An Interview with
Michael Amott - Lead Guitarist of Arch Enemy
that took place on February 20th, 2002
Interviewed By Glenn Milligan
Michael: Sweden. We are rehearsing for the Tour. We rehearsed this morning.
Glenn: What's your history of getting into the Industry up until now?
Michael: The history of the band ?
Michael: It's too long - something simple.
Glenn: How much time would you say you put into Arch Enemy because I notice you're also in bands like Spiritual Beggars and Carcass as well?
Michael: I haven't been in Carcass since 1993. I split the time between the bands.
Glenn: It must be a tough schedule.
Michael: Pretty much. It's been tough over the years but now Spiritual Beggars seems to be taking more of a backseat now and I've made Arch Enemy the Number1 priority as have the rest of the band. Everybody is facing in the right direction and it's actually working out pretty good now.
Glenn: What's bigger in Sweden, the Stoner thing with Spiritual Beggars or the Doom/Death scene with Arch Enemy.
Michael: The Spiritual Beggars thing is bigger in Sweden but if you look at Asia - the Far-East and Japan - Arch Enemy goes right off the scale - it's much, much bigger. It's a little bit different everywhere. Arch Enemy is definitely taking the front seat from now on.
Glenn: What would you say is your musical preference with regard to the style of playing guitar?
Michael: I like playing guitar in both bands - that's why I do it. If I enjoyed one style less, I wouldn't do it. I've always said I would never do two bands where the styles are the same. I would never start a band that's no different to Arch Enemy - what would be the point of that. I like people to take in both styles and take in my musical horizons.
Glenn: When you were in Carcass - were you playing alongside Bill Steer or did you take over from Bill Steer?
Michael: I took over from him.
Glenn: How did Arch Enemy all meet up?
Michael: Well I knew the drummer by reputation. He was a great drummer and he only lives a few miles from me. So we just called him up out of the blue and got him involved that was about 1995/96 and he was pretty easy to locate. Then we had a variety of different bass players and we had another singer for the first few albums -an old friend of ours. Then we got Shoni Dancer in on bass and Angela for the new album, she's from Germany, so that was a big change but it worked out really, really cool.
Glenn: You got really into the style and hit it off with the members of Arch Enemy.
Michael: Yeah - I was playing for around 2 or 3 years with The Spiritual Beggars - very much retro-rock and I missed the extreme stuff and wanted to get back into it. I was still writing extreme heavy riffs. I was just putting them on a tape and filing them away, so I thought I might as well do something with it and that's how it started.
Glenn: I was listening to your album 'Wages of Sin' and it's not typical death metal - it's got lots of arrangements and there's even some Power Metal in there too.
Michael: I mean we put all kinds of influences in there. It's kind of the Death Metal vibe that we have certainly the guitar work - we've taken influences from Classic Metal like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden - stuff like that. We just work it into the sound we have - it's a real challenge - the right music with the extreme vocals. But still incorporate some kind of melody and how to make it grooving at the same time and make it work - make it gel somehow. It's a bit of a challenge really. If we had a melodic vocalist, I think Arch Enemy would be a really boring band. It makes it have the edge somehow with the extreme vocals. We tune down so low and play with a lot of Death Metal attitude - it just gives you that raw edge - a little on the extreme kind of things. I enjoy.
Glenn: Otherwise you'd be another
Michael: another f*cking lame German Power Metal band. They just re-hash stuff in an unoriginal way I think. You can't really go anywhere with that. But we are trying to make something a little bit fresh and heavy type - we are always trying to top ourselves.
Glenn: I notice you've toured quite a lot - what would you say your favourite tours are?
Michael: We've done a load of really cool tours. We've done one in America supporting Manowar and they were awesome. They are probably the only band that features a bit of Power Metal in some way that I really, really like. I think they are amazing. So that was great because every night I could actually take a shower after our set and go out and watch their set - I f*cking enjoyed it. I just really got into it. It's like a big treat to see a band live like that - so much fun. That was quite nice. Otherwise we play pretty big shows in Japan an' stuff where we headline in front of thousands of fans. It's a lot of fun to be like a 'Super Big Metal Hero' over there. I like playing everywhere. I'd love to play in England - we've never played England - we'd love to play there - Britain rules. So we are trying to set something up there - we've had so much interest. We want to come over and not just do a London show because I know a lot of people can't make it.
Glenn: It's hard to get down there if you live in the Northern part of Britain - they have a lot of shows at the Garage and The Underworld and we can't make it there on a week day. It costs so much to get down there and we don't always have the time to do the journey.
Michael: Well I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere basically, so I never get to see any cool shows.
Glenn: When you have been doing shows, how long do you get for your set - is it around 30 minutes?
Michael: Well when you support bands you get anywhere between 25 and 45 minutes but when we do our own headline shows it's more like an hour and a half. I think you are pushing with anything over an hour with this kind of music. It just kind of grates at you after a while - the speed and the heaviness and everything. I think 60, 70, 80 minutes, that's what I like to hear from an extreme band really. When it gets to around two hours it's like too much because there's not much dynamics in a live show with this kind of music. It's so intense all the time.
Glenn: I guess you'd get a bit knackered after playing around 2 hours anyway, playing at that speed and power.
Michael: The crowd gets knackered. (laughing)
Glenn: I bet.
Michael: We're used to taking a good beating.
Glenn: Where would you say you pull the biggest and the best crowds around the world?
Michael: The biggest crowds we pull are in Japan - the Japanese crowds are great because they always sing along with all the melodies and vocals 'n' stuff. You get the whole crowd singing along with all the themes which is pretty amazing. But there's good crowds all over. The Metal fans are great wherever they live.
Glenn: Have you ever heard of a band called 'Bal-Sagoth' from Sheffield, UK.?
Michael: I've heard the name yeah but I've never actually heard the music. I've definitely seen the name because I have seen them in Terrorizer and magazines like that. I get a lot of these little mags sent to me from everywhere. I always look through and read 'em. Sometimes you don't actually know what the band sounds like.
Glenn: Yeah with some of these magazine you could do with sample CD's because some of the bands sound really good but you don't know what they sound like. So that's a really good point you've just brought up.
What was it like working alongside Producer, Andy Sneap?
Michael: It was great. Absolutely amazing. I can't say enough good things about him really, I mean, he really took out all the things we were unsatisfied with on the old albums - stuff that we didn't think was coming out or being clear in the mix - he should those things right into peoples faces this time. It's like the power and the brutality of the band - it's all there and it's pretty crushing. We are choughed about it.
Glenn: How did you actually get in touch with him?
Michael: Through our Manager. Our Manager approached him about the project. One or two of the things I'd heard that he'd done I really liked.
Glenn: So you had a good time with Andy?
Michael: Yeah - it was up in your neck of the woods, I guess, in Alfreton, Nottingham.
Glenn: Yeah that's not too far away.
Michael: It's actually where my Father was born and raised. So it's pretty interesting - I'm re-visiting my heritage and at the same time mixing the 'Wages of Sin' album. That was pretty cool - I called my dad from the studio and said, 'Hey, I'm in Alfreton'. So that was pretty cool. I have a lot of relatives up there but I didn't get chance to visit them though (laughing) - I was too busy.
Glenn: On the new album, 'Wages of Sin' do you have any particular favourites at all?
Michael: I've got a few favourite tracks. One is 'Heart of Darkness', the other is 'The Savage Messiah' but it's kind of a central piece on the album. It's like the 5th track on the album, I think, and it's got like a slow intro and a pretty heavy vibe. I just like the way it all came together on that one. It's got some good stuff going on in it so there always one or two tracks that stick out. Usually they are the ones that people never talk about. The personal favourites are like the ones that people don't get off on. I am very left field with the music a lot.
Glenn: After playing the CD, one that really stood out to me was 'Ravenous' - I really like that track.
Michael: Yeah - that's a cool one - it's a bit different.
Glenn: Yeah - very melodic and I thought, 'I like this'. I'm gonna have to play the video track that's on there. Will you be releasing that as a single at all?
Michael: No, it was just a video that we did. We are releasing a single but it's only in Japan - the track, 'Burning Angel' - the second track on the album. That's the single just for Japan, other than that we are not releasing any singles out of Japan. I don't really think there is a market for it - but it's difficult to release a single, you know.
Glenn: Yeah - you just can't get the radio over here at all.
Michael: Well exactly.
Glenn: There's plenty of places around the world but unless you check them out via the Internet you can't pick up anything. Have you been played on the Radio 1 Rock show or anything like that?
Michael: No - but Total Rock are doing a pretty good job.
Glenn: It's a pity you can't pick that up on FM radio in the UK.
Michael: It's on the Internet?
Glenn: Yeah. But Tommy Vance and his crew want to get it on FM Radio in the UK.
How did you discover your lead vocalist, Angela?
Michael: It was kind of by chance really because she interviewed me for the previous album - I was in Germany doing promotion. She was interviewing me for a webzine and it was just by chance. We started talking, small talking about things and she was saying she was really interested in extreme metal and she actually said that he sang vocals in a band, a German band whose influences were like Chuck Schuldiner of Death and David Vincent from Morbid Angel and Jeff Walker from Carcass. I was like 'Wow'. I like to hear that, so she ended up sending me a video-tape of her with the band and also a demo. Me and my brother Chris, we just checked it out and were blown away by it - it was totally cool. Then a year later when this whole concept came up that we were getting rid of our old singer, we remembered that tape and gave her a call.
Glenn: When listening to it - you'd never guess that that was a female vocalist - it sounds like your classic 'Cookie Monster Bloke' on vocals.
Michael: Yeah - She's got a real, pretty awesome voice. When she came in to rehearse with us we were like 'Wow'. She was a lot louder and more intense than our previous vocalist was and he was a big guy. So it was 'Okay', there's a lot of aggression from this little girl. (Laughing).
Glenn: What would you say the reason is that made you switch vocalists?
Michael: We'd made 3 studio albums with the guy and we just felt we'd come to the end of the relationship of us making music together. We'd get a lot of complaints about his performances at live shows and finally the coin dropped and we thought, 'Maybe we should listen to what people are saying about us and reconsider our whole approach'. We were writing some really, really cool stuff and we thought that the new material was several notches above what we had been doing before - so maybe we should have the vocalist that could manage the material. We were really pleased with the reaction.
Glenn: Excellent. Would you say it's a different vibe in the band working with a female vocalist as opposed to a male vocalist?
Michael: Not really. It's not that different. We are pretty relaxed about it. We aren't really rough and drink all the time, then throw up on our drum kits.
Glenn: You are in it for the music and the art of it all.
Michael: Yeah - we take care of it - we are pretty relaxed about it. It's not really that different. Obviously when she came over to try out (audition for the band) we were kind of testing how she would work in the group - her actual personality. She's really, funny has a good sense of humour, she's really professional and knows what she wants. It's really good.
Glenn: How did the crowd take to her when you performed first few shows or people that hear the album?
Michael: Well people that hear the voice - they can't believe it - she's good. She's got one thing that our old vocalist didn't have and that's charisma and communicates better with people.
Glenn: That's good. When will you say you will be touring?
Michael: As far as the UK goes, I'm not quite sure yet but we're gonna be playing some European Metal festivals.
Glenn: Have you got any idea which ones?
Michael: Not at the moment, no. When we do though, they'll be on our website http://www.archenemy.net
Glenn: When you are composing your songs, where would say you get many of your ideas from - is a lot of it from things going on in your life or do you also research various novels and such like?
Michael: I write both fiction and personal lyrics. Angela has written a few lyrics on the album as well. Hers are in a different direction again so we have a good variety of styles and I think songs like 'Enemy Within' that she wrote are pretty personal but in a kind of cryptic way - they are kind of intense and brutal - they fit the music. Then there's one that I wrote called 'Burning Angel' that's a classic tale of witch-burning - but I wrote it from the woman's perspective rather than just describing the event. I wrote it from the actual woman's perspective who was being accused of being a witch. That was quite fun and Angela did such a great performance of that one. It comes off really, really good live and it's a real cool song. There's a lot of different stuff - Savage Messiah is about blind faith and religion. I must say that I believe in Spirituality but not in religion - I mean you can see what's gone in the world because some people are too f*cking religious.
Glenn: Yeah - there's been so many squabbles and wars that have been started because of religion. If we got rid of things like politics and religion, then maybe the world would be a more peaceful place to live in.
Michael: That's it, exactly - but when the world looks the way it does, it means there's always something to write metal songs about.
Glenn: That's it - there's always something to get p*ssed off about. Has it taken long to get the band to the point to where it's at now?
Michael: No, but it's not really a hit single kind of thing - you build up a career slowly and gradually, build a following. But the difference is from the pop world, your following is really, really solid. The foundation is solid - the fans are more into it - they follow the bands.
Glenn: Yeah, we are into the music and the bands despite what the media says and wants us to like. Getting into more styles and bands as time goes by. We always stand up as fans of all the bands and not turn our backs on any of them.
Michael: That is why Metal is the best.
On that positive note, I thanked Michael for doing the interview.
Be sure to check out Tony's 10/10 review of the 'Wages of Sin' album in the 'A' section of CD Reviews. Also check out their website www.archenemy.net for details of any of the bands gigs coming to a festival or live venue near you.
A Big Thank-you to Donna O'Connor (PR)@Century Media for setting it up.