- - - - - -

Amaranthe Interview 2011

Amaranthe Interview
Performed in late April 2011 via Skype


Not being one to spend time on MySpace (where Amaranthe has had a huge following for years), this Swedish/Danish power/melodic death metal did not come skipping across my radar until a few weeks ago, when my colleague Max Levites shared a link to their new video "Hunger." (Watch it HERE) So what do we have? Three (count ‘em, THREE) vocalists -- female vocals, clean male vocals and male scream vocals -- and a self-titled album of twelve utterly catchy songs.

Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker caught up with vocalist, Jake E, on the eve of Amaranthe heading out on their massive European tour, opening for the mighty Kamelot. Dive in for a closer look at a band that will be heating up the airwaves and festival stages!

Robin:  Hello, Jake E, and welcome to Sonic Cathedral webzine! We’re so excited to talk with you today about Amaranthe’s new self-titled album.

Jake E:  Thank you, thank you! Nice of you to have me. Sonic Cathedral ROCKS for backing the women in metal and rock bands.

Robin:  Thanks Jake we appreciate the compliment. One of the things that is interesting about Amaranthe is that you are a band that started out with a few tracks on MySpace, and seem to have exploded over the past couple months. How did that happen?

Jake E:  First of all, thank you. (laughs) It’s a weird story, actually. If I take the story from the beginning, me and Olaf [Mörck, guitar / keyboards], we were best friends in the days, and we shared the same rehearsal room with our other bands -- my band, Dreamland, and Olaf’s band, Dragonland. We became really good friends, and we hanged out a lot. One day, we were sitting in my apartment (where I had my home studio), and we were bored so we started to write some music. All of a sudden, we got this idea that maybe we should invite our friends from other bands, like In Flames or Evergrey, and maybe do some songs like a Gothenburg Avantasia project. Then we just, out of the blue, asked Andy to put some screams on a song. We also asked our friend Elize to put some female vocals on because she had helped both me and Olaf out on previous records with Dreamland and Dragonland. We decided to post this song on MySpace. I think it was “Leave Everything Behind” or maybe “Enter the Maze,” I don’t really remember.

But, all of a sudden … it only took two months or whatever … and we started to get a HUGE fanbase. So we didn’t really know what the fuck is going on. You know? And we dropped the idea about having this all-star project. We threw that idea away, and instead we started to focus on maybe let’s make this a permanent band. Then we wrote some more songs and put them up on MySpace as well. Then it didn’t take long before the record labels started to show interest in the band also. From there, the story continues, but that’s where it all started. I have no idea what attracted the fans and how they found us. But it’s a crazy story! I don’t know how the record labels found us either because there’s like obviously MILLIONS of bands on MySpace.


Robin:  Is MySpace how Spinefarm Records found Amaranthe?

Jake E:  I don’t really know how we found Spinefarm because there was a lot of labels. We actually almost signed with a small label at first. But then we realized that, as there were other interests from bigger labels, we threw that contract away and decided to be cool with it all. We don’t want to rush this, so we let it go in our own tempo. We waited out the labels to make new offers and also to collect more offers from other labels, and then we started to talk with the guys in the big league. We had discussions with both Roadrunner and Nuclear Blast. In the same round where we were discussing with Roadrunner, Spinefarm actually flew to Sweden to check us out. They were super guys and really believed in the stuff we were doing. They didn’t try to change anything from what we had in mind of our direction. Instead, they asked us what we wanted to do with the music, and they listened to us. So that was like an obvious thing for us, when we chose the label, to have a label that really believed in the cause that we were making the music for and which way we wanted to go. So that’s why we signed with them.

Robin:  Spinefarm is certainly a fantastic label!

Jake E:  Yeah, they are. SUPER, actually. I’ve had a bunch of different record deals before and I’ve been working with a lot of different labels, but this is the far best EVER.

Robin:  Considering the other bands that Amaranthe’s members have been in, it is surprising that your music sounds the way it does, with its mixture of electronic elements, catchy pop hooks, screams, and metal riffing. And of course, having three lead vocalists is unusual. How did you mesh everyone’s backgrounds to create a sound that is totally different than what any of you have done separately.

Jake E:  Tricky question! (laughs) I guess everyone comes with something. All this stuff -- the poppy ones, the hard stuff, the melodic stuff -- of course it comes from our other bands, what we’ve done before. But it’s cool, for example, to have Elize in the band, who doesn’t really have that metal background from the beginning. She’s always been listening to AC/DC and stuff like that, when she grew up, because her dad was a big metal fan, but she’s been more into pop music and listening a lot to that stuff. That adds an extra spark to it all, like she gives these pop choruses an extra poppy touch sometimes, which we metalheads don’t really have that vein in our bodies. If you understand what I mean.

But you were also asking about how we don’t sound like our other bands. Hmmmm, I guess it is a mixture. I still think you can hear some Dreamland stuff, if you’re listening to my voice or vocals sometimes. But I guess I use my voice in another way in Amaranthe than I do in Dreamland, for example. Dreamland is pretty screamy and high, like a Michael Kiske type thing, where this is a bit lower. So you get another touch of it all. But it’s a tricky question. I don’t actually know how we do it. We just write songs, and they turn out to be in a specific way.

Robin:  If I understand correctly, Amaranthe’s self-titled album (which came out on April 13th) is a concept album.

Jake E:  I don’t really know how to say it. I wrote most of the lyrics, and the lyrics they have a common thread. They do. But I don’t want to reveal what it’s about because the songs are not like Operation: Mindcrime. They don’t start with the first song, and the story doesn’t end with the last song. But if you print the lyrics and put them in a specific way, they will tell you a story. But if you put them in another way, they tell a story, too. I want the listener to make up their own story in their mind when they read the lyrics. It’s ABSOLUTELY about something that I have in mind, but in another way, I want the readers to be objective about it and make up their own story, if you get my point. So I don’t want to reveal what I think it’s about.


I know what I had in mind when I wrote the lyrics, but I want to keep it a bit secret. It will be fun to hear what others think it’s about. Because for the ballad “Amaranthine,” I saw a review the other day, and there was someone writing: “Yeah, this is a song about two broken hearts” and blah blah blah. And it’s not. It’s not about two broken hearts, it’s about something TOTALLY different. But that’s what I mean, you can try to get your own story in the lyrics.

Robin:  With so much going on -- three vocalists, keyboards, drums, and the bass and guitar -- which track on the album do you think best captures the Amaranthe sound?

Jake E:  I must say the single “Hunger,” that has EVERYTHING to it. Everything is maximized in that song. You have a lot of loud keyboards, you have a lot of riffing solos, a lot of screams, a lot of Elize’s vocals, a lot of the poppy choruses, but still it’s a hard song. So, I’d say “Hunger.”

Robin:  The “Hunger” music video came out two months ago and already has more than 201,000 YouTube views …

Jake E:  Yeah, that’s actually beyond belief. (laughs) It’s weird! Every time I go in and check it … I used to check it out twice a week or something … and all of a sudden there are 41,000 extra views, and I’m like: “What the?!? What is happening here?”

Robin:  People love music videos that are like mini-movies, instead of just a bunch of people pretending to play their instruments while they’re filmed from different angles. Your mini-movie with a kidnapping and rescue looks like it would have been rather painful to film.

Jake E:  That’s the good thing about Spinefarm because that was one of my and Olaf’s first demands when we wrote the contract. We wanted a budget for at least two videos to promote Amaranthe, and we wanted a budget so that we could do something else rather than, as you said, this boring, standing there pretending-to-play video. It was a lot of fun, and we gained a lot of experience by doing this video. It was painful, though. It took almost one-and-a-half weeks to just shoot the video. It was a lot of effort and time taken away, just to shoot it. But the result was fantastic. That was the first thing we had in mind. We didn’t want to do something like just stand and play. You have to do these kind of videos as well, of course. I was super satisfied with the outcome of the video, I must say.

Robin:  Who actually wrote the story for the “Hunger” video?

Jake E:  It was actually following an idea by me. It’s a kind of funny story. I played with Kamelot last year on ProgPower [USA]. On the flight back home, I had two screaming kids on the right side of me and another screaming kid on the left side of me, and I was squeezed in the middle. I couldn’t really get out of there. I had my notebook and started thinking, “I have to do something.” You know, these ideas just came up in my mind like, “Maybe I should write a story for the upcoming video.” So I was sitting on the plane for nine hours and wrote down the screenplay. We actually followed it. Most of the ideas became reality in the end, so that was kind of cool!

Robin:  So, did you get to pick which members of band were punched and hung up by their arms?

Jake E:  (laughs) That was actually the director, Patric Ullaeus, who is a GENIUS. He chose which one of us did each part, except the part where Olaf plays the violin in his castle where he lives, because he is the only one who can play the violin. The thing in the video was that we tried to capture different kinds of what we do when we’re not playing music. Like Johan [Andreasen, bass] likes airplanes, so he was in an airplane. Olaf likes classical music, so he was standing there jamming on his violin when he got the message that the other guys were kidnapped.



Robin:  I understand that Patric Ullaeus is currently working with Amaranthe on your next video. What can you tell us about it?

Jake E:  It’s going to be an awesome video, too! I can’t really reveal which song it is going to be etcetera, etcetera. But we’re gonna release the video and the single for the next song somewhere after the tour. We’re going on tour tomorrow [22 April]. So, the tour starts in Amsterdam on Saturday, and we’re going to be away for almost a month doing Europe together with Kamelot and Evergrey. You can expect a lot of cool stuff happening in the new video as well.

We just finished recording it a couple of days ago, so it’s going to be really cool to see what Patric’s idea is going to be. This time, Patric is actually the main man behind the script on the video. Last one, as I said, I had the main idea for the video, and this time, we left it to Patric. So it’s up to Patric to cut something cool out of it.

Robin:  Based on Patric’s first video for you and his other work with Arch Enemy and Sonic Syndicate, we’re certainly looking forward to the next one!

Jake E:  Me too!

Robin:  The Pandemonium Tour with Kamelot and Evergrey is insane. You have 17 gigs, if I counted correctly …

Jake E:  You didn't. It’s 18, actually.

Robin:  Ugh, well, I never was good at math, to be honest. Anyway, almost every gig is in a different country every night -- Italy one night, Hungary another night, and so on. How did Amaranthe get hooked up with such a strong kick-off for your debut album?

Jake E:  It’s been a lot of work with that. You know, in this business, stuff happens during years. It actually started out that I used to work with Kamelot as a technician, back in the day. All of a sudden, I got a phone call -- “Can you and Elize join us on a European tour?” -- because me and Thomas Youngblood [Kamelot’s guitarist] are really close friends. And Kamelot wanted to have me and Elize as back-up singers. This was before we even signed a deal with Spinefarm or anything.

Then we toured around with Kamelot, and then they asked, “Can you guys jump in on a couple of shows?” And we did like four or five shows on the last Kamelot tour. It went really well, and the audience seemed to like us. That was also before we signed. So they asked us, “Do you want to join us on the next tour, to do the full tour?” And we said, “Absolutely, if it fits our schedule!” Just as you said, it fitted PERFECTLY. We released the album last week, and we’re going on tour tomorrow. It’s been a lot of planning, of course, but it’s really good!

Robin:  When you are on a tour that is long and covers as many countries as the Pandemonium Tour does, what do you absolutely have to bring with you besides, obviously, your gear and clothes?

Jake E:  I actually have to bring a lot of medicine. On the last tour I did, I caught bronchitis and tonsillitis, and I had to spend a lot of time in hospital. To just get prescriptions, cost me really a lot of money. So, this time, I’m really prepared. I have a whole bag full of medicine to prevent that this will happen. That’s the bad thing when you’re going on tour as a singer, you have this air conditioner on the bus that really fucks up your voice. So that is something I can’t live without. Of course, I bring my computer. I can’t be without that! Other than that, I dunno … oh, BEERS!!! (laughs)


Robin:  Good man! Not only are you heading out on tour, but a few weeks before Amaranthe came out, you racked up a tour with Symphony X in Tunisia, of all places.

Jake E:  It’s cool that you ask about that, because that was a FANTASTIC journey. We played in Paris [on 31 March 2010] -- me and Elize -- with Kamelot at Elysée Montmartre, right next door to that place … what’s it called? … ah, Moulin Rouge. We were supposed to play there actually tomorrow[22 April]. The tour was supposed to start tomorrow there, but someone burned down the place a couple of weeks back, so we’re gonna play somewhere else. There I met a promoter, and he told me, “I heard you guys on MySpace, and it would be awesome if you could come down to Tunisia and play there!” We actually got booked a year-and-a-half before, and then this thing happened with the revolution down in Tunisia. You could see it on TV, and the Foreign Ministry in Sweden said, “Don’t go there, don’t go there.” Then everything sorted out down there, and they decided to continue with this festival. I didn’t know that Tunisia’s laws were so strict! You weren’t allowed to do anything, but they kept the façade for all of us in Europe: “No, Tunisia is a great country!” etcetera etcetera. But when we came down there, it was amazing because they weren’t allowed to listen to foreign music. They were thrown in jail, actually, if they were doing stuff like that.

When we landed at the airport, we came out with all our gear, and there were 500 people standing there with Amaranthe and Symphony X banners, there were security guards with M16s, there were these fences, and all the biggest newspapers and TV channels in Tunisia were waiting for us. It took us an hour to get out of the airport. The media coverage was amazing. Then to meet the Tunisian fans who just finished breaking through this revolution, and they were so happy! It was totally one of the best days of my life. It was fantastic to see all these people just so happy. It was amazing!

Robin:  So it wasn’t just a music fest, but almost like a liberation fest?

Jake E:  Exactly! I said something about it. I had some kind of a small speech that: “We’ve been watching you on the TV, and we’ve been following your fight for your revolution.” And when I said that word “revolution,” they wouldn’t stop! They were like 3000 people who just SCREAMED for two minutes. (laughs) It was weird.

Robin:  For your bitter Yankee fans (such as myself) where there is not yet a release of Amaranthe or a tour date, is it coming?

Jake E:  Yeah, it’s coming. That’s the problem when you sign with a major label. Not all knows that Spinefarm is a company in the Universal company, so we actually released the album -- even in Finland -- it’s Universal Music that released the album. They do so in a lot of different countries. In Canada, for example, Canada is going to release the album in the beginning of June (I think). I hope that we are going to figure this out. That’s the big problem, because it is probably going to be Universal or some of Universal’s smaller metal labels in the States that are going to release it. But they have so much albums. So we’re a debut band, and I guess they are watching what happens with us in Europe before they decide what to do with it in the States.

That is something that I’m a bit worried about sometimes, because I KNOW that we have a lot of fans in the States. When we played at ProgPower last year with Kamelot (me and Elize), there were probably 20 guys at the festival that has 800 people, there were 20 guys who came up to me and Elize and said, “Ah, I really like Amaranthe!” We also see it on the statistics for Facebook, YouTube, etcetera, that we’ve got a lot of fans over there. I really, really want to go over and play there, and I want the album to be released as well. It’s going to be released, but right now, I don’t have a date for it. Unfortunately.

Robin:  Well, we have reached the end of our time together, and as always, the last words are yours. Do you have any parting words for your new friends and fans at Sonic Cathedral?

Jake E:  I thank you for a great interview, and it was awesome to speak with you. Also super to have the possibility to maybe gain some new fans. Please check us out on YouTube, check our video “Hunger,” and please request us on your local radio station. I really hope that we will be able to come over to the States pretty soon. Please support us by downloading our CD from iTunes (when it comes out) or buying it in the store.

Robin:  Thank you, Jake, for carving out time from your tour preparations to talk with Sonic Cathedral today. And many thanks to Thomas Engström at Roaddust Management Group for setting up the interview at lightning speed.


Photo Credit: Patric Ullaeus