Needing no introduction, Opeth is a musical entity unlike any other. For at least the last ten years, their music has bridged the gaps between tranquillity and intricate devastation, and has commanded the respect of fans worldwide. With their upcoming release, "Ghost Reveries", Opeth will prove once again that metal music has no boundaries, and can combine these polarities to create an awe-inspiring and expectation-altering experience. While "patiently" waiting for this record to be released, I caught up with drummer Martin Lopez and brand new keyboard player Per Wiberg on the second day of the Sounds of the Underground tour, in Philadelphia.
Enslain: So, you guys are the only European act on this tour, that must be unusual.
Martin Lopez: We are the only foreigners in town, yes. We are the exotic ones for the moment.
Enslain: Is this a strange tour for you?
Martin: It's weird to say, we haven't toured for one year, this is like, we played yesterday, before that we just toured our own headline shows mostly, so this is like the first real festival tour we're doing together, and so far so good. And the new keyboard player, he's been playing all the hard stuff, the metal stuff we've never played before with him, and it's sounding good. We're enjoying it, we're just trying to get used to the heat.
Per Wiberg: I mean we have a lot of festivals over in Europe and Scandinavia, but we don't have a lot of these traveling festivals. I think everyone from Europe or Scandinavia are used to playing like to different audiences, I mean 'cause all of those festivals, there's a much different kind of music going on anyway, so I don't think it matters really who's on this tour, I think it's all about us trying to have a good time, and finding our way back together.
Martin: Exactly, we just take this tour as a pre-…
Per: Summer holiday!
Martin: Yeah, exactly, 'cause we haven't played for a long while, so it's just a come back together thing, to have a good time.
Enslain: How are you liking the heat? Did you guys bring a lot of sunscreen?
Martin: Yeah, black hair, just sucking the sun up…
Enslain: It's only going to get worse for the rest of the tour. You probably don't get a lot of days this hot up in Stockholm.
Martin: Not at all.
Per: Sometimes during the Summer it can be really, really hot like this, but…
Martin: But I don't know if, like annoying, like this (laughs).
Per: No, not really no. A different humidity…
Martin: But it's a little bit of the whole magic of going to the States, right? Touring the States, the whole weather change, the 24/7 everything open, like this is a different world than our country at home, you know, so it's good with the heat. Give me like, 180 right now!
Enslain: You guys going to stop at the beach on this tour?
Martin: Nothing planned, but hopefully. We brought our shorts, and…
Per: Yeah, we're going to be going down to Florida, Orlando, I think…
Martin: We'll be there swimming. With the sharks.
Per: Yep, swimming with sharks!
Enslain: How did you guys end up being asked to do this tour? This doesn't exactly seem like the kinda tour you would expect to see Opeth on.
Martin: It's the label change. We changed labels, and that means a lot. That means a lot, right?
Per: But then again, that question always pops up, you know, what kind of tour are we supposed to do, you know?
Martin: That's why we do our own headlining tours, for the most. But it's like, alright, metal nowadays is like this, like, all the kind of biggest bands of underground metal are on this bill. So we're thankful to be here, and just do our thing.
Enslain: It's also probably helping to expose you to a completely new audience.
Martin: It is. A lot of kids there like, don't understand what the fuck we're doing up there. (laughs)
Per: Hopefully we get some new people that gets into the band.
Enslain: So how is it working out with Roadrunner Records? I know you had a lot of trouble with Music For Nations promoting/distributing your releases in the US. The CD's wouldn't be available here for months or years after they were released in Europe.
Per: I guess that's the biggest reason for signing to Roadrunner, because you meet a lot of people after the shows that can't find the CD's, you know. I mean hopefully they'll be able to find the CD's in the record stores nowadays.
Martin: Yeah, it's like, last time we toured, we played songs from albums that haven't even been released here, like "Still Life" and stuff like that. People just like, didn't know, they were really into it, but they didn't know the songs from a few albums, so we hope that Roadrunner gives us the possibility to really expand ourselves, at least so people have the opportunity to find us everywhere. Then if they find our album, it's their choice.
Enslain: Should we be worried that now that you've joined with Roadrunner, your sound will become more commercial?
Martin: Not at all, we didn't even know that we were going to join Roadrunner until the record was done. So the label and the music, there's no connection there anywhere, that's just business. Label, that's another thing, the music is Opeth, and it's always going to be. We can be Roadrunner, Century Media, Stockholm Records, or whatever, that's not… We released an acoustic album, and before that a death metal album, and before that a whatever album, so we're not really… we don't have to do a nu-metal or metalcore album just because we joined Roadrunner, we just keep doing what we're doing, that's why they wanted us from the beginning, right?
Per: I think Roadrunner pretty much knew what they were getting when they signed Opeth, I think they know what the band stands for musically, and … the band's been around for so many years anyway, it would be completely silly to start compromising.
Martin: It's just not gonna happen.
Enslain: So what's the new record "Ghost Reveries" like?
Martin: It's just the ultimate (Per laughs) Opeth album, it's just definite Opeth, completely, it's like, by far our best record, and having this guy (Per) just brought us to another level, just took us up so much, because we needed something to get further, you know, like, with "Deliverance" and "Damnation", what are we going to do next, like, what is the next thing to do, you know? And, we found this homeless guy there, (I laugh), and he is with a keyboard, and we started…
Per: I came up to the bus and said, "can I play with you guys?"
Martin: …And it started sounding good, and we started playing hard, and it was a completely different vibe, but still Opeth, so, I think the new album is by far our best album, and not because it's our new album, because I always say that "Still Life" is my favorite album, it's just that the new one is just, it's the best one. That's it.
Enslain: Does it lean more towards the "Deliverance" sound or the "Damnation" sound?
Per: I mean, you're definitely hearing that it's Opeth, because you recognize a lot of chord changes, chord progressions as well, and, I mean it's still Mikael singing, you know, and he's got a pretty good recognizable voice, so, both it's like, growling parts and the clean vocals as well. To me, from like, being a fan of the band before I joined the band, I think every Opeth album has always been a little bit different compared to the previous one, and I think this one will be as well. I would say it certainly contains elements from "Damnation", like more moody, mellow, psychedelic touches, whatever. But it's still got some really heavy stuff on it.
Martin: It's like a compilation, of all the old ones, because you can even, you know, hear part from like "Orchid" time, you know, like really heavy metal parts that we didn't use anymore, and then we just did it, and it sounds… It's the only record from Opeth, and this is my seventh or something, that I put it on and I know that this record is good. It's not like it feels, "is this good, do you think?" it's more like "this is good, if you don't like this, then you don't know music." You know, it's like, that's how you react to things, and this album definitely made it for me, I didn't hear the mix, I recorded the drums, I was there for some guitars, and some of the keys or some stuff, and then I went away. I went home for a while. Then when I heard it, it just, it blew me away. So, I think it's by far our best album.
Enslain: What kind of live experience do you expect from the new songs?
Martin: The thing is, when we were violent before, we never were as violent as we are now, and when we were mellow before, we never were as soft as we are now; when we were intricate, we were never as intricate as we are now. And we're better musicians, better control over our instruments, the band is more hooked up together, I mean, it's Opeth, but so much better.
Per: It contains all of the elements that the band always had, like from really heavy death metal-ish sounds to really mellow stuff, and the new songs are not a departure from that, but we worked on getting all the parts to hit together better.
Martin: The lyrics that Mike did are, actually on this album, really really, really really good, and something with this album that is really special is also that we can be really really violent and brutal at the same time that we are harmonic. And that's something we never did before.
Enslain: What was the writing process like for the new record?
Per: I mean Mikael being the, he's like the main songwriter guy in the band, and he records a lot of stuff by himself at home, then he plays it to us, shows it to us and asks, what do you guys think about this, is it maybe something that we should try? And we try to learn what he has written, and then, you have to change a lot of stuff because, maybe you are not comfortable with how he played it, you know. You add your own elements. But he's got pretty much like the basic ideas, like vocal-wise and riffs. And then when you try to put all the stuff together, it's like, "wait a minute, I've got this thing, and it might fit between those two riffs that you wrote, and then we will try it out…
Martin: That was a huge difference too, that we actually rehearsed…
Per: Yeah, because you never rehearsed properly before an album…
Martin: No, I think the maximum rehearsed was before "Deliverance" and it was 3 hours, and that's pretty bad.
Enslain: And how long was the rehearsal for the new one?
Per: We pretty much rehearsed for like, every day for a week. To me it was good, because, when we entered the studio, the basic structures of the song were already finished, so you could concentrate on like details, instead of getting the songs together while you are in the studio, because then you are so stressed out anyway.
Martin: It's the first time we go into the studio and we know how long the songs are going to be kinda, because before this time we just went into the studio and said, like, "ok let's try to do six songs, or no, let's try to do five, what do you think?" and it's like, you can't start like that. And it worked. This time it just worked much better because we had the time, and we had the money that a label can give you, you know, to have the freedom to have the time to rehearse and record, whatever it takes.
Enslain: Per, were you involved in the writing process on the new Opeth album?
Per: Yeah, a little bit…
Martin: More than he thinks, because we never had a keyboard before, and just rehearsing with a keyboard was really, really weird, and following his patterns rhythmically with chords, it was just, you know, something new, like, to bring a new guy to the band that is really good at playing, 'cause Per is, by far the best musician in the band (Per laughs) and it just gives you a lot of, like, fuck I want to be the best, you know.
Per: You're a very nice guy.
Martin: No, but this is true, there's like you've got an extra goal to reach, it's like you've gotta impress yourself and also that guy that plays the keyboard that is so good. I enjoyed it, the jamming we did, and the stuff that we haven't done with Opeth 'cause we didn't have time or we just didn't care, but it's stuff that we're starting to find out right now, you know, that it's fun just to jam and to hang around as a band, you know, us guys, I think after "Blackwater Park", you know, it's like the band exploded, the band got big, we started touring, we're pretty young, a lot of stupidity, a lot of shit happens, but now after five years, we're really finding each other as a group, you know, better than ever.
Enslain: Was there a lot of keyboards in the older records? Opeth: We had some here and there, we had pretty much in "Damnation" but the thing is, when you say "keyboard" people think always of strings going (makes keyboard sound) and it's not like that, a keyboard can be as hard as a double-bass drum or a grind, and that's the thing with our new album that there's a lot of keyboards in it, but those keyboards are, killing you, you know, they're like guitars, it's like five guitars, sounding really, really hard and heavy, and so to every one of our fans, and even people who haven't heard us, I've got to say they have to check out our new album because, because this is something different.
Enslain: What are your plans after this tour is over?
Per: We're going to do a couple of festivals through Europe from mid-August to late-August, and then we're going to do a European tour in September, and then we're hopefully going to come back to the US…
Enslain: And do a headlining tour?
Per: We're not sure yet, so we'll see what happens.
Martin: We're into that right now.
Per: And then we're going to do another European tour in December.
Enslain: What would be an ideal tour for you guys?
Martin: I want to support Tool, and then maybe share with Strapping Young Lad, would be a good band. It depends on if you mean as friends, or as musicians, I don't know. But as bands I would like to tour with Tool, and Strapping Young Lad, and maybe Katatonia.
Per: I think the ideal tour for me is to do our own headlining shows with no support, because then you can get the proper preparations before you go on stage, you don't have to worry about other people at all. Of course, it's always fun to bring like a band you like, but I mean we are five different people in the band, with five different tastes in music, so, to me it doesn't matter really a lot what the music is like as long as it's good people.
Martin: Yeah, that's what I meant…
Per: Like most people are nice people, 9 out of 10 guys that plays in a band, I mean, we're all the same, basically, it's just the music that's different, they formed a band for pretty much the same reasons. I mean, Opeth got a lot of shit for bringing Devildriver out, like, a year ago or so, but I mean they are fantastic guys, and they do what they do really good, and if you don't like it, well, that's life!
Martin: It's like, people, I think the fans they think we have a say in choosing who's touring with us or so on, and it's not like that, we just had a few, here and there a few choices, but mostly it's like, you're touring with this and this and this, and it's like, alright.
Per: I mean, if you could make your wish list, of course, that would be great…
Martin: A lot of undead zombies would be walking around, like Jimi Hendrix, you know.
Per: But I understand from a fan's point of view, there's a lot of people that's into Opeth who maybe likes different stuff than like the modern metal scene, and maybe want to see something that musically maybe fitting a bit better than DevilDriver.
Enslain: I think there are a lot of Opeth fans that aren't coming out to this tour because you guys only have a 30-minute set, and why would you come out to this festival just to see Opeth for 30 minutes when you're not interested in the other bands? I guess this is a really good opportunity for you guys to expand your audience, but I think that some of the fans are a little disappointed.
Martin: We really understand the fans and we completely respect if they choose to stay at home, I mean, we're going to come back and play our own two hour show, and that's when we really need them to show up, you know? So this is just a warm-up, and still, there's 18 bands, and we're one of those 18 bands, as you said this is more of a promotional thing for us, and to get together again and start warming up, so, we're not yet being as good as we can live, so if some of our fans choose to stay at home because we're only playing 30 minutes, it's their choice, and I don't get mad at all.
Per: People shouldn't worry so much. (laughs)
Enslain: So how do you feel about this festival as opposed to the traditional American festival, like the Milwaukee Metalfest, Martin you mentioned in your profile that it was one of your best shows, even though it was so terribly organized.
Martin: The thing was that, we played with Opeth in Poland, and Europe, and everywhere, and things were okay, and then we went to the States and did that Milwaukee Metalfest show, that was our first show in the States, and it was just like, fuck, you know, we had 2000 people screaming "Opeth, Opeth", it was like the first time that like, somebody noticed! Like, we just couldn't believe it, that's why we really remember that gig, and it will always be like, we'll always have a little place there, you know, as one of my favorite gigs. But as you say, Milwaukee Metalfest, if I'm going to have to play it right now again, with those instruments we played in (laughs), and with the time we had and everything, it's like, no way, never. But at that time, it was just the perfect, what we needed.
Enslain: So this is old news, Martin, but what caused you to part with Amon Amarth?
Martin: That I wanted to go further with my playing, and play more musically. I mean, not only death, not only metal, not only a train, you know, or a hammer pounding your head, I also wanted to touch the beautiful part of the music, you know.
Enslain: It wasn't because you weren't enough of a Viking for them?
Martin: I was more of a Viking than them, you know!
Per: You're a Viking! From South America!
Martin: I mean, we're still very good friends with them, and they really understood when I said I was leaving the band, there was never a problem or anything, it was really cool.
Enslain: Per, are you still working with Spiritual Beggars? You guys have a new album out this year, right?
Per: Yes. It was released in Europe this Monday, and I just had one day off before we were leaving for this, because we did some shows to support that album release, and we went to Japan a couple of weeks ago as well. The album's been released in Japan in March, it's a new one called "Demons" and it was released in Europe this Monday… and there hasn't been like a US deal signed yet for it, but probably it's going to be released through a label called Inside Out.
Enslain: Is it going to be hard to juggle the two bands?
Per: Everybody's so busy in Beggars anyway, you know, Michael (Amott), and Sharlee (D'Angelo) is playing bass now, and they have Arch Enemy, and I'm doing this, so, I think Beggars is going to do stuff when we see there's like a window for doing it.
Martin: He's our bitch now!
Per: (laughs) It's still fun to do though, it's a lot of fun.
Enslain: Do you guys have trouble finding time to tour now that Mikael is married with a child, and Peter is married?
Per: You'll have to ask the wives. (laughs)
Martin: No, I think we all know pretty much how our business gotta be, how it is, it's like being married to a sailor? I mean, this is our job, you know, and of course wives and kids, they will meet them as much as they can, but we all want to live for music, and everybody understands that, and it comes with a lot of bad stuff like that, like leaving your family and traveling the whole time, and all that. But those are just bad things from like, great things.
Per: There's going to be a lot of touring for this album, I mean, we've even started before the album's been released, right? So, I think the schedule has to be planned a little bit carefully now, for them having wives and kids, you know, but as long as you know beforehand, instead of someone calling you up like the day before, "tomorrow you're supposed to go on an 8-week tour", it's good to know about it like a month ahead, you know, and as long as it's done that way, I don't think it will be a problem at all.
Enslain: How do you feel about the direction that metal has taken over the last few years?
Martin: It depends on what band you listen to.
Per: Yeah, exactly. There's a lot of really, really good stuff out there, I think. There's a couple of cool bands on here, but I guess they're not like represent what I guess you mean, like the new shit, like, High on Fire, but that's so old school, it's like Celtic Frost, and Venom kinda stuff. It's so different over here compared to Europe and Scandinavia as well.
Martin: Yeah, 'cause bands in Europe are trying to do, more melodic, but they're their own music. Here it's more like, we're going to play as Pantera, or as, you know, Morbid Angel, or as Opeth, you know, it's like they already start the band with the idea of we're going to sound like them, and that brings you a problem, like 18 bands and 12 of them sounds exactly the same. That can happen. But then you've got 6 bands that really stand out from the rest, and those are the bands that I'm interested in watching, you know. Those are the bands that I really respect, and that I really keep on listening to metal for, for those bands, the bands that are still trying to break the boundaries, you know, go further with it.
Enslain: Do you guys listen to metal on the tour bus, or more mellow stuff while you're touring?
Per: It's mixed, there's a lot of metal going on here, but basically old school stuff, you know like Obituary and Slayer…
Martin: Yeah, it's like you bring some party stuff, you bring the isolated in your bunk stuff, you bring all kinds of music.
Per: I think if you want to listen to other stuff, you go to your bunk, and put your headphones on, and listen to whatever you feel like listening to, like could be anything, really.
Martin: Like if you're just going to crank up Venom, "Black Metal", you know, everybody's going to say "Yes!" you know, you don't need to think twice, you just put it on!
Enslain: Do you guys have any closing statements?
Per: All we have to say is that, we will come back and do like a full set, because, as you said before, some people are being really disappointed that we're only playing 30 or 35 minutes on this…
Martin: We are also disappointed at that.
Per: Yeah, of course we are, I mean you wanna play as long as you can, and play like a full set, like 90 minutes, or whatever, because then you can present the band and what it's all about, and you can play songs from every album…
Martin: Every band wants to play an hour and a half, but the thing is, we have so long songs, that we just can touch a little bit of, so of course we'll be coming back doing our own headlining tour… Per: And we can play a lot of new stuff as well. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Martin: And that's what we're really looking forward to, the new songs. Like that's going to be awesome. But it's like, right now we put the album on, and I just imagine when we're going to do those songs live, and it's like, fuck yeah, yeah, it's going to be really fun. -- Lady Enslain