Musicians do a lot of interviews, and frequently answer the same questions over and over again for each magazine or website they speak to. This can change a lot, though, when the artist is talking to a fellow musician. Emusic recruited writer Lenny Kaye to interview Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt when the band was in New York, and it was an extremely productive encounter not just because the two men have a relationship that goes back a few years, but because Kaye is a player and record collector as well as a writer - he's been Patti Smith's guitarist since the 1970s, and gathered the rare garage rock 45s that became the classic compilation Nuggets. So this interview is absolutely worth checking out.
For example, Kaye asks Åkerfeldt to characterize the difference in the band now that Fredrik Åkesson has replaced longtime guitarist Peter Lindgren: "Peter and I, we started the band and learned how to play the guitar at the same time. We tried to have a similar style, but go on our own paths as well. But it got to the point where I was taking more and more of the solo spots, and I was writing the music on my own, and he was overshadowed. After a while I had advanced more than he had. I never wanted to be the lead guitar player; I wanted him to take that role. But when he couldn’t come up with the solo, I ended up doing it. It hurt our collaboration, and I ended up feeling bitter that he didn’t take that spot. When he left the band, and I was looking for a new guitar player, I wanted someone who could just blow me away, and that guy was Fredrik. He had a very different style from either me or Peter; he’s basically a shredder and that was really cool, because I suddenly had new colors to paint with. And Fredrik was coming from different types of bands, where he never had a chance to play acoustic guitar, so he also had to learn a new way of playing."
He also gets Mikael to discuss the evolution from demo to finished song: "I spend a lot of time with the demos, especially with the drums. But it’s been like that ever since the possibility was there, with ProTools and the like. I can’t let things slide. Coming up with the drum beats, if I want to hear ghost notes on the snare, I’ll just keep working on them till they sound as human and as swinging as possible.
"For the third and fourth albums, and even a couple of records later, we went into the studio with no material. I wrote everything during the nights, and we recorded during the days — which is interesting in a way, but I reached a point where I didn’t know whether it was good or shit, I was so tired. I think some of those records suffered as a result, even if some of it sounded spontaneous and cool. But it reached a point where I couldn’t do that anymore; I wanted to be more in control of what we were putting out there."
Go read the whole thing.
Opeth is currently on the road in North America; visit our tour page to find a show near you.