This live interview with front man Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth was done by Sam Warren on February 28th, 2004, at their show at the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, together with Moonspell and Devildriver.

All right, so we’re here with Opeth, and Mikael Åkerfeldt.

So how’s the tour been so far?
It’s been very good, we’ve done 6 or 7 weeks on this tour I think, and most of the gigs have been packed with people that seem to appreciate our stuff.

Are you getting accustomed to the crazy reaction you get in the states? I know initially you were surprised by it.
Yeah, yeah well you’re always surprised when you play in a country that you’ve never played before. If you’ve got a reaction at all, or if people are coming, that kind of stuff. But now it’s just… we’ve been here so many times the last couple of years it’s not surprising anymore. Where we play, regardless of whether they’re 200 people in there, or 2,000 people, it’s always good.

Yeah, I heard you talking in an interview about how it’s a lot more violent in the crowds here (US) sometimes?
Oh especially here in Worcester. The mosh pit here is the most insane thing I’ve ever seen. Maybe not for us, but you know, when we played the hardcore metal fest, it was insane.

What are your feelings about Moonspell and Devil Driver?
I really like them you know, but I’ve never been a big fan of either of them. I mean, I’ve never really heard of them before the tour. Like Moonspell, I’d only heard a couple of albums or something. But they’re great people and we’ve had a fucking blast touring with them.

Have you noticed any difference in the crowd since the release of Damnation? It’s obvious that the majority of your fans really enjoyed it, but do you think that maybe you gathered a notable large crowd of unexpected listeners?
Yeah, you know, we have a considerably wider age difference in the crowd. We’ve got people from ten year olds up to sixty or so. So yeah, definitely all sorts of people are coming to the shows now.

How important do you consider live shows to be for the band?
Well that’s how we make our living pretty much. We don’t sell enough… we sell, for a metal band we sell a decent amount of CD’s, but that’s not enough for all of us to make a living. We can’t only put out records, so by touring and selling merch and stuff like that is really how we make our living. So it’s obviously the life and death of the band. But you know, that’s cool, because we knew that was coming. We knew what we had to do, so it’s never been a problem to work this hard in order to make a living, because you’re doing what you want to after all.

Which do you think is a more accurate portrayal of Opeth, a live show or a recorded album?
I don’t know, it’s hard to say. You know, obviously we want people to think that we’re a good live band. That has more to do with… you know, when we play songs its got more to do with what kind of reactions we’ve got from the crowds and just the whole atmosphere of the gig itself. The recording is obviously a much more creative process. That’s when you’re on edge all the time. You’re thinking about the music but when we play live, it’s just, we play the songs. We don’t think about it, we just want to have a good show. So, it’s totally different, but you know, I would be… well… I’m happy when people say “you sound better live then on record.” But I would be like “huh?” if they say like “you sound better on record then live.”

Speaking of recording albums, you’ve been touring extensively since Damnation’s release, so do you have any plans in the near future for a new album?
Well, we started this tour in December 2002. So we’ve been out a long time in support of these two last albums, and before that we were touring for Blackwater Park all the time. So I haven’t had so much time to write music. But we only have… tonight is the last gig of this tour, and then we have another nine gigs, and then I think we’re off. I think we’ll take some time off and then start writing. Probably record maybe… early next year.

I’m sure you’ve been asked these questions a million times about side projects, but do you have any plans to do anything on them right now? I was really impressed with Bloodbath, is there any chance of another album?
Not from my side. We did it to have fun, you know? They want to do another album because there’s some… a little bit of cash involved, obviously from Century Media, which I wouldn’t say no to. But I don’t have time, and I don’t think it would be a fun project. It just becomes a “project” after you do another one.

So it’ll become something you have to commit to.
Exactly, and I don’t want to be involved, which was the case for Resurrection through Carnage. I mean, I didn’t actually write anything you know? I just did my vocals. And I don’t like, being not involved in any whatever-project. I want to be a part of the songwriting or whatever. And I just don’t have time.

Just for the sake of asking, any chance at all of something with Steel or Sörskogen?
Haha (laughing at my pronunciation of the latter) umm… no. Steel was also a lot of fun, it was never meant to be released. And Sörskogen is just something I did on a… well for fun basically.

Just one more question on that note, I heard that you were going to do vocals on the new Ayreon album?
Yeah, I’ve done it.

Can you tell us anything about that?
I don’t know so much but uhh… it’s all sorts of like… great vocalists on that album and they’re all very good you know? They’re vocal singers, I’m not really in that league, but it was good for me because he really pushed me to really do well. It came out… well, I’ve only heard that parts that I’ve done, and those parts sound great. But I don’t have a clue what the whole album will be like.

I know that you draw your inspiration from quite an eclectic mix of bands, is there any band in specific, aside from Porcupine Tree, that you feel specifically influences you?
Well you know, all the bands that I grew up listening to still influence me I guess. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Scorpions, Judas Priest, all those… And also, Morbid Angel, I mean every time I hear them its just like “woah.” Otherwise, it’s hard to say when you’re influenced by something, you only know when you write it. And it could be also stuff that I don’t listen to on a regular regular basis. One part I stole from… well… not stole… but got influenced from by Mary J. Blige, which I don’t listen at all. I just heard the song somewhere.

How’s most of the song writing done? I know for a while that you were writing everything, is that still the way it’s done?
Yeah, for the last five albums that’s been the case. It’s just more convenient for me to write songs when there aren’t other people around. So it’s really just more convenient.

Can you elaborate a little on the troubles you had recording the last two albums? You even had to switch studios in the middle of it right?
Yeah. Well it was mostly technical problems. We were there on our own and we didn’t have our engineer to help us. The guy who owned the studio told us he would help us but he was a drunk, and he ended up just… all the stuff he had, all the equipment was like… not taken care of. You know, it was either not working, or working bad. And the tape recorder fucked up many times… I mean, in a way, you expect a certain level of technical problems in the studio but this was beyond our reach. This was the worst we had ever seen, and on top of that, this guy just couldn’t help us out. He would just smack the stuff around like *smack* the tape recorder like this and “well its working now.” So we had to change studios by the time Steve Wilson was coming down. Because he’s getting paid quite a lot, so we don’t want to be somewhere he can’t work, so we definitely had to switch to Fredmund. You know, we’d been there once before and he’s just more aware of the stuff he had. So that’s really why we switched studios, because we were going insane. We were thinking “there won’t even be an album.” So we had to do that.

I first heard about this on the new DVD, can you tell us what it was like making your first DVD?
Well, for us it was not really a thing, you know? The documentary was done before the DVD idea was really there. That was a friend of mine who’s studying to become a director. So he’s been doing these things, you know, same thing with Blackwater Park. And he planned to film it from way before the DVD idea.

So you guys didn’t have to do much of anything?
No, I mean, he was there filming us and we had to do the interviews obviously, but he was gonna do that anyways, whether we were to put out the DVD or not. Once the label and the management started talking about this DVD we said, ok, we’ll put the documentary on it. It was great you know? And I definitely think its one of the best bonus features I’ve seen on a metal DVD. I don’t like that shaky-hand camera like “we are drunk.”

(laughs) Yeah that’s what it always is. Behind the scenes, look I’m drunk and falling over.
Exactly, but this was actually a high-class documentary I think. It gave insights on how we work and how we are personally.

I’m sure you’ve been asked this before as well, but what was the first idea you had to mix the death metal with the more mellow material?
It started actually from the get-go. Even before I got into symphonic rock and prog we had some (sings for a second) singing kind of parts, you know? I don’t really know where we got that from really, but…

Just a random idea?
Yeah, I’ve always been able to sing somewhat you know, and I think it really started when I came up with the acoustic part for a song on the first album called “The Twilight is my Robe.” And there was a part there and I tried to sing a little bit in the rehearsal room, I think this was ninety… one, yeah 91. And uh… yeah it worked, so from then on we started doing that stuff you know?

Well, that’s about it. Is there anything you want to add?
No, I’m fine thanks.

Ok cool, thanks for your time, see you at the show.
Thank you.

Thanks a lot to Mark at Chipster PR for setting up the interview!

Links of interest:

Opeth Official Site
Music For Nations
Chipster PR