Steven Rosen of Ultimate-Guitar.com recently conducted an interview with guitarist Fredrik Åkesson of Swedish progressive metallers OPETH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: You played in a bunch of metal bands before joining OPETH: ARCH ENEMY, TALISMAN, SOUTHPAW, KRUX and several others. Do you think you brought any of those elements as a guitarist into OPETH?
Fredrik: I guess I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of different type of bands within metal and they kind of differed from each other quite a lot. But with ARCH ENEMY, for instance, I never did record with them on a record. I don’t know, really; I wouldn’t say so. The lead work I did with TALISMAN was a very different music also.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: Because OPETH had such an enormous reputation, certainly Mikael [Åkerfeldt] could have chosen any guitar player he wanted to replace Peter Lindgren. What do you think it was about your playing that attracted him?
Fredrik: Well, umm, I find it difficult to praise myself or anything like that but he told me he really liked my tone and he thought I was a bit diverse guitar player. I could play more mellow, soothing stuff and more melancholic and it didn’t necessarily have to be full shred all the time. I could do the shredding stuff as well and I knew the acoustic stuff but I did have to put a lot of time working on my fingerpicking acoustic-style when I joined the band. So I think it was a combination of many different ingredients that he liked.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: “Watershed” was your first studio album with OPETH. What was that like?
Fredrik: It was a challenge, of course, but we did rehearse a lot before, so I knew the parts really good. And I think Mikael had a lot of trust in me, so I did my parts on my own and it wasn’t like he was standing by in the back and checking everything. That made me feel maybe a bit more confident, that I knew that he knew, and just carried on, basically.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: You had a bit more freedom on the “Heritage” album to experiment?
Fredrik: Yeah, but some stuff is pretty like the demo. Like the “Slither” track, what I do is kind of [Ritchie] Blackmore-ish. That song was a tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Mikael said, “You need to do like a Blackmore-sounding solo,” and I tried to, and it came out pretty cool.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: Mikael‘s vocals are really passionate and heartfelt and there is none of the growling that has been on earlier albums.
Fredrik: I remember he told me before I had even heard the songs that there wasn’t gonna be any growling vocals on this one. I was a bit like, “Wow, are you sure about that?” But when I heard the stuff I was like, “Wow, this is really cool. There is no room for growling vocals on these tracks.”
Ultimate-Guitar.com: So when Mikael first mentioned there wouldn’t be those heavier types of vocals, you were a bit skeptical? You thought it might have been a mistake?
Fredrik: It just made me go, “Oh, are you really sure about that?” But I wouldn’t say a mistake ’cause I like the fact that you don’t have to worry about people what they gonna think is playing music with your heart. ‘Cause this is what we sound like now. Before I had heard the songs, it took a while to get used to the idea but as soon as I heard Mike‘s ideas, I was, “Yeah, let’s do it.”
Ultimate-Guitar.com: What has the response been to the songs from “Heritage”?
Fredrik: It’s kind of funny, because we started the tour the day before the album got released and now it’s been about two weeks since it’s been out and you can notice the difference. People are more aware of the songs now than in the beginning and it seems like they really dig it. It was really interesting to see that change from the beginning when people’s faces were, “What the hell is this?” And now they’re more into the songs.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: You’re such a very accomplished guitarist, but have you ever made any mistakes live?
Fredrik: Sometimes it’s unavoidable and shit could happen but I try to never do any mistakes. But sometimes like the other day, there was this huge radio station next to the gig and when I pressed my volume pedal, which I use to fade out and fade in a lot of the songs, and when I kicked that in it was like this Brazilian radio show. Really loud! So you can bump into those problems where you have to do like panic-fast solutions. I managed to get the Brazilian radio in the really sensitive parts [laughs]. Sometimes you just gotta laugh about it.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: What do you think about some of the other bands out there like MASTODON, LAMB OF GOD and DREAM THEATER?
Fredrik: I like those bands and I really like MASTODON a lot — they’re great and an original band. And DREAM THEATER‘s new stuff sounds really cool. I’m playing so much all the time, I don’t have time to listen that much to music anymore. It’s mainly when I have a few beers in the bus and it’s old IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST or some old ENTOMBED, MORBID ANGEL or something like that. Or a bunch of SABBATH and PURPLE and stuff like that. But I do try to keep track of stuff. But when we’re in the studio and we work about 14 hours a day, seven days a week, when I get back home and I just want to clench my head and not listen to music. I do try to listen to records when we’re having long flights; that’s a good time for me to really dig into some stuff.
Read the entire interview from Ultimate-Guitar.com.