Intervista Amon Amarth (Jocke Wallgren)
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Interview by Davide Sciaky
Hi Jocke, how are you doing?
It’s no problem at all in this tour, just going with the flow, pretty much.
Let’s start talking about this tour: you’re now just at the beginning of the European tour, but you already toured quite extensively in America in September and October also with Arch Enemy. How did that go, and how is this new leg of the tour going?
The American one was really, really good, the were no issues at all.
We had four bands: it was us, Arch Enemy, At the Gates and Grand Magus.
Easy, really easy, good guys, everyone is a Swede so we can talk and hang out really well, it was just fine all the way through; the audiences were good, the venues were good.
Yeah, all the bands were Swedish, and all the bands in this part of the tour are Swedish too, Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy and Hypocrisy. Is it like being home, with all those Swedes around?
Almost [chuckles] because you can speak your native tongue, and it’s really easy to hang out with everyone because you don’t have to, like, adapt or try to understand people in a different way, but it’s just like talking to your friends and neighbours at home, it’s really, really easy.
I guess it’s something that doesn’t happen very often when you’re on tour, especially when you have that many bands together.
We wanted to have a Swedish bill, a Swedish Death Metal lineup, so these bands band were perfect to have as openers for us.
So, you chose them on purpose also because of that.
Tell me about the live production, you’ve always had a pretty big stage in the latest years, every time I’ve seen you, you were stepping up with new stuff on stage. Is there anything new now compared to maybe this past summer? Or, are you planning something you for next year?
Next year we are not really into, yet. Well, it’s gonna be probably pretty much the same as this one since it’s the same tour, touring cycle for the same album.
We stepped up the game, we have more fire, of course, we have a hydraulic drum riser that goes up, and we have more stage props in general, like small effects with the hammer and more inflatables on stage so it looks more massive and catches the audience, you know.
You managed to have fire also in closed venues like here?
This one we don’t have fire, no, and yesterday we didn’t have fire in Zurich as well because they didn’t allow us [laughs].
You joined the band in 2016, when all the other members had been in Amon Amarth for almost 20 years, more than 20 years now. Was it challenging for you to fit together with four other people who had worked together for such a long time?
It was kinda easy, we connected in a very easy way, really fast.
I tend to think of myself as an easy guy [chuckles].
Yeah, it was really, really cool and now it feels like I’ve known the guys forever, you know, we just clicked somehow, everyone.
There are no issues regarding opinions or anything, they said to me when I started, “Now you are a part of the band, so now you have one fifth vote in everything”.
That’s pretty cool of them.
Yeah, it’s really democratic.
And I guess that while on tour you all have different routines: did it take long for you, did you find yours?
Yes, I like to go sightseeing in different cities, and someone usually always wants to come with me.
That’s pretty much it, I like to go shopping as well, check the local stores… I’m not really into food culture, but, like, you can go… in the US we went shooting with rifles and doing big rollercoasters [laughs]…
When in Rome…
Yeah, you take what you can get and it’s fun to do different stuff instead of sitting around here, in the venues.
Some months ago, after two years and a half in the band your first album with Amon Amarth, “Berserker”, was released. How was the recording process, especially compared to your expectations?
Well, normally, when I have been in the studio with my other bands, we took one week and we did the drums, and then there were one week for bass, then one for guitars and so on.
With this recording we didn’t do that, we started with the drums for one song, and then we finished that song.
So, it was drums, bass, guitar, guitar, add-ons and vocals and then that song was done and then we started the next one, so I was always busy, because every third or fourth day I could start a new song.
Since we were in Los Angeles it was really good to do that because otherwise it would have been one week there, and then four weeks doing nothing, so it was really cool to do it that way.
I think the feedback from the band for my ideas and the things I had to add to the songs was really good.
It felt good! No problem at all, just a cool, professional recording session.
You already anticipated a bit my next question: did you take part in the songwriting?
It basically goes, one of the other guys sends me a riff, they have a drum idea to it, and I pretty much stick to it but add my own flavour to it and come up with different patterns and accents and stuff like that, so I take my personal touch to it.
I don’t want to change to much of what the original idea is because there is always a thought behind it.
Okay, so I imagine the songwriting didn’t happen in the studio. How long did it take to write the album?
I don’t know, during the last tour, or even the two last tours, so from the previous cycle, we started working on new ideas.
So, some songs are really, really old and then we just had a long time off before we started recording “Berserker” and then we just sent files back and forward to prepare before we entered the studio.
Obviously after so many years and albums the style of Amon Amarth is pretty well defined, but you already said that you try to add you own flavour to the songs.
Do you feel that having to follow the “Amon Amarth style” is limiting, perhaps if you didn’t have the legacy of the bands pushing you, you would do some things differently, or are you perfectly comfortable with how things are?
Our previous drummers, especially Fredrik, he had a very inspirational style of playing for me, since I’ve been a fan of the band for a long time before I joined, so I kinda learned that style.
When I play the old songs I don’t feel that I have to change anything or put some other touch to it, some songs have signature fills, signature patterns, you gotta stick to those stuff because otherwise people would be like, “What the fuck happened in this song” and feel like it’s not the same song anymore.
So, I try to stick to it as much as possible, but then we have more straight forward songs like ‘Pursuit of Vikings’ and ‘Death in Fire’, I like to spice those songs up with different, like, ride patterns, or kick drum patterns that I just play along and increase the speed, so I get, not just more pleasure playing it, but also add my personal touch to it.
After three years in the band I guess you experience a bit of everything with the band in terms of places to play, venues and festivals all around the world, in terms of types of production and so on.
Is there anything that you’d like to do next that you never did with the band, or maybe that the band never did in general? Like, playing somewhere particular, adding something to your show…
That’s a good question… I don’t know, to be honest [chuckles].
I didn’t really think too much on the future because I like to focus on what’s now.
I can’t really think of anything right now, maybe going to bigger places, trying to step up even more, because you kinda have to, but it’s really hard in this genre because it’s quite limited to the audience.
We’ll see! We always try to make it bigger and better, we’ll see what the future holds.
Do you think that Amon Amarth could get to the place where Iron Maiden and Metallica are today, headlining big festival…
We already do [laughs].
Of course, but you know what I mean, the big venues, this kind of things.
I don’t know, there’s been talk about this online, I heard, someone had to take over when those guys retire.
Of course it would be an honour, but I don’t know, we’ll see what the future brings, probably not.
But there are other bands, like Volbeat and Disturbed, they are already further ahead of us, I think.
I guess it depends a bit on the country, I’ve seen Volbeat here in Milan last month and they played in a venue which is a bit smaller than this one, I think. So, at least in Italy, I guess you are bigger than Volbeat.
Okay, that’s cool, yeah, but let’s say in Sweden Disturbed played the Globen Arena that’s like, I don’t know how many people…
I think it’s around 15.000
Yeah, something like that, and we could never pull that off in Sweden, so.
I guess you could do Annexet [Ed. the capacity of Annexet is 4000 people].
Yeah, we are gonna play Annexet when head home.