Just over a year ago I got my first taste of Avatar‘s “Black Waltz”. The Swedish quintet had actually released three previous efforts, all good, but it was the “Black Waltz” which set a new standard for the band. The strength of the incredible 11-song set took on a whole new life when it inadvertently met vocalist Johannes Eckerström’s dark passenger, The Clown.
Last March I spent a good 40 minutes talking to Johannes about the birth of the clown, “Black Waltz” and much, much more. The poor man had been up for more than 24 hours and was near comatose when I called, but he downed a little Sterno and burnt the midnight oil with me. This week I was afforded the opportunity to sit down with Eckerström again when the band rolled through town for one of only a dozen headline dates on their first U.S. tour.
When we last spoke, Eckerström had talked about the new direction of the band, which initially began in a typical Swedish melodic death metal vein. He said it would take a while for the band to discover if the “Black Waltz” was a permanent directional change, or just another variation on the band’s evolving sound. A year hence that first conversation he has a better sense of what the future holds.
“This well is pretty deep we have discovered,” offers a smiling Eckerström. “We have discovered what’s going on right now and how we started to do music with ‘Black Waltz’. I think we’ll stick with it in principle. It will still be a whole different album because we’re not really fans of repeating ourselves. But still, the clown will stay. The freakshow prevails.”
The band wrote “Black Waltz” in 2011 and they have been touring it for a solid year. I asked Johannes if they will continue touring or return home to begin writing the next album. He stated that the band indeed hopes to continue touring but offered, they are writing new material in the process. The band has even been performing a new track “Dying To See Your Dead” on their recent headline dates.
“We’re doing it parallel,” says Johannes of touring and writing. “It’s here and there. We try to bring the stuff over to write on tour but something about the discipline” he grins holding up a beer can, “when touring. Also the environment is not always inspiring–sitting on a shaking bed trying to play guitar. Or even worse, trying to record some vocals. It doesn’t really work. But before we went here and when we go home and until we go out to tour next time, I will, in between, always keep on writing.”
When Avatar, which also includes drummer John Alfredsson, bassist Henrik Sandelin and guitarists Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström, began their U.S. tour they were opening the bill for Sevendust and Lacuna Coil before this dozen headline dates to close it all out. Johannes talked about how the tour has treated the band as an opening act and the differences between European and American crowds.
“The best thing about it, in Europe, we compare again, there are different cultures for each country of how excited people are on checking out the openers. Down south and to the east people take every chance they can to see every band they can. Where I’m from, from the north, every one is in a band and everyone is cheap on how much they want to spend on beer at the club. So we do our pre-parties up until the very last second and then run over to the venue to see the band we bought the ticket for. You guys, all over the states as far as I’ve seen are more like south and eastern Europeans. So we have played for full houses every night. We blew them away and they blew us away.”
Check out the full interview with Johannes below and discover his fondness for “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and The Elephant Man. Check out our review of the band’s headline performance and catch up with last winter’s interview. as well as our review of “Black Waltz”.