A new audio interview with guitarist/vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt of Swedish progressive metallers OPETH conducted by Andrew Haug, the former host of Triple J Australia’s “The Racket” radio show (originally “Full Metal Racket”; 2001-2011), air on Australia’s recently launched first-ever dedicated 24/7 rock and metal online radio station, AndrewHaug.com. You can now listen to the chat in the YouTube clip below.
On the progress of the songwriting sessions for the new OPETH album:
Mikael: “I was working today, actually, and I have three ideas I am working on now. One is pretty much done. And the other idea is something that we kind of jammed, actually, on the last tour, on the soundchecks, which is a tribute to the band GOBLIN from Italy, which I’ve loved for a long time. And it sounds like GOBLIN and the song is called ‘Goblin’. And the last one is all over the place, pretty much — like an evil metal song, kind of. It’s a bit overblown and a bit… I wouldn’t say pretentious, but it’s… It’s not ‘less is more,’ it’s ‘more is more.'”
On the criticism OPETH received for abandoning death metal-style vocals and pursuing a a more mystical and folk-laden sound on the band’s latest album, “Heritage”:
Mikael: “We have gained a lot of new fans — people who never were into metal, let alone death metal, music before who got into the band through the last record and are now kind of backtracking and getting into our older songs and older records, too.
“‘Heritage’ was a very good record for us. I mean, it was good on a commercial level and it was good on an artistic level, and we have a lot of positive feedback from the record. But, obviously, there’s been a lot of negative feedback, too — people who absolutely hate that record and who now hate the band, and we cheated them and we’re traitors and we’re not metal and blah blah blah. We heard it all. I mean, it’s nothing new, really; we heard that throughout our entire career, pretty much — that we’re pussies, so to speak. But we don’t really listen to that. It’s just how people are. If some people don’t like it, there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m not working on, like, a recipe to kind of make everyone like what we do. I mean, we’re not a commercial band in any way; we’re not commercial within the metal community either. We’re kind of going against the grain, pretty much. I think — even in the metal world, so to speak. And ‘Heritage’ is a record I particularly love. I think in our catalog, it’s probably my favorite record. Basically, I’ve been getting closer to the music I listen to. I don’t listen to new extreme metal. I think it’s dull, I think it’s shit — most of it. And I can’t get impressed with bands that are fast, that play… Brutality, for me, does nothing. I mean, you can’t be more brutal than… I’ve been into the whole death metal scene for ages, so it’s not happening that I’m gonna be impressed by brutal music anymore. And I think metal has a new meaning to me than it did before. I think ‘Heritage’ is metal; I think it’s rebellious, anyway. But a lot of people, obviously, would disagree. To a lot of people, metal is screaming vocals, double-bass drums, pretty much a computerized recording that sounds inhuman, and I think we just reacted towards that, I guess. To me, it’s maybe a bold statement or whatever you call it, but in our catalog, I think, ‘Heritage’ is the most metal record. But for different reasons than trying to sound like a generic metal band.”
On whether he now has more respect for a band like METALLICA for wanting to change up its sound and try different things and not fall into the trap of making the same kind of record every time:
Mikael: “You can’t stay the same. It would be impossible for METALLICA to write another ‘Master Of Puppets’; I don’t think they want to, either. METALLICA is very interesting to me, because they shaped a whole new form of metal music with at least the first five records. They keep doing records… I mean, they did ‘Load’, they did ‘Reload’, and those records were fucking hated. I’m not sure if they were hated because of the actual music or if it was hated because of their image, or whatever it was. And then they tried to kind of get back into playing faster with ‘St. Anger’ and ‘Death Magnetic’, but I guess that didn’t really do it for their fans either; it didn’t really do it for me, to be honest. But they’re really interesting. I mean, they’re bigger than ever; they’re fucking massive. If there’s a festival and METALLICA is on the bill, you basically wouldn’t need any other bands on the bill; they could just take all the other bands off the bill and it would still sell out, they’re that fucking massive. And if you would interview all of their fans, I’m pretty sure that 90-95%, or maybe even 100%, of their fans would state that some ’80s record that they did, maybe the ‘black’ album, is their favorite record and they don’t really like the stuff that they have done since. And that’s fucking ages ago. And even METALLICA themselves. I think that’s quite interesting, and I’ve been wondering about this for quite some time: Why don’t they play more new stuff live? Why do they go out and do the ‘Master Of Puppets’ or whatever other records that they are doing? Why don’t they focus on new material? Aren’t they proud of the new stuff that they do or do they just wanna please the fans? Either way, I think it’s fine and it’s none of my business, whatever choices they [make], but I just find it interesting. Because the way we see it, obviously, we’re just a fart in the wind compared to METALLICA, but when we put out a new record, that’s what we love the most and that’s what we wanna promote and that’s what we wanna play. But I remember seeing them just after ‘St. Anger’ came out and they had, like, a two-and-a-half-hour show, or whatever it was, and they played only one new song. And I didn’t understand it. I didn’t really like ‘St. Anger’, and I personally didn’t wanna hear more songs than just a song or two from the new album, but I just found it interesting that they don’t seem to stand behind their own material when they are actually on stage touring for this new album. They’re playing ‘Master Of Puppets’ [instead] … It’s just interesting that they have such a fucking following and they are so massive, but they haven’t put — and maybe I’m talking out of my own ass here — it seems like that’s the view of their fans, that they haven’t really put any new music out in a long time that’s had that kind of appeal, like that of the five first records. And still, they’re bigger than ever.”
On METALLICA‘s collaboration with Lou Reed, “Lulu”:
Mikael: “I heard a couple of songs. I thought that was bad, to be honest. I’m kind of a fan of Lou Reed, I kind of like Lou Reed, and, obviously, I’m a massive fan of METALLICA, but that collaboration, when I heard about it… Even if I would have been proven wrong and it had been amazing, initially, I was, like, ‘Oh, that’s not really gonna work.’ I couldn’t see the connection, to be honest. But they did it, and that’s what they wanna do, and I respect them and I’m always gonna be a massive fan of theirs. If I’m ever gonna meet them, I’ll be, like, ‘Wow, that’s like meeting a Beatle,’ if you know what I mean.”