Opeth are one of the most passionately beloved metal bands around...now. But for years, they struggled to get their blend of death metal and progressive rock accepted by headbangers. In a recent interview with Noisey, frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt discussed the difficulties Opeth faced for quite a long time, as well as the problems facing young bands today.
Says Mikael, "Band members who have been in this band have felt scared thinking, 'OK, what if we don’t make it? Maybe I should just have a security thing. Maybe I should get a job on the side, or maybe I should get a second degree doing this and that just in case,' which I never did because it took time away from my musicality. I made massive sacrifices while I saw many of my friends and even bandmates getting a job or getting another degree or whatever they were doing. I still maintained my focus on the music aspect. I was so determined. There was a time when I was the same. For example, when we did the Blackwater Park record, I didn’t expect anyone to buy it or like it. I didn’t expect anything to happen. But then it did. All of a sudden, we got a tour, and we got a manager, and we got an agent, and it just kind of snowballed from there. But up until then, we spent a good ten years of our career with nothing, and with members leaving, too, and people not having any hope. It was, I would say horrible, but I was happy during that time. It wasn’t easy."
Regarding what it takes for bands to break out in the 21st Century, he says, "It’s difficult for new bands today, I think. We were just on the verge of this whole kind of change happening. We still had to establish our band before the decline of the record industry, at least to the point where we could go out and tour, and that we were somewhat of a household name. But to be a new band starting out now must be completely maddening. You have to look at different ways of how to spread your music. I think it’s a pipe dream for a band that people are talking about on the internet that it’s a really, really good thing for music. Which, to a certain extent it is, but it’s also very bad for music because of the fact that they have unique finances. In our early days, we needed it. The banking of a record label to get support for getting out there and touring, we needed to borrow from the record label. That would virtually be impossible if you put all your hopes in a Facebook page. I’m sure there’s a few American dream stories like that, where you get discovered because of your Facebook page, and then you have a massively successful artist, but you can’t rely on those things to just happen, of course. First and foremost, if you’re a good band, and you just stick to your idea on how to spread your name further, and if you’re consistent, and if you’re determined, I think eventually people will know. The longer you stay in the game, the more people will know about you eventually."
Read the whole thing—it's worth it.
Opeth's 11th studio album will be out later this year.