Interview with Johan Hegg conducted by Bill Zebub for Issue 28 of The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds Magazine
It seems that extra special care was given to the recording of the drums on the new album. They are louder in the mix than what I had heard on previous albums. Am I talking out of my ass?
We put extra effort into the whole production, but I know that Fredrik and Berno worked very hard to get the drum-sound we were looking for. As you say, the whole album has a “thicker” sound, and I
think one of the reasons for that is how we went about tweaking the sound for the recordings. You know, a lot of bands bring CD’s to the studio and say: “We want to sound like this or that“. We’ve never done that. Berno didn’t even want to hear our old stuff. He wanted to create our sound from scratch, without any pre-determined ideas on how it should sound. I personally think that’s the way to go, and I feel that the extra effort that we put into the whole thing paid off in the end.
Now that The Lord of the Rings has been made into movies, does the metal world now understand what Amon Amarth is, or do people still think it is a Swedish term?
I think a lot of people already knew what it means literately, since it’s been the most common question we get when we do interviews. Now they have a movie that actually describes “Amon Amarth”, which maybe actually can give them an Idea of what we were thinking of when we chose the name. It’s true that a lot of
people have believed that it’s Swedish, and many still do, but I don’t really care too much about it.
I really enjoyed the sorrowful songs in “Once Sent From The Golden Halls”, especially the guitar work. Of course I am referring to songs like “Amon Amarth”. On the new album there are instances of the same kind of guitar work that really catches my ear. If I won the lottery, how much money would I have to pay you to make a totally
Well, we don’t work that way. I don’t think we could write anything on demand. For us, emotions are very important when writing music,
and they have to come spontaneously. Otherwise it doesn’t feel right somehow. When we write music for a new album, we usually start out with a few ideas for one or two songs, and then everything
seems to grow out of that. This takes time, but we feel it’s the ultimate way for us to write music. Still, if you’re insisting, let say… US $ 500.000 should do it…
You are a bit tall. Is that a common Swedish trait, other than blonde hair?
Actually I think it’s fairly common in all of Scandinavia. Even the Vikings were taller than most people in the rest of the world were, I
have my own theory about that. It’s so that noses will be above the snow wintertime, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see or breathe.
Have you actually traced your bloodline to a ring-thane?
No. My grandma is into all that stuff, but I’m too lazy, even though it is sort of interesting. Through her I learned that I’m related to Ingmar Bergman in some odd way, but that’s not really thing to brag about, even though I just did.
I noticed that, unlike the trendfags who are your brethren, you favor the deep guttural vocals instead of the shrill and unmanly black metal squeaking. Your voice has a good range, both in pitch and in character, and you never go int o the wimpy spectrum of black metal. Have you been pressured by the band to black-metalize the vocals, or do they agree that it would appear silly for someone with your stature to screech like a fat woman who is upset about the rising
prices of donuts?
It probably would sound pretty damn stupid if I were to sing in a more Black-Metalish way. The guys in Black Metal bands sound like constipated frogs when they sing names, but that really sounds like shit. The guys in the band usually let me use the vocals I feel are right for that particular part of the music,
Did you get the idea for your beard from the former vocalist of Deranged?
I started growing this beard back in ’92, before I was in the band. I’m not sure if Deranged was around back then, but if they were I had not heard of them. It’s more like ZZ Top influence but don’t tell anybody.
Am I wrong to think that you were perhaps in a death metal band
before you joined Amon Amarth?
Amon Amarth is the only band I’ve been in. I’ve never really wanted to sing in any other band after we started Amon Amarth, and I never really had the opportunity to sing in any band before that either.
Were you asked to act in the film “The 13th Warrior”?
Yeah, but you know, I refuse to take part in such crap!
When you toured America, did you notice how idiotically trendy people are over here?
Not really, the fans over in the US are so different from the metal-heads here in Europe. It depends on where you go. On the other hand the only truly un-trendy metal-fans are Germans. They haven’t
changed their style for twenty or thirty years and they will look the same in a thousand years. They’re almost like cockroaches. Nothing can kill them off completely, not even a nuclear war.
After I had gone bananas over “Once Sent From The Golden Halls” I was told about an album that you did for a label in Singapore, and
after a bit of searching I was able to get “Sorrow Through The Nine Worlds.” Is there any chance that the album will be bought by a stronger label and remastered? That album should not have to die.
Actually, ” S o r r o w throughout the Nine Worlds” is on the bonus version of the new album. The s o – c a l l e d “V i k i n g Edition.” We
put a lot of rare stuff on there. Apart from the MCD we put the demo “The Arrival of the Fimbul Winter” and the previously unreleased demo “Thor Arise” on there. It’s sort of
our ten-year anniversary gift from us to the fans, as it’s ten years since we started out.
What are some misconceptions about the Vikings?
There are quite a few. Most Vikings were merchants. They traded with people from all over the world basically. Most battles that Vikings fought were actually with other Vikings, and plundering
was not as common as historians will make us believe. Vikings have often been portrayed as barbarians, but as a matter of fact they had a functioning justice system long before any other European country did, and Vikings dictated the first laws ever written down. The Vikings were the first to discover North America, and there are even indications that they traveled as far as Mexico. The Vikings were however fierce in battle, which may have given them the reputation as barbaric wildmen. The reason for this is that the Vikings were fatalists. They believed that there was no way of avoiding fate, so you might as well rush into it because you will live as long as fate has decided for you to live.
In Sweden, do cows say “moo”? They like to say that a lot in America.
No, cows say “muuu”. Pigs say “noeff” and not “oink”, like they do in America.
Hey, Olli and Hansson played the guitars on “Sorrow”. Is Olli the same as Olavi? I suppose, if that is the case, that he is the
originator of the style that makes your albums so rich, or are those cool techniques very common over there?
Yeah, Olli is short for Olavi, almost like you guys over there call guys called William for Bill. Olli is one of the founding members of Amon Amarth, and it’s actually his previous band, “Scum” which he started in 1988, that later on became Amon Amarth. I think Olli has his own unique way of playing the guitar. Don’t ask me about techniques though. I haven’t heard anybody here in Sweden, or anywhere else for that matter, that plays the same way he does.
Are you hateful toward a particular band?
I wouldn’t say hateful, but there is a “Power-Metal” band from Sweden that in our ion rips off “Helloween”, and we like to make fun out of of them, and crack jokes on their behalf. The name has a bit to do with a certain tool, and a do with tripping. If you can figure out which it is, you’ve just won a box of water-colors.
My experience with dogs has taught me not to bother them when they are eating. Do you also growl if anyone comes near to your beer?
That’s the first reaction. If they don’t realize the seriousness of the growl and try getting close to my beer again, I usually rip their heads off piss down their throats.
There are parts of America in which a band can never hope to make any money through the merchandise table at shows. In such places, would it be acceptable to barter for your Tshirts with a suitable offering of beer?
Beer is always welcome. Maybe that is easier to sell in those places, but knowing the raging alcoholics I play with, that beer would be gone in four seconds.
Did you know that Middle Earth is hobbit-forming?
Had no idea.
What is your favorite race in Tolkein’s world?
Dwarves! Cool beards, cool weapons, and who wouldn’t want to carve the mountains for riches?
In America there is a wigger phenomenon, and it affects the weakminded Caucasians who are also ignorant enough to believe the pious myth of the Christians. Such afflicted victims suddenly abandon English grammar and instantly shed 85% of their vocabulary. They also misperceive the manner of speech characteristic of an illiterate 75-IQ thug as an accent. I wonder if this is also happening in your homeland. Is the glory of your people
Those Neanderthals are unfortunately existing in Sweden as well. I don’t care too much for politics and shit like that.
Do you prefer the sword or the battle-axe?
Tough one! The sword is the most elegant weapon, slender and gentle yet lethal. The axe on the other hand is more brutal, but can also be elegant. I think I go with the sword, though.
Is it true that you wear clothes on stage against your will? I
heard that your entire band pays homage to the berserkers who ran naked into battle, but modern laws forbid the swinging pee pee of the Vikings. Is this true?
No, it’s not true. The real reason we are half-naked on stage is that
we sweat a lot. But it would be cool if it was true though. Who knows? Someday maybe we’ll be playing in our underwear.