Thursday, August 5, 2010

Interview with Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth, Part Two

Johan Hegg in Chicago (April 19, 2010)

KS - More than any other popular music today, metal seems to have religion as a subject matter.

Thirty years ago, Black Sabbath defended the pope on Master of Reality and regularly used pro-Christian imagery. Early Bathory and Iron Maiden sang about the Beast; Stryper and Trouble sang about Jesus; Enslaved and Tyr sang about Odin. Motörhead’s “Orgasmatron” railed against religion in general.

Why do you think that metal, for its entire history, has had religion as a central subject? What makes the topic so attractive to lyricists?

JH - I think it’s a very sensitive subject, especially if you do the anti-religious bit. It’s a very good way to revolt against society, in general.

A lot of the stigmas and a lot of the so-called standards and rules are made up by religion or religious people. So, if you want to rebel against that, you have to take the opposite stand.

I think it’s a good way to rebel and something that everybody can relate to, as opposed to maybe doing more political stuff. That could be more sensitive, actually, in a way, especially if you look to the US. If you would be a left-wing band here, that would be kind of tricky.

Ted Lundström in Chicago (April 19, 2010)

KS - The right-wing bands seem to do pretty well with country music. Ha!

JH - No offense, but here in the States, the right-wing thing is kind of condoned. It’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” They try to shove it aside.

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that you have basically two political parties who are, in my opinion, looking from our society, from our side, are quite close together and both, by our standards, are pretty far to the right, politically.

That way, the right wing is like the norm here.

Johan Söderberg in Chicago (April 19, 2010)

KS - Sweden, on the other hand, has a parliamentary system.

JH - Yeah, we have a parliament and a prime minister. Even though we have a king who is technically head of state, he doesn’t have political power.

In Sweden, we have several parties. We have two big ones, and we have, I think, five smaller parties, but then you have different political blocs.

So you have the left wing and the right wing and the liberals in the middle, but they tend to lean more to the right.

Olavi Mikkonen in Chicago (April 19, 2010)

KS - How are you viewed in Sweden? What is your audience like in Sweden?

JH - Actually, a few years ago, we didn’t get any shows in Sweden. We had difficulties with people accusing us of being racist. We had that for many years.

Not so much in Europe, in general, but in Sweden, definitely. It was kind of difficult for us to make people understand, that’s not what we are.

KS - In the liner notes to Nibelung, the metal band Siegfried distances itself from “every form of fascism, racism, religion, intolerance, and stupidity.”

However, their lyrics have lines like, “I see your church burn and your cross burnt to dust.”

JH - Ha! I have some of that stuff, as well. In my lyrics, that stuff is mainly rhetorical, I would say. It’s a matter of turning the blade, sort of.

Johan Hegg in Chicago (April 19, 2010)

The way Christian religion has gained dominance with violence, prejudice – spreading prejudice and fear – it’s just wrong.

It’s one of the most violent movements in history, and yet they portray themselves as “turn the other cheek” and all that shit. It’s bullshit, you know.

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