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Arch Enemy Interview

Arch Enemy Interview / New York City

Jason Levine sits downs with Angela Gossow

Jason:  You’re back here in the States doing a headlining tour for Rise Of The Tyrant. It’s just started this week. How has the tour been so far?

Angela:  We’ve just only played two shows but they have both gone well with very good crowds. The bands on tour also get along really well partially because we all know each other. We have all met each other throughout the years, so that is making things much easier and more pleasant for the current tour...and so this is our third show today...

Jason:  The last US tour you had some interesting problems with the Disney people.

Angela:  Mickey Mouse (*laughs*).

Jason:  Yeah.

Angela:  We didn’t have those problems actually ourselves as that went to the management level. It was just the bands were being told we could not get in there to play. Actually we didn’t really care. I think that was more of a Machine Head thing also...At least being so upset about Disney's decision. It was a bit short notice to receive word that we would not be allowed in the park to play. I can only guess that we lost a bunch of fans who couldn’t come to any other show because it was out of town for them, so that element was very uncool. So fuck Disney (*laughs).

Jason:  They gave the band a lot of free publicity.

Angela:  I don’t know about that but the whole situation was just silly. I mean we are not dangerous people in that sense. I guess it actually came down to that  they just didn't want kids with metal t-shirts in there. That’s was the real reason I think. It’s just like this wholesome family entertainment with all this sick stuff in the background (*laughs*). They obviously didn't want to show it up front so I don’t know. I just know that many of our fans were disappointed.

Jason:  It is too bad things turned out that way.

Jason:  Rise Of The Tyrant is the fourth album that you have done with Arch Enemy. I noticed on this album you changed your vocal style just a little bit by taking out some of the harmonies used on Doomsday Machine. What was your thought process when you went in to record this album?

Angela:  Well our idea for the recording was to kind of make the finished product have more of a LIVE sound. That was just only one vocal take really because you can’t sing in different pitches live at the same time (*laughs*). So that’s how we approached the whole record really. Our previous releases have been very polished efforts and we felt  that we were becoming complacent and needed a few changes. We liked the opportunity to challenge ourselves again so we’re just going to go back to a bit of a more organic recording, back to our roots. That’s how I approached my vocals as well. A very honest & straight up track was what we wanted with our final product, and we think we accomplished that goal.

Jason:  You had an interesting way of getting involved in the band. You were doing interviews at the time. How did that happen?

Angela:  Yeah, I was lucky but you know I really loved what I was doing, it was about the music. I mean there’s different ways how people meet their favorite musicians. Probably some of them only ever get that opportunity for a meeting if they are a musician. But you obviously need to know the band and have your connections or contacts and then actually get the opportunity. I mean they only invite people they know will actually help promote the band and do what they have agreed to do to arrange for a meeting. It’s not Nightwish you’re talking about... Arch Enemy was a very small band at the time. It was just  a coincidence that I gave them my demo tape back then. We were kind of fishing for support gigs with the help of our local venue. I was always giving out our bands demo tapes to all the bands I met live doing interviews. It never was my intention to get the job with Arch Enemy because at that time it wasn’t even available. The thought was that if they ever came through again maybe we can get lucky & support them (*laughs*).

Jason:  At that time when people thought about female singers they thought of bands like Nightwish and Lacuna Coil. Nothing really in the death metal genre.

Angela:  Not really, in fact not at all. When I joined Arch Enemy not too many female vocals bands were that popular or had any big record deals either. There were no household names in female metal at that time and quite honeslty I had never even heard of Nightwish or Lacuna Coil then. I mean for starters I come from a very extreme vocals background so I was just listening to extreme metal and there were no chicks in extreme metal (*laughs*). I did know of Holy Moses, but that’s more of a thrash metal sound. They were well, not as big or whatever, but they were from Germany as well as had a devout following in that genre of metal. So back then there wasn't this whole operatic sounding version of metal circulating around as there is today. Lacuna Coil started getting popular around the same time as well I think. Myself, I wasn't looking for any music that featured female vocals that weren't in my aggressive style. I’m also really not the type of person who looks for idols really either. When I tried out for the band I wasn’t trying to be somebody I knew or grew up admiring, I just thought to myself I’m going to try out for the band being myself using my sound, style & approach. I just wanted to sound natural and see how it went.

Jason:  Have you always liked death metal sound?

Angela:  Yes I have always enjoyed extreme metal.

Jason:  When you look at some newer bands that have come out since you pioneered this genre. We’ve had bands like Walls of Jericho and Light This City...

Angela:  I think its awesome because we need more extreme metal bands that feature female vocalists...

Jason:  ...And other bands where female singers are now able to push the envelope because of what you have accomplished with Arch Enemy. Have you spoken to any of these people and have they told you what an influence you have been on their careers?

Angela:  Actually, yeah it happened recently with Laura from Light This City when she interviewed me for Revolver magazine. She mentioned to me during that interview that I was one of the people that influenced her and that’s kind of the reason she got into the aggressive style of vocals if only because she knew about my material in Arch Enemy and she decided to try it herself. So in a way it’s kind of like the next generation coming forward and continuing that style & sound in metal. As far as the band Walls Of Jericho, I’ve never met her personally but I think she’s great.  When she records and performs she totally does her own thing and I admire that. Overall the answer to your question is yes, I have had some feedback from some of the other female extreme vocalists if only because we run into each at festivals occasionally. To date we haven’t really toured with any of those bands but sometimes they come out backstage and we get a chance to exchange metal greetings... Yeah, so far it's been really cool when that happens, certainly no cat fights going on (*laughs*).

Jason:  When you started Arch Enemy did you expect to turn into an icon for female extreme vocals?

Angela:  When I got into my first metal band it was back in 1991, I didn’t even think that there was an option to be exposed to so many people. Our sound followers were more of an underground metal movement. There was no internet to use to help your bands exposure like today, no Myspace or even any web presence at all. Something we couldn't grasp in todays market. That type of promotion only recently happened in the last 5 to 10 years. So there was little to no exposure for us and therefore we were much more underground. We were only known in the local scene but we kept grinding it out as musicians and we just continued to write & perform music we liked. We just wanted to get our material out there. I wasn’t planning on the success we enjoy today nor the hard work or dedication it has taken to achieve this. I am a very grounded, German, Northern European person who had a normal, proper job. When I joined Arch Enemy we didn’t know how it was going to go because there was no other success story with a female extreme singer, we were in fact breaking the mold of what a female vocals band should sound like. There were some other underground bands out there but they never made it big. So we didn’t think we had much of a chance. We were just hoping that the existing Arch Enemy fans would accept me performing in a traditionally male vocals position within the band. We didn’t think it would get bigger because of the band choosing me as the vocalist. Then the style took off & kickstarted a whole new genre and style in extreme metal. I think In a way we helped kind of kick down "a door" for a lot of women who were just waiting in the shadows. Lots of bands who thought “I know this chick, she sings really well, but you can’t do this, this is a dudes world isn’t it”. I think that was the moment when the whole concept of a brutal female vocalist became a reality. Everyone was like “fucking hell, that fucking rocks” & "that is a girl vocalist, holy crap"...People just finally accepted it. The time was right for a change and I was just was able to do my part and live my dream. So I guess yeah, it was the right time & the right band for me and I consider myself very, very lucky and proud of what I have accomplished.

Jason:  You’ve gone through many different tours. Big festivals like Ozzfest. Iron Maiden a couple of years ago.

Angela:  We have been very lucky with the tours & festivals we've played recently because of the exposure level some of them offered. Ozzfest was a real treat and Iron Maiden are well, Iron Maiden, true metal giants. We were honored to perform on the same stage and we throughly enjoyed those opportunities.

Jason:  You’ve really been able to do it all since you joined the band.

Angela:  With the kind of music we play I think we’re really successful.  I’m not singing in a traditional way. It’s not like rock meets metal meets goth...It’s really extreme metal what we’re doing. so yeah it turns out that we’re one of the biggest names out there in this genre and it has been a long and hard road to achieve this type of success, So it feels fucking great (*laughs*).

Jason:  Have you thought about singing or doing a side project where you sing instead of using the growling and screaming style you have with Arch Enemy?

Angela:  Well, not now with the way it is at the moment with Arch Enemy. I help to run Arch Enemy in the background as well a lot other activities. I’m very much involved in management,  Art and design, and a lot of other important facets that make up Arch Enemy...Fan clubs as well, I am involved with them all. So I’m pretty much up to my nose in work and currently that is all I can do with my time. I do some guest vocals for other bands occasionally but that’s all I can get into at the moment. So I haven’t really given that a thought because I only have 24 hours a day and I need to sleep at some point. Arch Enemy is such a big thing really now so It’s a full time job we are undertaking. I want to be around to be able to offer input into our music, that is the most important thing currently. I kind of think it’s cool when women do the whole clean vocals thing in metal. But I personally don’t like any of these bands who play really extreme metal and do the clean female voice. It just doesn’t sound right to me because the voice just doesn’t transport to the whole sound. I don’t get it at all...I guess it just doesn’t do it for me, the cute voice with the extreme music that is...When I hear extreme music, I want to hear some really angry vocals and I don’t care about the gender of the vocalist. I can’t take the whole opera, cute singing. But that’s where I come from, it is not my style. I come from Carcass, Napalm Death & Morbid Angel roots andI like them for their vocals as well. So that’s kind of my background. As much as I’ve tried I just can't get into their total sound. I really like melodic singers as well. I like Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, Billy from Testament. But they have a lot of grit in them. To me It’s just about doing something really fucking impressive. I wouldn’t be able to do that style. I don’t have that kind of metal voice... I can scream or I sing in a cute female voice but that’s just not fitting in our style of music I think. So I’m not going to try it with Arch Enemy. If I don’t totally wimp out. I don’t know maybe someday I will record a softer side to "Angela". One day I’ll get a soft spot for a dude or something (*laughs*). I don’t know.

Jason:  You also give lessons on controlling your voice. You had some problems when you first joined the band.

Angela:  Yeah I did the lessons for fun. I was grinding my voice for like 12 years prior to joining Arch Enemy. I was smoking and drinking and just fucking screaming. I had the vocal damage already when I joined Arch Enemy, I just didn’t know it at the time. It started when I noticed I had to perform and deliver a lot of vocals over a short period. I noticed a problem first in the studio. That’s when I went to a doctor and he said he wasn’t sure if I could make it on tour because of the condition I was in at that time. It’s not much damage, but I had these nodules or bumps. The Doctor said I had better take care of them if I wanted to continue doing this professionally for any period of time. I said “sure” because obviously it’s turning into my career at this point and what I do for a living. That is full time...It’s not a hobby anymore. So I need the right lifestyle and to better take care of myself. You need to go back to the basics really. You need the knowledge on what is the right & wrong way to perform. You need to know what you are doing. I mean that reflects my personality as well as I don’t walk into situations blue eyed. I wish to fully prepare for my vocals. So I took some time off as he recommended and had specific vocal coaching / vocal lessons from a variety of teachers who train in everything from musicals to the extreme stuff. I’ve been fine ever since.

Jason:  When you were in Japan you recently did a shot for a live DVD.

Angela:  That’s right. I think we’re going to call it Tyrants Of The Rising Sun probably. But it’s going to be really about Japan. We obviously released another DVD two years ago, Live Apocalypse, which is from a London show. We kind of feel like because we have had such a successful following in Japan in the past that it was the right thing to do. I mean since the first Arch Enemy album when I wasn’t even in the band we have been HUGE in Japan. It’s such a different world over there. I think it’s very interesting because it’s so different than what I am used to. People ask us all the time how it is in Japan? How did it happen for you? I think that the new release will kind of give a bit of an idea of how it is over there. I mean it was an amazing show...It’s Tokyo...2,500 people...10 cameras, Cranes and all kinds of people made this happen. It was a big deal, a huge event and undertaking. In regards to the Japanese fans, these fans know every word of every song. It is actually quite amazing. With every melody they sing along also...it’s just so intense. It’s great to get this done finally and I think we’re going to be releasing at the end of this year. So we’re working on the final product right now and I think it’s great footage so most fans will be very pleased with the final result.

Jason:  Wow, it sounds like that was quite an experience!

Angela:  It was and we were very, very lucky because we were thinking that it would be really expensive to do a DVD shoot in Japan. We started shopping around to see if we could afford to do it really and as it turns out the president of Fuji films is a huge Arch Enemy fan (*laughs*). That’s Japan for you!! They are all metal crazy. That guy... I don’t know, he was amazing. 50 years old in a suit and tie and he fucking loves Arch Enemy and has got every single release. He just did it for us for free. He sent his best people and his best gear out to the venue. This all happened 3 days before we flew over to Japan, so when we arrived and saw the opportunity,  We were like “fuck yeah, we’ve got to do it”. We had Paul Smith, who did the first DVD with us, and he filmed the whole tour including all of the other shows as well as all of the backstage happenings, everything. Just totally great stuff. We also recorded Michael going to get an ESP guitar and showing how his guitar was made. So it’s going to be cool and unique in its own way.

Jason:  Your reception gets better and better over here in the US it seems.

Angela:  Yes, we have seen an increase in the audiences here in the states as well.

Jason:  Can we expect any surprises on this tour? Any different songs you are playing?

Angela:  We will be playing a lot of new stuff. We’re currently playing like 4 new tracks. Totally new songs. We played "Blood On Your Hands" and "Revolution Begins" on the Machine Head tour. Now we also play "I Will Live Again" which is our new video, and "The Last Enemy". We obviously also have a little solos to perform with each gig. But we do all this creative stuff that kids don’t really always get to see with other acts. They’re like “dude, it’s just the drummer on stage on his own, how fucking crazy is that”. That’s the kind of comments we get (*laughs*). That’s a drum solo... Ok (*laughs*). We perform a set that turns out to be a bit more artistic than you think. I think that type of performance is still very new to most of these young kids out there. They didn’t grow up with the classic metal and rock bands and they don’t know what that type of performance wasn't a new thing. So we do it Arch Enemy style, our style. But still, I’m not going to strip on stage or anything, so that kind of new hasn’t happened yet (*laughs*). Not a chance. But we really play a very unique show each time.

Jason:  It seems Arch Enemy releases an album about every 2 years since you’ve joined the band. Have you started any work on new material for a 2009 or 2010 release?

Angela:  2009 for sure because we always are writing new material. Plus it’s not like, ok we’re just really busy now and let’s take a year break. We kind of write all the time. As for musicians that’s what they do for a living, so we are working all of the time. Most musicians can’t be without their guitar or instrument for a day. We just tape it as we write it. With the DVD coming out at the end of the year, we will have plenty of projects to  work on to complete. We might also do a best of album from the first 3 albums as we plan to re-record some of the older stuff. Needless to say, we will stay productive.

Jason:  Re-recording the older stuff with you singing?

Angela: Yeah that is correct. In part because a lot of people don’t know material from our earlier released albums. I think that’s going to come out next year obviously. Maybe beginning or mid next year. Then we’re going to go into the studio at the end of 2008 to record the next one. So we’ll have a new release at the beginning of 2009.

Jason:  What about touring for the rest of the year? Is this your last time in the US for this album?

Angela:  Yes. For Arch Enemy definitely. Because we’re going to be doing the festival rounds and then Carcass goes out on tour. (Michael’s other band is Carcass). They’re going to do a lot of festivals as well and then they’re going to tour and Daniel is obviously in that band as well. But were looking at starting touring again in December, but only in Europe.

Jason:  Well good luck with this tour and the upcoming projects. We’ll see you again soon over here. Sonic Cathedral, "Where the Women of Metal Rock", appreciates your time.

Angela:  Thank you so much for your time and this promotional opportunity.

 For more information: www.archenemy.net or www.centurymedia.com