Limit-stretching, wall-collapsing, and outside of the box thinking are the elements to the Amaranthe formula. With an unexpected mix of vocalists and genre combinations, Amaranthe has shredded the boundaries of rock music and opened the floodgates of creativity. I was given the nail-biting opportunity to speak with Olof Mörck, guitarist and much more, to talk music, fans, and muses. There is no question, Amaranthe will do it their way.
Shockwave Magazine: So many tours, so little time and you’re about to embark on another European tour. Do you have any pre-show rituals that help center you?
Olof Mörck: For me it can be a little bit boring, but I really like to spend like 40 minutes to an hour just warming up on playing guitar and just being surrounded by the other guys in the band as well. Just getting into the whole atmosphere can be really inspiring. Henrik has a very specific pre-show ritual where he always watches the support bands and if we’re at a festival he will always go out of his way to find something else to watch just to get him in the mood. Sometimes I tag along for that. He’s a very happy kind of guy (laughing).
Your album Maxamalism is about to drop in one week. What overall message are you hoping to share through that music?
The title of the album, and the general idea of it, is to show off what we can do besides our comfort zone. It’s a more diverse album. I think it’s a lot more daring and it goes in a lot of new directions. Also, the general theme is trying to maximize every aspect of what Amaranthe is and to try to be all that you can be and maximize yourself as an individual on a daily basis. That is pretty much our manifesto.
You definitely have an uplifting sort of theme that happens through your music. It’s pretty inspirational. Is there a subject you would prefer to write or you toss around that you might want to take on?
In terms of lyrical themes, there’s a lot of different elements on this album and it ranges from everything. We’re discussing the vast overuse of the planet’s environmental resources on one song and another song is strictly about going out to party (laughing). There’s a lot of diversity in that aspect. We try, just as we’ve mentioned before, we try to be inspirational and uplifting. I think that there’s already probably 10,000 metal bands that write about suicide and depression and whatever. It might be good for somebody who’s down on life to find a band that sings about things that they can identify with, but sometimes they wanna have fun. Sometimes they want to be picked up and that’s where we come in.
So, that’s your goal: to pick somebody up when they’re a little bit down, in a different style?
Make the world slightly brighter and a little bit more colorful.
I like that. In Maxamalism, is there a moment you’re specifically proud of? Your special moment?
Yep, all my guitar solos. No, I’m kidding (laughing).
Every single one.
(laughing) There’s a lot of songs that I really, really enjoy. And of course, we released “That Song” as a single three weeks ago and it created quite a bit of controversy. I’m really proud of the fact that we went with “That Song” and we were daring enough to do something different and to shake people around a little bit. We received quite a hefty amount of criticism for the 2 first records for being a little bit like of a one trick pony, or whatever, but it was important to us to show off that we could do a lot of different things. I also have to mention the last track on the album called “Endlessly,” which is the first time that a song of mine has been set to real strings and a real orchestra. I think the song itself is very emotional and very powerful. So, that’s a very proud moment as well.
Do you have a background with orchestral music being that’s so connected to you?
Yeah, to a certain extent at least, I am a violinist besides a guitar player. I used to take a lot of violin lessons and even got to sit with the orchestra a couple of times during rehearsal. I don’t really have a career background in it, but I’m pretty well-versed in that sort of style of music and that world. So, it was really cool to bring that together with Amaranthe.
Did you grow up with that kind of musical influence?
Yeah sure, I was constantly surrounded by metal music and classical music. My grandfather taught me everything that he knew about musical theory from when I was like six years old. I was heavily indoctrinated from an early age.
It’s your third language.
I would say so, yes.
Speaking as a fan, we always have this small hope that we’re remembered by our rock idols. Do you have a moment with a fan that has impacted you?
There is a bunch of them. People often get surprised that when they come out to a second show or a third show, you can’t possibly remember everybody, but there’s a lot of people that you do remember and you say, “Oh, hi again” and “Thanks for coming out again” and they get really surprised. Of course there’s always going to be special moments. For example, this summer in Madrid, there was a huge show with 10,000 people, we were headlining, and there was a girl standing in the front row. She was holding a sign where it said, “It’s my dream to sing Amaranthe with you guys. I would love it if you gave me the chance.” I think me and Hendrik saw it and we were signaling to the security, “Okay, can we bring this girl up because she wants to sing.” It was that sort of very special and intimate show even if there was 10,000 people there. We were like, “Okay, let’s go for it.” She sang it really, really, well. She sang Elize’s part and Jake’s part and also the growl vocals. The audience went just completely insane. She was just crying and everybody was having the time of their lives. That was a very special moment, for example.
That probably made her life, just as a rock lover. With all of the personalities in Amaranthe, which is what makes it so innovative, how does that affect the music making process?
It’s mainly me, Jake, and Elize who are composing the actual music, but we always take the different individual preferences into account as well and we get inspired by it. Morton has played a lot of very, very, very, brutal death metal, in Denmark, for a large part of his career and Johan’s a 100% punk guy. I come from classical, metal, pop music sort of background. Elize has done a lot musicals and pop music. Still, she listened to lots of heavy metal when she was a kid. There’s a lot of different ideas and perspectives. I think that it creates a very, very, interesting dynamic because when you’re sitting down and writing a song you’re not necessarily bound to doing the same thing all the time. How it affects the writing process is that it keeps your mind really open to what is possible within the context of Amaranthe. Which is, of course, very exciting.
When you’re in those brain storming moments and that group dynamic is at play, do you find that different personalities take on the same roles, like somebody might be more of a joker?
Yeah, it’s definitely a little bit like that. I’m not sure if you’ve seen an Amaranthe show, but for example, right before the encore, Johan goes up and holds a complete roasting of the audience. He gets up there and insults absolutely everybody (laughs), which is a lot of fun.
He’s a really funny guy and he’s a born standup comedian. If he’s not going to play a bass for the rest of his life he would be great on a standup stage actually. Everybody has different personalities and I think that’s definitely a visible line and I think we’ve been together for such a long time as a band that it’s not going to look confused. People are still going to see that there is a chemistry between us. For example, I go up onstage and I’m wearing this sort of 18th century golden jacket, while Henrik is wearing really broken in jeans and a dirty t-shirt. It’s our different characters and I think it fits together beautifully.
How did you decide on that kind of character; where’d that influence come from?
I think it’s based upon my fascination with classical music history and… and vampires (laughs).
That’s your thing, that’s your niche.
That’s my niche. I have to be interested since I am one.
Rumor has it that Metallica was a huge influence for you.
Can you tell me about that?
My sister and her friends were constantly listening to Metallica, same thing with my father, and I remember when they played in Gothenburg back in ’92 , I had already seen them on, they were actually on the news back then, the national news because it was just blowing up everywhere. I think it was my sister, she wasn’t asking me, but she was forcing me to come along to that concert and it was just the most mind blowing experience. It was really Metallica in their prime when they were touring on The Black Album. It was just, I mean, I can still very vividly remember the show today and I was like, “Shit. This is the Shit.” (laughs)
Have you seen any Metallica shows since?
I think I have seen them another ten times, or something like that. Most recently, I saw them last year. People have a lot of opinions about Metallica these days and blah, blah, whatever. I still think they put on a really, really, good show.
Right, do you take anything from that for your own shows?
It’s not necessarily that I sit down and watch a Metallica DVD and go that’s something that I wanna do. I think that they’ve always put on really good live shows and that’s going to affect you subconsciously, at the very least. Yeah, there’s probably quite a bit of that in me even if I’m not even aware of it.
That’s probably true. Some people say they can hear a little bit of a connection when it comes to talent with your riffs.
Yeah, a certain part of the riffing is absolutely there because I learned all the Metallica songs from all the albums when I was 14, (laughing) I think. It’s going to affect me one way or the other.
It’s not a bad thing to have an influence of classical on one side and a legend of rock on the other.
Is there anything you’d wanna say to Metallica or any of your fans out there?
Specifically to Metallica, since they are of course listening, right?
It’s going to be good to play with you guys very soon and I hope you don’t mind opening up for us, but, you know, times are changing (laughing). No, I’m kidding. I’m just going to say that it’s going to be very, very, cool to be back in North America very, very, soon. We are going to be there early next year and everybody in the band is massively looking forward to it. So, look forward to a maximized show and see all you guys there.