Opeth Interview with Frederik Akesson

After a well-deserved Christmas break Opeth are preparing for the next leg of their ‘Sorceress’ tour. Next up is a trip to Australia where the band will play a special set at the iconic Sydney Opera House as well as shows in New Zealand (Auckland), Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. I had a chat with Frederik Akesson about the show at Sydney Opera House, the new album and his upcoming 10-year anniversary as a member of Opeth.

Marc: Your new album ‘Sorceress’ is out now for a few months and you played the new material live already. How do the new songs work for you on stage?

Frederik: Really good, I think. We started off the ‘Sorceress’ tour in America in September. I believe that was one day before the album came out. So initially we picked the song we had released as lyric videos. We played ‘The Wilde Flowers’, ‘Sorceress’ and ‘Will O’ The Wisp’. I think that helped because we could tell that people did know the songs and they were really into it. I didn’t think that would happen. It seems, maybe more like ever, that the new stuff was appreciated by the crowd. For us it is always exciting to play new material. I think it goes along well with the older material. The show has a good dynamic.

Maybe we wouldn’t exist anymore without the change because it’s about trying to reach something new.

Marc: You personally are a member of Opeth for almost a decade now.

Frederik: Yeah, in March it’s going to be 10 years.

Marc: During that time you have released four quite different albums. How was that journey for you personally?

Frederik: I remember the first album I played on, ‘Watershed’, it still had the death metal elements in it. On that album we started to change stuff as well. There were different approaches on some of the songs. Then when we started working on ‘Heritage’. I remember Mikael played me a few songs that sounded like a continuation of ‘Watershed’. He played the song to our bassist Martin [Mendez] and he said let’s try something new. So Mikael took away a few songs and came up with the ‘Heritage’ stuff. I went over to Mikael’s house and I remember I was a bit shocked actually when I heard the songs the first time because it was such a huge change of the sound. But I figure it was very important for the band to do something different. Maybe we wouldn’t exist anymore without the change because it’s about trying to reach something new. I believe Mikael felt that he took extreme metal to its peak. Trying to repeat it is something that Opeth is not about because we try to do something different for every album. But I think it’s been a journey. To get back to the root of your question, I think all the three latest albums are similar in a way but they are different as well. The latest, ‘Sorceress’ is probably the heaviest of the three. It started to get heavier again but in a different way the in the past.

It’s very an important part of the band trying to do something new and being a bit unpredictable.

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Marc: Opeth is one the few bands that can actually pull that off. Other bands, that changed their sound that dramatically, had a lot more problems.

Frederik: You are right. We are lucky in at sense. We still get a lot of hate of course, but a lot of our fans appreciate the changes. We can allow ourselves to branch out a little bit more than other bands might be able to do.

Marc: Your well-deserved Christmas break is coming to an end and you’re gonna head over to Australia in early February. You will play a show at Sydney Opera House, a venue that metal bands normally not get to play. It must be very exciting to play a show at such an iconic place.

Frederik: Yeah, it’s quite unbelievable. We were quite stoked when we found out that we’re gonna play there. Last time when we went down to Australia there was talk about it. Our promoter tried to get it but it didn’t come through. This time around they managed to do it. I am really impressed and very thankful for that. Then we found out that the tickets were sold out in a couple of days. It’s just unbelievable. I’ve never been inside. I have only been on the outside. It’s going to be a different gig because we’re going to do a longer set because we will add another set from the albums ‘Damnation’ and ‘Deliverance’ on top of the regular set list. This is going to be the last of those special shows. We did that in New York, LA and the Wembley Arena in London. This is the fourth and last of those shows. You can’t find a better place to do the last of those shows than Sydney Opera House. I think they sold the tickets in the back as well so it’s gonna be the crowd surrounding us. We didn’t have that before.

It’s a very important part of the band trying to do something new and being a bit unpredictable.

Marc: You already said that the set list will different from the other remaining shows in Australia. What can your Australian fans expect from the other shows?

Frederik: We still play a pretty long setlist, about 2 hours at least. It kind of depends on how much Mikael interacts with the crowd. Sometimes we start jamming on stuff we didn’t really plan to jam on. I think we want to focus on the new album. We’re gonna play two or three songs from ‘Sorceress’. And then we play a compilation of old and new stuff. There is actually quite a lot of heavy stuff in the setlist. We try to create a V-shaped type of setlist. We start off pretty aggressively and then we space out in the middle part and then we build it up again. Some songs we’re bound to play. There are songs people really want to hear like ‘Deliverance’ that we are always going to play. It’s gonna be a good show. We’re 41 or 42 shows into the new tour. We’ve been altering some songs compared to the songs we did in the beginning. I think the ones that are in now have a really good flow. Whether you’re an old-school or a new-school fan you’ll definitely get the stuff you like.

Marc: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Frederik: We’re gonna play in North and South America. Then we’re gonna be back home for a months. After that we’re gonna do a two-week tour in the US with Gojira and Devin Townsend. There will be more festivals added in summer. In the fall we’re planning to do a few more shows in the UK. We haven’t played on Ireland in a while so we’re gonna do shows there. Then we really don’t know yet. We haven’t been to Japan and haven’t been to Finland and countries like that. I believe there will be some more touring. I don’t think 2017 will be the year we start working on a new album apart from some ideas that I have recorded and that I might present to Mikael. I play quite a lot of guitar and sometimes a find a little melody and record it. I think 2018 will be the year we’re gonna focus on a new album. I hope so, fingers crossed.

I was out with Mikael having a pint the other day and he said ‘I have big plans for the next album but I won’t say anything now’.

Marc: You said you always record some melodies. When you do that do you already think about the next stage in the development of the band? Are these changes to your sound planned or do they happen in the creative process?

Frederik: It kind of comes out in the writing process on its own in a way. We do have meetings before. We had a meeting before ‘Sorceress’ and we planned to make the drums more meaty and take up the guitars. We wanted to make the sound a bit bigger, a bit more compressed in the production. There was also talk about making a doomier album but it didn’t turn out like that. Some sections might be a bit doomy. It kind of evolves on its own. We have not discussed any directions for the next album. But it’s definitely going to be something different. I was out with Mikael having a pint the other day and he said ‘I have big plans for the next album but I won’t say anything now’.