Christopher Porter of Washington Post Express recently conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt of Swedish progressive metallers OPETH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Washington Post Express: Last time you played D.C. you were opening for DREAM THEATER. Were they ever an influence on OPETH?
Åkerfeldt: We started with death metal and moved on to a hybrid of everything else; there were never as into extreme music, so we come from completely different backgrounds. But they were very influential to me in the early days of this band. Basically, I was looking for a new and contemporary band playing something more intricate, and in the early days there weren't many of those bands around. I was mostly listening to older bands like YES and GENESIS and KING CRIMSON and those types of bands, and once I discovered DREAM THEATER, it was a bit of a revelation for me because they were mixing metal with influences from the '70s. So, it's fair to say they were a pretty big influence in the early days.
Washington Post Express: I've heard you say "Watershed" isn't a concept record, but I never heard you say that I would be convinced it is one.
Åkerfeldt: It has the flow of a concept record — and in a way it's not a concept record but in another way it is. They lyrics are about my own experiences this time around and how I've changed since I became a dad. It just changed me completely, like I got a new set of eyes. But it's not a fictional story like a generic concept record; it's not about a character. Before you become a dad, you never figure how it's going to change you, but it does; it's the same with everyone I talk to who has kids. This new chamber of emotions opens up that you didn't really know existed before — and all of the sudden you're sitting in front of the television crying because of the things going on in the world. [Laughs]
Washington Post Express: Some of the songs that mention children are quite dark. Is this you expressing fear for them?
Åkerfeldt: In a way they are, but some of those songs you're referring to — like "Hessian Peel" [and] "Hex Omega" — they were inspired by a [former] girlfriend who committed suicide while I was in the studio. ... She had a son who was the same age as my oldest daughter, so it was a pretty big source of inspiration to me to write about that; I ended up writing three songs.
Washington Post Express: Does her family know you wrote these songs about her?
Åkerfeldt: I never really talked about it, to be honest. I haven't mentioned it at all in interviews. We weren't in touch anymore. We were together for a couple of months, and I always kept track of what she was doing and that she became a mother. But when we were together, she always had really deep problems. I think she was on Lithium and she was very depressed; she was always like that. I always heard what was happening with her because my mother and her mother were friends — they worked at the same place. ... And there was never any good news, but when I heard she had her kid I was really happy about that and hoping that she'd pull together, if not for herself then for her kid. Next thing you know she was dead. She was a very complex person.
Washington Post Express: How much of "Watershed" was written while you were in the studio?
Åkerfeldt: We've done a few albums [2002's "Deliverance" and "Damnation"] where we basically just went into the studio with nothing and wrote everything in the studio. But it got to the point where it was a little bit too much work for me, and I became mentally and physically ill doing it that way. ... Those two albums almost killed off the band, to be honest, but luckily we had a few cool songs come out of it. ... I thought it was a very cool idea before we started on [two records at once], but afterward I was like, "Never again." ... So, for the last two albums [including 2005's "Ghost Reveries"], I did most of the writing in my house. ... Strangely enough, my idea for the next album is to do a MASTODON-type of project. A totally blown-out-of-proportion triple-album [laughs]. I dunno why. An epic album.
Read the entire interview from Washington Post Express.
HardTimes.ca conducted an interview with Mikael Åkerfeldt before OPETH's May 3, 2009 concert in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Watch the 28-minute chat below.