PÄR SUNDSTRÖM (SABATON): “On The Last Tour We Had Five Trucks But On This One We Have Eleven So That Shows The Scale Of The Show”

Sabaton at Heugh Battery Museum 3rd March 2022
Photo: Mick Burgess

After Covid scuppered their planned European Tour, instead of sitting around bingeing on Netflix, they regrouped and delivered an extension to their Great War theme with their latest release The War To End All Wars. Their rearranged European Tour starts in Leeds on 14th April and will feature a bigger and more ambitious stage show than ever before. Mick Burgess called up bassist Pär Sundström to talk about the tour and plans for the tour.

In April you’ll be over in the UK for your latest tour. Are you looking forward to playing over here again?

We are looking forward to this a lot. It’s the pinnacle of what we’ve been working on for a very long time. We were one of the last bands to be touring before the pandemic who were lucky enough to finish the tour before everything shut down. We were supposed to follow that tour by a second tour when we were planning on playing more cities than just London but that got postponed due to the Coronavirus. This tour has been in the making for quite some time, so waiting to kick it off in Leeds makes us feel like kids waiting for Christmas. We are extremely excited about this. There’s going to be so many emotions set loose when we finally come over to play.

You were actually over here last year for the re-opening of the Heugh battery Museum in Hartlepool. How did you come to be involved with that?

One of our people in the UK heard about it and told us about this World War One museum that was struggling to stay open and maybe we could do something to help. We did a fundraiser and our fans helped to raise enough to keep it open. We can’t help every museum around the world but we will try.

Your first night in the UK is in Leeds on 14th April at the First Direct Arena. This is your first time back in Leeds since 2006 when you played the Metropolitan University. How are you going to make up for the lost time?

We’ll be playing to a near full arena this time so it’s going to be amazing. I think our first show in Leeds only had a few people so this time it’ll be very different.

What do you enjoy most about being over here?

It’s definitely not the weather. I love the vibe in the UK. There is something real over in the UK, you’re so grounded and honest. It’s a Heavy Metal country with a great musical heritage, the audience is always so enthusiastic and are so into the music.

What have you got lineup in terms of the setlist?

We’ll be pretty much focussed on the last album, The War To End All Wars and the previous album The Great War so there is a focus on World War One but there will be some surprises which will make people sit up. It’s going to be so cool. As the tour actually starts in Leeds, nobody will know the setlist until we play it in Leeds so I will love to see the expression on the fans faces when they see what we have for them in the show. It doesn’t happen like that as much after the first show after people look up the set list online so Leeds will have no warning of the songs we’ll be doing so it will be a very special show on this tour for us.

On your last tour there was a World War One theme to your stage show with the sandbags, ramparts, gun turrets, barbed wire, the Red Baron’s Fokker tri-plane as the keyboard stand and a big tank as a drum riser. How are you going to top that on this tour?

The short answer is more of the good. On the last tour we had five trucks but on this one we have eleven so I think that shows the scale of the show. We have 161 people travelling with us so it’s a huge production. I’m not going to reveal too much but it will be an exciting show. One thing that I can say though is that we will be bringing in more theatre and actors into the show. This will help us to visualise the topics we are singing about. Visually it’ll be a different type of show to what we’ve done before.

You’re joined on this tour by Babymetal and Lordi – that’s a great lineup for the fans. Whose idea was it to put that package together?

The idea was mine. We’ve toured with Babymetal in Japan and we are very good friends with the management of the band. Sabaton is a very entertaining band and we have an open minded audience and Babymetal have a lot of energy and have a great show so I thought they’d work great. With Lordi, we have a long relationship with them. They invited us to open for them in Sweden right after they won the Eurovision Song Contest. We’ve often talked about doing a tour together. Sabaton puts on a show. Now we have three bands bringing a show. It’s a great combination and it will be a great evening for all the people coming to the show. Get there early, you’ll not want to miss any of this.

There is a big military history thread running right though your lyrics. What was it that first attracted you to military history? Was it school or watching classic war films with your Dad?

The interest has always been there. When I was younger I loved Dungeons and Dragons and fantasy but as I got older I realised that reality was far more interesting. The real stories always gripped me in a different way than those which were fictional. When me and Joakim started writing music we wanted to do something that was real but didn’t want to write about our own lives as nothing really exciting had happened to us and we didn’t have a view that we wanted to share and we didn’t want to influence people how to think or act as we are not politically active. We decided that history was interesting and somewhere that we’d like to go so we could tell stories from the real world. Military history has been covered by Metal bands before and it works pretty well. Iron Maiden is one of our favourite bands and they have done songs like this before. We just had that spark to write about military history as we felt that it was really interesting and we go back and forwards through time to cover a lot of eras as we didn’t want to spend too much time in one place as we’d run out of vocabulary. We’ve probably got to that place with World War One and we’re now wrapping up that part of our career so we can’t wait to jump to somewhere else in history and continue after this.

Have you any thoughts about the next era of military history you’ll cover?

We always think of stuff and plan for the future, discussing different topics. We haven’t decided yet but song writing has started a little bit and we still have some songs that we recorded during Coronavirus but don’t yet have lyrics. After we’re done with the European Tour we only have one festival to play then we’ll withdraw and start working on new material and I’m super excited about it. I don’t know what era we’ll write about but we won’t do any World War One for a while. There are a lot of topics we can write about as unfortunately war has always been a natural part of the human history for way too long and unfortunately it continues that way as well so we’ll never run out of material to write about but where we’ll go, we shall see.

You have your own YouTube channel with Indy Neidell. Whose idea was that?

First time I met Indy, he was filming his World War One documentary in Berlin and he found out I was there and he invited me to join him to talk about Sabaton on his channel. We immediately felt there was something we could do together. Before we started working on the Great War album, I invited him to my home town of Falun in Sweden for my birthday. He suggested we did a history channel together. I thought how could I ever say no to this so we just went and did it. We started to work with his colleagues as to how we were going to do this and we ended up with our own channel which now has over 1.7 million subscribers. We thought we’d maybe do this for a year or so but it’s been growing and growing. We have so many angles that we want to do for this, that we’ll keep going for some time yet.

Do you hope that this may stir somebody’s interest in military history firstly through your music and lyrics, your History Editions featuring narration and also via your YouTube Channel who may otherwise not have had an interest in the subject?

It wasn’t really in our thoughts when we started doing this it was more egotistical and still probably is. We don’t think about the audience when choosing a topic, we just look at it and wonder if it’s a good story that we want to tell. It is such a rewarding feeling though when we hear so much from teachers about their students being engaged by the topic and museum people saying they are always having Sabaton fans visiting and then we have students who say that thanks to remembering the words of a song that they’ve passed the test in history. We’ve even had people say they took up as a history student and now they’ve graduated and say that it was all down to us. We have also been in touch with the sons and daughters and grandchildren of the people we sing about and they are gratefully thankful that we have kept the story of their family living on. That means a lot to us and it’s very rewarding. It didn’t start like that but seeing where it leads off to, I’m very happy with that. I think that’s one of the reasons why we strengthened this part. We are first and foremost a Heavy Metal band and we make records and tour wherever we can. We hope to inspire others to play guitars and drums too. When we look at what we can do with our lyrics, it opens up a whole new universe. We can be creative and do more and sometimes those songs can open up so much wider due to the history part of it and that’s a really nice feeling.

You also did an orchestral version The Symphony To End All Wars which is cinematic in scope. Did you work with a live orchestra and choir in the studio?

No, it’s not a live orchestra. Some of the instruments are played by real musicians and some sounds are from sample libraries. It sounds authentic because most of the lead instruments are played by real musicians.

Can you get all three versions in one box set?

We don’t have any plans for that but we do have plans to end our World War One period with a compilation of some sort and we are working on how it will look at the moment.

Most people will be aware of the Christmas Truce and the Treaty Of Versailles but you go much further than that. Is it important to you dig deeper and write about some of the lesser known events and characters.

Yes it is. We’re always looking for an interesting story to tell and sometimes that involves events and characters who are not as well known as others.

“The Unkillable Solder” is about a fascinating character Adrian Carton De Wiart. You could almost write a whole album about his escapades?

Yes we could and that could be done outside of the World War One topic as well. It was an exciting story and we needed to do it but it needed a specific type of music to fit that story. We needed a sort of heroic sound with a positive vibe.

“Hellfighters” which is about The Harlem Hellfighters is another fascinating subject. Not a lot of people know that there was an all African-American Regiment who fought on the front line at a time of terrible segregation and where most involvement was behind the lines doing menial jobs. Is it important to you to highlight and reflect on issues such as this?

These guys required a top song and they got it.

What war documentary can you recommend people to watch?

The Man Who Saved The World is a live action documentary and is a fascinating story about a Soviet commander who prevented a nuclear conflict. It’s one of the scariest, most emotional things you can see so you shouldn’t watch that if you want to feel in a good mood but it’s a great story.

Once the UK shows are over, where do you head next?

The tour goes through Europe for a month and a half and we have a festival date at the start of the summer to wrap it up and then we start working on the next record.

Sabaton UK Tour opens at the First Direct Arena, Leeds on 14th April.

For more on Sabaton visit: sabaton.net

Interview and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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