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Amaranthe Interview 2014

Amaranthe Interview 2014
(via Skype)


Having interviewed vocalist Jake a couple weeks after the release of Amaranthe’s debut album in 2011, it was a double treat to meet him and co-founder Olof in person before my first Amaranthe show, which also happened to be the band’s first show of their tour run with Within Temptation in San Francisco.  After 12 hours of travel by car, plane, train, and bus, I showed up the interview in the nick of time, but rather discombobulated and with hair sticking up in every direction like a rabid hedgehog.



 Jake (clean male vocals) and Olof (guitars and keys) are good-humored guys, who are passionate about their music and getting out on the road to share the live experience with fans worldwide.  Dive in for a behind-the-scenes peek at Amaranthe’s third album (Massive Addictive), the Swedish mixed martial arts scenes, what is coming up next for the band, and much more!

Sonic Cathedral:  Sonic Cathedral is very happy to welcome back Jake and Olof, who are in San Francisco getting ready for Amaranthe’s first show of their North American tour with Within Temptation! 

Jake:   Thank you very much!  It’s good to be here.

Sonic Cathedral:  After this tour, Amaranthe will do a headlining run …

Olof:  That’s right.

Jake:   Yeah, exactly.  We are doing six weeks total on this tour.  We start off doing this with Within Temptation for a couple of weeks, then we fly to Japan for Loud Park.  Then we fly back, and go to Mexico.  After Mexico, we do our own headlining tour from Dallas to Atlanta.  So, I think that is like more or less two weeks. 

Olof:  Something like that.

Sonic Cathedral:  Amaranthe came through North America last year with co-headliner Kobra and The Lotus.  Will you manage to hit some areas that you haven’t played before during your upcoming headlining tour?

Jake:   Kobra and the Lotus were the opening act last time; that was actually our first headlining tour.  On this run, we are doing some cities that we were doing last time, but that is because we are doing it with Within Temptation.  On the second run (our headline run), we are going to cover cities and states where we have not visited last time.  So, we’re going to do the south part.  We’ll start with Dallas, do Florida, and do Atlanta.  I don’t really remember which cities we’re passing by on the way.

Olof:  I think it’s like Dallas, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, and Atlanta.  And New Orleans, as well.

Jake:   Exactly.




Sonic Cathedral:  Getting into Amaranthe’s upcoming album, Massive Addictive will be coming out in late October.  Musically, you are doing some things with your third album that you had not done before, such as incorporating different beats and styles.  Would you care to talk about Amaranthe’s new direction?

Olof:  You’ve been reading up!  We definitely tried to do something different on this record.  That’s one of the first things that we said to ourselves towards the end of last year: “Let’s not only release an album that is very similar to The Nexus or the first record.  Let’s release something that is markedly different.”  One of those things was to experiment with completely new keyboard sounds, for example.  Like this time, we’re using a completely different set of keyboard sounds, which brings definitely a new dimension to the music. 

There is the new guitar tuning, and there are definitely new perspectives on how we split the different parts between the vocalists.  So, there is a lot of innovation there!  And just in general, I think the songwriting has a little bit of a different approach.  But most importantly, you can still clearly hear that it is Amaranthe, and that obviously is very important for us as well.

Sonic Cathedral:  Substantively, Massive Addictive seems to get into meatier subjects, such as the track “Digital World”.  Would you give us insights into some of the album’s themes?

Jake:   The “Digital World” song is written lyrically like, first of all, it is so cool with all these innovations when it comes to digital things and computers everywhere and the internet and whatever.  But the undertone of the whole song is to be a bit … how do you say it? … that you should not rely on it, and you should be a little bit laid back from it.  It’s more a critical song for future technology, than it is a happy song.  But it starts for you to believe that it’s a good thing, and then, at the end, we more or less say: “Watch out, the technology is rushing so fast.”

Sonic Cathedral:  What do you see as the type of freedom that is most for sale in the digital world?

Jake:   It can be freedom in the way the government and everyone can see every fucking step you do.  You leave footprints, even on the internet, and that is for sale.  If you run a company that owns servers, and they tell you: “No problem, we will hide your tracks.”  But later (of course), they will sell these tracks to someone. 

Olof:  We’ve seen a lot of examples in recent years.




Sonic Cathedral:  That’s for sure!  Another song that I am intrigued by is “Unreal”, which has a poppy, upbeat overtone that doesn’t necessarily match the lyrics.

Jake:   We wrote it like a song that could be played at the Super Bowl.    It has some athlete feel or touch to it.

Olof:  It has that kind of a theme.  I think the idea was to (just like Jake said) make kind of an anthem song.  But at the same time, it could also be applied kind of generally, when it comes to being motivated and taking one step higher, no matter what it is that you do.  But yeah, we definitely had almost like a sports anthem in mind, because it’s kind of very different from what we’ve done lyrically before.  So, that was fun!

Sonic Cathedral:  Speaking of athletes, the “Drop Dead Cynical” video is chock full of mixed martial arts fighters.  Did you guys bring in a truckload of MMA fighters to kick each other in the face?

Jake:   Yeah, we did!

Olof:  The big problem was keeping them in the truck without killing each other!

Jake:   Exactly! 

Olof:  That was a lot of fun actually.

Jake:   Did you unlock that truck?

Olof:  Uhm, noooooooooo.    For that video, we wanted something that was super-explosive in general … fire and MMA fighters to really underline the power and the punch in the song.  I think when Jake brought up “hey, let’s have people kicking each other’s asses”, I was like: “Hell yeah, that’s a great idea!”

Sonic Cathedral:  Does Sweden have a flourishing MMA scene, or did you have to import fighters?

Jake:   No, no, no.  It’s been really hard for boxers and MMA fighters.  It’s always been legal in Sweden to PRACTICE, but it’s only been since five years that it has been legal to have matches … you know, a professional league.  It was not allowed for a lot of years, so all these fighters have always had to go abroad to have matches and do it for real.  Now it’s building up.




Sonic Cathedral:  When you contacted the fighters about making a metal music video …

Jake:   The funny thing is, in Sweden, we don’t have to say that it’s metal.  We just have to say that it’s Amaranthe, and people know who we are.  They said: “Okay, cool.  We’ll come!”  That’s the positive side of it actually.  In Sweden, we are well-known, and most of the people listening to metal know who we are.  Even people who are not into metal have heard our name.  Apparently, a lot of MMA fighters listen to metal as well, so that was no problem.  Everyone thought it was a cool thing to do.  So that was fun.

Sonic Cathedral:  I wasn’t sure if they would be gobsmacked about being in a video with fighters.

Olof:  No, I don’t think there were any questions.  They were just very excited.

Jake:   It was much harder to call soldiers from the future to be part of “The Nexus” video.    Trying to get the phone numbers from the future …

Olof:  … and time machines are expensive.

Jake:   Yeah, time machines are expensive, absolutely!

Sonic Cathedral:  Obviously, except for media folks who received pre-release copies of Massive Addictive, during this tour run, most of the audience will not have heard the album.  What mix are you doing between the three albums for live shows?

Jake:   We are going to add like three or four songs from the new album now.  As for coming back again, then the album will be out.  So for us, it’s more or less a rehearsal for the new songs, to come back with a punch, when we come back for the headline run.

Olof:  Yeah.

Jake:   And also give some attention to the new songs, so that people will hear: “Ah, that sounds really good.  I will buy the album.”




Sonic Cathedral:  Was it the two of you who planned the album cover this time around?

Olof:  It’s actually a Brazilian guy, named Gustavo [Sazes].  But we are always involved in the concepts and the themes and the general color and whatnot.  He is a great guy!  He does all our art, and he does our webpage. 

Sonic Cathedral:  The rather understated Massive Addictive cover art is a dramatic departure from the explosively colorful artwork for Amaranthe’s previous albums.  What were you going for?

Olof:  We were shooting for something that was just very direct.  Obviously, we wanted to get away a bit from the first two records because they were rather similar, in the sense that they have band photos on the cover and the general artwork was kind of similar as well, which was our intention.  I mean, our intention was to make it obvious that these two albums were related, and it should be equally obvious that this Massive Addictive album is a conscious step away from that.  We were playing around with the whole idea of having it white, so it’s going to be different in that sense, and also to make it silver or gold and to really focus on the logo as well.  I think what we did was something that is very timeless.  That is also one of the criteria that we wanted … it could have been made in the 1970s, or also in 2050.  Something like that.  So there is a sense of timelessness to it that I really enjoy as well. 

Sonic Cathedral:  What did you and Jake want to do differently with Massive Addictive?  You have talked about the artwork being a visual cue that the new album is not simply Amaranthe: Part III.

Jake:   We felt a little bit that the Amaranthe album and The Nexus album, sound-wise are similar.  That was something that we wanted to do.  We found the way we wanted to sound already on the first album.  Usually, you’re struggling a little bit as a new band, but we found our sound directly.  The Nexus album is a bit different, but it still sounds more or less the same.  You can really hear from the first note that this is Amaranthe.  On the third album, we wanted to progress in a way that you could still hear that it is us, but it’s a more modern feeling.  I usually say that it’s a more mature album, but without saying that we’re Dire Straits.   




Sonic Cathedral:  When you perform live, do you have to get into any different mindset to perform the new material versus the material from Amaranthe’s first two albums?

Jake:   I don’t think it’s going to be difficult to change.  We performed those songs live for the first time last Saturday at our release party … I think six of them … just to try them out.  I think it feels a little bit different because there is a different groove.  There is this very natural groove that makes it very easy to move to these songs and stuff like that.  But to actually change between the new songs and the old ones, I think there will be a premiere of that tonight.    We’ll see how it works!  I hope it will be great.

Sonic Cathedral:  You’ve got journalists stacked up for interviews today.  What final words would you like to share with Sonic Cathedral’s readers?

Olof:  We really, really hope that you’re going to enjoy the new album.  I hope you enjoy the video.  I hope that you guys, who are at the show today, will like it, and will come back for the headlining tour.

Jake:   Yeah, exactly.  We hope you guys keep coming back, because we will for sure, as long as you do!




Sonic Cathedral:  Jake and Olof, thank you so much for talking with Sonic Cathedral today!

Olof:  Thank you very much.

Jake:   Thank you.

Much metal love to Amy at Atom Splitter PR and Jon at Freeman Promotions !  You guys are AWESOME to work with.


Photo credit (live shots):  Andy Xiong Photography

Amaranthe official site:  http://www.amaranthe.se  

Amaranthe on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/AmarantheBand