2nd March 2016
Interview by Alexis Evans
The indomitable power metal band Sabaton from Sweden are set to kick-off a night not to be missed in Aberdeen. Taking place at local venue the ‘Music Hall’; this will be heralded as a real treat for northern fans, seeing as this Nordic quartet have never graced Aberdeen with a performance until now- revelation which has generated quite a robust commotion in the local metal community.
On tour, the acerbic Pirate Metal band Alestorm and savage Power Metal band Bloodbound rally into formation as support to incite carnage and mayhem in the barrage of fans on this very special night. The UK/Ireland tour; which is almost at the half-way point, will march on until it reaches 11 gigs, culminating in an explosive final show at the o2 Forum in London. This is a tour which has given Sabaton a chance to strut their chops with material from the latest album, ‘Heroes’, along with a healthy compendium of songs from their extensive back-catalogue.
Before Sabaton were set reek havoc on stage for tonight’s first ever Aberdeen show, I was graced with the opportunity to interview Pär Sundström, the thunderous Bass player of Sabaton. During the interview we got a really visceral insight into the historical themes and lyrics conveyed in the band’s music, the tour so far and what is next on the horizon for these mavericks of the Power Metal scene.
What lyrical subject would the band like to tackle in the future, as the main themes have thus far focused on war, does the band intend to explore new concepts?
We got stuck into this about ten years ago, we did the albums ‘Primo Victoria’ and ‘Attero Dominatus’ and people seemed to love them, so since then we have kind of been stuck in a historical theme, as we need to sing about something and we liked this theme as it already interested us; therefore it was more interesting to write and sing about different events. Many times we have thought about what else we would like to do, but we can’t come up with anything, as I feel if it’s about what we have lived through or felt, it becomes too personal and I want to keep that for myself and keep it private. But historical events fit our music and we like it, there’s also so much to it where we could go back longer in time and it’s not just World War 2 which is the most interesting part of it- but covering history in general.
Over the last year the band have toured a lot, how do you all keep up such a strong stage performance? Personally I feel it’s something that makes Sabaton stand out compared to a lot of bands, as the band always seem to feel the vibe of the cowed and create an electrified atmosphere.
Well we have a lot of fun doing this and of course that helps and for us this is our only job and main focus, whilst some bands go on tour yearly where they can party like hell every day and manage to survive it. That’s one way to do it and there is nothing wrong with that, but we can’t as we have to play so much. So basically we need to be focused, so we can’t party as hard as some other bands which helps us to have the energy. Also getting the vibe back from the crowd is great and makes it easier for us as we can actually enjoy life on the tour bus. We have a lot of professional crew members to help us which makes each day a lot easier as well, so we can be very focused once we get on stage.
So what would you say is the best gig/festival that you have played over the last year as you have been touring non-stop for quite some time now?
Well it’s quite complicated to name a single gig as we have done so many that were a lot of fun, but soon we’re going to release a DVD in the next couple of days and it has 2 amazing shows. One is hosted in our home town Falun at our Sabaton Open Air Festival and the other at Wacken Open Air Festival, they were both great but neither was fantastic; as when we’re recording something we tend to get a bit more stressed out as it’s much harder to relax, since we know everything we’re out to play is going to be seen by everyone. But of course what we do tonight, you’ll be able to see on YouTube in a couple of days, but it’s not the same as doing that, but we started the tour with a fantastic headline tour!
Bulgaria was amazing; they are very crazy, it was in a big sports hall that was completely packed and they were very loud, they’re a little bit… unruly compared to other gigs across Europe. But they go completely out of their minds which is fun and really enjoyable to play for.
Since a lot of the historical themes in the band’s lyrics are based around the First and Second World Wars respectively, do you know any interesting facts or events regarding these wars?
There are many, and of course we have read up on a lot of them because fans constantly send them in and I read through a couple of stories every day and I guess there are some we write about that are truly amazing. There is one I love which is the story of inmate 849? Which is a story about a polish guy who went to Auschwitz on purpose to infiltrate it and then escape, which is like OK: there is a hell, so let’s go to hell and get out of there- and that’s a good story. That became the leading star of the album ‘Heroes’, this is the story that should be the idea for the album. So finding a few more is hard as this stands alone as an amazing story, but let’s do it!
So following on from this theme, do you think anyone has used any of your lyrics or songs to help them through a history exam?
Yes definitely, very often I get contacted by teachers and students alike saying that by thinking about the lyrics, they could actually think about and understand how things went and could actually have use for it. I actually get quite a lot of those; from teachers too. A lot of them will say, ‘I let them analyse your lyrics and research them, that makes it a lot more interesting for them- so I can just play a song to show how it was and they’ll analyse the lyrics, which seems to work.’ So I’m sure there are plenty of times our songs and lyrics have been used in a history exam or test.
The track ‘The Ballad of the Bull’ from the latest album seems like it could be a perfect sing-along track, similar to how ‘Blind Guardian’ treat ‘The Bards song’. However I can’t recall this ever being played the last few times I have seen Sabaton live, is there a possibility of this happening in the future?
This is true, we have never played this song live. We could but not in its current form as this song was originally just piano and vocals, but then two friends of ours; they took the challenge upon themselves to orchestrate it: which they did and also produced it. I guess we just couldn’t perform it like it is on the album, however we could change it around a little bit so we could perform it live. Although we do have other songs that have an orchestral background which is pre-recorded on the keyboard but for this song it is a core part it. We could rearrange it for it to be done by guitars and I really want to do this song in the future.
So can we get any clues to the themes and style to the next album, as I know the last lot have been heavily influenced by World War II, or has this not been decided yet?
Well it will be about history and what it will be exactly about is too early to say. Even if I do know it already, but don’t want to say it out loud as I don’t want people to be angry or upset in case we change our minds; therefore until we are certain and make a decision I will keep it to myself, but it will most likely be something historical, we just haven’t fully figured it all out yet…
So is it strange to think that in 20 years’ time, my generation will see Sabaton in the same deified light as Iron Maiden that is seen by the world today?
Well we have had a strategy where it has to be possible for us to do that, in Sweden we have a platform for that possibility and the potential to do this. We are always playing for younger and younger crowds, we have always said no to venues that have age limits, for this we get to play in smaller clubs; sometimes in Sweden we get to play in weird places to make sure we can play for all ages. Therefore we get to play for everyone including you people, so we’re constantly getting new fans. To this day, Sabaton is a very big band in Sweden, therefore we have become almost mainstream- which kids love, so we have thousands of kids ages 8-12 who love Sabaton, so when we advertise for our tours we do so in schools, so their parents come along and they love it too, so it’s really a family event. It’s not just for a generation that grew up and died out; as some bands don’t get the chance to play for a new crowd. Maybe one day we’ll get older to the point that we might not appeal to a younger crowed anymore, so by then we need to make sure we have a lot of younger people who like our music now.
So what’s the bands favourite song to play live, and are there any tracks that the band share a personal connection with?
I can only talk for myself; and I can maybe talk for Joakim too as we were both there 10 years ago when we did ‘Primo Victoria’ which was an emotional experience when we were recording that, as we knew it was a special thing. This is another level for the band and every time we go on stage we play it and I still love it as much as the first time. So ‘Primo Victoria’ is very special to me!
For the band to play this far north in Scotland is a great treat for us as it’s a rare event for such a big name to go beyond Glasgow, was this influenced by the Scottish band Alestorm who are also touring with you or was it something the band had already decided on?
No, I’ve said I wanted to do this since we did the 2009 tour with Dragonforce and toured all the way up to Inverness. I was so unhappy with the traditional touring route of playing London, Glasgow, and Manchester… I don’t like this, I don’t like it when people play Hamburg and Munich and people do all the same stuff on tour. I want to do a lot more shows so I was pushing the people who book us saying: you have to get us too Scotland as well!, but they said it makes more sense to only do the one show in Glasgow, which becomes a bigger problem when I say no, as not all the people and fans can travel to Glasgow. It’s just stupid thinking that all of the fans elsewhere will travel all the way to Glasgow to see the show, when they really won’t. A lot of people that are lazy in this world have other obligations, as well as many other reasons that says: I can’t travel to this show, even though I want too. So I understand people who can’t travel and I wanted to do something for the people up north and obviously with Alestorm, it was possible so I’m counting on them having a bigger following here- as their home-town is only 2 hours away from here.
So how has it been so far, touring with Alestorm and Bloodbound?
First of all, we played a few shows without them which were great, in some of the more unusual places like Slovakia, Czech Republic; and places bands don’t usually play, but we played them and they are fantastic.
But this is a strange tour as we didn’t go to Germany, but it has still been great in Europe and the UK as we haven’t played the big venues in the UK since 2006 with Dragonforce- we did tour with them later but it was in smaller venues, our own tours haven’t hit up these other venues yet, other than maybe in London and Manchester, which is cool and we are very happy to be here for the first time!
And my last question, what was the bands reaction to the “Ikea” chant at Bloodstock 2015?
It was actually very unusual but we did get to hear it the other day too, they tried it again in Birmingham and they remembered it from Bloodstock, which is funny as we always get people shouting different things wherever we go. Normally they just shout “Sabaton”, however if we’re in Germany they shout Noch Ein beer and if we play in the Czech Republic they shout similar things; it’s the same in Poland. So I guess people shout for different things but as long as they scream I’m happy!
To conclude, is there anything else you would like to add?
No, I just hope that playing up here gives the people the impression that we do care, we do want to play here and we will try again in the future to play here, as we don’t want anyone to miss our shows!