Interviews : Opeth – Continuing the Heritage (An interview with Martin Axenrot & Martin Mendez)
Opeth – Martin Axenrot & Martin Mendez
Amongst the most revered and respected progressive metal bands, Opeth returned with their 10th studio album ‘Heritage’ in September this year. Doing away with many of the death metal elements that had helped define their style, the album drew influence from jazz, rock and swedish folk to bring something softer, albeit just as intense and dynamic and undoubtedly more innovative.
Opeth recently came to Australia for four shows, showcasing their new album amongst a setlist of less aggressive songs from their back-catalogue. The gigs were amazing, and the two Martins of the band, bassist Martin Mendez and drummer Martin ‘Axe’ Axenrot were nice enough to give us some time to chat in the hours before their Melbourne show.
Check out the link below to view Metal Obsession’s photos from the recent Opeth tour in Melbourne.
Metal Obsession: How has your time in Australia been so far?
Axe: It’s been good, the shows have all been sold out I think which is good.
Mendez: Yeah it has been good so far. We are all still a bit jetlagged though.
MO: How have the crowds been enjoying the new songs?
Mendez: Good I think. The reaction has been great overall. There have been complaints of course, but it doesn’t matter to us.
MO: Well Heritage does go down a new path in terms of style, doing away with many of the death metal elements and bringing new influence to the table. Have the shows been adjusted top cater for the new album?
Axe: Yeah there’s no sort of…death metal-ish songs in the show at the moment. It’s still very dynamic, lots of heavy stuff also, but there is no growling in the current setlist. That’s what we decided to do, to make the show a bit different than in the past.
Mendez: I think people that have been a fan of the band for a long time will really appreciate this show, because it shows another side to the band, while still sounding very much like Opeth.
MO: In general with 10 albums now it must be quite difficult to put together a setlist, particularly with the songs being quite long. What process do you use to make a setlist?
Mendez: Usually we play for less than two hours, which is little more than 10 songs so it does make it difficult. We always try to incorporate as many albums as possible, but it doesn’t happen very often.
Axe: At the moment we are playing 5 new songs, which is great for us. It is the most songs off a new album that we have ever been able to play.
Mendez: We were actually talking about this before, it’s a very nice venue. Very sort of gothic in style, and the sound is great.
MO: Have there been any metal releases this year that have particularly impressed you?
Mendez: No, not really.
Axe: The latest album I bought was the Kate Bush album actually [laughs.] But no metal albums. I buy plenty of old metal albums, but it’s rarely we find a good new metal album.
Mendez: I don’t think we are really familiar to the new metal scene, it’s not interesting for us really.
Axe: It’s always fun to see new bands live though.
Mendez: Yeah, yeah. We always hope to find good new bands playing interesting music, but it seems most new metal bands all sound the same to us.
Axe: For me, I like music that is honest. I think if you can hear the person behind it and it is honest and creative I will nearly always like it.
MO: Fair enough. Obviously with the new album you guys will be touring for quite a while, and Katatonia are busy also, but can you see Bloodbath coming out to Australia in the next few years?
Axe: I wouldn’t think so. Everybody is so busy with other things, and Bloodbath are not really a touring band, we mainly just release albums and maybe play the odd festival. I’d say maybe, but it’s going to be way in the future. Maybe if we do an Australian tour with Katatonia we might play one or two songs together or something. We did that in the States.
MO: I have seen a lot of Opeth Tattoos and other tributes to the band, what would be the coolest fan tribute that you’ve seen?
Mendez: Tattoos are amazing, I think it is awesome when people do that. I love seeing bands playing our songs on the internet, or even just one bass player or one guitarist playing along to our songs. I think that is really cool.
MO: What is your favourite Opeth song to play, and which do you find most challenging?
Mendez: Favourite is hard, because it changes from day to day. The whole set is very challenging. You have to concentrate very hard and play right, because everybody else is playing right.
Axe: It is like one long set of good music to me. It is always fun to play, it never gets boring because there’s always different elements to each show, even when the songs are the same.
MO: If someone handed you a copy of Heritage 10 years ago, what do you think you would have thought of it then?
Axe: Good album, I guess? [laughs]
Mendez: Yeah, I guess I would have liked it.
MO: What’s the weirdest interview question you’ve ever been asked?
Mendez: This one probably [laughs].
Axe: Probably…What’s your name?
MO: Oh that’d be a great start..
Axe: [Laughs] yes.
Mendez: Sometimes I get questions about singing and stuff I know nothing about.
Axe: Yeah I’ve had questions like: How was it to record the My Arms, Your Hearse album?…I didn’t, but I can make something up if you like [laughs].
MO: What does the future hold for Opeth? Can you see the next album continuing on from Heritage, will it be back to death metal or is there just not really any plans at the moment?
Mendez: Yeah no plans at the moment.
Axe: If you plan something it gets boring by the time you get around to doing it.
MO: Is there a band you’ve always wanted to play a show with?
Mendez: Yeah, Black Sabbath.
Axe: Definitely Black Sabbath.
MO: Awesome, I’m really hoping they come out here soon, maybe you can be the support act!
Mendez: [Laughs] Yes hopefully.
MO: Well I think we’re out of time guys, thanks a lot for the chat.
Mendez/Axe: Thank you.
Opeth’s latest magnum opus, ‘Heritage’ is now available via Roadrunner Records Australia