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Avatarium

Avatarium
Medusa Children

19.01.2018

Архив интервью | Русская версия

This interview with Marcus Jidell, guitarist of Swedish doom metallers Avatarium, get to see the light of day much later than I expected. It may seem that many topics discussed yet before the band's latest album, "Hurricanes And Halos", saw the light of day, are no longer relevant, but on the other hand, the resulting article looks even more interesting to me. The album that Marcus praises so highly turned out not so strong, in my opinion, forecasts regarding live setlists did not come true, and the status of Leif Edling has finally become clear (let me remind you that the Candlemass mastermind officially quit Avatarium in the fall).

Let's firstly talk about your new album "Hurricanes and Halos". Please tell us a few words about the album, the music, the title, the cover - whatever you like.

I think this album is a natural step for us. When we started the band and we recorded the first album, we always had the intention to do it was an aspiration to make music that was dark, heavy and poetic and also with a lot of emotions, colors, different psychedelic stuff, all these kinds of ingredients. With every album; I think we're getting closer and closer to where we wanna be. I think this album is a very natural step from where we started. So I'm very happy about this album. It got a good big fat organic sound. To me it sounds kind of timeless but you can hear it's like a modern mix, a lot of punch and heaviness. I think we blend a lot of different stuff on this album which we really like, and all the band, everybody has the opportunity to come in personally and put their own flavor to the music. There are more faster songs on this album than on the other ones, it's got a lot of organs again but also heavy guitars. I am very proud of this album, I think its totally the best we've ever done and the sound is really how I've always wanted.

Could you reveal some details of the recording process? I mean, do you perform some preproduction and how actually do you record?

We always do preproduction, I was doing demos and stuff but we actually always try not to do too good demos because our theory is that if you have a kind of shitty demo and you still can hear it's a good song then you know it's a good song. We don't do extremely well-done demos. The demos are always very fast but we try to find the format and the feeling of the song when we do demos. We actually started, the whole band with Leif Edling got together in the same room in the studio and everybody came in with their songs. Leif came in with his songs and we, me and Jennie-Ann (Smith, vocals) came with our songs and we recorded them very roughly, like demo-wise, with the whole band. After that we went home and listened to that and then we got to the rehearsal studio and started to arrange the songs. Some of the songs didn't make it to the album but most of the songs did. And the songs that made it to the album are extremely good songs of course. And then we recorded... you know, I started this thing on "The Girl With The Raven Mask" (2015), and on this album we recorded bass, drums and guitars live, you know.

Oh, I see. That is what I was asking about.

And also some of the vocals. Not for the entire album unfortunately, but some of the vocals are from the live sessions because Jenny-Ann was singing, and we kept some of her vocals because she is such a brilliant singer. Even though she was just singing to help us there was a lot of good stuff. Some of the vocal recordings are also from the live sessions.

Another question about the recording - I know that you play cello and if I'm not mistaken you recorded cello for the first album ("Avatarium", 2013) and also for some Royal Hunt stuff. Is there gonna be any cello on the new Avatarium record?

Actually, not this time because I haven't played that much for a while and on this album I didn't find any need for that actually. There's a lot of other different stuff. There's a lot of great organ playing and great bass playing; and all the band is extremely good now. I didn't do as many overdubs as I usually do because everybody is putting so much stuff in the music. I'm always putting in some ambient guitars and slide guitar playing and all this kind of blues and jazz stuff. On every album I do I try to do new stuff and this album is also very different from all the albums I've done. But you can still hear it's Avatarium.

The lyric video for "Into The Fire/Into The Storm" indeed sounds like Avatarium but maybe a bit heavier and faster than I expected.

The good thing is that we have three albums now and when we tour next time... I think you usually need to have three albums to be able make a really good live show. And now we have a lot of great songs, and we have more fast song on this album so we'll be able to blend faster, slower and more ballad stuff. Now I feel that we can make a really good live show and that's one of the very important things for the band because a band needs to play a lot live. And when we write songs for the album we also think about live shows actually.

Yeah. But I saw you in summer 2016 at the Masters of Rock festival in the Czech Republic and I can tell you that the show was already great.

Oh, I'm happy to hear that!

And do you have any plans of visiting Russia? I know that you played several years ago in Moscow.

Yeah, I remember that. We played in Moscow, which was very nice, we really enjoyed it. So I would really love to go back. I love to play in Russia, I played there a lot when I was in Royal Hunt. I like the Russian people, the spirit of the Russian people and all that. I met so many people there, you know. I've been there and the fans are very special, there's a lot of feeling in the audience.

So hope to see you here. And come to St. Petersburg, we're not so far from you. So let us return to the new record and the next question is about some videos for the new songs because personally I enjoyed "Pearls and Coffins" a lot (the video you made for the previous album). Do you have any plans for making new videos? Or maybe you have already shot some videos for the new songs?

Yeah, we gonna start quite in a few days to shoot a video for one of the songs off the album. I think it's gonna be a cool video as well but I can't say more than that right now. The plan is that it will be released in a few weeks. It is with the same director that shot "Pearls and Coffins".

That's fine. And talking about "Pearls and Coffins" - who created the concept of this video? It's really interesting and catchy, I think.

It started with me and Jenny-Ann talking about this thing, because it's the metaphor for a relationship. When you shoot real guns, it's the metaphor for what happens in a relationship, hopefully it doesn't happen in real life. (laughs) We started talking about this with the director and he came up with the locations and how we should make it happen.

Now I have some personal questions for you because you are a very experienced guitar player, you recorded with Evergrey, Royal Hunt, some other bands, played live with Candlemass and, if I'm not mistaken, Pain...


Yeah, that's true.

What of these collaborations outside Avatarium is your favorite one or maybe the most interesting?

You know, I think for me it was important when I started with Royal Hunt, when I met Andre Andersen, actually. I think, it was important to me because I learned a lot of stuff from him. I think, of all the bands that you've mentioned that will be the most important one. Andre Andersen is still a great friend of mine, I really like him a lot, he is an amazing musician.

Then why did you leave Royal Hunt?

At the end of the day, Royal Hunt is Andre Andersen's band, you know, it's his mission. And me, you know, I have always loved the blues, the jazz stuff, more guitar-oriented music and Royal Hunt is not about that, its more about the neoclassical thing. I really enjoyed being in Royal Hunt and I really think it is a great band but I wanted to go in another musical direction. So that was the reason. What I do now with Avatarium is totally where I wanna be.

And what about some solo stuff, do you plan any sequel for "Pictures From A Time Traveller"?

Yeah, actually I've been working a little bit. I've been writing some new instrumental stuff, something different from "Pictures From A Time Traveller" but still... I'm working and hopefully I can record a new instrumental record this summer but we'll see if I accomplish that. It's also a nice place to be.

You not only recorded but also toured a lot so maybe you have some funny tour stories which are related to the bands you played with, maybe Avatarium, maybe not only Avatarium, whatever, some funny stuff... or maybe not so funny.

Well, I don't know if I can remember any funny stuff, actually, but I can try, because we talked about Pain and we toured Siberia with Pain. That was a very weird experience because I thought it should be crazy cold in Siberia so I brought a lot of clothes with me. We traveled a lot on the Trans-Siberian railway on the train and that was crazy hot. Have you travelled by these trains?

Yes. Out trains are really hot!

Yes, it's totally crazy. We were sweating and we opened the windows and put beers outside the windows to make them cold. But we also opened the windows because we were dying from heat. (laughs) I've never been so warm when I was touring. You have this old lady in every wagon, and she would came very angry and close the windows. We would open it and she would close it. That was crazy, this was a very weird thing. But we had a good time besides that.

What season of the year was it? Was it winter?

It was like December.

That was a good train though.

(laughs) The best show was in Irkutsk, really far, far away. It a was very interesting trip. The crowds were great but the safety was may be a little bit... (laughs) Sometimes we were not sure if we would survive the day.
 
That's Russia.

But that's one of the reasons why I love being in Russia because I met so man regularly people around Russia, a lot of loving and wonderful people I met on the road, I gotta say. That's something that I will always remember.

Yeah, we're kind of friendly people despite all this political bullshit.

Exactly. Sometimes when people get a uniform then they get a little changed.

Yeah, we suffer here from this people, too. I know what you're talking about.

Political bullshit is everywhere. The regular people are usually good people when you travel around.

Talking about good people... It seems that you are well-acquainted with Leif Edling, because you recorded guitars for his recent Doomsday Kingdom album. I apologize if this next question is too personal, and you are free to ignore it but what is actually happening to Leif? Is it fatigue or burnout or what? Because we are missing him with Candlemass.

Yeah, it has been like a burnout, I know because he was talking about it. He was like overworked. It was like a burnout and he needed to take a few years to recover and he is still recovering, he is not like 100% back but he is getting better and better. And the Doomsday Kingdom album was his way of therapy - when he wrote the songs for The Doomsday Kingdom, that was his therapy. That's very important album for him and I love the album as well, you know.

Yeah. that's the good one.

Leif is one of my best friends, and if he asks me - I'll be there. That's how it works.

Hope he will recover soon and we'll see him on stage. So who actually recorded bass for "Hurricane and Halos"? Did Leif do this or another guy?

No, mostly it's Mats Rydstrom who plays live with us. He's been playing with us for three years and he played all the bass this time. He is an amazing bass player, he's crazy good. I think you'll enjoy him and Leif Edling loves his bass playing, so everybody's happy.

What is the current status of Leif in the band? Is he going to return to Avatarium someday?

He's more like a... he has never played live with us, but he wrote six of the songs on the new album and he still writes songs for the band. He's a kind of mentor figure but he is not a band member. He comes up with ideas but the band stands on its own, so to speak. But he is important person for us as well. And he is one of the greatest songwriters, so it's great to have him onboard. It goes both ways: we work on and arrange his songs and when we write our own songs, he can listen to them and voice his opinion. It's a very good situation. It's good for him and I think it's very good for us.

Ok, I see the point here. Well, let us return to some previous Avatarium stuff. As far as I understood you think that "Hurricanes And Halos" is the best album you have done so far.

(laughs) If you don't think that your new album is the best one then you are on the wrong track if you are a musician. You should always try to do the best you can and always try to make better stuff than before, do you know what I mean?

That makes sense. But if we compare the first and the second albums - what is your favorite? And what are you favorite songs from these albums?

You know, I like both albums very much but if I have to pick favorite songs, I would... "Moonhorse" is of course a favorite, I love this song. From "The Girl With The Raven Mask" I love the title track and like "The Master Thief". "Pearls And Coffins" is my favorite to play live. From the EP ("All I Want", 2014) I really like "Deep Well".

Let me explain why I'm asking. When I saw you at Masters Of Rock as far as I remember you played more of your earlier stuff and just a few songs from the second album which personally I like more.

Oh, I'm glad that you like the second album more because... But I can't actually remember this particular show. I think usually we play more from "The Girl With The Raven Mask" when we play live.

Ok, so I was at a wrong show.
 
Maybe. (laughs) But there will be more shows!

We're waiting here for you to come. Well, I think I'm kind of running out of questions, so please say something inspiring to your fans here.

You know, as I said we hope to come and play in both St. Petersburg and Moscow as a start. I'd like to play a big headliner show with a two-hour set, that would be very nice. St. Petersburg is a beautiful city, I would like to go there. So hopefully in the near future we will come and play.

Avatarium on the Internet: http://avatariumofficial.se/

Special thanks to Maxim Bylkin (Soyuz Music) for arranging this interview

Pavel Vlasov
April 27, 2017
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