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Opeth – hungover and music as investment

Before Opeth rocked Hamburg together with Dream Theater, STALKER got the chance to talk to Fredrik Åkesson, guitarist and co-composer of “Porcelain Heart” from the latest album “Watershed”. Whilst Mikael Åkerfeldt was into a merciless interview marathon, Fredrik had a good time with German beers the evening before in Hamburg – no worries, he was able to stand our interrogation.

So how’s the tour being going on until now?
Really cool. The Dream Theater guys are really cool and it’s a good tour for us as there are a lot of people that haven’t discovered Opeth yet, which changes a bit now. On the America-tour were different bands with Dream Theater and us. Big Elf who is supporting us now is a great band too.

As far as touring goes, everyone gets stressed, for instance from being separated from their families, how do you cope with it yourself?
I have a wife and I try to make her come to some shows. I have a son too, he’s 19 years old; I was a really young father. He was at the Stockholm show. It’s difficult, you have to do some sacrifices if you tour as much as we do, but this is what I always wanted to do. The music is always my number one and it has to be that way.

You said that you took your son to a show in Stockholm, do you do that often?
I was thinking of bringing him to Australia when we are going. If you’re lucky, you have a period of time off there and after that we don’t do any shows. You have your ticket paid and you can combine it with a vacation. That is how you have to think about it. Next year we have the whole year off after now touring about 20 month in total. We started in April last year and then we’ve basically been on the road – except a few weeks here and there at home.

I can understand that you are exhausted.
Every day is a new day to rock.

Keeping along with children, one thing that I found quite surprising is that Opeth had it’s own merchandise company for baby clothes.
We’re doing all clothes, not just for children. Our own merchandise company is called “O Merch” and we are also signing other bands there, because of the design of the company we can keep prices low.

Who’s doing the designs?
For one, there is Travis Smith, who designs the album artwork and most of the t-shirt designs, but there are also other designers. We are trying to change the merchandise all the time.

Well, when I was doing my research over the internet and the first thing that popped up was baby clothes, and that was quite funny.
Well, Mikael has kids and Mendez has a small son. A lot of metal fans have kids and it’s also fun to buy for the children too.

Well, as far as own projects go, how about your other bands? I checked out Krux and Talisman.
Talisman is over since a long time ago, also the bass player from Talisman, Marcel Jacob, he took his life a month ago, really tragic -he hung himself. He was the founder of Talisman, he wrote the songs. I never really wrote any songs for Talisman, I just played guitar solos. But our music direction was different; I was into more heavy stuff, and he was more into melodic. So as for Krux, we will go for a new record next year; I still play there.

Looking more into Opeth, Mikael wrote all of the songs, apart from one in the last album where you co-wrote it.
Yes, “Porcelain Heart”.

Can you tell us something about the song itself?
First I had the intro riff for it, a heavy riff, kind of Black Sabbath-type. I write many riffs and play them for Mikael. That one was one of those riffs, which I thought it wouldn’t be good enough, but Mikael said: “Oh! That’s good!” and took it. That’s weird sometimes, but we worked on it together at his house, did a couple of different arrangements which didn’t end up on the record. After we worked on it for 16 hours, Mikael called me the next day and said “I erased all the stuff we did together and re-did everything.” (laughs) But I basically did the heavy riff and the verse. I felt a bit honoured.

How do you see this going on in the future, now that you got your hands on one song, do you see yourself getting a bit more into it?
Yes, I hope so, but it is not my intention to change anything. I mean I’m a huge fan of Opeth, so I think these riffs sound very Opeth. But Michael’s the boss, he’ll decide, but in the end, it’s also very democratic, he also asks everyone in the band what they think; we have meetings and so forth. I have recorded quite many riffs at home. I will try and see but it’s difficult to say now what will happen. We haven’t even started the pre-production for the next album.

Is there maybe something you could tell us about the next album? Does it have a theme?
Not yet, there is no concept yet. But I think we will do the darkest album ever.

“The darkest album ever”
The latest album didn’t have much screaming vocals in it, less then normal. Maybe some fans were worried that we would step away from the more hard core death metal – extreme metal scene, but I don’t think so.

Jumping onto a completely different boat, have there ever been so hard times in your musical career that you thought of quitting music completely?
Not really. I had my ups and downs. When I was 19 and got my first gig with Talisman, which was really big at that time. I was able to at least make my living from music and that was always my goal. After a few years I quit the band and started my own project, a band called Southpaw. During that time, I had a regular job, but I always played weekends to maintain my skills. I also had a cover metal band called Monsters of Metal; we played King Diamond and Judas Priest, Metallica and Megadeath. But not until I joined Tiamat I got out and experienced touring. After that I joined Arch Enemy and then Opeth. But I never considered quitting, no.

Classic question: Any advice for upcoming musicians?
If you’re a guitar player, you should always practice really slow; you get the clear notes. Be disciplined and practice a lot. Learn from songs and just jam along with songs or improvise after songs; I did that a lot when I started out. Find good people to play with; I was always playing with older people than me, the older generation guys. So I always played with people that were better than me, then after a while I got better than them (laughs).

Thanks for your time and have a great show.

Author: Ozzy Aikas, Photos: Roadrunner Records
Date: 2009-10-18

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