metal talk
19th February 2017

ian sutherland
Words: Ian Sutherland, Pictures Artur Gelumbauskas

70000 tons of metal

Retro doom rockers Avatarium have made a bit of a splash since coming out of their native Sweden. MetalTalk caught up with singer Jennie-Ann Smith and guitarist Marcus Jidell after their first show on board at 70000 Tons Of Metal.

MT: How are you enjoying the cruise so far?

JS: "I think it's been just terrific. Actually the greatest experience has been just the friendliness we feel and also what I hear from people talking about meeting new fans from around the globe. It's amazing. Music is such a great social glue."

MT: There are more than seventy different nationalities of fans on the boat.

MJ: "That's amazing and that's how it's supposed to be, it's so nice to see so many people come together, having a great time. People are behaving, people are nice, people are enjoying themselves, that's how it should be."

MT: What is it like being on the cruise as performers? This is Avatarium's first time at 70000 Tons, right?

MJ: "It's the first time for the band but not for me. This is actually how Avatarium started! I was standing in for Lars in Candlemass four years ago as he couldn't make it so he asked me to play guitar for Candlemass on the cruise so I did and me and Leif Edling were hanging around a lot together. We found out that we had a lot of things in common, like music stuff and all these things and we had a great time. I think it was like one month after Leif called me and asked me if I could help him record some songs and that's how Avatarium started."

JS: "It's down to the cruise?"

MJ: "Actually, yes it is!"

MT: Fantastic, so it's come full circle then! I was at the first show you did in Studio B and you were really impressive.

JS: "Thank you so much!"

MJ: "For us it was a very cool thing to do this show, our first time overseas. Well there are European people here as well but we didn't know. You never know how the audience will be but we had a great time. The audience were great."

70000 tons of metal

JS: "We had a very nice crew. You know it's always difficult as you only have a short set, no proper soundchecking and so on but we had a great crew who were very efficient and helped us make a good gig. We could focus on the music and yeah we had a great time too."

MT: Have you been in the Pyramid Lounge where your second show will be yet? It's very cosy.

JS: "Not yet. It's intimate, which I like. I like club gigs where you get close to the audience where you see the facial expressions and of course arena gigs are awesome but we love intimate shows."

MT: You're recording your third full length album right now - what can you tell us about it?

MJ: "We are continuing in the direction we took on 'The Girl With The Raven Mask' I would say. Looking at more straightforward songs. I say that but when I think about it we have a few straightforward songs on there but we have other songs which are nine minutes long so it's not just straightforward.

"We just do what we do. When we are writing songs, the song decides where we are going so that's how it is. If I can say something it may be straightforward but we have a lot of great musicianship. We have Mats Rydstrom on bass who you saw live with us. He came in and he filled a space that we needed. We needed someone like him and Leif saw him in Stockholm and said 'keep that guy, don't lose him, he's amazing and he's making the band amazing'.

"We wanted the same bass player on the album as we have live as Leif doesn't tour with us. You know, Avatarium is a band, now it's really a band."

70000 tons of metal

MT: Has Leif become more of a guru like figure then, in the background?

JS: "A mentor maybe, yeah."

MJ: "He's not a producer but he's coming with songs, coming with thoughts because he's a force of nature, a musical force of nature, he has so many cool thoughts and stuff so he's very important to us. He wrote six out of eight songs on the new album as well. The band is doing the arrangements, I'm doing production, it's very important that every member of the band can shine."

JS: "Every one of us has influenced the sound and I think that's how it's got to be. We are five skilled musicians and we have to have a freedom of expression and the creative space to put our personalities in it. That's a great thing that we have been able to grow as a band. For myself I feel that I have summoned up the courage to be more myself..."

MJ: "You've got to do something that means something to you, it's like here is my heart, you have to take some chances and you might end up heartbroken but it's the same, like a relationship. It's extremely important that you make that commitment or the music won't be the same."

JS: "I think that's definitely there on the third album."

MJ: "Yes that's right, it's there."

JS: "I feel something, I feel so proud of it and when I'm around people and I think of it I know that I will always be very proud of it."

MJ: "'The Girl With A Raven Mask' - I wanted to do more a seventies kind of feel album. This album, because I'm a producer, I want to do more of a production album. This album is kind of the same sound but it's more produced, there's small little things like backing vocals and stuff, it's different. I'm very happy with it."

70000 tons of metal

MT: What's the album going to be called?

MJ: "We're not ready to reveal that yet. We'll let you know in a few weeks!"

MT: You mentioned having a seventies feel to your music. Is that era where you take your influences or inspiration from?

JS: "I think the music sounds contemporary, it's music for now but music of course is a heritage. We're fortunate to be able to make the best of our heritage so I would say it definitely sounds contemporary and is what contemporary music should sound like. Of course we have our inner libraries of music and references and of course there are tons of influences from that era..."

MJ: "I think that the sixties and seventies, we take a lot of inspiration from that, the amazing sounds, the musicianship, people were playing and singing, they had to so that's what we are trying to do. That's what inspires us. There are also a lot of bands today who are great musicians so of course we're influenced by them too. I think sixties and seventies and classical music, some jazz, there's a lot.

"We don't want to do a carbon copy of something from the sixties or seventies but something that is the way we want music to sound now. We're not afraid to use new stuff, new equipment. OK, sometimes, I have a 59 Strat, it's amazing, I'm going to use that for some parts but I'm also going to use a new amp in some places. We're not afraid of new things but we also like to carry on the heritage of music."

MT: Are you playing any new songs in your sets on the boat?

JS: "No. We're saving that until after the album is released."

MT: When the album comes out do you have plans to do a lot more touring?

JS: "Yes, we hope to, we'd love to come to Scotland as well."

MT: Oh yes, please! [the band are aware that the interviewer here is a Scot!]

MJ: "I haven't been in Scotland, that would be amazing. We plan to do festivals in the summer and then tour in the autumn. We've played London once but we'd like to do more UK dates but it's a new band, hopefully we get a lot of attention with the new album and get to do lots more shows. Live, that's the most fun thing."

MT: Do you prefer that to the studio?

JS: "Both! They are so different. There's the creative process, I love the being in the arranging situation and we listen and talk and we try things out, how about this, it would be really cool to have a really distorted guitar in that part and you go crazy and erase and rewind. I love that work."

MJ: "I love being in the studio because you can try stuff in the studio, like try this, how did that go. Actually our rehearsals are like the studio as we try out stuff. I actually do that live as well. I try stuff and go oh that was nice, we'll keep that in. We're very happy we can do it like we do it and we have a record label that supports us like Nuclear Blast. It's a lot of work, takes a lot of money but it's always worth is.

"That's what it's like, I have put so much time and effort into it and if you're doing something you don't like you don't want to do that. If you've been working on a song for six months or whatever, when you hear it you want to think that's the best you ever did. It's extremely important for us to push the limits and get better and better."

MT: Thanks for your time and we really look forward to hearing the new album.

Check out more of Ian Sutherland right here.

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