Sweden's Arch Enemy are a band that is quietly making a big splash on the metal scene these days. Well, maybe not so quiet. After all, their new album Doomsday Machine entered the Billboard charts at #87 the week of its release, plus they are one of the main bands on the second stage of the Ozzfest tour which is ripping up the US right now. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with one of Arch Enemy's guitar wizards, Michael Amott, to talk about the new CD, Ozzfest, and the planned headline tour of the US later in the year.
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: Hi Michael! Where are you calling from today?
Michael Amott: Calling from Cincinnati, OH.
SoT: So how is the Ozzfest tour going?
Michael: It's going very well actually.
SoT: How many dates have you played so far?
Michael: Wow, I can't remember…it's been a lot! (laughs)
SoT: There's about a month or so to go right?
Michael: Yeah, I think the last show is like the 3rd or 4th of September or something like that.
SoT: So has Arch Enemy been opening up the show each day?
Michael: We are on like a rotating schedule-we could be first, or we could be on a few hours later. It changes each day.
SoT: How strange is it to go on at 9:00AM?
Michael: Ummm…..it's not right! (laughs)
SoT: Especially if you are out late the night before! (laughs)
Michael: Yeah, I mean we are also doing some shows of our own so if we play the night before, the day drags on late, and we have to perform early. But we are professionals and we deal with it. (laughs)
SoT: Do you get to watch the rest of the bands during the day or do you have other things going on?
Michael Amott & Gus G. at Ozzfest!
Michael: We have a lot of stuff to do, you know our album just released so we have signing sessions at various locations like FYE, interviews everyday, and yeah, I catch a bit of the other bands here and there. You know, you can't go wrong with a bit of Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath!
SoT: How long of a set are you playing on the tour, about a half hour?
Michael: No, it's shorter, it's only 4-5 songs, roughly 20-25 minutes.
SoT: Do you change the set list often?
Michael: No, for the Ozzfest we just keep it the same, but for the other shows, like we are doing a show tonight here in Cincinnati in a club with Shadows Fall, we throw some more songs in there and change things around a bit. We've done some headline shows as well and we have a few more of those left to do as well, one coming up in Atlanta, and somewhere else. We headlined up in Montreal too, and played an extended set there.
SoT: It must be tough for the Ozzfest gig, as you only have roughly 20 minutes to do your thing. What do you play, a few tracks off the latest CD and a couple older tunes?
Michael: Yeah. We get a pretty strong reaction each day, and the album is selling real well.
SoT: Congratulations by the way-I just got an email the other day from your label Century Media that the new CD entered the Billboard charts here in the US at # 87! How does that feel?
Michael: It feels good! (laughs)
SoT: That's pretty cool. It's not everyday that an extreme metal band, and basically a band that is still considered an "underground" band, sells so well.
Michael: How cool is it that we are outselling bands that are obviously trying to be commercial?
SoT: Now the trick is to keep the momentum going.
Michael: Exactly! Well, Arch Enemy is just constantly growing. Over the last 4-5 years now we've put a lot of work into this band, we work on Arch Enemy everyday. It's what we do and we just march on basically. We are the Soldiers of Steel!
SoT: Do you all have regular jobs or is Arch Enemy the main gig for you all?
Michael: This is it, this is what we all do.
SoT: Well that's great. How was it working again with Andy Sneap? He's pretty in demand these days, and he just finished doing the latest Nevermore CD.
Michael: Well, he was just begging to work with us again. (laughs)
Andy's a good friend of ours, we love working with him. He actually mixed the new CD-we worked with another up-and-coming engineer back home in Sweden, Rickard Bengtsson, who produced the album with some input from us. We tracked the whole record very close to home in a pretty relaxed schedule and then took the music over to England and mixed the CD with Andy in his new studio, which is a wonderful place.
SoT: Doomsday Machine sounds like your most polished album yet. Would you agree?
Michael: Yeah, I mean it's about refining what we do. I guess production wise we keep getting better. I don't know, we just try to write good songs every time we make a record.
SoT: Your songwriting is basically maturing too.
Michael: I hope so!
SoT: It's also very obvious that you and Christopher put a lot of work into the guitar parts, they are melodic, and you can just tell that a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes.
Michael: Oh yeah, we put a lot of work into this new album. We had a lot of time for pre-arrangements in the studio this time around. We love being in the studio and making a big fucking epic piece of metal! (laughs) Production is a double-edged sword, you want the music to have an edge, and not be overproduced, but you still want it to sound great.
SoT: Absolutely. You mention epic recordings before. Some of your Swedish contemporaries record long, epic songs-do you ever have any desire to stretch out a little and put together an epic, lengthy piece?
Michael: Yeah, I mean it would be cool. I'm not closing any doors, but when it comes to the 6-minute mark I usually get pretty bored myself. Long intro, 2, 3, 4 guitar solos, a little bit of a mid-section that breaks down, then gets built up again, I don't know. I don't know what else you can do, I mean, I am a fan of progressive music. I'm a big fan of Rush, Yes, King Crimson…I mean I like that kind of stuff, the older 70's progressive music. I'm not as much a fan of progressive metal though.
SoT: Some of your older records feature some Mellotron and keyboards, and I just think it might sound interesting for you guys to record something like that.
Michael: Oh yeah, I'd love to, I don't know why we haven't…we should do it, I'm sure we'd be great at it! (laughs)
SoT: I wouldn't bring it up if I didn't agree with you! (laughs)
Michael: You're to blame if we do it on the next record and it sucks! (laughs) Blame it on Sea of Tranquility!
SoT: I'll take full responsibility! (laughs) Put a little note next to the song on the lyric sheet saying if this sucks, blame it on Pete Pardo and Sea of Tranquility who suggested we do this song! (laughs)
SoT: How is Angela fitting in live now that she has been in the band for a few years?
Michael: We've heard both positive and negative stuff obviously. A lot of people can't handle the fact that she's kicking a lot of people's asses. There are a lot of negative people out there, and you will always get that, but we can't help it if we are the best! (laughs) But yeah, she is really fitting in quite well actually, and she adds a great element to the band that you don't normally see in metal.
SoT: You still hear every now and then people moaning that they miss your original singer Johan Liiva…
Michael: Yeah, well you know, I know what those records sold, and they didn't sell shit. We would tour with our old singer and nobody came to see us. So, where were these fans then?
SoT: Those first three albums were really strong records, but personally I never thought Johan's vocals fit the band.
Michael: Actually, I want to re-record some of those songs. I liked his vocals, but he basically quit the band. We are still friends, but I was talking to him a few months ago and told him of our upcoming schedule and he was like "wow, I'm glad I'm not in the band anymore!" He's just one of those guys who wants a regular job. Not everyone's cut out to do this.
SoT: Any upcoming headline US tour in the plans?
Michael: Oh yes, this is just the beginning of an 18 month campaign. You are going to be sick of us before it's over! (laughs)
SoT: Well, I don't know about that!
Michael: We plan on coming over again in November for many more dates, possibly with some other bands but nothing is confirmed yet. It should be a good package though.
SoT: So I'll look forward to seeing you at BB Kings then? That's the big New York hot spot for metal.
Michael: Well, it could be Madison Square Garden, but that's not confirmed yet! (laughs)
SoT: Regardless of the venue, we look forward to it!
Michael: See you then!
All Photos Courtesy of the Arch Enemy Website