Swedish metal heroes Sabaton recently released their latest effort “The Last Stand” which continues with the war themes and the big sound that Sabaton is known for. The band are hitting the road in support of the new album so we caught up with singer Joakim Broden to discuss the new songs and what the band have in store for the near future.
Andrew: So hows things with you and the band at the moment?
Joakim: Well pretty intense I have to say [laughs]. Middle of summer festivals and releasing an album and changing guitarists and doing PR!
Andrew: Yeah busy times! Obviously the new album that you mentioned and I will ask you about the guitar player later on but I did want to ask you about the new album “The Last Stand”. I’ve had a few listens to it over the last few days and it’s Sabaton, it’s what we’ve known and grown to love over the years. What can you tell me about this album?
Joakim: Well it’s like you said, it’s really a Sabaton album but the differences are it’s a bit more sense of adventure to it. Especially the first half, there’s a couple of tracks that I think most people didn’t expect. Of course lyrically us spreading out over time in history and geographically that much, that’s never happened before. Except “Carolus Rex”, we’ve always stayed in modern warfare and quite recent military history whereas now we are heading off to anything from ancient Greece 480 BC, jumping over Africa, Asia and we end up in 1988 in Afghanistan in the Soviet/Afghan war.
Andrew: What was the inspiration going back deeper in history?
Joakim: We had this idea about the last stand when we started thinking about last stands and pretty much anything that came in to our mind, obviously one of the first ones would be the battle of Thermopylae. Obviously we talked about the Alamo’s as well, unfortunately we couldn’t do any music that suited it well. But it turned out that basically 50 percent of what came in our minds directly and what we knew about wasn’t really recent military conflict but rather ancient ones. So we decided just to go away from the 1900’s and onward and to go anywhere in time and place I guess.
Andrew: Yeah it was an interesting time with World War 1 and World War 2. What is it about those ideas and those situations in our history that has interested you to write music about it?
Joakim: When it comes to military conflict in general I would say it’s what happens to the individual, the human being that’s most interesting. How such an extreme circumstance as war or battle can bring out the best and the worst in an individual, sometimes both at the same time actually. And the reason is that to mostly World War 1 and World War 2 earlier and everything from Vietnam and the 6 Day War in Israel and the Falkan wars is because it’s pretty well documented and we can tell everybody’s story. I don’t know how many documentaries and interviews there are regarding World War 2 and it’s somehow easier for the general public to relate to because everybody has seen a movie about Worlde War 2, or almost everybody at least and most people have seen 20 of them! You kind of already set the scene but in this case we figured that, well if you’re talking last stands, we can’t just stay in our safe zone. We gotta go out and everywhere.
Andrew: There are some very interesting songs on here that I found quite fascinating, one song being “Blood of Bannockburn”. That one has bagpipes in it so I’m interested to know where the idea for that came from?
Joakim: It was actually me and Par (Sundstrom, bass) sitting down talking about all the battles of the last stand that’s been and we’re going through them all and we discovered that obviously the band Grave had already covered the Battle of Bannockburn, from another point of view for sure. But that one when we had been discussing, it kind of was already taken by another band but then we figured everything is fucking taken in one way or another. The movie 300 came out and should we not do Thermopylae just because of that movie? It’s one of the most iconic last stands and was probably the first thing that would go into my mind even before that movie came out. I kinda like the movie though because it’s not even trying to be historically correct, it’s just fucking testosterone fest all over the place!~What I like, especially when it comes to movies, either you stick to history and do it as good as possible like what band Of Brothers did, fantastic and in the pacific as well. Or you do it the other way around like 300 where we just take the general idea and just go fucking nuts with it.
Andrew: [laughs] Well it’s a cool song and I like the idea of the bagpipes in there. The other song I wanted to ask you about was “The Lost Battalion” because interestingly enough, you used real guns for drum effects which was a very cool idea.
Joakim: I don’t know how that came up but it’s just one of these things. We were probably only 2 weeks away from the recording and at that point I’m always listening back to what’s written before it goes on the album and one thing that struck me as missing was something more strange machine-like and not so organic. That’s when I had this idea which had been growing in my mind over the years that maybe we should be able to make a drum kit out of war zones and I processed a 50 calibre machine gun to create a little bit of high end and enhance the bottom end to make a kick drum. The snare drum is a 9mm pistol and pretty much that’s how a snare drum should sound like if you ask me, not too much processing going on there! The high hat is a bayonnete going into flesh, so there was no real drums played on that track but live obviously we have triggers. So Hannes (van Dahl, drums) plays those sounds live. People say it’s not real but on the other hand, would you really have us 3 people on stage firing guns to the beat of the music?
Andrew: Well that would be a very interesting idea if you did do that actually [laughs].
Joakim: Yeah we gotta increase our budget on ammo quite a bit there, I wonder who is going to be the poor guy standing next to the fucking bayonnete over and over!
Andrew: [laughs] Exactly! Well cool stuff anyway and this album seems to be doing really well, a lot of the fans seem to be responding to it really well and it’s been hitting the charts good so you must be happy with out it’s been received.
Joakim: Yeah I mean for me I’m used to this thing that you start releasing singles, you get a little bit of a hate because it doesn’t sound like it’s supposed to, when you release the album then there’s the usual euphoria and there’s always the backdown where people get used to it and start evaluating it. Then there’s the place where a year later where you really evaluate it but for me it’s already been fun and been destroyed and now it’s starting to get fun again because writing this stuff is fucking fantastic, then when you actually hit the mix that’s when you start tearing it apart. Is everything tight? Do I sing out of tune? Anything and that’s when it becomes boring again because you are kind of breaking it down, you are programming your ears to listen for errors. So for a couple of months now this album has been nothing but a whole bunch of channels of possibly missed errors that we do correct. But now I’m starting to be able to listen to it again so I guess the only way to really evaluate an album is to see how many songs are still in the setlist 5 years from now.
Andrew: Yeah definitely and you will obviously be taking these songs out on the road. I know you’ve been doing shows already so what are some of the plans for the tour and will Australia be included on that?
Joakim: Well that’s what we’re hoping for at least. Right now we’re planning usually one year in advance so we know what we’re going to do up until pretty much one year from now but after that, we’re actually right now looking into Australia. I can’t make any promises but I would be very surprised if we weren’t able to come over in late 2017.
Andrew: It would be good to see you down here. When was the last time you were over here?
Joakim: Oh this is kind of embarrassing to say but 2013, January or February.
Andrew: Almost 4 years now!
Joakim: Yeah and our only time we’ve been there as well [laughs].
Andrew: Well hopefully we will see you here as soon as possible. One of the strongest aspects of the band aside from the music is the live show, everyone say that you put on an absolutely fantastic show. It’s a bit of a pity I have never seen you live but I’m hoping to change that if you guys come down here.
Joakim: Yeah we do a pretty intense and active live show, we’re not the band that stays still on stage. We usually have everything from pyros to tanks on stage but we’re lucky in that sense. We do take our music seriously but not ourselves so during the shows we’ll take the piss out of each other on the microphones, jokes about us or with the crowd for that matter. If you stand in the first row and just yell Slayer, you’re going to have it [laughs].
Andrew: [laughs] Well before I let you go I do want to ask you about the unfortunate news of Thobbe Englund leaving the band. How is everything at the moment and with your replacement who is Tommy Johansson right?
Joakim: Yes that is correct! I gotta say that Thobbe has been with us for 4 and a half years, I’m gonna miss him like hell personally. It’s the guy I related to the most, we’re pretty much the same age and now that he leaves I’m going to be the oldest one in the band!
Joakim: So I’m going to miss him in that sense because we had a lot in common but I also understand that being away doing 170 shows, being 270 days a year away from home isn’t for everyone. So I totally understand that he wants to do something else and also musically he is more of an impovisational kind of guy as well. It’s a risk you take every time you bring someone in, I mean it’s cool that we have Tommy coming in now because he’s a brilliant guitar player so no problem there at all and I hope he’s going to stay with us a long time. But there’s always that choice you have to make if you’re looking for new band members, if you take the seasoned touring musician there’s a chance that guy will last for a long time because he’s already proven he can tour a long time and do all of that. On the other hand, that guy there’s a good chance he’s not a big fan of the band, he’s going to see this as a good job for a paycheck and we always decide to go for someone like Tommy. He’s been a fan of Sabaton since 2005, he’s done covers with his own band of Primo Victoria and we would rather have somebody come into the band who oves it and wants to be a part of it instead of somebody that comes n and sees it as a paycheck. So that’s why we have chosen this way, unfortunately I’ve seen it happen before and I guess we will see it again someday, hopefully not with us but maybe other bands that people find out that being on the road is not for me.
Andrew: Obviously the band has gone through quite a few members over the years so I guess it must be difficult every time a member decides to leave and have to get a new guy to come in.
Joakim: Yeah and most people I miss personally. But I think it’s kind of cool also that in a way we’ve been lucky with the people coming in, that all of them have been wanting to honour those before them. If one guy who played and quit 4 or 6 years ago, there’s still everyone we’ve had coming in who are totally OK with keeping the main melody of that guitar solo that the crowd sings along to which I think is quite important. If Oscar (Montelius) our first guitar player for example, wrote a very noticeable or very well loved solo for the song “Primo Victoria”, somebody who comes in as the new guy doesn’t just piss all over his performance but rather honours it. I mean play the main melody and at the end when it goes really fast, yeah do your own thing.
Andrew: Well it’s fantastic to see you guys come back with a new album and as I said before, we would love to have you come back to Australia at some time in the future. Thanks again for your time today, it’s really appreciated!
Joakim: Anytime man, thanks!