An Interview with Johan Soderberg – Amon Amarth’s Powerful Guitarist

An Interview with Johan Soderberg – Amon Amarth’s Powerful Guitarist

It's not all burning, looting, raping and shooting these days for Amon Amarth...

Phew! I’ve just got back from a spot of pillaging (I don’t think I’m ever going to be allowed back in my local Coles) and it’s time for me to call Amon Amarth guitarist Johan Soderberg, who is currently at home, fending off the viciousness of a Swedish winter. Good day, sir. The tenth Amon Amarth album Jomsviking is about to be released so what’s on the horizon for the band? “We’re doing a small club tour next week then we have a couple of weeks before the Europe, US and Canada headlining tour.”

So you haven’t had the opportunity to test out any of the new songs? He agrees. “We haven’t played any of it live so far. Next week is gonna be the first time we play any of the new material live.” Seeing as Jomsviking is a concept album (you know the drill; love, loss, murder etc), how does massaging it into a live set work? “We’re gonna play a number of the songs but we’re not planning on playing the whole album; we wrote the songs so that they can stand on their own as well. We don’t have to play them in the same order as they are on Jomsviking.”

I mention the recently released video for At Dawn’s First Light; it’s so fucking metal; Vikings, bloody entrails and beating hearts. Johan laughs. “Yeah – it was a lot of fun to make that video, we did a lot more inter-acting with the actors instead of just standing and playing. The process was really smooth because the guys in Grupa 13 [the company who produced the video] were really efficient so we didn’t have to stand around for six hours only to film ten minutes like you do sometimes!”

I raise the point that he’s played on every Amon Amarth album except the debut Once Sent from the Golden Hall (1998); how has his attitude to the guitar changed over the years? He’s resolute. “I don’t think it’s changed actually – I play the guitar the way that I’ve always played.” OK…what about your attitude to music in general? “I think the band has started to look back more to the stuff we listened to when we were growing up; like ‘classical’ acts like Iron Maiden, Accept and bands like that. We let those influences shine through more these days. In the past we had to be as brutal as possible but now we have the melodies present more.” So are you exploring the possibility of mellower aspects in your songs? “Not really. This is the music I like to listen to and the music I like to write. It takes so much time in my life to put down this music so I don’t really have time to do anything else.”

Surely it’s not all metal for Johan? “I don’t really listen to much music these days, ” What?! He clarifies with “when I’m on a long flight or something then I’ll listen to music a lot – or even in my car – but when I’m home I don’t really listen to music. I’m more often watching movies; maybe I pick up some influences from the music in the movies?”

Getting back to Jomsviking, I mention that when I heard there was a song called A Dream That Cannot Be (featuring Doro Pesch), I thought it going to be a soft and soapy rock ballad. I was most relieved when I heard the song; it was filled with masses of double kick and typical mad guitars. Why did the band go for Doro? “We were thinking which female voice could fit in with our music, and we instantly thought about Doro Pesch because she has this very traditional, very characterful voice.”

Long term drummer Frederik Andersson is out and you got Tobias Gustafsson (Vomitory) in as a guest drummer; will Tobias be joining you on tour? “It didn’t work out for him to do the touring with us so now we actually have a new guy. We chose Tobias because he was an old friend of the band and we really felt that we wanted someone that we knew when we were writing the songs because it’s easier to work with someone that you know when you write. But now we’ve started touring we’re gonna have a guy that we’ve never known before. This new guy, he’s a really good drummer.”

Don’t leave me hanging – who the devil is it? “We’re not gonna say his name yet. It’s gonna be released soon. But he nails the songs perfectly, and we have to see after a couple of tours on the road if he’ll fit into the band on a personal level. That’s why it’s too early to announce it.” Despite my best journo-weasel questioning, he won’t give me a name. We must wait for the official press release.

So now Jomsviiking is out, you must be getting a rest from composing? “Yeah, I never write stuff when I’m touring. I see it as a cycle; it’s the touring cycle when I only concentrate on touring and playing live – and I never write stuff during that period – and then when the whole album/touring cycle is over then I go into the writing cycle and then I just stay home and write all the time.”

And speaking of tours, any plans to come and visit Australia. He’s keen. “Yeah, I hope so. We’re definitely gonna come down there at some point on this album/touring cycle. It’s gonna happen…” as he points out “I want to come down there, especially now it’s winter-time in Sweden.” Brrr, chilly.

And now Johan must go, and so must I, for Woolworths will not burn itself.

Albert Petersen
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