Photo by David G Dami Photography
Shockwave sat down with Johannes and Henrik of the Swedish metal band, Avatar onboard Shiprocked to discuss how the voyage was going so far, the development of Feathers and Flesh, and plans for the coming year.
Shockwave Magazine: Go ahead and introduce yourselves.
Johannes Eckerström: Vocalist of Avatar.
Henrik Sandelin: Bass.
Johannes: In Avatar.
How’s Shiprocked going for you so far?
Johannes: Good, and now we have, like, six more hours of work. It’s so hard to work, air quotes [laughs]. So, last night can be a bit “woo woo” and all that. No, but it’s been really good. I feel like I’ve been having more fun this year than last year for some reason. I feel like the vibe has been different this year and I feel like I have been better at making the most out of it. I’ve booked an excursion and stuff like that.
What did you do on your excursion?
That’s right. That’s what you said in the concert yesterday. What did you do Henrik?
Henrik: Spent some time on the beach.
What are you guys going to do after the cruise?
Johannes: We go home. We have a couple of months off now.
So, you are going from sun and fun to snow?
Johannes: And fun.
The Swedes are always fun.
Johannes: Exactly. We should have something announced about touring this spring and stuff like that, before the festival season kicks off. In between, there is nice, homey, kind of life mixed with starting to take the writing of the next album a bit more seriously.
How can it be more serious than Feathers and Flesh?
Johannes: In terms of that, we all have been writing, as we do. We write some ideas and now we have to treat those ideas as songs that need to get finished, to see where we will be heading this time.
Rumor has it that you wrote “The Fable.”
Johannes: Yeah, it also says so on page one [laughs].
I haven’t seen it yet. So, you wrote the fable and just put it to music?
Johannes: No, it started– Step one is that all of us get to return to our own little corners and come up with a bunch of ideas. Then, we gather together and start presenting things and start to figure out what to do with them as a band. We finish the songs together 99% of the time. In this case it was just reaching a point of knowing it was going to be a fable, a story. I guess I wrote the introduction, the prologue, pretty early on and the epilogue had some bits and pieces, but more than that there was a timeline of events in the story that we were searching through the music we had written to find the fitting parts. So, no one got the homework to “Hey, make a fish song.” It was more like finding the riff that sounded something like fish would sing.
So, he gave you no homework?
Johannes: No, the songs were written anyway. It was bustling. Otherwise, without the concept it’s like, “Hey, this is a cool riff and it makes me feel, like–.” It’s that thing. This time there had to be certain emotions to tell the story. It was like, “This is a cool riff, but not the feeling that I need right now, so here’s this fish song.”
You’re going to tour back home before you hit the festivals?
Johannes: Other way around. The tour that will hopefully be announced soon will be here. We are in international waters right now, I guess. But, in the U.S. The festivals– we start festival season in Europe.
What festivals are you going to play?
Johannes: Which ones are announced? Hellfest is announced.
Henrik: Download? Is it?
Johannes: I don’t know.
You’re not doing Grasspop?
Henrik: That sounds familiar.
We were in a very small venue, I was up front, and out marches this guy. He has on the black boots, the black pants, the duster, and a black hood. How did you transition from that to the actual ringmaster?
Johannes: It was already there. It’s just like we have developed an artistic concept or image, whichever way you want to put it, in regards to what Avatar is about. That has just evolved from album to album. Maybe Black Waltz was more emphasis on the horror on what a clown can be. Yeah, the horror aspect; the ringmaster side of it in Hail the Apocalypse. It’s been moving around depending on the characteristics of the album.
Everyone asks me, “Who do you listen to?” “Avatar.” “Well, who are they?” “Just imagine a demented ringmaster.” It’s awesome and it works for you guys. It’s a great concept. You’re just gonna work into a new album, any ideas yet?
Johannes: Plenty, tons. We all write, all the time, and there’s never been a lot left of ideas. The challenge is just to have a vision strong enough for a song in order to be able to finalize it for it to be as good as you want it to be. It’s not hard for us anymore to just make something up and have that part be followed by another part, and that part be followed by a third part, and then you have a song. That isn’t hard anymore, but to really– when you are initially capturing some emotion and have it mean something, and then maintain that vibe through a whole piece of music. The whole idea of putting riffs in a row we’re doing constantly. Then, it’s all about the fine tuning. Once you have an idea after it’s written, you understand that’s what it’s about.
How are the fans different back home and in Europe than the fans in America?
Johannes: Their passports are usually red [laughs].
Well yeah, but how is the overall reception and vibe?
Johannes: There is very little difference in all. What it all boils down to is it’s metal. Of course, in every country people are colored by their particular culture. Then, because metal is such a strong subculture that transcends across borders easily, wherever you are. So, I don’t see that much difference anymore. In Europe, you can follow a scale from how far North to South you are by how much people are moving in a concert. Like, a Finn, having a great time is harder to tell than when Italians are having a great time. Italians move their asses more. But, it’s a North to South thing. This is similar here, but here it’s more about loudness.
We do like it loud.
Johannes: Generally less movement than Italians, more movement than Finns. You’re kind of like Central Europeans in the states.
How did you make the decision that you wanted to be held captive on a ship in the middle of the ocean with 3,000 fans? How do you make that decision that “Yeah, that sounds great.”
Johannes: You see the offer they’re making us [laughs].No, but the thing is, especially this year, it’s been really fun. In all, if you do like us, you’re being very honest and sincere with your music with what you’re doing, hopefully and generally, you connect with people like the fans, the listeners. The audience is somewhat on the same page as you are with many things. If you do music like we do, where we put so much of ourselves and our own values and personalities in it, we tend to have nice fans.
Well, I appreciate it. I know you guys have to get ready for the meet and greets. We’ll see you there.
Photo by David G Dami Photography
To keep up with Avatar‘s tour dates head to avatarmetal.com or their FaceBook page @avatarmetal.