If we rewind to the very beginning, what got you into music in the first place?
I come from quite a musical family, where my grand father taught me music theory and a bit of classical piano from an early age, so music was always around when I was growing up. Getting into heavier music such as Metallica around the age of ten made me pick up the guitar, and I haven’t put it down since.
Most people likely know you from Amaranthe, but leading up to this you have been part of several other bands and released a handful of records along the way. Tell us a little about your pre-Amaranthe years.
After being in a bunch of demo bands in the late ’90s, I got asked by Swedish power metal band Dragonland to join them a little bit before they recorded their debut album. After releasing four albums with Dragonland, I also joined Greek melodic death metal band Nightrage in 2006, and released two records with them.
When launching Amaranthe, it was pretty much an instant success. Did you have this feeling recording your debut? That you maybe were onto something unique?
We were musically very confident and happy with the debut album, and people seemed pretty into the demos that were up on MySpace, but to be honest, we knew it could also rub a lot of metal fans the wrong way. We weren’t terribly concerned with it though, as we felt that we had done something really quite unique. We were actually pretty surprised to see what the album generally received, even though it did have its fair share of detractors.
You formed the band in 2008. Since then, you’ve toured the world nonstop, played the biggest festivals, received awards (and the list goes on). Are there any specific moments during this now almost 13-year journey that stand out to you? Any specific events that are especially dear to you?
There are moments quite evenly dispersed throughout our career, but to finally playing headline shows at “real” venues all over the world quite early on was nothing short of fantastic, after ten years of a pretty uphill battle with other bands. More recently, it was spectacular to play Wembley Arena, even though it was actually Sabaton’s show. By any measure, a dream come true!
Amaranthe “Dream” off the band’s 2019 release “Helix”
Since your debut was released in 2011, you’ve managed to release six albums, which is quite an impressive pace considering your touring schedule. How does normally an album writing cycle look for you? Do you write on the road?
I think we have been inside a very intense bubble with some pretty high work ethics, which is especially clear with the hindsight from the Covid situation. I think the simple answer is that we have loved both to tour and to write music, so as one thing came to a close, we were eager to get on with the other. We have done a bit of writing on the road when deadlines were getting very close, but the absolute majority of our composing has been at home. We have always started with a very clear vision of what we wanted the next album to be, so when we have actually sat down to write, things have come to us quickly.
Out of everything that comes with being in a band and being a musician – writing, recording, jamming, touring, traveling (the list goes on)…what is your favorite part and why?
It is almost like having two-three completely different jobs, that actually don’t have very much in common. I think I am a songwriter and a composer at heart, and I feel very at home with it – but as soon as a tour starts, you switch into touring mode and love every second of it. The desk job and administration is probably my least favorite, even though it is actually fun as well, in a different way.
And speaking of writing songs, what does your creative process look like? How does normally an Amaranthe song come to life?
It can start out differently, but there is always some kind of fundamental idea before we sit down: a vocal line, a main riff or perhaps just a song title – something that sets the tone for what you want to write. We tend to mainly think in terms of chord progressions together with vocal lines, and once we have something solid there, it is easy to go on and add riffs, drums and flesh out the song.
In this process, how do you use Toontrack’s products and in what way do they help?
When writing Amaranthe demos we have used Toontrack’s products from day one: we started with Drumkit From Hell, through Superior Drummer 2 with the Metal Foundry expansion and we are now at Superior Drummer 3 with the Metal Machinery expansion. It has been absolutely vital for us to have a great drum sound already at the demo phase, to make sure we know that we are heading in the right direction. One of the reasons we have been able to pull of writing albums as fast as we have is being able to use Toontrack’s MIDI grooves, altering them to what we need, instead of programming every drum hit from the ground up. We have been working with these tools for so long now that it would be unthinkable not to.
Studio computer: PC, Intel i9 11th gen 11700k, 32 GB RAM
DAW: Cubase 9
Main guitar: Jackson Soloist USA Masterbuilt Custom
String gauge and tuning: .10 – .62 (up to .68 depending on tuning). Tuning on latest album was B standard, with the A dropped on some songs
Amp of choice: ENGL Fireball for the studio, Line 6 HELIX for live purposes
FIVE QUICK QUESTIONS.
If you could only keep/play one guitar moving forward…which one in your collection would you pick and why?
Definitely my main Jackson guitar. I use it for absolutely everything in the studio, if there is not something that requires for example a single coil pick up. The Jackson is incredibly well built, comfortable to play and well rounded. I have owned more than 25 guitars, and this is by far my favorite one.
You could only bring one record to listen to during a massively long tour, which one would it be and why?
I would likely bring something with a bit of contrast to the metal tour I am on, such as a classical album. It might sound a bit pretentious, but anything by Mozart really does heal your soul during the trials that a tour can entail.
Big festival or club show?
That’s a classic, and so is my answer: two completely different animals, since the club show is sweaty and intimate in a way that a festival show could never be, and a festival show is grander and more elaborate than a club show. If I had a gun to my head I would likely say the festival show, since there is often a lot more at stake there, pyros and all those fun things. It helps you to keep you on your absolute edge.
Name one piece of gear you can’t live without in your studio (and it can’t be the guitar or the computer!).
I will seem like a suck up now, but as I mentioned before, I could not picture us making the creative process as fast and fun as it needs to be without our Toontrack stuff. Recording drums by hand and then quantize or enter it directly into a piano roll would have been soul-murdering, and would likely have amounted to me clicking in something like five million notes into the piano roll. I shudder at the thought!
Your all-time top five list of albums!
Metallica “Master of Puppets” – the one that got me into metal!
Yngwie Malmsteen “Rising Force” – the one that got me into serious guitar shred
Iron Maiden “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” – the one that showed me the potential of great melodies and also keyboards
In Flames “The Jester Race” – the one that got me into melodic death metal
Soilwork “Natural Born Chaos” – the one that taught me the potential of modern metal, a massive inspiration for Amaranthe