By Daniel Crouch on December 3rd 2005 at Oxford Brookes Uni
How’s it going today?
It’s going good thanks, I’ve just eaten my duck and cashew nut dinner, which tasted like shit, but yeah I’m good today!
How’s the tour been going so far?
Great! We’ve been touring since June pretty much, so it’s a long haul, but for me, playing live…it’s always good.
It’s been only a couple of months since you were last here in the UK.What made you want to return so quickly?
Well it’s always been the plan to come back and hit the cities we didn’t get to the first time round, which is why we’re playing places like Exeter and Oxford instead of the usual London, Manchester, Glasgow schedule. Also, we wanted to play the Mean Fiddler in London the first time round to drum up the support and get the numbers in to sell out a show at the Forum the second time round.
You’ve been touring pretty hard on the back of Ghost Reveries – from the likes of this tour now to the summer you spent on Sounds of the Underground in the US. What’s the general reception been like to the album so far – both live and critically?
It’s been good, very positive so far. I mean, Europe is always a good market for us, but the US is better, obviously as there are more people there, so it’s great that we’re going to places and seeing twice the amount of people there than we would usually expect to see.
Are you getting people whinging at you to play certain songs off the new album you’re not playing?
*laughs* Yeah, well we obviously have to play new songs, but we have 8 albums of back material too; there are people who moan because we haven’t played this song or that song…like over here in the UK now, we’re playing all these smaller venues, and maybe 20 people are going to 2 or more shows, and obviously these are the more dedicated fans, and often the ones that go on the internet forums afterwards and say “Why didn’t you play Ghost of Perdition?”, but we have to be thinking of the other people at these shows who won’t have seen previous shows and play a setlist that reflects the entireity of our music…but…yeah, the reception to the album has been great.
Is it possible for you to play a completely different set each night, similar to bands like Dream Theater?
*looks horrified* Oh no! We’d have to rehearse and practice all the time to do that, and we haven’t got the time really. We have maybe 14 or 15 ‘live’ tracks, which we’ll rotate round in setlist that has 10 songs in it each night, just so there is a bit of variety in our sets.
My theory is that Dream Theater are probably actually robots…
Sounds of the Underground must have been quite a weird experience, seeing as many may argue you’re a band best suited to a smaller venue and not a larger outdoor event…
Yes, it was. I mean we’ve played the big festivals before over here in Europe, like Download over here in the UK, but it (The Sounds of The Underground tour) was a touring festival, which is unheard of in Europe, so that was a totally new experience for us.
How were the headlining and main support spots sorted out? Did you have some guy poke his head round the door first thing and shout “Right, you’re on in five minutes guys”?
Well we got to headline once in Montreal, as we have a big following in Canada, but for the most part Lamb of God headlined, and the main support act position was rotated around….we were told usually in the morning what the schedule for the day was, so we were always prepared.
What was it like to share a stage with such a diverse line-up? Obviously bands like High on Fire and Madball are a mile away from yourselves in terms of genre etc…
Well we certainly stood out a bit, which isn’t anything new for us, and we mostly didn’t really pay any attention to the other bands on the tour; we tried to concentrate just on ourselves. Most of the other bands were, what do you call it…’metalcore’ bands, who in my opinion mostly sound the same really…..that’s not to say they weren’t all nice people, but it’s just not really my thing. But no..it was good, as we were turning a few fans towards our music, so it was good for the band.
So come on, just how many songs did you manage to fit into your set each day?
laughs* Oohhh, about 3 or 4. In festivals like that you usually only get about 30 minutes to play, and with our music we can’t really play many songs in that amount of time.
Like at Download, where you managed to get through ‘The Drapery Falls’ and about two other songs?
But it’s all good value for money?
*laughs* Well I hope so!
So back to the latest album, how would you say you’ve progressed musically since Deliverance and Damnation?
Well we never really set to purposefully progress our sound, it all happens naturally just from ideas and stuff we’d have floating around. Obviously a big change from the Deliverance and Damnation records is the addition of a permanent keyboard player, but also we had more time to prepare and rehearse before we went into the studio, unlike previous albums.
Actually before I came here tonight I was watching the ‘Lamentations’ DVD documentary, which showed up the problems with recording the previous two albums…
Yes, we wanted to prevent that happening again; we were determined to get it right this time.
How did you approach writing the album whilst in a transition period between labels?
Actually the album was written and recorded before we signed to Roadrunner. But we had decided we wanted to sign for them before we entered the studio, so it had no impact at all on the making of the album, we just wanted someone to put the cd out….we certainly don’t trust any of these labels with ideas concerning direction etc; we don’t want some American boss telling us to change our sound and gel back our hair to some style, we’re always wanted to do it our way.
Speaking of Roadrunner, how have things been thus far between you?
It’s a good relationship I think, we just want them to put our album out. They did complain about the length of the songs, but you’d expect that with them wanting to put songs on the radio and make videos..but that’s nothing new as our previous labels Koch and Music For Nations were the same. But we’re certainly trying to keep away from being told what to do.
Roadrunner seem to cop quite a lot of flack from within the metal community. Why do you think so many people seem to have such a vendetta against them? Is it simply their success and popularity?
Probably. I mean Roadrunner ten years ago was full of classic metal, but now because they’ve signed more commercial bands and metal is getting popular again, people are slagging them off. I’ll bet these people were the same people who listened to Korn back in the day though. Roadrunner having Nickelback and Slipknot on there doesn’t affect us at all. It just seems they’re being criticised for making money.
I think a lot of people assume that such a relationship may turn your sound a bit more commercial so to speak. Do you think such an assumption is a little ridiculous given that this isn’t exactly the first time you’ve been on a major label?
It is ridiculous, I mean, if people think after 8 albums we’re going to suddenly change just because of a label swap they can fuck off. We’ve always been non commercial, the only reason we’re doing more press and interviews now is partly because of Roadrunner yes, but also because we’re getting more popular, so obviously we’re going to get more exposure, but that has no effect on the music, we’re still writing ten minute songs.
It’s a bit like the Metallica syndrome; they make a video and suddenly they weren’t ‘cool’ anymore…
Yes, I only didn’t like Metallica when they changed their sound to be more popular, but people are always going to love your band when you’re unknown and relatively underground…but they don’t want everyone knowing about you and you being successful, it’s a little crazy really.
So presumably, if next year we see you guys in a video surrounded by gold chains and bitches, we officially have permission to twist your nipples and pull your hair?
*chuckles* Ha ha…yes, if we start gelling our hair into spikes and rapping……well, we’d deserve it.
So what’s next for Opeth? A bit of relaxation time?
Oh no…we’re on a four week tour now. Yesterday we played Exeter, today Oxford, and tomorrow…or tonight, whatever it is..we’re going to Holland, and then back to Sweden. I think I get back home just in time to do half a days Christmas shopping pretty much. We’re having a month off in January, and then out again until maybe October…it’s certainly very hectic, I’ve only seen my wife for about 30 days since June.
It’s a case of music not just being a job, but a life then?
Well thanks for taking the time out to do this Peter, I’ll leave you to enjoy your duck and cashew nut dinner…
Actually I’ve eaten half of it already, usually the guys have pizza every night after the shows…so I’m trying to avoid that tonight.
So there’s no travelling Opeth chef?
Noooo…maybe Lenny Kravitz has one, but not at this level. People probably don’t realise we’re actually working all day, not just for the show. We get maybe 20 minutes before we go on stage to eat, so there’s a lot of fast food!
Does that mean there’s a lot of bad smells floating about on stage?
*laughs* Oh yes, but I’m the only one who doesn’t fart! But Mike…well…he has his very own smell!