PlanetMosh recently conducted an interview with guitarist Michael Amott and vocalist Alissa White-Gluz of Swedish / American / Canadian metallers ARCH ENEMY. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
PlanetMosh: After over ten years, Angela [Gossow, vocals] has left ARCH ENEMY. What was the band's reaction when she told you she wanted to leave?
Michael: We saw it coming, actually, so it wasn't a huge surprise. It was a case of step by step; she was distancing herself, or getting herself used to the idea of stepping [away from the band], playing in her mind with the idea. We could tell, so it wasn't a big surprise out of nowhere. I did think she had a lot more to give, in a way — a lot of people thought she had more to give as a performer — but she didn't feel that way. We hadn't thought about a backup plan, so when she actually finally made a decision, it put us in a position where we didn't have a singer. We were like, "What do we do?" There were two paths: either we could stop the band, end ARCH ENEMY, or we could try to find a new singer and keep making music together, the rest of us, which we really enjoy; it's our life. It's how we express ourselves and what we love doing. Angela urged us to continue and she suggested Alissa. So she was the first name on our list, so we spent some time researching her and thought this could be really cool. Once you get that to that "OK, this has ended," stage, you can either get paralyzed and depressed, or start thinking what to do. I think we actually got really energized when we knew she wanted to leave, because it made us think about what we wanted out of the band, out of our lives. Angela had been asking herself these kind of questions, and we figured out we wanted to continue making music; there's nothing else we really want to do. It's like trying to figure out, well, I could get into gardening… What am I supposed to do? I'm a guitar player and songwriter, and that's what I am. With Alissa agreeing to join us and come over and try out and jam with us in the rehearsal room, collaborate on a bit of new stuff, then we did some demos with her in Sweden. That was an eye opener, when we thought, "This might work. This might actually be the next chapter of ARCH ENEMY." So that was exciting and encouraging.
PlanetMosh: So when did Alissa actually join? It was obviously long before the announcement as you'd already recorded with her by then.
Michael: [Jokingly] She joined on the Friday, the announcement was on the Monday and the video and album was recorded on the Thursday, that's how it went, that's the timeline right there. [On a more serious note] It was actually a gradual process. We had a clandestine operation, in a way. We didn't want to shock the fans too much, we wanted to make sure it would work with Alissa. Finish the album — write it, record it, mix and master the album, shoot a video, take some pictures and really present the fans with something that they deserve — proof that ARCH ENEMY will live on, rather than slap them in the face by saying, "Angela has left the band, you'll hear from us in maybe five months when we've found a new singer." We didn't want to do that. At the same time, I felt bad for keeping stuff from the fans, but it was the inner workings of the band and it was our private, almost family situation. It was over the course of a few months.
PlanetMosh: I think the way you've done it has worked really well. It's avoided all the speculation that you'd have got if you'd just announced Angela's departure, and by releasing a video with the announcement, people are able to hear straight away how the new ARCH ENEMY lineup sounds. Fans are often reluctant to accept change, particularly when it's someone key to the sound like a singer, but the reaction I've seen online has been amazingly positive with people saying Alissa was a great choice.
Michael: It's the nature of being a fan. There are two types of fan. As I become more mature, I'm becoming a more open-minded fan, I'm a fan of an artist, and maybe the singer on the first two albums was killer, but I also like the second singer too. I get more flexible, but I also know there's the sort of fan mentality where you fall in love with something, the music, the characters in the band, and when that changes, it can really piss you off.
Alissa: I think, as Michael said, we wanted to be totally respectful of the fans in the way we presented the news and also had music right away for them to hear because bands are individual people that make up a unit, and obviously, as people grow older, priorities change, and you know, the fact that Angela left the band doesn't remove all her work and impact from existence — everything she did is still there and the fans can still appreciate that — and I think it's great that some fans are open-minded enough to see that's great and to now look forward to what happens next.
Michael: We wanted people to judge the music. We talked a lot about it, and Alissa felt strongly about that she didn't want to just announce it and then no new music. She was in a tough position as well; she had big shoes to fill. She really is amazing on the album, so we can go, "Bang, here it is, like it or not. If you don't like it, cool, but dislike it because you don't like the music, not because the singer quit and someone joined later."
Read the entire interview from PlanetMosh.