One of the most awaited concerts of the year is almost here. Swedish metal giants Opeth, who will be headlining the Kingfisher Summer Storm Festival 2012 on February 5th in Palace Grounds, Bangalore, have just arrived in India. The band met the press and answered a few questions, excerpts of which are below.
Did any foreign bands encourage you to come to Bangalore?
Opeth: No, to be honest. We haven’t talked to any other bands about being here.
Have you heard about the Bangalore music scene? It’s known for it’s rock and metal scene.
Opeth: Yes, we’ve been told that this is the place to be if you’re a hard rock/ metal band. Since early on, we’ve had plans to come here. People told us that we should come play Bangalore, and now we’re here!
Talking about ‘Heritage’, and it’s reception by fans…
Opeth: The reception for all our albums has been pretty good, including for the new one too. But I think the new one has been more of a watershed record. Maybe more so than the ‘Watershed’ album that has been dividing the fan base. Some people absolutely hate the new album and some people absolutely love it. We probably lost a few fans and probably gained a few fans. But we’re not one of those who likes to keep it safe and keep our career going. We’re in this for the love of music and the career is always secondary to our love for experimentation and our love for music.
How do you deal with the availability of downloads and piracy in music?
Opeth: That’s a reality that musicians have to cope with. We tour a lot to make up for that. We’re not staying just to touring, but I do feel that it will be great to spend more time with the greater side of being in a band and writing music. I know how to download porn, but I don’t know how to download music and stuff. I’m one of those guys who likes physical copies of stuff. What makes me happy is to see the return of vinyl… You know, people are buying vinyl these days. So we still have hopes for the future. We’ve never been a big selling band anyway. We fortunately still enjoy touring!
You’re doing a North American tour later this year with Ghost and Mastodon, which are very different styles oof music. What’s your take on that?
Opeth: It’s a tour, you know. Mastodon is one of the first few bands that I’ve been interested in. And Ghost is Swedish and they’re kind of hyped and stuff like that, you know. I like them… they sound a bit like Mercyful Fate. This tour is, as far as I understand, is a big thing in the U.S. I like the bands, but for us, it’s just another tour. We don’t go out on tour thinking it’s great being with all these bands. We go there to promote ourselves, you know, first and foremost. I was a bit wary of this tour, actually, because I can’t see the connection. But I’ve warmed up to it since. It’s going to be a nice tour.
You played in Chennai in 2009 at IIT Saarang. What are your expectations this time, as opposed to last time?
Opeth: We’ve got pretty high expectations. It was something that was still talked about- “do you remember that” and this and that… It was a good experience, a bit surreal for us. We were also judging this music contest, which was a bit strange. Like fucking Simon Cowell… you know. But, it was a great experience. The show was great, and as you know there’s a couple of things about the show that wasn’t so great. But we had a really good experience. We’re happy to come back to India. It’s great to interact with the fans on a personal level. It’s one of those experiences that you’ll never forget!
Tell us more about your side projects… like what’s happening with Steven Wilson.
Opeth: We’d recorded a record, called Storm Corrosion. He bought a new house, and he basically wanted me to show me his house. He’d said he has a tennis court and I was like “I’m going to kick your ass”. And I just went there to hang out. We’d become friends, and I guess we both knew that we’re going to write music together, because we hadn’t in such a long time. We’d sit down in the studio and we’d both great drunk. We’d drink a lot of wine. We didn’t have any idea of what we wanted to do, and we didn’t have any licks and stuff. We just started from scratch, and luckily we ended up sounding nothing like Opeth and Porcupine Tree, which I like to think is something new. It’s coming out on April 16th.
About Per’s departure from the band…
Opeth: Well, Per was fired from the band after we finished the ‘Heritage’ record. Even if I say “fired”, it was more or less a mutual thing. He didn’t really want to be there. It was a stressful relationship in the end for the band for personal reasons. He’s no longer in the band and I haven’t talked to him since he left. Just the other day we went out for a couple of beers and we saw Per, it was great to see him. He was happy. We were never on bad terms, but I think now we’re back on good terms.
About Lindgreen and Lopez…
Opeth: Well, I don’t talk to Lopez. Not that I avoid him or anything, but we just kind of drifted apart. We were never friends when he was in the band either. He disappeared from the scene for a while. But now he’s back. As far as I know, he’s doing fine. But none of us really keep in touch with him.
What are the roots of your music?
Opeth: Well, it’s metal. Very simple. The first record I ever bought was an Iron Maiden record and I got sucked into that whole scene at a very early age. And once I started writing my own songs, I got into the whole death metal and grindcore scene. We used to write improvised versions of grindcore songs, and cover songs by Napalm Death. That was our roots. Somewhere also the way, I discovered progressive rock. After that, my interest in the metal scene seemed to fade away a little bit. Some of the metal bands- it’s hard to tell them apart. In the 80s, you never mixed up Judas Priest with The Scorpions or Iron Maiden. They all have their own identities, which
in the 90s, a lot of bands just sound very similar to each other. Which is why I started looking elsewhere for new music, I guess.
To Axe : The two albums you recorded, i.e. ‘Watershed’ and ‘Heritage’, you had the freedom to do what you wanted. How do you feel about playing the older stuff, which Mr. Lopez had played, especially the groovy/ jazzy bits?
Opeth: It’s fun playing the older stuff, but I feel more connected to the newer stuff, of course.
After the interaction with the band, they once again proved that no matter how big and successful they are, humility is something that they never forget. They obliged fans for pictures and autographs, and also threw some hints around about the set-list (‘Deliverance’, hopefully?). They also signed a guitar to go up on the wall of Hard Rock Cafe. This was the first time an International band visiting India donated their guitar to Hard Rock Cafe. We look forward to a killer gig at Palace Ground today.
Watch this space for an exclusive interview with Opeth, a review of the gig and more!