"We have made ourselves a career based on my musical mood swings" - Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt talks new album In Cauda Venenum
Swedish metallers Opeth aren't supposed to be back with a new album this week.
After they capped off their hugely successful world tour in support of 2016's Sorceress with Garden of the Titans: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheater, a lavish live album and DVD of the band captured in their full pomp at Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheater, they were supposed to disappear.
Frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt was planning a hiatus, a nice break in his homeland. Then he started writing songs again, and, as he explained to hmv.com, once they were written, they needed to be recorded and it just span out of control...
We spoke to Åkerfeldt about the result, the band's 13th studio album In Cauda Venenum...
When did you start working on the songs for In Cauda Venenum?
"I think around the very beginning of 2018. January or February perhaps."
How did you want this album to move on from what you did on Sorceress?
"I wanted something different, as I always do, I guess. I never really hold on to a specific formula for too long, even if I like to think we have a sound of our own. It’s different from time to time depending on how my taste has developed over the years. One day I might fancy simple singer-songwriter music, the next day I feel like writing an epic monster of a prog-rock type thing. Luckily for me, we have made ourselves a career of sorts that is based on my musical mood swings, however unexpected they might be!"
You were scheduled to have a hiatus, but you decided to get back to work, did you change your mind or did the songs just start to come?
"I didn’t change my mind. I still haven’t changed my mind. It’s a burden of sorts to be a creative person with a small-time career that involves other people. The moment I let people know that I’m ”cooking,” elaborate plans are then being made for a rather big dinner party. So, once the songs were done, of course, I wanted to have them recorded. Once recorded, of course, I want people to hear it. In order to do that, I have to promote the record through interviews and tours. And here I am. Further away from that hiatus than ever..."
Last time you recorded abroad, this time back in Sweden, was that something you always keen to do?
"We have recorded most of our records in Sweden. As far as I remember, we have only done two overseas, in Wales, actually. But I wanted to be in my hometown of Stockholm due to my children. I treated it like a fun 9-5 job basically."
You worked with Stefan Boman on the album, what did he bring to the process?
"He’s great is Stefan. He’s the same age as me, and has the same sound references pretty much. He likes old stuff. I think it comes with the territory and age. It’d be weird and almost a bit creepy to be into modern sounds at the age of 45. It was effortless really. We just talked about the record, noted that we’re on the same page and off we went. He’s basically a pop/rock producer and is quite well known in Scandinavia for his work with the band Kent."
"He didn’t push us in any particular direction. I like to think I’m the producer who relies on the expertise of other people like Stefan. He just set a good microphone in front of us and did his thing. We were all happy with the music and we recorded it to the best of our abilities, and when you do it like that, little can go wrong really."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme to it?
"It’s not really a concept record, if that’s what you mean. But I guess it could be in the same sense as Dark Side Of The Moon. I don’t know what that album is about, but I feel strangely connected to it, just like millions of other people around the world. I guess it’s about life. In that sense, I suppose this record is too, but I never intended for it to be a concept record."
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"The first song I started writing is a track called ‘Universal Truth’. I had it completed quite soon, but decided to gut it and rewrite the whole thing. It was pinned as a bonus track, but I felt that it had some unique qualities that the other songs didn’t have, so I rewrote it and it made the record."
And which came together most quickly?
"It's probably the ballad, ‘Lovelorn Crime’. It’s a simple, yet quite an effective ballad type song with a nice guitar solo in the end."
When did you decide on In Cauda Venenum for the album title? Were any other titles in contention?
"Yes, I had a few other ideas, other Latin phrases. Can’t remember them now, but some of them will be etched into the run-off groove of some of the vinyl editions, I believe. ‘In Cauda Venenum’ kinda jumped out more than the others, even if it’s difficult to say. It has some type of aesthetic quality too. I like how it looks. And I like what it means too."
What are your plans to take the album out live?
"There are plans and some are scheduled. We start in the UK at the end of October and do a little run across Europe. We also have a trip to India, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia later this year, a Scandinavian run in January, a North American tour in February/March and we’re looking at a South American tour in May, I believe. Then it’s Summer festivals until August. I’m sure there are more plans, but I don’t know them yet."
You’ve got 13 records now, how do you decide what makes your live set?
"It’s difficult if you want to try and please fans of all eras of Opeth. I don’t really know what people want to hear, so we try and mix it up as much as possible with both new and older stuff."
When will we see you back in the UK?
"Not long from now. We start in Norwich. A warm-up show there, and then we play the Palladium in London. I think there’s a few more, like Glasgow, Leeds, Bristol, Dublin."
Opeth's new album In Cauda Venenum is out now in hmv stores.