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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Take 5 With Chris Amott of Arch Enemy

Photo (c) 2010 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Metal Minute: A lot of people have made a big to-do about your brief departure from Arch Enemy during the Doomsday Machine cycle. Where’d you drift off to and what made you want to come back?

Chris Amott: I joined a religious cult! No, I’m sorry, there was no dramatic thing that happened. Being in a band for ten years, when you’ve done one thing for more than ten years or a long period of time from when you started, what else is there? I’d never done anything else. Plus the business side of it was bad; we weren’t making a whole lot of money. We didn’t have any insight to the business side of it. The manager (at the time) wasn’t really working out. You’d play in front of 200 people in Germany or something, then you’d go to Japan and play in front of 2000 and still make the same kind of money. There wasn’t a lot to it. When I came back, it was a different situation. I was hungry again to play and tour, so it’s better now.

MM: With Arch Enemy’s latest release The Root of All Evil, you guys give Angela (Gossow) a chance to bridge her era to the old days, which is the whole foundation to this project, right?

CA: Yes, those first three albums had a different singer (Johan Liiva) but there was a lot of good material on those albums and it’s nice to bring them back. Some of the fans have been wanting to hear the old songs and we’d play them, but some fans would ask what they were because they were from the pre-Angela period. We just wanted to get those songs out there again because there’s a lot of good stuff from those albums.

MM: You just toured with Exodus on the Tyrants of Evil Tour and they also took advantage of modern technology to re-record some of their analog back catalog as Let There Be Blood. Both projects, I think, turned out strong. The songs I think came out really superb on The Root of All Evil are “Silver Wing” and “Demonic Science.” Which of these re-recordings really sticks out for you?

CA: All the songs came out really good. I wasn’t really there when Angela did the vocal tracks but she changed it around a bit and did it in her style. I can’t single out any one track, although “Pilgrims” stands out. I really like the mixes on this album; I think it’s better than Rise of the Tyrant. I know it was much cheaper.

**At this point in the conversation, Chris makes note of liking my handheld cassette recorder used in the interview, prompting the next question

MM: So what gives you a better feel for working with tapes and analog instead of say, Pro Tools?

CA: Until two years ago, I used only tapes for riffs and ideas, but now I use my computer. It’s kind of cool, because when I started doing albums, the first album was on a tape. There was nothing digital, really, and there was no sending email then. Michael and I would send letters, maybe a fax then, so I’ve seen the transition into the digital era. In about ’99, it was more emailing and stuff like that. Still, not much has changed; it stays the same. Some people like to talk it up too much. Some producers we’ve worked with make it too un-organic, you know? It’s getting too perfect now. You can see it in the music; you can see if it’s uneven, something you maybe wouldn’t hear that well if you did it with a tape. Nowadays you can zone in on stuff too much, I think. You’ve got to get used to that, too. Nowadays it’s all perfect. You can lift whole sections in a song and move them around, which is creative in a way too. You can rearrange a song afterwards. It would be really weird putting out an album like Black Earth. No, we’ve got our style with Arch Enemy now and we want everything to be audible. Everybody plays well in the band, you know, so we want everything to be heard. So I like the sound of it now.

MM: Your Armageddon projects Embrace the Mystery and Three are being re-released. You’ve been singer, guitarist, songwriter in Armageddon, so how did it feel being in control of everything versus being part of Arch Enemy?

CA: Well, Armageddon was never a band, really. We only did two shows in 2001 and I sang on the second album, but Arch Enemy’s my band, you know? Armageddon was just a studio project. The songs I wrote I rehearsed and recorded them like solo albums. My brother helped me with the first one back in ’97. He wrote the lyrics, a bit of sci-fi, about the destruction of planet Earth, Armageddon, you know? It was all good because I wanted to do some more music outside of Arch Enemy. Two years later our manager said I should keep the name Armageddon instead of just my name. I thought it was a good idea. I have a new solo album, Follow Your Heart, which is going to be released in Japan. There will be all clean vocals and it’s not metal at all.

(c) 2010 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

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