This Friday (19th), Sabaton’s new album The Great War will be released via Nuclear Blast (pre-order here). These Swedish power metallers are arguably one of the hardest working bands out there as their innovations continue including their brand new Sabaton History channel. We caught up with bassist Pär Sundström to discuss more about their latest effort, collaborating with Apocalyptica, their upcoming North American and European tours, and more.
Let’s start with The Great War, what was the process for this album? Was it any different from your prior efforts?
I think Sabaton has a formula how we make our albums and yeah, we decided upon a topic and then we write songs and then we adapt the different stories within that topic to the album. We went with the same way this time. What is the major difference of this time? Maybe the topic color the album to be a little bit darker than previous albums and we also went to a different studio, giving the sound a little bit different character. But it’s not a huge difference because we have been working with Jonas Kjellgren studio producer many times before and he sits in the old building of our older producer, Peter [Tägtgren], as well. So there’s not a whole many huge differences from the new album and I think that anybody who’s a Sabaton fan will recognize most stuff on it.
That’s one thing that I love about you guys, your consistency and you never seem to disappoint your fanbase. Compared to The Last Stand, The Great War seems a little bit punchier and I think I noticed more guitar work as well. Musically, how would you compare the new record to The Last Stand?
Again, I wouldn’t say that it’s changed so much. We’re not going into Sabaton to change something because we are going to do a new album. We’re just trying to make good songs. The songs that turn out they just turn out when they end up on the album and we don’t care really if they are guitar driven, keyboard driven or whatever they are. If it’s a good song, it gets on the album, we’ll find something for it.
You guys made a genius decision to premiere “Fields of Verdun” as an Apocalyptica cover. How did that come together?
I like Apocalyptica and I had an idea that I wanted to discuss with them. So I went down to Madrid, where they were on tour and I met with the guys and presented my idea that they would do a cover and we would release it before our song was done because I wanted to build it as a follow up story with the band to do several collaborations with them and this was one of the steps. I also booked Apocalyptica for the Sabaton Open Air Festival and now they are also the special guest on our tour in Europe. So I wanted to do several things with them and one of those to have them cover one of our songs before it actually came out. The way it turned out was super good for us, I’m very excited to find how it turned out and they did a great version of the song.
For your European tour next year with Apocalyptica, are you going to do any fun/surprising collaboration during that tour?
We will see. I mean, we’re still in talks about what we are going to do on the tour. They are coming to our festival and we will be seeing each other in a few weeks and then we are going to start talking more about exactly what we’re going to do on the tour.
Speaking of tours, you guys are coming back to the States later this fall, will we see a return of the tank? Or what should fans expect in North America?
We really want to bring a bigger production than we have done before and that’s the plan for this tour. There are always complications in the venue that we are facing and it’s part of the charm as well of being Sabaton because we have the dynamics of touring, we get to play theaters and clubs and stuff in America while we are playing arenas and stadiums in Europe. We will bring what we can fit in. Obviously we cannot bring the pyrotechnics and stuff because they require bigger venues. But at least we are able to bring some parts of the production, I’m sure for North America.
It’s true what your website actually says, you guys are probably one of the hardest working bands out there. You surpass being just a band, there’s Sabaton Open Air, you have your own history channel now and more. If you ever catch a break, what do you do outside of music?
I come up with new projects to do with the band. That’s what I do if I have a break and that actually true. I don’t have anything else so this is what I do all the time. It’s my full time occupation from when I wake up to when I go to bed, is to do Sabaton stuff. So no family or anything like that to take any time so I’m just focused. And when we have a little bit of a down period with the band, I build new projects. Like the Sabaton history channel, Sabaton Open Air Festival, the Sabaton cruise which is now Sabaton battleship or some cooperation with a video game or some cooperation with Apocalyptica or other bands or develop the new website which is also going to be a historical archive website. There are constantly being new projects being developed and it’s part of the fantastic thing that Sabaton allows for development of things, not just songs and tours. We can do a lot of other things around.
Looking forward to hear new projects that you guys have planned for the future and speaking of new projects, how is it keeping up with the Sabaton history channel?
It’s great. Sabaton history channel is very exciting. It was one of those hard projects that I’ve been wanting to do for such a long time but it wasn’t really possible. It requires a lot of resources to do something like that. It’s about 10 people to work to make every episode happen and to make one every week it requires not only those people but also a lot of time from me, being the executive producer of the whole Sabaton history channel. But I really like it and I find it very exciting, even though I’ve been, you know, digging deep into these stories before, I always learn something new from what our researchers dig up when they are scripting each individual episode. It’s very interesting and it also makes me go back in time and connect with the past of Sabaton to dig up the stories that I have deep in my head about what happened to a specific song or some memory I have connected to a specific event. So, it’s exciting to produce it, it’s exciting to create it and I think we’re still in the beginning of it, we have put out over 20 episodes and we will be continuing this for several years because the plan is to do the entire Sabaton catalog of all songs that we’ve ever done and see where we go from there.
It must be challenging diverting back to the entire catalog. How did you guys start working on the Sabaton history channel and how long was this in the works?
A little bit more than a year but before that I always wanted to do something like this and a couple of years ago I visited the host of Sabaton history channel Indy Neidell, I visited him on a previous TV channel that he was working on which was actually ironically enough about World War I so I was there to talk about the Sabaton connection to World War I and we developed a good concept and I like the format of his TV channel. So some years later, like last summer, I asked Indy if he wanted to be a consultant for a new album and then I also asked him if he was interested in being the host of the Sabaton history channel and after that he started to build that team around us, we started to create the whole crew around Sabaton history channel and now we have established that and it’s all looking good.
Schedules can always change last minute as things always happen out of anybody’s control. Can you discuss how you guys were invited on stage last minute at Hellfest and how that experience was?
The whole thing was a little bit strange but I don’t know the background why Manowar was canceling the show I can’t go into that. I just know that after our show, the first show that we did, I was informed that there is a possibility that Manowar is not performing so I said if we might be interested, if that happens, then we could be interested in taking that slot, for sure. And after our show I told my crew members not to pack all the trucks and send the production away to the next show, I told them to be on standby and I woke up at 8 o’clock in the morning to go and meet the promoter and that he informed me that there is definitely a no to the Manowar performance and he asked me, “are you interested to doing it or should we take another band?” And I said, “yes, we will take it then.”
So that’s how it went and then it was a little bit weird because I didn’t have any contact with our singer [Joakim Brodén] at the time so I just took the decision that we were going to do the show and a few hours later when I informed him we realized that he didn’t have his voice. Which has happened before but he usually wakes up and is fine once he starts to sing and just a few minutes before the show he always gets good because we never cancel a show we’ve done a lot of shows and his voice always wakes up. And we thought it’s going to do it this time to but three songs into the set we realized that his voice will not wake up so we had to kind of improvise to get through the whole show. So all the rest of us took a bigger part into singer and our guitar player Chris [Rörland] and Thomas [Johansson] took the lead roles of singing all the songs.
A lot of last minute team effort occurred that night and it’s commendable that you guys didn’t give up and continued to complete the set.
Yeah, and it was an impressive feature from, I think all of us and our crew to manage that show. It was heavy but it turned out to be a really fun concert and the fans they really appreciate it.
Is there anything else that you wanted to say or add about the new album?
I think that anybody who’s a fan of Sabaton should be up for expecting a really good album. I mean I’ve been there doing all 400 interviews and I’ll be talking to a lot of journalists around the world who have been listening to the album. I’ve also presented it to certain specific fan clubs and I receive a lot of feedback. A couple of reviews and hundreds of people’s reaction to it. The reaction is either this is the best album or this is the second best album and if this is the result then I am pretty relaxed and I can tell this to each and every fan that they can also be relaxed, that our new album is a really good one. If you’re a fan of Sabaton you will like the new album, period.