BLOODSTOCK INTERVIEW: Johan Söderberg – Amon Amarth

With one of the most recognisable growths in their career in recent years, AMON AMARTH got the slot they deserved at Bloodstock Festival as Friday night headliners (read the review here)! We got to sit with guitarist Johan Söderberg from the band to talk about headlining Bloodstock for the first time, the pressures of becoming an arena band and touring!

How are you today?

Johan: Really good thanks!

You’re just getting ready to headline Bloodstock for the first time after a lot of demand, how are you feeling about that?

Johan: It’s great to finally bring on the whole stage production we’ve used in the Europe to the UK for the first time so we’re gonna have everything on stage, usually when you’re second band or something space is limited so you can’t bring on the whole show but now everything is going to be there.

So, what can we be expecting from this epic stage show then?

Johan: We’re going to have the helmet stage and some new burning runes going to be there and a lot of pyros and explosions and stuff!

Basically, the crowd is going to get even warmer!

Johan: Definitely, yes!

So, with festivals around like Bloodstock and it having such a broad spectrum of genres, do you think it gives an accessibility for people to come and discover bands like you and ones in black/extreme/death metal etc?

Johan: Yes, I hope so. That’s one of the better things about festivals, I think that it’s a place where you discover new bands. We played in Woodstock in Poland and that’s like pop bands and rap bands but we had a really great response, it was enormous! We were pretty much the only heavy metal band on that day so we thought to ourselves that this was not going to be as good but it was amazing! I’m pretty sure some of those kids got into metal after that.

Do you feel that playing somewhere like that is opening up festivals to everyone and breaking down that divide of pop/rock/metal etc?

Johan: Yeah, I still think it’s good that there are festivals that are more concentrated only on metal and only on pop or whatever but it’s good to have a mix of festivals as well.

It’s been over a year since the release of Jomsviking and its notable that with each release you’re climbing up the ranks into becoming one of the most established bands in metal, what are your thoughts on that?

Johan: That’s amazing and that’s the goal for every band I guess and it’s fun to see the regeneration of fans in front of the stage. A couple of years ago it was mostly guys in their 30’s and now there are like 12-year-old kids and lots of girls in the audience as well singing along to the songs, it’s amazing.

There’s a lot of older bands starting to depart from the music scene such as TWISTED SISTER and BLACK SABBATH and because you’re becoming such an established band is there pressure on you to now step up to that ‘classic’ level?

Johan: Yeah, that’s something I’ve been thinking about myself as well, what is going to happen when all this dies, IRON MAIDEN and METALLICA? BLACK SABBATH just ended their career but when all these big arena bands are gone, are there still going to be new arena bands because now there are so many bands and the competition is so much harder to be that super arena band level.

Obviously, AMON AMARTH are headlining here and you’ve played tons of festivals, do you still want to reach higher goals and one day be one of those arena bands?

Johan: The goal is to always grow a little bit with each album.

With AMON AMARTH’s new video, The Way of Vikings, a lot of publications are saying it’s influenced by the Peaky Blinders – if that is so, how did that make its way to you?

Johan: We don’t even know what Peaky Blinders is!

Well, that answers that one! It’s a bunch of gangsters from Birmingham basically from the early 20th century. People are saying though that it is very influenced by that and you see why with the early looking gangsters and fighting etc. but where did you get the idea from for the video as it’s very different?

Johan: The video for The Way of Vikings we just wanted to do something different for once in a while sometimes we hear people complaining that it’s all the same it’s only Vikings all the time! So, we just thought we’d so something completely different and do something in a ‘20s gangster style, we were thinking of Snatch the movie.

You said people complain that it’s all the same, do you feel like one day you might ever branch out a bit further than Vikings, I know the blasphemy!

Johan: No, we’re going to stick to the Vikings! That’s our thing y’know but sometimes it’s fun to do side-tracks like that just for one song and you can still relate to that in a subtle way. It’s about the way of the Vikings, like the spirit of the Vikings so that can be a bare knuckle fight as well.

What’s the spirit of the Viking to you then?

Johan: If you look at the real Vikings they were pretty much normal guys but the mythological imagery of the Vikings is more like they’re badass warriors they just go around pillaging everyone you know.

I definitely think people look more towards the latter.

Johan: Well that’s it, that’s the imagery we look on and we make music on.

AMON AMARTH have been doing a lot of touring, especially in Europe in the past few years, will you be taking a break from that?

Johan: Yeah, this summer is the last part of this album cycle so after this we’re going to start looking at writing new material, we’ll probably be away from live shows for well over a year.

I’ve seen AMON AMARTH just in the past couple of years so it must get extensive for you guys.

Johan: Oh yeah! You start to feel like we’ve been constantly on tour for 2 years now.

Do you think that perhaps without all of that extensive touring though you maybe wouldn’t have built up this huge demand for a headline spot at Bloodstock?

Johan: Yeah! That’s been built up since long ago, it’s definitely not just this album cycle but this is pretty much the same headline show we have done in Europe in the past but we haven’t done it in the UK.

Are we going to be hearing anything different tonight?

Johan: Yeah, we’re going to throw in one that’s different from the shows on this tour, we usually just switch up one. We’re going to be playing Varyags of Miklagaard.

Well I wish you the best of luck headlining tonight and I hope the rest of the tour leg goes well!

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Jessica Howkins

Co Editor-in-Chief for Distorted Sound Magazine, Music Journalism student.