Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt on making music in streaming era: 'Don’t have a good commercial head nor that agenda'

Neil Roy

Nov 29, 2019 10:53:42 IST

Swedish progressive metal band Opeth is back in India for their third performance here, close on the heels of the release of their album In Cauda Venenum. Ahead of taking the stage at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune on Saturday, 30 November, Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt spoke with Firstpost about what's in store for audiences, and the band's influences. Excerpts:

What are your thoughts on coming back to India after 2012? Going by the last tour experience, what do you think is different about the Indian listeners to your kind of sound now?

I don’t really know to be honest. I think we’ll have to experience that first hand once we’re there. We’re on tour for our new album so there’ll be some new songs, but old ones as well. We’ll try and make the people happy and content.

 Opeths Mikael Åkerfeldt on making music in streaming era: Don’t have a good commercial head nor that agenda

Opeth's NH7 gig in Pune comes close on the heels of their latest album In Cauda Venenum

Who have been your favourite Indian artistes? Any particular genre of music in this part of the world that caught your attention?

The Savages (a band from 1960s Bombay). I only have their Black Scorpio LP which I was looking forever for. It’s horrendously rare, but now I have it and I love it. Other than that, I have a few sitar records like Ananda and Ravi Shankar from the '60s and '70s.

Opeth has always experimented with a lot of styles which makes the sound multi-dimensional. On paper, at times you all are referred to as Progressive Rock with elements of metal. How would you define your sound at present?

That sounds good enough for me. Sometimes we’re the other way round. Metal with elements of progressive rock. But it’s a fair description either way. Right now I’d say we’re a pomp rock progressive band with death metal outbursts. That’s not a official genre by the way. Yet!

Talk us through the concept of In Cauda Venenum. What do the songs talk about?

Life. Basically. It’s more modern than any previous records in terms of the lyrical messages. The music, however, is a heritage from older sounds. This is not a concept record per se but it could be I guess.

How challenging was it to record the album in two languages?

Not that bad actually. I did the Swedish one first and then the English recording. I translated the lyrics during one evening at my house and recorded the vocals in four to five days I believe.

In the age of online streaming, how much does the band think of finances and returns while making music today?

While making music, never. I don’t have a good commercial head nor that agenda. I write music I like and that’s that. We don’t have anyone pushing us in a direction that could have a wider commercial appeal. Touring we do partly for the finances and partly to spread the name of the band. But we wouldn’t be able to go if we didn’t make any money, and quite frankly I’d not leave my children and girlfriend and country if I came home with massive debts. I’m too old for that. Too many responsibilities.

In one of your interviews, you mentioned that you listen to a lot of Italian Rock music; what have been the band's other influences among non-English artistes?

You name it. Right now I’m listening a lot to jazz. I just bought a few Albert Ayler records that I look forward to experiencing. I don’t care about languages but since you mentioned non-English artistes, I’ll go with Universe Zekt. A project from the heart of Magma. They’re French but sing in a made-up language called Kobaia.

Opeth has also collaborated with Steven Wilson in the past, among the greatest songwriters of the last two decades. How has that experience been?

I learnt a lot from Steve. He’s been a mentor of sorts to me and he’s a fantastic musician and a close friend today. I think I partly learnt not to be so afraid of progress or change through him.

What triggers a composition for Opeth? Is it a catchword or a lyric, a chord or a groove? How does the process happen?

Anything really. A drum beat. A chord. A melody. I don’t analyse why I write or how I write, I just write.

Will the band only be playing new album tunes at the NH7 Weekender? Can the fans expect a few old tunes like 'Demon of the Fall' and 'Face of Melinda'?

There’ll be old tunes as well. Don’t you worry!

Any places in India you are planning to explore? Any particular Indian artiste you would like to collaborate with if given a chance?

I don’t know how much time we have there. I guess we’ll be open to suggestions. As far as Indian artistes go, I’m not really after any collaboration with anyone despite where they’re from, so I’ll leave that as blank if I may. Cheers!

Catch Opeth live in action on 30 November 2019, Saturday, at the Mahalaxmi Lawns, Pune for NH7 Weekender 2019. Gates open at 3 pm. Tickets on insider.in.

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Updated Date: Nov 29, 2019 10:53:42 IST