Sabaton are currently gearing up to release their brand new album, The Great War, in the next few days. In a green room in the heart of London several weeks earlier, after having listened to the album, I sat down to have an in-depth discussion about both the band and the new album with founding member and bassist Pär.
That song was written by our guitarist Chris and Joakim back around the time we were recording Heroes. It didn’t really fit that album as there was no real “heroic” content per se. When we were working on this album, we had the topic and needed a kind of creepy style song. We had this song as a kind of demo and we figured we’d use this one.
This was the first album with Tommy as well. Did he have any input?
Of course, he wrote most of the song “Ghost In The Trenches”. Tommy is a good songwriter and has written a lot of music for himself and other artists and as such he is very talented when it comes to that. When he joined the band, it wasn’t a case we are having a guitar player joining, we are having a lead singer, a composer and a guitarist joining. As such, he’s a very talented musician so it would be foolish of us not to include him in the songwriting process. He also does some backing vocals on the album but of course, he’s not the lead singer.
“Fields of Verdun” and “Bismark” are your most recent releases. How do you feel they have been received?
The response has been amazing for them. It’s been longer than usual since we released any music so I guess the fans were hungry for some of our music. But also, the two songs that we chose were good songs. The first one, “Bismark”, was kind of released as a 20th anniversary style gift to the fans. We thought about re-releasing something old but then decided we should write something new with one of our most requested song topic. We’ve had a lot of fans send in topics for songs and the one which kept coming up was for the “Bismark”. So, we decided to make that and give them the song they most wanted.
For “Fields of Verdun” we wanted to put out a kind of classic heavy metal song as we felt as though that would be a good one to put one. Like you mentioned earlier, “Attack of the Dead Men” is another good song but if we released that first then it might have a different effect on people so some of our fans might think, “Wait, what the f*** is Sabaton doing?” But yeah, we wanted to release a song which would help people feel comfortable about the new album.
You did the “Bismark” video in collaboration with Wargaming as well…
Our relationship started with World of Tanks and has progressed from there. The company is a big fan of Sabaton and as such we’ve performed at some gaming events through them. It’s a good corporation and we’ve done a lot of work with them over the years. They do similar things to us in that they do a lot of historical research and then modernising it and making it available for the people. I’ve played World of Tanks quite a bit but not had chance to play World of Warships yet.
I’m a big fan of Apocalyptica and went to see them in Madrid recently. I really loved that show and I think they are amazing and I really wanted to do something fun with them. They primarily do covers and whilst they could do a cover of the song after it’s out, we thought it would be more fun to have it come out before we released it officially. So I had the idea to do that which they were really excited about and it came out really good. I think their version gets quite emotional in parts as the cello is one of the most emotional instruments to listen to.
The version I just listened to was the History version. I gather there is a plan to release that?
Yes, there are two versions of the album. The normal edition and then the history edition with the commentary. In my opinion, the History edition is the best one to listen to if you like listening to albums in full and buy albums. If you instead prefer putting one or two songs in playlists then I’d say they should go for the standard edition.
What equipment did you use when recording the album?
We use slightly different equipment in the studio compared to in the live situation. For certain songs, we switch around a little bit more than normal. For the guitars, they need to be different to what the theme is but the bass is a little easier. In terms of the bass, it’s a little easier and I tend to do a direct line.
The last song on the album features a choir on there. Who makes up the choir?
The women who are singing have been with us since Primo Victoria make up the backing vocals. They all sing in choirs and are made up of people we know including Joakim’s old swimming teacher and my old maths teacher. The male vocals are normally done by all the band members and some friends but this time as well we had a band from our local area. They are very musically talented and sang with us for a few days which was really nice.
It’s been mentioned in the past that Chris is able to do harsh vocals. Is that still the case?
Yes, that’s true. Both Tommy and Chris are lead singers but obviously in Sabaton they are backing vocalists. They are really very talented vocalists and are able to properly be lead singers. There’s one or two places where Chris does use his growls in some songs. “To Hell and Back” he (Chris) puts it in before the chorus and he puts it in at the end “Carolus Rex”.
I was always a bit interested in history before the band but we then needed a topic to sing about. It felt more real and giving to sing about the history instead of made up fantasy. The first few songs we wrote were entirely fictional and we didn’t feel any connection to it. It’s a necessary evil to write lyrics, but we felt as though singing about something from the real world instead of fantasy means you can really connect with the songs more. The songs now have a purpose and are really saying something. After that, we decided to continue that way.
How has the Sabaton History channel been going?
It’s been going quite well and we are now a proper educational institution! We aim to be able to maintain the channel through the entire Sabaton catalogue which will be at least a few years. I like to play with the concept of it and over the next few years it will continue to evolve. We’re listening to the fans a lot to see what they want so that we can make it even better. The format seems to be doing well and a lot of people are appreciating it.
When it comes to researching lyrics, do you consult a lot of different sources including archives or is it more defined?
It depends on what kind of song we are writing. For our new album, we didn’t need to really use a lot of sources as our host of the Sabaton history channel, prior to doing it, created one of the biggest documentary series on the great war. That was really handy as he has so much knowledge on it which really helped us. As a result, he’s a great host of that channel.
Is it safe to say the plans for the next few years are touring?
That’s the normal cycle of things. You get a new album out and then obviously you want to cover the world in one way or another. Things change a little in the touring because as Sabaton becomes bigger, we have more places we need to visit. As well as that, we need to make sure our production goes up and becomes bigger which then limits where we can do those certain things. It’s all changing around a little bit but it’s safe to say we’ll be on the road for a while. With pyro where we can or improvised solutions in place of that.
If you had to pick your favourite song from both the back catalogue and the new album, which ones would you pick?
We did a show a few days ago and it was still really fun to play “Shiroyama” from the last album. I still really enjoy playing that one. I would love to play “Attack of the dead men” from the new album. I can imagine that being done really cool with some visuals and providing something different in the live set.
Is there a band you are looking forward to seeing at your festival this year?
Apocalyptica is going to be one of my highlights for sure. I’d probably say UDO as well. I saw him in Berlin when he was doing an UDO night which was really awesome. We’ve also got a band called Attick Demons who I’ve been tricking people with. Their album sounds exactly like Iron Maiden and I’ve been tricking people by saying I have the new Iron Maiden demo! Their music is definitely entertaining and if people see it for what it is, then they should go down really well. They’re clearly a tribute to Iron Maiden and again, if people see them as a tribute then they should do well.
Do you have a hand in picking the bands for the festival?
I’m very much involved in that and most of the bands should have a personal connection to us. I want to be able to speak for every band and say why they are on the bill. I don’t have the final call on everything anymore as we have a team who have been working on the festival for many years.
Following on from that, what would you say is the connection to Equilibrium?
We played together in many places but I don’t know the guys personally. We see a lot of their shirts in our crowd and they see a lot of our shirts in their crowds. Doing a crosscheck on how many of our fans like each other is one of the best matches we can get. I guess we are the only festival in Sweden who would book these kinds of bands as Sweden Rock Fest is more on the hard rock side and Gelfe is the more raw death metal side. So yeah, these genres go very well together.
Tea or Coffee?
Hmm. I think I drink more tea but there are times you prefer coffee. If you asked me right now, I’d say a cup of coffee but I don’t really drink a lot of it. The other guys in the band drink a lot of coffee and we bring huge boxes of Swedish coffee as they prefer it.