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"Deceivers" is the eleventh album of Arch Enemy. For the occasion, we had again an appointment with the leader Michael Amott
STRUCK - 29.07.2022 -
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It is in the offices of Sony Music that Michael Amott received us to talk about the life of a band that must constantly renew itself and continue to surprise its many fans. An interview during which we could evoke the evolution of the musical industry and the world in general, that he treats without equivocation in this new album "Deceivers"... An enthralling meeting during which we could also exchange at length on the time which passes, strong preoccupation for the guitarist who must listen again and again to the teenager who sleeps in him to continue to advance...

You just came out of an American tour where you shared the stage with Behemoth as co-headliner and next to it there was also Napalm Death and Unto Others. Was the idea to vary the genres between the bands, like a kind of mini-festival?

Michael Amott : Yes, we have something similar in Europe with Arch Enemy, Behemoth, Carcass and Unto Others. Unto Others is a band that has a very different sound between gothic, hard rock and metal... Napalm Death is very brutal but the audience every time reacted very well! Each band had its own style and I think it's much more interesting than a stage with four bands that sound the same. 

Your news is the upcoming release of your new album in July, should we see this tour as a warm up before you start the machine seriously?

Um, I would say yes! The album is not out yet even if we had already released three singles, now four... Nowadays, we have a different approach to release our music : for example, the first singles were released seven months ago !

And what was the purpose of releasing these tracks so early without giving more information about the album: it was to occupy the field and show that you were working, or like Iron Maiden, has your record been ready for a long time and stored in a box until a more favourable release time?

Yes, the idea of releasing more singles came from Sony Music...

More of a marketing approach...

To be honest, at the beginning, I had a bad feeling about it, I thought it was too early and that the public wouldn't welcome this approach and ask for this new album... But since then, I changed my mind, it works very well !

How do you see it?

We played the three songs that were released on our North American tour and everyone knew those songs!
If you play ten songs at once, even if you love the band, it's hard to really get into each of them. When we released 'Deceiver, Deceiver' in October 2021, the public could live with that song for three months. Then we released 'House of Mirror'... It's like releasing a new album, every three months except it's only one track (Smile)! It's a bit like going back to the 1950s and 1960s when, for example, the Beatles released their 45s...

The record industry evolves, the consumption too, you have to change too...

That's true, but I grew up in the era of vinyl records and not singles... As a kid, I can see myself going to the record store and seeing the new Iron Maiden album without knowing that a new album was coming out, same thing when I was surprised to see the release of a new Kiss... I would buy these albums and when I got home, I would dive into them...
I grew up at a time when I didn't have my own television, the Internet didn't even exist... I was just in my room with my guitar, my turntable and some comics: those were my only distractions! But now in 2022, 100 years later (smile), times are different: we want to be where people are listening to music whether it's on streaming platforms, on YouTube but still spending a lot of time creating beautiful vinyls or CDs... We are everywhere: we have to diversify!

These two singles were well received and in the spirit of Arch Enemy, on the other hand, the third single is 'Handshake with Hell' and there you surprised everybody with a track on which Alissa alternates clear voice and growl without the track being a ballad for all that, was it a bet this track that opens the disc? A way to say that you are masters of your art without worrying about the rest?

We can say that! It's our eleventh album, in these conditions, how to surprise the public (Laughs) ? It's nice to shock our audience a little bit...

Is it the purpose of this title ?

I would say yes... not in the creation of the song itself because we know that Alissa has a large toolbox with different props that she can use as she pleases. So we knew that it would be great to do that for this song but we didn't know that it would be the first song on the album: that's the choice that I made later because I thought that starting an album like that was really interesting!

And that's the whole point of having released two singles beforehand in a typical Arch Enemy vein, which reassured me about the content of the album to come...

... and not worrying about whether all the tracks were going to be in the vein of 'Handshake with Hell', that's true but on the other hand, it would have been nice if they had cared a bit: it's fun (Smile)!

We know that Alissa excels in clear vocals, she proved it in the past before joining Arch Enemy...

That's true!

... So why did it take you so long to put her clean vocals in a song?

It doesn't really happen that way. People have a distorted vision of things, considering me as the guardian of the temple who refuses clear vocals (Laughs)! You have to know that Alissa loves screamed vocals, she was an Arch Enemy fan before joining the band... she knows our music very well... The question we ask ourselves is what fits the song the best : I add some melodies to the guitar even if it's sometimes complicated to add another melody to a melodic guitar work... But sometimes, it works like for this track ! On the previous album, we also had this track called 'Reason to Believe'...

Yes, but in this case 'Handshake with Hell' is not a ballad...

It's true, it's a heavy metal mid-tempo track... on which she sings with more power...

Precisely, how did it go in studio for Alissa? The vocal technique of the growl and the clear are very different, wasn't it too hard to alternate the two vocals on the same track and so quickly?

She is really good at it...

And on stage, she doesn't have any problem ?

No, but it's true that it's hard to scream with a very powerful voice and suddenly change on this different vocal technique... She really does a great job on this level alternating a beautiful mask and an ugly or ironic face...

What was the reaction of the fans, don't you have to deal with too many haters who don't like the change ?

Oh no! And then we know how to welcome haters (Laughs)! More seriously, the reactions of the public when we were on stage were very good. As we said, as we released these singles spaced out in time, these titles had a particular attention. The videos of each track had at least 5 million views, so people got familiar with these songs and sang along with us: again, this is the positive effect of these singles released in advance...

The album's title is "Deceivers", is it a message about someone, about our society?

Well, we were thinking about this concept with these masks of tragedy and transposing it in a metal direction, more demonic... We wanted to make these masks cohabit on our cover and we worked with a painter and the result is really cool!
We live in a time where deception dominates and where many people don't show who they really are by wearing a mask, often a nice mask that hides in fact a being with a totally different behavior... and vice versa!

And your music fits perfectly with this duality... As such, Alissa's crying face is surrounded by characters who look either lying, cheating or deceitful...

That's me (Smile)!

... is it an allegory of something you have experienced?

Everyone has experienced this! We live in a time where things are not what they seem: a time of misinformation, after all! And as you said, the duality of our music fits perfectly to this subject in general but some songs are about it in particular like 'Deceiver, Deceiver' or 'Sunset Over the Empire' which evokes the wars in Europe... There is a sentence in this title which says: "Revolution is a simple change of masks? "Indeed, we talk about great revolutions but if you look at it, it's always the same people who control everything in the background... Nothing changes, we are only puppets! The album is about all that, the routine (Laughs)!

The song 'The Watcher' has a very classic death metal beginning, to propose this kind of more brutal sound, like for 'The Race', on the previous record...

That's right!

Does this title serve to remind you that you remain an extreme band that knows how to go out of its comfort zone?

Yes, you're right! You know, I'm always trying to push my limits but at the same time, sometimes I have to remember where I come from: fast and heavy music (Smile)! With the years, it became easier to move my comfort zone to more mid-tempos, with more groove, with the possibility to add melodic elements... But when I listen to metal, I like to listen to fast songs, so I always try to write fast songs...

You said that it was important to remember where you came from, in this respect, does the band Black Earth that you created and that revisits the beginnings of the band, allow you to get out of your routine, as a kind of rejuvenation to better start again with Arch Enemy?

I don't think so, but you might be right in a way... It's a band that we created after the release of "Will to Power" with Arch Enemy and with which we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our first album (NdStruck: "Black Earth" released in 1996) with a tour in Japan. It allowed me to bring back my brother (NdStruck : Christopher Amott) on guitar, the original male singer (NdStruck : Johan Liiva)... It was really great fun ! We did two tours : one in 2016 and another one in 2019 : we did ten shows from the north to the south of Japan...

Japan was really important for the band at the beginning: it's a country that fell in love with the band and that allowed us to reach the level we are now... while we were playing in the smallest bars in Paris, we were programmed in big theaters in Tokyo: it was quite unbalanced at that time, but as the years went by, the band grew all over the world...

To celebrate this album and to play again these old songs -when we don't play them too much with Arch Enemy especially in Europe because they are not very well known- maybe reminds us where we come from? But does it influence my composition? I don't know, I really don't know: maybe (Smiles)? You know I don't think about that : I'm very primal and instinctive in my music writing, I'm a self-taught musician, I don't have an analytical mind when it comes to music even if I become one later...  When I start writing, the first riffs come out, I drink a glass of wine, I play the guitar and I try to listen to the Michael Amott of 15 years old to keep this metal spirit alive !

And what would the 15 years old Michael Amott say when he sees you today?

He would say : "Play faster !" (Laughs) !

In a reproachful tone?

I think he would be very surprised by the evolution...

Surprised and proud?

I guess, but mostly very surprised!

Not more than that, I guess you must have dreamed of this and especially of filling stadiums when you were 15 years old?

No, not really... I didn't have those expectations because the music I was immersed in was Venom, Motörhead... which are the heaviest bands, and then suddenly came Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth... then hardcore with bands like D.I. R (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles), Corrosion of Conformity, Discharge... at that time, it was like a music storm... In six months, a metal style could become obsolete: an album released in 1982 seemed very old in 1984... It's not the case anymore, you don't see any real difference between an album released in 2016 or in 2019... At that time, the songs were going fast, it was really extreme and heavy, it was a very exciting time for any metal fan!

You were also involved in your other project, Spiritual Beggars... Considering your busy schedule, does this band still have a future?

No, not really! Unfortunately, I think we had come to a natural end. The band had a long life and released nine albums. When I started the band, I was interested in this kind of music and started to play it... But we haven't done anything since 2016 and the release of "Sunrise to Sundown" and the European and Japanese tour...

And then, the band was evolving at a smaller level than Arch Enemy, which is not a problem in itself -I don't play music to make money, it's not my main goal; music is my passion and hobby before being a career...- but it's mostly that I haven't written any music naturally in the style of Spiritual Beggars since that time. But of course, if tomorrow I have new ideas in this style, I would call the guys and tell them it would be cool to do something together again... But I don't force things!

Coming back to the last Arch Enemy album, 'Exiled From Earth' is a track that stands out in an idea close to the heavy epic sound of Amon Amarth and therefore less death metal. Do you find yourself in this idea of leaving the death metal sound from time to time?

I don't know. Amon Amarth is a band we toured with, I know them well but I couldn't tell you if it's an influence... I would say that the riff is more inspired by old Manowar but also with an Iron Maiden side in the solos.

We know it and we see it in each of our interviews, you are a music lover with thousands of riff ideas in your head... Do you keep the hand on the composition of all the tracks or do you leave some space to the other members to propose their ideas knowing that I suppose it's delicate to share the writing within Arch Enemy which is finally your baby?

Yes, you're right (Smile)! I work very closely with our drummer, Daniel, we talked about it recently and said that I bring 80% of the songs and I give him a little space to incorporate those ideas and actually he was very happy, he supports me, helps to improve the songs I bring: he's a very talented musician who also plays guitar and he's also the sound engineer of our demos, of our albums... he makes most of our orchestrations... We were really lucky to find each other ! And don't forget that Alissa works a lot on the lyrics too...

Even if you said it in other words, the band is getting older... 

We will say with more experience (Smile)...

... and is already at 11 albums on the counter. Routine can threaten, how do you live this idea of getting old for a musician?

It's quite crazy because I was thinking about that when I went to see Exodus, Testament -bands from the generation before us. But it's true I already feel that: I have to give more to have the same result, it's like a sportsman who has more pain than when he was 25 years old (Laughs)!

And to come back to these bands of the previous generation, did you tell yourself that you wanted to grow old like them?

I don't think too much about that. But when Lars Ulrich came to our show in San Francisco, we talked for hours, it was the first time I met a member of Metallica. And he is an example, he showed me how to be when you have reached such a position in the biggest band in the world. He's a very nice person, very interesting, very talented and a good listener which I didn't expect... But of course I look at these examples Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth... these guys are survivors but somehow I'm also getting to that point... maybe some people already see me that way (Laughs) !

Speaking of those who see you, besides the age, you must see in the eyes of some admiration, it must be a pride?

Of course, but I try to be as normal as possible, I don't consider myself above the rest. But it's true that I have a story. But to come back to your question, I'm starting to worry a little bit about that "how do you get old in this music? "and that's what I was thinking about when I was looking at Exodus and Testament... When you play blues, it's much easier because it's more "relaxed". When you play metal, the tempos are high and it's intense... It's a really interesting question but as I said, we have the example of Metallica that shows us what is possible to do... And in my case, I keep my fingers crossed for it to go well: to date, I have no problems with my hands or arms...

Fingers crossed indeed... and when you are called Arch Enemy, such a career, do you still have expectations when you release your eleventh album ?

Of course! As I told you, it's a passion and I don't have any other hobby like golf or gardening... : I'm a metal guitarist who only thinks about it every day (Laughs) ! I still play guitar every day for hours when I'm at home...

And it also explains why you are always so productive and keep on renewing yourself...

That's my mission in a way... I have to force myself sometimes -and I think that's a good thing- but I also go to the concerts...

And see you soon at yours...

Thanks, it was cool!

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(1) COMMENT(S)  
Mauvaise nouvelle : Spiritual Beggars est plus ou moins enterré. Dommage, je préfère quand Amott fait du hard rock ou du stoner !
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