Prior to OPETH's performance at Belgium's recent Alcatraz Metal Festival, vocalist/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt spoke with Lilo of Headbangers LifeStyle. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On why the group will release both English- and Swedish-language editions of its upcoming album, "In Cauda Venenum":
Mikael: "It was meant just to be a Swedish version first, but I got a bit insecure, I guess, because I had problems with music that was sung in not English when I was growing up. Now, it's not a problem for me anymore — I got into the whole Italian prog scene, and most of those bands sing in their native tongue. But I figured there might be people who have problems with that, so at the last minute, I decided I'd do an English version as well. But the Swedish version is the main one."
On how much extra work recording two versions created:
Mikael: "We kept the same settings for the English version, so the only thing I had to do — which was a lot of work — [was that] I had to translate the lyrics from Swedish to English, and then record vocals all over again. That was a bit of a daunting task, but it came out well, I think."
On whether he thinks both versions capture the same "emotion":
Mikael: "The English version is secondary. You can't escape the fact that it's a copy of the Swedish version. The Swedish version was done in my studio, just really relaxed, and I didn't have to think of time or money issues. While I was doing the English version, we had booked a studio, and I was in there and I needed to be done in time. It's a bit more... I wouldn't say it's a lesser version, but it's a copy. The first one, it's like painting a great painting, and then, 'Wow, I'm going to do that again exactly the same,' and you would probably look what you did before and it would be a bit more contrived. With that said, I think it depends on which version you pick up first. If you pick up the English version first, that will be your version, but I'm hoping people will check out the Swedish version, because that's the best one."
On whether he'll do two versions of future OPETH releases:
Mikael: "I don't know. Why not? It's a different climate now for music. It's not so boxed in. You don't have to follow the rules as much as you did in the early days. You wanted to fit in to a certain extent, and it sounds crass, but I wanted the records to sell. Now, it's a different climate. I think I don't really care as much, as long as the music is great."
On whether, as an established artist, he feels more freedom to be able to take creative risks:
Mikael: "Risks, for me, it's a positive word. I like taking risks, but I never see them as risks. It's just what we felt like doing at the time. We don't cater to our career — maintaining the career by putting out records that we think will sell and that everybody will like. We put out records, like, 'This is what we want to do now. Here it is. If you like it, that's great. If not, sorry.'"
On "In Cauda Venenum":
Mikael: "I'm really happy with it, but my taste is very eclectic, I think. I listen to so many different genres of music. People ask, 'What's your guilty pleasure?' I don't have any guilty pleasures. I can listen to whatever, and that finds its way into our own music. I think it will maybe be a bit difficult and a bit of a test to people who are just listening to metal music, maybe, but there are metal moments in there. I'd like to think we wouldn't have been able to write these type of songs if we didn't have that background, so to speak. But there's a lot of stuff going on. It's really hard for me to say, because I wrote it, but it's epic and big and overblown and pompous — stuff that I like."
On how OPETH should be defined in 2019:
Mikael: "Free-form. Going with the flow, and not the flow of public opinion — our own little stream."
On how he feels prior to an OPETH tour:
Mikael: "Agony. Sitting at home not wanting to go... Generally, it's a terrible thing for me to be facing a tour. I have a girlfriend and two daughters back home [and] two cats that I don't want to leave, but this is what I do. I love to play with the guys [and] be on stage, but you're in a fragile state of mind — or I am, at least — when you're on tour. You have, like, a little family away from home, which is the guys in the band, but the moment someone else steps in, that circle is broken, and you're insecure and you want to go home, basically. My best moments on tour is when we're on stage playing and when we're in the dressing room afterwards talking about the show. The rest I can definitely live without."
On how he copes with touring:
Mikael: "Back in the day, you got sedated by vodka. Drinking and listening to music, and we still do that. That's fun, but it gets very samey after how many years we've been together. I try to walk out — whatever town we're in, I wake up, check where's the record shops. 'It's 20 kilometers that way.' Can I walk that distance? Maybe, maybe not. [I] find the record shops, go for a coffee, walk around town, do that and find some records. That's my motivation apart from the show itself."
On OPETH's remaining goals:
Mikael: "Every record is, like, 'Wow — that was insane that we managed to do a record.' Every tour is like, 'Wow.' Every show, you walk off, you're like, 'Wow — we're alive. We made it.' That immediate future, to make it through, is on my bucket list, but I don't have dreams of doing a triple album with an orchestra... My biggest idol is Ritchie Blackmore and Joni Mitchell. If I could just sit with them, the last thing on my mind [would be], 'Let's write a song, Joni.' That's not going to happen. They're up there, and I just idolize these people too much. When I idolize someone, I get not that creative. I can write stuff on my own, but together with idols, that wouldn't work."
OPETH's 13th album, "In Cauda Venenum" will be released on September 27 via Moderbolaget / Nuclear Blast Entertainment.