This year Sabaton celebrate 20 years anniversary. So we had an opportunity to talk to Pär Sundström about upcoming album, North America tour and what is so great about The Great War?
I’ll start from the trivial question: in two month your new album The Great War will be released. What would it be?
You know, if you are Sabaton fan you not expecting Sabaton to change completely. You’re expecting Sabaton to deliver a new album in the same quality as the previous one and do something really good, which you appreciate. At least I would be that kind of person who would require that from my favorite band. I would be disappointed if they would change it, even if there are bands that were been able to do it and grow as the band. I understand, there are many examples of bands who were able to evolving, to changing to something completely different and grow, even though you constantly hear their old fans complaining about, you know, “oh, they changed and I don’t like it, I don’t want to go and hear the new stuff, I only want to hear their old songs because it’s my style”. I think it’s very interesting if you go to a Sabaton concert we can play so many new songs and people happy because of they are not too different from what we used to play. So I think it’s the reason why a lot of fans still go to our shows and hear a new stuff because it’s reminds a lot about the old stuff. So it’s the new album as well. I mean, it’s not going to be a world changing things for any fan of Sabaton. They should know what to expect. It’s a new great Sabaton album and there are few little, like, surprises, I guess or whatever. And if you are fan of the Art Of War for example, where you like the narrations between the songs, then I think you going to like it.
Why did you decided to make a concept album specifically about First World War? Is it because of 100 years anniversary of the war’s end or there was something else?
We have been played songs or writing songs about First World War for quite some time. But of course it has to deal a little bit with that it’s so much in the focus at the moment, because of 100-years anniversary. So this was a main reason why we decided to do it now. There were so many talks about it, there was so much in the air about it, a lot of fans requested songs from this era and stuff like that so this is why we decided to it right now.
So it wasn’t born spontaneously?
Well, I mean we had a lot of different ideas, we were discussing, but for sure we gave it a thought and said “Even if want to do other things, we can save them for the future. Right now we should focus on this and do it.”
In 2008 you asked a question in the song “The Price Of A Mile”: “what is the purpose of it all?” Does the album The Great War give an answer on it?
No, it doesn’t! It asks the same question: “what is so great about war?” It’s actually the title track and it also looks back actually for the song “The Price Of A Mile”, it follows the same topic. “The Price Of A Mile” talks about the same battle, the battle of Passchendaele and the song “Great War” too. We don’t really question the war in itself, First World War. We question “What is so great about war? Why did you call it The Great War” and that’s the meaning of that song. And, of course, the answer is that there is no great about war, unless you are an arms dealer.
There is a Ukrainian band 1914, have you heard about them? So the whole concept of this band is the Great War. Their vocalist told that he was seeking an inspiration walking in Forest of Argonne and sitting in trenches on the both sides of Somme. Where did you get the inspiration for this album?
We are constantly sort of surrounded by inspiration because of what we do with Sabaton. Everyday my mailbox is full with different ideas from all around the world about different conflicts and battles, so every day in my life I’m getting a lot of new ideas. So it has to come from thousands and thousands and thousands of fans around the world who constantly send us these ideas. That’s where the inspiration comes from.
When you write your lyrics, what do you put on the first place, historical accuracy or the sound? I mean, can you sacrifice some fact or detail to suit the rhyme or vocal line?
We can sacrifice facts but we cannot change facts. We cannot tell lies. But we do. Before we are singing about history, we are heavy metal band. So first of all we are focused on making it sound interesting, and secondary we are trying to tell a story. But we are well aware that it’s very difficult and you can’t really tell a good story in four minutes with just a few words. So we just scratch the surface with the lyrics and make them fit into the song. And now we have launched the Sabaton History Channel if somebody wants to dig deeper and get an idea about what the songs are about.
How does your music depend from fans expectations? I mean most of fans they want “exactly the same but new”, like AC/DC for example.
I think it’s a good example to say AC/DC for same thing over and over again. Sabaton is… We are not forcing to evolve. Every album has a little bit of a new, like, approach to it but they are all kind of… Each and every Sabaton album is not that different. I mean we are not evolving hugely. We do include more and more from everybody in the band to contribute with the songwriting, but it still sounds very much like Sabaton. We have no intention that people would be surprised or shocked or, like, scared about buying a new Sabaton album or listening to it. It is more like “Ok, there’s a new Sabaton album, that’s something to look forward to because I liked the previous one.”
Young man will listen to your album and will get interested with First World Warm, if we’re talking about your upcoming album. He will want to explore it further. What will you suggest to him? Where he should start?
You know, there are different ways of telling history. We are doing it one way, museums doing it another way, some documentaries doing it one way, games are doing it one way and movies doing it one way. But we are all doing the same thing. We are all taking a piece of history and making it attractive to a certain person. So it doesn’t really matter what you do, but as long as you put history in a box and make that box something that a person wants to open, than the box can be either a metal band or a museum or whatever. We chose to be a metal band in this case.
This year Sabaton celebrates 20-years anniversary, my congratulations! So, your eighth album will be released, you started an interesting Sabaton History Channel on YouTube and also you are going to North America tour in the middle autumn. Will be there some other surprises from you?
One of the things as a surprise, I guess, we did for the 20-years anniversary was the song “Bismark”, which was not intended to be on the album. We thought about: ok, it’s 20-years anniversary of Sabaton, some people, well… A lot of people said “You need to go back in time and play the first few albums and do an old tour for old fans.” I said: no, we want to focus on the future. And we were direct to say thank you to the fans in a different way. We thought: ok, what do all the fans want? At least they want new music from Sabaton, that’s we can agree on. Then I was looking for all the topics sending by fans over all the years. And except for Star Wars, which is the most highly, you know, requested topic of Sabaton, the second one was the battleship Bismark. So we decided: let’s make a song about Bismark and we put it out, and we don’t put in on the album, which is kind of making it like a birthday gift. A birthday gift to the fans.
Talking about tours: you are going to America with Hammerfall. Also in the past you had many famous bands supporting you (or, let’s say, “Special guests”). Can be there such a situation nowadays when you will go to the tour as support act?
Yeah, we do! We have done support act. Last year we were support of Iron Maiden for a couple of shows and I think we can still do that. I mean, it’s all about, you know, what is real and what is not. We had the band Accept as support band on a last tour and there were some people who said “You can never have Accept because it’s stupid of you to have such a big and classic and unique and fantastic band.” And I cannot listen really to that because even with a respect and even we are huge fans of Accept we still have to live in a real world. And if the real world means that Sabaton is currently selling ten times more tickets than Accept in some cities, than it would be absolutely ridiculous to ignore the fact and not do that. If you ask Accept guys, they would say “Of course it was great tour for us because we reached a new generation of people that don’t really discover our band.” So it was a win-win for the both of us. Even though there were a lot of voices raised like “Sabaton is not respecting the metal history because they are putting Accept as support act!” Sure, of course we have respect the heavy metal history and we grow up listening to Accept and it’s still huge inspiration for writing songs. But we also have to live in the real world.
Ok, if you will go as support act for some band, who can it be? Besides the Iron Maiden
We also toured… I think it’s a little bit further away but it worked very fine when we were touring with The Scorpions. And it’s one of my favorite bands of all time. A band I’m personally interesting in and I like them a lot. But if I can choose a band, I still go on tour with Iron Maiden. It’s still, you know, my favorite band and a lot of guys in my band like Iron Maiden a lot. We feat very well together and the fans of Iron Maiden they like Sabaton a lot. So that’s cool.
How do you choose songs for the tour?
That is a difficult thing, you know. It was easy ten years ago because Sabaton didn’t have so many songs. Today it’s really complicated, a lot of people request different things and in the band we have our own personal favorites. We have to see what kind of songs the fans are requesting. So it’s always a bit tricky to get together a set-list for a show. We switch around a little bit all the time to make it interesting for the people and for us. But it is tricky to make a set-list, for sure.
Are there some songs you played them so much that you got tired from playing them?
Yes and no. I can take the song “Primo Victoria” for example. We are tired of it to rehearse it. It’s boring to play it in rehearsal but it’s fantastically fun to play it live. And there are other songs, which we really love, no matter how many times we play them we still like them, at least for now. For example, the song “Winged Hussars”: we still, everybody in the band, really like this song. And it shapes of how we do the soundchecks. It’s like: ok, now we stand on the stage we have a soundcheck and the sound engineer says “play a song”. We’re looking at each other and then everybody knows: let’s play “Winged Hussars”. We never say “let’s play “Primo Victoria”” because we played it so many times and it’s kind of boring without the crowd.
This album will be the first studio work for Tommy Johansson. How was it to work with him?
When he joined the band, you know, we knew we’re not getting just another guitar player. We knew we’re getting the guy who is not only play guitar but he’s playing also keyboards and he is a drummer, even maybe not as good as our another drummer. But he is a great keyboard player and he is a great guitar player, he is a great singer and he is also great songwriter. So we knew we were getting a guy into the band that could contribute a lot; on the new album he is part of the song “A Ghost In The Trenches”. So for sure I think for the future, as well, Tommy is going to be a big part of the band.
Can be there such a moment when all heroes will be gloried and sung, all battles will be highlighted and you will say to yourselves: “ok, we did enough, we shall stop”?
I don’t think we’ll be able in our life to cover everything that is happen and I wouldn’t know what to do then with the band, you know, what kind of stories we’ll be able to tell after that. So, I think we have enough for the career of Sabaton for the future, and we have a lot of interesting topics that we have in mind for the future. I think we going to… There will be so much coming out form Sabaton in the future. I know that there would be new wars going on, even if we don’t want them to happen, of course.