Interview: Olof Mörck and Elize Ryd (Amaranthe)

I was lucky enough to catch Amaranthe on the Great Tour, supporting Sabaton around Europe. I’ve been a fan for many years and was ready for some traditional energetic and bombastic displays of power. I knew both Olof and Elize to be not just incredibly talented people, but the absolute loveliest, and so it was.

Simona: Let’s talk about the Great Tour. How has it been so far playing such an extensive arena tour?

Olof: I’ve been saying this the whole time: it’s been unreal, completely magical. Like, every time that you wake up in the morning, you go to the venue in a place like this [Wembley Arena]. The last time, with Powerwolf, they did play some really, really big places. I guess the biggest one was in Munich with 6000 people. That’s actually equivalent to one of the smaller shows in this tour. So, I mean, it’s an absolute dream come true. And today, Wembley Arena … I just have to say, I’m so damn proud or Sabaton guys for achieving this.

Simona: And you as well

Olof: Well, to be honest, we’re just really happy to be here. And it’s really helping us in so many different ways.

AMARANTHE

Simona: How long in advance do you start working for such a tour?

Olof: Pre-production typically starts with the boring stuff, sending the emails and all that maybe half a year before something like this. It depends a little bit With the US tour that we did at the end of this year or at the end of the summer actually, we started to plan that a whole year in advance. So it depends a little bit. And I think on the tour, you know, on this scale, on this level, they probably started a year and a half in advance with the first plan. But as artist and musician, preparing usually starts like a month before the tour, when you start to get your stuff together.

Simona: Why did you choose 82nd all the way for a cover? How was the process of turning someone else’s song into something so typically Amaranthe?

Olof: We didn’t choose it. No, it was chosen by Par from Sabaton because we had the common idea. We started talking to him on messenger actually that it would be really fun to show that we’re actually good friends and that it’s not only having a great time, also people that we’ve known for a long time. Like Hannes, for example, was on our second tour ever, playing drums with Evergrey at the time… and so on and so forth. So we wanted to show that friendship and what better way than, you know, to do a cover? And he suggested the song because he probably obviously knew that from the Sabaton songs this is going to work. When I heard the song, this was before it was released, I was like, OK, that choruses. It’s going to be an Amaranthe song more or less. So it worked really well.

Simona: A while ago you and Elize had a special project in Spain. Perhaps related to new material?

Olof: Yes … But to clarify, it’s actually not about the new album, but it’s about new music and about new stuff. And I can also say something that I haven’t told to anybody else. What day is today? 8th? People will know within six days, and it’s something that we’re really excited about. It is something quite different from what we’ve done,  something a little bit a little bit deeper. But still with the Amaranthe classical, you know, fun attached to it. Let’s say.

Photo by Tim Tronckoe

Simona: What about the last album? Which songs from the last album had surprising fan reactions? Either expected them to do better or outdid all expectations? 

Olof: It’s tough because I don’t really put that much expectations before, because some thing is that when you’re working.

[Elize joins the interview. Olof says he’s goona answer and Elize will think about it]

Olof: I think that when you’re working on an album, you don’t really put up these kinds of expectations and before, because sometimes you can be setting up yourself for disappointment. Sometimes the songs that we find are the strongest are not thesongs that the label wants for a single or not what the fans are the most enthusiastic about. There was a couple of albums in a row where we chose the completely wrong singles and people stepped in and said that no, we should do this one. The Nexus, for example, was on number nine when we did the initial tracklist. But when it comes to the new album, I think that maybe Helix worked quite abit better than I was expecting. I really love the song. It’s definitely one of my favorites from the last few albums actually, but it’s a little bit more of an introverted and slightly darker song in some way. But the fans, and especially labels and they seem embrace it.

Simona: How good of an indicator are streaming numbers when creating a setlist? Do you find that popular songs are also the best hits live?

Elize: No, it’s actually very different. It depends on the country, actually, what style they like. And also depends on our songs. Some of them are very produced and many people think they sound even better live.

Simona: Are there any plans for Amaranthe live DVD?

Olof: Oh, yeah. I mean it’s something that we’ve been talking about doing our entire careers.  In the last couple of years we have gotten a whole lot better as a live band because we’vebeen touring really hard.  Now we have a finalized line-up. For a long time we were changing singers back and forth after Jake left, and I think at this point it’s really, really starting to make sense. So because there’s no plans set yet, but I would say that in 2021 it’s something that we should aim at actually.

Photo by Tim Tronckoe

Simona: One of the things I love the most about Amaranthe is how upbeat the music is and just giving people such a great feeling. Is it ever hard to sustain that level of “happy energy”?

 Elize: Oh, that’s a good question. I think it reflects what kind of people we are inside our hearts. And also it reflects that we are so in need of positive energy ourselves and create that. My happiest place is to make music, and therefore I think it reflects into the songs. So if I just walk in the street, I mean, OK,  I’m kind of a positive person. But of course, you have a lot of inner sorrows. But the music can take us away from, you know, the reality. So, therefore, I think it’s easy. As long as we love to make music, then we get something positive out of it.

Simona: What is something you think people don’t understand about what it takes to be a musician?

 Olof: they have no idea how tough it can be, actually. We’re not going to complain because we’re still love traveling and we still love doing this. But it takes a toll, a toll on your physical and mental health and it’s always a strain on relationships and things like this. So it’s really, really a double edged sword. I mean, for me, I would have a very hard time doing everything else. Because if you ask me at the end of the tour, I will probably want to go home and rest for at least one or two days. And then I could continue. But as soon as I’ve been home for a month or something like that, you really start tocrave to get back out again.

Elize: It’s more of a lifestyle. It’s not just, oh, I love to sing and I want to sing, but I also need to change your whole life for the music. And that’s what people probably don’t understand, that it takes so much more strength than just a voice or a great guitar playing or whatever. To create a career like, you need to be fucking strong minded and watch out for the traps that you could fall into, like harming yourself through all the others temptations available in the music industry. And also the touring is of course, the hardest. Like that. We’re living on the road. That becomes your whole life.

Simona: What do you dislike the most about the art world?

Olof: This is quite an obvious one mean, when it comes to every artistic venture, I think the music business in particular, but also in a business where there’s so much corruption and so many people that are taking advantage. This is a massive problem for the industry and it’s really destroying talented and real artists. If it weren’t for these people who are trying without any talent to capitalize on other people’s skills, then you would have two thousand more great bands in the metal genre, for example. So it’s these people are a problem. But I think that more and more people are changing, as you know, these businesses start to open up because of the Internet and so on. And yet the movie business, particularly the #MeToo campaign, for example. There’s been similar things  in the metal world. I think people are starting to wake up to this. Just a little bit because it’s not a hidden world. Hollywood in the 90s was completely sheltered. You could behave and act however you wanted. And I hope that this trend will continue in the next 10 to 20 years and really start to the clear away these idiots and assholes.

Elize: I hope so, too. I think it’s up to us to address this. We need to get together as musicians. That kind of change means, for example, how some contracts are formed. Why would there even be a 365 deal? Probably that needs to do a revolution and say like, fuck you guys. We don’t accept these kind of contracts because we’re actually humans. And no, it’s like slavery working like that now. That’s what I’m trying to do. That’s why I love to speak out. But it’s like, you know, asking the question. So as long as people become aware of it. Don’t look up to people that want to use you. And then if somebody wants to sign you, then you should think, oh, maybe I do have something that’s really great. It’s expensive to hire a lawyer, but you can go to the musicians union and get help for free or for cheap. Or ask someone. Because that’s what we thought, too. Like, oh, my God, people want to work for us. They want to take like 80 percent of our income and it  is fine because otherwise we never get this opportunity. You know, that’s not nice. But most musicians are also like that in their minds, they want to feel appreciated. And this is a way to do that. Otherwise, you could just be thrown away like. Okay, next. You know.  So you have to agree on things that you feel afterwards that you’ve been very userd or you feel like like it’s a rape of your art.

Simona: Something I was thinking about while you were answering the previous question is something that I’ve been talking to with my friends who also listen to symphonic metal… which is that it’s not just people in power who behave like that. Sometimes fans are… not nice, let’s say.

Olof: Tell me :))

Simona: There is this saying that every country has the rulers it deserves. I kind of say that every band has the fans it deserves. I think that there are some cases where there needs to be a discussion about what behavior is acceptable and what is not.

Olof & Elize: Well, yeah.

Olof: This is true. I mean, just a quick comment. I mean, even if I do agree with the fact that you get the kings that you deserve or the fans that you deserve, but you will always get a certain amount of assholes. I think that the ratio of it is what matters. Like what is the ratio of assholes listening to your music? I have to say that in our case, if we do have them, the amount is surprisingly low as they’ve always been supportive, supported the stuff that we do and so on.

Elize: Now I’m thinking about humanity in general is the problem. We also need to love somehting and we also need to hate something and I don’t understand that. Why would you want that? Why would you need to hate something that is not harming anyone? You could hate obvious things. I wouldn’t like go there and actually comment on something, on music I don’t like. I would just to keep it to myself. I like listen to the stuff I like so I don’t really understand. I could encourage the fans that have so much hate that they can write the most evil and awful things online that they should focus their hate on something that needs to be hated. That deserves to be hated.

Olof: Yeah, exactly. And the thing that they need to fix is not the new Nightwish album, which is a great album, by the way.

Elize: So yeah, they should absolutely use that energy to do something. Could be a good thing in the end.

Simona: Both of you do a lot of songwriting even outside of Amaranthe. What do you think makes a good songwriter and what makes a good musician? Can those be different?

Olof: Oh, those two are completely different animals. There’s so many good musicians who can’t even write the most basic song. And there’s also a lot of great songwriters who don’t really know how to play an instrument besides four chords. Like Max Martin, for example, who wrote some of the biggest hits. So basically, I think that what constitutes a great song is that there’s a real meaning behind it. It doesn’t need to be in the lyrics. It just needs to be there spiritually. You can learn how to put chords together, you can learn how to orchestrate symphonies. But if you don’t put meaning and your heart and soul into it, that won’t translate into a good song. It can have all the right chords, all the right melodies  and people will feel nothing when they hear it. And that is at the end of the day the beauty of music, that it’s a language of emotions. That’s really what you’re trying to convey when you’re composing a song.

Simona: What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?

Olof: Trouble in general or in the music business?

Simona: I would say in general, maybe. If you don’t want to share something recent, maybe something you did as a kid

Olof: This is something that I was talking about yesterday. My sister was studying in a small town in Sweden and she invited me there. Obviously, there was a lot of 18 year olds there hanging out. I was fifteen at the time, had long black hair, so I looked the same age as everybody else. As soon as I arrived there, I got a beer in my hand. I got pretty drunk. I even smoked. And then my mother found out at 8 o’clock in the morning, so after that  I was in big trouble.

[Elize stays quiet]

Simona: You haven’t gotten into trouble yet?

Elize: I haven’t gotten into trouble *laughing*. Ask me that next time :))

Simona: Last but not least, since we are a Romanian based magazine, we cannot just let you off the hook without asking: what are some Romanian foods or traditions you enjoy and some you don’t? Also to Elize, since you’ve been there.

Elize: I’ve been there many times. I love it.  It’s truly amazing.

Olof: It’s not something that she says. She absolutely loves Cluj. She would ask all the time “Can we just move here, please?” But when it comes to food, I really like the eggplant salad. This is called…

Simona: “Salată de vinete”

Olof: “Salată de vinete” and  of course, the sarmale. It’s one of my favorite dish. We also love the Romanian wines.

Elize: I think I drank the best wine ever in Romania.

Olof: Like the “Prinț Mircea”, for example. Fantastic wine. But I tried a lot of really, really good things from Romania. One thing that I hate love relationship with is obviously the palinca. Oh, yeah. The thing is that if you don’t drink it as shots because it’s obviously very dangerous. Like at my wedding, for example, people consume thirty five litres of palinca or

Simona: How many people?

Olof: Hundred and ninety.

Simona: That is a lot.

Olof: That is a lot. But I was still told that it was nowhere near some other Romanian weddings.

Simona: Oh, yeah, for sure.

Olof: I was impressed. But anyways, if you eat like cold cuts, like meat and some cheese and if you have really, really cold palinca and you drink it slowly, it actually fits really well together. But never as shots, God damn it!

Simona: Haha. On that note, let me say thank you for a great interview and cannot wait to see the show.

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