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INTERVIEW: JOAKIM BRODEN of Sabaton – September 2014

| 20 October 2014 | Reply
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Sabaton is currently on their second North American tour of the year, playing with Amon Amarth and Skeletonwitch.  Robert Kitay of 100% Rock Magazine caught up with Sabaton’s singer Joakim Broden before their show at the Ace of Spades in Sacramento, California on September 27, 2014:
Robert – Thank you for your time.  I appreciate it.  You’ve been complete road warriors the last few years.  How many days have you been out on the road?
Joakim – On the road I think about 250 a year.  Approximately 130 to 250 shows for a 12 month period depending on if we are making an album of course but uh…
Robert – Seems like your last album only took a week or two to record.
Joakim – (Laughs)  It seems.  We actually did the last show here in California on that tour with Iron Maiden in San Bernadino and then we, well we did a few shows, but we didn’t do much between the 13th of September and the 2nd of January.  We had about 6 or 8 shows I think over that time, which is a holiday for us basically, and I spent most of that time in the studio since I’m the main songwriter.  So I was writing new music over that time basically 24/7, six days a week I think.  One day off otherwise I go insane.  I try.  And then, when it comes to the studio, I don’t write the guitar solos, but I write the main guitars, and how the main parts of the drums are going to be.  The guitarists write their own solos and the drummer puts in his own fills there, but it’s pretty much done when it’s written, so we only took five and a half weeks in the studio.
Robert – Do you write on the road?
Joakim – I gather ideas, but I never finish on the road because I need access to a guitar and a proper 88 key piano – not a piano properly but a MIDI keyboard of some kind and packing and unpacking that everyday – well, you don’t want to try.
Robert – Do you do your research? – your songs are different than everyone else whereas you’re researching events.
Joakim – Well, that I do a lot on tour actually.  To get the time going.  I’m, not surprisingly, a war documentary fanatic.  It’s even gone so far now that I sigh of sadness when a Discovery special comes on … on Hitler’s henchmen or you know because there is rarely anything new in them.
Robert – With so many power metal bands abandoning the US market at least for touring, you guys seem to be doubling down and this is your second go around this tour.  You really seem to be making a serious effort to crack the US market.  How do you see the US market your type music these days?
Joakim – I think no matter – if it’s melodic metal, I think it can work basically anywhere in the world right now.  Maybe not Syria right now for obvious reasons, but anywhere in the free world at least.  Yeah sure, heavy metal is more of an underground thing in the US compared to Europe, but I have no doubt whatsoever that a band like us, a band like let’s say Hammerfall, Nightwish, if the right effort and mindset is put into it, it can be done.  I mean, for sure not as major as in Europe but I think some bands are a little bit lazy, they’ve been working their way up in Europe and then all of a sudden they come over here and they have to restart again.  You know, start fighting again.  I’m not sure all bands are willing to put that effort in.
Robert – Back at home in Sweden you have your own festival and your own cruise.  Was that your idea, or a promoter’s idea that approached you?  How did that come about?
Joakim – Both were our ideas.  Basically the festival was my idea.  In ’08 when we did it the first time instead of doing a regular show we just invited all the bands that are friends of ours, that we’ve been playing with all the years.  The cruise was our bass player’s idea.  We’re the only one’s left from the original lineup and basically he was pissed off that the ferry company that transports us between Sweden and Finland, it’s a smart way to get a tour bus across, charges so much, and they have these cruise ships you know with pools, shops and restaurants, and everything.  There have been rock cruises before, but not with a single band, so we took a shot.  They charge us a lot of money for this, maybe we should make our own cruise and get paid to go over on that ship (laughs).. and it worked out.
Robert – Very cool.  You mention the split in the band.  With the split in the band a couple years ago the other guys went on and formed Civil War and they’re singing of the same theme as Sabaton.  How did your feel about that?  Were you surprised they did that?
Joakim – No, I wasn’t surprised.  It was a smart move being as probably 80% of the fans that they were going to get for free, and I’m not saying this in a bad way at all, were fans that were following them from being Sabaton fans and the other 20% were going to be from Nils Patrik’s earlier projects.  Maybe Astral Doors or something like that, so I’m not surprised at all.  I mean, there music is not really very much like Sabaton’s.  Sometimes it might remind you a bit but how would they keep some fans if they weren’t singing about war and not making music that reminds them of Sabaton?  I’d say it was a smart business move.
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Robert – Are you still on good terms with them?
Joakim – Yeah, we were never on bad terms.  Of course it was a little tense at the time we were splitting up, but especially their drummer Daniel, we speak every now and then.
Robert – A little while back there was a lot on Sabaton being banned from Russia.  Were you actually banned from Russia?
Joakim – Yeah, they tried that.  The thing is though they always make an investigation before they ban you, but while the investigation is ongoing, you are banned actually.  We weren’t banned as private persons from going there, but we couldn’t perform.  The band Sabaton wasn’t allowed to perform.  Obviously they found out that this wasn’t the case and it was interesting since we just 2 or 3 weeks before that we were elected honorary members of the 17th Airborne which fought against the Nazi’s in the Operation Market Garden, but it was enough to stop the show, which was a shame because I really would have liked to have been there for the 70th Anniversary for Stalingrad.
Robert – Have you been playing is Russia since?
Joakim – Yeah, actually, I can’t remember in which order but I think we’ve been in Russia two times.  Once supporting the Scorpions and once supporting Iron Maiden, and I can’t remember…wait no, we haven’t been there since.  We had just there 3 months before we were banned playing with Iron Maiden actually.
Robert – But everything’s clear now and you can perform in Russia now?
Joakim – Yes, it’s very clear.
Robert – Last year you headlined ProgPower USA in Atlanta and the same week you played the opening slot of the who’s who of classic metal at the Battle of San Bernardino.  What is the difference in the experience?  Which experience do you prefer, playing ProgPower USA where everyone knows and loves you and you’re headlining or playing in front of a bigger crowd where maybe not everyone knows who you are?
Joakim – Well I like them both in very different ways.  It’s always a boost to play in front of people who know the music.  It’s more of a feeling of coming together and having fun together.  We’re not the kind of guys who stand around on stage looking cool. We like to have fun and we want the audience to join in, so that’s a great thing about a ProgPower situation.  On the other hand, I fucking love a challenge.  Trying to convince Iron Maiden fans who’ve never heard your music and you only have 30 minutes, and you don’t really have a sound check, everything from band to crew has to be working very good and I really like those challenges as well.
Robert – How many fans were at the San Bernardino show, do you know?
Joakim – I think it was about 35,000 or something like that.  Obviously not all of them were there at the time we were playing, but I’d say there were about 20,000 when we were playing.
Robert – This pairing you have with Amon Amarth is quite unusual.  In the past you’ve toured with Accept, Evergrey and Iced Earth, and this is a completely different situation.  How did that come about?  Are you trying to expose yourself to people who haven’t heard you before?
Joakim – Yeah, that’s one of the reasons.  Also another reason is that we work really well with Amon Amarth in Europe.  For some reason, I was asking myself the same questions.  I mean, Amon Amarth is one of the few heavier bands that I enjoy listening to.  They have a little more melody than many of their competitors.  Also, when we do a show in Germany where there might be maybe 5,000 people there, when I look out there I of course see a majority of Sabaton shirts, but the second most common band is probably Amon Amarth.  They are probably the second most common shirt seen at a Sabaton show, so we figured it works there, so it should work here.
Robert – You’re a couple shows into this tour; how have you been accepted so far?
Joakim – Very good.  Luckily, people in the US are quite polite, especially the metal crowd, and they give us the benefit of the doubt if you know what I mean.  We are not dead on arrival.  We can go out and we can see a huge difference seeing people in the crowd who have no experience with us.  You can really see who they are.  You can see them saying “what the fuck’s this?”  “Have the Village People come to town?”  But, at least at the end of the show they might not be the one’s being crazy and moshing but at least they seem to be clapping along and having a good time.
Robert – That was another thing I wanted to ask you.  You guys always look like you’re having the best time; you’re happy on stage and yet your songs are so deep and heavy.  Does that ever seem strange to you?
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Joakim – Yes, sometimes it is.  It’s a paradox in itself.  There are certainly some songs, I mean we have a song about the Holocaust called “The Final Solution” and we only do it on headline concerts and when we totally change the set.  But yeah, it’s certainly a paradox when we’re singing about half a million people dying and between songs I’m making jokes about us looking like The Village People or something like that and we’re laughing.  But we are very serious about our music, and I think there are too many real heroes in history that have been forgotten, so why make up new ones for example.  So we write about something serious.  But on the other hand, myself, when I go to a heavy metal concert, I don’t want to reflect on a half a million people dying. I want to have fun, enjoy some good beer and enjoy some nice company, and listen to music I enjoy.  So for good or bad, the serious side of our lyrics takes one or two step aside when we’re playing live.
Robert – Speaking of Heroes you kind of shifted gears from historical battles to the heroes.  I find it a very unique album and I find myself after listening to it and reading the lyrics going back to learn more about these people. Is that something you think a lot of people do?
Joakim – Well I hope.  Because, as I said I think a lot of real heroes have been forgotten, but we are not here to teach history.  We are a heavy metal band first and foremost.  But I think the idea came up when we were doing…because we’ve always, well not always but for the last ten years, been singing songs about military history.  I think the idea came up in late 2009 when me and Par were sitting down writing the lyrics for what became “Coat of Arms.”  And at that point we’d received a lot of input from our fans from both books to email and we heard of this guy White Death who was a famous sniper and one of the most successful and effective snipers in world history, and we decided to write a song about him and that was the first time we focused on one individual.   It was highly interesting for us to do because, even though it’s bad to say, and it’s almost a Stalin quote, but he said “One man dead is a tragedy but a million dead is statistics.”  But I think it’s easier to relate to the sacrifice made by a single individual that you can actually get a face on, get a name of, that you can learn about – did he have kids, or she in the case of the Night Witch—-because it’s easier to relate to and it’s certainly more emotional.
Robert – I’ve noticed a lot of fans have gone on Youtube and made basically videos by taking clips from movies and stuff like that.  Is that something you enjoy seeing?
Joakim –   If it’s well done, yes.  But some are really, really bad.  I mean when everyone starts out, like when we started our first rehearsals we were really shit, I can tell you that, but I do look at them every now and then, but I don’t go searching Youtube. I wait until somebody shares it on Facebook because if enough people recommend it – but we usually don’t report it.  If somebody is playing video games and has our music in the background I don’t think it’s a big deal.  As long as he’s not trying to make money from it we don’t care.  There are three ways to get from lawyers from us.  One, you try to make money from our music without doing anything, and then trying to get us involved with anything political or religious.  I mean it is controversial enough to sing about war without trying to get us involved with any religious or political point of view.  It’s basically suicide and we don’t want that either.
Robert – What is it about Scandinavia in general and Sweden in particular that it seems like 85% of the great new metal music regardless on genre, whether power metal, death metal, glam, anything, seems to be coming out of Sweden or at least Scandinavia?  Do you have any explanation for that?
Joakim – Yeah, actually there are several factors that I know.  Which one is biggest I don’t really know.  One easy one is that it seems like our musical heritage is something that a lot of people find pleasant to listen to…just listen to Swedish folk music and, I’ve never really thought about it, but probably you can hear some of it in Sabaton, you can hear it in ABBA, you can hear it everywhere you go.  There are just certain ways of adding a harmony.  Look at Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life,” look at all the Backstreet Boys hits which were written by Swedish guys.  And then there is the thing that the Swedish government, and I think it’s the same in Norway and Finland as well, they endorse you a little bit when you’re starting out and playing music.  A guitar teacher will come to school and you only have to pay a very, very small fee and for the first year you get to borrow a guitar for free.  If you keep going you have to buy your own guitar.  When it comes to rehearsal rooms, the local communities or states put up rehearsal rooms, with a couple guitar amps, bass amps, vocal PA – so all you need is to bring your guitar and there you have a rehearsal room.  You pay, I don’t know, $10 or $20 per person a month and that gives you one or two rehearsal slots per week, because it’s shared with many, many bands of course.  And that in combination with cold winters where there’s nothing to do but drink or play music.
Robert – Or both
Joakim – Usually both for Scandinavians, especially the Finnish.  I don’t know the exact reason, but I know for sure all three of those are in the mix.
Robert – It seems like starting about 15 years ago, there was just an explosion out of Scandinavia.
Joakim – Yeah, you had Hammerfall, and then In Flames with the Gothenburg sound, At the Gates, all that.
Robert – So I saw you just announced a headline show at the Whiskey A Go Go.  Such a historic room – has that been someplace you’ve wanted to play before?
Joakim – No, not really for me.  I was never too much, sorry to say, into the Los Angeles glam scene.  You know I do love a few tracks from Motley Crue, but I was really more into the music and not the sex and drugs part of it. But yeah, of course it will be nice to play there.  Who knows how long these bars and places will be around?  I mean it usually happens in every city where they start in the run down part of the city where you can have a rock club or place, and then myth catch’s up and people want to visit and live near those places, and then they end up being a Marriott Hotel in 10 years.
Robert – But are you planning on going down the street to the Rainbow and see if you can have a beer with Lemmy there?
Joakim – I already did actually, but we had Maker’s Mark Bourbon.  Lemmy and I are…what do you call it…not friends?
Robert – Acquaintances?
Joakim – Yeah, exactly.  I’m good friends with their drummer, a Swedish guy.
Robert – Mikkey Dee
Joakim – Yeah, he usually shows up when we’re in the Gothenburg area, and we have some festivals in common, and we both like Snus Swedish tobacco and single malt whiskey.  (laughs)  Yeah, we get along just fine (laughs)
Robert – So who do you listen to when you’re listening to music now?
Joakim – Well, if I’m on the road I usually stay away from heavy metal.  Because I get enough of that hearing sound checks from three bands.  So it could be anything from Dire Straits to ABBA.  But in general my favorite kind of music is classic ‘80s heavy metal, might be Twisted Sister, Accept, anything like that.  Probably my favorite band of all time has to be Rainbow.  I still can’t decide if Rainbow’s Rising or Rainbow’s Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll is the greatest album of all time.  All of them are there I’m sure.
Robert – I was just the other day discussing the greatest album of all time with a friend of mine and Rising was way at the top of my list.  I absolutely love Dio.  Well, thank you for your time.  I appreciate it.
Joakim – Of course.  Nice t-shirt my man (referring to my Pagan’s Mind shirt).  I just saw Nils singing on Norway’s version of The Voice TV show the other day.  I was flipping through channels on TV and there was Nils singing “Run to the Hills.”  He’s such a great singer.
Robert – I just saw him singing in Pagan’s Mind a couple weeks ago at ProgPower USA.  They were recording a DVD and they played 3 hours.
Joakim – Wow!  Three hours?  I don’t know how his voice could handle that.  That’s amazing.
Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

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ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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