Just a few hours before OPETH’s show in Stuttgart, we got the chance to chat with the guitarist of the band Fredrik Ǻkesson. How is it being on tour? Will Greece be a part of it? What their new album “Sorceress” felt like? The present and the future of Opeth and metal genre as well as the influence their homeland Sweden had on it was brought up as well…
Welcome to Metalpaths TV. How are you first of all?
Very good. I kind of just wake up (laughs)!
Being on the road for quite a while first in North America and now in Europe, how is it going so far?
Very good, I think we played really good shows. We’re tight. Starting up and playing twenty four shows in North America, in Canada and Mexico, it was a good warm up for the European tour. So it’s going really good, I think we played good shows. It felt solid. It’s nice when you get over that first shows where you play the new songs. But after ten or twelve shows everything, small details and clicks, gets a place.
From the very beginning Opeth’s songs are quite long as it matters the duration of them. How difficult is it for you to choose a specific set list on each gig?
We try to pick a song of each album, but we still want to play two or three song from the latest album to promote it. On this we play a song from each album apart the first two. It’s a pretty good mix I think. We try to pick songs that we know they are favourites, like “Deliverance”. That type of songs is most likely to be on the setlist. There are few of those. On this tour we do special shows with a longer set, so we’re going to play songs like “By The Pain I See In Others”. A song we never played before. It is fun to bring out some b-sides, we’ve never played before. We try to change it up for every tour with some songs that stay the same.
As I’ve seen and it was aired on YouTube you did a potpourri from the requests of the fans…
Yeah! Well it was more a North America thing. We didn’t really plan it. It was something that came up. And sometimes we got put on the spot. Like oh shit! But it was kind of fun. If people here in Europe start screaming for it, it might happen. It was very spontaneous; it was kind of developed on.
Another query about the tour: You have Sahg tonight with you; the supporting act. Do you get to choose your supporting acts or is it something that has to do with your booking agencies?
We got the suggestions and it was decided quite shortly before this tour was going to happen. Their name (Sahg) was brought up and I was immediately “yes, they are great”. I used to listen to their first two albums. It would be a good mix playing with them. They are really good.
You have appeared to festivals and of course you are on tour now on small venues. Do you have a preference between festival shows and small venues?
I prefer venues because you are more in control with sound checks and the gear. In festivals the time could be very short and what we hear from our monitors is usually not as good as in our own shows. But I mean I like them both. It is fun to play in front of a massive audience, if we play in Wacken and stuff like that. It is of course a very powerful feeling.
I’ve seen that there is going to be a break for about two months between December and February, when you are going to Australia. Do you take this break to decompress or are there going to be some other bookings?
No, we’re going to be home for that period. Because again we’re planning to go to South America after Australia. And then to North America again to play some festivals and shows on a row on spring. It is going to be a lot of festivals in the summer. We already said yes to a few, but I don’t know how official that is.
And what I’ve noticed is that Greece is not a part of the tour…
We usually go to Greece as a separate thing. We usually take a week to play to Thessaloniki and Athens. And I really hope that this is going to happen. We always go there once at every album and there is no reason we shouldn’t go this time. It was a great support last time we were there. It’s a very energetic audience with a good vibe.
Let’s move to the 12th album of Opeth called “Sorceress”. Now that is out and so far the reviews are a bit polarized, how do you feel about the result of the album?
I am quite happy with it. I think some songs are more heavier and more guitar driven, that was something we talked about doing it. Maybe it is a bit more direct and more melodic at some parts. It has some tricky moments as well. I am happy about the result. I like that every song is different and I like the fact that the drums are heavier than in our previous productions.
Do you actually read the reviews or what is said about the album?
I didn’t read many reviews. Maybe one in Swedish. When it’s out there we just carry on basically. Of course it’s fun to go to the reviews. We got some goods, but I think I’ll find some bad ones as well (laughs).
Exactly those negative ones. Do they affect you in any way?
No. Not really. I mean it is not for everybody to like. If you don’t like it, it’s fine. You can listen to something else. For us the first filter is that we feel happy about it. We did our best and after that we can’t do much more.
In Opeth as also in many other groups there is always a leader. In your case we have Mikael. How is your collaboration with him regarding the composition? Do you get to put any personal elements in the music?
Yes absolutely. He writes the majority of the stuff and then he asked me to put the guitar solos. You can kind of put your input there, maybe! He likes to hear the feedback and on this album we co-worked on a track called “Strange Brew”.
Opeth exist more than twenty five years and you are with the band for about nine of them. How do you see the future of the band? Could you imagine you could play another twenty years or more?
I hope so really! That’s my motto. Rock ‘till you drop! We love what we do. The creative side being at the studio, it’s something Mikael really enjoys. I still see a future on us absolutely creativity-wise and tour-wise. We get some pains. Like your back is hurting and you got to headbang less. I hope we can continue for a long time. We’ll take it one album at a time.
Step by step Opeth’s music have progressed and there’ve been brought a lot of nostalgic – prog and psychedelic rock – elements into the music. And again there are many bands that goes back on the 70’s; like The Year Of The Goat and Blues Pills. What are your thoughts on that?
I think is cool that is era get this attention and bands influence by its heritage. That’s where the early metal comes from. As long as they enjoy what they do and they experiment, it’s cool.
What are your thoughts on metal in general? From extreme bands to those psychedelic ones, do you listen to any new bands?
Yes, the bands we tour with especially. We like to listen to their discography. I’ve checked the new album of Sahg (the supporting act) and the Danish artist Myrkur who has a really beautiful voice. And in the states we toured with The Sword. I haven’t listened to them before. It’s very interesting I think. A lot of interesting bands out there, but I don’t keep track of everybody. There are a lot of bands also.
It’s kind of difficult with the digital era. Everything runs faster now.
Yes, it’s a faster society overall. But I believe there are a lot of people that still take the time to listen to an album from the beginning to the end. I guess a lot of kids just listen ten seconds here and there.
From Candlemass to Bathory and from At the gates to Entombed and Dark Tranquillity; we have a lot of influential bands, especially in metal from Sweden. What makes Sweden so special and a great country regarding the music?
It’s a good question I think and I don’t really have a good answer. It’s not a huge population. I guess people sitting around and play all the time when it’s dark during the winter time. That’s what we did at least. Where I grow up for instance we had these student circles you could form and then you could a rehearsal room and a vocal PA. That was very supportive while we’re growing up.
I like to ask about your influences and your inspirations, therefore I have make up this question. Imagine that we’re going to send a spacecraft to the outer space and we have to put there an all time top 5 of the albums human kind has produced. You are to choose those. Which ones would they be?
“Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” from Black Sabbath. “Dark Side Of The Moon” by Pink Floyd could be suitable. And… What else? Something you can’t get easily bored with it. It’s a tricky one really… “2112” by Rush. That’s difficult. I’d pick those three for now (laughs).