AVATAR : Express Interview, Download Edition.

Written by on 2016-09-15

There is something great about following an artist through the years, especially when his career gets richer and richer with each new release. Ever since “Black Waltz”, their fourth album, the Swedes from AVATAR have kept exploring their style, developing their writing and offering records of tremendous power and diversity.

And given the heights reached by their first concept album “Feathers And Flesh”, we took the opportunity of the French edition of Download Festival to sit down with lead singer Johannes Eckerström, so that he can tell us more about this artistic growth.

Excerpts, check the podcast for the full interview.


“And the thing is that we didn’t fully understand what a concept album would mean and what it takes to make one, and what the difference is… That we had no idea was the part that attracted me the most when doing it.”

Listen to the full interview

Gus : So I’m sitting today once again with Johannes , the lead singer of AVATAR from Gothenburg Sweden and we are here to discuss your latest record “Feathers And Flesh”. How are you doing today?

Johannes : I’m doing good. We were the first ones to arrive at this festival ever, cause we arrived last evening and it was very post-apocalyptic and nice and cozy here yesterday. Just now it’s gonna be a weird day because we’re in such a hurry: we do the press, then we get changed and we do the show and then we leave because we play Download UK tomorrow. It’s all gonna be intense but I’m good. How are you?

Gus : In 2013, we had an interview together in Paris. And you said, I quote : “A concept album is not something we are interested in doing yet.” When did you realise this one was going to be a concept album?

Johannes : Probably five minutes after the interview with you then. I can’t remember when the talks started to get serious about it but I always feel like the fact that with everyone in the band there is always something being written or ideas being thrown around, but there’s also that clear starting day when we together start to work on an album. And I guess that happened more or less around April last year. And that is also around that time where we had reached a point where I said “hey guys, this is gonna be a lot of birds this time”. But it had built towards that and I think it’s kind of a natural part for us, when we figure out how to do the next unnatural step, if you know what I mean. We always want to make sure than what we do is hard for us, to have a big challenge, the same way diamonds are created under pressure. And the thing that we didn’t fully understand what a concept album would mean and what it takes to make one, and what the difference is… That we had no idea was the part that attracted me the most when doing it

“And then we started to trust that the sound of AVATAR is the fact that it’s sung by me, drummed by John, guitars are Tim and Jonas and Henrik on the bass, that is the sound.”

Gus : You worked with Sylvia Massy who is very well known for her work with TOOL and SYSTEM OF A DOWN. Is that because you wanted somebody who had already produced bands like those that you wanted to work with her?

Johannes : We did not really exactly know what we were looking for in a producer. What we knew more than that was that we knew what we were not looking for every time we met the wrong people. Because we got to talk with some big names and sat down in festivals or whatever and it always felt like just another gig and it’s talk business before we talk music and once we got introduced to Sylvia, she’s a true artist and we talked about art, we talked about music and we talked about concept albums and she has shouted “Yaya !” you know and it was on that level immediately, that excitement. That together with her merits… the merits don’t hurt but her hunger and her competence was what interested us the most because there are a lot of people who produced masterpieces in the past, but then they always lean back on that, they rely on that and they are that guy who did that thing 25 years ago. And Sylvia also did that thing 25 years ago, but also 20 years ago, 15 years ago and yesterday: she keeps going and keeps reinventing herself and that is inspiring and where we find each other.

Gus : And while the story crafted is really impressive, I mean as soon as I knew there was a book with it, I knew that it was an AVATAR song, and an AVATAR theme and an AVATAR record with all that it implies, did you write all of it alone ?

Johannes : Yes, I have to think here because there’s always on the album here and there some input from the band but I cannot think of anything where they touched my things. Because in the beginning we did some collaborative lyrics, me and Jonas like in the early early days of the band and stuff but then it’s like I was the one who kept interest in doing lyrics and being a writer so the door is always open and everyone can write anything for AVATAR within the band but it’s just that I have written a thousand times more words for this band than anyone else in the group (laughs) cause I always got the headstart so as far as I remember I wrote it all, and definitely the poem parts, the story parts.

Gus : You are touring a lot and you mentioned on twitter that you were currently working on European dates for later in 2016, so can you give us an update on that?

Johannes : Well it’s basically in the same position where I’ve seen a paper with offers, meaning it’s definitely in the making and I cannot give any dates but it looks like if it all goes the ways it should for instance we will have more than just Paris when it comes to France this time and I really keep my fingers crossed for that./p>

Full interview to be found in the podcast.

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