Sabaton’s Chris Rorland + Par Sundstrom Talk ‘The Last Stand’ Album, American Audience + Upcoming Cruise
Sabaton continue to deliver great live shows while keeping things interesting musically with their albums. The band's latest effort, The Last Stand, revisits some of the great battles in history for inspiration.
During a recent stop at the Ozzfest Meets Knotfest festival in California, we had a few minutes to chat with Sabaton's Chris Rorland and Par Sundstrom about The Last Stand album, their time on tour and they also teased their upcoming cruise. Check out the chat below.
What does it mean to be part of something as big as Ozzfest Meets Knotfest?
Chris Rorland: It's very cool actually I mean, it's not often we get to play festivals here in the U.S. We did the Rock on the Range that's like the first one with me anyway.
Par Sundstrom: Yeah that's true I mean we play a lot of festivals normally. This summer we played like, 25 festivals in Europe and we are one of the main bands if not the main band normally. And here we come and it's completely different. But this is where we started in Europe many years ago. And this is the best way for us to reach a lot of new people. We don't really get that much of radio airplay and stuff like that so we can't rely on that if we have some hit songs going up. The way we reach new fans is to play for them and this is the way to reach a lot of new people for us so we're very thankful for being here.
Can you tell me what it's like up there onstage, the feeling you get and seeing the response back from the crowd?
PS: Of course it's always fun to play. Today we have to face some wind in the back which is complicated because you don't see anything because if you are lucky and there's no wind, but the sun is there, but then you have the wind and the sun which means you get the hair in your eyes and the sun in your eyes and so you don't see anything. And the sandstorm. So basically we don't see anything on the stage which kind of creates a complication to do our show. But hearing a lot of people having a great time seeing them every now and then having a good time, that gives back so much. So it's really enjoyable to be onstage.
CR: Especially when they give off so much energy. I mean standing off here in the sun and the sandstorm and they're f--king giving everything in the audience. That's so cool to see. It gives you, even more, energy to like go f--k yeah, I know.
I thought it was such a cool idea what you guys did with The Last Stand album to look at these epic battles through time. Can you give me a description of what people are getting?
CR: The Last Stand is the big major big ones. I mean there's so many last stands but we tried to like go down and narrow it down to like the big ones that people usually know about. The movie 300, the Spartans everybody knows that.
PS: Then we tried to take a few others which are not so commonly known, like traditionally Sabaton has done in the past. I mean we wrote some songs that everyone can relate to and some, it's a little bit more, unknown because we like to dig into history too. We like history in the way that first of all we are heavy metal people, but secondary we have to sing about something that's way more interesting than just some random topic. So in that way, I think that The Last Stand is very good and it follows up Heroes which was our previous album before this one. It's kind of a similar way to take it and while you see it musically on the album it was taking Sabaton a little bit further into trying new territories and doing stuff. Since 2012 we had a change in the lineup and that has affected the band more and more now lately because now everybody feels more comfortable in it. Everybody can take their own playing and add it to what was already Sabaton. This helps to bring Sabaton to being a bigger sound, a bigger band.
When you start a new album, are you starting fresh or do you take things from the last album and want to keep it going?
CR: We're trying to do something different for every album. Like for Heroes we concentrated more on the specific person, like an individual and not the big thing that we usually do. And for The Last Stand, it's back to a big big thing.
PS: And musically I mean, when we did Heroes, again after the lineup change it was a lot about we need to show the people that even though there is some new guys in the band including Chris here, not too much have changed. Now people are getting accustomed to that. It was great Heroes was great. It worked fine. Now we can take things a little bit further. Now, for example you can do a little bit more of your playing style and not just more of heroes. It was a little bit more, it has to be something like what it was before. Now you can do more of what is you. This helps a lot.
CR: Those records are totally different.
PS: You joining in that weird period of exactly when it was -
CR: Done recording, yeah. For us to do something totally different from Heroes, people would ask what is happening? We have to do it more smoothly. Ah, it's still Sabaton so fans can like get into it. But for this album, we took a little bit wider range on everything. We can do more stuff with it, and hopefully for the next album hopefully even more.
PS: Seeing the whole Sabaton catalog you have so many songs that stretch out in different directions, and they all somehow sound like Sabaton because in the end we can't get away that we have our singer. He's gonna put his touch on it that sounds like Sabaton. We also have, in most songs, we have a traditional backing keyboard that adds to the sound and the way we arrange the vocals and stuff. That gives to the Sabaton sound, even if we take it a little bit further and bring in some thrash metal influences. It's still going to sound like Sabaton.
"The Last Battalion" is out there. If you want to talk a little bit about that song ...
CR: Initially the music for it, our singer had come up with the idea. The idea of building a drum kit out of war sounds, because in 2008 we bought a whole library of war sounds for making The Art of War. We still had it and it was called "The War Machine." We kept it, but we haven't used it since 2008, and I was like, maybe if I take this and exchange the real drums for sounds of war. He presented it and I was like, "Wow, that sounds very interesting. This would be completely new touch, let's do this." When the song was written it was like, "OK, this is the only song on the whole album where we are not completely free to do what - sing about what we sing about on the rest." We are back in ancient Greece, in Japan - but on "The Last Battalion," we have to go somewhere where there's sounds that make up the drums and the sound of the machine gun, pistol firing. Obviously we cannot do that song about something that was happening 5000 years ago because there was no machine guns. So we had to find a battle that was this. Some time ago we were told, yeah maybe you should write a song about the lost battalion. It just came back and it fit into this one. So, here we are. I keep a big library of ideas and when we decide on a topic, I can dig down and find something that fits in.
Before the interview, you mentioned enjoying the open mindedness of the American audience. I haven't been part of many shows in Europe. Can you talk about how the audiences differ?
PS: The American scene is not, it's complicated. What is America? It's a huge country that's pretty much bigger than all of the European Union. If you take a person from Italy and a person from Sweden, that's a huge difference and would be the United States of America. You can't really say that America and Europe there's a huge difference. You can say that people from there are crazier than people from there, indeed, you can.
CR: But I think Americans are a little more open minded to different styles of music because I was a little scared going up after Butcher Babies and Suicidal Tendencies. Oh s--t, now we're here. [laughs] What are people going to think? But everyone was jumping, singing along and clapping their hands. Oh, it's cool to see that.
Trivium and Huntress are who you've been on tour with. How has it been getting to share a stage with those two bands?
CR: It's really cool.
SP: It's a good tour, we're having a great time and everything seems fine. Very relaxed tour. We're all good friends, it's super easy to do the tour. It's the way it's supposed to be when you're on tour. We have been on nightmare tours too, when it wasn't so nice all the time. But normally it's all nice these days. Super cool.
What does the rest of the year hold for Sabaton?
CR: Touring, touring, touring. [laughs]
SP: We have about four weeks left in the US. Then we are heading to South America and we are going to be there for about three weeks then a quick break before we do Russia for almost three weeks. Then wrapping up in the Baltic States and then our own Sabaton Cruise. That's how we end the year.
CR: Then four months of European touring.
I notice so many bands doing the cruise thing now. Do you enjoy that environment?
SP: We have been on cruises everywhere. We'd done the 70,000 Tons, we have our own cruise in the last seven years. It's pretty much the same size as the 70,000 Tons. It's just not for five days in the Caribbean.
CR: It's in the arctic. [laughs]
SP: It's in the arctic and it's f--king freezing, in the middle of the winter. But it's very special and we have been doing for I think it is seven years. It's amazing. This year it sold out in 18 minutes, which was the record. This means also that it was the record for the whole Baltic Sea, between Sweden and Finland. No cruise has ever sold out that quick, so that was pretty good. Every year we try to do something different, we play each set differently. People come from all over the world, they are waiting for the release of tickets and charge in to get the tickets and try to make it up. Only a few people can fit in, we get 2000 tickets and they're sold out in 18 minutes. It's a good cruise.
Our thanks to Sabaton's Chris Rorland and Par Sundstrom for the interview. The band's latest album, 'The Last Stand,' is currently available via Amazon and iTunes. The group's U.S. trek is winding down, but more dates in South America and Europe are on the horizon. Keep up with their tour dates here.
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