Interview: Opeth Talk New Album
Wed, 19 Mar 2014 09:58:46
"It's nice to be in New York," exclaims Opeth guitarist Fredrik Åkesson. " It's even colder than it was back home. We had a mild winter in Sweden. I should've brought more clothes. The sun is shining though!"
That sunlight hasn't diminished any of Opeth's edge though. The group's forthcoming eleventh album remains as invitingly dark as their best fare. At the same time, embracing a late seventies and early eighties influence as well as pushing further down the prog rabbit hole, the group emerges with its most epic offering ever. You'll fall into the rapturous ups and downs of this ride like a great Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin record. Still, it's decidedly Opeth, and that's the most wonderful thing about the collection.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Fredrik Åkesson of Opeth discusses the band's new album and so much more.
Heritage stood out, but this is even deeper and more immersive.
It's quite different. I don't really know what to say about the development, but I think they're very different. It's a development from Heritage, like you said. It's a bit more melodic to some extent and easier to digest for some people.
What encouraged that evolution and inspired that melody?
Well, Mikael Åkerfeldt wrote all of the songs. It's just the way it came out. We talked about wanting to do an album that sounded more like the late seventies and early eighties hard rock era. That was the foundation for it. It was that type of direction. For instance, the second song on the album is quite rare as an Opeth track because it doesn't have any breakdowns or dynamic, forest-y parts. That's quite different because it grooves all the way through.
"Forest-y parts" is quite a propos for Opeth.
[Laughs] That's been with this band since the first album, right? Those forest-y parts are there. Excuse my English. I make up my own words!
What records from the early eighties and seventies were touchstones?
Well, there are tons of influences on the album. One that we talked about was the first Dio album, Holy Diver. The drum and bass are really in-your-face. I don't know if it turned out exactly like that, but that was definitely one thing we talked about. We discussed those types of early albums.
There's a Pink Floyd vibe as well.
Absolutely! There's a bit of Floyd and a bit of Led Zeppelin. It's all over the place.
How did your approach change as a guitarist?
It started off with me coming down and doing the solos. I went to the studio where Mikael did the demos and just improvised a few things. He really liked them. Some things I worked on for quite some time. For the third song, I don't think I ever spent that much time creating a guitar solo ever. I worked on it for at least a month, trying different ideas. The others were more improvised as a lucky shot in the rehearsal studio where Mikael did the demos. It's dangerous doing that. I always want to take it to the next level, but it has to be in the context of the song as well. I basically did the other solos more like I did them on the demos. I crystallized them a bit and polished them. I try my best. Maybe the solos are a bit longer. I get to play a bit longer than I usually do. It's cool for me as a guitar nerd [Laughs].
When was the moment this album came together?
In the studio, when Martin "Axe" Axenrot put the drums down, I felt like, "Wow, we have some good energy here". The foundation was strong the way they played. Mikael left a lot of space for them. Recording at Rockfield Studios, there was a cool vibe. A lot of classic albums have been done there. That's when I felt we had something cooking. Even though I appreciated the demos Mikael did—I'm always impressed by his high quality demos—but when you hear the real bass and drums, it takes it to the next level.
What ties the album together for you?
It's more melodic, for sure. Every song on the album is very different from each other. Still, they're connected in a way. Probably, the song that's most "Opeth-ish", is the third song which has a lot of different sections. There's a thread through the entire album absolutely. The way it ends is a nice farewell song with the strings. A guy named Dave Stewart did the strings. He used to play in a prog band called Egg.
What else were you into at the time?
Mikael has an extensive record collection he listens to. Overall, I didn't think much about any other bands or music. I listen to songs, and I try to do what feels best for them. I wasn't really listening to a lot of different music at the time. I play a lot of guitar, and then I want to rest my ears until I have to play.
What have you been cranking lately?
I've been listening to ZZ Top's Rio Grande Mud a lot. It's got "Just Got Paid" on it.
These new songs will definitely come to life on stage...
It usually gets heavier live so I'm looking forward to playing these songs.
Are you excited for the new Opeth? What's your favorite Opeth song?