by Steve Patrick
– Senior Columnist —
Swedish/Canadian/American melodic Death Metal masters Arch Enemy made a stop in Columbus, Ohio at the inaugural Metal show of Cap City Concerts LLC at the Northland Performing Arts Center as part of the War Eternal world tour in conjunction with the Summer Slaughter Tour.
Guitarist, founder, and primary songwriter Michael Amott sat down with Hardrock Haven to discuss touring, the recent addition of guitarist Jeff Loomis,and the plans for the next record.
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Read the full interview below:
HARDROCK HAVEN: How are you doing today?
MICHAEL AMOTT: I’m doing great. Fantastic.
HARDROCK HAVEN: You’re headlining the Summer Slaughter tour.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Haha, yes.
HARDROCK HAVEN: How has that been going so far?
MICHAEL AMOTT: Uh, it’s a different tour. A different kind of package than we’re used to, but that’s good. That’s what we wanted. It’s a different crowd. And I think we’re like eight or nine days into it. Ten days maybe.
HARDROCK HAVEN: I know you recently played some festivals in Europe. Does anything stand out as a highlight from that run?
MICHAEL AMOTT: I’d say, uhm, we started our festival season kind of early. April 29th, I think we played our first summer festival in Germany, and it was raining. It was one of the coldest shows I’ve ever played, I think. And then it got progressively better from there.
HARDROCK HAVEN: [laughs]
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, we had a run in May where we played a lot of French shows and those were killer. Then we played we played one in a town called Jarny that was fantastic, where we headlined. I think, you know, they’re all great, in their own way. We’ve played some pretty big ones like, uh, Bang Your Head is one. There are these really big, established festivals in Germany. You have your Wacken, of course, which we played last summer. But you know, there are ones called With Full Force, Bang Your Head, Summer Breeze. They’re really, really big festivals, and they’re always fun to play. But I like playing the smaller ones as well. Yeah, we had a great summer in Europe. Absolutely fantastic.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Obscura was supposed to be on this tour but had to cancel due to some visa issues. Has Arch Enemy ever experienced problems like that?
MICHAEL AMOTT: Never.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Never.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Never. We’ve always had our paperwork perfectly in place.
HARDROCK HAVEN: It sounds kind of like the State department kind of screwed them.
MICHAEL AMOTT: I keep reading this about other bands, and, knock on wood, you know, it’s never happened to us.
HARDROCK HAVEN: That’s good.
MICHAEL AMOTT: We’ve been touring in the states since 2000.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Is there something that you find challenging about touring in the US? A problem that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Uh, maybe a lack of audience. [laughs] Maybe, in a way. Compared to, you know, just the metal scene in general is a bit smaller than it is, well, it’s quite a bit smaller than it is around the rest of the world, I feel.
HARDROCK HAVEN: We’ve got some picking up to do.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, but it goes a little bit up and down in America. It’s very trendy, like, trend-sensitive is the word, I guess. It’s very sensitive to trends. So you have certain things that will be in for a little while. Like Scandinavian metal will be in for a couple of years and then it will be folk metal. You know, it’s like, it kind of comes and goes. And then you got all the…, you know, it’s different. It’s just really different. I think people have a hard time focusing or staying with a style here. That’s just my impression, but I mean, I could be wrong. What do I know? I don’t live here.
HARDROCK HAVEN: It definitely is underground.
MICHAEL AMOTT: It’s very, yeah, I guess that would be it, you know, like I feel like where Arch Enemy is an underground metal band. The music we play is underground. It’s not mainstream at all. It’s not meant to be mainstream. But we have success on a higher scale, a bigger scale, in Europe, and around, you know, the rest of the world really. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s just here, it just seems quite underground. Yeah, it’s very like, it’s really like a cult thing, you know. Like the people that know their metal, it’s like it isn’t really… which is weird, because it’s such a big country. You’d think there’d be more people.
HARDROCK HAVEN: You’d think.
MICHAEL AMOTT: But I think it’s just hard to reach people here as well. We can’t really… you know, people… you always read on Facebook the next day, “I didn’t even know you guys were playing Cleveland.” You know, okay well, sorry. See you in a couple of years, I guess.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Like us on Facebook? Do a little homework?
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, I guess people just… it’s hard to find information. Maybe there’s just information overload. I don’t know, maybe we just suck. [laughs]
HARDROCK HAVEN: No, I mean, I think with War Eternal and everything, I know a lot more people, at least that I know in the US, are talking about Arch Enemy. So you’re doing something right.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Thank you. Yeah, I think we’ve done very, very well. I can’t complain. I mean, I’m the least bitter musician, considering how long I’ve been doing this, I’m the least bitter person you will ever find. I’m very, very happy. Things have been going fantastically well. And I think now we’ve got to fight a little bit. When we come to the US, it feels like we’ve got to, sort of, you know, fight a little bit for it. And that’s maybe not wrong. I think we’re used to getting a lot of love. It’s just a bit more of a challenge. But it’s always fun. The fans that we do have here are great. It’s great meeting them.
HARDROCK HAVEN: That’s good. Well, speaking of War Eternal, I know you reworked the song “Stolen Life” with Jeff on guitar.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yes.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Why that song?
MICHAEL AMOTT: Uh. Because it had these little parts where we could possibly… it’s kind of a song that’s very… it didn’t have… I only have like a little solo at the end of that and there was kind of room to add a couple of little bits from Jeff on there. You know, it was just an idea that came up, really from our Japanese record label initially. We were doing a tour over there in April, I believe, and they wanted to release a single to precede that. And they said it would be great to include the new guitar player, Jeff Loomis. And I said yeah, but I don’t know how. Then we came up with that idea. It was easy for Jeff to do in his home studio. Of course, you know when… you know, it’s just an addition. The original version is always going to be there. It’s on the album, forever, and this is just kind of an addition to that. Something different. Something for people to listen to, get into, or not. It doesn’t really matter to us. [laughs] But it was fun to include him as well.
HARDROCK HAVEN: It gives the fans a taste.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, exactly. I mean it’s going to be a while until we make a new album that will most likely include Jeff Loomis so this is a little taste of what it might possibly…
HARDROCK HAVEN: You anticipated my next question. Is that the direction you think it might go?
MICHAEL AMOTT: No. No. I think it’s going to be… it’s going to be different. I think all of our albums are quite different.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Well, no, I mean, with Jeff.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Oh, the way it’s going to go?
HARDROCK HAVEN: Yeah.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Okay.
HARDROCK HAVEN: If Jeff is going to be in the equation.
MICHAEL AMOTT: He wants to do it very much. We want him very much to stay, so it’s just one of those things we kind of… we both want it. And I don’t see why it wouldn’t end up being him playing with me on the next album. But then, you know, I don’t know. We’re going to write the next album next year. You know, because we’re so busy touring all of this year. And we’re going to tour into next year as well for a while so it’s going to be a world tour that’s been like two years basically. And then probably take a little time off, live life outside of a tour bus and an airplane for a little bit, and then get back into writing and recording a new album. But I believe that, you know, I believe in waiting until you have something to say as a band as well as a musician. Not just having deadlines.
HARDROCK HAVEN: It’s time…
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, exactly. You know, okay, I guess we got to get some riffs together and do this. It’s more fun, I’m kind of one of these lazy guys. I like to wait for inspiration to hit me, and then do it.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Nothing wrong with that.
MICHAEL AMOTT: But I think we already got bits and pieces written, so there are already, like, fragments of songs, demos…
HARDROCK HAVEN: But you think it will differ from War Eternal?
MICHAEL AMOTT: I think so, yeah. I think it’s going to be better, actually.
HARDROCK HAVEN: That’s always the goal, right?
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah. [laughs]
HARDROCK HAVEN: There wasn’t a lot of time to rehearse with Jeff before starting the tour. How did that first show in France with him go?
MICHAEL AMOTT: Great. You know what? It was fantastic. He came in. We played our last show in Cleveland on that tour with Kreator. My brother was filling in on guitar at that point for the last nine shows of that tour. And my brother flew home. He lives in New York city, so he flew home to New York after the Cleveland show. And we all got on a plane, landed at 8:00 in the morning in Frankfurt, Germany. Jeff was already there waiting for us. He’d been learning the songs for about a week or so. And we went straight into a rehearsal room from getting off the plane, into a rehearsal room in Frankfurt, Germany. Worked on the setlist that we were doing for Europe. Yeah. Got into a tour bus at night. Woke up in Lyon, in France, and played a show that night. And he did fantastically well. And it’s just been getting better and better since then. But for the first show, it was incredible.
HARDROCK HAVEN: That’s amazing.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Well, he’s a talented fellow.
HARDROCK HAVEN: When the band parted with Nick Cordle, you mentioned this, that your brother came in and filled in for a few shows. What was it like, playing with Christopher again?
MICHAEL AMOTT: It’s always fun playing with Chris. I mean, it’s very natural. Very natural thing. We’ve done it for so long together. We grew up playing guitar together. Everything was kind of… it was very easy.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Did he offer or did you ask?
MICHAEL AMOTT: I asked him. When the situation arose, I called him, and he said “yeah, I could be there tomorrow.” And basically he was.
HARDROCK HAVEN: It’s always good to count on your brother.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, yeah. [laughs]
HARDROCK HAVEN: It was nice for the old school fans too, because a lot of that set was the older stuff.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah.
HARDROCK HAVEN: I would imagine Chris didn’t really know the…
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, he didn’t really know the… yeah, he already, you know. We had to sort of go back a little bit, change the setlist back. But then he picked up a couple of the new ones as well. So that was kind of special. We didn’t miss a show though, so that was great.
HARDROCK HAVEN: That’s impressive, yeah. Well, where do you stand with the new Spiritual Beggars record?
MICHAEL AMOTT: Well, yeah, we’re going into the studio in September, and doing that. So we booked studio time. And basically I’m going to work until the end of September. And kind of hopefully finish it around September or October as well. And just kind of have that in the can for next year. Arch Enemy’s going to slow down a bit. Towards the spring time next year, put this out. Put the new Spiritual Beggars out, do a few shows. It’s not going to be… it’s nowhere near as extensive, you know, or as rigorous a touring schedule as Arch Enemy is. It’s just more of a fun project to do. But I like to do something, you know. I don’t like to sit and do nothing. I like to get out and play. It’s kind of like a hobby, almost. It’s just something very different.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Yeah, I respect that it’s completely different from what you do in Arch Enemy. Obviously you’re playing guitar in both.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, yeah. I’d never really do a second band that sounded kind of like my first band because I don’t really see the point of that.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Well, people do that for some reason.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, I know. But I’d rather just do something totally different. Just kind of explore a different side of guitar playing and music and stuff like that.
HARDROCK HAVEN: It seems that, and Spiritual Beggars is one of the first that I can think of, but there are lot of those bands popping up now that are echoing back to the 60s and 70s. Why do you think that is? Is it just a more honest sound? I’m thinking like Kadavar and Graveyard.
MICHAEL AMOTT: I haven’t really followed that scene.
HARDROCK HAVEN: It seems to be popping up.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, but there’s always been, like, bands that have been influenced by the… there’s just a lot of great music there. I’ve always been interested in the roots of hard rock and heavy metal. You know, I went back, kind of on my own, did some exploring, just kind of found bands. Obviously I always knew about Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and Kiss and bands like that. But digging a bit deeper, I found other treasures. You know, it’s like, wow, this is great music. Yeah, I kind of wanted to do a project in the same vein. But this is going back to the early 90s.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Uriah Heep versus Deep Purple?
MICHAEL AMOTT: Uhm. Deep Purple is obviously the bigger and more successful band, and also has the most, like, very fantastic musicianship, you know. Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover in the band. They’re like, kind of, virtuosos. You know, with their instruments and craft. So probably them. But you now, I have a huge passion for Uriah Heep as well.
HARDROCK HAVEN: I know there’s a Heep cover on the second to the last one, right?
MICHAEL AMOTT: That’s right. Yep. I love them a lot. And they had this really epic… I think Ken Hensley was fantastic. And David Byron was an amazing vocalist as well. So, a lot of epic songs. A lot of great usic there as well. So I love both, but for different reasons. They’re not really that similar. Apart from, they had a lot of…
HARDROCK HAVEN: They had the organs.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Have you given any thought to a live album or DVD with the Alissa-fronted Arch Enemy.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Yeah, we filmed quite a bit of shows here and there. But you know, DVDs are not really… they’re not as popular as they were. And they cost a lot of money to make. To produce, to make a really high quality DVD, like we’ve done in the past. We’ve had two of them, Live Apocalypse and one called, uh, it was Live in Japan. It was from 2008. So I mean those would be like super-high quality products, and you know, it costs a lot of money to produce those things, and I hear now that the market is kind of dead for DVDs. Because most people kind of dial in on YouTube or whatever and watch it there and think “okay, I’ve seen it.”
HARDROCK HAVEN: Maybe a supplement for the next record.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Something like that. We’ve got quite a few shows finished. And we’re editing, actually, a few things now that we’re having done. While we’re out here, people are working on ours stuff back home. So, uhm, there’s going to be some stuff like that available. I mean, the show is killer now. I mean, Alissa’s just a really powerful, new addition to the band. And now we have Jeff as well. And we have stuff filmed from all over Europe. Also in Japan, also in Korea. Some of it just fell into our laps. You know, like in Korea, they said they could just film tonight’s show, with a bunch of cameras, and record it, with pro tools and give it to you. And you know, you can do whatever you want with it. And we said “yes please.” So we have that, and that’s being edited. But you know, I don’t really know what it is going to be used for at this moment. It’s not like… we haven’t really got a planned live release.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Still, it’s nice to have.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Definitely, yeah. And fans will see it, as well.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Last question here for you. Any work made towards, you said you did a little bit of writing, but how far along would you say, the number of songs for the next record?
MICHAEL AMOTT: Uhm, I don’t know. I mean, I demoed a couple of songs that I had ideas for. We had like a week off, and I went and demoed stuff with Daniel, our drummer. He’s also a really good… he’s kind of my, uhm, recording engineer as well. You know, recording my ideas, and he’s really good with programming things and doing stuff, so we got a couple of songs down. Those might turn into real Arch Enemy songs as well. They’re really good. But, I always say it’s not a real Arch Enemy song until the whole band has played it. I still believe in getting into the jam room as well. We have a really beautiful studio as well, where we jam. Everything’s set up and we can just go in there and work stuff out. I like to do that as well. It’s a more old school, organic approach. Because ideas come out of that that you wouldn’t come up with in front of a computer or something like that.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Plus I would imagine that stuff you write yourself might not necessarily work with everybody. I don’t know if that’s true. Once everybody plays it together as a band.
MICHAEL AMOTT: All my riffs are gold. Everybody knows that.
HARDROCK HAVEN: You don’t have a bad riff.
MICHAEL AMOTT: [laughs]
HARDROCK HAVEN: Modesty.
MICHAEL AMOTT: My middle name.
HARDROCK HAVEN: Well, Michael, thank you very much for doing this. I really appreciate it.
MICHAEL AMOTT: Well of course. Thank you very much.
[Transcribed by Justin DelPrince]