Download 2016 : An Interview With : John Alfredsson (Avatar)
1st July 2016, 13:00
Posted by Tristan
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Having attended Download 2016 not only we were able to see some of the premier Metal bands going right now but we were also able to grab a couple of chats with a fair few bands inbetween the madness. The first in a series of Download 2016 interviews sees the Progressive come Hair Metal come straight up mad Avatar.

The idea of folklore within Metal perhaps might not be the most obvious connotation. Deciding to forge their own path on brand new album Feathers and Flesh, taking into accound their Swedish heritage Avatar opted to for the route of the fable. Known as a classic story often characterised by creatures which often demonstrate human ideals their latest project was potentially their most ambitious yet. Combining the song writing aesthetic of short, sharp memorable songs with the drapings of the conceptual idea the band have created an album that can simultaneously work on both levels. After performing their hangover blasting slot at eleven on Saturday at Download we were able to speak to John Alfredsson regarding the band and their decision to down the route of the concept album. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Feathers and Flesh.

What was it like playing the main stage, the obvious question!

Early! Yeah it was early but I was very happily surprised and absolutely expected nothing. Really, who the fuck wakes up at 11:00 and goes to see a concert. It was the earliest show I have ever done I believe. I was very very surprised happily surprised. There were a lot of people, a shit ton of people. It was good!

What can you tell us about the new album, what was the recording process like?

Hard. Its always hard to create an album and record and album because it puts a lot of pressure on ourselves. Something we are going to live with for the rest of our lives so. The recording process is always painful because of the pressure but diamonds are created under pressure and so was this album, in my opinion. We recorded it in a studio, in a castle in Germany which was pretty awesome. We had a new producer Sylvia Massy which was phenomenal and a big challenge for us.

Was it very different working with someone new?

Yeah, because she worked in a completely different way from what we were used to. She was very good at challenging us, pushing us to the very extremes of what we are able to do.

What sort of things did she do to push you to extremes?

To make weird decisions in how we do the sounds, whats good and whats not, we could walk into the studio and feel that we had a song that was great and she just ripped it by her feet. “This is not good, you have to redo it, work, work, work,”. It was a very stressful month but she is great.

What about writing the record was that kind of a long arduous thing or was it quite easy?

No. Once you are done writing an album the first thing you think is I’m never writing an album again. So far we haven’t started to write the next album yet either.

Its still early days though you have just released it!

Yeah but it takes us two years to write an album, Its a lot of work. Eventually we will get a feel for writing again. Its the same with everything that you do. Now that we are out touring, now its fun to tour! One and a half years from now we will feel like, argh! never going to tour again. Then we will start to feel for writing an album its just the way that people work and that includes musicians.

What inspired the outfits behind the band?

The outfits that we are wearing on this album cycle is based on Swedish Folk costumes. Traditional Swedish folk costumes but we made them in our way. Thats what they were based upon and that comes down to the album being a concept album based around a fable our singer wrote about an owl who goes to war to prevent the sun from rising. In her journey she meets all these different creatures and all these creatures are creatures you find in the Nordic fauna and the Swedish fauna. It was pretty natural for us to do outfits that matched the theme of the Nordic feel that we have on this new album so we came up with the idea for Swedish folk costumes!

There are various different vocal patterns is that to try and illustrate different characters that are going on?

Yeah most of the tracks on the album are actually monologues or dialogues between the different characters in the story and  different events in what is happening and that leads the story forward. In addition to the album we also made a book, the story was just too long to fit this booklet. So we made a book which includes, in a poetic way includes the story. The actual story, what is happening between the songs and the songs themselves are the dialogues or monologues often between the different creatures.

Is that something that you have always been inspired by, concepts?

We always felt that at somepoint in our career, before we die, we have to do a concept album! It was going to be based on a fable and that is some of the ideas that we had when we did this album.

What kind of inspirations do you draw for the actual concept album, was it specifically this kind of Norwegian / Swedish fauna kind of thing that you mentioned?

Yeah, that came up when we started. Initially, our singer who writes the lyrics wanted to write a concept based on a Swedish book called The Immigrants then he eventually found out that Bjorn and Benny from ABBA were already talking about that. Fuck that you know haha! Then came the idea of writing our own fable.

What have fans reactions been like to album so far?

Very good, very good. Overwhelmingly good.

What is the plan, obviously now you’re going to be touring, where are you going to be hitting up?

We are going to finish up this tour, we’ve got another few days then we are going to work on the next video which is a really big project as always when we do our videos. Once that video is done we are going to go back on the road. We are going to do a lot in the states but we are also going to come back to Europe including the island of UK in the end of the year!

Is that going to be a headline show?

Yep.

There are so many different genres that are going on within Avatar what are some of your personal genres that you have taken the most influence from in the band?

Not a specific one, its a big mixup of everything that we like and everything we listen to. For this album in particular we drew a lot of influences from Queen, The Beatles and Pink Floyd. Its a lot of non Metal stuff.

You guys listen to a lot of non Metal?

Yeah we listen to a lot of music. That includes Metal too we were very clear when we decided to do a concept album that we are not allowed to become like one of these pretentious super epic concept albums where you have to listen through from the start to the end. It should still be a bunch of kick ass Metal songs with a bunch of kick ass Metal riffs and that should work just as well at the camp ground at Download Festival while you’re drinking beer and fists in the air just as well as sitting with a glass of wine listening through the entire album.

With candlelight!

Exactly I forgot the candlelight haha!

That was something that you actually thought about, the songs do actually sound perfect as though they would be individuals. It wasn’t a by product?

Nope!

What about over the last six months to a year have there been any particular albums that have caught your attention?

Swedish band Kant just released a new album that is very Swedish.

What do you mean very Swedish?

They sing in Swedish, its very Swedish but apart from that not much.

Do you listen to a lot of music?

Yeah but I’m starting to realise that I listen to the same things over and over again you know? They say once you turn thirty you don’t discover new music haha! Fleshgod Apocalypse is the last discovery that I made in the Metal scene. The Italian band, I just figure its just fucking awesome.

Do you like that because they have got quite a conceptual kind of vibe similar to Avatar?

I like that, I like that they treat that aspect of the band as art you know? A lot of the bands miss that. They miss out on that, then they’re pretty fucking awesome musicians its very interesting music that I haven’t heard before so Fleshgod Apocalypse is maybe the latest that I found out. Then I am really looking forward to Gojira’s new album so that is also a band that lately has gotten my attention.

You mentioned with Fleshgod Apocalypse, the art they take that more seriously, with vinlys and everything I think artwork is becoming a lot more prominent. Could you explain how the artwork for the new album came about?

Yeah sure, we obviously wanted something that fitted the concept, we had issues as always. Its hard to find perfect artwork. We tried out a lot of different people that came up with their suggestions but nothing really worked. Nothing clicked for us so one day at the studio in Sweden in the very last part of the recording process, our singers brother came by and we just happened to talk about our issue with artwork and then he just pulled up his phone and showed us his friends Instagram. How about this guy, my friend you know? Who lives two seconds away. He’s pretty cool, I was checking his stuff out and thought woah this guy has a pretty cool style, so we got in touch with him and all of a sudden BAM.

And the rest is history.

Avatar’s brand new album Feathers and Flesh is out now via Another Century.