In a nutshell, Sabaton is hands down one of the best metal bands out there on the road today. Playing hundreds of shows a year, Sabaton has build a diehard following of fans that flock to see them perform live anywhere and everywhere. Whether they’re playing a small club to a few hundred to headlining the prestigious Wacken Festival, Sabaton always deliver a top notch, arena worthy performance that leaves you wanting more and will undoubtedly make you a fan. Ever since seeing them a few years back for the first time I knew I was seeing something really special and hell, no other band could even make me want to buy a camo shirt with their band logo on it.
I recently had the chance to catch up with lead singer Joakim Broden and, as always, he was his happy, hilarious, chipper self. We talked about how happy he is with this Sabaton lineup, why Sabaton has released so many awesome live album, and just what his favorite live albums are to listen to as a fan. It was so great to catch up with Joakim again and I hope you all will enjoy this one as much as I did.
Joakim, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to day.
Yes, it’s great to talk to you again. It’s been a while since we last talked.
Sabaton has released yet another live album and it’s a killer as always. Are you pulling from Iron Maiden play book of releasing live albums?
[laughs] In a sense, yes [laughs]. I mean, if you’re going to steal shit, steal from the best, right?
As big a Sabaton fan as I am, I’ve always felt that the studio albums didn’t really capture what you guys are about like the live albums do. Is this why you’ve put out so many live releases?
Well, yes and no. To be honest, I agree very much with what you say about the vibe being different. We take our music and our lyrics very seriously but we don’t take ourselves seriously so that shines through way better on a live album. There are several reason for that. Obviously, one of them is for egotistical reasons. We were one of the headliners of Wacken. I want to see that shit too, you know? [laughs] Also, our previous live releases are with other lineups. We’ve had so many lineup changes in the last two or three years but this one has been stable for some time now. We just thought it was time to have a live release with Sabaton with how we sound now which I think is the best version of Sabaton there ever was.
This line up of Sabaton has been stable and on fucking fire these days. Do you feel like you’ve really found your footing with these guys?
I hope so because seriously, this line up feels best from both a musical and a personal standpoint. Of course, Chris and Thorbjörn, our lovely guitar boys, have been in the band for four years now [laughs]. In that sense, over four years you kind of grow close. Hannes we knew before. Both me and Pär toured with him when he was in Evergrey. It’s finally coming to a place where everybody can feel comfortable and trust each other. We always say that it doesn’t matter how well rehearsed you are or how good you think you are. Before you’ve done 100 shows together, you don’t have your shit together [laughs].
What is it about live albums that you, as a music listener, love so much?
Actually, I don’t know what it is but I just like them. It’s hard to put my finger on but it also depends on the band. For us, I think you get more a real vibe interacting with the crowd. We are a band that interacts quite a bit with the crowd and that, to me, is half of the live experience. In a sense, when we do a record in the studio, half of Sabaton is missing [laughs].
What are some of your favorite live albums?
Well, that depends on what kind of mood I’m in but there are there that come to mind directly, actually four. I really love Accept’s Staying Alive. That’s from the Metal Heart tour I believe. There’s an energy there that you don’t get from the album and they are also playing some of the songs differently. I love Iron Maiden’s A Real Live One and A Real Dead One because they take some songs from different places all over the world and that I really like. Deep Purple’s Made In Japan or Live in Stuttgart albums are just fantastic. Those jam sessions when you have such fantastic musicians and the changes that happen to the songs. It’s magical.
The last time we talked, Heroes had just been released. I asked your thoughts on it and you said, “I never really know what I’m going to think about an album until about a year after its release.” Well, now that you’ve had some time to sit with it, how do you feel about the album?
Well, I can honestly say that it is our best album. I mean, it all comes down to taste but I can honestly say that it’s either the best or the 2nd best. I don’t think any SAbaton fan could discard this one as a crappy album. I’m very happy with how it turned out but as always, when I’m in the middle of something I have no idea. Every album we ever did I was constantly for the last part of the songwriting, recording, and mixing I was in a constant state of hopelessness and happiness [laughs].
How far in advance are you usually writing for the next Sabaton album?
When it comes to gathering ideas for songs, that never stops. I started writing the album that we’re about to come out with very soon while we were still in the studio for Heroes. As for putting things together and making them in songs completely, that’s very late in the process.
Sabaton has definitely solidified themselves somewhat as a conceptual band in that all of your material does tend to reflect stories of war history. Have you ever considered doing a Sabaton that wasn’t that?
I mean, yes we’ve considered having a cease fire [laughs]. Actually, yes and no. There have been several thoughts about it but whenever we think about it, it’s not something we want to do. We could do an album about great experiences from firefighters or police officers or something like that because it would fit the music but in general, no. I feel like there are so many great stories untold in military history that are being forgotten. I’d rather tell those stories that to come up with new stories.
Being that you feel that these stories really need to be told, is that your motivation?
It’s one of them. My first is my love of music. I love to write music and to play live. If I’m going to be honest with you, before we did the first album, we didn’t have a military topic. We could write about anything. At that point, writing lyrics was a necessary evil. We just wanted them to be good enough so they didn’t make the song worse [laughs]. Going from writing about any topic at all to writing about military history, the lyrics weren’t just there because we needed them. Now we could tell a story. I appreciate writing lyrics twice as much now.
What is one song that you never get tired of playing night after night?
Probably “Primo Victoria” or “To Hell and Back” because of the feel good vibe in the songs and all the memories I have with them.
What is a song that hasn’t been played live in a while or if ever that you’d love to see make the setlist?
Oh, that’s a good one. I do think that we have some songs that deserve on the setlist but I think “The Final Solution.” For sure, I really like that song. We played it on that tour in 2010 and I hope to see it return to the setlists some day. Some songs like “Angels Calling” from Attero Dominatus is quite a nice song and I appreciate it personally but 9/10 fans either never heard it or don’t want to hear it [laughs]. It would be kind of stupid to put out a setlist of songs that we want to play when there are songs that are hugely requested that we haven’t played in a while. That’s pretty much our rule that we have. When we put together a setlist, we do it for the fans, not for us. There are five of us. There’s probably going to be 5,000 other people out there so we’re pretty outnumbered [laughs].
You guys are so in touch and in tune with your fans. Have you ever thought of doing a fan picked setlist?
We’ve done that before but not in the way that you think. We have the Sabaton Cruise ever year that we take from Sweden to Finland. We started doing that before 70,000 Tons of Metal did back in 2009. One of the years we did two sets. We did one acoustic set and then on the 2nd half we had a big board and we gave them two or three songs to choose from. Whatever song they shouted louder for, that’s the one we played.
Well, what happens when they hit you with a song that you guys forgot how to play?
Well, that’s the beauty of it. We wouldn’t put a song on the board that we couldn’t play [laughs]. It has happened a few times actually. Now, we have seven albums and especially now with band members coming in that weren’t there for the beginning, obviously they’re heard all the old songs but we’ve never played the song “We Burn” live. Seeing as that it’s not very popular I never see us doing it. We do ask someone in the crowd sometimes. In Dublin, there was a girl from the German fanclub and it was her 100th Sabaton show. I mean, that’s considereing that she’s only been a fan of ours for 3 or 4 years. Getting that many shows over that short of time. We heard about this through some other channels and we asked her, “Isabelle, what song do you want us to play now?” Well, this can be a risk because keep in mind, we can only play about 50% of whatever we have done at any given point. She picked “Saboteurs” from Coat of Arms and we hadn’t rehearsed or played it since October of last year.
The Heroes tour boasted your biggest stage production to date. These kinds of productions seem to be lost art. Do you wish more bands did this?
I think it comes down to the people caring and people wanting to keep money in their own pocket instead of investing in a stage show. It used to be normal back in the day to have lots of stuff on stage but these days, when I see a band I don’t get a 3D effect from them. For so many other bands it’s just backdrop, a couple of side drops, maybe a video and I’m like really? I don’t get it? It’s not like they have anything that they can climb up on. I mean, we have a tank on stage [laughs]. We can jump on it. It feels real.
When you tour the states again, you must bring the tank with you. Even if it takes up the whole fucking club.
[laughs] Yes. Actually, we’ve been thinking doing an alternative front for the tank. We could build another front in the US and use the tank. Now it’s about five or six feet for us to run on so if we have half that, we could probably squeeze it in there.
Maybe you can just use a Jeep or something.
No, no, no. A jeep is not cool. A tank is cool [laughs].
The political climate here in the US has gotten quite scary. What are you feeling about it looking from the outside in?
At this time it looks a bit like a circus. Everybody is shouting everywhere. It seems like the most media attention is always given to the ones with the most extreme opinions. This is not new in history. What fascinates me more is that people think this is something new. If there’s one thing we can learn from history it’s that people can’t learn from history [laughs].
You would think would should be able to.
We should but it’s also a matter of survival. I don’t care for politics that much because I feel that politicians are driven by the ambition to be in office. They are not driven by the ambition to make the country better or to make their own dream come true. They will change their opinions based on what the polls say. No matter which political party, left or right, up or down, I would actually respect somebody who just came in and fought for what they believed in and didn’t have to answer to 20 different lobby groups. Somebody who has been driving their own politics for their whole career because they believe in it. Not because this is what the public opinion is right now.
The US needs Sabaton. Will you come over here and take care of Donald Trump for us?
[laughs] Yeah, let’s try to say that to Homeland Security and we’ll see what happens, right? [laughs]
Just bring the tank!
[laughs] Yeah, it would be fun trying to go over there with a tank for the first time and explaining to your customs why we are bringing armored vehicles over.
You have your own festival called Sabaton Open Air. You have your own festival! What made you guys do this?
Actually, in 2008 we wanted to do a release party for Art of War. There was no decent place to do it and no promoters so we rented an old military barracks actually and we invited other bands that we had toured with at the time and bands that we had seen in our area that were good but never had the chance to get a break. Then we just kept on doing it. We book all the bands. We book the bands that we like, bands we think deserve more, and bands we think that other Sabaton fans might like but maybe never heard. We also invite younger bands that see struggling. The climate right now is pretty fucking tough for new bands.
Finally, what’s up for the rest of 2016? More touring I hope?
We are looking at different options now and there’s a 95% chance that we’ll be hitting American again before the year is over. In three weeks, we start recording the new album.
What can you tell me about the new album?
Well, Don, it’ll be about war [laughs]. Keep it to yourself. It’s off the record [laughs].
Joakim, thank you again for chatting today. It was so great catching up with you again.
No problem, Don. Thank you very much, my friend.