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Interviews : “It’s a fun thing to play in different venues” – An interview with Fredrik Akesson (Opeth)

By on September 24, 2019

Opeth is set to release their thirteenth album In Cauda Venenum at the end of September. I caught up with guitarist Frederik Akesson to chat about the new album and the upcoming Australian tour.

Upfront it’s clear that things have been busy leading up to the album release and tour. ‘It’s been [a busy time]. Now, we have two months off/rehearsing, preparing for the new tour, which makes it down to Australia in December.’ In terms of the new album, it’s clear that the band are always trying to improve with each release. ‘I mean, you always want to top yourself, do the best album ever… The mindset was to make it as epic an album as possible and the fact that there are two different versions, one Swedish and English, was a bit different this time around.’ When asked if the Swedish version impacted the songwriting for the band, Akesson explained: ‘Not really. I mean, the riffs are the riffs, I don’t think we’d have played it any different playing-wise. I don’t think that affects it. It’s more the lyrics content; Mikael [Akerfeldt, guitars and vocals] said it was more difficult for him to write in Swedish and he thought about the album in Swedish when he wrote it.’

Akesson also elaborated on his own involvement with the songwriting process as the album took shape: ‘I was involved in ‘The Garroter’, a kind of dark, jazzy track, and I put down guitar solos on many of the songs at an early stage in the demos… but when it comes to the actual writing it’s mostly Mikael. He was quite isolated, but the other guys got to listen to the album when it was done, they heard the demos then everybody started to learn the album.’ Another key factor in the recording of In Cauda Venenum was the band coming together to rehearse as a group: ‘we finally decided to rehearse together as a band which we hadn’t done since the Watershed album which was great because everybody knew their parts really well and they could develop their parts like Martin [Mendez] on bass figuring out cool fills and [Martin] Axenrot on the drums. We could spend more time experimenting with sounds, trying out different guitars and amps, things like that, it was great for the recording, we’re really clicking on this one… Every song has a type of sound-picture, its different frequency that needs to get along in that frame.’

The new album ‘In Cauda Venenum‘ out September 27th via Nuclear Blast.

We then turned to the topic of Akesson’s guitar solos on the new album where he explained to me his process for preparing and recording them: ‘I’m very much into modes and stuff like that so I think about modes sometimes. On this album, there are lots of solos which change key, where you play over different chords, so you can’t be in your comfort zone staying in the same key, you have to think about the chords… When I improvised the solo in the demo version, I just wrote down the chord progression and then I improvised on each chord. Usually, I think “I’m going to redo this solo when I go into the studio”, but this time around Mikael liked them so much that I had to relearn the solos and then fix them up a little bit… It’s quite improvised but sometimes I try to come up with some melodies to put in there and make it more melodic. Guitar-solo-wise it was fun on this album because there was a lot more playing over chords like in the ballad ‘Lovelorn Crime’, it’s a pretty long solo that was fun. Before I did that solo in the demo stage Mikael told me “I want people to remember you for this solo when you die!” and it was like “Ok, thank you, thanks for the pressure”. So yeah, it was fun you know, you always try to do something different on each album for the solos and have this mindset to raise the barrier and become a better player.’

Turning to the tour, I asked Akesson what he was most looking forward to about returning to Australia. ‘Well it’s funny this time, we’re playing a lot of venues that we haven’t played before, some theatres and such, that’s going to frame the live show well for the crowd… we’re also playing in Townsville where I’ve never been, looking forward to that. It’s always a treat to come down to Australia because we get well-received there and it’s an amazing support, of course, we’re super grateful for that. So, we’ll see how it goes this time, last time we had a blast. It’s a fun thing to play in different venues every time around.’ When I asked what came to mind in terms of Australian metal, Akesson was caught off guard. After a few seconds of silence, he responded ‘Oh… erm… That was a good one! [laughs].

He went on to say, ‘When it comes to Australian of course the first thing I think about is AC/DC. Angus Young was the guy who got me into playing the guitar when I was a kid. I watched him and I was like ‘this is crazy! I love it, I’ve got to start playing the guitar.’ That was one of the first hard rock acts I got in to; I had a mixtape and it was ‘Sin City’ from the Bon Scott-era and I was spellbound by the rawness and the energy of it… We had the Australian band Caligula’s Horse, they played a few gigs with us last tour and I believe they made it to Europe as well, they were a great band.’

Akesson also elaborated on the process of developing Opeth’s live set to cover their diverse career. ‘[It’s] very difficult, especially for each new album… we want to play at least 3-4 songs from the new album. Then we try to pick songs from the old catalogue that will please the old-school fans, the more death metal stuff. We still enjoy playing that a lot so it’s difficult. We’re right in the middle of trying to figure this new setlist out and we will pick songs we haven’t played in a while for the old fans… Initially, you want to cover every album, one song from each album, but time doesn’t allow that, you have to kill some of your darlings basically. It’s a balance as well with the death metal stuff… It’s important to play that stuff as well and I think that creates a nice dynamic through the live gig, the mix of the later stuff and the older stuff, it kind of feeds off each other in a way.’

In closing, Akesson reiterated the bands’ excitement to tour Australia off the back of their new album: ‘I just hope that Australian Opeth fans will enjoy the new album and we’re certainly looking forward to coming back and playing some kick-ass shows to you. We will be prepared!’

Catch Opeth touring Australia this December. Tickets on sale now via Metropolis Touring. Click here to secure your tickets today.

About

Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.