Opeth's 20th anniversary celebration was captured on DVD with the stunning set In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Go RIGHT HERE to get your copy in whichever of the various available formats you wish.
So if there was anything you could change from the last 20 years, would the making of Deliverance be the candidate?
"Well I don't believe in changing things so even though there are parts of that record that make me cringe when I listen to them, I do that with some of the older stuff as well. I remember I was superhappy with it at the time. I can't go back and change the past and that's one of the reasons that if I have leftover material from an album, I never bring it when I start to write for the next album. I want to write completely new material. So even though some music didn't end up on a record, it still belongs to that record. I want to start with a clean slate, so to speak."
Damnation was a very brave move for a metal band, people didn't seem too surprised that you'd made an all mellow album at the time though did they?
"I thought it was going to have a bigger impact. People were kind of shrugging, Yeah? Whatever – cool. It didn't have an impact at all it seemed at the time! I was expecting people to either hate it or say, Fucking hell there's this death metal band doing an album like that! With doing Deliverance at the same time I thought people were going to be impressed. I was also aching for some kind of recognition because of what I went through with the recording. I wanted some approval. But what happened was people started downloading the album before it was released and then started slagging it off. So I was like, fuck off you fucking insects!"
That's like shoplifting a Mars bar then going back to the shop to complain you don't like the way it tastes…
"Yes, so I was really upset. But now a few years later people are coming out of the woodwork saying, That album changed my life or that album is what I'll have playing at my funeral. Or I wouldn't have met my wife if it wasn't for that album…"
And it's a good entry point to get into the band too…
"Yes and a lot of people hold that record pretty close to their hearts – all sorts of people from metal people to general music fans. So now I'm getting a little credit for that record."
The acoustic folk-influenced fingerpicking side to your playing is equally as important to Opeth's sound as the metal elements. Is it true that you worked in an acoustic guitar shop and developed that side of your technique there?
"Yes that's true. I was working at a small guitar shop in Stockholm and I was basically doing repairs – I don't know how I got employed there because I didn't know how to repair guitars! But the owner taught me things like how to make a bone nut from scratch, fixing cracks…
"But I was quite disappointed when I first went in there because there were no electric guitars. It was only acoustics – but at least it was still guitars, plus at the end of the day it was a job and I didn't expect to sit around playing all day. But that's what happened; we didn't have many customers because we sold Martin guitars and they're quite expensive. People weren't coming in and buying them for their kids. If you went into that store you were buying a guitar for £3,000. So I ended up playing a lot and there weren't any guitars but steel string, 12-string and nylon string.
"So I was playing a lot and writing a lot for our second album [Morningrise] and developing my technique as an acoustic guitar player. And that's something that made a lot of difference to me as a songwriter, guitar player and musician overall. The years in that store helped me to develop our sound."
Do you usually write on an acoustic guitar these days?
"I write a lot on acoustic but now my situation is a little bit different because I have a home studio. So I can just plug in my electric guitar and off I go. But I always have an acoustic close at hand if I just want to play – and to be honest it's easier for me to come up with something on an acoustic guitar. Everytime you pick it up you'll come up with something and think, oh that's nice. But when you plug in an electric guitar you end up playing some shitty blues!"
But talking of electric guitar, you must be incredibly proud to have a PRS Signature now…
"I'm not proud at all! [laughs] No, I love it, I can't even say it's like a childhood dream because I didn't even think there was a chance in hell that anyone would even give me a guitar, let alone get a signature model with my name on it. It's amazing. I'm pretty fucking proud."
Opeth has a stable line up now but how much of a personal toll has some of Opeth's line up changes taken on you over the years?
"Obviously I can't say I like them but every line-up change has made us into a better band. But people relate to when their favourite album of ours was made by a specific line-up – they think that line-up is better.
"For me, from the inside, [changes] always made us progress and ultimately turned us into a better band. But, line-up changes, what can I say? I hate them. I wish – to a certain extent – that we were the same guys who played together in 1989. Ultimately you lose touch with these people who were once really good friends and it's tough. Mostly from the friendship point of view I have to say.
"Peter leaving [Lindgren, guitar 1991 – 2007] was fucking rough for me. [Martin] Lopez [drums 1997-2006] wasn't really rough, we were friends of course but we weren't really hanging out. He was asked to join the band as a drummer and I'd never seen the guy in my life before he came to meet us. But Peter and I had been friends before we played together. So with some of these guys it's been very difficult, almost to the point that I didn't know whether I wanted to go on anymore. Like when the first drummer [Anders Nordin 1990-1997] who played on the first two records, left. When he left I was like, okay, that's it for me."
So there were points where you nearly gave up on Opeth?
"Well that was one definitely. But then I just realised that I'm still a musician. They can leave and go work at Ericson or whatever but I still love this. Once I realised that, the friendship type of thing took a little bit of a back seat. Not that I became ruthless and didn't want to be friends with my band members, not at all. But whatever happens won't change my interest and my goals. But it's rough, not fun."