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About a month before the release of Arch Enemy's new CD "Anthems Of Rebellion", the second one with frontwoman Angela Gossow, I talked to Chris Amott about the diversity, recording and production of the new album, Angela's voice, the relationship with his brother Michael, playing guitar and playboys that look like Pamela Anderson;)
I have been listening to "Anthems Of Rebellion" for a few days only. It seems more diverse and passionate, though still as heavy and intense... how do you see that?
It's probably the most thought-through album we've ever done. We decided to use Andy Sneap to record it, he mixed the last album and he did such a good job that we figured that we let him do the whole thing, so he actually came down to our rehearsal room in Sweden and we did a pre-production demo. He brought his laptop and a Pro Tools system with him, so we did that for a couple of weeks, and did a demo and then we went back to England and recorded everything again. We payed a lot of attention to details and arrangements. And a lot of the arrangements we changed around a lot, you know, some of the songs we've had for a long time and some of the stuff we just wrote before the album.
Yeah, I think it is very detailed and you can hear that there's been a lot of work put into that and the production, I always love Andy Sneap's productions, so it's pretty cool. And Angela's vocals, she sounds definitely more brutal on this one, she reminds me a little bit more of Mille Petrozza on this album.
Well, yes of course we played about 100 shows last year supporting the "Wages Of Sin" album, and she's got a vocal coach and she's breathing differently and stuff, so her voice has changed a bit.
I've read in an older interview with herself that she changed her vocal style a little bit for Arch Enemy because the music is so different from what she used to do.
Yeah, she's singing a lot higher now.
So I was wondering if she's now going back to her original style a little bit more or is she just developing her own style?
She's developing her own style, I think.
And a surprising detail for me was to hear your vocal parts on a few songs. Have you been planning to add some different kind of vocals or did you get the idea just by writing these songs?
For each album we want to have something new, something different. We get easily bored playing and rehearsing stuff for tour, we prefer jamming, developing our musical abilities and finding new stuff. So we decided that "maybe Chris could try some clean vocals", so we played around with that and it ended up being not that much, it's not taking over I mean.
No, it shouldn't but it's nice detail, it adds a lot to it I think. I don't really know your other band, Armageddon, but I believe you handle all the vocals there?
Yeah, that's true. So that was really were it came from, I guess.
I still have to check that out, just to listen how your voice really sounds because from a few parts you don't really hear all that much - you got me curious.
Are there still many fans that prefer Johan over Angela? I still come across some on the forum, personally I prefer Angela's vocals by far.
Yeah, they got different styles you know, there's always gonna be people wanting the old style back, everybody's got their right on an opinion but that is something we don't have to care about.
But do you hear it a lot still?
No, it's mostly people positive about Angela.
And how do other bands comment on you having a female vocalist, are they jealous you're have a good looking girl on board or is she accepted as one of the boys and more judged for her vocal capability?
Angela can hang out with the guys, I mean, nobody's jealous, that would be stupid.
No, I mean like jokes or I could imagine that the guys among each other would say something like "oh, I wish we would have a chick like that in the band".
No, there should be more women in music, in metal music in general. You know, we got her in the band because she's the right musician and her voice is great.
I agree, I was just wondering if she is really accepted for what she can do.
Yeah, we didn't have any problems with that.
At the festivals you have been playing this summer, have you played a lot of new songs?
Only one actually, we had such a busy schedule, we didn't have time to rehearse that much so we played one new song which we're also going to do a video for, "We Will Rise".
How was that received by the audience?
Great I think, good reactions.
It's not one of the real favorites for me I'd say, there's a lot of keyboards and everything in there and it's a kind of different atmosphere which is nice on the whole album but I wouldn't say it's representative for the whole album... not as brutal I think.
It's probably the most different track we've ever done.
And on those festivals, was there a favorite festival you've done this year because I've seen you've done several?
Festivals are always pretty hectic, you don't get a soundcheck and stuff and these shows are usually full of technical difficulties.
Yeah, but there's always a special atmosphere, isn't there?
Yeah, I had a lot of fun at the Fields Of Rock, I think it was in Holland.
I wasn't there, actually I've never seen Arch Enemy live, don't ask me how I managed that;)
Hehe, we will be playing in Holland in September.
Yeah, we probably will be in Belgium or in Germany because we live in the south and especially with Nevermore, I'm gonna make sure I'm gonna be at several shows:)
How did the recording of the album go? Like you said, Andy was in charge of the whole process this time (last time he only did the final mix)?
Right, we recorded the whole thing in Gothenburg, Studio Fredman, then Michael and Daniel went over to England and did the mixing with him. This time it was all in England, so I actually ended up spending the most time of everbody there, I was there from the beginning, to kind of oversee things I guess. We co-produced the album, all of us - in a way. It was hard work you know, Andy Sneap's a pretty serious producer, it's hard work, starting at 10, finished at 8 in the evening, like every day, it's like going to work. So he was like cracking the whip, making everyone work hard, hehehe... which is good:)
I just wanted to say that, it's a good thing. You don't get a good album when you're lazy and you're partying all the time I guess.
That's true, we've done that in the past.
A lot of bands probably did that, hehe. What are you're favorite songs on the album?
I actually like "We Will Rise", and "Dead Eyes See No Future" is one of my favorites...
For me it's still hard to really tell the favorites because I've been listening to it for a just few days now but "Instinct" is one that stands out for now.
I like that one as well! I think it's really diverse, the album...
Yeah, exactly! That is what I love about it.
Thank you. I think that's important, I mean, of course there are classic albums that are all the same all the way through, like "Reign In Blood" and so forth, but we'd like to do all our different styles.
I had the feeling that over all the albums that it's getting more and more diverse with each album.
Yeah, we love all the old stuff that we've played and we don't want to lose any of it, so we try to incorporate everything into our music, the fast Slayer stuff, the progressive stuff, the power metal stuff, all that...
...and still stay heavy.
Most of the songs you write together with your brother Michael?
Not so much this time acutally, it used to be like that. This time it was more like we would meet in the rehearsal studio with the rest of the band or maybe just Daniel and present our stuff like "I made this riff yesterday, maybe you can play it like this..." and it was more of a group thing like this time actually
I was about to ask if there is a structure in how you write the songs, so this time it was more jamming in the rehearsal studio?
Yeah, some of the things we changed so many times, I mean, it's like we took half of a song and put it into another song, or change the tempo... it's a very long process.
Does each one of you or in general the members of the whole band that contribute to the songwriting, does each one of them have their own speciality?
Apart from your own instruments I mean. What about you and Michael, with the guitar thing?
I pretty much do all the harmony parts on top of Michael's... he does the melody and I do the chords underneath. Daniel has his twist on everything, because he'll do like crazy rhythms and stuff that makes the riffs sound different. Sharlee, he has a lot of ideas for arrangements as well. Angela, of course, she has her point of view... she only sings, but she's got her own spin on stuff.
For the guitar parts, how do you two decide who's going to solo and do you ever fight about that?
No. No, we don't fight:)
Is there no competition at all?
No, none whatsoever. We play so differently. It's usually pretty clear what we should play on, what parts.
Just what the song is asking for.
Exactly. It sounds boring but we don't fight, hehehe!
Geez! And I wanted some juicy stories;)
Yeah, sorry!;) We're all good friends. A big happy family:)
You just said your styles differ. I think you like to play fast things and Mike's a little more bluesy?
Michael... he started listening to punk rock, forming bands before we could play properly, he was just like into the whole image thing. He's always been like a band leader and telling everybody what to dress and what the cover should look like, you know stuff like that. He's a great player, he is self-tought, he is very emotional. He doesn't analyze what he's doing, he doesn't really know that much about, he just plays what feels right. I tend to more think about stuff. I mean, when I got into playing guitar I was into technical guitar players, you know, sitting in my bedroom practising scales and stuff. It's a totally different background. Of course Michael tought me some basic stuff in the beginning but then I was pretty much on my own, sitting and playing along to albums and stuff, read a bit about music theory and stuff like that. I'm the more educated one;)
I see, you're smarter, hehe!
I'm very smart, hahaha. No, I'm not.
Hehehe... so you have different influences and tastes also probably?
No, we pretty much have the same taste, you know, we both enjoy the same guitar players but we play differently, we draw influences in a different way I guess.
And you also developed yourself in a different direction because of your own skills maybe.
Exactly, yeah. I used to practise for hours but nowaways when I pick up the guitar I try to do something new or write something.
Did you have a good relationship with Michael when you were still a kid? I'm just wondering because I have an older brother and I didn't really get close with him until we were both adults.
I'm probably getting closer to him now. He moved away when he was 17, playing with Carcass, he wasn't home that much, on top he's 8 years older, so...
Yeah, my brother is 6 years older but he moved out of the house when he was 18, so it's a kind of a similar thing.
And now we're pretty much on the same... I mean the older you get, less of the age difference will come out.
But you must have looked up to him back then?
Oh yeah, totally. I mean he came home from England and brought the Carcass recordings and I thought these were pretty cool and he told me what they had done on tour and I thought "wow, I wanna be a rock star", haha!
Is it still like that or are the tables turned by now maybe?
Now it's just a part of our lives, it's a job. I don't really think about it, I mean I haven't done anything else really. I was in Japan when I was 19, never had a real job, hehehe. It's been a struggle, we didn't have a lot of money in the beginning but it's my life, i don't really reflect about it, it's just an every day thing, playing music and living for metal basically.
And now you're looking up to each other for the things you both do.
And was he the reason you picked up a guitar in the first place?
Probably, yeah, one of the reasons.
Who influenced you in the beginning? Well, you brother, obviously...
I went to visit his flat, he had guitars laying around, I would pick them up. I got good pretty fast, you know, I just got totally obsessed and stayed home the whole summer vacation. I wouldn't get to the beach or anything with my friends, I've just been in my room. I got up in the morning, play the guitar for an hour and then go down and have breakfast, then go back up and play some more.
You mean you didn't play during breakfast?;))
I know a lot of people who do that!
Yeah, driving my parents crazy!
You had to give them a break every now and then;)
The first couple of years I was just learning, I loved playing - I still do - but nowadays I don't practise that much.
What advise or specific tips do have for beginning guitar players?
When I was learning guitar we didn't have tablatures. You now can buy all these books, like e.g. Masters Of Puppets with the tablatures and you can try read the music - we didn't have that but I used it. I think it's better to learn by ear, just listen to the albums and try to listen to what they are playing. I think that helps a lot, it makes you develop your own style in a different way and it develops your ear. I'm pretty quick to pick up new riffs and stuff. Michael shows me his riffs and I pretty much know them at once.
So you're saying you develop a better feel for things when you listen to it instead of learning it from a book?
Yeah, exactly. You recognize types of notes and scales and chords. I practise on my own actually from hearing a pop song, I try to listen what chords sequence it is without having a guitar...
It's in your head.
I don't really do it consciously, I just analyze all music I hear.
I think that's logical, I mean, if music is your life then that's what you look at. Someone who makes paintings and makes art will look at the cover first, probably, and will always analyze "how did they make this?".
You guys are very popular in Japan, I know the people are very different there, polite and everything. How do they behave at the shows?
We call it "controlled crazyness". They really let go of themselves, but it's like when we stop playing a song they scream really loud for ten seconds and then they are totally quiet to listen to what Angela is going to say and present a new song. And it's crazy like Beatles-hysterics something, you know, people waiting in the hotel lobby 24 hours a day, waiting for us to come down, so maybe you'll get up at 5 o'clock in the evening, or night, you're gonna go out and get some food or something or cigarettes, and there will be like girls sitting there, wanting autographs and they've developed the pictures they'd taken the day before, stuff like that.
How's that, to see that for the first time?
It's been growing, so we're getting used to it.
But how was it the first time, do you remember?
That was bizarre, really strange. It's like you go there for two weeks and feel like a rock star and then come home.
You come home and get your feet back on the ground again.
Which is a good thing too, I guess.
What has been your favorite country to tour - next to Japan because I think Japan is your favorite country?
I enjoyed South America when we played there in 1998. There are a lot of countries we haven't been to. We're going to Korea, the 8th of August and I like to get to Russia, we're playing in Hungary in October, that's gonna be fun as well... all countries that we haven't played yet. America can be pretty boring actually.
Depends on the place probably?
It's so long to travel, it's such a big country. But I like playing the big cities, like L.A. and New York, we usually draw a big crowd, but it can be hard when you're playing the wednesday in South Carolina or whatever, it can be pretty tough.
Well, when I read about the Los Angeles crowd I often read that people just stand there with their arms folded and just watch you and don't show any emotion.
In Los Angeles?
Yeah, in general from bands you often hear that the L.A. crowd is really difficult and not that enthusiastic and just standing there, watching and judging what you do and maybe waiting for a mistake or something, I don't know.
Not in L.A. actually, that's been really great, they just go crazy. But I know the feeling, we had that in other places. In Germany a lot, actually.
Yeah, I think so.
I don't know... well, I haven't been to all those other countries of course, so who am I to compare but I always love the shows in Germany because I think the metal crowd is at least better in Germany than it is in Holland. Belgium is not so bad either.
It used to be like that, but now we're getting more popular I guess.
Do you like the package that you're going to tour with in the US?
You mean Hate Eternal?
Yeah, and Evergrey and Black Dahlia Murder. I love Evergrey but I thought it was an odd name in that bill, because I couldn't imagine Hate Eternal fans accepting a band like Evergrey on that stage with their keyboards and samples and all.
I don't know... I know Hate Eternal are nice guys, we've toured with them before. It should be OK.
And then you're off to tour Europe with Nevermore.
Yeah, 17th of September we start in Sweden: Gothenburg, Stockholm and Malmö, and then we go down to Southport in England - we headline the English show cause we do better than Nevermore in England. But the rest of this tour it's them headlining.
I think it's a pretty deadly combination. Like I said, I'm gonna make sure I'll catch several shows if I can and finally see Arch Enemy for the first time because that's about time. And my husband is a photographer so he is really eager to get pictures of you guys as well, so I hope it's gonna work out.
You should come up and say hi!
Yeah, I will, I'll introduce myself, definitely.
What have you been listening to lately or what do you like to listen to in general?
I'm listening to a friend of mine... do you know a band called Blind Dog?
I've heard the name but that's about it.
They're a stoner rock band and they are from the same city, I know the guys. The singer has a project which is kind of 70's progressive stuff, like Yes or something, there's this demo he's done and I actually played some solos on it and I'm listening to that a lot. I really think it's really great.
You played solos on that?
Yeah. And I've been listening to all the old stuff, Scorpions and Judas Priest and stuff like that.
And what are your favorite guitar players or your heroes?
I don't know. Usually good bands are more important. You know the good bands, all big bands, a lot of them don't have that great players, like virtuoso... like Judas Priest or Kirk Hammet, he's not a great player.
No, I don't like him much.
But when they come together when they play live it's really great. I have guitar heroes of course, I like Uli John Roth from Scorpions, Michael Schenker, I like all the Thin Lizzy guitar players...
I saw them live recently live for the first time.
With John Sykes?
I saw that show, too. He plays good.
He still got it.
Think he's good looking?;))
Nah, and I wasn't that close up, hehe...
I think he looks like Pamela Anderson because his chest is so big, so muscular and he's so tanned and the hair and everything, looks bizarre, looks like a playboy, hahaha!
But he always looked like that, only his hair used to be longer.
Yeah I know, he's muscular but a bit fat as well;)
I'm gonna check those pics of my husband out, haha!
I've actually gone through all my questions. Is there something you would like to add for our readers?
See you all - our great amazing fans - on tour! I'm looking forward to every show and will do my best to play my best and I hope people will enjoy it. Looking forward to going on tour and playing the new stuff.
That'll be great, I'm looking forward to hearing it.
Cool. Hey, Chris, thank you very much for the interview, I'll see you on tour!
See you in Belgium or Germany!
Pic 1 and 3 © Rudy De Doncker of www.rudysphotos.com
submitted by Marlies 01.09.2003