INTERVIEW: Jocke Wallgren – Amon Amarth

AMON AMARTH are one of the biggest names in the modern climate of heavy metal. Continuously successful and appreciated studio records and an outstanding reputation in the live environment has resulted in a successful global conquest for the Swedish Vikings. Currently underway on a headlining tour of Europe following the release of Jomsviking and being announced as a headliner at next year’s Bloodstock Festival, you really get the feeling that the band have stepped up to a bigger level. We caught up with Jocke Wallgren, the newest member of the band, to discuss the rise of popularity in the band, his experiences so far and any pressure he has faced since joining the Viking horde.

So we are a couple of dates into the tour with TESTAMENT and GRAND MAGUS, how is it going so far?

Jocke: It’s been a blast! It’s been really fun, the bands are really cool together, the crews are really cool together, everything has worked out really well. The fans have been great, super great!

So in terms of the setlist balance, how much of it is from the latest record, Jomsviking?

Jocke: Well, I think in total we have 17 songs and I think at least seven are from the new album so I would say the majority is from the new album.

Because you are the new drummer in the band, how quickly did you have to learn the setlist?

Jocke: Well, I had to learn maybe 30 songs or so in a month from the beginning. We had some songs to choose from so we can alternate songs from event to event. So that was my starting position and then I had to learn pretty much everything as we go.

So was it quite a challenge or was it something you are used to doing?

Jocke: Both I would say. I have been a fan of AMON AMARTH since 12 or 13 years back so I pretty much know all the songs but it was the first time I could actually play them with the guys! So that’s the part I had to learn and get used to but otherwise it was a lot of fun!

Originally you acted as a session drummer for AMON AMARTH for live performances and now you are the permanent drummer in the band. How did that come about?

Jocke: Like you said, first I was supposed to be the session drummer for a small press tour, which was only four shows and then the US headlining tour and the summer festivals. And if it worked out we all agreed why not continue? It would have been too much of a hassle for the guys to find another one and try that out. If I fit I fit, and I did fit. Both musically, technically and together with the guys as people.

And now that you are a permanent member, how has the experience been?

Jocke: It’s been great! I think we do good shows, great shows sometimes [laughs]. It’s changed my life, I’m super stoked really!

Have you felt any pressure since it became public knowledge that you are the new permanent AMON AMARTH drummer?

Jocke: Yes. Of course. Both Fredrik [Andersson] and Tobias [Gustafsson] have been great inspirations for me during my drumming career. So, of course I have to be at their level or even better and I try to be at least on their level.

And would you say that is paying the ultimate respect? Being able to play at their standards they set or are you incorporating your own techniques?

Jocke: Of course there are signature stuff. Signature drum fills and signature patterns to play, you can’t really change and I wouldn’t really think of it. But then of course I can add my personal touch, with special drum fills or markings you know. The guys give me like “play this song but in your own way.”

So almost like leaving you to your own devices?

Jocke: Yes. Exactly!

And with you being the new member coming, you have an outside perspective on how the band’s records hold up in terms of their reception. With Jomsviking, how do you feel the new songs go down live compared to the classic material?

Jocke: Now, at the end of October I think the songs are really getting to the audience more than when I first started. I think the new songs are really catching on, especially Raise Your Horns, First Kill, At Dawn’s First Light. All the video songs, people are starting to really appreciate it and get a hold of it. They sing along and headbanging and in time for once!

When you think of the bands that are headlining festivals in Europe, AMON AMARTH are now one of the first names that are bought up by people. Where do you see the band in five years? Could you see AMON AMARTH being one of the big headliners at festivals?

Jocke: Yes! I would say so. The popularity of AMON AMARTH has been on an up-going scale for a long time but I think the curve is even steeper now. I think that for sure.

Do you think that the success of AMON AMARTH is showing that metal is in a good place?

Jocke: Yeah, I think so. I think metal and rock had bad form in ten or five years ago I would say. I think the past few years it has been more and more, the fans have come together once again. It’s on a rise!

And really my last question for you, you have this headlining European run, what else do you have planned come 2017?

Jocke: We are going to do this until mid-December and then, I’m not sure how much I can reveal, but there are going to be shows for sure! Time will tell where and when of course but we are going to do some more touring. We have Wacken and some other festivals announced so that is going to be really fun!

Just from a personal preference, do you prefer playing a show like tonight in a club venue or do you prefer a big open stage at a festival?

Jocke: I prefer every show! It’s so much fun playing, getting up there, putting my sticks up in the air and the audience goes wild, I love every show! But if I were to choose something, I would probably say a show around like what we did in Hamburg. Five and a half thousand people, that’s perfect! Tonight’s going to be good as well and all festivals are fucking amazing as well!

Well thank you for talking to me and good luck on the rest of the tour!

Jocke: Cheers, thank you.

Jomsviking is out now via Sony BMG/Metal Blade Records.

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