OPETH's MIKAEL ÅKERFELDT: 'My Idea Of Heaviness Has Changed Over The Years'

Prior to OPETH's October 29 performance in London, guitarist/vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt spoke with The Metal Tris. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On why he prefers the Swedish-language version of new album ”In Cauda Venenum”:

Mikael: ”It's like doing the same thing twice, in the sense that the initial feeling [that] you had about something when you do it the first time is different than when you're basically trying to copy what you just did. That's what I did with the English version, because the vocal lines were already there, and I wanted the same vocal lines, pretty much. It was a case of me trying to copy what I did from the Swedish version… It might be a case of me just finding it a bit more interesting, because we'd never done that before. I've heard lots of people who've only heard the English version. I'm not going to say, 'That's shit' — it's still a good record, but my version is the Swedish version.”

On whether music is the universal language:

Mikael: ”I would say so, but there was a time when I didn't think that was the case. I was kind of shying away, when I was younger, from music that was sung in a language that I did not understand. I'd like to think, to be honest, that I've matured enough to be able to enjoy music without understanding what the singer is singing about, but I do perfectly understand if someone has a problem with, say, our Swedish version, because they won't understand what I'm singing. Of course, we have an English version if the Swedish one is too much for you, but for me, it doesn't matter anymore — but there was a time when it did.”

On how he knows when a song is finished:

Mikael: ”It's difficult to answer. Sometimes when I look back at some of the stuff, I don't remember writing it. I won't go all pretentious, but it's kind of trance-like. You just do things. People have their habits. Why do you brush your teeth after the shower and not before, or whatever? Those kind of things that you do for no particular reason. That's basically how I write music… it's just finished. You know it; you feel it. Obviously, I could break down every song that I've written and question, 'Does it have to finish there? No, probably not. It could probably go on, or maybe it could finish earlier.' It's just a gut feeling, I think. Sometimes I work for a long time with specific songs, and I don't find the right kind of piece of [the] puzzle to finish it until much later. But I don't know why.”

On what it means to be ”heavy”:

Mikael: ”I've been attacked over the years for not being heavy, which I understand. I would have thought the same when I was younger — 'That's not really heavy music.' Since then, I've found that nobody can say, for instance, and not comparing, [but] Mozart — that's a heavy experience. The music is heavy… Sometimes, we're traditional heavy, as in metal-heavy. Most of the time, the music that we write and record is heavy in the traditional sense, and sometimes in the sense of something else like a feeling [or] a heavy emotion. But that explanation doesn't really come across to people who have made up their mind that we're not heavy, and that's fine. I completely understand, but my idea of heaviness has changed over the years where I sometimes feel that traditional heavy sounds weak. For that reason, it kind of lost its luster from when I was kid [when I believed] the heavier, the better. Because I'm older, when I speak of heavy, I speak of slow, doomy music. That's what heavy means — not grindcore. I'm kind of confused as to the subject of what heavy means.”

On the beauty of imperfection:

Mikael: ”I don't like perfection. I don't believe in perfection, to be honest. When we play tonight, for instance, we strive for perfection, but we never get there — never. But it's not important, really. On the records, if there's an obvious mistake, we do another take. When I'm recording my guitars and I feel it in my fingers that it's not right, I look around the room. [If] there's nobody noticing, I continue and don't say anything. I can't hear it, it's not there. You strive for perfection, but most of the time, you're not going to end up with anything perfect. I don't really know what perfection is, to be honest.”

On the aspects of OPETH that have not changed over the years:

Mikael: ”I'd like to think that we've constantly been outsiders — that we belong to a scene, but within that scene, we've been alone… Within the scene, I've always felt that we don't have any peers, if that's right word. It sounds really cocky when I say that, but I mean it in a mild-mannered way. We don't have competition in that sense — we've always had our own scene, and whenever somebody kind of picked up on that scene, we changed into something else. There are bands around that would probably cite us as influences and might sound like a specific era of what we've been doing over the years, but I think we've always been alone, [and] to some extent, underdogs. We've never had a straight path. We've never had overnight success. We've never played it safe. We're popular, I guess, to a certain extent, but sometimes, I'm even baffled myself. I don't really know what we are, but I know that we are unique, [and] that if we stop playing, there will be a void, I think. I think we're fairly unique, for good and bad.”

OPETH's 13th album, ”In Cauda Venenum”, was released on September 27 via Moderbolaget/Nuclear Blast Entertainment.


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