Updated: 02/09/03

With the most ambitious album title of this new year, Amon Amarth are ready to take on the metal world with their latest Metal Blade release. Itís Viking Metal that will kick your butt into the next millennium. We recently spoke with vocalist Johan Hegg about the new albumÖ

Amon Amarth Versus The World is a pretty ambitious title for an album. Where did you come up with the idea to call your new album that?

Itís sort of reflecting on our ten years as a band. Weíve been around for a decade now and are having our ten-year anniversary. Itís sort of to express how weíve had to fight throughout the years to gain recognition within the music scene Ė to gain respect from people in our social lives. Itís not always easy to be in a metal band, touring, recording and keeping a job Ė and keeping girlfriends and everything like that. Itís something we had to fight with. Itís not like weíre fighting the world to conquer it in that sense, itís more like a rough ride and itís us against everybody basically. But we sort of managed to get out of it and grew stronger from every setback that weíve had.

What was it that has kept you going for ten years in spite of the setbacks?

Probably beer. (Laughs) That actually sounds really stupid, but itís probably true in a sense. All the fun you have being on the road, meeting fans, recording albums and partying really, really keeps you going. And you wanna keep on doing it. We love the music that we do. We love playing music and we love playing live. Itís something that really keeps you going when itís rough.

Playing live and beer! Sounds good! So do you like beer from the States at all?

There are some beers that are okay Ė Samuel Adams is pretty cool. Bud Light, Budweiser and Coors actually arenít my favorites. I actually try to buy imported beer when I can, but they are a little bit more expensive so sometimes you have to settle for Budweiser. But if your thirsty, Budweiser would be cool Ė not a problem.

Well there goes your Budweiser endorsement.

(Laughs) Sorry about that.

Tell me about the ideas for some of the song lyrics for Versus The World.

There is a main concept for the album, which is dealing with the end of the world in Norse mythology. But itís not like the songs are connected as a concept. Itís more like the different lyrics have the end of the world as a source of inspiration. And they are dealing with it from different points of views and different angles. Thatís the main thing, but then again there are other topics that we are dealing with. Versus The WorldWhere Silent Gods Stand Guard is a weird story of a Viking serial killer almost with its twisted lyrics. Thousand Years Of Oppression is more perhaps dealing with how it is today for those of us who are pagans and heathens. Itís dealing with religious oppression of free thinking in general in the world Ė- but sort of Christian oppression of the Scandinavia spirit in particular.

What do you think of the bands who combine metal and Satanism in their music?

If they feel they can stand for it, I really donít care. Personally I donít believe in Satan and I donít believe in God. Iím against religion as such, because I think religion is a way for people to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. But itís something I really donít like.

So is Sweden a very religious country these days?

No, definitely not. Religion in general is on the decline in Sweden. I think, in a sense, in Sweden we never really left our roots as a pagan country. Some of the old traditions are still alive. Christianity is not the right thing for Scandinavian people I think.

When you look back on your older releases, what do you think of them now?

I can still put on Once Sent From The Golden Hall and still enjoy listening to it. I like all the old albums in their own way. But I donít listen to it very often because I live with this music very much. We play all the songs live and we get it all the time anyway. I think they are really good actually, but looking back you can also see how weíve developed as musicians and thatís always fun.

I saw you guys at the Milwaukee Metalfest last year. You were the last band to play on closing night. I was wondering what your experience was like here.

(Laughs) Oh man, that almost fucked up completely, I could tell you that. Playing Milwaukee was awesome Ė we had a great time. But it was very, very close to that we couldnít have played, even though we were there. Jack (Koshick, the promoter) told us not to bring any instruments. We didnít get any pay anyway and we could have done it, but he didnít want to pay for working visas and stuff like that. Since we werenít getting paid, that would not have been a problem, because we would just be doing promotion. So we didnít bring any instruments. So just hours before going onstage, there were no instruments. And we were like, ďOkay, so how the hell are we going to play?Ē And they brought some lame Fender guitars and we said if we tune these, we will break them. Itís impossible. And he said, ďWell, this is what I have to offer.Ē But luckily there was a band who played before us called Novembers Doom who actually had the same type of guitars that we use and they are tuned to ďBĒ just as we are. They actually lent us their guitars to play, and it worked out really well in the end. It was really cool of them to let us borrow their stuff. We were really thankful that we made it and that it worked for us.

Is there any chance of Amon Amarth coming over here to do some shows?

Weíre working on maybe going on tour in March, but so far itís just talk. Nothing is on paper yet. But hopefully weíll be able to do a tour in March and then be able to come back later on in the year.

So do you guys have day jobs?

(Laughs) Yeah.

What do you do outside of the band?

Actually this is almost what I do for a living. I sell things over the phone like dairy products to supermarkets in Stockholm.

Really? Thatís not very rock and roll!

I used to be a butcher. But the hours were lousy and the pay was lousy, so I changed it for a job where I could get more free time to go on tours. And where I could get better pay and relax a bit.

So any funny or weird things happen while on tour?

We toured with Deicide and we were playing in Switzerland. Weíd been out walking around town and when we got back, there was an old refrigerator outside. I think it was Glenn Benton who was putting a sign on the fridge and it said ďBeer For The Swedes.Ē He said ďCímon guys, itís beer for youĒ and weíre like ďyeah, yeah, sure.Ē And heís like, ďNo, no open it. Thereís beer in there!Ē And I think it was Ollie or Ted who opened it and there was this giant turd in there! Someone had made a crap in the refrigerator. Glenn is a pretty funny guy.

Are there any Amon Amarth groupies floating about the world?

Uh, sure. I try to stay in my trousers because I have my girlfriend back home and everything. But there are always opportunities.

If Britney Spears asked you to quit Amon Amarth and join her on a world tour, what would you do?

I donít think so. No. Madonna probably. Sheís cool. If Britney was half as sexy as Madonna, sheíd be lucky.

Do you have any messages for metal fans or Amon Amarth fans here in the States?

I hope to see all the American metal heads on the road and weíll have some beer and just party like hell!

If you found out that the world was suddenly coming to an end, what song would you want to hear right before the final explosion?

Actually Bathoryís Song To Hall Up High from Hammerheart. Thatís always been one of my favorite Bathory songs even though itís not like very aggressive. Itís very cool!


ANOTHER INTERVIEW WITH AMON AMARTH: An earlier interview with Johan Hegg from a few years back.
AMON AMARTH: Their Official Home Page!
METAL BLADE RECORDS: The Record Label for Amon Amarth!
THE HIGHWIRE DAZE HOME PAGE: Return to the Main Page!

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