On the occasion of their latest release ”Return To Zero”, Spiritual Beggars made their third visit in Greece and first after seven long years of absence. We had the luck to discuss with keyboardist Per Wiberg about all details concerning the group’s return, the new album, the new change in the vocals, some old and new bands that he loves and of course, his love for the Greek fans. Read below a discussion which proves the fact that if a speaker is in good mood, the interview will turn to nothing less than enjoyable. A very pleasant talk in an even more pleasant atmosphere with Per smiling and showing that he felt like he was home. Enjoy!
First of all welcome to Greece once again. It’s been seven years and we really missed you this time, so it’s very nice to have you back.
Thank you very much, we missed you too and today is a good opportunity to show this to you, it’s going to be a great night.
Let’s start this interview by asking what took you so long to release a new album. It’s been five years since ”Demons” which was the last album you did.
Well, actually we were busy with our other bands, so in general we were dealing with music again and didn’t have time to focus on Spiritual Beggars. Mike (Amott, the guitar player) had full schedule with Arch Enemy together with Sharlee (D’Angelo, the bass player). Ludwig (Witt, the drummer) was busy with Firebird and some local bands in Sweden he’s dealing with, I was playing with Opeth, so there was no free time to get together. This year we managed to gather in order to create the new Spiritual Beggars album, as we had no responsibilities with our other bands, so the time was right to do it and here we are now.
The new album is entitled ”Return To Zero”. In my personal opinion it’s the best Spiritual Beggars album the last ten years since ”Ad Astra”. First of all we’d like to know about the response it has so far in the press and fans worldwide.
Thank you very much for believing that, it’s very nice to hear this. To be honest the most reviews and comments we have received so far are very positive. People seem to like the new material very much. Of course there are always some people that will be asking for more, while there will be some people that will not feel good with the change in singer now that we have Apollo in place of JB, as it happened with some people when we had JB instead of Spice. You just can’t satisfy all of them but we are very glad that the album goes along very well so far.
You give me the right pass for the next question and since I’m Greek, I can’t help but asking about having Apollo Papathanasio in the band. Give us some details about this choice.
It was our drummer Ludwig who suggested in taking Apollo in the band and Mike agreed in that. He was tested in some songs and the result was very very good, so there was no other choice but getting him in the band. It happened so simply and naturally. I have to tell you that we’ve been knowing Apollo for many years, he was always very close to the band, he’s been a great friend for many years and we were getting along very well with him pretty much time before he joined the band,
We must admit that he’s done a great job in the album, and this is one more extra reason why it sounds so great. In my opinion he’s brought some new elements. But I’d like to know if you made any other auditions before getting him in the band.
No, there were no other auditions. He was the only one tested for this place. It just felt right to be the man holding the microphone, as we know him very well like I told you before. It is very important to know who you are dealing with in such cases, he also lives very close to Mike, so this was another helpful hint among the rest.
So, let’s say he was a part of the ”family” all these years, right?
Exactly, he’s been very close to us. He knows us very well and we know him very well, so it was the obvious choice to get him in the band.
Is this another reason why the album sounds solid and like not even a day passed since the last album? He seems he has adapted 100% in the likes of the band. Do you believe that this friendship has brought chemistry much sooner between all you than usual?
Well, let’s say that some things got easier along the way with Apollo than they would with another guy whom we wouldn’t know that much. We are very tied as a band right now and I hope you all will see it in a few hours.
Let’s go to the new album once again. I believe that it’s sound is very special. Despite being the most mid-tempo release you have done so far, it also sounds very warm and personal and I think this happens maybe because of the production. Also, it’s much heavier and songs flow easier than the previous two albums at least.
It’s nice to know you find it so special because that’s what we believe also for ”Return To Zero”. We did our best to create a nice album after so many years and I think that the fans who will pay good attention to the new material will find it very amusing and they’re going to deal very well with it in the future.
Let’s talk about the recording process and how long it took you to create the album. We’d also like to know how is a typical Spiritual Beggars song born and if the final result of the album was something predecised or it just came naturally.
Usually it happens with Mike bringing on a riff and Ludwig finding a rhythm to jam upon the riff. Since they live close to each other it’s more effective to work this way, as I live far away and I send my ideas with e-mail. We change some things here and there and that’s how the final result comes. We entered the studio in January and in the end of February it was over, so it didn’t take us more than a month for the whole thing, meaning production, mixing and mastering. As far as the result is concerned, we didn’t sit and say we wanted to make the album this way, so there was no plan about playing fast, slow, heavy or whatever else. That’s how we felt at the specific time we were working on the new material and what you hear is the outcome of our ideas in the year of 2010. So, that’s how it works pretty much with us.
Spiritual Beggars were never a band for the middle fan. You bring and revive the spirit of the ’70s in the best possible way. In a time where everyone tries to sound fast, heavy and brutal, how much important is the fact that you can create your own music without caring much about trends or new fashions in the world of music industry?
That’s just what comes out from our hearts and we would do no less than play what we want. We are very fortunate to have a steady and loyal fan base like here in Greece for example, we would never sound the way others want and we’ll stick to what we believe is right for us in the band. After all, like you said, every day something new comes out so other fans could listen to what they find cool and makes them happy.
Since we talk about happiness and you all make us happy with the band, let’s see which were the ones that made you happy back in the day and you decided that you wanted to play music in order to make people happy too. Having seen you both with Spiritual Beggars and Opeth in the past, you live every gig until the last moment and seeming as you are the most diehard metal fan that everybody would like to have as friend. It would be very interesting for people to know your tastes in music.
Oh, it’s so much I could mention right now (Smiling). It all depends according to the environment you are growing on. You see your parents or friends dealing with music and you want to explore this. Obviously I must refer to Black Sabbath and Kiss and many other great bands in the beginning. While I started to grow there was new material coming on the way, more brutal than we had been used to, and that’s how bands like Venom or Slayer or Metallica came across. So far, it goes like this and I discover bands from time to time that make me feel good.
Any new bands or albums that you liked recently and you’d like to share with us?
I’m a big fan of a band called Baroness if you know them (note:here is the part where I smile like he did before) and their latest album is simply great. Let’s see… I liked the album by a band that’s not old but the new album is amazing and the band is called The Swans (here is where we both smile to each other in total comprehension and warm atmosphere). I also liked the new album of Helmet very much. Great band from time to time and worth having an eye on them for sure (and this is where we have a hi-five, as we totally agree about this). And I think that more is to come through the way. Music is beautiful and you learn something new each day for sure.
Now let’s talk about the relationship you have with the Greek crowd. Every time you come here you all are out of control, no matter which band you are here with. Is it a matter of good performance, are you always in shape, or is there extra motive for you that is connected with the atmosphere?
I must tell that despite trying to be as professionals as we can and we try to give 101% of ourselves each night, Greece was one of the first countries that supported us so strongly and we always had positive feedback here, even from our first days as a band. I don’t know how but we feel very welcome here each time and we consider it like being home with all those fans making a pleasant atmosphere for us. Maybe is what you call Mediteranean tamperament or maybe you just get obsessed with what you love very much. I can tell for sure, speaking about the other guys in the band also, that we feel great when we come there. And I am sure this is what is going to happen later when we’ll come out and play. I have the feeling it’s going to be a beautiful night.
Last but not least, we’d like you to close this interview by giving a message to all Spiritual fans worldwide and add whatever you’d like and we didn’t ask you.
First of all I’d like to thank you very much for the kind words and the nice interview. We appreciate all kinds of support and it means a lot to us, we’re going to try and give it back to you today and each time we’re coming here. I also have to say thanks to all our fans, especially here in Greece for being there for us. I wish that we’ll come back sooner this time, we could do it even the following April if we have some days off. We are back now and we hope everyone will enjoy as much as we do it. Thank you all very very much.
Interview by: Aggelos “Redneck” Katsouras.