Are you trying for any other special content or et cetera, I guess you’re going to have to do two CDs if you’re doing a special edition?
Mikael: We did a film, we were supposed to film in the studio, but the guy who had done our past documentaries, he didn’t get time off work, so we filmed a little bit on our own and it was just Axe cooking dinner, fart, you know. There was nothing we could use really. So we did a couple of days worth of filming in the rehearsal room, playing songs from the new album and then interviews with every member, because in the past, it’s basically just been interviews with me and Peter. Now we had more of everyone in the band is talking.
Fredrik: You also did a studio thing, showing how you come up with songs. We played a few solos and some parts on the new record.
Mikael: I remember when we filmed this, we were like, ugh, because both me and Fred played pretty shitty, but it came out better than I thought.
It doesn’t play like Opeth advanced master class or anything?
Mikael: (laughs) No. We filmed this 50 minute long film and four songs and yeah, that’s about it.
Did the drummer change from Lopez to Axe enter your mind? I mean, there’s blast beats on this record.
Mikael: No, but he did it so well, the blast beats. I was never really a big fan and we didn’t use him as if we want to compete with the fast bands. In a way it’s like a little gimmick, but in a way it worked, because we had this riff that sounded kind of like a Strapping Young Lad riff, tried a few drumbeats, and then we tried blast beats and some clean vocals, and hey, it’s something special. Axe is just a solid heavy rock drummer I guess. He’s trained like a marching band. I wanted to show all spectrums of his drumming, because he got a lot of shit when he joined the band. When Lopez joined the band, it was like, ‘Oh, he doesn’t play like Anders. Too much of a metal drummer.’ Now it’s the same kind of discussion. ‘He’s not as good as Lopez. He doesn’t have the groove.’ It’s just bullshit. Axe can groove as well or better than Lopez. Lopez himself, I talked to him on the phone, he’s like, ‘He’s got a groove.’ I just wanted to show all spectrums. It’s the same as with Lopez. There’s never any limitations to any instrument I feel. To me I always try to write songs and sing and play guitar above my ability so I can develop. I just wanted to make sure that when I play the demo to the guys in the band, they’re going to listen to it and they’re going to feel, ‘Wow.’ Itching to play this stuff. It’s not a one-sided kind of things. You have to use all your abilities as a musician to play these songs. And Axe was no exception. To some extent I wanted to show off with him, with the first song, he has his own little drum break and everything from the sensitive kind of jazzy type of playing to hard hitting metal. So that’s basically the same as with Lopez. Lopez always had great ideas with drumming, with drumbeats, and mean and him worked perfectly together. But his first record with us was much more of a bad experience than Axe’s first record. I feel like he’s done. He is the Opeth drummer, he knows everything. With Lopez it took him a few records. The first record is kind of shaky, My Arms, Your Hearse. Second album with him, Still Life, he got into his element, and certainly on Blackwater Park. I think Axe is already done. He started on a much higher level than Lopez did. Because Lopez had the fast parts nailed down when he joined the band but he didn’t really play 4/4s, didn’t really play soft in those days at all. Those influences like when people saying, ‘Oh his Latin influence,’ or ‘his jazz influence.’ That came way later. Once he had been in Opeth for a while he could see that he could actually incorporate this influence into this music. When he joined the band he didn’t know. He came from Amon Amarth. They didn’t say, ‘Okay, we want this drumbeat to be a bit jazzy or a bit Latin influenced.’
Do you foresee yourself in the future sort of getting further into a prog-influenced sound, feeling that you have a lot more room to breathe?
Mikael: I don’t know. I don’t really know what our prog-influence, what it is anymore. It’s so different. The mindset writing this album was a little different than before. Our prog influence before was a lot of jazz and King Crimson. Now I listen to a lot of Scott Walker and Funkadelic and Joni Mitchell. All sorts of things that I always really liked. Lots of psychedelic music. Hence the backwards things and phrasing, or Per’s keyboard solo in “Burden.” I think the song that represents what I like now with Opeth is “Lotus Eaters.” It has everything. It’s just insane. That’s what I like, music that once you think you’re beginning to grasp the idea of the song, it just goes completely the other direction, like, ‘Oh, what the fuck happened there.’ That’s what I like. One of the things that people tell me sometimes, like I did interviews in Stockholm for people who had a listening session for this album, and they’re like, ‘Oh it’s so different. I love Ghost Reveries, but in a way I knew what to expect.’ Like they could read us. But for this album I don’t think it’s easy to understand where we’re going next in the songs. I can understand that Ghost Reveries is more fluid in that sense and that’s one of those things that I don’t want to hear, even though it’s true.
There is something about your writing style previously that you’re leading the listener by the nose a bit.
Mikael: If you’re been into the band for a while you might understand. That is still our style, but I think this album is developing that.
In general, the new record is sort of all over the place. Not in a bad way, though.
Mikael: (laughs) I can definitely see. I have heard the album so many times.
It’s not as instantly gratifying as the other records. There’s a sinking in period required.
Mikael: Definitely, definitely much more than any of the other records. I wanted it to be a hard record to understand. But I wanted it to be the first time you listen to it, I want you to feel like, ‘I want to hear it again.’ Maybe you don’t like it at all, but you want to hear it again. Some songs are much easier to understand at first listen, like the ballad type songs. But the first two heavy songs, and “Hessian Peel,” you’re not going to get those songs at first listen. I think that’s a good thing. That’s the type of records I like, where you discover new things all the time.
Opeth will be performing at Terminal 5 in NYC on Wednesday, May 21 and Thursday, May 22. Watershed will be released through Roadrunner on June 3. For more, go to opeth.com.