So how did you two get together?
Fredrik: Well, we had known each other for about three years, maybe four years actually. We hung out a lot on the Gigantour when I was still playing with Arch Enemy when Opeth was on the same bill. I was hanging out with the guys a lot.
Mikael: He was more on our bus than he was his own.
Fredrik: (laughs) It was more good company, good friends. It started with Mikael wanted me to jam a bit with him.
Mikael: I wanted a few guitar lessons. Right hand technique.
Fredrik: Mikael wanted to work on his technique, playing fast.
Mikael: Well, he is a guitar teacher. You know. He gives guitar lessons to kids.
Fredrik: Yeah, a few kids, local kids. Anyway, yeah it started with that, jamming a bit. Then in February, Chris [Amott] got back to Arch Enemy, and I didn’t really know what to do, but in the end of April, beginning of May I think it was, Mikael called me and asked me to join. I was very happy to get that call, because I had been a fan of Opeth for quite some time, since the Blackwater Park record, when I started listening to Opeth. For me it was a huge honor and relief also. New job.
Mikael: He said something to me that made me really happy. He said he really enjoyed playing with Arch Enemy but Opeth was a band he would go out and buy a record for.
Fredrik: Yeah, I did go out and buy Opeth records.
Mikael: It made me really happy. We didn’t audition anyone else. I just had my mind on him when everything with Peter went down. We could have easily found hundreds of guitar players to audition. We hit it off on a personal level, which is obviously important. And I like his style. I was thinking about calling Jeff Loomis up, but whatever. We have it here.
Fredrik: If I compare it with the time I was in Arch Enemy it was different. I feel more a part of this band. In Arch Enemy, I was basically playing Chris Amott’s part. This time around I get to do the record before I do the touring. It’s a huge difference.
You’re not filling in, essentially.
Fredrik: Exactly. Looking at the Arch Enemy period, it’s almost like playing covers. I had a great time.
You had more time leading into Ghost Reveries to write. Did you have that same luxury this time around?
Mikael: Yeah, yeah. Everything was finished. One song that’s not going to be on the album that wasn’t completely finished. But the album was written this time. The same with the last record except for the song named “Atonement.” That wasn’t finished, kind of made up the studio. But it’s a little jingle song. It didn’t demand as much attention, it was just pieced together. Yeah, everything was written. We made the mistake when we did the double album—I went into the studio with ‘We’re going to record two albums,’ and I had no songs written and we hadn’t rehearsed once. It was just bits and pieces. I was going in, I guess I was hot-headed or whatever, because we had done a few albums like that with no rehearsals and that kind of stuff. But that was a nightmare. We recorded what we had during the day and I was writing in the night. I got sick after that recording. It wasn’t fun. That was the last time I did it like that. It was good, some of those albums have some great songs that were spontaneously written in the studio, just recorded, once we put out the record nobody [in the band] knew what was on there. It could have been a collection of farts basically. We didn’t know anything, but it was exciting to do it like that. Soon enough, though, you start doing mistakes. A couple of songs on the Deliverance record, I listen to it and I can hear the, ‘Ahhhh, let’s do it like this.’ Grasping at straws just to complete the fucking song.
A lot of those songs have riffs that just continue.
Mikael: Exactly. (laughs) It kind of worked in a way for that album, because it gives you some kind of feeling, but I didn’t want to do it like that. I didn’t want to sit and listen to the record and wait for the next riff. So when we did Ghost Reveries we made sure that there is not a part that doesn’t serve a purpose. And certainly for the last one. If it feels like it’s too long we just cut it down. I feel overall the songs are just written better on the last two albums. The new one certainly, we spent a lot of time writing the songs, listening to the songs, because I could record the entire songs, demos and stuff, so I could listen to them, change them, rearrange them. And I think it came out better. It’s not spontaneous, but better (laughs).
The arrangements on the new album are far more complicated.
Mikael: It’s certainly a very complicated record, to the point where it’s exhausted to play. To play it, it’s exhausting. The first couple of rehearsals we did for it, I just came home, headache, tired, just went to bed. I was asking the other guys in the rehearsal room, ‘Do you get tired after rehearsals?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, I pass out on the couch.’ It’s definitely, the arrangements are very complicated but it doesn’t really sound that complicated.
It sounds kind of complicated to me. At least referentially there are parts that don’t normally appear in your work.
Mikael: Yeah, I guess. There’s some new. I guess this album, that’s why I said I’m kind of eager to do a new album, because this album, something happened with the band. it might be because we have a new band, but the music is happening now, it’s moving a little bit. Usually you do a few albums that are kind of similar. You want to evolve and move and you’re doing your best, but the only way to do it and make it sound good is if it happens naturally, you know. I think this album is taking us somewhere, and that’s why I’m kind of eager to do another album now.