Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg Talks ‘Jomsviking’ Concept Album, Drummer Search + More
Amon Amarth frontman Johan Hegg was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show. The vocalist spoke about the creative process for the band's new 'Jomsviking' concept album, their search for a permanent drummer and teased a bit of their touring. Check out the chat below:
Great to see you! I'm excited about this new album Jomsviking that's coming out on March 25. Your music already had a storytelling quality to it. Why haven't you done a full concept album prior to this one?
Well I think the main key was we kind of always wanted to do it but I think we never really had the perfect story to make a full album with and this time it just felt like it was a challenge we wanted to take on, full on because we’ve been talking about it for so long.
Did you enjoy doing a concept album?
It was horrible but it was fun as well. I mean it was a good challenging. Just to complete the story was a nightmare really. And then to translate it into lyrics was even harder. Once you get all the pieces together it’s very rewarding. It felt really good.
It's a love story, something people might not associate with Amon Amarth. How did that challenge you as a songwriter?
There is a love story in the story. I think more than that, it’s more like a story of not being able to let go actually, not of the past and stuff that happens to you and how that eventually will kind of bring you down, you know. It’s going to lead to bad things if you’re unable to let go of the past but yeah, there is a lot of story in there. I think it was important for the story to make it believable and understandable. So that’s kind of why I decided to write that. And also I think it adds an extra dimension especially where we have the female vocals come in on "A Dream That Cannot Be," which I think elevates the whole album to a different level. It’s something different, something we’ve never done before. And I thought the idea of doing it this way was really good.
Going back to the idea of this being a concept album, do you think you would do it again?
[laughs] I guess you should never say never. But yeah, I can imagine doing it again. I think it has to be, I mean this idea I kind of had for a long while so writing the story was just a matter of getting started. But if I lyrically or story wise have a good idea, I can definitely see myself doing that again. We’ll see, we’ll see.
Tobias Gustafsson play drums on Jomsviking but you're still actually looking for someone permanent. What's the most important thing you're looking for in a drummer?
I think there’s no really most important thing, I think well they have to be able to play all the stuff obviously. But I think equally important is that the person fits the group because we’re not looking to get a hired gun and we don’t want to have to look for another guy a year from now or something so it’s important that we find the right person as well to be a permanent member.
What does it take to be a member that fits into Amon Amarth?
I have no idea.
You all seem to hang out and get along.
Yeah, yeah, yeah we do. I mean it’s a pretty tight knit group and I think the most challenging bit of it is that we literally live on top of each other for like 8, 9 months.
So good hygiene.
Good hygiene yes. But a good personality generally and easy going. Yeah.
How much of this album are you going to be playing when you tour in the U.S. in a few months? Will you do the whole thing because it's a concept album?
No. That’s an easy answer. We’ve been talking about possibilities but I think that to do the whole album would be, first of all, it would be difficult because one of the songs we need to have the female vocals there and that’s going to be hard to do if we’re touring. I think we’re not really, I mean that's not so important. I think it’s more important to build a good set with good songs. The concept story is not key here.
Do you think it's unfair when bands sometimes surprise their fans? We're going to play our brand new album that you don't know back to back tonight!
That’s not for me to say really. I personally wouldn't really do that. We did "The Evening With" for Surtur Rising where we did play that whole album back to back, but then we came back and did 90 minutes after that with all the classic songs. I guess you can't really compare that. Playing the full album, which is an hour and then squeezing in 3-4 of the other songs in there. We wouldn't do that. At least we would announce that.
I've had that happen before. I know you have a new album and want to promote it and get people into it, but as a fan when you're going to see your favorite band you want to hear your favorite tunes and to hear a bunch of songs you've never heard of, is sort of not the experience you want.
Could be the case, yeah.
Does that happen anyway sometimes?
Yeah, it does. Especially when you bring out the really old stuff. You have 3-4 people cheering and that's about it.
Jomsviking would make a great movie or miniseries. Are there any plans to develop the story like that?
I wouldn't say, but I did write the whole story as a movie script. I did even send it to a guy who's kind involved in that business, who works for our management to see what he thought. I don't think it's going to happen. Never say never. Unless you send it out, you never know. We'll see. I know that if you make it into a movie, you probably have to scale down a few things and really tighten up the script a bit.
What are some of your big plans for 2016, besides a ton of touring?
A bunch of touring. A bunch of festivals in Europe this summer. That's going to be a lot of fun. We really look forward to heading out on the road again and meeting the fans, that's why we do this. Playing the shows is what we love.
One of my favorite Amon Amarth memories was seeing you guys bust out the Viking ship. Who does that on a tour? That was pretty amazing.
We felt like we wanted to show people here in America what we can do. We already started working with production many years ago, so we felt like we should show people since we had the chance. Doing that on the Mayhem festival was the perfect opportunity.
So what you're saying is, you wanted to show the U.S. for the first time that you can do big production. But a Viking Ship onstage is like an everyday occurrence when we see you guys back home?
I wouldn't say every day, but we've had that in Europe before. Mainly on festivals, but we've done other production stuff. This time there's going to be more, a different production for this tour but it'll be something different. It's going to be interesting.
Not a ship?
Not a ship.
Is it a dragon?
I wont say.
Thanks to Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg for the interview. The band's 'Jomsviking' album is due March 25 and available to pre-order via Amazon and iTunes. Look for the band on tour at these locations. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg Talks 'Jomsviking' + Acting
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