evil alter egos.

Opeth: 'The Band Will Continue For As Long As There's Good Material In Us'
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Despite being 2 years since their last studio release, there's been a lot of news in the Opeth world. They're releasing a new live CD and DVD, they're making a new album and their lineup has been shifted around once again. UG writer Duncan Geddes caught up with frontman Mikael Akerfeldt to talk about the new recordings, new members and evil alter egos. UG: So, first of all, let's talk about 'The Roundhouse Tapes'. It's our first chance to hear Martin Axenrot play with you guys on record, do you hope that his performance will silence his critics until he really has a chance to prove his own creative talents with Opeth? Mikael: Well, I've thought his critics have been rather deaf and judgmental based on their love for Lopez rather than the overall sound picture of the band. I'm sure he's gonna get loads of shit and bollocking for whatever he does until 10 years from now. It doesn't matter, I'm sure his critics wouldn't be able to complete a bar of 4X4 beats to our satisfaction. It's also an opportunity to hear Per's contribution to older tunes such as 'Under The Weeping Moon'. Who wrote his parts and how did they go about it? Basically he's playing rhythms or leads based on the original recording. He makes it sound fatter, bigger and overall more heavy. He's as much of a rhythm player these days than any of the rest of us, and throws in the occasional lead as well. He wrote and arranged whatever he wanted to play together with the rest of us. What inspired you to return to older material for these tours and the recording, especially considering your apparent dislike of some of it? I don't dislike the songs, it's the sign of the times when it comes to productions of the 90's. I think "Orchid" sounds alright but "Morningrise" sound horrible in parts even though I really enjoy the songs. I think the definitive versions of "Under the weeping moon" and "The night and the silent water" are on the live album. We always meant to try and cover as many albums as possible when we play live in order to please fans, new and old. It's always been our intention to cover the old stuff as well. It's now realised that 'The Roundhouse Tapes' will be Peter Lindgren's last recording with the band. Will the DVD release next year have content that relates to his departure? No, there won't be some sappy stories about past members. I am shaken by the fact that he's not playing together with us anymore, but the band will continue for as long as there's good material in us. There's no time or room for nostalgia in terms of "the golden days". It's all just a waste of time. I don't want to be judged at all, but since we will be I want it to be based on what we're doing now and not 10 years ago. The line-up in Opeth have been turbulent since we started and it really has nothing to do with me as a band leader. People change, it's a fact and it's futile trying to cling to something which is not there anymore. The essence of the band is the music regardless of who's playing it I think.
"There's no time or room for nostalgia in terms of "the golden days"."
Much hype has surrounded your recently announced 2008 US tour with Dream Theater. Presumably by that time you will be touring to promote your new album, so will you be touring from then on in? I'd say so. That tour will happen as the album is being released. It's a good set up for the new record. We'll do several headline tours all over the world, but certainly the Dream Theater tour is meant to happen and it's been talk about it for years. Great honour for us to tour with them! With this connection, and Steven Wilson and yourself making guest appearances on Dream Theater's new album, the rumour mill has been working and people are talking about your proposed collaboration with Wilson and Mike Portnoy once again. Will there even be time for such a project to take form between Opeth, Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree's respective schedules? What you heard right there was the collaboration. It's what we've been whispering about for years. I'm sure people are dissapointed! Haha!! Your touring partners have typically pleased your fans greatly (the DT tour announcement is testament to that), have you ever thought about doing a Tool and bringing out a more unknown band who Opeth fans may not immediately recognise, and introduce their style to your fans? We've been offered to support Tool twice but they've always went for some other band eventually. I'd love to tour with them, we've played with them and they're lovely people and an awesome band. It'd be a great package, but I'm not sure it will materialize ever, even though I really hope it will! We've done that several times before. We've had a fantastic unknown band called Madder Mortem with us, we brought Burst, Katatonia, Devin Townsend band (he's known obviously but not so much for his solo band), Extol, Amplifier. We always want to bring great acts with us, basically because we want to surround ourselves with proper musicians and band, we want their fans to hear us and we want to plug them to our fans. It's like one big happy family! With the recent line-up changes, fan's expectations and predictions for your new album are very scattered. What kind of sounds and methods have Fredrik and Axe brought forward that may bring something new to Opeth's palette? I don't know, they just have to hang in there for the ride. The material I've written is more complex than ever and it's fun... I repeat FUN to play these songs! That's all that matters. Some fans already have made up their minds that we suck now, so goodbye to them. Yet, for me I feel we're better, stronger, more progressive, darker, heavier, more musical, more complex, easier, cheekier... everything really... than ever before! I feel reborn in a way. I'm excited for the band and for the 5 of us. We'll have a blast playing these songs no matter if anyone listens to it. I'm not saying this to plug the band and sell records. These are proper emotions. That's why my answers are fucked up and incoherent. I can't hide me feelings about this band. Once we're going on routine, that's when you should worry... but that ain't happening anytime soon! To my knowledge, Opeth's guitar solos have often been written and shared between Peter and yourself. Has Fredrik taken up Peter's role in that respect? Yes, he's much more competent than both myself and Peter when it comes to soloing. I mean, he's old school widdly wooo guitarist who can do some fantastic stuff on the guitars. I've certainly learned from him, but he's also learned from me too I guess. He had to learn how to fingerpick properly and also to choose the notes more carefully in order to create the best vibe. We don't have solos cause we have to, it's done when we have an idea that can improve the overall feel of a part and ultimately of the entire song. Fredrik's demoed some solos for the songs, all of them have been fantastic but I made him redo them 4-5 times each, and come up with new, better stuff. And he has, he really has!
"The material I've written is more complex than ever and it's fun."
Opeth's guitar tone has been signature for many years, with Peter and yourself both using PRS guitars and Laney amplification. I have read that Fredrik uses ESP guitars, will this mark a change in the guitar's tone? Not anymore. Fredrik is now on PRS and he aint looking back. No disrespect to ESP, I'm sure they're great guitars, but in comparison with PRS I'm sure even the heads at ESP would go... "Well, yeah, you're right...can't compete there!". They're the best guitars in the world. I used to be a Strat and Les Paul dude but needed both in one guitar, and that's what I got with PRS. And more!!! On top of that their support for Opeth is just beyond words! Same with Laney! I love those guys and they support us to death! We've had some great amps from them and I haven't looked back since we started the collaboration whatever it was, 6 or so years ago. Since 'Ghost Reveries', some of your more close-minded fans have been blaming your signing to Roadrunner for your change in sound and apparently more 'mallcore' guitar style. Could you be kind enough to dispel rumours that Roadrunner are in any way affecting your writing process, for all of our sakes? Haha!!! That's the funniest stuff I've heard! Opeth is mallcore now??? Well, the record was recorded as we're still finalizing the deals. We hadn't even signed to them as the album was recorded. They had no interference whatsoever, which is the way we like it. I mean, come on! People are just stupid sometimes, you know...we'll never be able to please some of these cats so fuck them! Since your last couple of albums have had huge progressive rock influence, everybody now knows the in and outs of your prog tastes. So, what kind of metal are you into these days? What keeps you writing songs like 'The Grand Conjuration' when you could easily be writing 'Damnation' over and over? Haha! I love the calmer stuff! I'm a sucker for a good ballad and I always have been! I get teased cause I love the Scorpions so much! And Whitesnake! I love old school heavy metal, but I almost hate the metal scene of today. There's a few great bands, but most of what I hear is just bloodless crap that's done without any finesse whatsoever. I can't believe some bands actually think they have something to offer, and ever more that there are labels who believe in them. Well, we're certainly no big band, and I accept people hating our sound, but you gotta give us credit for being somewhat alone in our field. Regardless if you hate us or not, there aint another band out there doing what we do. One observation I made whilst listening to 'Ghost Reveries' was that Per Wiberg greatly impressed in the clean and chilled out segments, but didn't really stand out in most of the metal parts. Aside from going 'cheese-metal' on us and giving him a big cape and wizard hat, what might you do to establish him as an important part of Opeth's metal sound (unless he is already, and I'm just missing out)? Well, that's his first album, we deliberatley wanted to be careful with the keyboards and not overdo it. Just add it tastefully where it's needed. He has more work on the new songs, so much in fact he'd need to grow another pair of arms. And hey! I like cheese and I like metal! He's certainly an important part of the band now, we couldn't do this without him for sure. Another change on 'Ghost Reveries' was your guitar tuning. Will you be returning to E standard (with occasional dropped D) or will you continue to experiment with other tunings? It's back to standard tuning for the new songs, one is drop D, so it's the ol' usual! I love open tunings since I'm a big fan of Bert Jansch amd Jackson C Frank and the likes, I can definately see us going on with that, but these new songs are standard tunings pretty much! Not standard music though!
"Regardless if you hate us or not, there aint another band out there doing what we do."
The lyrics on 'Ghost Reveries' mostly followed a conceptual story which some people have linked to the Melinda character from your 'Still Life' opus. Is there a connection at all, or is it coincidental? No, I've never heard that...there's no conncetion! Do you have any lyrics or ideas written for the album? Will they be conceptual or will the songs be about separate things? Just notes....I think the lyrics will be greatly affected by the recent events in my life. What music influenced your vocal styles, of both the clean and pure evil variety? Basically they're a few singers I owe: David Vincent, David Coverdale, Ronnie Dio, Nick Drake, Rob Halford, Joni Mitchell and Scott Walker. I've studied them for years and their style and choice of notes is just what I think is exactly what I like. All I needed was to try and combine that into one. In no way am I saying I sound like these guys, it's just their style that I liked and have been extremely influenced by. Being the bizarre place that it is, the internet has concocted possibilities for many metal musicians to appear on the cult TV show 'Metalocalypse'. Do you watch it, and if so would you ever consider making an appearance? I think one of the characters is based on me? In fact I got an email from the character himself, this is true...can't remember his name, but it's the guitarist with the moustache. Wartooth? [that's Toki Wartooth, not a bumblebee-Duncan] He emailed me in person, as the cartoon character, talking like he does in the show. He confirmed he's... "me"! Haha! I've never really seen it but I guess I gotta! And finally, how much evil blastbeat madness can we expect from Axe's evil alter ego 'Eric'? Wait and see!

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    ever dying
    He doesn't brag about himself.. He is just reasonable.. He is right about everything he says, and has the right to be right
    Guitar_G
    Gakusey wrote: Great band, awesome musician, but damnit - his ego is huge. I think he's a difficult person which accounts for all the line-up changes (and look what he made the new guitarist do). I mean, if you invite a new guitarist, you sort of must already be sure he's gonna fit. Making him fit in is a bit wrong, he's no child, he's no youngster, he's an accomplished musician - treat him as such. Don't make Peter #2 (=another puppet, like the rest of the band) out of him. If Fredrik's style wasn't good for them in the first place, why hire him??? There are thousands of different guitarists out there, I'm sure there would have been lots willing to join Opeth because they have a similar style. Besides, why all the glorifying himself crap? Opeth is a very, very respected band, they deserve credit for all the great music. Mike doesn't need to spell that out!!! I mean, he does lack modesty. I didn't like this interview, or their Lamenations. He's such a successful and accomplished person, he doesn't need to be so cocky.
    I think with how good Opeth is, he has every right to be cocky. If any Opeth fan was in his shoes, having written stuff like face of melinda etc., they'd brag endlessly about as well. Besides, I think it's better for musicians to say what they really think rather than being bloody yesmen.
    Scourge441
    geko95 wrote: by the way U gotta listen 2 "bleak" its there best song
    Your grammar sucks, but I agree with you.
    mattallica
    I don't think he seems arrogant at all, he is just in a really good 'place' right now. He has just finished a new album, and had a baby daughter. Ifyou compare this to alot of his older interviews(where he tends to down play the excellence of opeth) you can tell he is just really happy right now... /fanboy speak
    Divinephyton
    He is not arrogant, Mikael just has a vision on what the CD should sound like, what every single song should sound like, what every single lick and bar should sound like. I personally was happy when I read the correcting part. The man has a vision and knows where he's going. That's way better than the opposite. He 'sketches' and 'sketches' and improves before he starts 'painting', like any good artist should do. And furthering in that same direction; he was right too about the ''newer'' bands, I mean there are very talented bands out there, but more and more clich and poser bands get into metal not for the music but for other reasons, despicable ones, whereas in the past they'd mostly stay out of the genre (mostly, not entirely). Something I regret. I really love Mikael's attitude about his songs. It really shows he puts a lot of work and thought into it and has a distinct vision on what Opeth should be, and it turns out great. That's why I respect this man.
    Soulburner
    HOW ABOUT BLOODBATH MIKAEL? I want to know if he did vocals for them again on the complete/unannounced mystery ****in' cd that is taking forever to come out.
    Sinten
    i love mikael, he's always been hard headed with his vision of the band and it's worked out great for the past 8 albums. **** the whiners and the scene kids. and who the **** ever called opeth mallcore? that is so wildly inaccurate, i started laughing when i read that in the interview
    JVDumarC
    "Haha! I love the calmer stuff! I'm a sucker for a good ballad and I always have been!" Man calm magnificent stuff is great. "There's a few great bands, but most of what I hear is just bloodless crap that's done without any finesse whatsoever." Sooooo true.
    JVDumarC
    I haven't read this at all, but I just felt the need to spit out what I just felt in the moment... OPETH YEAAAHHHHH!! GREATNESS. (Period) Ok now I'm reading it. >
    baseballrebel08
    I think he comes off as a tad arrogant sometimes because he seems to speak whatever comes to his mind at the time without filtering it. The whole "we're the only ones doing this" stuff does get old, though, but I suppose I can cut him some slack occasionally since they are pretty unique. As far as Fredrik, of course Mike's going to want to mess with his sound some to make it fit. Even if he didn't change it for the new material, Fredrik has to be able to play the old stuff at least a little like Peter for gigs and whatnot (even though he can certainly be allowed to add some flare here and there). Also, I'm really looking forward to the DT tour, more for Opeth and BtBAM (Colors is the only thing I've heard from them, but it's awesome) than DT, though. I've heard that other band 3 that'll be with them is pretty good too.
    duncang
    The Black Salts wrote: Yeah It's cool that Mikael has pride in Opeth but every time he's interviewed he constantly goes on about being "the only band that does what we do" and so forth. I mean he's pretty modest at other times so it all balances out, but he always manages to let just a little cockiness slip out in how he talks about things. The whole correcting Fredrikson's guitar parts made him sound kind of arrogant. I don't know, it's not that big a deal; he's not a show off live.
    He's perfectly entitled to correct Fredrik's parts, he is Opeth. The other four members accept that Mikael gets the final say on what happens in Opeth and their contributions will always be put by him first.
    geko95
    Opeth R Awesome cos thers none like em theyr just so F**king unique its awesome
    Hotfox_07
    Sorry for the double post, but to clarify, I was not comparing Petrucci (who's name I butchered with a typo)to Yngwie Malmsteen...they are by no means in the same category...Petrucci has emotion and style, whereas Yngwie doesn't. I just don't like it. *shrug*
    Hotfox_07
    Ok.... There's always been a DT debate on whether they're good or not...I respect Patrucci, I just don't like his band. I've never really like shredders...pretty much like Yngwie... AAAAAnyways, getting myself back on topic, Opeth is, by far, the only band ever worthy of the genre "Extreme Progressive Metal," as they are listed in the Metal Archives. Everything I've ever heard (don't have the Roundhouse Tapes yet...) is absolutely amazing, and the entire discography, as a whole, is phenominal. Mikael is an extremely talented individual, and I believe that in this interview, the apparant cockiness about Fredrik's joining of the band is only one side of the story. Before you go and poke at that, think about it logically...have you ever joined a band to replace someone? Even in garage bands, this will change the sound immensely. No two people have the exact same sound, and no two people play alike. Yeah, you can get someone to mimick a sound, but it's never the same. Therefore, the new tone and new writing style affects the entire band, and the band's writing style influences the new guitarist. I'm not saying this is always extremely apparant, it may be subtle...but with a band like Opeth, you can almost feel the change in mood between albums when a member is replaced. The writing style changes a little, and the sound of the album is different. Opeth is, by far, worthy of praise for all their works, even Morningrise and Orchid, though, as Mikael says himself, the recording quality is lax. If I had even a penny to spare, I would see Opeth at the first possible chance. Hands down. They are, without a doubt, the most talented band I've ever heard. Still don't think so? Listed to Deliverance...then listen to Damnation. If you can listen to those two albums (released within 3 months of each other) and not be impressed, you're not human.
    veepirate
    Gakusey wrote: Great band, awesome musician, but damnit - his ego is huge. I think he's a difficult person which accounts for all the line-up changes (and look what he made the new guitarist do). I mean, if you invite a new guitarist, you sort of must already be sure he's gonna fit. Making him fit in is a bit wrong, he's no child, he's no youngster, he's an accomplished musician - treat him as such. Don't make Peter #2 (=another puppet, like the rest of the band) out of him. If Fredrik's style wasn't good for them in the first place, why hire him??? There are thousands of different guitarists out there, I'm sure there would have been lots willing to join Opeth because they have a similar style. Besides, why all the glorifying himself crap? Opeth is a very, very respected band, they deserve credit for all the great music. Mike doesn't need to spell that out!!! I mean, he does lack modesty. I didn't like this interview, or their Lamenations. He's such a successful and accomplished person, he doesn't need to be so cocky.
    its the music that matters, the fact that the person playing it has a personality, is just a nasty side effect you'll have to ignore, although i think Mikael is cool enough though... for en fordrukken svensker at vre alts ps.Dream Theater and opeth... audiual perfection....but if i know my luck the world will end right before they get on stage....
    The Black Salts
    Yeah It's cool that Mikael has pride in Opeth but every time he's interviewed he constantly goes on about being "the only band that does what we do" and so forth. I mean he's pretty modest at other times so it all balances out, but he always manages to let just a little cockiness slip out in how he talks about things. The whole correcting Fredrikson's guitar parts made him sound kind of arrogant. I don't know, it's not that big a deal; he's not a show off live.
    TheMoor6
    Opeth = Greatest band in existence. If you've ever heard mike, he says the same things, but it's his tonality that re-enforces that he is not cocky(which is near impossible to translate to text). I will waste no time being tickets for this tour.
    RO$$
    He's not that cocky i don't think. I've watched many interviews of him and also seen opeth live and he seems like an awesome guy to me. Don't just judge him by one interview people. He doesn't take himself too seriously, and is a really funny down to earth guy from what i've seen. Just read the album descriptions on their website. The're ****ing hilarious! XD But yeah, can't wait for the new album! I really hope they tour with DT in the U.K. Probably won't happen though... :'(
    Gakusey
    Great band, awesome musician, but damnit - his ego is huge. I think he's a difficult person which accounts for all the line-up changes (and look what he made the new guitarist do). I mean, if you invite a new guitarist, you sort of must already be sure he's gonna fit. Making him fit in is a bit wrong, he's no child, he's no youngster, he's an accomplished musician - treat him as such. Don't make Peter #2 (=another puppet, like the rest of the band) out of him. If Fredrik's style wasn't good for them in the first place, why hire him??? There are thousands of different guitarists out there, I'm sure there would have been lots willing to join Opeth because they have a similar style. Besides, why all the glorifying himself crap? Opeth is a very, very respected band, they deserve credit for all the great music. Mike doesn't need to spell that out!!! I mean, he does lack modesty. I didn't like this interview, or their Lamenations. He's such a successful and accomplished person, he doesn't need to be so cocky.
    MLmaster37
    mikael Akerdefelt is probably my favorite guitarist of all time. every album that opeth released was solid, and something new. you cant say that about many bands. if you havent heard them, songs id recomend... Advent Bleak Harvest The drapery falls When Ghost of perdition The baying of hounds Beneath the mire and all of the "still life" album. from start to finish. that album is worth listening to every time all the way through.
    .HUZZAH.
    DrewH wrote: good interview. i can't wait for their 2008 tour. DT sucks though.
    die
    pos69sum
    Mikael: Well, I've thought his critics have been rather deaf and judgmental based on their love for Lopez rather than the overall sound picture of the band. I'm sure he's gonna get loads of shit and bollocking for whatever he does until 10 years from now. It doesn't matter, I'm sure his critics wouldn't be able to complete a bar of 4X4 beats to our satisfaction.
    He just owned a whole bunch of wannabe 'critics'.
    gsr2k6
    He is definatly one of my fav musicians, and he seems like a pretty nice guy from the interveiws ive read and seeing him on stage talking and joking around with the crowd. Metal needs more people like him I think.
    fendermexi
    Man, what a band! I totally dug his Extol reference.. they kick too (there old stuff). Opeth has been by far my favorite band for the past year!
    JVDumarC
    XeNoCiDe730 wrote: they're not talking about fredrik thordendal are they?
    No, I guess he means Fredrik Akesson, the new guitarist.
    Jesus Christ
    v2kv wrote: Opeth, Dream Theater and (the one they didnt mention) Between The Buried and Me...holy poop
    I'm going to assume "the one they didn't mention" is Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree. My three favorite bands, all together at once... *drool*
    Flayhugie
    Indeed, Opeth are a bit too progressive for the average DM fan, but if you sit any of them down to actually listen to some of their more varied songs - they're a ****ing retard if they don't like it.
    tommyg_99
    Reebokanonymous wrote: Wouldn't it be awesome if Opeth came to the Midwest? I only know one kid I could go with because most death metal fans are rather freakish who don't go outside, but I would pay big money to see them. I was thinking about life and I realized that most people do not spell "definitely" correctly. It's not "definatly" or "definately." Maybe it's OCD, but maybe I'll start a new trend of spelling correctly.
    I hear that, I'm getting sick and tired of people spelling it 'definately'. OCD all the way. Great interview, Mikael's an excellent guy.
    Reebokanonymous
    Wouldn't it be awesome if Opeth came to the Midwest? I only know one kid I could go with because most death metal fans are rather freakish who don't go outside, but I would pay big money to see them. I was thinking about life and I realized that most people do not spell "definitely" correctly. It's not "definatly" or "definately." Maybe it's OCD, but maybe I'll start a new trend of spelling correctly.
    tCcapone
    Toki Wartooth is from Norway, though, not Sweden...but he kinda looks like kerfeldt when I think about it.
    v2kv
    Opeth, Dream Theater and (the one they didnt mention) Between The Buried and Me...holy poop
    tangled
    Without question, the most touching and simply amazing music Ive herd come from recent years. Opeth have grown to be one of my favorite bands ever and biggest influences.
    Swimrunner
    i don't see how he comes off as arrogant here, i see him as optimistic and happy.
    tbarrettl
    tangled wrote: Without question, the most touching and simply amazing music Ive herd come from recent years. Opeth have grown to be one of my favorite bands ever and biggest influences.
    I took a Close listen to Ghost Reveries and really am amazed how layered and unusual the different parts are that all are in the mix. Opeth > You Name It