The Gauntlet: “The Roundhouse Tapes” contain a lot of old material. With the departure of two members of the band, was the release of this live CD a way to close the door and open a new one with the new lineup?
Mikael: Peter is still on that one, but it is his last release with Opeth. As for Axe obviously he’d been with us for a while now and I think it was good to show the fans who haven’t yet seen us live that he can play the older songs great as well. That release definitely feels like the end of an era in a way, but I don’t see it as a negative thing really. We are as strong or stronger now than we’ve ever been.
The Gauntlet: When Martin Lopez ‘officially’ left the band in May, were you surprised?
Mikael: Both yes and no. He’d been feeling bad for a while and had dropped off a full US tour plus canceled a few previous gigs as well, so it was really for the best that he left. He was not fit to play in a touring band like ourselves at that point. However, I think he’s a fantastic drummer, but his health really made it impossible for us to function properly. Now we don’t have any problems whatsoever. I never wanted him to leave, I have been meaning to keep the band intact since we started but it’s just been impossible as people change, views change. All I want is that everyone is into the stuff we’re doing and that they’re ready to work. There’s a big difference between being a musician and a touring musician. It’s certainly not a lifestyle that anyone could cope with. Everyone in the band is into what we do and have realized that we’re a touring band with the fucking world as our platform.
The Gauntlet: The album the band is currently working on will be the bands first without two key members, both Peter and Martin. Is it refreshing or a hindrance working with ‘new blood?’
Mikael: Yes it is. There’s a reason why Lopez and Peter were in the band in the first place, and that is because we clicked on a musical level. But that is no lifelong guarantee. Especially since myself and Lopez worked great together, almost on a telepathic level, but Axe and I have a great working relationship building up between me as a songwriter and him as a drummer. He’s got a natural talent that can grow in this band and he’s enjoying every moment, and so am I. He’s just amazing! Fredrik and myself have been jamming quite a lot and he’s also a fantastic musician, definitely much more of an exact type of player than myself, but I think he’s learned from me also.
The Gauntlet: Opeth has always been a band that has broken new ground with each release. Does this add pressure when you are in the studio?
Mikael: Not really, to some it doesn’t matter what we do. We could do the “Sgt. Pepper” of metal and it’d be dismissed by some people as a sell out, pretentious, boring…whatever. So I’ve learned to approach individual opinions for what they are. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is if we feel we did the best album we could possibly do.
The Gauntlet: Who will be producing the upcoming album?
Mikael: We’re doing it on our own, and our engineer, Jens Bogren is also involved however mostly as an engineer.
The Gauntlet: How many songs have been written/recorded?
Mikael: We’re recording 11 songs, 8 originals and 3 covers. We’ll probably have 7 songs on the record though.
The Gauntlet. With each albums progression from its original sound, the band has set the stage for fans to expect no limits with each album. What can we expect with the material you are currently working on?
Mikael: It’s hard to say what it’s going to be or what you can compare it to. I’d like to think it’s the Opeth sound but that it’s something new. I think it is, but I’m so involved in the material I can’t really speak for anyone else than myself. Overall I think it’s a very strong record and it’s my favorite so far which usually is a good sign for the overall judgment from our listeners.
The Gauntlet: Can we expect the same relentless touring schedule with previous albums?
Mikael: I’d have to say yes. It’s with mixed feelings I say that. I love touring but I have my family, 2 daughters and a wife and 3 cats you know. I hate the fact that I have to leave but I spend a lot of time with them when I’m home. After the last tours I’ve been home 100% of the time for over a year, so it’s not that bad.
The Gauntlet: I understand the new album will have some covers. Which songs and why?
Mikael: I can’t say right now, but we selected a few songs we liked, some odd choices I guess but it’s a little tongue in cheek and shouldn’t be considered a creative statement. We just liked the tunes and decided to record them.
The Gauntlet: Is the album expected to be released before you hit the states with Dream Theater?
Mikael: I think it will be out during that tour, sometime in April/May of next year.
The Gauntlet: Does the band still have a good relationship with RoadRunner?
Mikael: Yes, but we don’t really talk to them that much to be honest. I like the people there but we have a business relationship which suits me fine.
The Gauntlet: How would you define your sound these days since you guys are ever evolving?
Mikael: Hard to say but we obviously come from the extreme metal scene and have evolved from that. There’s no existing term that defines our sound other than the “Opeth sound” I suppose.
The Gauntlet: The last album “Ghost Reveries” was more progressive and main stream than the rest but lacked the distinct melodic elements of “Blackwater” and “Damnation and Deliverance”...is that because Steven Wilson didn’t have a hand in producing it?
Mikael: I think it was a melodic record in many ways and not mainstream sounding to my ears. I think it was a fairly difficult record and much more profound than whatever squalor you hear on the radio which I think have to be the definition of “mainstream”, and we’re not on the radio that much, if at all.
The Gauntlet: You stated in an interview some years ago that CAMEL a 60's jam band was one of your biggest influences... who is influencing you these days?
Mikael: Camel! Everything good really. I collect 60’s and 70’s records and a lot of that stuff influence me quite a lot. Right now I’m into late 60’s psychedelia like The Move, Rainbow Folly, the Zombies and of course the late Beatles records.
The Gauntlet: With the state of "good" music in jeopardy, what bands are you currently impressed with?
Mikael: No bands impress me these days it seems. The Zombies “Oddessey and Oracle” just slaughters everything remotely good sounding I feel, so I stick to that stuff.
The Gauntlet: If you could be anyone musically alive or dead who would you be and why?
Mikale: I’m not totally unhappy being me but I’d like to be Ritchie Blackmore for a day.
The Gauntlet: You collect vinyl ... how big is your collection and what is your most prized album? Mine is a “Darkside of the Moon” promo in the original plastic.
Mikael: Nice! I have a few thousand records…maybe 3-4000…I don’t really know. And maybe a 1000 cd’s. My Nick Drake original Lp collection is something I’m quite proud of.
The Gauntlet: Metal is far more accepted and popular in Europe and yet you guys manage to sell out big venues here in the US... how do you think you crossed that boundary?
Mikael: People must like good music in the US and there’s been a lack of it. Haha!
The Gauntlet: The time of the rockstar is dead and over...who do you see surviving and transcending the next decade?
Mikael: I guess Axl Rose and those cats. I don’t know, it’s not all that interesting to me unless they create killer music and fact is most of em don’t anymore.