Interviews

ARCH ENEMY’S MICHAEL AMOTT: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW

210

Arch Enemy have never made an album I’ve disliked; in fact, they fall squarely into the category of “I Don’t Know Why Anyone Would Ever Complain About This Band.” They’re one of those groups, like Slayer, who just always manage to both stay true to themselves and bring the goods.

In fact, on their latest album, Khaos Legions, they’ve more than brought the goods — they’ve actually upped their game. This is the best-written, most-complete sounding album the band has made since 2001’s Wages of Sins. What spurred on this further increase in quality? Could it be because, for the first time in their existence, Arch Enemy took more than two years in-between releases? Or could it be because guitarist Michael Amott and drummer Daniel Erlandsson picked up a little extra awesome juice during their recent tours with Amott’s old band, the unfuckwithable Carcass?

As I learned when we spoke on the phone a few weeks ago, Amott himself is the first to confirm that both of these facts were contributing factors to Legions‘ excellence. I also got to ask him about reuniting with producer Rickard Bengtsson (who was on board for 2005’s Doomsday Machine), how the band are handling being their own managers now, and, oh yeah, about what fans can expect from AE’s upcoming, MetalSucks co-presented North American Khaos tour with DevilDriver, Skeletonwitch, and Chthonic (dates here).

Read the full transcript of our chat after the jump!

Do you think it’s fair to say that Khaos Legions is a very different sounding album from Rise of the Tyrant?

I guess. That’s what people are saying. [laughs] I don’t know. We had a longer time to write this record together. We had a four year gap [in-between albums]. So, yeah, I guess it captures the band over a longer timeline. There’s a lot more variety. We just finally got around to doing a lot stuff we always wanted to do. We spent four months in the studio and that was working every day as well — long days. We put a lot of work into it.

Can you be a little more specific about the things that you’ve always wanted to do that you finally got to do on this album?

Often, you don’t have the time to try out every little thing that you want to do, because you have a deadline and you just run out of time. You already have a tour booked and a release date. We didn’t have that this time. Well, we did, but we had allowed ourselves enough time.

So [things the band got to do this time] could be little details, production-wise and stuff like that, and also writing-wise. We had a longer time to write, jam, and put the songs together.We spent more time on that. Usually we kind of get off the road on a Friday and start preproduction for the next album on a Monday. It was like that for ten years. We didn’t do that this time.

Was the longer time between albums deliberate, or is that just the way it worked out?

It just worked out like that. We put out Rise of the Tyrant in 2007. We hit the road for eighteen months straight going all around the world. We got back home, mixed the live album and DVD in 2008, and then went back on the road for a little bit. In 2008, we basically split with our management and our booking agent and restructured our business completely. Since then, we are self-managed. We found new booking partners and stuff like that, but it took some time. And I did the Carcass reunion. That had me going back and forth doing double duty — both me and Danny [Erlandsson], our drummer. Then in 2009 we got back together with Arch Enemy and did this re-recording album called The Root of All Evil. Then we went back on the road, and I think we even went to the U.S. and did a little tour there. We went to Asia and all of South America.

That’s what was kind of odd — there was no new album, but it never really felt like you were away…

[laughs] We didn’t take a long time off. I did a Spiritual Beggars album  – that’s another side band that I have as well. I went to Japan with that. At the same time, I’m writing with Arch Enemy. It’s pretty much all I do because, it is a full-time occupation. We actually have the time to do all this. [laughs]

So this is obviously your main project, but when you’re doing something like the Carcass reunion or the Spiritual Beggars project, are there things or elements of that experience that you think “Hey, I would love to fold that into Arch Enemy?”  Something that you take away from that which you bring into Arch Enemy?

Of course. Playing with different musicians and writing different material, you get inspired, and some of that carries over. I think you can hear a trace of Carcass stuff in the new Arch Enemy. We never really had a lot of death metal in Arch Enemy’s music. I think on this album there are some death metal riffs. It’s just me rediscovering the Carcass thing. It was a trip down memory lane. I was reconnecting with that kind of style again — which I had been away from for a long time.

To me, this is the most complete album we’ve made so far. It had more weight to it. [laughs]

What about the decision to… and I’m sure I’m going to mispronounce his name… but what was it like to work with Rickard Bengtsson again?

[sarcastic] Your pronunciation sucked! Why is your Swedish so bad?

Rickard owns and engineers a small… well, it’s not small studio. It’s a nice studio that he’s built in a farmhouse pretty much just outside the town we live in. So we lived home and worked there. We slept in our own bed at night and went to the studio to work. To come home at night was kind of cool, because we usually do all our albums in residential studios. We’d go to England or to another place and live at the studio. We wanted to spend more time on this album; we wanted to spend three or four months on it. It just worked out, doing it locally. Then we took all the recordings to the U.K. and mixed it with Andy Sneap… he’s this new, upcoming guy.

[laughs] Yeah, I hear he has a bright future ahead of him. Was it different working with Rickard this time than it was on Doomsday Machine?

Yeah, he has the new studio now. He had a much smaller studio then, and his setup wasn’t as professional as it is now. It’s different in that sense… maybe with faster computers, et cetera…  [laughs]

So the album comes out and then you guys are doing a big tour…

Yeah, we start next week.

Oh, you start a European tour next week? I was talking about the tour people won’t know about until this interview comes out.

Oh, that tour.

That tour.

[laughs] You’re presenting the tour!

And we’re excited to be doing so! But what tour are you going on next week? I don’t even know. I feel so ill-prepared. [laughs]

We’re going to be co-headlining a bunch of metal fests in Europe.

The North American tour is going to be a lot of fun, too, and we’re looking forward to that. We’re working on some new stage production stuff — video stuff synched to the music and all this stuff. [laughs] It’s a lot of work. Like I said, we’ve been self-managed since 2008. It’s like a real business. Everybody in the band has a job other than playing their instrument.

So we’re working really hard preparing for this. What we’ve  learned over the last few years is that there’s a seemingly never-ending demand for live shows from us. Touring is taking up more and more of our time, and there’s a lot more places we can go. For example, we no longer only go to Japan — we go to maybe ten countries in Asia. It eats up time, but it is a lot of fun as wel,l to discover these new places for us. Wherever we go, there’s a few thousand Arch Enemy fans that know all of the songs even though we haven’t sold one album there. [laughs] It’s really a very awesome experience. It’s mostly a very positive side effect to that damned internet. [laughs]

Knowing that you haven’t sold any albums in that territory, but that everybody knows the lyrics, do you think, “Wow, I really wish these people were buying our album?” Or are you just happy that they know it?

I don’t know. I’ve just kind of given up. [laughs] When I listen to mp3s, they don’t sound as good [as physical copies of the music], but that’s fine. In a lot of countries, it’s the only way they can acquire our music. We make our money on the touring, and we’re very successful at that.

It’s just a different time now. Now an album is something you just throw out there. “Here’s some new music. This is what it looks like. This is what the merchandise looks like.” Then you go out on tour for a couple of years, and that’s what we’re going to do.

The thing is… I was talking to our record label [Century Media] about this, and Arch Enemy still sells a lot of albums worldwide. They tell me that more established bands, like us, still do that, but it’s very hard to sell new bands’ physical product. It’s difficult for them.

So there are some old school and serious fans still collecting, and I think that’s pretty awesome, but… Look, just last weekend we played in Morocco. People were going nuts for our songs and singing along with the guitar melodies and stuff like that. That doesn’t leave any real reason to complain.

So to come back to the North American tour… By the time that rolls around, do you think you’ll be incorporating a lot of the new material?

Absolutely. This is one album where I would like to play all the songs at some point. I really like all of the songs. We’re playing four new songs already ,even before the album is out. By the time we get to the U.S., we’ll have played twenty-five shows across the summer. We should be up and running and playing a lot of new stuff by then. And we rehearsed a lot of older songs that we haven’t played in awhile.

We’ve been playing the same set list forever. We’re getting bored of it. I can play it in my sleep. So it’s time to make some changes.

Awesome. So one last question before I let you go: How are you enjoying being self managed? You’ve been doing it for a few years now, so I guess it’s not going too badly… [laughs]

It’s a lot of work. Angela [Gossow, vocalist] does a lot of it, and she’s got a lot of energy and has a great business sense. That’s her educational background as well — business. So it’s a lot more work, but it’s really satisfying to know that everything we achieve is of our ownmaking. That’s really cool.

We’ve never been happier as a band. It’s like they say, “The man with the plan is never the man with the net in his hand.” But in this case, he is! i We set our own schedule and we do exactly what we want to do. We own our own recordings. We own our own publishing. We own our own merchandising. We book our own tours. We set our own schedule basically. We’re very lucky in that sense. It’s a lot of work up to this point, but it’s paid off.

-AR

Khaos Legions is out now on Century Media.

Show Comments
Metal Sucks Greatest Hits