Sabaton (Sweden)

Sabaton are one of the biggest metal bands on the planet, your high energy performances headlining massive festivals to hundreds of thousands of fans all over the world. You have your own personal Sabaton Open Air and a Cruise, as well as recently launching an educational YouTube channel, Sabaton History. Now you are prepping to unleash hell once more on the globe in turning lose your ninth album The Great War, which in my opinion may be your best work yet…

Metal-Roos: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to me!

Thank you that they’re very nice words about our band. So, thank you for that.

M-R: Was the writing process for The Great War different from the previous studio releases? Has the writing for Sabaton evolved over time?

Our process is not hugely different I would say. What has changed is that it takes a little bit longer because of the amount of shows we’re doing and the amount of tours we are on. Also, years ago it was possible to maybe write a couple of songs on the road, but it doesn’t really work anymore. There’s simply too much for us to do. When we go somewhere there are too many people who want to see us and just too much to do like press and different kinds of meetings. Each day on tour now is more intense than it used to be, so it makes the whole process take a little bit longer. Most of the writing is similar: we decide on a topic which we did last summer. While music was written also ideas for lyrics are being put down. About the time we go to the studio we think this type of song will need this type of lyric and we match them together. In the end, we have a couple of topics that we wanted to sing about that didn’t make it to the album. Maybe we also have a song or two that we couldn’t find any topic for and we had to do a little bit more research.

M-R: I heard some of the songs had already been written before deciding on the subject matter for the lyrics. How much research goes into the actual lyrical content and what is the usual process for this research, how does it start?

This time was a little bit easier than other times thanks to the Sabaton history channel. We have Indy Neidell on our side and he is an expert on World War One. So, this time it wasn’t difficult for us to find what we were looking for and that made the whole process of writing lyrics a little bit smoother. Every song has a little bit of history in the way we get to the final result of the song. This time I would say the writing lyrics was quite easy but when it came to actually record the album it was a little bit tough in many ways because of the fact we had so many other things going on. The launch the Sabaton history channel at the same time as well as a lot of other projects we upgraded the Sabaton cruise with moved to a different port with a different idea. There’s so many things going on at the same time and this made the whole album pretty complicated to create.

M-R: When researching historical events, there must be so much to choose from, what helps you decide on what stories or events to include?

A few of them were natural. When they came up when researching WW1, there were things that we had to include, like The Red Baron and The Fields of Verdun, those things we couldn’t miss. Attack of the Dead Men was a song that we thought “damn this is something interesting that we need to include on the album”. Plus, the song was highly requested by fans over a long period of time, so we thought it made a lot of sense to include it. There are so many topics when researching that it becomes pretty complicated to choose which ones were going on the album. The music sometimes makes the selection for us like “OK, this definitely goes on”. This song goes on because we have music that match perfect with the topic and lyric. Sometimes it’s a great topic but how ever we do it we can’t make it happen. In the end, I guess the music decides what topic is going to make it to the album.

M-R: It feels like The Great War is a faster paced album, even more high energy than usual for Sabaton. Do you think this is the case? Was this on purpose?

Well, it wasn’t done on purpose. We simply aim to create as many good songs possible to put on the album. How they turn out is not intentional, it just happens. In this case, it just happened to be a little bit faster than the previous albums, but it’s not intentional. We didn’t sit down and decide the next album is going to be faster. For us the most important thing is that the song is good. I mean sure, we need a little bit of dynamic on the album and we do try to have some fast some slow songs, but it’s not usually planned.

M-R: The history edition of The Great War really makes the listen turn into a journey, similar to The Art of War the narration gives the listener a sense of the intensity of the time and subject matter, was this the objective? What gave you the idea to do this?

Yeah, you’re right, the idea was to be a little bit of a tribute to The Art of War. A lot of fans like this album, many people believe that it’s the best Sabaton album ever and we had that in mind. When we started to work toward the idea of The Great War, this time we wanted to have two different versions of the album. To make it so the listener could decide for themselves what they wanted to listen too. Many people just want the song and that’s fine, they find whatever song they want to put them into their favourite playlists and they’re happy with it. We shouldn’t prevent this by forcing people to listen to something like the history edition. I totally get it, if you’re in the party mood and have all these great tracks on this one playlist and all of a sudden there is a woman talking about history it may ruin the mood and people will take it out of their list. But if you’re like me and a fan of the album format you take an album and you put it on and listen until the end if you like this format. Then I think the history edition is perfect for you.

M-R: Why did you start the Sabaton history YouTube channel?

15 years ago, when we made the first album about military history in Primo Victoria, we already had the idea to tell the people what the songs were about. At that time, people were still buying CDs and we put little notes in the booklets, about this or that, telling people about the history in the songs. It was always very appreciated, they were like “you guys teach us a little bit more about the songs about the history”. The people were really happy about that. Then we thought we should do it on a bigger scale, and we figured that we would go all the way with it and make a documentary series about it. But this is 15 years ago and Sabaton was nothing. Making the history channel is a big project, there’s about ten people working for you. Even though you only see Indy and the guys in the band, there’s a director, a producer, editors, video editors, animators, social media people and researchers. We have three historians working on the project to make sure that we get the historical part correct. That’s quite a lot of work! But of course it’s very exciting and I’m a very happy to finally launch it!

M-R: I know you have only recently visited Australia with Amon Amarth but it would be remiss of me to not ask if there is another Australian performance on the cards anytime soon?

I mean, sure there is, and I think after the last time it’s about time that Sabaton comes as a headliner. We have been there a few times, for Download, a couple of years ago with Nightwish and then we were there with Amon Amarth. I think everybody in the whole country is kind of waiting for Sabaton to come and play a full headliner show. I also think it may feel a little bit unfair that we’ve been going for 20 years and still haven’t come to Australia as a headliner… but everything has its time. It was important to us in the way we expanded the band. We started in the countries and territories that we wanted to conquer one by one and then move on to the next. We started obviously in Europe. After Europe we moved to North America which we now have kind of secured and then we went on after that to go to Russia and Japan and now we are looking at Australia.

M-R: With Sabaton achieving so much, what type of goals do you have left? What’s next for Sabaton?

There is plenty left! We constantly get ideas. I’m constantly working on so many different projects and a lot of them we cannot even use now so they will be waiting. There’s no more time to come up with anymore ideas for this album release so we will put those aside for the future. But we have plenty of ideas that we would love to do in the future.

Interview Date: 2019-05-17

Interviewer: Jonathan Hurley

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Sabaton (Sweden)

Lukas: Alright, so I am sitting here with Jokaim from Sabaton. How are you doing this evening, mate? 

Jokaim: Very good, thanks! Even though it’s not really evening here, it’s 10 and the sun is just starting to rise in Scandinavia, so yeah. Lovely Scandinavian winter.

Lukas: Oh yeah, great. Time zones are a thing, I forgot about that. Anyway, so, you guys released your latest album The Last Stand last year. How did you guys go about wiring it? 

Jokaim: Oh, well, the usual way, I suppose. For us, the usual way is, we start with music. Obviously we sing about military history, so we have a lot of those ideas we’ve had in the past in the back of our heads when we’re writing music. Most of the time as you’re writing the song you kind of figure out what it’s about lyrically. On the other hand, sometimes, you just have a piece of music you really like but you have no fucking clue what it’s about (laughs). So it’s a bit weird, so at that point obviously, the starting point will be Google or Wikipedia to start finding info. And then if you find something you like or a couple of options, then going into books or documentaries about it, see if it fits the song.

Lukas: Alright, beautiful. I wanted to ask about that, actually, you guys are well-known for using historical war themes. Where does the interest in all that come from? 

Jokaim: Well, I don’t know. But I always found fact more fascinating than fiction. I mean, there are enough bands singing about killing dragons and fucking women already… Nothing wrong with that, well killing dragons I wouldn’t know about… But not to say that in a diminishing kind of way but for us it felt like, there are so many good stories, true stories about sacrifice that are being forgotten, so why the hell should we make up new ones.

Lukas: No, of course, of course. It makes for very interesting, very recognisable songs.  

Jokaim: Yeah, I mean, it was never a plan to do it as a career move. For us it was just… When we were writing the album Primo Victoria, we kind of decided that maybe we should do an album about military warfare, or military history. And then it worked out great, we liked it and the few fans we had at the time really liked it, so we stuck with it. There was never a plan, that, “oh, we’re going to have these clothes, we’re going to be a band singing about military history”. It just kind of happened along the way.

Lukas: Oh, that’s so cool! Alright, just going back to the new album real quick, what was the recording process like? 

Jokaim: We went to Studio Abyss. Peter Tägtgren, who has PAIN and Hypocrisy as his main bands… He lives only 45 minutes away from us anyway. It’s one of Europe’s best heavy metal producers, right around the corner, a good friend that we’ve known for many years, so the choice was pretty damn easy. We’ve been working with him on and off, his brother Tommy recorded Primo Victoria for us back in 2004, and his brother recorded Attero Dominatus and mixed that one as well. The Art of War was recorded by Peter’s brother Tommy and mixed by Peter, then [for] Coat of Arms the drums were recorded at Peter’s place, and then Frederik Nordstrom mixed the album and we recorded it ourselves. From Carolus Rex onward, we’ve basically only been working with Peter. He really understands what we want as musicians and what we want out of the production. And he’s kind of a power Nazi (laughs) when it comes to music delivering power. So many producers are so into “it has to be very nice according to our audio engineering books”, and yadda yadda. Peter, he doesn’t give a fuck about any of those things. He needs it to sound powerful. He listens to us and says “A lot of your music is adrenaline power, the punch. You sing about bombastic, explosive subjects so why shouldn’t the production represent your music that way?” That’s why I love him, he doesn’t care about the rules, about “this has to sound like this because this is how you make a great guitar sound”. He will do it the way he thinks sounds most powerful for Sabaton.

Lukas: Okay, fantastic. I would say that’s been very effective so far.  

Jokaim: We’ll probably use him again for the next album. It’s possible.

Lukas: Alright. So what would you say are some of your favourite songs off of the new album? 

Jokaim: Aw, man, you’re asking me to choose between my children! (laughs) I don’t know actually. It switches from time to time, but at this moment, maybe Winged Hussars.

Lukas: Nice, very good choice. So, big announcement recently, you guys are coming back in March for Download festival. Can you tell us a bit about the kind of show you guys are bringing out for us? 

Jokaim: Well, there’s going to be five middle-aged men looking like the Village People in camo pants, first of all. (laughs) Then when it comes to the physical production, obviously we have an array of stuff. Everything from a big stage set with tanks, we have pyros and video walls. We’ll bring as much as we’re allowed, however we don’t know how much loading area we’ll be given. How much time is the changeover? Are there any headliners who have in the contract that no other bands can use production, for… Well, there are different erases they could have that, it could be ego reasons, it could be logistical reasons. We already decided that we’ll bring everything we can, no matter if we lose money on the thing. But I can’t promise you, because we don’t know how much we are allowed.

Lukas: Totally fair but it sounds extremely exciting nonetheless. As far as I know, you guys have only come here one other time, is that right? 

Jokaim: Yeah, by the time we come back it will have been five years, man. 2013, last time.

Lukas: Oh damn. Okay so what would you say is your favourite memory of touring in Australia last time you were here? 

Jokaim: Well, the climate and the people. I mean, obviously the shows were fun, but what really sticks out as memorable was people were genuinely nice, not pretend nice, you know. Some research says Australians are among the happiest people on the planet, and after being there I do believe it.

Lukas: Well I’m very glad we made such a good impression! 

Jokaim: Well it’s just the combo. I mean, obviously your climate is probably going to make happier people than the Scandinavian climate to start with (laughs). Seeing as right now we get about three and a half hours of sunlight and if you go up to our friends in the North where some of our bandmates come from, there is no sun at all for a month this time of year.

Lukas: Oh boy. Yeah that sounds pretty out-there. So when you guys do play Download, who are some of the bands you’re looking forward to seeing the most? 

Jokaim: Happily enough, we’re doing a couple of shows with them, it’s Amon Amarth. Swedish Vikings and great guys. We’re doing a couple of sideshows with them, Sydney and Brisbane, after Download. I like them both personally and musically as well, so I’m looking forward to that a lot. We’ve toured with them before so it’s going to be good to see some good friends again.

Lukas: Fantastic. Such a great band, right? 

Jokaim: Yeah I love them.

Lukas: Yeah. So obviously we love Amon Amarth, everyone does, but who are some of your favourite up- and-coming metal bands? 

Jokaim: I would say Battle Beast and Beast in Black if you’ve heard of them.

Lukas: Yeah I know Battle Beast, they’re great. 

Jokaim: Yeah. And their old guitar player, Anton, started a new band, Beast in Black. He was the main songwriter for Battle Beast. And some people are trying to take sides here, they’re like “oh, I like that, I like that”, I just think “hell, Battle Beast did a good album without him, and he just released an album with Beast in Black that’s fantastic”. So now we’ve got two bands putting out good music, so I’m just happy!

Lukas: Yeah of course, I mean what more do you want, right? 

Jokaim: Yeah! Easy.

Lukas: Okay, so just to wrap it up, do you have any parting words for the Aussie fans who are all so excited to see you guys?

Jokaim: Well, thank you for the last time. Seriously one of my favourite countries I’ve ever visited and I’ve seen a few over my years. I can’t wait to get back, honestly.

Lukas: Well we can’t wait for you to get here. And that about finishes it up. Thank you so much for your time, mate.

Jokaim: Thank you very much man.

Lukas: Alright, have a lovely evening. Or morning for you.

Jokaim: (laughs) Take care, man!

Lukas: You too, bye.

Ticket link for Amon Amarth and Sabaton side show

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Interview Date: 2017-12-13

Interviewer: Lukas

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