My notes to you
This isn't a complete, word for word transcription. Both Peter and I had a tendency to start a sentence that went no where, or to use filler words like "you know" or "uh." I kept the order of his words intact, and only removed such filler words.
Hi Peter, glad to have you with me today.
(I actually didn't get his response on tape, but it was the usual)
Now, this interview is a little different, maybe, than usual: this is for an Opeth-specific website. So, everything you say is pretty much directly to the fans.
Now, to start off, a lot of Opeth fans are worried about Martin Lopez. I know on the last tour you came to the states, he wasn't with you. Is there anything you can tell us about him?
(I actually only got a part of his response for this, because I didn't figure out that I could just turn on the speaker phone for his answers and it would sound alright).
(We sent him home during the Sounds of the Underground tour, as he wasn't fit to play. The tours and the album were bad timing, so we told him to "take your time," and that the spot in the band would be waiting for him if he wanted it. Meanwhile, we had another Martin ready to drum for us for the next tour.) …and he needs to make the decisions on whether he wants to be in the band. Whatever that means, you know, because Opeth, it's all about touring nowadays, and I think he wasn't really prepared for that. He's the most talented drummer I've ever seen, but I don't think his mind was set on touring as much. So, he still has to make his mind whether he wants to tour this much, but it's always going to be his position. So until he makes up his mind, then we'll see where we go from there, but he's got the place in the band.
Now, this tour that you're coming to the states, I noticed you are making a stop in Connecticut, which I believe is the first time. Usually you go to the Palladium up in Worcestor, Massachusetts. Is there any specific reason for this change?
Well, what we try to do now is play places and see us we haven't played that much before. Because, this is (?) probably the eighth tour of the U.S. that we do, and most of these tours that we do always end up in the same place, so it's always the same fans that get to see us. But there's always places that we miss out on, so what we're trying to do now is soft of do the places that we've never played before. It doesn't always work because you have to sort it out with management and so forth. But we try. There's a lot of places that we've never been before on this tour, which is good for the fans, but also good for us, because we can see more.
Now, I think Ghost Reveries is an excellent album. Where did the decision to use an open tuning come from? What do you feel it brings to the album?
For us, you know, I'd say we've never experimented with tunings before, and I think for us as musicians, it's a great challenge, you know. It's also, it makes it more interesting for us. You know, because we've been, you know I'm a guitar guy, I've been guitar for, I don't know how many years. Neither me or Mike has really experimented with open tunings before, and as soon as we decided to try to go for that, it was like a new world opening up for us. It's like being a child again, you know, you pick up the guitar, and all your old licks don't work, (laughs). You have to figure them all out again, and that means you have so much more opportunity. For us, it was a big challenge, but also, it made it really interesting. You know, and we could come up with different ideas that we wouldn't have come up with otherwise.
I think the result was great. Now I noticed you have three shows coming up that are different than normal: they are longer, no support acts, a lot of your older songs thrown in. To me, this seem like a great opportunity to record a live album. Do we have a live album coming up soon?
Uh, we are going to record a live album at some point, but we're not going to do it on this tour. I think, I'm not really sure about the business, but I think the contract was made for, well, something like that, you know. We are going to record, I think at a later point. Not on this tour. (?) … because it is a good setup. I think you know, for one since we have put out albums on four different labels. To do a DVD with songs from all of those albums means we have to involve all of these labels. And, I think that's the main reason why we're not doing this now, because I think the contract doesn't (?) You would think that since it's the same band, that we should be able to do it, but we can't right now.
Now, for a more personal question: what is it that you look for when you go about choosing a new guitar?
Ah! Well, I think, you know, it has to look cool, otherwise I wouldn't fall for it. But, also, I think, since we're doing quite many live shows, it has to be, it has to stay in tune, it has to sound good, and also it shouldn't be too fragile. I play the PRS guitars because they, they have all that, you know, they stay in tune and they never break, sort of. And they look, they sound good and they look good enough. I think that the Les Paul is, that's my favorite guitar of all time, but it doesn't stay in tune as much as the PRS guitars do. And they're also really fragile: I've broken necks on two Gibson guitars. The amount of tours that we're doing, I'm just going to end up with all my guitars broke, so that's what I'm looking for in a guitar.
Now, what made you decide to make the keyboard player, Per, what made you decide to make him a full member?
Well, uh, he actually started for… we did the album called Damnation, and there's a lot of keyboards on that, and electronic. We were doing a tour for that album, and it was so obvious that we needed a keyboard player for that tour. So, we knew about Per, and we knew he was a good person, so we asked if he wanted to join for that tour. But also, after that tour we wanted to incorporate the Damnation songs into the regular set. So, we ask him, you know, "can you join us this tour coming after" and he said yes. But, instead of having him sitting and waiting, and then doing three songs from Damnation, and, you know, doing nothing at the rest of the show. We tried to rearrange the old songs a little bit, so he could play on those songs, and we all found that, you know, it just turned out to be better. And, having that in the back of our heads, also we felt that the input of a keyboard could be good for us as a band for the next album, which was Ghost Reveries. Now, that along with the open tuning makes it
(phone cuts out, sorry). For us, it was interesting and challenging, and we had so much more opportunities. So, it was a natural process from recruiting for a tour into asking him if he wanted to be a permanent member, it just, it all became a good match.
If you had to pick a single one of your songs to really represent the band as a whole, what would you pick?
Um, Ghost of Perdition, the opening track from the new album, I think that basically says it all about us. It's a long song, and it's intriguing: it's got heavy stuff and it's got mellow stuff, and I think that sums up our career, in a way (laughs).
That's exactly what I would have chosen (NOTE: this is 100% true, I'm not just being a shill.)
(Not on tape:) Really? Wow
Yeah! I am soooo smooth
So, you've released eight albums in ten years. That's a lot for a metal band. How do you go about writing such long, intricate albums so quickly?
Well, it's a little bit different now. We've been a touring band for the last five years, and now we don't have that much time, you know, and for the first ten years of our career, we didn't tour much, you know. So we had more time to actually write albums, sort of writing all the time. Now, we don't really write on tour, so what we do now is we tour for, I think we toured for eighteen months, and then we had a break, which was I think one year, but it also included the recording of the new album. So, I think what we're gonna do now is we're going to tour, and then we take a break, where we write everything in, let's say six months. So, it's an intense period of writing, but that's almost like when we do write. Mikhael is writing most of this stuff, and I think, as soon as you get inspiration, you can come up with a lot of stuff. IF you don't have any inspiration, you don't come up with anything. But, as soon as you get sort of entangled in the writing the process, I think it just flows pretty quickly.
(Phone may have cut out again here) In the end, that's the difficult part, because you have, usually you booked the studio in advance, and you know that you're gonna be done in three months. And then, you know, there's only four days left, and you have material, but you haven't finished the songs so they're complete: that's the tricky part.
Now, your most recent album, Ghost Reveries, the style really gets pushed further than ever before, and I can't help but notice that there is a very overwhelming presence of "clean vocals" as opposed to earlier albums. Do you think that maybe in future albums you'll kind of make clean vocals the focus, and use the growling/screaming for more of flavor, and have less of a role than in the past?
Uh, maybe, if we feel that's a natural for us, but in that case, I think that can happen, but we're not going to purposely decide to lessen the screaming vocals and to have clean vocals more. But I think, you know, because we don't really have… we actually go by feeling a lot, and there's, if we have all the music and stuff, usually we record the vocals at the end. You go from part to part, and you feel, you know, what kind of singing style should we use at this part, but we never make deliberate decisions like "we need more clean vocals," but so, if it's a natural way of doing, then it's probably going to happen. But I don't think we're gonna ban them, the screaming vocals, because we, it's the most extreme thing you can do with your voice, and I think we all sort of like that.
Do you have any plans for another twenty minute opus, like Black Rose Immortal?
(laughs) Well, you never know. Like I said, we actually don't have… everything is just pretty natural for us, and I think we don't have any real intention to make ten minute songs, they just turn out to be that way. Usually when we write a song, we write, and then we rehearse, and when we feel the song is done, that's when we clock, and it always turned out to be between eight and twelve minutes. If we make a song that we feel needs more parts of it, then it could turn out to be twenty minutes. But, I don't think we're ever gonna sit down and go like "we need to make a twenty minute song here."
Now, usually when you guys, in interviews, mention your influences and how you lead to the sound that you have, you mention other metal bands, maybe some progressive bands. Is there any influences from like, the old classical composers, like the epic symphonies of the 17th and 18th centuries? Stuff like that?
Not, how do I say it? Not directly, I mean, I think none of us are really educated in that area of music for some reason, it should suit us, I think, because in a way our music is similar in structure to the old classics, I guess. Which is, you know, long songs and all of that, whatever. But we, you know, I think there's parts here and there that's real interesting, and I think, you know, that people like Bach or Beethoven are, you know the classic, and the legendary guys are probably, you know what I would listen to most. But I'm not really familiar with that kind of, that area of music, and I think if you dig deep enough, you're definitely going top find so many things and so many different kinds of classical music that you could, sort of, be influenced by, but I don't think we have done it yet.
How is the new Opeth Street Team working out for you guys?
Well, I don't… I'm not familiar with exactly how/ what they do, what kind of effect they'll have on our records sales, say, or ticket sales for shows, but I think that from what I've seen from when I meet some of the street team, and it's a great kind of situation on shows. I think they're all… they seem to be very dedicated, and big fans of us, and I think that's. From what I know, I think the street team is the most important way of spreading the music out there. So I think that's on the internet, maybe, but all the people that we have met have been really enthusiastic, and I think for us to meet the street team people is… we know that they work hard for us, and we want to sort of thank them in a way, and that's why we try to do the meet and greets.
Is that how it works?
Yeah, that's how it seems to work to me.
When Ghost Reveries came out, it came out on the same day as the new Nevermore album, and then you guys went on tour together for a little while. Was there any backstage competition or anything like that? (Note: I didn't mean real competition. In my notes I meant this question more lighthearted and as a joke. It came out of mouth as a serious question, though).
No, I think… we've gone on tour with them before, and, you know, we're great friends with them, and from our part there's no competition. I think, because I love the band. Not only as persons, but they're also a great band, I think. And for us it's challenging to play with, their music is skilled, they have great songs, and they're good live, and playing with a band like that pushes us to be, you know we need to be, to excel ourselves every night, in order not to be… So there is a competition in that sense, I can hear that when you asked the question, but we're not competing against them, really, we're want to… It's a competition between ourselves. For our band, we want to be as good as possible, you know, every night. But we're not trying to be like "oh, we have to be better than them," but they sort of influence us and inspire us to be better. I don't know if that makes sense.
So when can we expect the next album to come out?
Um, (laughs) I think we're gonna be touring for at least half a year more, and we're not really writing when we're on tour, so when we're done with the touring, we're gonna have an inspiration and we're gonna start writing again. So, I think… it's January now… I think, hopefully we can start, we're gonna be starting writing during this year, I'm sure. As soon as we start recording, I think it doesn't take very long to release the album, so maybe a bit more than a year from now, if things go really smooth.
What advice do you have for a band starting out to make it in the underground metal scene, like you guys have?
Do not take any advice. No, I think, seriously, I think first you need a lot of music, and I think trying to do your own thing is pretty important. I'm not saying that you shouldn't listen to other kinds, because that's another important thing to do, but whatever you listen, you can never go wrong in your influences as soon as you try to make them into something of your own. Let's say that nu-metal is a big thing, and everybody else in your rehearsal complex is playing nu-metal, but you're not really a fan of that kind of music. Then try to be brave enough to sort of break out and do whatever you want to do. That would be my advice, you know, to always do what you feel like doing. You know, when it comes more from the heart, and that's the only way to have, to make it, I think... and be happy about it at the same time.
Your official website, Opeth.com, it's an excellent website, it has a lot of information on you guys, it just has tons and tons of stuff. How often do you guys contribute to this website?
Uh, it's actually Mike's wife, as in she's the webmaster, and obviously Mike and his wife are talking every day. So, I think that any information, it's really straight from us, you know, and we try to update it as often as possible. Only, when we're on tour, I guess they don't talk every day, and when they do, they sometimes don't want to talk about Opeth, but we try to be as accurate about the information as possible. And, especially when we're home, she has first-hand information always.
Yeah, you guys do a great job.
It seems like every time you come to the United States, you are blasting through on a tour with a very rigorous schedule. Do you guys ever come by here just to go on vacation and enjoy the sights?
I've never been in the United State as a private person, not yet. I mean, we have a manager that wants us to work hard, which is a good thing in one way, but sometimes the schedules are hefty and very heavy, you wish to be, you know people ask us "you know what, you've been in the United States so many, you have to get to see some things. Like yes and no at the same time, you know, because we've been in all these places, but sometimes we only see the venue, which is a petty. I guess touring like this is a great way of trying a little bit of everything to get ideas where you want to go, when you go there. There's five of us, you know, that have uh… I've got my favorite parts, and I got some parts that I don't seem to like, you know, but to be honest, it will be great to have more time to just be a tourist.
(By this point I'm actually running out of questions and getting nervous. This question had been on my list early, but I decided to erase it a few times. I'm not really sure how I ended up asking it…)
In the past, there was news of a documentary filmed while you were recording Blackwater Park. Is that ever going to come, or is that just kind of not gonna happen anymore?
I think there's, um… I don't know, I mean, we have all the material, and the guy who was shooting them also shot the Deliverance and Damnation and recording. He's sitting on all that material. Some of it, the interviews especially, came out on DVD. I don't know, we're gonna be… I don't know if this is… if you put out documentaries, you want it to be interesting enough to release. So, at some point, if we can mix that with some new material, it will probably be gonna be releasing it. What we recorded, you know there's no point in just sitting on it. Because if there's a demand for it, we're probably going to be releasing it, but we want to make it interesting, too, so I think it's gonna be released at some point.
(The RoadRunner PR person kind enough to give me the interview comes on and asks us to wrap it up. I'm both relieved and saddened, especially since I only have one question left, which isn't even on my list that I thought of on my way home to do the interview…)
Okay, last question. Peter, I know you choose certain songs from your CDs to play live, and focus on those songs. How do you go about choosing a live song?
Um, it's a mix between changing songs each tour, you know so if you go to an Opeth show, there should be some new songs that you maybe haven't seen before. But also, some songs eventually turn out to be live set material, a song like Deliverance is a song that people always scream for, so we try to do that. But, we also have eight albums, and a lot of songs we that we can play live, so we try to make, for each tour make a mix that it's a little bit of everything. It's like we scrapped Demon of the Fall on the last tour. People would scream for that song, obviously. But, we don't want to do that forever, either, we don't want to be stuck in a situation like where we HAVE to play these, sort of classic, songs. So, I think choosing the setlist, that's the interesting part, one of the interesting parts of touring, you know because you can, you want to cover most of your career, but you also want to make it interesting both for the audience, but also for us. We always want to, we always try some new songs we
haven't done, if not ever, at least we haven't done it in a long time.
Okay, well thank you very much, Peter, for talking to me, and good luck with your tour and all of your future endeavors.
The Lines In My Hand,