Living their dream
Famed band Arch Enemy is set for its first performance in India. In an exclusive interview, the key members of the team talk about their fascinating journey
Your childhood and teen’s seems to be a very bumpy ride. Not to forget your health issues. Yet you did rise. How did you manage to do that? And also can you tell us a little about “wild rollercoaster ride” in life?
I think most people experience a rough time as teenagers. It is not easy waking up to this world. Society, parents, teachers and even your peers - everybody is pulling at you. You have to deliver in school, be skinny, pretty and part of the ’in’ mob, do what your parents expect from you – but all you want is to discover yourself. And that’s when the rebel years start. It takes a tough fight to break free and most kids lose out in one way or another. I am very individualistic and personal freedom is my thing. I broke free by discovering music, metal – it spoke directly to my heart, it was very different and it goes against any sort of social mainstream. But I had to pay a price as well and I struggled hard with eating disorders for a while. The goal is to overcome such self-destruction. I found my way out, I was never prone to suicide, I always fight til I come out on top. Not everybody is born a fighter though, but one can aspire to become one. I believe heavy metal is a good soundtrack for that sort of spirit. It also helps to channel frustration and aggression so you don’t have to turn it all against yourself. Life is never easy, no matter what age you are in. We live in a very crowded and vile world where the weak ones get run over and cast aside. I feel protecting the helpless ones, esp. children and animals from the ’beast of man’ is a very important task. I also want to give hope and strength for those who struggle - with my words and with our music. Many teens have nobody who listens or to lean on – music can be a very powerful support for them.
What bands did you listen to while growing up?
I am a child of the late thrash- and early death metal period in the 90ies. I grew up on Slayer, Testament, Megadeth, Carcass, Morbid Angel, Dismember, Entombed, etc and still to this day these are my fave bands to listen to.
From a fan to the Vocalist of the band. How would you describe this transformation?
I started singing in a death metal band in 1991. I joined Arch Enemy in 2001 – so I have been a vocalist before Arch Enemy even released their first album ‘Black Earth’ in 1996. I was a big Carcass fan, and I followed their members closely after their disbanded. Michael Amott was the only one who picked up where Carcass left – he formed a death metal band – Arch Enemy. I loved the albums and its pretty surreal still to this day that I got to join them after they parted ways with the former singer. That is life – you never know what it has in store for you. I was always very driven to turn my dreams into reality. I fought hard for everything I got. And I kept that spirit when joining Arch Enemy. Tus we went from being an insider tip to one of the most successful extreme metal bands from Sweden today.
How does it feel to be one of the most successful female growlers around?
It is very rewarding. It shows that hard work, dedication and passion pays off in the end. Don’t dream your life – live your dream. That’s my motto. And it has worked out. It has been a rollercoaster ride and very hard at times – being the singer and the manager of a band means a brutal amount of work – but the end result is to live the life I want to live, to be my own master and to create my own destiny. It makes mefeel very content and in charge of my own luck. It is very powerful.
So does the style of music put a frequent strain on your voice?
Yes, of course. We tour a lot, play many, many shows. I can not party and I have to take great care of my voice and my general health. I am a vegan, I eat very healthy, I exercise a lot, I do not drink at all and I do not smoke. My life is dedicated to keep my voice and the band strong. There is no room for error, excess or weakness. I have to be a 100% disciplined at all times.
You write lyrics for arch enemy, what goes on in your mind while penning down the lyrics? What inspires you? What do the themes and topics revolve around? Do the topics tend to change over time?
The lyrics I write deal with the topics I think about, things that move me. They are inspired by the reality we live in, social injustice, the strive for independence and personal freedom. Freedom from society, from fear, from governments, from religion, from tradition. I also feel very strong about environmental and animal protection, so some lyrics (for example “Night Falls Fast’ from Rise Of The Tyrant’ or ‘Cruelty Wihout Beauty’ from Khaos Legions) deal with those topics. I am an outspoken atheist and a liberal, green anarchist – you will find many of those philosophies in my lyrics.
What do you do aside from the band?
Nothing. Everything I do evolves around the band. I work out hard to stay fit. I am very interested in healthy eating and living, I keep up with the current Zeitgeist and developments in the world– so I can put this into Arch Enemy. I manage Arch Enemy, I am involved in everything from contractual obligations, to finances, tour booking, live production, artwork, merchandise – so I have to master a big workload every day.
What comes to your mind, when you hear India?
I spent 3 weeks in Kerala, experiencing the real India very closely. It was not a luxurious holiday resort but a very simple, traditional Ayurveda clinic I lived in. I got to talk to many Indian people, especially women. Kerala is one of the most advanced regions in India in regards to education. Yet, the women I spoke to said they don’t have much of a chance to have a career after their studies because tradition still dictates them to get married, have children and stop working… but there was a strong sense of change there. India is a very fast developing country, It is huge, many different religions and traditions clash. It is a place in constant change and full of beauty, resources and possibilities. I think India’s women are very strong and I believe they will have achieved equality in the near future. I am sure you find the most advanced social balance in the big cities like Mumbai. We will play in India in November (19th) and I am very much looking forward to get to know it a little. I just hope there wont be any terrorist attacks from Muslim extremists. It makes me sad that religion still brings so much pain and suffering to innocent people in this day and age.
Are you aware of any Indian bands?
No, not really. they don’t get any exposure over here in Europe. But I am will do some research online now – see if I can discover some J I also hope to get to see some live when we come over for the show in November in India!
Any message for your fans?
Fight for your dreams and your freedom. Treat each other with respect and love. Question all authorities and never give up hope. If you feel down, chat with fellow metal fans or listen to your favourite record. This has always helped me in times of darkness. We hope to meet you all one day and get to play live for you. Until then – stay pure fucking metal!
Not that it needs any introduction but if you had to do so you how would you introduce ‘Arch Enemy’?
Michael Amott – We’re a gang of traveling metal muscians from northern Europe!
The only band to switch from a male vocalist to a female. How was the decision made? Can you tell us a little about Angela’s audition?
Michael Amott – It was a total coincidence that we became aware of Angela and her talent as a vocalist. We invited her to Sweden and it was amazing when she sung some of the songs in the studio… We instantly realized that this could be a very cool and interesting collaboration.
All the band members have been associated with other bands. Do you think the “Influence” of the other bands infiltrate (Arch) Enemy?
Michael Amott – I don’t think so, at this stage we have a very clear vision of how ARCH ENEMY sound.
Tell us a bit about Arch Enemy’s lyric writing process?
Michael Amott – We always start with the music first. We give Angela recordings of the music we’ve made and she starts up the lyric writing process. Sometimes I will contribute with some lyrics , but mostly it’s Angela that writes the words for Arch Enemy nowadays.
What does the logo/symbol of Arch Enemy mean?
Michael Amott – It symbolizes strength and unity.
Arch Enemy tours a lot, do you guys decide on your set lists for each tour?
Michael Amott – Yes, we try to make something slightly for every tour and if we’ve never played a country or city before we take that into consideration.
You must have some whacked out tour stories. Can you share some?
Michael Amott – Sure. The thing is that you lose track of what is normal and ”not so normal” after doing it for as long as we have. Things just tend to seem to be a part of our routine life on the road, but to an outsider it might seem very odd.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
Michael Amott – I’d say we are more critical now and we spend more time on the arrangements. But we have just as much as fun as when we started the band. Creating new music is an awesome feeling and I am always looking forward to jamming and writing with ARCH ENEMY!
Tell us more about ‘Khaos Legions’? How long did you take to come out with this album?
Michael Amott - We had four years to write "Khaos Legions"! We released the RISE OF THE TYRANT album in September 2007 and started touring a lot immediately all over the world for about 18 months. We recorded and mixed a live double album + DVD in 2008 (“Tyrants Of The Rising Sun – Live in Japan”). Then ARCH ENEMY took a break while I did the CARCASS reunion festival dates and tours. In 2009 we got back together with ARCH ENEMY and recorded “The Root Of All Evil” album (featuring re-recorded older songs). We also did a few musical things on the side such as my brothers solo album and I wrote and recorded a new SPIRITUAL BEGGARS album (“Return To Zero”, 2010). Add to that ARCH ENEMY festival dates and tours all over world again in 2009 and 2010, maybe it’s becoming more understandable why it took longer this time to get “KHAOS LEGIONS” out there… But we’ve really become quite good at staying focused and writing music while were out there on the road, and that really helped this time!
If you had to describe “Melodic Death Metal” in a sentence?
Michael Amott – Extreme, yet melodic metal.
On your website we see that you guys are busy touring till the end of this year. When do we get to see you in India?
Michael Amott – I keep hearing rumors that we are finally going to India. Let’s hope these rumors turn into reality soon!
What are your favorite and least favorite venues?
Michael Amott – I have played venues that I loved all over the world. The most important thing to me is that my gear works and that the fans are enjoying themselves!
Are you aware of any Indian Bands?
Michael Amott – No, I am not familiar with any Indian bands – yet!
Can you tell us 5 things that not many know about Arch Enemy?
1. The members of Arch Enemy love Indian food.
2. The members of Arch Enemy do not eat meat.
3. Angela is 5.2 foot tall.
4. Sharlee is 6.6 foot tall.
5. Daniel was a promising tennis player in his young teens.
Any message to your fans in India?
Michael Amott – Thank you for listening to ARCH ENEMY and I hope to see you live in concert when we come and play India sometime (hopefully) very soon!