Sabaton - Pär Sundström, Thobbe Englund

Sabaton - Pär Sundström, Thobbe Englund

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A couple of hours before the SABATON headlining show in Chicago, we met Pär Sundström and the new guitarist Thobbe Englund having some cold ones (the weather was extremely nice) and we had a nice discussion about the current situation in the band and their future plans. So, check below what we talked about.

So, Pär how is your knee?
It is all right now. Things like that happen, you know, but it really sucks (laughs). I guess it is not such strange for someone who does 100 shows per year. Eventually you sustain some damage.

Now that Thobbe has joined us, let’s start with the obvious question; how is the tour so far?
Pär: It has been very good and I think it has exceeded our expectations. If I compare the shows we did last year when we were here supporting EVERGREY I’d say more people are coming even though it is a SABATON headlining tour and this is a very good sign.
Thobbe: I can speak on behalf of the new guys in the band by saying that in the beginning we felt a little bit anxious since we didn’t know how the fans would react to the new lineup. But so far there was no negative reaction and this made feel us welcomed.

Did you have time to rehearse before getting on the road?
Thobbe: I think we had about three weeks to rehearse but we also had a lot of stuff to do at the same time, so we did not practice so much. I practiced as much as I could, though.

How many songs have you prepared for this tour?
Pär: We prepared 15 songs that is the entire set for this tour. But we are constantly learning more songs because we will need them for the summer live dates. After all, we have a new album coming out, so there are more songs to learn.
Thobbe: This is true; I was just practicing on a new song before coming to meet you here guys.

Do you feel confident with the SABATON onstage, Thobbe?
Thobbe: Absolutely!

How long did it take you to adjust to the new band?
Thobbe: To tell you the truth I felt that this will work from the first show we did in San Antonio. I mean, it felt so natural…
Pär: It really did not take time for the guys to adjust.

This happened way too fast, right?
Pär: Yeah, it did. The first three shows were the really exciting ones because we did not know what to expect from anybody. We knew that we could play together since before getting on this tour we did a show in Sweden without people, playing the entire setlist. But when you actually play in front of people, there are a lot of things to consider. So, we knew we’re gonna get through this musically but we didn’t how it was going to look like; are we going to run into each other, fall off the stage, are we going to forget songs and stuff like that. So, everything became clear after the first three shows and since then we have been fixing the small things. Now, it really feels like a tight band.

What about the keyboards? Are you using pre-recordings?
Pär: Yeah, we do. When some of the guys wanted to leave the band, Daniel Mÿhr, the keyboard player, wanted to stay. But when he talked to his girlfriend he decided to live with her. He still wanted to help us because that was a rather late notice for us, so he recorded all the keyboards we’re using on this show.

What did happen to the rest of the guys and decided to leave the band all of a sudden?
Pär: It may seem sudden to everyone but this had started many years ago. These guys wanted to leave the band like 2 or maybe 3 years ago. We were able to convince them to stay for a little bit longer but in the end this was not the best choice because you cannot push people to do something they don’t like. People have families and other wills and we were pushing them to do one tour after another by saying "it will feel better" and that’s how we kept the band going. Now, I realize that we kept this going for too long and in the end it wasn’t fun to play live anymore because there were people who didn’t want to be on the road. If we didn’t do that, we would have people leaving probably 4 years ago and not have them all leave at the same time. So, we sat down and explained to the guys that we wanted SABATON to tour as much as we can and asked who was in; and they simply said that they did not want to do this. The truth is that we did not expect for all of them to say “no”, expect from Daniel who wanted to stay but not get on the road.

Have you thought of adding a new keyboardist in the lineup?
Pär: We actually don’t know. We wanted also to see the reaction of the fans to the band as a five piece.

So, how long did it take you to find the new members?
Pär: It didn’t take more than a day (laughs). The thing is that we were looking for new members but we had to keep this secret. So, we were asking our best friends if they knew extremely talented musicians who also wanted to tour a lot. I called this guy who was the singer in Thobbe’s ex-band RAUBTIER and I asked him if he knew someone join SABATON. And to tell you the truth I was expecting that he would offer himself but he has his own band (laughs). Yeah, that was a long shot! Anyway, one hour later he called me back and gave me Thobbe's phone number.
Thobbe: After getting the phone call from Pär I arranged to go to Stockholm, meet the guys and have a few beers. So, when I got the second call saying I was in, I phoned my boss and told him I wanted to quit my job.

What did it take to convince you to join SABATON?
Thobbe: SABATON is a great band and this was like a dream come true for me. I mean the bands I had in the past did not take off for several reasons that happen in life. So, this came on the perfect moment for me.

That’s awesome! You have a new album coming out, so let me ask the obvious question; why did you decide to release it into two languages? I have to admit that I prefer the album in Swedish…
Pär: Yeah, everybody seems to prefer the Swedish lyrics and that’s pretty cool. When we started to write the songs we had just the chorus to work on and when Joakim was singing the melodies, he did it singing in Swedish, just for fun. We then realized it sounded really good, so we decided to do the album in two languages. And man, it was a lot of work to do this. Me and Joakim worked a lot after the regular studio time. We had 8 hour of writing lyrics every night. So, we did not sleep much and in fact Joakim was in the studio every day.

You had the historian Bengt Liljegren to help you with the lyrics, right? What was his contribution?
Pär: Even though we are from Sweden, we don’t know all the details about the Swedish Empire history. You have to do some research to get everything right and we knew that we had to cover 100 years of history.

What time period is covered in the lyrics?

Pär: The time period is between the 17th and the 18th century. Obviously, there are a lot of events during those 100 years, so we had to pick what to use on the album. And this is where the historian helped us by choosing the events for the album. We were sending him the lyrics we had written to see if were correct and accurate. There were times that he told us where to find more information about a certain event without having to read an entire a book with thousands of pages.

So, the new guys did not help at all in the making on the new album?
Thobbe: No, we came in at the end of the recordings, so we had nothing to do with the album.

Are there any plans to get these guys helping you with the songwriting?
Pär: Of course, we are going to see what is possible, but the main thing is that Joakim is 100% responsible for the songs and then me and him work on the lyrics. So, we don’t want to scare off the fans by doing something that it’s not expected. That does not mean we are not going to use any good ideas that Thobbe, Robban or Chris might have but always in the SABATON way. We are open to such things but still most of the music will be written from Joakim so every fan will know what he is getting.

What about Peter Tägtgren; what was his contribution to the new album?
Pär: Everything in the album sounds bigger than before. We wanted to work with Peter for a long time and now we were given such an opportunity. He has been around in every SABATON album doing small parts, but this time he was the full time producer and he put a lot of work. He is extremely dedicated and he always pushing people to do more. You can actually hear his work in the vocals because in the previous albums it was me and Joakim who were recording the vocals and I am not a sound producer.
Thobbe: I cannot wait to work with him because he knows what you are capable to do and he pushes you to your limits.

He actually sung on “Gott Mit Uns” and I think his voice fits perfectly SABATON.
Thobbe: In the beginning I thought it was just Joakim singing…
Pär: Originally this was meant to be sung by one of two old guitarists or may both of them. But when they quit so Peter said that we should find a way to finish this song. And one morning I met Peter in the studio and he said: “I did the lead vocals in a song on the new album”. I said “ok” and when I listened to the recordings I simply said “that’s a keeper!”

You also recorded some cover songs for the special editions; how did you choose them?
Pär: I wanted us to do something new and kind of unexpected. Since I am a fan of AMON AMARTH and some of their songs are very melodic even though they’re using growling vocals, we chose to cover “Twilight Of The Thunder God”. Joakim had sung Feuer Frei!” with RAMMSTEIN live in Holland a couple of years and it sounded really cool. And I think “In The Army Now” suits perfectly in SABATON so we did that also.

Many people have accused SABATON as warmongers who promote war, so now they can also call you nationalists(laughs)?
Thobbe: I think all this stuff come from people who are not actually listening to SABATON or reading the lyrics.
Pär: We are doing what we always did and that is writing about historical events. So, we are just focused from World War II to Swedish history and it has nothing to do with us trying to glorify Sweden for something. And we definitely are not glorifying war. War is happening and is part of history and history makes the best Heavy Metal lyrics. Instead of making up stories, we write about actual events. After all, reality beats fiction.

Ok, guys, that was it! We wish you all the best for this tour and enjoy your time in the States!
Pär: Thanks, guys! Enjoy our show!