Peter Lindgren, Guitarist from 'Opeth'
Date: 17th March, 2003
Venue: Their Tour bus in the car park of Bradford Rio, Bradford, UK
Interviewers: Glenn Milligan, BA Hons CS and Tony Watson
Peter: We are heading to Australia. Actually we are going to Poland and the Czech Republic - then Australia and back.
Tony: Have you got a big fan base in Australia?
Peter: Yes we've got quite a few fans there. We've never played there though.
Tony: And you're excited to go there?
Peter: Yeah, Yeah even like a tourist.
Tony: What exactly is the band 'Opeth' about?
Peter: It's good music I think and for us it's having fun. We actually only play for ourselves and that's why we started the band because we like music. It's a good side effect that people seem to like it and touring is actually fun because we can play for the fans and we actually enjoy ourselves.
Tony: Were you all friends before getting the band together?
Peter: Well The Martins weren't in the band in the beginning but me and Mike had known each other before we were in the band. The Martins were friends with each other as well but we didn't know them at the time.
Tony: Where did your inspiration come from?
Peter: Music I guess, in general and all our favourite bands and whatever we listen to at the moment inspires us - so that's probably our main inspiration.
Tony: Who do you listen to at the moment?
Peter: Porcupine Tree, a Swedish band called Katatonia, the old favourites that we grew up with most like the old 70's Progressive bands like Camel and for singer-songwriter music Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley - stuff like that. Anything that's good - Stevie Wonder is good. Any stuff from the 70's.
Glenn: Which album would you are say you are most proud of that you have put together?
Peter: I think 'My Arms, your hearse' because at the time when we booked the studio we didn't have a rehearsal room or anything or know any songs and then we fired the bass player and the drummer quit. We didn't have any equipment and we were a bit stressed and we had like three months to put the band together and write songs. Then Martin was here, we'd found a drummer and he didn't exactly know what we wanted out of him, so we had problems, severe problems with lost time and we thought we were never gonna make it but I think the album came out pretty well anyway. I'm proud of that because we actually managed to put it all together and the same goes for the two new albums because we had so much trouble in the studio so I think the two new ones and 'My Arms ' are the ones I'm most proud of actually.
Glenn: Do you have a certain format of structure that you use to put the albums together?
Peter: Well Mike writes the basics for most albums and when we come to the studio we want a lot of time and space in the music to experiment because it's more interesting to work that way. If you wake up and you know you're gonna do this then you have a lot of inspiration. It's interesting because also when you get back home you have an album that you don't really know what it sounds like. When you put everything on tape you do it until you are satisfied and then you forget about what you've done before so that's how we work. It's a bit of a risk because you can always end up in a situation where you have a couple of minutes that doesn't sound good so you have to change it in some way but you've already recorded it down so you are stuck with what you've got. That is also pretty inspiring. The 1st album we did, we knew exactly what we were doing because we had been rehearsing the songs for so many years. It took us 12 days to record it but there wasn't any surprises either - that's how we work nowadays.
Glenn: Did you find that when you got your first album done, the second was like - ahah - we have to work on this one quite a bit because it's totally brand new material?
Peter: Well we had songs like 'Gross Mortal of Wisdom'. We had already written most of it for 'Orchid' already but after the first album we knew how we wanted it to be in the studio but we had most of them written before entering it and wanted to expand what we had done on the first album. We wanted to try out the ballad thing, the last song and some longer songs like 'Black Frozen Water' so we knew sort of what we wanted actually.
Glenn: What ultimately inspired the vocal styles when you've got the real gruff, dark black metal and the high soaring folk style?
Peter: The grunts are mostly inspired by Morbid Angel and I think that David Lynch is probably the best or was the best Death Metal singer - next to Mike actually who I think seriously is as good. When it comes to the clean vocals I think it's just that we experimented a little bit on the 1st album - we just had a few lines of clean vocals and on the next album we took it a bit further. Now he's like a good singer and he wasn't when he started singing. We had him singing when we started the band and he just took over - so he's just been developing his voice all the time and now he's more confident in what he's doing. It's been like a progression from the 1st album. On the 1st album you can hear that he's insecure because he hits the notes but it doesn't sound like he's confident whereas now he's got a lot of confidence - you can tell.
Glenn: What was the crowd perception to your style which was different to the usual bandwagon of bands?
Peter: Well, we got slagged off in the beginning because the 1st albums we put out were in the middle of the 'Black Metal' boom. Everybody had corpse paint and everything and the songs were about forests and stuff, so we had songs about that too but we had acoustic guitars and clean vocals so people thought we were wimps, you know?
Peter: But we made a decision early on that we were going to continue what we were doing and after a while I think people started respecting us for simply doing what we were doing. Now we have a lot of respect from different people and I think it's due to us just continuing and struggling actually because we had a hard time with the music and people hated it but we got some fans too that liked what we were doing - we had to convince people. It could have gone to hell too.
Glenn: What does the word 'Opeth' actually mean?
Peter: Well it means 'City of the moon'. It's taken from a book by Wilbur Smith called 'The Sunbird' and it's about a legend of a city that disappeared under mystic circumstances - the book is spelled 'Opet' without the 'h'. It was David who came up with the name. We didn't know, well I didn't know what it meant when I started in the band but he told me.
Glenn: You see the word 'Opeth' and you don't know what sort of band it's going to be - it sounds like it could be a folky band. It doesn't strike you as being the typical run off the mill black metal but the name does have a dark element to it. It's like 'Opeth, what's this?'
Peter: Well exactly. Well I like that (description) because when David, the founder of the band left, we did ask him if we could keep the name because we liked it. Like you say, if your named 'Cannibal Corpse' you're probably not gonna be a pop band, whereas if you are called 'Opeth' you could be anything which is interesting because we aren't a Black Metal band, we're not a Folk band either - we have a lot of those (elements though) - it's very varied.
Glenn: Are your audiences very varied in Sweden?
Peter: Yeah - they come from both ends like Death Metal fans who are starting to get into the acoustic stuff and also people who like singer/songwriters have started to get into the heavier stuff. If you come from the soft side, the mellow side, you have problems with the grunts but if you come from the other side you won't like the softer stuff coming out. There's probably elements in the music for most of the people and if you start liking bits and pieces you have a bit more patience if you listen to the Death Metal vocals. My mum likes the mellow stuff but she doesn't like the Death vocals but she pays more attention to it because she likes the mellow stuff. I think it's always interesting because you see people who were kids during the 70's - like they are old now but they still like it because we've got the progressive element. They go like 'Hey, I like this' and they are like 50 years old and they bring their kids who are like 22 and they like it because they like the heavy stuff. It's really interesting - the crowd is like, mixed.
Glenn: They've got the best of both worlds.
Glenn: What sort of music have you grown up on?
Peter: The 80's Metal. Iron Maiden and Metallica were my favourite bands and then there was Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin - 70's heavy stuff. Metallica are one of our main favourite bands.
Glenn: Would you say that's probably why you have that acoustic style because of your love for Led Zeppelin?
Peter: Yeah and Iron Maiden have a lot of those twin guitars - we have them on the 1st two albums. Metallica had long songs. Iron Maiden had long songs so. Mike listened to Black Sabbath - so did I but his favourite band was Black Sabbath. But I guess progressive rock has a major impact on our music all the way from the beginning like Camel and stuff. I think the 80's Metal and the 70's (the dark stuff) - the Progressive Metal. Progressive Rock is probably the closest to what we're doing.
Glenn: Your album covers are really flamboyant. Would you say that your songs have influenced your covers?
Peter: In some way, especially when we did the two concept albums - 'My Arms' and 'Still Life' we had a concept already done for the albums so we knew what we wanted the pictures like. But it's more like we have an idea of a cover and a title so on the last couple of albums Travis Smith has done the artwork so just send our ideas of a title to him and he comes up with a lot of ideas and sends it back to us on e-mail and we go through it and we pick and choose and say things like, 'Can you change this to red' and that's the way we do it. On the 1st three albums we did the covers ourselves. 'Orchid' was in pen - just an Orchid from Holland and 'Morning Rise' we found a good picture and we had to get the copyright - we bought it - but then we figured it's better to have a professional title that you've drawn.
Glenn: What would you say is your favourite album cover? Is it your latest album 'Deliverance'?
Peter: Actually I think 'Morning Rise' is one of the better ones for the music on the album. I like the two new ones too. 'Blackwater Park' is really nice. 'Orchid' is probably the worst but then again it was different for the time. It is a classic but we wanted it to be orange. (Looks at the Orchid cover). The flower itself was orange not pink, you know, but it came out pink so we were not really satisfied with it. This is like the re-issue and it looks like it's been photocopied - I don't like it. It was the record label who did it and we weren't satisfied but the original has got a better resolution and it looks really good I think. But you know, 'Blackwater Park' I still like - that's the most metal cover that we've done.
Glenn: Where did the emblem/logo of the band name come from?
Peter: It's this Finnish guy who made it for us. Lief did the 1st logo who was on the original, well not on the covers but on 'Orchid' for example, you see the logo and this guy just sent us the new logo and we thought 'This looks really good' so we just took it - his name is 'Timo Ketali' - so since (then) we've used it. It's like a trade mark actually as the 'O' goes like that (looks at the logo). It's a symbol for us and I like it a lot and we're not gonna change it now.
Tony: Where do you see 'Opeth' actually moving to now?
Peter: I don't know. We're gonna be touring so much for the whole year, so at the time we're gonna record a new album, the next album, we are gonna be a year older, we're gonna be tired with touring, tired of each other (laughing) so we are gonna have a break so when we get to know each other again it's gonna be so far in the future. It's not gonna be another 'Damnation' because it's not the new direction. I think we're gonna go back to record just one album about well none of us has any ideas whatsoever, you know. We actually are fed up with the record, the recording of albums still, because of the problems we have had in the studio but in a year we are gonna be really up for it again but I don't know what we are gonna sound like.
Glenn: What sorts of hobbies and interests do you have in the band?
Peter: Julius likes soccer but I read a lot of books. Mike, he's a vinyl collector - that's his hobby. He says he's gonna start a record store when the band breaks up but then general things but everybody likes movies or hanging out with friends. Except for Mike all of us are soccer addicts.
Tony: So who do you support?
Peter: My favourite team is in Sweden , a team called 'Yolegordom' but I've been a Manchester United fan since I was 9, which is like amazing because everybody hates them in England - I guess?
Tony: Yeah ha ha ha.
Peter: The first time I saw a game from England it was Manchester United beat someone 5-1. I was 9 years old and so impressed and at the time Liverpool was the main team or the best team. So when I've said I've been a supporter them for 20 years which is a lie I think in a way. I'm not a (hardcore supporter) but
Glenn: You don't just like 'em because many English people don't.
Peter: No, it wasn't like that.
Glenn: It's not a typical thing then. (laughing)
Peter: No (laughing)
Tony: They've got more fans outside Britain. (laughing).
Glenn: What would you say are your main lyrical influences as a band?
Peter: Well Mike writes the lyrics but he doesn't read a lot of books. He doesn't take from books or anything. I guess for the concept albums 'King Diamond' was an influence but now I think he writes from a personal point of view - like things that have happened to him or feelings that he's got. His friends or dreams, so I guess it's ordinary life events apparently - but, you know, he spices everything up appropriate for it to be a song lyric and also I think he's trying to hide the actual meaning to them so you can actually interpret the lyrics in several ways which is good because if you have really apparent political lyrics it would be boring. If you don't know exactly what they (the lyrics) are saying, it's more interesting.
Glenn: How do you find the record company 'Music For Nations' from a working point of view?
Peter: For us, they've been great actually but I mean, we were on 'Candelight' in the beginning - they were good for us at the time but we needed to move up a bit so we signed to Peaceville. I think that we were lucky to be transferred to 'Music For Nations' because 'Music For Nations' is a much more professional label and since we've moved to them we've started touring the album and doing better than we used to. I don't think that 'Blackwater Park' has sold a lot better than 'Delight' for example, it's just that it got the good promotion, so all of a sudden we're selling a lot of records. We did the tours and everything, so they've done a great job - so we're really happy with them.
Glenn: We came to see you last year here at Bradford Rio. What do you think of it here?
Peter: I think the problem with this venue here is that the sound is so bad.
Tony: Yeah, we like to go to Nottingham Rock City but we couldn't make the gig.
Peter: Yeah, we played there yesterday it was really good. The sound was excellent. Today, from the sound on stage, all you can here is like bass, sub-bass, so it's hard to actually do a good gig. It's hard to be tight because you don't hear anything and I like to play a good venue like the Civic Hall in Birmingham or maybe somewhere else in Bradford - I've forgot the name of the venue.
Glenn: It could be Penningtons.
Peter: Yeah. I've played a venue like this (Bradford Rio) for the third time and we don't like it because the sound is so bad. I think it's bad for the fans too because if we don't get the good sound, they don't get the goods - we don't sound exceptional at what we're doing.
Tony: Can't you influence the Management etc where you want to play?
Peter: Yeah, in some ways but still it has to be a venue of appropriate size and everything - the thing is, I think the other venue you mentioned is probably bigger so they won't take us there. I mean, if we start selling out this venue, we can look elsewhere but I don't think we sell-out (in Bradford). So we have a bit of say in it but then again he says it's worth going here.
Tony: How is the live scene in Europe with regard to where you play?
Peter: Well we played Rome in '96 and it was great and now they tell us it's not worth going in Italy. We play up north all the time and in Summer in Milan it's really good and we then play at Mina City which is also good and I'm thinking, 'Why don't we go down to Rome, there's a lot of people down there, so there's always places that you miss out when you're touring and they tell us it's always about the route thing and also the venue has to be available. But then again, I haven't played in Sheffield.
Glenn: And there must be quite a few Opeth fans in Sheffield.
Peter: Yeah, there probably is.
Glenn: We get a few proper Heavy Metal bands coming through every so often like Shadows Fall but we could do with a few more.
Peter: On this last European Tour we did, we played Bradford and London. We (in fact) everybody plays London and Bradford. A lot of people come to the shows but it should be the same in the other cities.
Glenn: Are there any particular shows that stand out?
Peter: On this European Tour?
Glenn: Yeah or any tour?
Peter: Well, Milan is always great for us. It's funny because they sing along to everything like guitar lead solos, they go like 'Wooo' and follow us, you know? Surprisingly, Holland was really good this time. You expect some countries to be good and some not as good - Germany has never been really good for us but lately it's been starting to turn over. But over here it's always been good, especially London, which is always great and then France used to be really good, it wasn't good last time but now it's good again. I think the Promoters have a lot to do with it. They have some stuff in all the towns and all the people come to see the bands. But Milan is always a great show for us - London, Paris is really good and Barcelona. Dublin was really good last time we played - it was like 300 people but they were crazy. There's places that's actually bad for us - we played Victoria in Spain which is in the middle of nowhere and that was not so good but except from that every show has been at least pretty good so we're happy.
Glenn: What's the male to female ratio at Opeth shows? Do you find it's very male dominated?
Peter: It is actually. We've always had a few girls in the audience, we're not Anathema I guess who go round a lot of girls but like say, there must be four guys to every girl in general or maybe now it's getting like to 1.5 but I guess that's maybe like the Metal thing. The amount of girls at a Metal show is always about 20 or 25 per cent.
I noticed in England though that there's more kids this time than before. I think that's because we get a lot of press and I think some of the nu-metal kids are breaking over and starting to move over into Opeth.
Glenn: I suppose that 'Music For Nations' have had a lot to do with it?
Glenn: The promotion has helped quite a bit.
Peter: The shows are better because we usually find that the average age of our fans is higher than other bands but now there's a couple of kids there (in the audience). I actually prefer the 'a bit older' fans because if they like it they probably won't abandon us because they won't jump onto the next bandwagon. It's not that I'm slagging off kids but they follow the trend. If we could only put kids in the audience I would be really worried but now it's like 5% but they are always in front so we see them.
Glenn: Would you say that any funny things happen at gigs?
Peter: Well our audiences they behave. They are not wild. There's always a little mosh pit at the front and crowd surfing going on but most of them seem to sing along and just listen. When I go to shows I stand at the back and just behold everything and if you're on-stage you actually like it the opposite way round. If you have a lot of action in the audience it seems like they appreciate it. I couldn't complain because I used to go wild - I used to do it when I was a kid so maybe kids bring the action into it but not many awkward things actually happen all through this tour they've behaved.
We did this show in Cleveland in the US and when we played 'Demon on a pole' people went crazy - they surfed and Martin was doing this break and he got a shoe in his head (laughing) but that seldom happens actually.
Glenn: How did you find the United States?
Peter: The States is actually better for us. We play venues that are twice this size (as in Bradford Rio) and we sell 'em out - so especially on the January Tour we got spoilt because the reception was so good - but Europe we were a bit worried because the venues were the capacity was like half the capacity of the US venues - not all of them were sold out but then again we'd ought to have 'Arch Enemy' with us this time who pull a lot of people - it's just us and 'Madder Mortem' so I think still, we are doing better with each tour but the US was really good.
Glenn: When you play gigs, do you get like a set fee or do you work like a door take?
Peter: The Manager takes care of the money but we have a set fee and there's always like a certain percentage if we break even. Let's say if the capacity is 700, we break even on a number like 500 - then we get a good percentage of the rest of the tickets, so if it's sold out, we get more money I guess but it's also, you know, for us all the money goes to the Manager and then he shares it out, so we don't actually see the money come from the specific shows. If it's sold out it's good - not because it's more money - just because we get a better show. So that's what we're looking at - he's probably looking at it only for the money (we laugh).
Tony: Would you see 'Opeth' actually going commercial - you mention how 'Music For Nations' have treated you? Can see you that happening?
Peter: It depends on how you look at it. The next one is probably gonna be a commercial album if 'Music For Nations' promotes it as a commercial album but then again, we are not gonna swap and do only mellow stuff. We are gonna do a tour for that album but we always did tour or we tried to do tours. We've never done a video but that's more or less because our songs are too long but I know initially 'Music For Nations' want us to do a video, so that's being commercial a bit but then we are never gonna abandon what we are. Let's say that 'Damnation' sells 2 million records, we are not gonna do another Damnation album anyway.
Glenn: Because you've just done it.
Peter: Yeah, exactly so we are a Death Metal band with a lot of progressive rock style and mellow stuff in it so we just gonna still continue doing records like that because that's who we are. I was thinking that bands like 'No Doubt' put out a major hit that was a ballad but they are like a funk band but I think when they brought a new album, they were still a funk band in the same style. If they'd started to do only ballads it will be really commercial and sell-out.
Glenn: And get stuck in a little box it's hard to break out because the audience can get the wrong impression if the material is different on the album.
Peter: But I think, let's say that 'Damnation' is the one that has the potential to be the massive album, let's say it sells a lot of records, I would like the people who buy 'Damnation' and don't know who we are, I would like them to check out 'Deliverance' and know that we're a really heavy band and if they like it good but if they don't like it - fair enough but we are still the heavy band that has put out or going to put out a mellow album. So we are not going to abandon anything.
Glenn: What's your scene like where you are from - the Metal scene in general?
Peter: In Stockholm we have a lot of garage bands - garage style stuff like 'The Hellacopters' - stuff like that. Stockholm has like 'Dirty Harry' and everything. In Sweden in Gothenburg for example, there's a lot of Death Metal going on like the band 'In Flames' so different things in different cities but Stockholm is very Garage so people don't recognise us at all.
Glenn: So you don't get hassled in the malls and supermarkets at all.
Peter: No, we actually won the Swedish Grammy for Metal this year so we still sell only like 3000 copies in Sweden but we seem to have a lot of respect from Journalists but people don't know who we are. It's harder to break in your own market because Swedish kids aren't impressed by Swedish band. Sweden is such a small country anyway so it's not worth spending a lot of time there. We do a lot better in England than doing shit gigs in Sweden plus it's good to be unknown because you can do whatever.
Glenn: Is there a lot of Power Metal in Sweden, because we get loads of it sent to us?
Peter: Yeah, yeah. Gothenburg is the Death and Power Metal City. Hammerfall started the trend I think. I don't like Power Metal - I think it's sh*t. As a tribute to the 80's - fair enough, you know - do one album but you shouldn't make a career of it because all those bands have done it already. I think it's just silly. I wouldn't mind if they put out 10 albums and nobody liked it but they actually like it. Hammerfall are huge in Sweden and they played on all the biggest Festivals and I hate 'em.
Tony: Do you like playing festivals yourself?
Peter: There's a good side of it because you get the opportunity to play in front of a lot of people that wouldn't go to your show. When you are at a festival, you get to check out festivals that you might be interested in. The bad side is that you never get sound-checks for the show which you actually can do with so it's not so good and circumstances are always sh*t but then again, I mean, it's the same for every band so you actually compete on the same stage and start at the same base. It's a fair way to actually trying to promote yourselves. It's just that if you do a lot of festivals and you don't have like a certain amount of sleep you get so tired because it's 9 O' clock in the morning and you've got to play at midnight and how can you avoid not drinking at a festival so you are gonna be knackered when you get up on stage. It's a good thing because you can play in front of a lot of people.
A Big thank you of course to Peter Lindgren, Doug and Minnie at Music For Nations Records, the bands Tour Manager and the staff at Bradford Rio.