Artist - Michael Amott - Guitarist of Spiritual Beggars/Arch Enemy
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan, BA Hons CS via Telephone
Date: 20th March, 2003
Michael: We did a listening party and we didn't have a title. We stole it from a band who had a long list of names and we kept that one. You are reading reviews of albums all the time but I've never seen an album with that title.
Glenn: What made you put a girl on the cover of the album?
Michael: That the idea of our keyboard player, 'Per Wiberg' - We had a girl on the cover of our last album - he does all the covers.
Glenn: Where did the name of the band come from?
Michael: Well we were looking for a name and we came up with 'Spiritual Beggars'. I thought it was a pretty terrible one actually and we'd keep it until we find a better one but we never did. Everybody heard about us and like any band name, you kind of accept it - the first time you hear it you might go, "Oh this sounds a bit stupid", then you just say it and you don't think about it.
Glenn: Well you are a very spiritual type of band so the name seems to work well.
Michael: Well I was talking of it as a project and I was coming more from my musical roots which are more in Death Metal and I use the band as something I want to explore on the side.
Glenn: It's a nice comparison to the Death Metal style of Arch Enemy. What would you say your favourite track is on the album?
Michael: 'Beneath the skin' is one of my favourites.
Glenn: What are the influences for some of the songs like 'Young Man, Old Soul'?
Micahel: We like a lot of 70's music like Sabbath etc and that seemed to work for us. We don't plan the songs out at all though - we just use our various influences?
Glenn: So you let the music take you from however you are feeling at the time?
Michael: Yeah, exactly.
Glenn: In the song ' ' there's the lyric 'Shivers down my back bone' - Is that a direct reference to the old Johnny Kidd and the Pirates song 'Shakin' all over'?
Michael: It's one of the songs I didn't write on the album actually - that was one written by our keyboard player 'Per Wiberg' - I don't really know. I'm not sure - he likes a lot of old stuff like that.
Glenn: What's the influence behind 'Feejee Mermaid'?
Michael: Well that's an instrumental we recorded and I named it 'Fiji Mermaid' after seeing this fake object in this museum that was around 2000 years old - I just thought it was a cool name.
Glenn: In 'Fools Gold' you have a submarine sound incorporated into the song - what made you use?
Michael: I don't know, it's something I've always wanted to use in a song.
Glenn: After looking at your website, I noticed that you've all listed a lot of your influences - is the song 'Dance of the Dragon king' an influence from Ritchie Blackmore's 'Rainbow' - hence the Dragons and Kings usage - i.e. classic Ronnie James Dio as well as the progressive late 70's/early 80's musical style?
Michael: I don't know - that's got more of a Kung-fu martial arts influence and it's a really deep song. It's got a great atmospheric riff as well.
Glenn: You've got a few dates in Great Britain.
Michael: That's right yeah.
Glenn: Will you be doing more dates in the future at all this year?
Michael: Not at the moment - we just doing those few?
Glenn: Like Manchester?
Michael: Yeah and that's it for the moment.
Glenn: It'd be good to see you in Sheffield - maybe next time. How do you like to spend your time when you are not doing gigs?
Michael: Oh, it's pretty boring actually.
Glenn: So it's a lot of waiting about in between?
Michael: Yeah - a lot of waiting about. I always find I'm trying to get down to gym or something like at or just something to pass the time - something to do
Glenn: It's good to see the other side of it - I remember hanging with Entombed and they said the same - they had to do a lot of waiting about and they had had a gig cancelled the night before.
What would you say your favourite tours are and why?
Michael: I don't know - I've done some pretty good stuff over the years. I've been lucky you know, I've been on a lot of great tours - I've been on a few crap ones as well. (starts laughing)
Glenn: Which ones have been crap, that have drove you mad and for what reasons?
Michael: Basically badly organised things that don't go your way and don't happen the way you think they should.
Glenn: Which ones?
Michael: I can't remember - more of the early days that weren't well organised but that happens less and less now. I remember a few early things we did like sleeping in the back of the van on your equipment
Glenn: Freezing your arses off..
Glenn: Falling over each other because you don't have enough space?
Michael: Yeah, but I wouldn't have it any other way - its always good to have done that.
Glenn: What albums would you like to have appeared on by other artists - such as any classic albums and why?
Michael: Well I wouldn't wanna ruin any classic albums. (We laugh at the thought of it). I rather just enjoy them as a fan. I'm a big fan of all kinds of music. I like all kinds of stuff. I mean there's some people that I'd love to jam with that aren't around anymore to see if I can pick up anything from them. I'd love to jam with Jimi Hendrix - guys like that to see if any of them would rub off on me would be good. (laughing). I pretty happy with the people that I play with - I'm pretty fortunate to have them around.
Glenn: What's your rock scene like in Sweden?
Michael: There's a lot of band here that come out of Sweden and Scandinavia but I think the actual scene here is pretty crap because of the alcohol laws and stuff like that - there's a lot of restrictions - a lot of the clubs can't sell alcohol so people don't come out to shows much. There's a lack of real live culture in this country (Sweden) I think.
Glenn: Is there a big stoner scene at all in Sweden?
Michael: No not really. I think Stoner has just died hasn't it?
Glenn: I guess so.
Micahel: It was very popular about 3 or 4 years ago but I don't care as I never liked it anyway. I think it was a load of American teenagers who are obsessed with American Cars and stuff. I didn't hear any new real Tony Iommi riffs. I mean Kyuss were a great band when they came out - they were awesome but then when about a hundred bands came out trying to be Kyuss it got boring.
Glenn: When I first heard about you, I thought you were another Stoner band but after hearing you I realised that you were the real thing that harks back to the early 70's due to you using the Hammond Organ with the Lesli speaker.
Michael: Well thank you.
Glenn: What would you say your favourite covers are of yours? Do you look at albums from other bands and try and take a bit of that and use it for yourselves?
Michael: Oh yeah - we steal ideas all the time and that goes for the music as well but we only steal from the best.
Glenn: Yeah (laughing). Which albums do you think have mostly influenced you from the 70's?
Michael: Many albums- you get a little bit of influence from everything - even if it's just the lettering, the colour scheme or something - you just go 'that'd be cool' and you just kinda put that into your own thing. With music as well, you hear a song and you say, 'I'd be great if we had a song just like that, that starts off with the keyboards and nothing else' and then it kind of builds up. But you actually go and write something that doesn't sound like what you've been influenced by because you kind of make your own thing out of it. It's boring if you just duplicate stuff.
Michael: I can't even be bothered doing that because I'm too lazy to actually pick out what exactly they are doing. I'd sooner go and take that and you know, you get that sort of kick from someone else's thing and then you just go and make your own thing.
Glenn: Right. Why did you decide to call the graphics team 'Hippo Graphics'?
Michael: I don't know - that's his company - our keyboard player. He designs our t-shirts and stuff like that as well. That's his thing. He has a website as well and he does graphics that are all available for other bands, so he's had a few other covers commissioned.
Glenn: So he gets quite a lot of work out of that as well?
Michael: I don't know - I just think he's trying to get it started.
Glenn. Got ya. What would you say are the best tours that you have done?
Michael: Well the UK was really great in '98.
Glenn: What was it about the UK you liked most of all though that really stuck in your mind?
Michael: We did our first show with our keyboard player an it was like a showcase in London sponsored by Kerrang Magazine and the people here were really into it and that's good when you've come from the backwoods of Sweden.
Glenn: Yeah because you've got no idea at all.
Glenn: Did you get plenty of people at the gig as well?
Michael: Yeah but sometimes you get a crap turn out and then you get some good nights - stuff like that. I think everybody's hurting like that anyway - it's pretty bad.
Glenn: Are you doing a lot of touring at the moment?
Michael: We are just flying over to the UK and then we head over to Holland, Germany, France and then back into the UK then do a bit of flying - were flying down to Greece and there you go. We are playing a couple of shows in Bagdhad!!! (We laugh at the thought of it)
Glenn: If you had an ultimate goal for you as a person, what would it be?
Michael: Become filthy rich and retire (laughs) - well I'd to continue being creative and making good records and going out on the road and doing what I do. I mean it's self chosen what I do - something that I wanted to do all my life and I'm doing it now. I'm kind of living my dream I guess but obviously now I'm here, I've been doing it for so long that I don't really think of it as a dream anymore - it's more like a daily grind like every other job. You become a self-employed musician. I have record company backing, I have management backing but you know, you still face like the crap days like every other struggling musician out there you know.
Glenn: Is that what it's good for you because you have other projects that are so extreme to what you are doing in the 'Spiritual Beggars'?
Michael: Well no - the Spiritual Beggars I do more for fun - it's more of a side project - I mean 'Arch Enemy' is my main band and I just do 'Spiritual Beggars' when I have the time and when I feel the inspiration. I mean I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it.
Glenn: What's happening on the 'Arch Enemy' front at the moment?
Michael: Well we've just recorded a new album in the UK with Andy Sneap in Derbyshire and it's gonna be mixed and it's all gonna be done in the next two months. I came back on Sunday from the UK that and started rehearsing for the 'Spiritual Beggars' on the Monday and now we head out on tour.
Michael: It's a pretty crazy game.
Glenn: It is yeah. Man, you don't get a moments peace. When you aren't touring what sorts of hobbies have you got outside music?
Michael: Well I don't really have any hobbies. I mean, my music was my hobby as a teenager and then it just became my work and a hobby for me is just having time off, you know for myself for relaxing. I have a daughter that I spend little time with. So I just love it just being at home - cooking. I don't really travel that much when I'm off because I do a lot of that with the bands - getting on a plane and travelling isn't very appealing. When you are on tour you are always on somebody else's schedule basically - if you are like a group you are a team and you really have to eat at 7 o' clock and then you have to wait 2 hours and you're kind of a little bit like cattle - it's like being at school or something on like a school trip, you know?
Michael: You don't really have that free amount of personal freedom so I enjoy being at home enjoying my own schedule basically.
Glenn: What would you say your most memorable gigs have been just recently?
Michael: Well we did a lot of stuff with Arch Enemy last year that was really good and basically I've been enjoying that. Probably Japan, we've toured there twice and that was really great.
Glenn: What sorts of things stand out about Japan?
Michael: Well for Arch Enemy the venues are quite big and a lot of people attended - it was great. It's kind of what we want to do here - have a bigger show, with back drops, a lightshow and ramps and stuff you can run around on. Tomorrow I'm going to do a warm up show with Spiritual Beggars and it'll be the 1st show - it's our local show - where we rehearse. We have like a café upstairs and we have a little stage and we're gonna do a warm-up there. There's a hundred people capacity and it's so loud - that's gonna be intense - it's gonna be really hot I think because it's really small. It's probably the smallest stage we've ever played - it's all extremes (he jokes).
Glenn: Before you go on stage do you have certain music that gets you revved up for the show?
Michael: Napalm Death (laughing)
Glenn: Even for Spiritual Beggars gigs?
Michael: Yeah (laughing).
Michael: Just about all the disgusting Grindcore music that I can find - it's all I listen to. No actually I don't really listen to that much music on tour. The cd's I bring out with me are really calm, laid back stuff because I get enough Metal and stuff anyway There's always that kind of music being played - records are being played all day at clubs, so when I'm in my bed on the bus I just kind of chill out with something - something really different - if at all - I might just crash out because your ears get tired from abuse (laughing).
Glenn: Because they are just ringing all day, no doubt.
Michael: Well yeah because I've got tinnitus and I've had that for years.
Glenn: Yeah, it just rips your ears apart.
Michael: Yeah, we do it for Metal.
Glenn: Yeah, Is the next Arch Enemy album going to be a double set like the last one was?
Michael: I don't know, I'm not quite sure yet. I mean we've recorded one album mostly and I don't know what but if we find something extra to put on there are talks about it but I'm not sure what it's gonna be yet - there might be a limited edition - a double set. Hey I've got another interview coming up shortly so I gotta get going.
Glenn: Well I'll let you get off now - take care Michael.
Michael: You too.
A big thank you to Michael Amott and Doug 'n' Minna @ Music For Nations