Interview with Olavi Mikkonen (Amon Amarth)

MER: Hello Olavi great to see you again! Thanks for taking the time to sit down, chat and catch up. Congratulations on the new album Twilight of the Thunder God. What kind of response are you getting from fans, and your peers?

Olavi Mikkonen: It’s been overwhelming, it seems like everybody is getting into it and likes it. We are VERY pleased!

MER: Did the writing & recording process differ from that of With Oden on Our Side?

Olavi: No, we had…… do you say, we stuck with the same basic structure as we had on With Oden on Our Side.

MER: It would seem by recent Tour Diaries, including home footage, that Amon Amarth is displaying great humor, while enjoying a laid back attitude, and over-all appear to be having a great time with everything… Has it always been this way, or have things just been getting that much better?

Olavi: I think it’s always been like that… you know for us if it’s not fun we wouldn’t continue. For example when we play live, if we look bored, people will think we are boring.

MER: It’s contagious and spills over into the crowd.

Olavi: YES EXACTLY! As long as we have fun, the audience will have fun. Also the song writing gets better when you have fun performing.

MER: Yeah, I guess it would invoke much more motivation when one enjoys what they are doing, like anything in life.

Olavi: Yes, your right, Definitely!

MER: Ok, Olavi… just like any other of your tours, everyone seems in good spirits, laughing and generally just having a great time. Please indulge the listeners and tell us what is the funniest moment of the tour thus far?

Olavi: …I guess it’s an inside joke that we have that we will let you in on. At the beginning of the tour we flew out from Germany, and one of the guys brought a German copy of MetalHammer magazine and there was a cover story about us. Inside there was a little fact section about each band member. They asked Johan Hegg what his previous jobs were and Johan has been a butcher and a salesman, but the guy who wrote the interview did not catch “salesman” because he thought he was a sailor. So in MetalHammer it says that Johan has been a butcher and a sailor, so we have been calling him “Skipper” on this tour. (laughing emphatically, and then Olavi explains himself a little further…) (in between laughter), It’s not that the interviewer heard Johan wrong when he said “salesman”, English not being his first language, he took it literally by what he heard, which was “sailsman” (and then we almost both pissed our pants laughing).

MER: Twilight of The Thunder God was offered in a couple different packages… one of them included limited edition Bobble heads of each Band member. Who’s idea was this?

Olavi: The idea came in a meeting we had with Metal Blade last year. They wanted to do some kind of special edition package and when we saw the bobble head idea, we all totally agreed that it was a very cool idea, and you know it was meant to to be a funny thing! You can’t be serious ALL of the time! Basically the design was taken from different photos of us.

MER: So was there a specific photo shoot for the bobble heads, or was it taken from past photos?

Olavi: No it was from past photos… live shots I think.

MER: Cool, very life like!

Olavi: Yes very!

MER: But there is something we should address with Hegg… we have to find out if he threatened the creators to take some girth off the middle of his… (laughing)

Olavi: (laughing)… yes but you have seen me too Chaos! (laughter continues)

MER: Over the years Amon Amarth have played to massive crowds such as W.O.A, as well as small crowds on the club-circuit. Which is more challenging… the Huge Sea of people… or the intimate, interactive small crowd?

Olavi: The small crowds. When you play crowds the size of Wacken you don’t really feel connected to the crowd. From the stage, the photo pit is like…

MER: It keeps the crowd at a great distance from the stage…

Olavi: Ya! So you don’t really get the connection, but in clubs you can totally connect with people so that’s tougher, and also funnier! (and of course more laughter)

MER: From December 28-31 of 08, you will be treating German Fans to “Bloodshed over Bochum” which will see Amon Amarth playing The first 4-full length albums, one album per day. This is a Fans Dream come true. How was this idea conceived & how did it come to fruition?

Olavi: Actually that’s one of the other things we talked about in the meeting with Metal Blade last year. The idea we had from the beginning was that it would be fun to do a smaller club tour were we would only play all old songs, but we realized that in reality maybe it’s not that easy to pull off. Then someone came up with the idea to book one venue four days in a row, we thought it was a good idea and the more we thought about it, the better it sounded. As far as I know the four day passes have sold out, so it’s going to be amazing!!

MER: I can’t think of any other band that has done this…

Olavi: Me neither, but we Like doing things that nobody else has done!

MER: Some of the material from the first 4 albums have NEVER been played live, is this something you are a bit nervous about or do you think it will prove to be quite a euphoric experience?

Olavi: (Olavi pauses, then takes in a deep breath) OF COURSE we’re nervous! There’s going to be a lot of practicing, but it’s going to be fun for us too, you know playing songs we’ve NEVER played live, so…

MER: It keeps it fresh……

Olavi: YES definitely! I think it is going to be a great challenge!

MER: So getting back to being nervous, since you have never played a lot of this material live, do you think the nerves are going to be like that of when you first recorded these songs, or more like having fear of forgetting?

Olavi: Fear of forgetting! I think we are going to be practicing like crazy, and the plan is to do some form of recording for this event, because having this kind of gig it would be stupid not to document it… so that’s not going to make it easier!… (chuckles)

MER: …and not only is it going to be seen by a large amount of people live, there will be a permanent record of it on CD, and probably DVD.

Olavi: Ya, (chuckles), that makes it kinda…….ya(chuckles). It’s going to be fun, and I think we’re going to play 60 songs in those four days, so it’s going to be a lot of practicing.

MER: Amon Amarth has been invited as guests on the European Unholy Alliance III tour. We have spoken in the past of how the band are big Slayer fans. When you were thrashing around to South of Heaven or Reign in Blood in your bedroom back in the day…..did you ever dream that the Mighty Slayer, would take interest, and invite the band to be guest tour mates? What does something like this feel like?

Olavi: An amazing feeling! To me that’s the highlight of our career so far. We were stoked when we got the offer, and you know… if Slayer wants to bring you on tour, you don’t say no. It’s going to be A LOT of fun!

MER: With Oden on Our Side was hailed as a Masterpiece by fans and Industry peers alike. Once this is achieved, it must be extremely difficult to NOT recreate, replicate,duplicate or clone the said masterpiece… of course it is instinctual to follow the exact same formula for success. How did you avoid this? How did you manage not to make With Oden on Our Side II?

Olavi: I think we just continued the way we always have done. You know, we really did not think much about it. Of course you’re going to have similar production because we chose to use the same producer,… but songwriting wise we just followed our path, you know? We never thought anything about trying to make it sound like the last record. I’m pretty convinced that if not the first impression of the fans, that the new one is even better than the last record but maybe 6 months down the road it will be appreciated even more. I am definitely convinced that the new record is our top of the line.

MER: Agreed. On Twilight of The Thunder God, there are some things that are not typically found on previous albums, such as Brass horns, Cellos, some different vocal styles & not to mention a tonne of nuances. Who did the Brass horns?

Olavi: The horns were done by people our producer knows.

MER: Apocalyptica did the strings, were these parts written for them or were they chosen after?

Olavi: We gave them the riffs on guitar, so they just…

MER: Transposed them…

Olavi: Ya, and they also built it up, we only gave them the melody, and they built on that and made some harmonies.

MER: Sounds great on the album…

Olavi: Ya! We were stoked when we heard it!

MER: A few weeks ago Roope from Children of Bodom, was telling me about the solo he did on the title track of Twilight of the Thunder God. He expressed that it was strange to do this over the computer and communicate this way while recording, but at the same time a lot of fun. Was it strange for you as well, and how did Roope fall into this duty?

Olavi: First of all I think he did an EXCELLENT job!! We always had the idea that we wanted a guitar shredder in one of our songs. Me and Johan… we didn’t… we couldn’t… we can’t shred. (laughter)… so we asked Roope since we know Roope likes us, and we like Roope, and he said “yes of course” so we gave him the fastest song(again laughter)… so we could use his talent to its full potential. I heard he had some trouble with his computer back home, but it all worked out and we are VERY pleased.

MER: In closing is there anything you want to say to the fans?

Olavi: If you haven’t checked out the new album, you definitely should! Thanks for all the Support!

MER: OK Olavi, thank you as always for the hospitality, and until next time!

Olavi: Yes, until next time!


  • Chaos

    Chaos was a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio. His Metal journey started in 1976 when his father (a popular morning FM radio personality) handed him an LP of KISS' Destroyer. One night in 1979 he woke up to his uncle's hand over his mouth, and the words "We're going to see KISS" uttered. Against his father's will he found out later. Sitting on his uncle's shoulders in the 2nd row for the entire Dynasty show, his life would never be the same. From there he moved on to AC/DC, W.A.S.P., and the three bands that would never let him down, Motörhead, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. He got into Thrash Metal early and tried to turn all his friends onto this new band, Metallica's first album Kill 'Em All.

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