An Interview With: Joakim Broden & Par Sundstrom (Sabaton)
15th August 2016, 09:00
Posted by Chris

It’s been a hell of a ride in recent years for Sabaton. The band is a classic example of one who has defied all odds to get to where they are now – a hard worked rise in popularity to conquer European heavy metal. This is much in the spirit of the title of the band’s upcoming album, ‘The Last Stand‘ that lands this week. Defying odds and providing the most unexpected of results. We caught up with the band to talk about the spectacular rise of Sabaton and their ‘Last Stand‘.

As an intial Sabaton sceptic 10 years ago, I have been thoroughly amazed by their exponential rise through the ranks of heavy metal. Not only has their highly energetic music completely won me over, but their live shows that have been increasingly bigger and better throughout their career – much to a point where the majority of their shows sell out on the continent, and even the difficult turf of the UK.

It’s a golden opportunity to speak to founders Joakim Broden and Par Sundstrom about just what they think about this rise, and touch on an expansive piece of history with the new album so close to release…

Listen to the full unedited interview or read the full transcript below!

The new album ‘The Last Stand’ is available August 19th via Nuclear Blast and can be ordered here.

Guys, thank you very much for speaking to The Metalist today, really appreciate it!

So the Sabaton war machine keeps on rolling – it seems to have been that way for the last decade! What I wanted to ask first was how on earth did you find the time to record a new album? It seems you have been touring so much the last year…

Par: Well we did tour a lot…but we also took some break. From August to February it was a long break…for 5 months with only a few shows. It was actually one of the longest breaks we have ever taken in the bands career so far – I guess this helped!


It still seems like quite a short time, I mean you toured constantly with ‘Heroes’…and now you have the new album ‘The Last Stand’! First of all I wanted to ask about the name…does it have any theme to the album or what does it actually mean?

Joakim: Yes, the album is about ‘last stands’ in history! It’s about two and a half thousand years of history – we start out with the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, and we visit several continents and several eras in military history, and we end up in pretty modern times in the Soviet-Afghan war in ’88.


So the whole album spans that time frame of 2,500 years?

J + P: Yep!


And are there tracks in particular that highlight certain times like World War II?

J: Well almost all of them! I mean obviously the most famous one would be the Spartan one…we’ve got Roarke’s Drift which I believe is 1877…we’ve got the Siege of Vienna and the Winged Hussars…the last stand of the Swiss Guard…the last stand of the Samurai….you see a pattern here? [laughs]

P: Yes there are ten stories on the album. We found them all very interesting and exciting, and the variety of the songs equal as to the album – it stretches itself out. It’s the first album of Sabaton that really goes in different directions musically and lyric wise. In a lot of ways it goes together.


That’s interesting…so you said it may sound a bit different. Would you care to elaborate a little on that?

J: It’s still very much a Sabaton album, but we take a few steps outside of the box that we usually haven’t been doing. Of course one foot is still firmly in the Sabaton box, but also it’s a lose / lose situation when you write music. You want every song to be the best you ever did but intellectually it’s not possible, but emotionally you want to try to do that. You want to try and recreate what you did 12 years ago and try and walk in those footsteps – that is the tricky part with any band. It’s not just specific for us! I think any artist that is producing music will say that the hardest thing is the balance of still keeping your band identity but still evolving.

If we did ‘Primo Victoria’ I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII…you know..musically people will get tired of that too!


And when you write your music…where each track is a ‘Last Stand’. Did you think of the concept of the track first and write music around that or did the music come first?

J: Music comes first almost always. Not all the time though…I mean you can’t really set the specific working process that we use, but in general I’d say we start out with the music. We have an idea about what the album is going to be about, so I mean when we’re writing there are certain times when we haven’t decided [the concept] but when we did the song ‘Sparta’ for example, we had the idea in our heads that this track could probably be about.

You get the track according to…but so many times things change, and we never lock ourselves into anything.


The next part I wanted to ask was that Sabaton have had a pretty amazing rise in the UK. I saw your first show here…maybe 2006…when you guys were supporting Dragonforce and Edguy.

J: Oh yes, the short 15 minute show!


I think that was your first set here?

P: Yea it’s true!


At the time I didn’t really think anything much of you guys…short set and everything…but now you are going to be headlining Brixton Academy! It’s quite a huge rise! How do you think the band has managed to get this big in the UK? It’s a difficult market…

P: We’ve done 100 shows in the UK since then! Several festivals, a lot of support shows…we didn’t do as a lot of other bands do…just play London and then leave the island. We came here and we did extensive touring everytime, and this has led to some kind of success everywhere…


To a point where Accept are supporting you guys!

P: So, yes…but it is hard work…it’s 100 shows! If you take that, and count the days off as well…we’ve spent some significant time here…and then you add all the promo trips!

J: If you look at it, and the amount of time we’ve spent here privately in London since it’s not too far from us, we’ve probably spent about a year of our lives in the UK! [laughs]


You could say you’ve lived here for a year with that amount of time!

P: Yea…it’s not something that has come easy! It’s hard work!


Lots of bands say ‘never play the UK, it’s too difficult’…

J: It’s because people told us not to bother. They said ‘your music is never going to go home there’, but a certain way of making us do something is to tell us it’s impossible. We will want give that person the finger and tell them they were wrong.

People told us ‘don’t go to Poland, don’t play there. They are only into black metal, your music will never work’. Well guess what, they are fucking proven wrong now! [laughs]


That’s great. It sounds very much on the theme of your music as well! Anything is possible, fighting against the odds…

J: Well we haven’t had it so easy in our career…I mean I should say we have never really had the big disasters happen you know, like band members dying on the road or totally losing the rights to the name…these major disasters we’ve been fortunate enough to not have them.

But we’ve had so many obstacles on the road that we don’t even see them as obstacles anymore! We sorted things out ourselves. So when things actually happen…let’s go to war! [laughs]


I think it was the ‘Carolus Rex’ album where you guys had some band members leave which I’m sure was an obstacle…

P: It was, but as they normally do when obstacles appear in Sabaton, we do not just solve them. We solve them in a very good way, and usually we get out stronger. So this way a lot of inventions for Sabaton during the years have come up…when the backline guitar rig breaks down, we find ourselves having a better one. Not the same, we do not just fix things, we make them better every time we have some problem.

J: When the power went out in a festival, instead of leaving the stage like many other bands did, everybody in the band went to the front of the stage and started singing with the crowd for 45 minutes. You know, we did a singalong thing with everybody instead of going off the stage!


That’s really cool! So put the effort in and people respond. That’s really good to hear. On the subject of touring…you guys have been playing Europe constantly playing bigger and bigger venues. I saw the tour poster for your January tour and the title was ‘The Last Tour’. That alarmed a lot of people think that this was it for the band!

J: Ahhh well, I wouldn’t read too much into it! I mean possibly it could be our last tour…we might die in the Euro Tunnel tomorrow, you never know!

P: But then it wouldn’t be the last tour…

J: Well no, I guess it wouldn’t have even started…but if the album is ‘The Last Stand’ well we’re a competitive band. Status Quo started their farewell tour in 1984. That’s a fucking 32 year head start…we wanna win that shit! It seems like everybody is playing farewell tours these days…so we might as well do one as well!


So it’s your ‘Last Tour’!

J: Yes! It starts now! Take your chance to see us, it might be your last time!


[laughs] Maybe you can compete with the Scorpions on the ‘Last Tour’ front!

J: We’re actually going to play with them…[laughs]


Oh, two last tours!

P: It’s the second time we’re touring with the Scorpions on their farewell tour…[laughs]


You guys have been really big in Europe. I was at your Wacken show last year – it was pretty amazing to see how many people came to that show. It was just an endless sea of people…seeing that back on your DVD was pretty incredible. Are there plans to try and extend your influence? Maybe to America, Australia, Japan?

P: We are touring America a lot now as well. We have basically got the taste for it now…we didn’t really want to start touring there until we had covered Europe and had it under control. But we started to tour America with ‘Carolus Rex’ pretty much…not so heavily…but with ‘Heroes’ we hit America pretty hard. We did 100 shows in like 1 years time supporting other bands. That was the initial attack on America pretty much when we started to go full on…and we are soon over there again! And then again…so America is going to have their fair share of Sabaton that’s for sure…it’s the same thing as the UK…

J: You don’t have control over your colony any more…somebody’s gotta keep them in line! [laughs]

P: You know people say that America won’t like the melodic metal that we’re doing. But we’re there to prove them wrong!


Well yea, they have a whole festival dedicated to Progressive-Power Metal now…I was actually there when you guys played it…obviously people say America is a very difficult market…but show them how it’s done!

J: Well we haven’t proven that yet! We were there to do it in the future!


And maybe you’ll hit South America?

P: Yes! The tour there is going to be in the autumn.


Finally back to the album, do you think ‘The Last Stand’ epitomises Sabaton’s career so far?

J: It’s hard to say because it’s always up to the listener. You know I don’t want to be the band member that says ‘Oh listen to our new album, it’s the best we ever made!’. I think people should listen to our new album, I think there is a very good chance that people will like it if you like Sabaton. But if it’s the best we ever made? I couldn’t tell you until a year has passed you know?

P: Time will tell how many of those songs make it on the setlist.

J: How many of those will make it on the setlist two tours from now? 4 or 5 years? Then you know how good of an album it was. You never know also…we had people come to us for ‘Heroes’ and say ‘It’s a great album…but not as good as Carolus Rex’. Two years later…both sales wise and demand wise people are requesting more songs from ‘Heroes’. Initial reaction though from the majority of the fans though was as I said.

When you listen to an album the initial reaction can be sometimes totally different than to what you think of that album 5 years later. I had some albums that I loved that I listened to intensively for a year and then never listened to them again.


Well we really look forward to hearing the new album. We’ve been big fans of Sabaton for a long time now, and we really look forward to your next shows! Thanks so much for speaking to us today!

J + P: Thank you!