There’s simply no denying that Swedish melodeath giants Arch Enemy are one of the hardest working touring bands in the genre right now. Ever since the band had its rebirth with several key new members (vocalist Alissa White-Gluz and guitarist Jeff Loomis) and the release of War Eternal, the band has hardly taken a single break in-between bludgeoning audiences with some of their most inspired material in years. The band is just about head over to America as the headlining act of the now-infamous Summer Slaughter Tour, and I got a chance to speak with Michael Amott, the band’s mastermind and founding member, about their current run of shows, the band’s creative process, what’s new for Amott’s other bands, and more!
Thanks for taking the time to do this man; I know you guys are busy with lots of shows and stuff. You’re still on the festival run in Europe, right?
Yeah, we’re playing the last one tonight. We’re headlining something called Metal Days. It’s in Slovenia and it goes on for five days. Metal for five days, and there’s like a beach here, it’s pretty crazy.
Have you played there before?
I have, yeah, a couple of times.
How has the whole festival run been going for you?
Very well! It’s been very successful. This is the second summer on this album, or on this current tour, but it’s been going very well.
Have audiences been pretty open to the new material and the new lineup?
It’s been great! Some of the new songs have gotten the best reaction I think. It’s crazy. It was a very successful album and campaign for us. We’re playing five songs off the new album tonight, maybe six, I’m not sure.
You’re almost wrapping that up and then next week you’re starting up again over in the US. Are you guys pretty excited for that?
Yeah, it’s a great opportunity to go back to the states for us.
Do you have any expectations at all for the tour?
Eh, not really. We’ve never done anything like that with that many bands, except for Ozzfest, when we did that one year. It’s going to be a little bit different.
Are you going to have to change your set up specifically for this tour, or are you keeping the festival sets?
I think we get 70 minutes for Summer Slaughter, so I guess we’ll try to play some of the new songs on War Eternal that we didn’t do on the last tour last fall. And then some classics and some tracks we haven’t played in a while in the states. We’ll try to make it a good set for the US fans and the Canadian fans.
Awesome! I also just saw the other day that you guys put out this weird animation video for “Avalanche,” which I thought looked pretty cool even though it was just setting up the drawing. Was there any sort of inspiration for that? I know it’s kind of what the album looks like, but…
It’s a t-shirt design that a Canadian artist did for us. He basically made that video and we didn’t even ask him for it. He just made that as he was creating the new t-shirt and artwork for us, and said we could use it whenever we wanted. So we just dropped that now, and it’s just something cool for people to look at, there’s no real meaning or anything behind it. It’s basically just shows how he created that art.
Was that a guy you’ve worked with before?
No, that was the first time we’ve worked with him.
Besides the obvious changes in the lineup with War Eternal, the other change I guess for you guys was handling the production by yourself.
Eh…we had done a couple of times before, yeah. We usually get someone to mix it, and this time we got a new guy named Jens Bogren.
Oh yeah for sure. I know he’s worked with Opeth…
Yeah, and Amon Amarth, Opeth, Symphony X and a bunch of stuff. He was new for us, and he did a great job on the album! We’ve been producing the last few albums ourselves, though.
Do you think you’ll keep working with him in the future, or do you want to start doing it all yourself?
We’re definitely not mixing ourselves. It’s such a big job. It’s such a complicated job and there’s a lot of pressure involved. I think it’s nice to go with someone who really can deliver a very awesome mix. And by the time you’ve written it, recorded it, and produced it yourself, you’re pretty burnt out on it, so it’s nice to give it away to somebody else to mix it. I don’t know if we’ll continue working with Jens. We’re kind of far away from a new album at this point and we haven’t really discussed that yet. But he did a great job! It was a lot of fun working with him.
So you said you’re pretty far away from a new album, and I know it’s only been a year since the last album, but once you get recording and everything another year goes by. Do you think you’ll probably take some time off after this tour?
I think we’d like to. I mean, by the time we wrap up this tour, it’s going to have been two years on the road. We’ve played shows all over the world.
Have there been any sort of new ideas coming up, or are you just not even thinking about that right now?
Yeah, we have new ideas. We’re not really seriously focusing on the writing though. It’s more like bits and pieces of music. It’s not something like…
…so no whole songs or anything?
Well, there’s a couple, I actually did a demo a few months ago with my drummer Daniel [Erlandsson] and we just did a demo of the skeletons of what could be two new songs. It’s a very basic shape and form though. Usually we embellish those a lot and change them. So those two are there, and there will be others to follow.
When you’re demoing ideas, you don’t normally stick to what you have? Are you usually changing things up after a while, or do you get comfortable early on?
Oh yeah, we’re constantly circling around stuff, changing things, improving, and we like to live with the songs for a while. We like to improve on them, mess with them, add stuff, take stuff away, and a lot of details. There are a lot of details in this kind of music and the arrangements are really important. We spend a lot of time on that stuff.
Do you ever kind of come up with things spontaneously in the studio, or do you always have your stuff ready to go beforehand?
Not really in the studio, but in rehearsal there’s a few times where a lot of stuff comes from improve. I’ll just go and jam with Daniel and plug in and not have any new ideas but once we start jamming together stuff happens. And suddenly we have something that could turn into a song, you know? Some stuff is written like that, and some stuff is written like individual parts we write at home and bring more finished and complete ideas to the table, and some stuff just comes out of jamming. It’s a good balance, I think.
Have you been doing any jamming or writing with Jeff Loomis at all?
A little bit, not a lot. But we’re going to get into that, and we’re both excited about doing it. With the big touring schedule that we have, we’re not really into that yet. But we look forward to doing that.
Ok, cool! I was wondering if you were going to keep it to just you writing the songs and letting him just come on top of that or actually collaborating. So I’m pretty excited about that! You also haven’t done anything with Spiritual Beggars in a little while. Do you plan on doing that any time? I know obviously you’ve been doing this for the past couple of years, but do you have anything in line for that?
Yeah, we’re actually going into the studio in September doing a new album.
You’re coming up on 20 years of the Black Earth album being out. Do you even want to revisit that? Do you think that’s a plan, or do you want to just keep moving on with new material?
We’re thinking about how we can celebrate that, but we haven’t really come up with a solid plan. If we do, I guess people will hear about it? laughs
Do you guys have any plans coming up after Summer Slaughter, or is this going to be the last bit of shows for you for a while?
Well, we go to Japan in October, and then we’re doing a long European tour as special guests for Nightwish which is actually a big tour in arenas. It’s going to be everything from 5,000 to 12-15,000 people a night! So it’s going to be a very big tour. They’re a very big band over in Europe. So that’s going to be a lot of fun!