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About two hours before they took the stage for the New Jersey Metalfest, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of my favorite metal bands - Amon Amarth. This band writes a completely original style of music - blending elements of death metal and thrash while inserting small melodic parts and the occasional sense of a black metal riff. Overall though, my favorite part of the band is lead singer Johan Hegg. The combination of his mythology based lyrics and the evil growls that come from the darkest pit of his chest give me the sense that these are battle hardened Vikings that have been reincarnated for the metal world.

Their new album 'Versus The World' is a more produced side of the band that we haven't seen before. There are more melodic parts than ever, but in the case of a real talented band, change isn't always a bad thing.

I got to sit down on their tour bus and talk to Johan about the band's origins, their direction and more informal topics. As tough and mean as his appearance conveys, I must say that I haven't ever had as many laughs with a metal band then I did with this one. Bassist Ted Lundstrom was on the bus as well, but he remained pretty low key, adding his two cents once in a while to color anything in the conversation that wasn't already ripe with description.

The New Jersey Metalfest was the start of Amon Amarth's Coalition For Muzikal Armageddon tour with Deicide and Behemoth. Keep that in mind as you read this interview. Currently, they are touring with the Gods Of Metal Tour featuring Halford, Testament, Primal Fear, Carnal Forge, Immortal and others.

METAL UPDATE: Are you guys the only two original members of Amon Amarth?

JOHAN HEGG: No. It's Ted, me, and Oli [Olavi Mikkonen].

MU: What sparked your interest in mythology?

JH: We read a little about it in school - I must have been in the third or fourth grade - but not that much. So we ended up reading a little bit and I thought it was cool so I started reading books myself. I never really got around to reading it until I was 18 or 19, but I've been interested in it since I was about 10 years old.

MU: Do you have a name for the Viking guy on the covers of your albums?

JH: (laughing) Uh. . . Bengt.

Aman Amarth - Johan Hegg

MU: Ok. What does his name mean?

JH: It doesn't mean anything. (We're both laughing at this point. I'm laughing cause I feel like an asshole for asking that last question. Johan is laughing because I was an asshole and asked it.) It's just a stupid name, you know? It is a real name in Sweden, but it's mainly for older guys.

MU: So he doesn't represent any of you guys in the band?

JH: No, it was just a joke.

MU: Tell me about how you guys went about writing the new album 'Versus The World'.

JH: I have no idea how it came about. All of a sudden we just had all of the songs.

MU: Well, was it stuff that you were thinking up while on tour?

JH: Yeah. I mean, usually the way we work is that we don't have a lot of spare material lying around. When we set out to write a new album we just do that. But this album was a little bit different because we were touring a little so a lot of this stuff had to be worked out on tour, which is very difficult actually, because there is a lot of waiting around all the time, but still, for some reason, you still don't find the time to actually practice.

MU: Sure, cause you're tired of traveling. . .

JH: Yeah, exactly. It's really weird that way, but we had a lot of ideas we brought with us on tour. We jammed and stuff like that.

MU: How do you feel that your new album is different from your other material?

JH: I think this is perhaps a more complete album. There is much more diversity between the songs - plus the sound is more powerful.

MU: Do you guys like touring or do you like writing new material more?

JH: I love touring. It's great. The fact that we have the opportunity to do so, and to such an extent, is unbelievable. We all have to have jobs on the side, but fortunately we all have bosses who understand that we need to go on tour, so they are very supportive of us doing that.

Amon Amarth - Ted Lundström

MU: What do you do when you're not on tour?

JH: I'm a sales manager.

MU: Oh yeah? For what?

JH: (A little nervous laugh.) I sell dairy products.

MU: Yeah?! (By now everyone is smiling.)

JH: Yeah. I sell cheese, and yogurt and shit. (We're all laughing.)

MU: I wouldn't suspect that people would think you were a dairy salesman.

JH: Well, I sell it over the phone. I'm a telemarketer for supermarkets and such. But I used to be a butcher though, but it was too hard and too much weekend work.

MU: That's kind of strenuous, right?

JH: Yeah. Late nights and shit like that.

MU: I think I read somewhere that this might have been your last album.

JH: Yeah.

MU: Is that still true?

JH: No, we worked it out. We were in a very rough spot about a year ago.

MU: As a band, or with your label or. . .

JH: As a band until. . . I guess we were tired, mainly. There were a lot of things happening around the band with jobs and everything for all of us, and we just felt maybe we wouldn't be able to do what we're doing. But doing the U.S. tour and then the European tour last year and playing Wacken, recording the new album and everything sorta changed all that. I guess we're back on track.

MU: I'm very glad to hear that. What's you're favorite song to play live?

JH: Aww, well I think it's different for everybody. My personal favorite, at the moment at least, is "Thousand Years Of Oppression" even though we haven't had the opportunity to play it a lot. It's one of my favorite songs on the new album and I really enjoy playing it.

MU: What's your favorite song to play? (Directed at Ted.)

TED LUNDSTROM: I don't really care what we play. I love them all.

MU: This is your second time touring in the U.S. You did the tour earlier when Marduk was supposed to play, but they couldn't make it. How do the fans in the audience differ from Europe to the United States?

JH: Actually, a lot of people say it's a lot different, but I disagree. There's a lot more mosh pit going on here in the States, but I still think the fans are very similar to those in Europe. The main difference is the fans here in the States are more scattered. In Europe, there are a lot of people living in a smaller area. So if you live in Germany, you could probably go see a show every day of the week because it's not very far to drive.

MU: Right, and you'll have to tour more in the States and hit more towns to see all your fans.

JH: Exactly. So in that way it is a bit different.

Aman Amarth - Olavi Mikkonen

MU: Whose idea was it for this tour with Behemoth and Deicide?

JH: It was Universal Attractions who offered us this tour. We said, sure, why not? This will be a great tour.

MU: Are you going to be doing a lot of drinking on tour?

JH: Well, we're sharing the bus with a bunch of Polish guys. I think that's a safe bet. (Said to the laughter of everyone on the bus.)

TD: It's a good mixture if you want alcohol.

JH: Yeah, Swedes and Polish guys.

MU: Is that right? Polish guys tend to drink a lot?

TD: Yeah!

JH: Well, does a bear shit in the woods? (More laughter.)

MU: What do you Norsemen like to drink?

JH: Well actually. . . (Ted interrupts.)

TD: Anything with alcohol.

JH: Well, actually I prefer beer and scotch - preferably a single malt scotch whiskey - the smoky stuff, like Bowmore. (Ted pulls a new bottle out from one of the band's bags. Johan cracks the screw top open and sniffs at the opening.) Have a sip. You get the virginity as well! That's an honor! (I don't drink, so I can only imagine the way my eyes opened up as I let just a drizzle run down my throat. I felt its warmth all the way down my throat and coughed once.)

MU: Wow!

JH: That's some smoky shit, right?

MU: Yeah.

TD: It's like licking an ashtray. (Johan takes a bigger sip from the bottle.)

JH: That's good.

MU: How about the food? Do you guys have favorite foods to eat while on tour? There's probably not much that you can get on tour though, right?

JH: Well, it's always fast food when you're on tour because you never have time to eat. It's always stuff like McDonalds or Burger King. I have a lot of different tastes though. I like most stuff.

MU: You ever tend to get food in that Viking beard of yours?

JH: Yeah!

TD: YEAH! (I'm guessing he is thinking of a few instances.)

MU: You like to save it for later, after the show or whatnot?

JH: Like, when you eat something with a little sauce. (Johan mimics dipping his beard into a plate of pasta and cleaning it off to everyone's amusement.)

MU: Then your beard ends up getting in it.

JH: Yeah, then your beard is in the food. You save it for later.

MU: Last question I'll ask you - do you have any plans for the near future, other than the tour, does the band have any plans?

JH: Well, we only just started but we are working on new material and we're probably going to try to record a new album pretty soon. But knowing us, it'll probably take more than a year until we have all the stuff finished.


review of Amon Amarth 'Versus The World'

review of Amon Amarth 'The Crusher'

review of Amon Amarth 'The Avenger'





Interview: Brian Ferry [ ]
Photography: Brian Ferry [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: Sean Jennings [ ]

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