Par, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me today.
No problem at all, Don. Thank you.
It’s great to talk to you. I’ve had the pleasure of talking with Joakim twice but I’m running out of things to ask him so this is a real treat.
(Laughs) Yes, on this tour I am doing all the interviews so he can save his voice.
Do you like doing interviews?
I do. I think most of the time it’s good and I also get to meet people and get some good feedback.
Sabaton is without a doubt one of most exciting metal bands I have gotten into since Iron Maiden. You guys just have it all. You have the talent, the brains, the energy yet at the same time, you all are silly and have so much fun.
It’s funny that you mention Iron Maiden. We do a lot of shows with them here. It works really well when Sabaton and Iron Maiden plays together. Even though we don’t sound the same, if you take off the cover and see what’s inside the box, Sabaton and Iron Maiden both do heavy metal songs with catchy melodies. We don’t complicate it too much. We’re just doing what we love and it shines through. If you take an Iron Maiden show, it’s a bunch of guys running around on stage having a good time and playing good songs. If you take a Sabaton show, you see exactly the same thing. We wear camo pants and they don’t (laughs). Other than that, it is a similar idea.
Is it pretty safe to say that Sabaton looked to Iron Maiden as a model of how to do things as a band?
Starting out, Iron Maiden, like for you, was what brought me into heavy metal. I was maybe 12 or so and it stayed with me ever since and I’ve been a fan ever since. It didn’t stop or change anything after we started touring with them. It had only become more clear why they are such a big band and why they are still doing it and doing it as good as they are. They were an inspiration to me when I started to play. For a different reason they are still an inspiration today. Seeing what Iron Maiden does at their age, they are the inspiration for me to keep going and to believe that I can do this for a very long time.
I also find Iron Maiden to be so inspiring because of the fact that no matter what was thrown in their way, they never gave up, even when they weren’t as popular as they were.
Exactly. Sabaton has been around now for almost 18 years. 18 years ago, if you go back, melodic heavy metal was absolutely dead in Sweden. Basically, heavy metal was completely gone. When Iron Maiden was doing a show in 1995, there would be something like 1500 or 2000 people coming. Today, they will sell 50,000 people.
To go back to Iron Maiden again, it’s kind of the same thing. They weren’t huge here in the US right away? They came over here and busted their asses playing as opening acts and playing small radio festivals. Do you ever envision Sabaton reaching the status that you have in Europe over here in the US?
I don’t see why we shouldn’t to be honest. I know it will take a lot of tours and a lot of years. If I may see it from a positive side, I say it might be 10 years from now or so. That seems more realistic because the amount of time that it took over in Europe. In Sweden, Sabaton is #1. Here, we are supporting Trivium tonight for 8-900 people. On a good night in Europe, Sabaton is headlining for 12,000. In Sweden, we outsell the pop artists, we are top charting, we are selling out ice halls even in small towns. To get to that point took a long time. Here, on festivals we are so low on the bill you can barely read our name but in Europe, we are much higher up on the bill. Here, we are starting so low but I love that. It gives us perspective and it gives us something to work hard for. Things seem to be moving faster now. We do better shows, we are more professional, we play for more people. So yes, it is going faster. It may take 10 years but I see that it’s totally possible.
Sabaton has a very passionate and dedicated audience in Europe. Do you get that same passion and dedication from your American audience?
First of all, it’s complicated to say “American” audience because America is huge and they are different in a lot of places. Obviously, it will differ. Sabaton goes to places that a lot of bands won’t go because they don’t pay so well. We will go to places like Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Greece. A lot of bands don’t tour there but we tour there all the time. We have huge crowds there all the time and they are fantastic. A lot of American and European bands will ignore the entire southeastern part of Europe which is good for us because there’s less competition for us (laughs). They ignore it because they don’t the same payment that they get in other countries. We go there because we love it, not to get paid, but to play. What we get back is why we started to play because we get the best shows. American crowds are great. European crowds are great. Southeastern Europe crowds are better.
What is a question that you get asked way too frequently that it makes you crazy? I hope I didn’t ask it.
(Laughs) No, you didn’t ask it. When people ask about why we split up with the old band members, I think I’ve answered that question a thousand times.
Do you tell them to go to Wikipedia and fucking read it?
(laughs) Yes. It’s out there. I get tired of talking about that especially when I’m talking about the future of Sabaton, not the past.
On this tour you, since you are a support act, you don’t have your usual stage production. Do you miss your tanks?
(laughs) Yeah, I do (laughs). One day, hopefully we’ll bring over our whole production including our tanks. That is definitely on our list of things to do in the future.
You mentioned Sabaton Open Air earlier. How do you like having your own festival? It’s really grown into something spectacular.
Yes, it really has. It’s a three day festival. It started out as just a one day festival because we envisioned something bigger than just playing a club for our album release party. It had 8-10 bands. Now we have 35 bands performing over three days on two stages with metal market, signing sessions, food courts, and campsites. It is a big thing. People come and they stay there for many days. A lot of it is built by our fan clubs who come over for many weeks to build it. It requires something like 300 people to run the festival. A lot of them come from different countries and they stay in our home country for 2 or 3 weeks and they build the festival. We have very dedicated fans. In the beginning, we did all of this ourselves. I don’t know how many job titles I had in the beginning but it was like 15-20 (laughs). Now, I’m mostly involved with the band bookings and a little bit of promo but other than that, the festival runs itself with the crew members. We have a bunch of staff people that work around the year on the festival and then comes the fan club people to actually build it and make it happen. It’s really a nice thing. Every year after we play on Saturday night, I sit there and watch them tear down the area.
Do you have anything special planned for next year’s Sabaton Open Air?
Next year is going to it’s 10 year anniversary. One of the biggest problems with the festival is to come up with some new ideas for the Sabaton show. People come from all over the world who have seen lots of Sabaton shows in the past. If you live here, people can be happily surprised by most of the stuff that we can bring up there but if people who live in, let’s say, Hamburg, Germany, they’re not going to be so surprised by the tricks that we bring out like the tank and pyro. They are going to demand some extraordinary (laughs). We’re going to have to bring out something that we’ve never done before. It’s always a challenge for us to do that show.
The Sabaton Cruise is also something that you guys do that is such a great experience for your fans. Do you have the same challenges with that to always try and do something new and interesting?
Yes, it’s the same way with the Sabaton Cruise. We always try to do something we’ve never done before. Maybe some acoustic sessions, two completely different sets in one night, full album shows. We just want to always try to do something new to keep it exciting and to please the fans. It is challenging.
Another thing I love about Sabaton is that you guys always seem to changing the setlists up from tour to tour.
Some bands go on tour and do the same setlist no matter where they go in the world. Obviously, for Sabaton, because we have the lyrical concept, some songs mean more to certain territories. I mean, if we were to go to Poland and not play 40:1, we’d probably be killed (laughs). So that’s not going to happen.
Touching on the set list, is there any particular song that whenever you see it on the setlist you say, “Fuck yes! I can’t wait to play this one”?
Right now, I love playing “Sparta.” That’s the highlight to play off of the new album. For now. That might change (laughs).
In your opinion, what is one hard rock/metal album that everybody should own?
Iron Maiden made me tell my guitar teacher in school, “I don’t want to play jazz even though you think it’s good for my musicianship. I will play heavy metal music or not play at all.” Oh, the first one I ever got was Number of the Beast so there you go! It’s just raw heavy metal with all the energy and attitude that I loved. That’s what got me hooked into heavy metal.
Do you still get that feeling when you listen to it?
Yes, I do. I get that feeling every time I hear it because it’s so raw and powerful.
Par, what was it that got you into music in the first place?
Music has always been there for as long as I can remember. I would listen to anything that my sister was listening to. She listened to everything from Metallica to Ace of Base and everything in between. Then my neighbor told my sister, “Hey, you can’t teach him to listen to shit. I’m going to teach him metal.” Then he brought me over and showed me the Iron Maiden posters and then played me “Run to the Hills” (laughs).
Finally, finish this sentence. If I wasn’t a musician, I would be ___________________.
A soldier. I probably would be a soldier as I think that it would be the closest thing to what we do now. Touring together, relying on each other, becoming so dependent on the person next to you that you live your lives together somewhere far from home. I never wanted to be a soldier before but it just seems like the most logical thing for me to be.
Par, this was so much fun for me. Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk today.
No problem. Thank you, Don.
For more on Sabaton check them out at: www.sabaton.net