Amon Amarth: Viking Invasion at The Wiltern

amonwiltern1_375Amon Amarth arrived at The Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, complete with Viking ship in tow, ready to conquer the metal masses at large.  The show was completely sold out, complimented by thrilling opening sets from Enslaved and Skeletonwitch.  Prior to Amon Amarth’s mesmerizing performance, we caught up with bassist Ted Lundström backstage to discuss headlining across the States, Viking ships on the West Coast, working with Messiah of Candlemass, touring with Slayer, and other grand and adventurous topics.  Read on as we prepare for the Viking invasion from the mighty Amon Amarth of Sweden…

How has this tour been going and what have been some of the highlights?
The tour’s been doing great! We’ve had tons of sold out shows and the audiences have been amazing. This will definitely be the highlight of the tour – the show here is sold out and (we have) the Viking ship. We’ve had some great shows – the Boston show was amazing! It’s been a great tour!

amonwiltern5_375We’ve had some strange weather across the country with the snow – probably not like what you’re used to seeing. How was it touring the States in winter?
We haven’t really encountered any bad weather – even though we had to cancel the show in North Carolina because apparently a half inch of snow on the ground is a state of emergency over there. That’s was a bummer – all of the bands were there and it was cancelled. We were sitting there and it was a sunny day – just perfect weather for us. We were just surprised that we couldn’t do the show. That’s the way it is – I guess they’re not used to the snow at all. We’ve been lucky so far – except for that it’s been okay weather.

How difficult is it to cart a Viking ship across the States?
Actually we didn’t carry it to all the shows, because it’s too big to fit in most of the venues. You need really big stages – we could use the ship for the Mayhem Festival shows because of big venues. This is actually the only show on the tour where we have the ship. It’s an exclusive show for the ship since its stored here – a big stage – a big venue – we decided to do something special – an extra show just for L.A.

Is there any story or overall concept behind the Deceiver Of The Gods title?
Not really overall concept – the album is based on Loki – a Deceiver Of The Gods – a mischievous character – we’ve all seen him in the movies. We decided to base it loosely around him. At least maybe half the songs are based around him and what he does and what he did not do.

amonwiltern6_375What was it like working with Messiah of Candlemass on the song Hel and how did he become involved with the project?
First of all, it was amazing to work with him – such a talented guy! We’re all big fans of his era of Candlemass.  We’re really proud to have him sing with us. The whole idea came from – we met him a couple of times and we’ve been talking about it. He’s in a couple of different bands, but he always looks for new stuff to do. We always talked about doing stuff together, but we didn’t find anything that would suit his style together with us until this album. Once we had a song we felt he could do, we asked him if we wanted to come over and he said yeah, he would definitely do that. He was also a good friend with our producer Andy Sneap, so it was a perfect occasion and we were all really excited about that.

How you performed that song live with him yet?
Actually we did in our hometown in Stockholm on the European part of the tour. We did that Hel song with him onstage – it was a cool thing!

What was the experience like playing Mayhem and how does it compare to doing a tour like this?
The Mayhem thing is so much bigger – it’s a bit different audience that spans over many different styles. And it’s also in the middle of summer, it’s very hot! It was kind of different for us. And we did the Sounds Of The Underground a couple of years back, which is like a smaller version of Mayhem – so we had a little bit taste of it before. This is our headline tour, of course we could play a longer set – it’s more fun because everybody in the audience is our fans, where Mayhem we had to convince people. Which was a good thing – that’s why we did the Mayhem – just to get out to new fans that would never come to our headlining shows. And I think it worked out good, because as you could see on this show – a lot of the venues had sold out, so I think the Mayhem was a good choice.

amondaze1 _375What was it like touring Slayer and what was Jeff Hanneman like?
Touring with Slayer – that was like a dream come true for us because we’re big Slayer fans. We didn’t really talk that much to Hanneman though – we didn’t see them that much. They’d come late to the show, play the show, and then take off again to the hotel. The only guy that would hang around is Kerry King – that’s the only guy that we really talked to more than the others. I can’t say really much about (Jeff Hanneman’s) personality, but just I’m happy and proud to be able to tour with him before he passed away.

When you look back on the first two albums – Once Sent From the Golden Hall and The Avenger – what do you think of them now?
We’ve grown as a band and it’s a completely different story today. We’re still proud of our old albums, even though you can see right now, we don’t really play much of those songs live because they’re not as good as the songs today. Our fan base is built on maybe the last five albums – it’s a part of our history and we’re still proud of those albums – even though I like the new ones better.

What do you think has kept this lineup of Amon Amarth together for over 15 years?
I’ve been asked that question many times, and I really don’t have a good answer. I think it’s a matter of our personalities – we work together in a good way – all of us are kind of easy going – we have the same goals and the same focus. There’s never really been any fights within the band – even though we’ve been touring very much and we live almost on top of each other. We’ve been able to be friends even though it’s sometimes much if you’re on the road for two months. Then you get some time off and everybody goes to their own places and we don’t really meet for a month or two – just to get away from each other – otherwise we’d probably kill each other.

What’s the first thing you’re going to do once you get back home from this tour?
Of course, straight after this tour we will do the Australian part, so we have a few weeks left. But once we get back home, I’m just going to relax and be with my family and just take it easy and not do very much at all. Whatever hobbies I have at home – I’m going to focus on them.

Do you have any message for Amon Amarth fans out here in the Los Angeles area?
I hope you saw the show! Otherwise we’ll hopefully be back soon again if you miss it. We’re gonna continue to kick ass!

Amon Amarth is:
Johan Hegg – vocals
Ted Lundström – bass
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Fredrik Andersson – drums

(Interview by Ken Morton – Photos by Jack Lue)

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