Months prior to Milwaukee Metalfest, the only thought crossing my mind regarding the event was Opeth. Even if every other band backed out of the fest's line-up, I don't think it would have mattered to me, and to hundreds of the other fest attendees, as long as the almighty Opeth was there. But what is it about Opeth anyway? Their disturbingly down-trodden, immensely creative and technically superior music is uncomparable, but it also provides an accessibility not found in blast beats and not limited to catchy tunes. You can get lost amidst the mesmerizing nature of the acoustic harmonies, or amazed by the stunning musicianship. After a flawless and soul-felt 45 minute set, I felt cheated by their forced early-retreat. Had they not ever stopped playing, it still wouldn't have been long enough.
Enslain: So, finally, Opeth has made it to the U.S.... What made you not come here earlier?
Peter: It just didn't happen. We'd been talking about it with our old label, Candlelight, for a long time, but for some reason... you know, we don't have any choice ourselves, so we trust our record label... but they weren't able to arrange something, so we went to Peaceville, we thought they would be more able to arrange a tour in the United States, but obviously they haven't even arranged the album, so, we're actually quite dissappointed. And this festival (Milwaukee Metalfest) doesn't come through Peaceville either, it's outside the record label. I'm just disappointed our albums weren't here...
Enslain: There were CDs here, at the Century Media booth...
Peter: Yeah, but they sold out in like an hour or something... They told us also not to bring any equipment and all... Jack Koshick, he told us that if we brought equipment, they would have to arrange a work permit for us, and they wanted us to come as tourists, so we said 'alright', so we gave them a list of stuff and equipment that we wanted and they didn't arrange anything. We had to borrow stuff from another band. That's why we didn't bring any CDs or t-shirts or anything, because they wouldn't let us come through into customs.
Enslain: Did it make it harder playing someone else's guitar?
Enslain: How was it tuned?
Peter: Just E, plain E. We tune it down on "Demon of the Fall" just one string, to D. So we had to tune it down because, we played the same two guitars as Katatonia as well, but they play in D sharp, so we came on stage and had to tune the guitars first, doesn't look very professional!
Enslain: I'd figure you'd at least be able to bring over your guitars, you know, you can still be a tourist and have a guitar.
Peter: Yeah, but, do you think that, you know, four guys with long hair, two guitars, a bass, and the drums... I thought that they'd be able to arrange what we asked for, but I think it went off alright anyway, but it would have been easier for us.
Enslain: You were supposed to be playing tomorrow (Saturday) and not today (Friday), what happened there?
Peter: They have told us so many different things, when we came here they told us we were supposed to play Saturday, and then all of a sudden we were supposed to play Friday, and that was okay for us, and they told us 1:00, and we saw the schedule, and like we didn't clash with King Diamond, because I'd like to see King Diamond, and then they changed it again, so we played 12:00, and then we clashed with King Diamond, and then all of a sudden it was delayed, so we were supposed to play for an hour, but they told us that we didn't have time for the whole hour, so we had to cut down the set, we were supposed to play another song...
Enslain: Which is odd, because King Diamond was still playing on the other stage for like a half hour after you guys got done...
Peter: Was he? I don't know, I haven't got a clue. You know, this is the only gig we're doing in the United States, and they paid a lot of money for the tickets, and I think it's a pity that we can't do the whole set that we have, just let us play ten more minutes, as you told me that King Diamond was playing 30 more minutes, then we could have played ten more minutes. Don't ask me... There's been really many, fuck-ups.
Enslain: So has playing this show, amidst all these fuck-ups, has this given you a bad image of America or anything?
Peter: No, no... I think this festival is infamous for incompetence. It's just a question of not dealing with Jack Koshick again. I mean, the support we have, the support was really excellent, and people told me that we had good support in the United States, but I didn't expect it to be like this, this is incredible. We'll try to come back as soon as possible for a United States tour, we can do a full set.
Enslain: But not to a metalfest anymore?
Peter: I mean, we can do a metalfest again, but then we will require to bring our own equipment.
Enslain: So when do you think that will be then, that you'll come back to the US?
Peter: In two weeks, we are supposed to record another album, so we'll be busy for like, seven weeks, in the studio, and after that it's going to be released in Europe early next year, and hopefully... I mean we have to arrange it so that it will be released in the United States at the same time, and as soon as it's released in the United States we can come for a headlining tour, and play a full set like, one and a half, or maybe two hours. It's easy if you have a tour, because you can have a full set, you can bring more equipment, you can have backdrops, so it would be more of a show.
Enslain: So where do you normally play shows? Probably not in Sweden a lot...
Peter: Not in Sweden a lot, we haven't been touring at all for the "Still Life"... We were supposed to go on tour with My Dying Bride in March of February, and it was all set, but... you know, we're on Peaceville, and they have connections with Music For Nations, I think Music For Nations owns half of Peaceville, and the contract between them went out, and they were having arguments and stuff, and Music For Nations was arranging the tour, and they said that Opeth couldn't come, since we were on Peaceville. So we stopped rehearsing, and then they called us like two days before, and said that, well if you sign off of Peaceville, then you can go tour, and that was like, in two days, and we'd have to read contracts, and we'd have to rehearse, so... so we just played two gigs in Poland, one gig in Germany, Leipzig, on a festival, and this gig.
Enslain: Do you feel a little bit screwed around by your label then, if they're not releasing the album here, and you're not able to tour?
Peter: I think that they have been having loads of problems with their contract, because I think that Music For Nations is financing them, and that contract went out, so they need to find a new financial system of some kind. And when we signed up for Peaceville, obviously they wouldn't tell us that they have problems with finances, and we thought that it would be a good thing to sign up with them, and we've been in contact with Hammy, the guy who runs Peaceville, he's a great guy, and he's a friend of ours, but just the way things have been arranged has been... but I think it's more or less Music For Nations that have been causing problems for Peaceville, and we're in the middle of it, you know, we don't want any problems, but we're stuck, and nothing happens. So the album isn't out in the United States, it isn't out in Japan...
Enslain: And you would figure that they would want the product getting here, and they would want you guys touring to support it, that would be helpful for them...
Peter: Yeah, I mean, it would be, I think it would be easy to get a license deal, it shouldn't be too much problem, and the record label would earn a lot of money on it, and we'd be able to get the albums to the fans, so... but it just doesn't happen, and it makes me fucking angry...
Enslain: So you think that'll be worked out by the next...
Peter: It HAS to be worked out really soon, because we have to put out this album, so people don't have to pay like, ten extra dollars to get it, and I want the new album to be released at the same time in the United States.
Enslain: So you think that will actually happen? Are you staying on Peaceville?
Peter: It HAS to happen. Well, you know, there've been some complications between Peaceville and Music For Nations and they've been dragging us in both directions, so it's a question which is above my head, but since I prefer Peaceville, it would be good to stay, but if they tell us that we have to stay with Music For Nations, it's good as well, as long as they sign up with us, and back us. But all in all, I shouldn't complain much, because I'm really satisfied with this US gig, because I've been having loads of fun, the gig was great, aside from all the problems we had with the equipment and stuff, it was a great gig. And I think we did well and the support was brilliant, and it just makes me wish that I could come back as soon as possible. Sounds like a cliche, but it is... this is the first time being in the United States for me as well, and we're just here for three days and I wish I could stay longer.
Enslain: Did you see anything interesting here?
Peter: Seen a motel [laughs]. We'd seen a couple of record stores, and Anders of Katatonia and Martin is really into video games, so they went video game shopping. They were hoping that the prices would be lower here in the United States, but it's not. So we've been spending our time waiting for the gig, or waiting at the hotel. I'd like to go to Chicago, to stay there...
Enslain: Chicago is a nice city. I really like it here (Milwaukee) actually... How are cities different, like from what you've seen so far?
Peter: This actually looks like Sweden, I think...
Enslain: Except the sky isn't as blue... I saw pictures of Sweden, and the sky is like, blue! and I thought they were fake pictures, I was like, this is not a real picture!
Peter: The sky is blue, but this has been the worst summer in my whole life, it has been raining two months, I've seen the sun three times this year, when we went to Poland or when we went to Germany. I think the difference in Sweden is that the air is a bit cleaner. Here it's really humid, and I've been told it's like even more humid in other years. But this looks like Stockholm, where I'm from. And the guys have told me that there are areas that you shouldn't go, and maybe that's a bit different from Sweden, because you can always go everywhere, because you're not threatened by any gangs... But this is one city out of many many cities in the United States. You know in Sweden, we're really influenced by America, lot of people run around with NBA logos on their shirts, who don't even speak English, and they have McDonalds everywhere, so it's more or less close to Sweden.
Enslain: We have IKEA!
Peter: [laughs] You do, I know, I've been told. So what are Sweden famous for in the United States? Except for polar bears in the streets...!
Enslain: [thinking... they have polar bears in the streets??!] Umm, I don't know! We've got IKEA, we've got swedish fish... [Peter looks confused] ...little gummy fish, swedish fish...
Peter: Gummy fish?
Enslain: Yeah, they're like, little fish-shaped things that are just like, chewy, and like... I don't know! They're called swedish fish, I don't know why!
Peter: I don't think we have those in Sweden!
Enslain: [laughing] Probably not! Sweden doesn't have that much of an impact on our country, I don't think... they don't teach Swedish in most of the colleges, I tried...
Peter: Sweden is such a small country in the world, there's like, 9 million people there, it's like a state in the United States, a small state. I think Milwaukee is about the same size as Stockholm, and Stockholm is the biggest city in Sweden.
Enslain: So where else have you been?
Peter: I've been around Europe quite much, and I've been around Sweden as well, and this is the first time here, and I've been to Tunisia... I've never been to South America or Asia...
Enslain: Australia? Japan?
Enslain: No? So you guys have been around for a long time, why have you not reached all these other countries for tours?
Peter: That's a good question. I reckon that to have a good tour, you have to have a professional record label who arranges it for you. Candlelight, our first record label, flew us out to England a couple of times...
Enslain: That's where they are located, right?
Peter: Yeah, so it was easier for them... And they put us on tour with Cradle of Filth, that was in 1996, the only big tour that we have done, and I was hoping that Peaceville would bring us a big tour, and we WERE supposed to go with My Dying Bride, and I am a bit disappointed. The drummer Martin played with Amon Amarth, and they go on tour everywhere, every time, and we are unlucky that we are stuck with an unprofessional record label, but, you know, I think the contact with them is really great, because Hammy is a great guy, and to me it's quite important to have good contact with the record label, better than if we would just sign up with a big record label like, I don't know, Sony or something, where we're just a small band, and then you have suit-and-tie guys telling us things that we don't want to hear. It's better to have someone who is interested in the music, so I'd like to stick with Hammy, because he's a good guy. I also want them to arrange some things for us, putting out the album in the US, arranging tours for us, maybe that will happen soon, we'll see.
Enslain: Are you in any other bands?
Peter: No, not at the moment. We used to have side projects, none of us has a serious side project, Mikael played with Bloodbath, and Martin played with Amon Amarth, and I had a side project a few years ago, but...
Enslain: But now you guys have all dropped those?
Peter: Yeah, more or less it's just one band, yeah. I mean, it's always nice to, at home playing another song, and then you might record it, but it's nothing serious. Like many band members, they always play in different bands, but I'd rather concentrate on one band, so I can put everything in one band.
Enslain: So everything is written for the new album?
Peter: Everything, every, you know, guitar riff is written, but we haven't put it together completely yet. There are probably like seven or eight songs, and most of it is arranged but not all of it, so we have two more weeks to rehearse everything and put it all together.
Enslain: What can we expect from the new album?
Peter: We don't actually know, when you get into the studio you have a picture of what it's going to be like, if we go into the studio for seven weeks, we always, you know, change the moods. You can be hungover one day and want to keep it soft, and, you know, do some soft parts, then you get angered sometimes... it's, I don't know myself what to expect, when I get into studio I have a picture of what it's going to be like, but that's not the same like it comes out. As I think of it now, it will probably be like a mix of "Still Life" and "My Arms..." but it will be, even for me it's quite... it will be exciting for me, as well, what comes out in the end, but we try to always progress, and we will never put out two exactly similar albums, we try to progress all the time. When someone gets an Opeth album in their hands, it should be a surprise, it shouldn't be calculated, they should be surprised, I like to put in some surprises. Some people might like it, some people might not like it...
Enslain: That won't happen...!
Peter: [smiles] Oh, thank you!
Enslain: So you mentioned that there's a lot of progress, like you always like to get better with each album, and of course, but how do you feel about your first albums, do you think they're still just as good as when you first wrote them?
Peter: I think so, because they, you know, it's a picture of the time, of that time, and that was like, six years ago, and at the time, it reflects what we were in 1994. I can put on "Orchid" and think that it's a really good album, and I can tell you that the new album will never sound like "Orchid", but I think it still is a good album, and I'm really proud of all our albums, and I wouldn't change anything when I look back. I think you can see that we have been developing our sound and we've been developing our writing, and as long as we can progress and change... if you put out like three similar albums, these are bands that should, you know, maybe stop, and think about if they should continue.
Enslain: So what would you say characterizes Opeth's sound? What is it that makes Opeth Opeth?
Peter: I know that we have been developing our own sound, and it's more or less that... you could tell me that this sounds like Opeth, and I can also hear that, this is an Opeth sound, and, we're friends with Katatonia, and Anders might say things like, 'this sounds like Opeth' and I know what he means, but it's hard to put your finger on it. I think that, you know, dynamics is a keyword here we can play a lot of soft guitars and then quite hard stuff as well, that's one of the keywords. We try to incorporate loads of influence into the music, we try to not get stuck in one direction, we try to be broad-minded, and open-minded.
Enslain: So what are your influences?
Peter: I grew up a big fan of Metallica and Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and NWOBHM, but then when we started with Opeth, it was more or less that I developed my musical tastes as well, so I listen to all kinds of music nowadays, from like, 60's and 70's, and like, Depeche Mode or whatever... I think that a good song is always a good song, and you cannot get stuck into niches. When I was young, I said to my father like, 'I'm always going to listen to heavy metal' and he said, 'no, you're going to listen to jazz music' because he was a big jazz fan, and I said 'no, I'll ALWAYS listen to heavy metal' and then all of a sudden I was looking through his record collection, searching out for jazz albums, and I wouldn't dare to tell him, because he would go 'I told you so.' So I think if you are open minded, and don't get stuck into niches, you can always find good music from everywhere, because good music is always good music, and if you have a focus on one direction, you might be missing a lot.
Enslain: Aside from that just being what you listen to, does it also influence the sound that you create?
Peter: It does... but it's hard to say how, because, going back to Depeche Mode, I reckon it's hard to find any Depeche Mode in the music, but I listen to it at times, when I write riffs, it might be somewhere back in my head, and it might come out in some ways that I can't explain.
Enslain: When you guys write the songs, you write in acoustic?
Peter: More or less, yeah, we want everything to, every guitar and every bass, guitars should sound good if you listen to what one man's playing, and it should also sound really good when you put it all together, but if you nail it down to one man, his tune is supposed to sound good. In the beginning we wrote with distortion and delay, and it could sound good on tape, but when you took it down to clean guitars it was a shitty riff, so we realized that if it sounds good on a clean guitar, it will definitely sound good if you add distortion on it. So we write always everything on clean guitars.
Enslain: What other processes go into your song writing?
Peter: Well I think, you know, like I said before, good music is always good music, and we try to more or less listen to it if what we're doing sounds good in our ears, without having in mind, oh this sounds too much like WhiteSnake or glam rock or reggae or whatever, but we'll probably never make a reggae record, I hope! But as long as good music is good music... I think that since we have developed from the first album we have been open-minded all the time, I think we can put almost anything in there, as long as it sounds like Opeth, you can get out and think, well, we got away with the reggae riff, or whatever, we put some strange things in there before, and no one has approached us and said, oh that's jazz, or whatever.
Enslain: So do you see the band being around for a while, everyone's totally into it?
Peter: Yeah, we more or less had just two line-ups, and I think this is the best one, because when we were playing our first two albums it was more or less like me and Mikael and Anders, the drummer was like a family, and Johan the bass player was outside the three of us. And now we are like four guys, like a family. Sounds also like a cliche, but we really are all friends. I don't see, I know that we are a band, but I also see us as good friends. We can always catch up with each other, get a cup of coffee and talk about anything except the music. I think that many bands don't have that band feeling, they don't even meet each other when they're not on tour or in the studio, but we do things together.
Enslain: Were you guys friends first, or a band first?
Peter: Mikael and I was friends long before we started the band, when we had to find a new drummer and bass player, we advertised for it, so we didn't know Martin and Martin at the time, but we've come to know them, now they are more than just band members. But Mikael and I have known each other all my life.
Enslain: Were you in any bands with him before Opeth?
Peter: Not with him, we were rehearsing actually, I was in another band, and he was in another band, and we were rehearsing at the same place, and then he was in Opeth before me, and I joined Opeth in 1991 as a bass player.
Enslain: Do you listen to a lot of music? I know a lot of musicians stopped listening to music, and concentrate more on writing it...
Peter: Well I don't listen to new metal, at all almost, because it's like, if you play on tour, your ears are sore, and you don't want to put on like Morbid Angel when you get home. I listen to other kinds of music, and I listen very much to music, but not this kind of music.
Enslain: So wouldn't you want to write the kind of music that you'd want other people listening to? Like if you don't listen to this kind of stuff, why would you want other people to?
Peter: If I hadn't been in the band I'd probably listen to this kind of music, but since I play it, we rehearse it, at times we rehearse a lot, and this is the metal in my life, and that's just about enough for me. Of course there are bands that I listen to that are heavy metal, but more of the other kinds of music I listen to when I get home, softer kind of music, because I have to, you know, rest my ears!
Enslain: So what else influences you, other than music?
Peter: You can always be influenced by anything, I was watching the old Omen films, again, that was a long time ago... when you see movies, you can get a feeling that you can incorporate into music. I mean, the next time I was playing, I realized that the riffs I was trying to play was more, you know, devilish, or whatever, because I'd been watching that movie. The same thing with reading, or with even talking to your friends, if you talk about a certain topic, and just think about that for an hour or two, and that's what you'll be thinking of when you start to play the guitar, and I think that you put that into the music as well. Even though it's not on purpose, it just comes out that way at times. So, sitting here probably might affect our music as well.
Enslain: So do you just get ideas for riffs in your head when you're just like, around?
Peter: It's different, because, I can, you know, sit on the subway going to a record store or whatever, I can have some sort of tune in my head, and if I find it good, I try to remember it until I get home, which always doesn't happen, sometimes I forget it. Other times I can get the guitar and think, now I'm going to write a riff, but often I fail, because it's easier to write music for me when I'm just playing without thinking that you're going to create something, you just start to play and then, 'oh, this sounds good' and then you all of a sudden have a good riff. I know that Mikael has the same way of doing things, because he told me that one of the old riffs he wrote, he was standing on his girlfriend's balcony, smoking, and he got this catchy tune, so he had to call his answering machine, and he sung it to the machine so he could remember it when he get home... It was one of the "Forest of October" riffs. So it's always different how the creative phase takes place.-- Lady Enslain