Photo Credit: Margarita Khartanovich
Interviewed by Marianne Jacobsen (Journalist/Writer) Myglobalmind Webzine
Photographs by: Richard Hooks
Michael Amott is an English-born Swedish guitarist, songwriter, founding member of the bands such as Spiritual Beggars, and Carnage. In 1996 he, together with his younger brother, Christopher, Johan Liiva, and Daniel Erlandsson formed the now renowned Swedish melodic and progressive death metal band, Arch Enemy. On 14 August 2015, Michael took some time out to chat to us in Richmond, Virginia, USA.
MGM: Hi, thanks for making time to talk to me.
MA: You’re welcome
MGM: So Arch Enemy’s former lead singer Angela Gossow is one of my heroes. She took the place of a male lead singer and managed Arch Enemy at the same time. Now you have a new singer, Alissa White-Glutz (CANADIAN!!!) and it seems the band has been taken to a whole new level. Do you find that Arch Enemy has defied time and continued to fill generational gaps?
MA: I would say yes. We have different influences from modern rock to heavy metal and we kind of mix it all up. I guess we are an extreme metal band at the end of the day, however we have many classic influences.
MGM: So I read a review of last night’s show and I’m looking forward to this evening (Which fucking killed btw). Everyone is saying you are really stepping it up out there. It must be nice to have found someone at the same caliber as Angela to take the Arch Enemy torch and move forward.
MA: Oh yeah, it’s a real thrill to be on stage with Alissa. She’s a great performer.
MGM: What continues to push Arch Enemy forward?
MA: Well for me personally, I just love music and that’s what keeps me going. I don’t really need to do this for a living anymore. I just do it now because I love it. I just really appreciate the opportunity to continue to play and perform now after all these years. It continues to surprise me that people still want to listen to the songs that I write and music that we put together.
MGM: Does it really surprise you though?
MA: There are a lot of different trends in metal, especially in North America – trends that come and go in metal. In Europe, Latin America and Asia the fan base is steadier for us.
MGM then reminisces with MA about the time she saw Arch Enemy and Machine Head in Toronto at the Opera House in 2008 (one of the most fun nights ever). MGM even brought pictures from the show to share!!!
MGM: With all the new music coming out now, what excites you? Is there anyone out there that you could see eventually passing the torch to?
MA: There are generations of others that you normally think about. The Slayers the Metallicas the Megadeths of this word and then you have beyond them the Judas Priests and the Sabbaths and all that stuff. Arch Enemy is a younger band than those guys – maybe the generation after that. You know, that’s one of the exciting things about rock and roll is you don’t know when its time to quit. Like the Rolling Stones are still going…
MGM: Don’t you think Arch Enemy is gaining new momentum with Alissa on board?
MA: To be honest with you Arch Enemy is doing better now that it has ever done.
MGM: I hate to ask. However, I find that your style of dress has evolved as well. The outfits seem more theatrical and post apocalyptic. Was that done on purpose?
MA: Alissa is just a fantastic vocalist and performer. She brought her look with her (from her previous band The Agonist). She creates her own on stage look and she had the blue hair already (which is MGMs favourite colour) so we weren’t going to tell her, “You’ve got to be Angela #2.” I think she is doing her own thing and I think that was kind of the way forward. This record was actually made in secrecy in this age of social media. We didn’t tell anyone that we were even recording or making a record or even had a new lead singer. We just kind of did a few photo shoots and put the video out there and blew everyone away.
Be blown away here:
MA: That video has won all sorts of awards and it went viral – getting 1 million hits within 3 days.
MGM: Well you do have a pretty big following.
MA: It still took everyone by surprise, which was a fun way to do it.
MGM: That’s awesome when you can take this generation by surprise at all.
MA: Yeah it’s fun. We did a similar thing when Angela joined the band. We put out sound samples of the album we recorded with her. Also again we did it without telling anyone and we just posted music – a few snippets of music.
This was in the earlier age of the internet, maybe early 2000s. At first everyone thought it was a guy (Angela) because no one knew that we had gotten a new female singer.
MGM: I remember the controversy around that – being a female singer and would she be able to handle taking the place of a guy.
MA: When Angela left the band she said “I want to bow out. However I know how much this band means to you, and you guys have a lot of music left in you to give.”
Angela suggested Alissa, so we checked her out.
MGM: How did you find her? On YouTube?
MA: Yes. YouTube is great because it allows people to be recognized who might not have the money behind them to promote themselves.
MGM: How did you pick Alissa though? Was there a long list of people?
MA: It all happened very quickly. The core members of the band sat down and decided to make a list of potential people to front the band. We just put the names down no matter what – if we found them interesting or whatever – to check out. We kind of just left that meeting with one name (Alissa). I thought to myself “well this is a bit stupid.” So I called her and she was in Asia on another tour with another project. We were able to get a hold of each other and talked a bit and she was definitely interested. So Alissa came up to Sweden and did some rehearsing. It was really interesting to see what she sounded like singing our existing catalogue.
MGM: So have you had to modify the old catalogue to fit Alissa’s vocals at all?
MA: Not at all.Alissa’s vocals fit like a glove. She grew up listening to Arch Enemy – Wages of Sin – which, is the first album with Angela, and also Alissa’s first metal CD.
MGM: Wow! So this was really meant to be!
MA: Yeah it’s been really great.
MGM: So how long have you been on tour now?
MA: April of 2014.
MGM: Are you tired?
MA: Yeah (laughter). Yeah, some days. Tonight (being the B4BQ) is a little bit different because it’s like two tours meeting up.
MGM: The worlds collide! So are you all friends with the other bands? When something like this happens and you are at a festival is it nice to be able to catch up with people you know?
MA: Absolutely it’s a lot of fun. It happens a lot more in Europe. Europe is where I have met a lot of my North American friends. I have met people from all over the world – not just the musicians but the crew (who are just as important as far as MGM is concerned). It’s such a scene at all these festivals where all these bands play (i.e. Bloodstock, Download etc.). You can fill a whole summer just doing these festivals. Arch Enemy has performed May to August just playing festivals in Europe this year.
MGM: So what will you do in your time off?
MA: I have six weeks off coming up in September. In mid October we tour Japan. Then we finish up the year being the supporting act for a band called Nightwish.
MGM: Oh yeah, of course, another female singer that reclaimed the throne with Nightwish.
MA: That’s right. It’s going to be a big tour. Nightwish is really big over there, so we will be performing in arenas.
MGM: What do you prefer? Playing the arenas or smaller venues?
MA: I like both. Both have their own qualities. You can have fun in both. They both are radically different. My favourite shows are probably in front of 1,000 people – in good conditions its amazing. It’s great to do festivals too though because you get to reach a wider audience, maybe pull some new people in.
MGM: What’s your wish for the future for Arch Enemy?
MA: Well next year we are gonna slow down a bit. We will be doing some touring but nowhere near as much. Once we are done this, it will have been a 2 year world tour! So I think I will take a nap, get something to eat, spend some time with my family and then start writing a new album.
MGM: Closing comments?
MA: Go see a show and support the bands that you like!
MGM proceeds to have a discussion with MA off the record about YngwieMalmsteen and other guitar heroes. Fucking cool.
Arch Enemy are currently on their “Most Extreme Tour of the Year”, The Summer Slaughter Tour of North America. Go see them live on the following remaining dates:
23 August 2015 – San Francisco, CA at The Regency Ballroom
24 August 2015 – Los Angeles, CA at Regent Theatre
27 August 2015 – Kiel, Germany, Full Metal Cruise III
31 August 2015, Istanbul, Turkey, 100% Metal Fest Headbangers’ Weekend
2 September 2015, Frankfurt, Germany, Batschkapp