Michael Amott (MA) of Arch Enemy talks with our Hannah Collins (HC) – Root of All Evil Tour, November 2009.
HC: So let’s get right into it shall we?
The Root of All Evil, I had a listen to the pre-release, and it’s a great compilation album. Why did you guys decide to take songs from the first three albums, Black Earth, Stigmata and Burning Bridges to re-vamp rather than creating new material for the latest release?
MA: Um well, putting it in perspective, the original idea came from the fans really, because the first three records that we made, the ones you just mentioned, were done with another singer. We had another bass player on two of them, so we didn’t have a stable line up on those first three albums, and it was a very different styled singer. But then Angela Joined for the fourth Album and with Sharlee on base and Daniel on drums, it was just a solid thing with me and by brother on Guitars and we started talking heavily about the fourth album, and that line up’s now how people know us. Over the years we talked and released our albums, and you know, well, this is the definitive line up of Arch Enemy, that we have right now, and the very early Albums have kind of dated into obscurity basically.
You know, there are little pickets of die hards, here and there who know about the early music that we did, but we thought it’d be a good idea as well, if we did something like the fans had been writing to us about, and we thought it could be fun. It’d be a cool project for a band to reinterpret some of those songs, you know. It’s been completely re-done, completely re-recorded and everything, but we haven’t messed with the originals as such. Like the original albums still remain in their original shape and form, it’s just an addition to that. So we’re not trying to re-write the past, or re-create the past or deny anything, it’s more like just an addition to what we did, which is still available to us.
I think it’s a cool album; it’s cool for the fans. It’s a special record; you know it fills the gap between the last album and this one. I thought it was a step up when we did the last album, and that came out in September 2007 so it’s already two years old. We’ve basically been touring a lot so we haven’t finished new material and we’re planning on taking a break next year, and writing the next album, which probably won’t be out until 2011, so we thought maybe it’d be good to put something out in between!
HC: We’ll it’s definitely worth the wait, some material is certainly better than no material, and you’re right in saying that the fans are going to love it considering you’ve got that combination of the Angela and the new line up together doing old school Arch enemy songs. As a band did you have equal input in selecting all of the songs for this release?
MA: You mean did I select them all? Laugh!
There was a lot of arguing that’s for sure! Everybody’s got their favorites, there were times when we’d get statements like “That song… we can’t do that song are you crazy!”.
HC: That’s why I ask, everybody wants to be doing different things, and focusing on different aspects of the music, I mean you’ve obviously all got your own niche…..
MA: Exactly, yeah everybody has their own favorites, that’s how it works I guess. Often we’ll have discussions and kind of pick at the selection, but being the older stuff, we rehearsed everything, and tried it all out to see how it would sound now, Arch Enemy 2009, compared to the line up back then, so we just went back and tried it all out, to see what worked and what felt natural.
HC: What about Angela’s input, were you happy with her as the new vocalist, singing someone else’s lyrics?
MA: Well she sung a lot this stuff live, in concert, when she first joined the band and she had to get it right, we didn’t have much choice. We had to play some of the old catalogue because we didn’t have enough new material at all. So she’d sung a bunch of those songs plenty of other times. Those songs she was comfortable with, we knew how they were going to turn out, there were a few that she’d never done before, songs like Demonic Science and Dead Inside, and she killed it. I really liked it a lot because she did. She’s got a very different voice to our original singer, different approach, she’s more aggressive and more full on with what she does.
HC: She’s definitely got an amazing vocal style!
As a band your sound has been described as many things, including death, thrash and power metal. Would you consider your sound as something specific now? How would you describe it?
MA: Well I think we’re definitely metal, and I think people call us, well, extreme metal is what we’d call it. Because we’ve got influences from Judas Preist all the way to Slayer, Death Metal or Black Metal Even. A lot of the guitar work is more traditional, like Iron Maiden, Judas Preist
HC: There is a lot of late 80’s, early 90’s metal guitar influence.
MA: Yeah a lot of guitar harmonies, a lot of quality guitar parts and solo’s. We’ve just had the same recipe the whole time really , we just keep getting more heated. We’ve kept the same ingredients but the sound just keeps evolving, and hopefully we get better as song writers of sorts. We don’t want to call it Death Metal. We have read that people call us death metal or melodic death metal but it seems like it’s just a bit too……
MA: Yeah in a way, and then you really conjure up an image of a certain type of band. I think Arch Enemy’s just a bit more open, but we’re definitely extreme and we’re definitely metal so we call it extreme metal of sorts! It’s obviously not the greatest name for it but we never really thought we were a part of any genre in particular really,
HC: I don’t think anyone ever really does do they it’s always’s someone else that labels them to that category……
MA: Yeah exactly! And you know there have been a lot of great opportunities with this band. We’ve toured with bands like Slayer and Megadeth.
HC: Yeah not to mention Opeth, and Motorhead to name a couple….
MA: Yep we’ve toured with death metal bands and black metal bands but we’ve also been on major tours with with Iron Maiden in America and Japan and stuff like that, and been able to connect with their audiences as well so I think there’s that cross over. I think people can recognize different qualities in our music. We can connect with people on a few different levels.
HC: Yep definitely an entity unto yourselves. You bring a lot of different sub genres together, so it’s hard not to be able to appreciate your music.
HC: So you guys are starting off soon, pretty big tour coming up. You’re in Asia from the 17th of October, then over to Australia, but then there’s a bit of time between Aust. And NZ, is there a reason for that?
MA: Actually I’m not sure exactly, let me see… I think we go round Asia for about 10 day’s, then we come over to Australia of course, 01st of November is the first show, then ah, then there’s only about three day’s in between the last Australian show and the first in Auckland.
HC: So you kind of get a day off in between! You’ve never toured NZ before have you?
MA: No. I’ve never been there before, and have never been there with Arch Enemy.
HC: Are you looking forward to meeting your NZ fan base?
MA: Yeah absolutely. New Zealand’s going to be a lot of fun, we’ve also been to a few of the places in Australia before, but New Zealands something different because we’re going to be playing in new places. There’s also a few places in Asia we’ve been to before on the tour.
HC: Your fan base sort of began in Asia? I believe in the early day’s you were mostly popular in Japan the Asian region before 2000, when Angela came on board, do you enjoy going back there?
MA: Yeah well it’s traditionally been our biggest market with some of our biggest fan bases so we have a pretty good relationship with Japan. It’s opened a lot of doors for us to connect to Australasia, from Japan to Australia and around the rest of Asia and stuff like that.
HC: Cool you’re obviously looking forward to promoting the new album, The Root of all Evil?
MA: Yeah well that’s what we’re doing now really. We’re doing a bunch of interviews! (Laugh) Going out and playing some of the older songs, which I guess was one of the idea’s behind making the album and being able to reintroduce some of the old stuff into the live set again. It was really good to remodel some of those songs because it’s been such a long time! The old songs were originally recorded with another singer and people weren’t really picking these albums up anymore.
HC: We wanted to ask you about that, Angela’s input into the band, particularly with this release, and having sung a lot of older material that she’s not had any lot of input into writing,. Were any of the vocals revamped? I believe she wanted less vocal pressing on this album she was trying to create a better sound? Did that work for her?
MA: Yeah I think so yeah. She did double track her vocals, multitracked her vocals. It’s a lot of standard stuff, but she did the same thing as she always does really, she never really does vocal checks….
HC: She’s got a great sound though, she’s been compared to some of metals leading ladies and she always seems to come out on top because she is genuine and authentic and very confident but she doesn’t really sing on any of the albums, is there a reason for that?
MA: Laugh… You mean clean vocals?
HC: Yeah clean vocals,
MA: Well it’s not a part of her style really, don’t get me wrong she can sing, I’ve heard bits and pieces. She’s done a lot of, um,
HC: Vocal training?
MA: Yeah training and stuff like that, to build up scales etc, but clean singing isn’t really something we want to incorporate into Arch Enemy… laugh…
HC: Well Arch Enemy really is your brain child isn’t it Michael? So if she did decide to want to do that as an individual, do you think you’d be accommodating to keep her content in being a part of the whole?
MA: Arch Enemy, we’ll, we’re all really evolving as song writers so whatever works, whatever new material we’ve come up with, we’ve done stuff in the past, instrumentally, that we never thought we’d do… But it hasn’t come up so far. I don’t know, I mean we are big fans of bands with clean vocals, like Judas Priest and Ronny James Dean and people like that because they’re great vocalists, but now day’s, collectively as Arch Enemy, we’re not big fans of switching between screaming, and then going into these whiny choruses…..
HC: Well put actually, some time it works some times it doesn’t……
MA: Yeah you get some good and bad bands that utilize that style of music but to my ears, it just can’t happen. It’s not something we’re into; we’d rather keep it extreme in other ways.
HC: Cool. The vocal element of Arch Enemy doesn’t have a lot of melodic differentiation, a lot of the melodies come from the guitars, and you’re now playing with your Brother? Is that helping you create bigger dual melodies by working together?
MA: Well the initial idea of Arch Enemy was to have the very extreme, almost death metal vocals, with melodic guitar, very fast drumming with classic metal harmonies so the music is as melodic as it needs to be, and that all comes from the guitars. I guess we just stuck with that. But we’ll see where we take it if we needed to, as we move on.
HC: So speaking of growing as a band and growing with your music, you’ve got a few different bands joining you for different legs of the tour, Hercules and Narakam with you in Asia, Suffocation and Winds of Plague in Australia, and Subtract and Tainted in NZ. Have you guys heard much of their stuff before? How did you go about selecting them (If you did) to come along and be a part of the tour?
MA: Well a lot of it comes down to local acts, and who is recommended to us by the organizations partaking in the events… like somebody knows somebody who’s in a band kind of thing… laugh….. Sometimes we get asked if it’s ok, if we’d like to have this band open up for us. Then we’ll check them out, to make sure they’re not Nazi’s or anything! Laugh.. Or draw an inappropriate crowd. You also look at the tour schedule, Suffocation will be out with us in Australia, they’ve been around a lot longer than Arch Enemy, they’re a part of the Death Metal scene, very big in the United States so they’ll bring in a different crowd of people, they’ve got a different flavor to Arch Enemy.
There’s another American band called Winds of Plaque, I’ve not heard them, but I guess they’re building a name for themselves, building a fan base so I think it’ll be a great package for the fans.
HC: A year or so ago you played at Ozzfest, how did it feel?
MA: Yeah we did play there, it was a great experience. We spent like two months touring in the United States, in the heat of summer so it did get a bit repetitive, playing in parking lots in the heat of the day, but it was a good experience, and I think we definitely made a big impact on that tour, we sold a lot of records on the back of it! We also gained a lot of fans, and got potential fans, people who’d never heard of us before.
HC: You’re tour schedule’s not looking overly packed but it is relatively hectic, you’ll play a few nights in a row here and there with a day’s break in between, do you think Angela’s voice gets strained? Does she have trouble playing three or more consecutive nights in a row?
MA: We like to play three shows in a row with a day off.
HC: That’s pretty normal for Arch Enemy?
MA: Yeah exactly and we find it more fun as well, doing the gigs that way, sometimes it’s just a travel thing too, stretching it out makes it harder, but the day off is good, you get to relax, and sleep in a proper bed. Esppecially for the vocalist, for her style, she needs to be full power and give it 100%. Driving and practicing at the same time, playing every day, playing and flying then playing again on the same day every day…. can be very restraining.
HC: Hey I just remembered you’ve got your own signature guitar out now?
MA: Yep I do.
HC: So how did that come about?
MA: Well I actually had one already with a previous company, but I left them last year, our deal had sort of run out so I was a free agent and was approached by several companies. We talked about a guitar that’s perfect for what I do, and the leading company, that I’m with now, they came up with a guitar that was right for me and we took it from there. All that kind of stuff is very exciting, playing those new guitars!
HC: I’d certainly feel like I’d made it in the industry if I had my own signature guitar out there, so congratulations.
MA: Yeah it’s very exciting, I’m very into equipment, my guitars and amplifiers and all the other stuff they give to bands. I’m into great sound obviously and these opportunities, I grab them for the band you know and it’s a great experience.
HC: It sure would be! We’re really proud of you here, as individuals as well as a band,
HC: You’ve all come a long way and you’ve stuck with it. There’s so many bands that give up after it gets to hard, or are just out there for the fame, and it’s always nice to see people that are just being themselves, doing what they love and really making it work.
MA: Thankyou very much. I really appreciate that.
HC: You’re very welcome.
MA: Yeah we really do appreciate it, we’re really excited about coming out. Looking forward to playing in Brisbane. We’ll make sure we play at our best!
ARCH ENEMY with guests Suffocation and Winds Of Plague performing at:
Nov 1st 2009 – Capitol, Perth*, 18+
Nov 3rd 2009 – Fowlers Live, Adelaide*, Lic/ AA
Nov 5th 2009 – The Forum, Melbourne, 18+
Nov 6th 2009 – The Roundhouse, Sydney, Lic/ AA
Nov 7th 2009 – The Hifi, Brisbane, 18+
*Arch Enemy and Suffocation Only