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Interviews : “Australian promoters have underestimated us” – An Interview with Pär Sundström (Sabaton)

By on December 16, 2017

Sabaton – Pär Sundström

Having been an absolutely massive fan of my own country’s Sabaton since about 2007, and having worked with the band on a couple of occasions, I have been eagerly anticipated this interview since I started at Metal Obsession years ago. I phoned up Pär Sundström on Monday evening to have a chat about the band‘s visit to Australia next year, but also World of Tanks, and the Ballad of the Bull.

You will be heading down to Australia again soon, finally. Are you excited to come back?

It will be so much fun to come back! I think that, in a way, Australian promoters have underestimated us a bit, they have been a bit negative when it comes to inviting us, and now when we’re finally coming back we’ve had a lot of positive reactions which feels great. Of course, we’ve had offers but the conditions have been poor and we just haven’t been able to motivate a three-show tour in Australia when we’ve had an offer of a 5 week tour in the US or a 9 week tour in Europe, or whatever it might be. We just couldn’t motivate the trip at that point. When we suggested a time that suited us there was always something else going on, ”Nah, that won‘t work because then so and so band is here”, so it never eventuated. So I’m very glad that things are finally happening.”

Did Download contact you first?

We had shows booked in Australia for October this year already, but then we got offered to cancel those shows very last minute, before announcing them, and instead join Download. I didn’t want to do that, to begin with, I thought it would suck big time to come back after so many years and just do one short set at Download if that was the case I wanted to do something more. And now the sideshows with Amon Amarth are happening, and I think Australia deserves that.”

I assume there’s no chance of a headliner show being announced this time around?

Everything is set in stone now, everything that’s announced is what we will play, and there won’t be any more additions.”

I was curious about the headliner shows that were cancelled. Depending on how things go next year, will Sabaton be heading back fairly soon to a headliner tour?

It’s difficult to say. We know for a fact that we won’t be doing a lot of shows at all next year, we will focus on writing a new record and we don’t know when it will be released yet. Come back to Australia fairly soon? It’s difficult to say, but we know a little bit about how the next couple years will look and there is room for it. But of course, even if we love Australia, we have to plan around Europe and the US first and foremost. It will have to do with a certain time frame, and that the Australian promoters believe in Sabaton. In the past, we’ve heard that “It won’t work then because this band will play here then and you have a similar audience and it’s only a week before or after.” Collisions will always happen, and it sucks that people look down on you and don’t believe in what you do. We’re hoping that these shows on Download and with Amon Amarth will make such a big impact that people start believing in us in the future and let us come back.”

A lot of people down here in Australia obviously have heard of Sabaton by now, but a lot of fans are yet to witness the band live. I wanted to know what Pär would say to make sure that people come and watch the band at the festival or before Amon Amarth.

With Amon Amarth, I think people already know that there is a connection. We’ve toured together before and we work really well together. When we toured a couple years ago it upset some of their fans and they said, “how the fuck can you have Sabaton as your supporting act?!”, but then, as we were standing on that stage, most seemed to agree that it worked out great. Punters at those shows will have a fantastic evening! As for Download, I really hope people come down and check us out. We have a show filled with energy, we will be really keen on showing what we can do and who we are. I hope that people will be interested in what we do and come and watch us again in the future!”

Sabaton released a cover version of Amon Amarth’s Twilight of the Thunder God on Carolus Rex. Would Joakim be willing to perform a duet with the Viking lord himself?

I think it‘s something a lot of people would want to happen, but also many that wouldn’t want it to happen. It is one of their biggest songs and a lot of fans are “close-minded” and they don’t want someone to come and ruin it. So even if I know that there are fans would think it would be a good idea for us to perform the song on stage with Amon Amarth, I think it would also upset a lot of their fans.”

On 2014’s Heroes there is a track about Bull Allen, an Australian who participated in campaigns during WWII. He saved wounded soldiers at Mt. Tambu in 1943 and this is why he’s featured on a Sabaton album. The song has yet to be performed live and of course, wanted to know if it will be included in the setlist for the Australian shows.

We have never played it live and it’s partly got to do with the fact that we don’t quite know how to do it. We’ve always had some thoughts about it, and if we’re going to perform it somewhere it will be in Australia. We simply have to see if we can find a good way to do it, we have some time to work things out. We will definitely try, but if we can’t come up with something clever, we probably won’t do it.”

What about the length of your set? Will there be any local supports at the Amon Amarth shows?

I know that we requested that there wouldn’t be any other acts on the sideshows because both bands want to play longer sets. On Download we will, of course, be limited to whatever time we get. There are many bands that will have to share limited time. How long… Either the info is available on Download’s website or I’m not allowed to talk about it! <laughs> I run a festival myself and I know how tricky it is to fit every band onto the bill.”

You mentioned a new album, will there be a set concept as with Heroes and The Last Stand?

It’s too early to say, we don’t know ourselves yet which route we’re taking. We know that we have a couple of themes to work with and we have them in mind already now. We’ve started to work on some songs but haven’t structured anything yet. We know we will find a good theme and go with that.”

As former guitarist Thobbe Englund announced that he was quitting Sabaton in 2016, Swede Tommy Johansson was called in as a replacement. I was curious to know how he’s settled into the band since joining last year.

He settled in perfectly from the beginning. He likes Sabaton a lot and has played heaps of Sabaton in the past. He was actually our first choice back in 2012 before we even knew that Chris (Rörland, guitar) and Thobbe existed. He said no then because he had a lot of work to do with his own band. Then when Thobbe told us that he wanted to quit all I had to do was call Tommy. Turns out he wasn‘t busy at the time so he just had to jump on a plane to Spain and join us. He was with us for a while, we never really rehearsed, he was just standing on stage in a dark hoodie so that no one could find out who he was. Then he played with us properly for the first time in Falun and that’s how he joined the band. It was very emotional for me when Thobbe left, we are very good friends, but Tommy’s settled into the band really well!”

Sabaton is a band of innovation, having created a bond with gamers all over the world. They have played huge gaming parties such as Dreamhack and Gamescom, and have been featured in computer games such as Hearts of Iron, and Europa Universalis and now they have their own tank in World of Tanks. What is it about games that are so attractive to the band?

I’m always interested in finding new paths, I’m not very traditional. I don’t think you should look at how the music business has handled things in the past if you’re to succeed. The gaming business handled things in better ways and found new ways of doing things. To collaborate there, there are so many gamers in the world. It’s easy to say, “well, they’re just gamers”, but gamers listen to music as well! And heavy metal fans are also gamers, so there isn’t really a difference at all, it’s the same people. Our first collaboration with Paradox went really well, to release our music as a soundtrack to two games. We have been in contact with War Gaming and World of Tanks since 2012, many of the developers are fans of Sabaton. I played World of Tanks myself when it first came out, then I took a break, and then I started again and the timing was great, as we started talking again and decided to do something more. We’re actually working together still, creating more stories. They have roughly a hundred million players, and to reach out to so many people with our music is really cool!”

As we approach the end of our phone call I wanted to raise a concern on behalf of the Australian Panzer Battalion, as well as other fans of the band in Australia. The shows with Amon Amarth will, as far as I understand, be 18+ shows, and I asked Pär if there are any plans to add a signing session or acoustic set somewhere while they‘re here.

I’m terribly sorry about this because we’re very much against age limits. In many countries we’ve put up a fight and even cancelled shows about this issue, but since it’s Amon Amarth who’s the headliner this time around it’s out of our control. But we believe that it’s utterly stupid. I’m not sure yet if we can do anything about this, we will be short on time and I don’t know what we could do about it just yet.”


Catch Sabaton at the inaugural Download Festival Australia on Saturday, 25th March 2018. Tickets on sale now via Live Nation Australia. In addition, Sabaton will be supporting Viking metallers Amon Amarth for two exclusive shows in Brisbane and Sydney.

Let everyone know you’re attending by joining the official Facebook event page.

Click here to secure your tickets for all shows. To find out more about Sabaton, head to their official website: www.sabaton.net

About

Martin is an aspiring music photographer/videographer. He is originally from the southern parts of Sweden and now he's living in Sydney, Australia. Thanks to his older sister, he got into Rammstein at the age of 9, and since then he's been into all types of metal/rock. He loves to combine photography and music, but also filming concerts and produce live material. Follow him on Twitter and check out his website.