Ahhh... Opeth, such a unique band, and yet I must admit that I recently (been a while by the time you read this) became familiar with this band, petty strange, huh? These individuals were definitely some of the nicest people I've ever talked with. Getting their pictures taken with the fans, walking around and talking with the fans, one couldn't help but notice how down to earth they really were. I wasn't sure if I was going to get the opportunity to interview them, due to not having an "appointment," but these individuals were eager to speak their minds! I interviewed all four members, but due to time, space, and not to mention the interview with the Martin "brothers" was conducted in Spanish, I decided to be lazy about it. I hope that is okay with all of you reading this? Perdon hermanos Martin!! I dedicate this interview to "Mahoney!!" What up G!!?? Where are you, anyways?
Interview and live shots by Mike Coles, sometime in 2000, I think. All of you who know where the Creepy Crawl is at, can you believe Opeth played there??? That show ruled!!
The Outcast: How did you feel about the show tonight?
Peter: I was a bit upset because they cut our set.
The Outcast: Did they?
Peter: Yeah, we usually play 60 minutes, but we are going to play St. Paul tomorrow and it's a pretty long drive, so they cut us down to 5 songs. We were on stage and we were supposed to play another song when they told us to get off stage. I was really pissed off. People come to see the show and then all of the sudden we were off stage because of some curfew or something.
The Outcast: I don't want to say you are necessarily cheating the fans, but Opeth's songs are long! Playing them live, you only get to play 4-5 songs. Do you guys ever stop and think; "Man, we need to cut our songs in half!"?
Peter: No, because we have been doing that since the early days, so this is the way we are. I think people are starting....... In the beginning we got loads of criticism for doing long songs with acoustics and everything. When our first album came out in the middle of this black metal boom or whatever, we kept doing our stuff, and I think people respect us for it now. If people want shorter songs, I guess they can listen to another band.
The Outcast: Where is everyone in the band from?
Peter: Stockholm, Sweden. Then again, Martin and Martin are originally from Uruguay.
The Outcast: Really?
Peter: Yeah, they moved to Sweden. Martin, the drummer, was born in Sweden, but moved back and fourth all the time. Martin M. was born in Uruguay and they both moved to Sweden to play death metal actually.
The Outcast: How did you all meet?
Peter: When our first drummer left the band, we had to find a new drummer. Our first bass player was kicked out, so it was just me and Michael. We advertised looking for a new bass player and drummer, and we found them both.
The Outcast: That's cool. How did you guys feel about last years Milwaukee Metal Festival?
Peter: It was overwhelmingly actually because we didn't expect such a response. We've only had about 100 e-mails from the U.S, so we didn't know what to expect. The circumstances for that show were awful because we needed a work permit and the promoter didn't want to pay for that. We had shitty guitars and other equipment and we had to borrow it all. But then we got up on stage and (makes an explosion sound effect), people were just roaring. We had to silence them down just so we could play (laughter), so that was great. This is our first U.S. tour and so far it has been great.
The Outcast: Who writes all the music?
Peter: Mikael is the main man who writes almost everything; the basics. I write some stuff, but I give that to him because he's such a good coordinator for the music. We used to write together, spend loads of days having fun writing songs, but now we write separately and then put them together.
The Outcast: How long have you guys been playing your instruments?
Peter: 12 years or something, since 1989. Martin and Martin are younger, so.....
The Outcast: What inspires you guys to write music?
Peter: Um, I don't know, "things." It could be anything. It could be a program on television, a good song on the radio, or good food. We're music lover, so.....
The Outcast: What influenced you guys to form Opeth?
Peter: We have loads of influences, but we all have background in metal, of course. I'd say as a band we're all into 70's progressive stuff. Then again, music is much more than tags and genre. I'm into all styles of music that I like no matter what tags are put on them.
The Outcast: What's your favorite band of all time?
Peter: Um... that's a hard question, but there are two bands that I give credit to for the reason I'm here; Iron Maiden and Metallica. But then again they just made me realize what it was all about.
The Outcast: Do you guys all share the same philosophies in life as far as your views towards God and religion and such?
Peter: I think so. We're all ordinary guys. We're not satanic, we're not religious; we're just ordinary guys. You'd be surprised if you would spend some time with us actually, except for Mikael, because he's drinking rum all the time (Mikael steps onto the bus). Poor some sugar on me, baby (laughter)!
Mikael: We stole this yesterday (talking about the rum).
The Outcast: Stole it from where?
Mikael: I can't tell you (laughing at me).
The Outcast: I promise I won't print it! Riiiiggggghhhhht......
Mikael: Some small place in Kansas.
The Outcast: (Looking at the bunks) Those are beds, right?
The Outcast: Are they comfortable?
Mikael: Peter is a tall motherfucker. He has some problems because his legs stick out into the next bunk, which is Martins bunk. It's the only privacy we have, so I love my bed. It's our home!
Peter: Me and Mikael were actually talking about this the other day because we thought we could arrange a bed like this in our home. I sleep better on this that I do at home, it's great.
The Outcast: Is there ever any tension on the bus?
Peter: Between the bands?
The Outcast: Yeah.
Peter: This is just the 3rd day, so we can't tell right now. I think we're nice guys.
Mikael: We went on tour with Amorphis before the Nevermore tour and they're Scandinavians, so we were like.... It took like 2 hours and we were like brothers. Nevermore are really cool guys and we get along with them, so... but they're Americans (laughter).
Peter: We didn't even have problems with Cradle of Filth.
The Outcast: Have you had any vocal training?
Mikael: I've had some training from Marlboro lights (laughter).
Peter: Yelling at your parents.
The Outcast: What do your parents think about Opeth?
Mikael: I don't think they like the screaming bits, you know? When I play the new album for my mother, she's like; "I'm so proud."
Peter: That was "Harvest."
Mikael: Actually the first.... When I got back from the "Morning Rise" session, we did a ballad on that album. I came back and played it for my mother (in a feminine tone); "I remember when you were 5 years old and you were singing in school, and then you turned 10 and you just wouldn't sing anymore. Now you're singing again, I'm so proud."
The Outcast: How old are you guys?
Peter: 70, you wouldn't believe it! Just kidding, I'm 28.
Mikael: I'm 27 and the other guys are sort of 23, they're our children.
The Outcast: Does anyone in the band ever have to baby sit anybody else within the band?
Mikael: We baby sit them all the time. The 2 Martin's, they're not really 2, they're just really one. The Martin's, you know (laughter)? If the drummer has to take a shit, Martin M. follows him and (makes one funny face! - Mike -) and says; "How's it going, dude?"
The Outcast: Are you serious?
Peter: No! But they are so close you wouldn't believe it.
Mikael: They're almost like real brothers, but they're not, do you know what I mean?
The Outcast: Yeah.
Mikael: They live in a 4 bedroom apartment, but they sleep in the same room.
The Outcast: Hmmm.....?
The Outcast: WELL!!!! THAT SAYS IT ALL!!!
Both: THEY'RE NOT GAY (laughter)!!!
Peter: You see them with girls, they're not gay. We're not gay.
Mikael: They're far from gay, but they're so close.
The Outcast: They make you wonder!?
Peter: Yes. NO! Well, sometimes. Not really. We consider them as one person.
Mikael: It's strange. The both of them will be sitting next to us and I'll say; "Martin." And the right one will listen. Do you know what I mean? He knows somehow from the tone of my voice.
The Outcast: Are you guys fans of Cheech and Chong (comparing the Martins to them)?
Mikael: Fuck man, they play it.... Our beds face the door, so whatever is playing I can hear it because I sleep right there (pointing) and it was Cheech and Chong! I was going insane! (In the funniest Cheech imitation I've ever heard - Mike -) "Hey man! Hey man!" I was going completely insane!
(From the other end of the bus)
Martin: Peter, the guy needs more shirts.
The Outcast: Entonces hablas espanol?
Martin: Por su puesto hablo espanol.
Peter: Is there anything else you want (from me), because I have to get some more shirts.
The Outcast: No, thanks a lot and take care. Cuando vas hablar conmigo?
Martin: Cuando quieras. Lo vas hacer en espanol?
The Outcast: Como quieras, pero trai a tu hermanito para que hablemos los tres (as he is walking away).
Mikael: They find so many new friends on the road. It's like; "Hey, we have this pack of new friends." And they're all speaking Spanish.
The Outcast: Do both Martins speak Swedish?
Mikael: This Martin, Martin Lopez, he speaks Swedish fairly well. Martin M. is still learning but he can talk. The first year he was in the band, he didn't understand what we were saying to him. I remember vividly, we were rehearsing and I told Martin M. in Swedish if he could shut the door, and he's like; "Yeah." and he didn't shut the door. "Can you shut the door, man?" and he just stood there. He didn't understand what I was saying. He told me afterwards; "I didn't understand what the hell you were saying."
The Outcast: Peter was telling me that you guys weren't satanic or religious. What do you think about religion and Christianity?
Mikael: I think, especially here in the States, we can see these TV evangelists and it's just crazy. I can't understand that, it's just sick for me. If you have it and you get some fulfillment from it, that's okay, I just don't get it. I'm baptized, you know? I just don't believe in it.
The Outcast: You don't believe in God or anything?
Mikael: I don't. I believe in the good and evil forces, but I just don't believe that it's God or Satan. In Sweden nobody cares if you're Christian, or not. Here, if we were to go to certain states or certain cities and said that we were atheists or whatever, then they would look down upon us. It's a pretty inspiring subject, good and evil, but we haven't found any faith in any of those, so.... Back in the early 90's or late 80's I considered myself a Satanist but that was just because of the music I was listening to. Satan to me was metal. I think many metal bands today, even though they may not admit it, it's just because of the music.
The Outcast: So you think Satan and metal go hand in hand?
Mikael: In a way yes. Metal music is aggressive and harsh and it has nothing to do with the light of God or whatever.
The Outcast: What about Christian metal bands like Mortification?
Mikael: I kind of find it really amusing in a way. They're probably good musicians and all that but Mortification is just a death metal band with Christian lyrics. It doesn't fit. It's like when you sing in that voice (death metal voice), it's like you try and reproduce in a way the voice of the devil. Maybe that's just me? Maybe they think they're trying to reproduce the voice of God?
The Outcast: Or maybe not only are they fans of metal music, but maybe they're just trying to reach the kids who are caught up in the whole satanic bit because of metal?
Mikael: Yeah, maybe. We have normal guys, like myself, who come up and say; "You rule." I've had a couple of Christian guys who wrote me and asked me what I mean about certain lyrics. They wanted to make sure because they were Christian. I'm not sure if I want to give it to them so they'll be home free, or if I want to keep them wondering, do you know what I mean? So usually, if we have Christian fans, I don't care, that's fine. A fan is a fan regardless.
The Outcast: What inspires you to write your lyrics?
Mikael: I don't get inspired by anything to write my lyrics.
The Outcast: Is it something you have inside?
Mikael: I don't know. I don't read many books. I don't go and listen to poets or anything like that, you know? I don't know really. I read other lyrics, and if I think it's good, I might steel it, you know (laughter)?
The Outcast: Does each album have a theme or a story line?
Mikael: "My Arms, Your Hearse" and "Still Life" were concept albums. The first one was kind of like a ghost story I could say. The other one was somewhat the same but with both emotions; love and hate, thrown in. "Still Life", it's kind of interesting that we just talked about it, but it's basically about Christian people, that if you're not one of them, then they'll look down on you (I don't look down on you!! - Mike -). So I kind of created a fairy tale about that. This main character being was banished from where he lived because he didn't believe. For the new album I wanted to do something different. I pretty much didn't know what I was going to write about, so I just sat down ten days in the studio while we were in there. When I read them after I was done, I was like; "WOW! This is sick!" They got a bit more personal this time. I'm a pretty social person. When I meet people that I don't have anything in common with, like an ordinary guy on the street, I tend to be very secluded and I don't want to talk to them and I don't want them to talk to me. During the years I kind of developed some kind of hate towards people I can't connect with, if you know what I mean? Basically, when I read the lyrics, I was like; "Shit!!" but I can relate to them. It's strange, but it felt good to write them. I don't want to put out all the clichés and say I wrote this from my soul, you know? I don't think in those terms, but maybe it is?
The Outcast: What if a Christian came up to you and said; "I know what you are about and you know what I am about, but let's talk about it?" What would you say?
Mikael: It's a pretty interesting discussion, but it depends on how.... (I interrupt)
The Outcast: On how he approaches you and on the person?
Mikael: There was this one guy, I'm not sure if he said if he was a Christian, but he said; "That lyric you wrote, it meant so much to me." It was like he was almost crying. I was like; "That's fine dude, you know?" But if a Christian wanted to discuss Christianity and what I believed in, I wouldn't even go there. If someone came up to me and said the music I was doing was wrong, you know? You can't really discuss it with him because regardless of what he's saying, he won't have an open mind (Not everyone has a closed mind my friend!! - Mike -). I don't kill people, I'm doing my share, but I'm not a Christian.
The Outcast: What do you think of the world's state? War, hunger, etc.? Do you ever feel..... You're living the time of your life, but there are so many people in this world who are dying of hunger and war. Do you ever feel selfish, or anything of the sort?
Mikael: No, I don't. I'm getting so jaded with it all. There's nothing you can do about it. It's too much. I don't think too much about it.
The Outcast: Hmmmm....... Well, unto other subjects. Peter wasn't all too thrilled about Milwaukee Fest. What are your thoughts about that event last year?
Mikael: It was chaos, but we had a good time. It was our first time in the States and the crowd was good. The organization.... Jack K. has done this festival many times, you're kind of puzzled that he can't pull it off perfect, you know? We played one of his festivals on this tour, the New Jersey Metal Fest, and that was chaos as well.
The Outcast: Is Milwaukee better?
Mikael: Milwaukee is better, I'm not talking about the audience; the audience is always grateful to see us. They love everything we do. We could fart or whatever and they'd love it. It's just the organization we don't like. You don't have a dressing room. You don't get food. I'm just so puzzled by the fact that they pay like $600.00 per person to bring you over and they can't get us a proper meal, you know what I mean? It's strange. We're not hard to deal with at all. We're easy going people and we'll settle with anything, but when you see it time and time and again, you're just like; "FUCK!!" Why can't they fix it properly? I don't think we'll play a Jack K. festival again. It just isn't worth it.
The Outcast: Do you ever feel like you're cheating the fans by having long songs and only being able to play 5 or 6 songs a show?
Mikael: Today I felt that because we got cut off. We were promised on this entire tour to have an hour on stage, which means 6 or 7 songs (Like that's any better!! You need to play AT LEAST 10 songs, especially now that you guys have so many albums - Mike -2006). This time they told us we had to cut 1 song. "Okay, fine." We went on stage and then they told us we had to cut another one right before we played our last song, so that sucked, you know? But then again, this is our first U.S tour, so we understand that we need time to build up a real fan base. When we come over on our own, it's going to be completely different.
The Outcast: The ideal tour would be Opeth and just one other opening act.
Mikael: That's the thing; there are already four good bands on the tour and then tonight they put in Monstrosity.
The Outcast: They're not even on the tour?
Mikael: No, it's just for this show. We were told that they were playing first and they were told that they were playing last. Then all of the sudden we had to cut 2 songs off our set.
The Outcast: Because of them?
Mikael: I'm not sure if it was because of them, but still, you add another band to the bill, it takes time, sound check, and everything else, you know? So I think we got kind of neglected tonight. I didn't really enjoy our set tonight because of the sound, but then, when we had to cut our set; AGAIN, it felt like; "Fuck this!!" you know? But then again, we don't decide.
The Outcast: Hmmm....... Well, that about raps it up with me. Good luck with the rest of the tour and it was a pleasure talking with you, any closing words?
Mikael: I want to thank you for the interview, of course, and just say hello to everyone! See you on tour!!