Editor's Note: I was introduced to Sabaton about seven years ago with their Album Primo Victoria and was immediately taken by the epic majesty of their blend of power metal; forceful and anthemic it had a feeling of being almost Wagnerian in style, not because you could, even in the wildest stretch of the imagination, musically compare a song like "Wolfpack" to a piece like the Tannhäuser Overture, but once you heard that sonar and bubbling water backed by Joakim's keyboards you will understand Sabaton's ability to instill grandiose scenes of the dramatic into the mind's eye of the listener much in the very same way Wagner does; it's the kind of music which appeals to the warrior in each and every headbanger out there.
Sabaton's main themes deal with the struggle of mankind in conflict; of the courage, bravery, torment, sadness, revenge and of being victorious...it's music that can give almost anyone that feeling of what it's like to strap on your armor and to beat a sword against a shield or to be deep in a foxhole as 88's pound the frontline...and hasn't that always been the appeal of Heavy Metal, to rise ones fist in the air and rejoice in the brotherhood of our tribe?
When I heard Sabaton was coming stateside, I knew there was no way in hell ThrashHead would pass up the opportunity to talk to these guys, fortunately one of the most hardcore metalheads I knew just happened to be in the warzone...
ThrashHead: How is the tour going?
Joakim:So far so good. We have only visited the hot places so far though. The weather here is really nice. Since it is really, really bellow freezing in Sweden.
Joakim, you are an original member and Chris has been with the band for how long?
Chris: I have been with them since March or April.
ThrashHead: A lot of new members in the band?
Joakim:Yes, three new boys in the band.
ThrashHead: Everybody working good so far?
Joakim:Yes. It is nice to actually have a line up now that wants to tour. It wasn't always the case with the old line up. You had to basically drag the people on to the road. Way more happy and harmonious now.
ThrashHead: Now all of your fans already know this and your logo hints at it, but for those new to Sabaton, what does the name mean?
Joakim:It is actually medieval armor. Our logo, the piece on the S. It is a part of armor to protect the knights in battle.
ThrashHead: Writing process? Who comes up with what?
Joakim:I write the music.
ThrashHead: Music and Lyrics?
Joakim:yes. I usually do the music myself and then me and Par, the bass player; we end up doing lyrics together. So in 90% of the cases it's the music first sometimes I have an idea of what the song is about and I have ideas for the lyrics but it is usually a case of the music first.
ThrashHead: Big war movie buffs?
Joakim:Yes, but to be honest I like more the documentaries. I must honestly say I am a big fan of this, even though it is a bit Hollywood production, the Band of Brothers.
ThrashHead: The Uprising video, did you have much to do with that?
Joakim:Yes. We set that up.
ThrashHead: Did the whole premise come directly from you?
Joakim:Yes, because we didn't have a management at all. We were by ourselves. We had tried before and managers have always been "well this or that doesn't seem important." They aren't on the road and meet the people we meet. So they can't possibly understand what that all means. So we basically got in touch with a director we knew in Poland who set the things up on the Polish side and then we got Peter Stormare, the actor from Prison Break. He is from an hour and half away from where we grew up. He lives in Hollywood now obviously. We just thought we would give him a call. He normally doesn't do music videos because he said "they usually want me to go take the band to Vegas, into the desert and I shoot people and be a bad motherfucker. They want me to do some Hollywood shit. and he said" first of all you are Swedish and kind of from the same area and we have some common friends as well."He was very cool about us He said "also what you are doing is different. It's not fucking bullshit. You are actually flying me into Poland and have me play an actual role. You have thought this through. There is some thought behind this." So he was kind enough to do it.
ThrashHead: Do you get a lot of grief for some of your song titles?
Joakim:What ever you sing about when you have a war theme you are going to have somebody that is pissed off. But to be honest 9 out of 10people who listen to Sabaton get the idea right away. And by talking to the other 10% you can get them to see what the song is about. You get them to see that this song is from a Russian point of view and this one is from a German point of view and this one is from the American point of view. I mean we are not taking sides here. We are telling stories. It is not political propaganda here. It is history. But on the other hand there is always one person that is such a dickhead that no matter what you say they are not going to change their mind.
ThrashHead: I read that you guys put on your own 3 day open air festival? You put that on yourselves?
Joakim:Ya, Ya Ya. We had 6000 last year.
ThrashHead: That is in your own home town?
Joakim:Ya. In Falun. 3 hours north of Stockholm.
ThrashHead: Do you have a lot of bands?
Joakim:We have had everything from Sabaton of course, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Crimson Glory. We had Iced Earth. All kinds of these bands.
ThrashHead: You guys have opened for Maiden? In Sweden?
Joakim:Yes. We are doing it five more times this year.
ThrashHead: (to Chris) How was it the first time?
Joakim:He hasn't done it yet.(laughter) He wasn't in the band at the time. We have played with them several times at festivals. They are very laid back. They have never really been hiding back stage in their own private backstage as many other major bands do. I have run into the a few times and I can honestly say they are very laid back and nice guys. I remember in Gothenburg, Sweden the summer before, Adrian was on the side of the stage watching the show. They are relaxed.
ThrashHead: Any other Swedish talent you are listening to or want to promote?
Joakim:I really like Amon Amarth.
ThrashHead: I love them!!
Joakim:They are a favorite of mine also. Our producer Peter Tagtgren and both his bands Pain and Hypocrisy.
ThrashHead: How is working with him?
Joakim:It is interesting. We live 45 minutes away from each other. So his studio is 45 minutes away from our home. And let's just say with Peter, I fucking love him! But with him it is either on or off. When you do the album he is not drinking at all for the whole month you know. No alcohol whatsoever. So every thing is focused. He is producing. He is up early in the morning making final touches even before we wake up. We are like "oh, sorry we are late." He is "no, no, I just wanted to get in early and fix some stuff. I want to get the snare a little bit better." Stuff like that.
On the other hand if you really party with him and he says" let's get drunk" That's when you should get extra insurance actually.
Chris: He's a character!
ThrashHead: You guys have toured here before right?
Joakim:Yes. The first time we toured here it was with ACCEPT. One show in Austin and one in Atlanta. Prog Power 2009.Then we did 2011 we toured with ACCEPT here for 6 or so weeks. Late 2011 we came here again and played with EVERGREY. Then we came here April/May of last year and did 30/33 shows but were mainly East Coast. And this one is mostly the south.
ThrashHead: So I take you like to tour then?
Joakim:We started touring on the 15th of April and we have done over a 120 shows already.
Chris: It is a hectic schedule!
ThrashHead: American tour vs. European tour?
Joakim:It is a different thing we wouldn't be without both of them obviously. A good night for us in America is 600 and a not so good night is100. While in Europe a good night will be 6000 and a not so good night a1000. Sooo. It is a bit of a different thing. But I still enjoy you know, being thrown into different situations because it can get boring. Even if you do the same thing all the time. I want a change of scenery. I want to be on a small stage sometimes. Its really cool to be on a major festival stage, supporting an act like Maiden is really cool. But on the other hand, only doing that there is no real audience interaction. You can't really hear someone shout out a song and ok let's play it. The 2 times we have been here there were never very big crowds but both times they were really great crowds.
ThrashHead: (to Chris) Now have you played in other bands?
Chris: Yes, NOCTURNAL RITES.
ThrashHead: Did you leave on good terms?
Chris . No, Actually I am still in the band. No, with NOCTURNAL we don't play as much any more. Maybe 5 or 6 shows a year maybe. We have played some shows with SABATON and that is how I came into contact with them. I actually met Par at some metal festival in my home town up north when I played with NOCTURNAL and I was talking to him. I was mentioning to him what's happening with SABATON. He called me up a few days later and said "Do you want to join this?" We were doing a new album with NOCTURNAL also.
ThrashHead: Tell me about the new album
Joakim:The one from this May or the new one coming out later this year?
Joakim:It is called Carolus Rex. Its is basically about the Swedish Empire. The rise and fall of the Swedish Empire. Sort of a brief military history of how a really shitty small country becomes a major power in Europe and is actually the final threat to the Holy Roman Empire which by then is already in its death bed.
ThrashHead: Next album?
Joakim:at the end of this year we will seriously start writing and early next year we will start recording.
ThrashHead: How has it been being picked up by Nuclear Blast?
Joakim:I can only say it has been positive. No label has given us as much freedom as Nuclear Blast. No asking for demo's in between. As long we are making a Heavy Metal album and not that Hip Hop shit.
ThrashHead: You guys have been nominated for 2 Swedish Grammy's?
Joakim:Actually no. We have been nominated 3 times!
ThrashHead: You haven't won?
Joakim:NO!! We will never win. We are in the Best Hard Rock/ Metal Category.
ThrashHead: Who has beat you out?
Joakim:In Flames. That makes it kind of tough. But also the fucked up thing is if it was the peoples vote we would have won. But it is 50% jury vote and 50% peoples vote and the jury doesn't like us because we are in Sweden regarded as Every Man's Heavy Metal. Easily accessible, easy to listen to. So it's not as cool to listen to us as it is to listen to more obscure Death Metal. So a band like KATATONIA has a better chance of winning then we do. Even though we have sold gold in Sweden, almost close to platinum.
ThrashHead: At least to lose to In Flames isn't such a kick in the balls!
Joakim:Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. I totally understand those guys. Yes, they are one insanely successful band and they do deserve it.
Do you think you have painted yourselves into a corner with the war themed topics?
ThrashHead; Joakim: Yes, we have painted ourselves into a corner. Its kind of a big corner. Even if for some magical reason there would be no more wars ever, ever, ever we still have enough material for several hundred more albums. I am not really that worried. If we get tired of it we could do is make an album called Cease Fire. There are enough bands singing about fucking women, drinking beer and killing dragons already. There so many amazing stories in history, especially war history that are being forgotten. So make up new ones.
Chris: Are there any other bands that sing about actual historic war? I mean like MANOWAR is stuff like Dungeons and Dragons and made up fantasy.
Joakim:I know there are some bands that have a few songs about war.
ThrashHead: When you have the re-enactors do you have a bunch of chuckle heads showing up SS stuff? I know that for the re-enactment I get the SS stuff but?
When we played in Poland we have the Polish resistance soldiers on stage when we play our song UPRISING. I remember when we played at the battlefield on the 70th anniversary of the battle of WIZNA they had a re-enactment of the start of the battle. So we actually had a big field next to the stage that they had Panzerkampfwagen and Mark IVs rolling in. The Germans are coming and the Polish on horseback. This was the re-enactment before the show which was kind of cool actually. Especially because you are on the battlefield where it actually happened on the 70th anniversary.
Chris: IRON MAIDEN. I grew up with IRON MAIDEN. The first time I heard them I was 7 years old at a friends house, I heard POWERSLAVE. I was like WOW! It was a totally different thing for me.
ThrashHead: Favorite MAIDEN album?
Chris: It's a hard one for me actually POWERSLAVE is closest to my heart, but as the years passed by I have to say SEVENTH SON.
ThrashHead: (to Joakim) Influences for you? Joakim: I am a bit older so I listen to a bit older stuff. Actually I say RAINBOW, ACCEPT, BLACK SABBATH especially the DIO years. He is a KING!
Joakim:It is in the Swedish constitution that you have to like ABBA or you get executed.
ThrashHead: ACCEPT? Do you like the new singer?
Joakim:Yeah! I am actually quite happy with it. We toured with both ACCEPT and UDO and I am really happy because now I have 2 really good bands to listen too instead of one. I thought BLOOD of the NATION was better than STALINGRAD. I would say it is one of ACCEPT's four or five best albums ever.
ThrashHead: Thank you for your time!