22.07.2019 • Samuel Sámel
In the hellish heat and dust of the Nova Rock festival, we arranged a meeting that was supposed to be not only about music but also about history. The guide was a singer and one of the authors of the music and lyrics of the band Sabaton Joakim Brodén. We learned a lot about the new album, cooperation with gaming company Wargaming, but also about how Jocke is trying to spoil Tommy's guitar solos or the potential title of the band's future album.
How are you?
Great, but also a lot happened in past few weeks. We went directly from album recording into finishing artwork into booking our tour and then into PR tour and directly into festival summer. Me and Pär did 400 interviews in about two and a half weeks. On the other hand, I know to say now! (Laugh)
By any means this is the darkest album you ever made ...
It´s pretty dark, yeah! But I feel like it was necessary because it fits the topic. With us singing about Heroes for example - it´s heroic, Last Stand even - even with that album we are singing about heroic stuff. I mean ... we are not singing about joy-happy-happy-joy-joy-joy but there is something to be celebrated there. However in this album, we have to keep in mind it is dark, it has to be more atmospheric - all only by the topic of the album so we didn´t planned it to be harder, faster or slower. That´s how it turned out. That´s how you can talk about World War I.
The first song you released from your album was actually not your song - it was cover of unreleased song Fields of Verdun by Apocalyptica. Who came with the idea?
That was Pär. He talked with the guys from Apocalyptica on the festival, we know the guys and they seem to like us. I hope at least. (Laugh) And they talked about what cool stuff we can do together. Then one thing leads to another and somebody comes out with idea that we should do cover. But not too many people actually listen to covers. It wouldn´t make sense to make something like that. But they could do something really different. So ... how we make people listen to cover ... hmm ... let´s release it before the original. And it worked!
Can you give us a little inside look on new Sabaton album - Great War?
It´s very much of a Sabaton album, I would say. But it´s full of surprises. But that´s what we always try to do. Make one or two surprises. Maybe this one has three! (Laugh) It´s all about the listener. I mean you instantly understand that this is the Sabaton album. With that being said I don´t think it sounds like any other Sabaton album. It´s really hard for us to describe it because every listener has his own very unique experience. For example - some people told us exactly what you told me right now: "It´s darker." And I tend to agree with that. Other people think it´s not darker at all. I am wondering what kind of ears they are using to hear that. (Laugh) I´ve done a lot of interviews on this album now and a lot of people who heard the album before - you´d be scared actually in how people analyze that album differently. I probably heard hundred opinions on the album so far and half of them are within the expected areas and the other half is completely different. Sometimes I am wondering "Did you even heard Sabaton album or did somebody gave you Kreator album to listen to?"
What are those different opinions?
We talked about it before. It´s darker and more atmospheric than before. And I think it´s pretty obvious. But there are people telling me "No." And I am like "You don´t think this is darker and more atmospheric like Heroes or The Last Stand?". And the response is "No, pretty much the same." And I am like "WHAT?!"
To promote the new album, the tour starts in North America. When are you planning to do Europe?
As soon as possible! We have plans already and we are sorting it out. We can´t announce it until we play the festivals. That´s the thing. The festivals don´t wanna us talking about future tours before we play the festival. But announcement of the European tour would be very shortly now.
(Edit: EU Tour was already announced. Interview was done at Nova Rock festival before announcement. - link>)
I would go a little back from the new album. You started your cooperation with Wargaming and the first thing you did was video for World of Tanks - it was video for "Primo Victoria". From the very first time I´ve seen it, there are two things stuck in my head - first - Great video! Second - Why the hell Primo Victoria?!
Oh! That´s the song they wanted because they needed the name for the tank. They wanted to do a tank in the game. And it´s cool! But you can´t really call tank "Panzerkampf" which would be the most obvious choice for the song, you know. And you can´t call single tank "Panzer Battalion". So that was their choice. We obviously thought "Ghost Division" would be fitting one and there you also have a name but ... It does make some sense actually. "Primo Victoria" never had a video, that´s for sure.
The other video you made from the cooperation was "Bismarck". I love the song and it gets a lot of positive feedback. On the other hand I am kind of confused because that´s the only historical song I can remember you made and it has historical facts, historical figure but it doesn´t have any story at all. I mean there are facts like it was built, crew is 2,000, it is 40,000 tons of steel. It was built and it was sink. Nothing in between. And there is a big story in this specific case.
We had to compress. Our new album is even worse in that case. We are trying to cover 4 years of conflict in about 40 minutes of heavy metal. And we had to choose which way to go. I mean if we would want to make Bismarck properly we would have to write five songs! The thing is that we wanted to do something for our fans at our 20th anniversary because it´s our 20th anniversary this year. And we thought - "Which one should we do?" Well, the most requested one! The most requested story by our fans was Bismarck. So we did it and luckily enough we made a video. But we didn´t even know where to start. So we talked with the guys in the Wargaming because they also have World of Warships. So it makes total sense that they wanted us to make a video.
So you covered World of Tanks, World of Warships, but there is still one more to go - World of Warplanes. Can we expect something?
We have no plans. I mean if you´d ask me half a year ago ... or maybe a little bit more than half a year ago ... we didn´t have plans to make something with World of Warships. We are not working like "What are we gonna do?" That´s the wrong way to do it. It should be more like "This is what we wanna do." and then "Who can we do this better with?".
Okay! Back to the new album! From what I´ve seen you covered whole conflict except Italian Front ...
There is a LOT of stuff we didn´t mention! I mean we didn´t even mention The first shot in Sarajevo! For every story we choose to tell, we got about 10 stories. And one story might exclude another one. Sometimes we want to get emotional side. Sometimes we want to make the most effective side. And sometimes our favourite stories are not even on the album. My favourite story is about Harlem Hellfighters. African-Americans fighting and nobody wanted to fight along side them. Pretty soon they found out nobody want to fight against them either. They were total badass! And free song title! Harlem Hellfighters! It´s like everything is served on the plate. But we didn´t have right music. If we don´t have music that matches the topic, it´s doomed. We tried once or twice already to match it but it doesn´t work for us. This is by no means our top ten favourite stories. These are the ones chosen by the music. We were looking at about 120 different ones. These were ones we could work with. Then we were listening to music and all of the sudden we were down to 40. Directly without even trying. That was time when you start to do deeper research and as your research progresses, some of those stories just go away. The music is not speaking the same emotional language as story.
On the album, there was the first time that Tommy was creating the music. What are the new elements that he bring to the music? Are there any?
Yeah, but I mean ... we wrote it together because we didn´t know if we could write songs together. He obviously can write the songs because he have band of his own but we didn´t know if we are compatible as a songwriters so we sat down and it was late 2017 actually. "Let´s see if we can write songs together" and he was like "Yeah, sure!" And we did. And that was time when we came with "The Ghost in the Trenches". But at that point we didn´t know what it would be about at all. That was just "Oh! That sounds great! Let´s have it on the album", you know. But it was hard to find the story because it has catchy upbeat track. So it was like "Oh, shit, no, fuuuuuck...." But eventually we found story about Francis Pegamegabow that matched perfectly.
How the hell have you learned to pronounce it so easily?
Doing the couple hundreds of interviews. Because at first you went like "Pegamaba ... Pegame ... Pegamegabow. OK!"
You have 10-12 songs on each album. But there have to be hundreds of those that didn´t get on the album...
Yes, but very few of those are finished. I have a lot of stuff laying around that I´ve never finished. Just because if something was at some point not good enough for Sabaton album, it will never be on Sabaton album. But if something wasn´t on Sabaton album because we couldn´t finish it as good as we wanted, than it could be on future Sabaton album. We have some songs finished but if it wasn´t good enough to make it to The Art of War album, why the fuck should it go on The Great War?! We should increase the standard. But I have a LOT od stuff I´ve never finished. That´s probably about 80 songs. But 80% of those songs is only the intro. (Laugh)
The one thing stuck in my mind - when are you planning to release orchestral versions of your songs?
This one is coming with it! The Soundtrack of The Great War is 100% orchestral. Well, it´s orchestral plus hybrid elements. It´s like movie trailers. It´s not only orchestral there could be any elements. But mostly orchestral. There is some singing in some places but The Soundtrack of The Great War is orchestrated orchestral version of The Great War. And nothing that´s on the album is on that version. We didn´t take any files of anything and put it there. It´s totally separate project. But it´s really fun to listen to actually. I think you´ll like it actually.
Every thursday, you are releasing piece that is called Sabaton History Channel that is somehow dream come true for you guys, as far as I noticed over the years when we spoke together.
Yes, it is! It´s something we´ve been talking for a long time and also that´s the great thing about having these crazy ideas and dreams. Because it´s another cooperation that just clicked. It was good timing also because Indy is almost finished with The Great War channel and when we met for the first time, me, Pär and Indy talked for like 5 hours about history. What we could do, what we should do, what we couldn´t do ... well, probably could try, but shouldn´t try. And it was really inspiring. And he is musician himself too, you know. He was in Grammy winning Swedish band. He is a keyboarder so he knows the whole thing. What we do, it will give you info that will help you understand the lyrics. And we make sure that happens. And it makes me so happy when I found in comments "Oh, Okay, now that´s why they have that! That makes so much sense now. I didn´t understand that before." Because maybe they just didn´t read the same book we get, I mean, history is not like you go to one place and you find everything about it. Sometimes, you have to read 20 books. Other thing is that we have festivals, we have tours, but this - when we are filming it - it is a lot of fun.
Were you thinking about making it into a book?
Never say never. Maybe, but I don´t belive we have enough yet to make a book. But maybe one day we will. Every script is about 1700 - 1800 words. Book is 80 thousand.
What are your concert habits - if you are not sitting in backstage and sweating like right now?
When I am on tour, I usually try to go out and see something because it´s dangerous to get stuck in a tour bubble. Only seeing venues and tourbuses is very dangerous. So I try to get out - if I get a chance a little hiking, if it is one day off and I don´t wanna be fucked up before the show, it´s audiobooks, reading - obviously being a fan of history, ... But every tour is different - once I had tourproject when I tried to read some books I´ve been putting aside for a long time. Then my project of losing 5 kilos, I guess. (Laugh) I love to find some pinball bars when we are on American tour to get in shape for Swedisch championship.
Your music is pretty serious, you as a guys are quite the opposite. Were you thinking about combining what you do and how you behave normally? Like doing song about The Great Emu War or something .... ?
Yeah! (Laugh) We take our music seriously, but not ourselves. On the other hand, I always have that plan that one day we fuck up with our fans and release album called "Cease Fire" just for fun. But I don´t know. It is actually a paradox that we are bunch of happy guys giving each other a nipple twisters - I always try to give one at least on the show. Somebodys nipple must hurt. But that´s fun. We don´t do it to disrespect history. We do it to make Tommy fuck up guitar solo. (Laugh)