Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt Talks ‘Pale Communion’ Album, In Flames Tour + More
Opeth frontman Mikael Akerfeldt was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend show. The rocker opened up about the band's 'Pale Communion' album, some of his latest musical influences and the band's tour dates with In Flames. Check out the chat below:
We have Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth on the show with us. How are you?
Decent, how are you?
We're here to talk about the new album 'Pale Communion,' out now. Mikael, what is the biggest misconception people have about what makes music heavy and what makes 'Pale Communion' heavy to you?
Well, I think the misconceptions are many. It's such a taste thing I think in the end of it, at least for me. I'm sorta lost about metal, especially since I've done some interviews where I've said what I thought and people get upset. They have different opinions of what metal really is and for me I think I might, I might be too old, to be honest, to understand what the younger generation thinks what metal really is these days.
I grew up in the '70s and '80s [listening to] hard rock metal bands so; those bands for me were very diverse and [with] lots of things going on in their music. They were metal bands in my book and I'm not sure if they come across as a metal band today exactly, but I think, you know when I say we're still a metal band, of course we are a metal band, sometimes when we play a show, for instance, we would scream stuff -- the newer and softer songs. I think metal for me has become a bit of an attitude, as well. A question an attitude and I think we still have that attitude intact like were still in a bit of, for lack of a better word, rebellious. [laughs]
Growing up, what bands taught you the most about songwriting and dynamics? How did the things you love about that band effect the way you wrote the songs on 'Pale Communion'?
Well I have to say those were like some of the classic metal bands that I got into at a very early age, bands like Iron Maiden who ultimately were influenced by progressive rock basically, and they kind of did their own take on progressive rock and made somewhat of a more metalized version of progressive rock, like songs like 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner.' That's basically a prog song you know, so they taught me a lot about dynamics. They also have songs released as acoustic bits. The entire 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son' record I think is quite progressive. Judas Priest, that's another example, especially the three first records, they are my favorite records, the 'Rocka Rolla.' Very diverse, you know, 'Sin After Sin' is well known for the Slayer cover. That album also has a song like 'Last Rose of Summer,' which is a beautiful, almost like 'Little Wing' Hendrix type of song which doesn't at all mix together with the metal type of feel that they have today.
But for metal for me, interesting metal is supposed to be diverse, you know. Otherwise, it's just kinda translucent. I learned a lot from both types of bands, as well as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath -- when you listen to that record, is that not a metal record or a hard rock record? What do you call it then? So it's very confusing to me, because it's a generation gap, basically, I think.
Typically, what influenced your musical direction when you start working on a new album?
I think a lot of it has to do with stuff I am listening to at the time. A lot of the stuff I am listening to, it has to be like a constant band that is constantly on my (so to speak) playlist, are those type of bands I grew up with like Priest and Maiden, The Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, Sabbath -- those types of bands, as well as the progressive rock stuff that I collect, but generally, there are a few more artists that are a bit important than others and what I like for a new record.
This record, I was listening a lot to you know, I'm kind of bracing myself before saying this, but I was listening a lot to David Crosby, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young, which explains a little bit of the vocal harmonies on the record because I'm a big fan of David Crosby vocal harmony, so I listen a lot to that, and also a lot of Italian obscure, progressive rock, early '70s stuff that I collect because its bombastic and bordering on pretentious, and more is more, that I like. So, a lot of that stuff. I'm a big Scott Walker fan, I always listen to Scott Walker, you know, everything. I take some stuff in, but I try not to, with the exception of the song 'Goblin,' I try not to be directly inspired by something that makes me write a song that is kind of gimmicking that inspiration if you know what i mean.
Some reviewers have referenced 'Damnation' and 'Ghost Reveries' in trying to describe this new record. How much of what you've done before affects new music and are you at all conscious of that?
It's not like I go back and listen to some old record before I start writing thinking that I want to try and bring back influences or sounds from the past. I like to start fresh. I don't want to have old ideas that I re-worked into fresh and relevant ideas. I want to start with nothing, basically -- from scratch and create something out of nothing. That's the way I always work when I'm writing new music. Comparing -- if you have in our case it's eleven records -- so it's obvious people are going to at least try and compare a new record to something that'd be from the past. When people think 'Ghost Reveries,' I don't have a problem with that but I can't hear it myself. There's 'Elysian Woes' which I guess could have been on the 'Damnation' record. For the rest of the songs, I fail to see the comparison. The new album sounds like Opeth and those songs are a part of our discography so it's not a massive surprise to me.
Opeth will be headlining a tour with In Flames later this year. If you were a fan buying a ticket, what would make you most excited about seeing these two bands together?
It's hard to say, both bands have been around for a long time. Both are quite well established bands who've toured North America quite a few times and have gained a certain level of success there. We never toured together, which is strange when you think about it. We've always been friends and I'm good friends with [In Flames frontman] Anders [Friden]. To be honest, I don't know.
We have new records out, I'm hoping people will come and check us out partly based on us playing the new stuff and them playing the new stuff. Partly based on the old so to speak, classic songs if there are any classic songs. I don't really know. I wish I had some kind of really cool punch line to say, basically the two bands who are friends are touring. We've never toured before and it's also not so much of a management type of decision. This tour came about with Anders texting me saying, "We should tour together. Why haven't we toured together?" I texted him back saying, "Yeah, why not?" Then the cogs started turning and we made it happen. I think it'll be a good tour, maybe it's a big of a dinosaur too. At least we can still play some stuff fairly alright I think.
It's a kickass lineup, if you ask me!
Thanks to Mikael Akerfeldt for the interview. Opeth's 'Pale Communion' is available at iTunes and Amazon. Look for the group on tour with In Flames at these locations. Full Metal Jackie's weekend show can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.