Thu, 25 Jul 2013 13:58:56
As far as metal goes, it doesn't get much more powerful (or progressive) than Opeth. We say "progressive" in the literal meaning. This band literally symbolizes metal's progress, and their most recent offering Heritage is a masterpiece of the highest order.
ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino wanted to get inside Heritage. So he spoke to Opeth frontman and visionary Mikael Åkerfeldt about the album…
Did you approach Heritage with one vision or vibe in mind? What ties the album together?
It was not written a concept. It's just another collection of songs, but it does have an "album" feel to it. I'm very into the sequencing of the songs. The order of the tracks on the disc is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. This was no exception.
Did the album come together fairly quickly?
It wasn't that long. I think it was written over six or seven months. Then, it was recorded over a month-and-a-half pretty much. It was pretty quick, actually. It was one of the quickest sessions I've ever had. It was an easy record.
Were you particularly inspired at the time or were you just on a creative kick?
I guess it's a little bit of both. I had been writing a couple of songs that were like a continuation of what we did on Watershed. I wasn't really happy with those songs, but I was working on them. I had chunks of music I played for our bass player, and he said he didn't like them. That was inspiring to me because I knew I was on the wrong path. I scrapped those songs and started from scratch. Then, I wrote "The Lines in My Hand", which is one of the more old-sound songs. We got to "The Devil's Orchard", and I was on my way.
Was "The Devil's Orchard" the song that opened up the path for you?
Yeah, it was one of the key songs. It was a strong opening for the record. That's why I placed it there. It wasn't any more special than the other songs, but it was a bit more direct. We open up the show with that song too. I love the track, but I can't say it's more important than any of the others.
Where were you coming from lyrically?
I guess I was dabbling a little bit into the occult lyrically. I was going through some personal issues at the time that inspired some parts of lyrics. "The Devil's Orchard" was quite personal. I was not feeling that well during the writing process, but it helped me come up with some lyrics.
How did "Folklore" come about?
That was pretty late in the process. It was one of the last songs I demo'ed. It was a bit more traditional Opeth in terms of sound than the other songs. There are very untraditional songs for us like "Slither" that don't sound like anything we've ever done before. You can really recognize our sound in "Folklore". I came up with a folk-sounding thing at the beginning with the lonely guitar that opens up the song. It basically gives the track its title to a certain extent. I had a nice chord progression and melody that I used as a verse. Then, I came up with some type of chorus at the end. It's a bit Rainbow-ish. When I listen to some of the songs from the Heritage, it's almost like memory loss. I can't remember writing some of it. I get impressed or underwhelmed with some things I've done. When I hear the other guys play stuff off Heritage, I'm like, "Wow, I can't remember writing that at all!"
As a writer, is it important for you to conjure imagery with the songs?
I think that's as far as we go when it comes to visuals. We're not very animated when we play live. We don't have screens. We don't have a lot going on besides from the five of us playing the songs. The songs themselves do create images. That's a personal thing though because people have different images. Some of our material is soundtrack-y. You can come up with visuals to these songs. I think there are more images when you listen to our music than Rihanna. Actually, that's not true. You just think about Rihanna when you listen to Rihanna [Laughs].
When you're writing, do you tend to read a lot or watch many movies?
It's mostly negative personal shit. I like to think I'm a product of my record collection. I listen to a lot of records nonstop when I'm at home. Those inspire me quite a bit. I love watching films though. I'll be watching films in the studio and come up with a great part. When Steven Wilson and I were writing the Storm Corrosion record, we watched a lot of films. There were a lot of Hammer Horror films and Dead Man's Shoes, which is a Northern England suburban, tragic, violent, revenge-type-of film—which I love. I like many of the classics like GoodFellas and Casino. I also like horror-slash-sex films. That's more laugh-y. It's a novelty.
What would be the cinematic equivalent of Heritage?
It'd be something schizophrenic. I rented two films last December. One was Prometheus. It's popcorn entertainment. I also rented Faust, which is one of the more surreal and disturbing films I've seen. It's also very schizophrenic. It'd be a combination of some type of love story and some type of tragic death story with a little bit of action. There would be a little Mel Gibson in there [Laughs].
What are you listening to?
I collect records. There are a lot of obscure bands in my iPod. Believe it or not, I have an iPod. We've been playing an American band called Asia that doesn't have anything to do with the pop rock band. They're just a hard rock band from the late seventies and early eighties. They're from Milwaukee, and they're really good. I love to listen to them. It's everything from death metal to singer-songwriters to jazz.
What’s your favorite Opeth song?