Although Amon Amarth don’t necessarily want to be known as a viking metal band, by naming their forthcoming album Jomsviking, the Swedish metal band all but promised that they’re going to continue to be known for it. There’s also the fact that frontman Johan Hegg looks enough like a Viking to have starred in Northmen: A Viking Saga. While his acting debut was promising, he’s not going to have much time to flex his acting chops, as Amon Amarth will be on the road come April in support of the album. A week after their New York listening party for Jomsviking, and the afternoon that their Los Angeles one took place, we staked out some time with Hegg, starting off with asking about the listening party we’d hung at the previous week.
How do you find it listening to your own album, having spent all that time on it, with a bunch of people in a bar drinking beer?
Well to be fair, there’s not much listening going on. People are mostly drinking beer and talking. It’s in the background. I know the ropes, that’s the way it works. Some people gave it a listen and came up and said they liked it, but most people wanted to hang out.
Do you ever scrutinize, like stand over people’s shoulders and ask people, “hey did you like it”?
I think those kinds of things are fun, there are a bunch of people there who are interested in listening to it, but they also wanna hang out, have a good time and I thought that was a lot of fun. I think that’s what it’s good for really. From my point of view, I don’t really care too much.
Alright, let’s actually talk about the new album. When did you know you were going to write a concept album?
Oh wow, I think it’s a year, a year and a half ago? We were talking on tour, what would be next, what we should do next for the band (for the album). We were looking at different options, and I had started writing this story as a private project and I said “we could do this as a concept album”. They felt it was interesting, and decided to go for it.
What gave you the creative spark for it?
It’s an idea I had for a while, after reading the Jomsviking saga. I always wanted to write something but never thought I could pull it off. I just decided to see if I could do it. I don’t really know why I started it, I guess I just had the inspiration to do it. It was tough, but I think it came out really good.
Tell me about the teaser, as well as the “First Kill” video.
The first video was kind of an idea that came from management and the label. They wanted to do a teaser before the actual album came out. We were discussing how to do this in the best way. The first idea was to release one song, basically without a video, and we didn’t want to do that. We wanted the first song to be released on the album to be a video release. So, then we started how to do this, and someone came up with the idea to make a video, and we started discussing scripts, and one came along, and we said “Well, this is fun. Let’s do this.”
Do you personally have a problem with internet troll-type people?
No. I don’t care.
It doesn’t bother you?
Seriously, I don’t really care. All bands have them, they act like dicks. That’s their way of feeling important.
Sure, do you read what people say? Just to see “I wonder what kind of shit people are talking about me today?”
I have better things to do with my time than spend it on forums and shit. That’s all what people write about Amon Amarth on Facebook, or on my own pages. I’ll read some of that stuff.
How did you come about asking Doro Pesch to be on the record?
Well, there is a very important female character in the story. So we needed to a way to do that, and we decided to do a duet. And we wanted someone with a voice that would fit the music, and someone with a persona that could fit the character. The first person we could think of was Doro Pesch. I think we all thought of her, and we asked – and she said yes.
So you guys didn’t even have a backup?
Obviously we didn’t know if she was going to say yes. So we had some other names, but she was our first choice.
One of the last big tours you guys did of the US was Mayhem Festival a few years back, how do you feel about the fact that’s not coming back?
I loved being a part of that tour, I thought it was awesome. We had so much fun with the other bands, and a great opportunity to meet new and old fans across the United States and Canada. I mean it’s sad that it hasn’t been able to stay a big thing, but the business can be tough sometimes. You have to be able to develop everything in a good way, and yeah, it can be tough.
It seems to be there’s definitely more of a European-type festival vibe going on over here. Not so much for metal necessarily, but there’s a lot of 2-3 day festivals starting up. Do you think it’ll catch on?
I think so, but the mentality in Europe is much different with fans. I know a lot of American fans when they go over are so amazed the way the festival is- it’s building a city out of tents in a week. It’s just a bunch of people being drunk, there’s mayhem and drinking and a lot of good music. And then, everyone packs up their shit and leaves-and the city has disappeared. It’s such a different vibe. The mentality in the European society is different with this kind of thing. I guess it kinda helps. I think it’d be cool, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be possible to pull it off over here. You just need the right people and the right backers financially. It takes a while to grow a festival. I think that’s one of the things that speaks against it. Because in my experience, from playing different festival, and knowing people that run festivals, it takes a long time to actually make a festival, and to make a profit from it. The first couple years are always going to be in the red. Most people don’t have the patience to grow it properly. But over here in North America you have Heavy Montreal, that’s a very European-style festival, it’s awesome.
Are you going to be bringing the full production out on tour with you this time?
We’re actually building a new production that we’re going to bring out.
How can you top a Viking ship?
It’s hard, but I think the new production is awesome. Obviously, it’s going to be made to fit most stages we’re playing. It’s tricky with that ship. It was so fucking huge.
It was pretty epic, though. I can’t imagine anyone who went to Mayhem Fest that wasn’t like “holy shit.” Even if they’ve never heard of Amon Amarth.
It’s a real eye catcher.
I’ll say. What do you have to say about Entombed AD and Exmortus, who’ll be on tour with you?
Entombed (AD) we obviously know very well. We toured with them when they were still Entombed. We still know and love the guys in the band, most of them actually. It’ll be great to have them along again, and I think they always put on great shows, it’ll be killer. And Exmortus is a great up and coming band with a bright future, I’m excited to see what they can bring it to the table. I think it’s a strong package, and one no one will want to miss.
Jomsviking will be released on March 25th on Metal Blade Records. It can be pre-ordered here.
Here’s where you’ll be able to see Amon Amarth, Entombed (AD) and Exmortus:
4/07 San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
4/08 Phoenix, AZ @ The Pressroom
4/09 El Paso, TX @ Tricky Falls
4/10 Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater
4/12 Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
4/13 San Antonio, TX @ The Aztec Theater
4/15 Houston, TX @ House of Blues
4/16 New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
4/17 Atlanta, GA @ Tabernacle
4/18 Tampa, FL @ The Ritz
4/20 Charlotte, NC @The Fillmore
4/21 Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore
4/22 New York, NY @ Best Buy Theatre
4/23 Boston, MA @ House of Blues
4/25 Rochester, NY @ Water Street Music Hall
4/26 Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
4/28 Quebec City, QC @ Imperial
4/29 Montreal, QC @ Metropolis
4/30 Toronto, ON @ The Danforth
5/01 Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
5/02 Detroit, MI @ St. Andrews
5/04 St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant
5/05 Chicago, IL @ The Riviera Theatre
5/06 Lawrence, KS @ The Granada Theater
5/07 Denver, CO @ The Ogden Theater
5/09 Omaha, NE @ Sokol Auditorium
5/10 Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater
5/12 Winnipeg, MB @ The Garrick
5/13 Saskatoon, SK @ O’Brian’s Event Centre
5/14 Calgary, AB @ MacEwan Ballroom
5/16 Vancouver, BC @ The Commodore
5/17 Seattle, WA @ Showbox Market
5/18 Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
5/20 San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield
5/21 Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern Theater