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Music Waves met Joakim, Sabaton's emblematic singer, for the release of his new album dedicated to the First World War.
CALGEPO - 19.07.2019 -
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Music Waves has a meeting with History and Sabaton who is finally releasing a full album on the first world conflict of the modern era. A meeting marked by the seal of the band's deep respect for the actors of this war.

We see ourselves for the third time, "The Last Stand" was a great success and you have taken another step forward, how did you experience this period, it was an easy whirlwind to manage? Do you still think you can make it to the next level and in fact if you get even bigger, will you talk to the press again or will you end up like those big bands just doing press conferences or interviews with big media?

To make a new album is for us a new dive into emotion.  Every time we start writing we want it to be Sabaton's best album but it's impossible. Sometimes you think you're holding a great song and in the end it's not the case, sometimes it's the other way. Comparing our albums would be like saying that the First World War was better than the Second World War, which is absurd. Extract some tracks yes but not an entire album compared to another. For example, for the title 'Seven Pillars Of Wisdom' I think we have one of the best soli we have ever composed. 

The new album is "The Great War" which evokes the First World War and its rich and terrible history, I have the feeling that you are maturing this longstanding project and that it was an obligatory passage for you in your journey around conflicts?

Yes, it is a dark period in the history of humanity, perhaps the darkest. We have done a lot of research with these films and documentaries that testify to these dramatic events. I have read and documented each conflict and I think that the First World War was one of the most troubled in history, I was not well at all in any case during the process. So it was important for us to mention it in an entire album. 

In addition to your research, you made a trip to Verdun to present the album recently. Was it an important pilgrimage to immerse yourself even more? How did you experience these days in the heart of the Great War, on the ground, with these tombs as far as the eye can see (the Douaumont ossuary)?

It was a moment of intense emotion, probably the strongest we could have felt. As much personally as for all those who I imagine have experienced this conflict. I thought to myself, "Gee, I'm here on a place so full of symbols!" Sometimes going to the place after writing the songs can change the state of mind of what you wanted to express. I was touched by the museum, the battlefield and the ossuary especially. Often when we are on tour, some people invite us to visit museums or other places of conflict but we cannot accept everything otherwise, if you do this all the time you will certainly fall into a form of depression. 

You started recording on November 11, 2018. Was it a way to make history, a mandatory condition? How do we come out of this dive, did it change you a little bit as men to be confronted with what our great-grandparents went through?

It's almost a pure accident. We didn't know if we were going to do it five years before. In fact, the idea came a year earlier. We knew that we were going to enter a creative process for a new album and several options were available to us and we decided that it was time to make a full album about the First World War and that it would be recorded during the end of 2018 and thought that November was a good choice and probably symbolic, indeed. So it was not a big 5-year plan but a decision that came as it went along. This album required a lot of investment and as I said, it was really intense to dive into the research and honestly it was the most emotional and upsetting album we have ever recorded. 

We called this war the last of the lasts and it hasn't been the case, currently our world is going wrong and we feel a dirty atmosphere, do you sometimes fear reliving the past over and over again?

It seems that we have some difficulties to learn from these conflicts and we have the impression that everything is repeating itself. This is a warning. However, we must put things into perspective when we look at history over a long period of time. On the one hand, we have the feeling that we have a world in perpetual war, but as I said, if we look at it over a long period of time, it is not that bad. Each generation has a different perception of geopolitics and current conflicts, which are for some very important and for others less important than what they have experienced. 

Yet we notice another war that against terrorism and the feeling that everything is about to break out with Trump, Putin... 

Yes, but we must not be so pessimistic, things are going better for more and more people. We must put the degree of conflict into perspective. We have our own view of our current world, but the elders who are still there and have experienced the great conflicts will tell you that it is not so bad under these circumstances. But it's also a vision of generation, if you ask the question in the 70s and 80s there was the Cold War and we thought it could already turn into the apocalypse.... All generations have experienced more or less conflict, grandparents did not say anything, sometimes wished to forget what they had experienced themselves and therefore each generation has a different perception of geopolitics and current conflicts.

Your visit made people talk, the local press reported it, you invited generalist journalists and historians, it was important to give a serious side to your approach?

We must not lose sight of the fact that we are a metal band but each member is passionate about history. We are perceived as beer drinkers more than by our passion. But these people, at least 50%, have forgotten that music can be a vector for serious things. I agree, history is sometimes boring but the stories in history are exciting. The story of the actors is often very interesting. We produce a metal album but beyond a simple metal album we represent something else. We celebrate the memories of these historical actors, we underline their suffering, their heroism, that's what we try to do, not to forget them and having historians around us adds to the seriousness of the project.  

Let's talk about the album anyway, it's not a conceptual disc but a thematic one, how did you define these themes, The Red Baron, the trenches and Verdun, they were obligatory passages?

In every album we try to find something at the last minute that doesn't appear initially. Sometimes we have the music but not the lyrics. Or the other way around. It's absolutely essential that they match up. For Lawrence, he is a very fascinating and interesting character who has traced his own legend in history. For me this song is the most evocative of the album when I close my eyes and hear the first bars and the vocals. There's something very visual we've been looking for. 

Your music is very cinematographic, images often come first.....

Yes, we are aware that our music is relatively visual. Then we also try to arouse curiosity through our project, whether it is music or lyrics. Why did you put there such a bass line, such a riff... For example, the song 'The Attack Of The Dead Men' is a title that talks about the use of gas during battles and there are some electronic passages that some will say they have nothing to do on a rock album, and it gives something that means something is going wrong there, so we transpose this story into music. 

Why 'Bismarck' is not on the record ? The song is a total hit. Were you surprised by this success?

First of all, it concerns mainly the Second World War. Above all, we wanted to do something special to celebrate Sabaton's 20th anniversary. We released the single for this occasion and we integrated it into the birthday box set which is a kind of gift for our fans. But people really liked the title and were dissatisfied that it wasn't available on Spotify or other sites and so we made it available on these sites. You have to see this title especially as a gift to our fans and a collaboration in a war game. 

Musically we find pure Sabaton, epic, melodic and heavy. Do you think you have reached an artistic peak like Maiden in its time with "Powerslave" or "Seventh Son"?

I hate to think that we have reached an artistic peak, because after that the fall will be harder (Laughter)... I think it depends and even I'll tell you, it's not up to us to estimate it but to the listeners to do it. On reflection, everyone who listens to Sabaton will be able to feel that we have reached a peak with this or that album. I am proud of all the albums we have been able to make and we have of course tried to improve over the course of our career. 

Yet when a band releases a new album, they often say it's the best they've ever done... Don't you have that claim? 

Not at all, because I'm the one who's in the worst position to judge its quality. A year ago, I started researching, writing, composing, recording, mixing... I'm so involved that I can't be a judge to say if this is the best or the worst Sabaton album... Of course I feel good with this album, I think it's good but in the end the one who judges will be the listener. 

By small touches there is evolution in Sabaton,'Attack Of The Dead Men' offers small electro loops,'82nd All The Way' has a side 80's a little glamorous in its intro, innovating while remaining yourself is delicate?

It's hard to do something new while maintaining your foundation. It's a kind of cycle that arises for each composer because if you don't make an evolution, people will remember the old albums and will blame you for going in circles and if you revolutionize too much your style, if you innovate too much, people will not be happy because it will no longer be Sabaton...  In the end we are not a band that revolutionizes our music but tries to bring some small innovations. If you listen to "The Last Stand" and "The Great War" you can perceive some evolutions but if you listen to "The Great War" with our first album, you can see that there is a huge evolution. 

The Hammond organ of "Red Baron" then the keyboards give the title all its epic strength, you feel immersed in an aerial fight really, that was the idea? The place of the keyboard is something very important in the composition for you? The intro reminded me a Bach tune, is that a tribute?

It's a Bach melody, absolutely. For me, he is one of the most important composers in the history of music. I took my Hammond organ and plugged it into a guitar amp like Deep Purple at the time and created a distortion. It gave a particular colour to the song, so it suited the Red Baron quite well, this Bach theme.

'The End of the War to End All Wars' has a strong symphonic side with piano, keyboard and choirs, you could push in this direction in the future?

I don't know. I don't know. With this song I knew that it would close the album because it is the retrospective. It is November 11 and it is the story of a man who fought, who looks behind him and reviews his emotional journey. I didn't totally master the structure of the piece: chorus, verse, symphonic, intro, solo, outro... This piece is a little bit different and slightly experimental. Maybe it will happen again in the future, I don't know. 

There are almost only singles on this record, playing it all is possible on the next tour? Besides, when you mention it, you have to expect something spectacular, I suppose, with such a theme?

Thank you for the compliments. I would love to, indeed. We will do a lot of festivals this summer and we will be able to play as many of the songs from this last album as we can, but also old songs that addressed this first world conflict that are present in our previous albums like 'Lost Battalion'. I really like the idea of being able to do only this theme in live.  

There are Sabaton tribute bands. How does it feel to see young musicians take over your music like we do for a Maiden or a Metallica?

It is the greatest honour for a musician that young bands take them back. After that, no matter if these covers are good or bad, the intention is there. They have chosen not to compose their own music but to learn from us. I think it's really cool, I listened a few times and I found it very good. It's a very nice compliment they give us when they revisit our titles.

Thank you very much.

Thank you and see you soon. 

Thank you to Noise for her contribution.

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