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Interview von: arne mit Johannes, am: 14.04.2014 ]

Im Schnitt veröffentlicht das Quintett alle zwei Jahre ein neues Album. Anschließend folgt ein ausgiebiger Tour-Zyklus, wobei AVATAR weltweit Flagge zeigen und auch Nordamerika intensiv bearbeiten. In der rauen See und den Untiefen des Musik-Business fühlen sich die Skandinavier richtig wohl. Das ist mit dem Cover von „Hail The Apocalypse“ schön visualisiert. Man hört es auch den Songs an. Ihren melodischen Death Metal versehen die Göteborger mit einem ausgeprägten Entertainment-Faktor. Elektronische Anreicherungen, eine satte Rock-Kante, aber vor allem super-eingängige Melodien, Hooklines und Refrains, kennzeichnen die moderne Metal-Auslegung von AVATAR.


Musicscan: First one: as high expectations sometimes lead to disappointments: do you somehow worry at this point? I mean all the creative and studio work for Hail The Apocalypse has been done and you have to wait for the street date….

Avatar: The good thing about us is that we've learned what's truly important to us in making music, and that is to create something that we like and take pride in. Since we put so much heart and soul into this album and don't really try to impress anyone except for ourselves, we are ready to face whatever may come. I mean, of course we hope to reach out even further with Hail the apocalypse. We want to play more shows and have means to realize greater visions. It's just that we don't think too much about that when we write. The music would suffer if we did and that would kill any career opportunity anyway. So no, I don't worry. We did what we wanted and we've been honest, which makes me positive that people will like it. If they don't I know five guys who always will.

Musicscan: What is it for you guys to be called an avantgarde or progressive flavored metal band all the time – is it somehow annoying or fine with you? Is this what Avatar is all about musically?

Avatar: I like it. I like progressive music a lot, when the word is being used with its real meaning in mind. We don't really write too tricky stuff compared to what we're able to do, so it's not so much about instrumental masturbation as progressive metal gone stale might be, but we make a real effort to do something different. We play metal and we remain true to the foundations of what makes metal what it is. It's quite simple actually. The riff is king and the riff is groove. You have to get that awesome riff, figure out the right beat to it and then the rest is just about letting the magic happen. Except for that we have sworn never to repeat ourselves we bring very few rules into the studio. We have to dig the song and we have to play it well. That's it, and this opens so many doors. Metal is meant to be free and wild.

Musicscan: A lot of people who get introduced to Avatar can be impressed by your “different” approach to modern-styled metal music I guess. What do you think about this thought, and what is your approach towards being Avatar in general?

Avatar: That's basically it. We are very much a modern sounding band, but also like I said, we look at the foundations of how metal should be made. I look at Sabbath Bloody Sabbath for lots of inspiration for instance. The idea is to create metal with the heart and relevance it has had in different periods but seems to lack most of time nowadays. We don't want to be retro. We don't need another Judas Priest because Judas Priest already exist and no one can touch them when it comes to doing what they do. Our journey has been about finding our own path in music and offer something different, something new and something for the ages. Relevance is a keyword for me, as is urgency and honesty.

Musicscan: Can you perhaps tell us something about the intention and the spirit of Avatar when the band came to be. Has this early intention/spirit changed in any way until today?

Avatar: The idea with the band name has always been to find your true inner potential and unleash the superior being, the god that I think is inside of every human being willing to evolve. This hasn't changed. Musically we have grown up learning to play together and made some drastic changes over the years as we have entered different phases. Our shared roots are in large part within technical and melodic death metal. Everything brutal and epic. We always wanted to create something huge and our ambition has only grown with increased abilities.

Musicscan: And are there any principles you would never give up to with the band style-wise? What kind of?

Avatar: I never want to sing something I don't believe in and I never want to go back to the times when I worried about what others thought. As long as it doesn't feel cheap I am willing to try many things though. We do experiment a lot. Not everything reaches the mix board, but we allow ourselves to try many different suits before deciding.

Musicscan: What are you heading for in general? Avatar seems to focus on constant change and listeners always have to expect the unexpected…

Avatar: Part of this is because Avatar has been our coming of age story. John and Kungen were 15 and 14 when they started the band and I was 16 when I joined shortly before Henrik and Simon. Tim we have known for years as well. We have figured out a lot about ourselves over the years and what we want to do. With Black Waltz I feel we found home and the course has been set in a way it wasn't before. But the changes will keep on coming. We don't repeat ourselves. The idea is to paint with many shades and colors and still keep a red line. Then we also put an effort in to filling our albums with surprises. Sgt Pepper and the White Album are good references for me to point out how varied a masterpiece can be.

Musicscan: How important are compromises to your band? Should they play a major role at all? To me it seems that you're not willing to take compromises into consideration at all...

Avatar: We compromise only with each other. All the band's members have to stand behind the art and decisions. In the long run managers and labels can move on if things don't work out. We can't. We have to live with our music forever so I'd rather make some suit's day harder and be able to look myself in the mirror when I wake up. Luckily we are working with the right people today. They understand that we only are good at doing what we want and it wouldn't work for us to pretend to be teen idols or some brainwashed, brain dead glam rock cliches.

Musicscan: Being around as a band with an own identity and vision does it bother you when you see or meet kids who ignore you or have a different understanding of what your music and your style means to you? Are there many people that cannot understand what you are heading for musically?

Avatar: Of course everyone doesn't get everything, but that's OK with me. Music can mean many things to many people and that's the beauty of it. Some songs are used for both weddings and funerals. My personal main intent is to work on an intuitive and emotional level rather than intellectual and I welcome the idea of questions more than answers. It is also important to remember that this is metal and with all its layers the most important thing to understand is that you need to bang your head and raise your horns. If they don't like that they are free to leave. If they want to use me as some kind of excuse to pretend to be someone else and objectify me and my fellow band members they are free to get spit on.

Musicscan: Do you feel that Avatar has already found its “own” sound, or is it still evolving?

Avatar: Yes and yes. We have found our own thing, but this thing, whatever it is, will always change with time. Again, we don't repeat ourselves.

Musicscan: If you compare the visions you had of Hail The Apocalypse and compare it to your impressions listening to the album now – what´s the difference, is there any? Have you been able to surprise yourself? If yes, in how far?

Avatar: I'm surprised and pleased with the risks we ended up taking and how we pulled it off. Tower couldn't have come in to existence before and the fact that we recorded it live might be the musically most rewarding and satisfying experience of my life. There is so much more humanity on this album and I can almost regret that we didn't always record like this.

Musicscan: What stands out in your mind about the chemistry of the writing and the recording of the new album? How did this contribute to the overall sound and feel of the album?

Avatar: I love the fact that writing is anarchy. The ego of each member is deleted and anyone can work on anything at any given time. I've had the other guys finishing songs I started working on as well as the other way around. It doesn't matter who did one and inspiration and themes can come from anywhere. There are quite a few lyrical themes stemming directly form conversations I've had with the guys and it many parts they could have been written by anyone in the band. We are a true unit in that sense.

Musicscan: There are a lot of bands now that are heavy without really using metal aesthetics. Do you feel like a part of that in any way? What current bands do you think of as your peers or bands that you feel a commonality with?

Avatar: There are many groups I respect and love, also in our generation, but I do feel lonely in a good way. I guess we all define metal aesthetics our own way, but we have long hair for a reason. We bang our heads and the leads come in twin pairs quite a few times. We are metalheads for sure.

Musicscan: Where do you guys see the line drawn between progressing on what you do well, and completely offering a new direction or sound? Especially in the context of Avatar of course…

Avatar: That's a tricky question. Well done. I think the key is in focusing on what you do well, like you said, and expand from there. If you can make something sound great it probably fits without any problems at all. That is at least how we look at it. Do what you do best and do it well at the same time as you should always challenge yourself.

Musicscan: And do you think it's more important for bands to observe the traditions of their style, or to push the genre's boundaries? Is there a way to achieve a balance between progression and tradition? What’s to say about what Avatar are doing in this regard?

Avatar: I think you nailed what we consider being our biggest challenge and ambition. It has to feel new and metal at the same time without compromising any one of those two things. It takes two years for us to write an album for a reason, hehehe.

Musicscan: How do you feel about your place within the heavy scene as well as in between tradition and gaining new ground to bring forth what the metal heroes you grew up with did before Avatar were around?

Avatar: I feel confident. We know we have redefined some things and we are still fans to the music more than anything. It's a healthy place to be. The important thing here is that our heroes are what they are because they pushed boundaries and challenged traditions. We admire that and want to do the same.

Musicscan: Do you think it is necessary to create a certain distance between you and the music in order to get a better understanding of its inherent quality – how do you handle such question in the context of Avatar?

Avatar: I know I couldn't do this interview the day we came out of the studio, that's for sure. We just know with what purpose we wrote these songs and the deeper meaning on a grander scale only becomes evident later.

Musicscan: How do you guys make sure to develop as musicians and songwriters? Is there something you do on a constant base beside going to the rehearsal room and practicing at home or on tour?

Avatar: Write songs. If you want to become better at something you have to keep on doing it. Then you have to try to keep your mind open for influences offered in your day to day life. When something excites me I want to explore it, try it out and attempt to understand it. It's all about human growth.

Musicscan: A strong part of your sound is about experimentation. Of the songs you guys have recorded, which one do you feel crosses the most borders? What other borders, musically speaking, do you guys wanna knock down in future?

Avatar: Tower for the dynamics and mood, Puppet show for the insanity and Hail the Apocalypse for playing style. I want to knock down every border, but the question is which ones are meant to attack within the frames of an Avatar album.

Musicscan: Hail The Apocalypse is a pretty aggressive – but also partly catchy – and self confident record. It is intensive and stands somehow outside competition due to the fact you are not following trends. What is your view on the album?

Avatar: I think you got it just the way I get it. Again, we did something we want to hear and that we haven't heard yet. I also enjoy the dynamics of it. It has the emotionally widest span of any album we've done in both music and lyrics. I learned a lot about myself on this journey.

Musicscan: With the direction of Avatar heading a certain way and listeners growing with you over years and releases, do you feel the fans can now relate to what you are feeling or at least understand what you are trying to tell them with your music and with your songs? Want do you want the people to leave with?

Avatar: We study darkness of the mind and of the world and we offer very few answers. I hope that people get furious and curious. I want to put words on harder things but if you just mosh to it I am all good.

Musicscan: What is it that Hail The Apocalypse offers you personally? Are there any songs that stand out in your mind, or songs that have the most value or inner meaning to you?

Avatar: It's all about the trip and what meaning the songs get in relationship to eachother. The deeper I get to dive in the dark lake the better. Tower and Death of Sound are two examples that pulled way down into the deep and I am very grateful I got to do that.

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