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Interviews : “We’ve got heaps of stuff that we’re proud of” – An interview with Pär Sundström (Sabaton)

By on May 23, 2019

Sabaton is set to release their ninth album, The Great War, on July 19 via Nuclear Blast Entertainment. I phoned up bassist Pär Sundström on Sunday night to discuss the album, Sabaton History Channel, a potential Australian tour, and Star Wars…

It’s been the band’s longest break ever between albums. Having listened to the album a couple of times over the weekend, my initial reaction was that it feels very fresh. With time I think it will grow stronger than recent albums Heroes and The Last Stand. I was curious about if the long break meant that Sabaton approached this album differently to others.

“It didn’t take as long to write as other albums, it just took longer this time around because the world is bigger now, we tour more, it takes longer to travel from A to B. Ten years ago we could do two legs in Europe, and that’s it. Now there are heaps more places where there are fans of Sabaton.10 years ago we couldn’t dream of travelling to Australia. Even if we couldn’t do a headliner show, we could do the gigs with Amon Amarth last year, for example. Our world is growing bigger, we tour more and we still feel like we don’t want to discriminate against anyone just because they live far away. We might not be doing more gigs necessarily though. It’s harder to do on this level. 2008-2010 we played about 15 gigs in Sweden. There aren’t 15 cities in Sweden where we can pull the crowds necessary for the productions we’re travelling with. So there are fewer gigs in Sweden and maybe Germany and so on. But at the same time, we travel to other places. Australia doesn’t feel like a place that we have to tour, but it’s pretty sweet to do! It feels like a fantastic thing to do!“

The last time I spoke to Pär he told me that he felt like Australian promoters have underestimated the band. I was curious about if the shows they performed at Download and with Amon Amarth last year may have changed things?

“We have received praise after that tour. And now it feels like it’ll be easier to do some other kind of tour, ie. Hopefully a headliner tour in Australia. It was the right thing to do, to play those shows with Amon Amarth and play in front of a larger audience. We’ll have to see what the next step is, but fun opportunities always show up that you might not be able to plan for beforehand. There are heaps of bands that tour all the time, and even if it’s great to be the headliner, there might be something else that would be cool to do anyway.“

Do you think it‘s likely you will come back to Australia during this album cycle?

“It’s very likely I’d like to say. It’s a very slim chance that we won’t make it.”

The new album, The Great War, is a concept album about WWI and there are 11 tracks in total. With a such a massive chapter in our history being the base for this album, were they worried that they would end up with 50 songs, or did they always know exactly what to write about?

“You always pick up heaps of different themes, and we thought that if we were to make an album about World War I, then we should sing about 4 different things. The Red Baron, The Battle of Verdun, over many years we’ve received requests from plenty of fans that wanted us to make a song about the event that is The Attack of the Dead Men. That one was also a given. And then it was the Christmas Truce, which wasn’t included in the end because we never managed to make a song that would fit with the theme. So that’s one for the future, possibly. It’s impossible to cover a war like that on one album if you were to go into greater detail. But then the entire concept of Sabaton fall apart. We can’t tell the entire story on a song that’s 2,3, 4 minutes long.”

“The songs are like a teaser or something like that. You listen to a song that might pique your interest. But there isn’t much history in the actual song, it’s just not possible, they would have to be 40 minutes long and be released every second year or so. But you can understand what the songs are about, but not the complete history behind them. That’s kind of why Sabaton History Channel was born as well, for most fans, there’s a good amount of information about the background of a song. If you watch an episode like that, you can learn quite a bit, but it’s not supposed to teach you every single detail.”

Attack of the Dead Men is my favourite track on the album. I think it’s one of the most interesting songs both musically lyrically Sabaton has made recently. I asked Pär about a very distinct melody in the song, and whose idea it was to include it.

“I think it was Jocke or maybe Chris in that case. But the song itself was partly written for the album Heroes, but if you listen to the music it’s pretty easy to hear that it would have been difficult to fit in with songs about heroes, it doesn’t quite work because it’s a bit mystical and dark.”

The Great War is a fantastic Youtube channel, covering the First World War from 1914 to 1923, in real time, 100 years later. I discovered this channel through Sabaton. I wanted to know how important this channel was during the writing of the latest album.

“It’s pretty great actually, we said last summer that we were going to do an album about World War I. I phoned up Indy (Neidell, historian) and asked if he wanted to be a consultant on the album and he said, “absolutely! Just ask whatever you want to know!” And then we could just say, “The Attack of the Dead Men”, and then he would tell us what episode we needed to watch. Then if we had more questions, for example about some lyrics, if it looked right, he could tell us yes or no. So it did play an important role, it gave us an easy way of doing research. The Great War channel covers the war, week by week, a hundred years after it happened. So we thought that we’d do The Battle of Verdun, which was 300 days long, that’s quite a few weeks. So we asked Indy about Verdun, so he told us it was about 40 episodes (laughs) so that was a bit much! But we never had to look further than Indy to receive information for the album.“

Sabaton’s video for the stand-alone track Bismarck has racked up 6.2 million views in just 4 weeks. Pär didn’t seem surprised about this fantastic feat.

“We had a feeling it was a good thing from the very beginning. If we look back, we’ve been doing this for 20 years. And then you have people ask us, and tell us we have to do a tour and just play songs from the first album. But we felt we’d rather focus on something that’s new and fresh. At the same time, we wanted to thank our fans. What do you do? What do you give them? You could send them flowers or a box of chocolate, but that’s a lot of boxes to ship around the world. There is one thing that any Sabaton fan, whether they live in Sweden, Australia or on the Moon, would want, and that’s new music. So we looked at what kind of theme we could use. I sifted through my inbox and sorted by which themes that most people had wished for. The top spot is still Star Wars but we kinda felt that that’s not the right thing to do. So we went for the second most requested theme, which was Bismarck. We felt that it was a good idea. We quite often meet with gaming company Wargaming, who’s made World of Tanks and World of Warships. I sat down and talked to them about this idea and they thought it sounded cool. And that song suits their fans really well too, so they wanted to help us make the music video. The song was recorded last Summer, so it took a long while before we could make this happen.”

There have been rumours floating around for a while about a re-recording of 2010 album Coat of Arms. If you believe the Internet, it was meant to be released quite a while back by now. I asked Pär if they actually did re-record the album.

“No, not quite. We haven’t re-recorded Coat of Arms. We have done some changes, but we’re not quite happy with the result so we don’t know if it will lead to something yet. But there were a couple of rumours that we had re-made it. At the moment we’re not quite there at least!“

Finishing up our chat, I wanted to know if there have been moments over the past 20 years when Pär have felt really proud over something the band has achieved.

“We’ve got heaps of stuff that we’re proud of. There are small things happening all the time that I think is cool. I like to prove people wrong. America is one thing that I think is awesome when it goes well. Because no one believed in it. No one doubted that we would do well in Germany, but everyone so far has told us to forget about the US, that they hate our music. So it’s pretty great with the upcoming tour, that will be sold out everywhere, the promoters are like, “what just happened?”

The Great War is out on July 19 via Nuclear Blast. Click here to pre-order your copy in various formats from the official Nuclear Blast Webstore. Australian pre-orders available here.


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.