[AltWire Interview] Amaranthe – “We’re Not A Female Metal Band”

Amaranthe

amaranthemassivecdFresh off of a very successful US tour and the release of their brand new album, Massive Addictive, Amaranthe is proving that they are one of the most exciting and unique bands to come out of the Swedish metal scene in recent memory.

Fronted by three vocalists and featuring a distinct blend of melodic power metal with electronica, the Gothenburg-based sextet manages to defy music genre categorization with every release. Their desire to break out from the norm has left an impression on their growing fanbase across the globe, which is exactly why we feel Amaranthe is a strong candidate for the metal band to watch in 2015.

We had an opportunity to speak with one of the band’s founding members, Jake E (Joacim Lundberg), about his feelings on the new record, touring, and why he feels metal publications need to stop referring to Amaranthe as a ‘female-fronted metal band’. Check it out below:

AW [Derek Oswald]: Your new album Massive Addictive was released earlier this month. Which song was your favorite to record on the album, and which tracks are you most excited for your fans to hear?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: The first part of that question is really hard to answer because it’s like when you record a movie you never make it chronologically. You’ll maybe start with the ending and then do some parts in the middle. [As a vocalist] you take the pieces that fit your voice for the day. Some days you’ll just record a verse on one song and then a chorus on another one and then you’ll do harmonies in a third one. So I can’t really say which song was the most fun or best to record because we have never done it like that you know what I mean? I guess ‘Over and Done’ was a very fun song to do the parts for, but the whole album, in general, was fun. It was a lot of hard work, but it was also a lot of fun. The best thing with recording the whole album is that for the first time we actually recorded during the Spring and Summer. The first two albums we recorded during the Winter and that sucks.

AW: [Laughing] would you say there were any tracks in particular that brought more challenges than the others?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: It’s always difficult to record music. I would say that it’s always difficult to make new songs and get them to sound like it sounds in your head. When you write songs you have the whole song built up in your head and you see it in front of you as to how it’s going to sound but it’s really hard to get that into a CD. I have a hard time with it myself because I’m a perfectionist so you know the smallest fucking thing that I’m not 100% on annoys me a lot [laughs]. So I’d say all the songs are difficult to record.

To go back to your first question, I forgot to answer that ‘Over and Done’ is the song I’d like the most to play live, to see the fans’ reaction and see how it works out live. We haven’t played that yet. We’ve played a lot of the other songs, but not that one.

AW: This is the first album you’ve recorded with Henrik on screaming vocals. How do you feel the addition of Henrik has changed the sound and dynamic of your music from when Andreas was in the band?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: I would say that we’ve changed a little bit when it comes to the songs compared to the first two albums. We’ve updated the sound in general to a more modern sound or what I would call ‘Amaranthe 2.0’ had we been software. Andy is more of a death metal growler and would fit in any death metal band, and I do think he is one of the best growlers out there. With Henrik, he is a fantastic growler as well, but he has a totally different style. He’s more towards the Slipknot way of doing it and he’s also a bit more modern. He has something living in that you can find in hip-hop and stuff like that. So it was a great tool to have when we wrote the new songs because we had his old band Scarpoint in mind when we wrote the songs and we knew what he was capable of doing. That also is one of the reasons why the album sounds like it does because we could bend the corners a little bit more in this album I think.

AW: I can definitely see what you said about the Slipknot comparison. Henrik definitely has a bit of a Corey Taylor tonality to his voice. Now speaking of comparisons, there have been a lot of attempts by the press and even fans to categorize your sound, but you seem to draw from many diverse genres and inspirations. How would you best describe your sound and musical style to fans listening for the first time?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: It’s always so hard to get this question because for some kind of reason people and fans in general always want to categorize your music. They want to put you in a specific drawer and they have to know if it’s Power Metal, if it’s Death Metal and they have to put a genre on it. And I don’t think that we have a genre. I think we have our own sound and that nobody sounds like us. There have been a lot of different descriptions – i.e. progressive, industrial, power metal, power-super-duper metal. They come up with different ideas for us and I would just say that we play some kind of fucking mixture of a lot of different styles and that it’s Amaranthe. I guess you could call it ‘Amaranthe Metal’ [laughs]. I have no idea!

But actually, the thing that I get most upset over is when they call us ‘female metal’ because we’re not a female metal band. We have a female member in the band but that doesn’t make us a female-fronted metal band because we have three lead singers. We’re three vocalists and that’s something that annoys the shit out of me because a female-fronted metal band is something that has a girl in the front and tries to put the band like 100 feet away from the singer and blur out the band and that is not us. That’s something that annoys me to hell. Like a lot actually.

AW: I’m glad you said all of that because it seems like sometimes Metal publications have an unhealthy obsession with not only putting bands in a category but also focusing on one aspect of the band like ‘Oh they have a female vocalist in the group’.

Jake E [Amaranthe]: Yeah and one thing that I also don’t understand is how people, in general, think about stuff. Because it’s sick that just because a girl is in the band that people don’t judge the girl based off of her ability they judge the girl because she’s a girl. They say ‘oh you’re so cute’ or ‘your dresses are so nice’ but never ever focus on the actual talent and that’s something else that is really sick in this business I think. Because nobody would ever call a band with five girls and one guy a ‘Male Fronted Metal Band’.

AW: I agree. I feel like sadly that’s something that every single Metal band that features a female lead singer has experienced. They focus on how scantily clad or how pretty a woman singer is, rather than how well she can sing.

Jake E [Amaranthe]: Exactly and I also saw that Revolver Magazine has a tour that is named ‘The Hottest Chicks In Rock Tour’ and that is so disgusting to me that I want to puke. Because [at that point] you’re not selling music, you’re telling people to come see beautiful ladies on stage!

AW: One of our female writers actually wrote about that on our site. She was very offended by the whole concept of the tour and how she felt it took away from what music is really about.

Jake E [Amaranthe]: It annoys me. Because to me it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female or if you’re transgender or whatever! I don’t care! Because your gender or sexual preference has nothing to do with you as an artist at all. We should focus on ‘yeah that’s a great guitar player’ or ‘that’s a great singer’ but what’s between the legs of that person shouldn’t matter!

AW: That’s a great way to put it and I think that’s a message that carries into your music as well. Your bandmate Elize has stated in the past that Amaranthe’s music focuses on “positive energy”. Do you agree with her description, and is there a message you hope to send with your music?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: Absolutely! I write most of the lyrics and I try to be positive, but also very cryptic and double-sided. We have a song on the new album called ‘Digital World’ and you can read it at first as ‘oh everything is so good with all the digital things in the world’ but the undertone of the whole thing is saying that maybe you should throw your computer in your pool and go outside and see the world before you die. You know? So I try to put positive meanings in everything and that also applies to our shows. When we play shows we want the audience – despite whatever mood they are in when they come into the show -to be having a smile on their face when they leave. That’s what we try to do.

AMARANTH - GOTHENBUREG 2014 Photo copyright JOHN McMURTRIE

“Your gender or sexual preference has nothing to do with you as an artist at all. We should focus on ‘yeah that’s a great guitar player’ or ‘that’s a great singer’ but what’s between the legs of that person shouldn’t matter!”

 

AW: The album art for Massive Addictive is rather unique, and actually reminds me a bit of the Assassin’s Creed logo (if you play video games), could you explain the inspiration behind the artwork and what it represents?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: Haha yeah I’ve played it a lot and yeah it is! Half of us in the band are gamers, so when we first saw it we were like “okay this is fucking cool”. With the new logo we of course gave directions like we wanted white we wanted gold or silver and we wanted it to be clean and updated and those are the directions we gave our designer. And I think he did a really good job. Then we took the photos in the booklet with Patrick and he totally made us look really cool in the pictures and a bit futuristic as always. There’s something with this band and the future and I don’t know why [laughs].

AW: Your last album reached #12 on the US Billboard Heatseekers chart, and singles from Massive Addictive are beginning to get airplay here as well. With your last few dates in North America drawing near, how do you feel about the response your music has received in the States?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: It’s been really good! The album sales for Massive Addictive were 3,400 units for the first week sales and that is double the amount from ‘The Nexus’ which entered at #12. It totally shows that we’ve become bigger over here [in the states] and that our fan base has grown. Absolutely! We love the states, we love to tour here; the people are awesome and it’s great to tour somewhere where the weather is more or less nice all the time instead of what it’s like touring Sweden.

AW: Did you have a favorite stop on this tour? Were there any cities or venues that really stood out to you?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: Yeah but it wasn’t in the states though it was in Canada. We played in Montreal and that was fucking crazy. Two thousand people singing along to every fucking song. That was crazy and that was really, really weird!

AW: After this month you’ll be heading to the Czech Republic and will be touring through Sweden, Russia, Finland and the UK! Given that you’ve already toured on a few continents, are there any places in particular that you haven’t gone to yet that you hope you can do a show in, in the future?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: Yeah! We played Europe like ten thousand times, we’ve played Africa, we played Russia a couple of times, we played Japan five times. We’ve done three tours in the states and played Canada so the only places we’ve actually got left is Australia and South America. We played Mexico on this tour as well so we really don’t have that many continents left to discover. We only have areas of South America and Australia left and then maybe markets that aren’t that big yet like China and India. We had offers from there as well, but it’s tough to go to countries where you have to pay for your own trip, it’s impossible. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of South America and going to Australia. I’ve never been to Australia so I’m really looking forward to that; it’s probably going to be next year.

AW: That would be cool! Speaking of tours, you just concluded a series of dates with Within Temptation, what was it like touring with that band?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: It was awesome. They’re really nice guys I met them a couple of times before and I even did pyrotechnics for them like ten years ago when I used to be a pyro technician. I’m actually also in their latest video as an extra because I also work with music video production for a company called Revolver which is the company that makes our videos so I filmed that video with them and they missed an extra guy so I jumped into it. So fans that really look into stuff like that will see me in that video. But yeah they were awesome dudes. We had a couple of beers and we hung out and yeah, it was a lot of fun.

AW: Now that I’ve learned that you are involved in both pyrotechnics and video production, do you have a big hand in that with Amaranthe or is that something you’ve kind of left to other people?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: I am the middle man with everything in our band. On the road, I do tour managing and back home I sit in my office and take care of contracts together with our management and book flight tickets. I do more or less a lot of stuff in the background as well and when it comes to stage setup it’s Olaf and I and it’s our band and we do all the stuff. I have all the contacts for this so when we play Europe we usually do bigger shows because we’re bigger in Europe than we are in the states. We usually have a lot of pyro but it’s pretty hard for me to push the button myself when I’m standing there singing.

AW: [Laughs] that’d be impressive to watch!

Jake E [Amaranthe]: I usually program the shit in the songs so I get the show the way I want to do it, but then I have someone else to push the button.

AW: One last question, now that the album has been released and your touring schedule is looking pretty full, are there any other big things in the works that fans should keep an eye out for in the upcoming months?

Jake E [Amaranthe]: There’s going to be a second single, we haven’t decided which one yet, but of course, we’re going to make a second video. I have big plans for that one and I have no idea what I’m going to do yet but usually, I write the scripts for the videos during long airplane flights over the Atlantic. That’s what I’ve done with the ‘Hunger’ video and the ‘Invicible’ video and for The Nexus. So it’s probably going to come up in my mind soon as to what we’re going to do. Other than that we’re going to come back to the States next year and probably tour the shit out of this album. So there’s probably going to be a lot of fun things that are going to come up. There’s so much stuff happening all the time so you don’t really know what’s going to happen because everything’s going so fast. All of a sudden there’s an email from someone saying ‘hey you’ve got this tour now and you’re going to do this’ and I’m like ‘okay I’ll pack my bags!’

Watch Amaranthe’s video for ‘Drop Dead Cynical’ below:

 

Amaranthe - Drop Dead Cynical (Official Music Video)

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