Opeth are gearing up to release their new album Heritage on the 21st of September. Moreover the band is also getting ready to perform at both Canada’s Heavy MTL and T.O. festivals in July. Recently I got to fire off some questions to guitarist Fredrik Åkesson and gain a bit of insight into the new album, keyboardist situation and Fredrik’s new signature guitar.
You are releasing your second album with Opeth, Heritage. Did you find it easier this time around, then when working on Watershed?
Fredrik: Yeah in a way it was a relaxed recording and we were well prepared. Recording with Jan was different to who has been in the studio since ’73. We wanted to do an honest and organic album and I think we managed to do that.
Where did the name Heritage come from?
Fredrik: Mike came up with the title. It suits the record because of the more vintage approach we have on Heritage sound-wise and some Swedish folk tones that we consider our heritage.
Can you give some insight about Heritage?
Fredrik: Opeth has always been keen on not repeating ourselves. Heritage has a unique sound, but is still very dark and intense and I think it’s still very much Opeth, but different.
I saw the new album art from Travis Smith. He seems to have done all of Opeth’s art since Still Life. I was wondering who came up with the idea and is there any concept behind it?
Fredrik: Mike came up with the idea after a dream he had. It suits the sound of the album.
During the making of Heritage were there any certain bands or musicians that might have influenced you?
Fredrik: Yes, I saw Jeff Beck just before we went into the studio and also working with guest musicians Alex Acuna and Björn Json Lind was inspiring.
Recently Per Wiberg left the band. I was wondering who is the new keyboardist?
Fredrik: Joakim Svalberg. He used to play with Yngwie and Glen Hughes before. Jocke is a very ambitious guy who lives in Stockholm like the rest of us do. Great singer too. He was actually recommended by Per and I knew him since before as well.
You’re coming to North America for a tour and hitting up the Heavy MTL and Heavy TO festivals in Canada. How does performing a festival differentiate from playing a club show for you guys?
Fredrik: Well you have no sound check and the crowds are usually a lot bigger. It’s a good hangout to meet old friends and to check out other bands is fun too.
Is there a lot of difference touring North America as opposed to Europe?
Fredrik: The crowds are usually a lot crazier especially in Canada. But then again, in Europe the crowds in each country are quite different too which is interesting and exciting as well.
Recently PRS released your signature SE Fredrik Åkesson guitar. How awesome is it having your own guitar out there now for fans to play?
Fredrik: It’s a little boy’s dream come true! I love it and I can recommend it 100% to anyone who is looking to buy a proper, great-sounding guitar without having to pay a fortune for it.
How did it get set up for you to have your own guitar?
Fredrik: Mike and I did an interview with Paul Reed in Germany at The Frankfurt Music Messe. Mikael had his signature just released and the journalist asked when I was going to get one and Paul goes next year. So I said “Sure! I can roll with that!” Happy face -> 😉
Want to explain what special things you had them do to it to make it the way you want?
Fredrik: I wanted the single cut with the fat Body and cutaway slightly deeper and extra fat frets, mahogany back body with quilted maple top. Maple neck with ebony fret board and the paint is unique for this guitar. Me and Doug Shive at PRS bounced ideas over a year or so before we got the final specs done. I played it live for the first time last weekend at the Bonnaroo festival and I used it for all songs except one where we use a different tuning. A real workhorse it is!
What is happening with Opeth in the near future?
Fredrik: We are playing festivals now during the summer. Heritage will be out on the 21st of September after which the North American tour kicks off followed right away by touring in Europe so we’re going to get busy. I expect us to be on the road for most of 2012 as well.
Be sure to check out Opeth when they play HeavyTO