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woensdag 04 november 2015
AVATARIUM: The Second Milestone

Interview with guitarist Marcus Jidell of Avatarium in October 2015 by Vera

The debut album ‘Avatarium’ was a revelation for many people and ended up high in many ‘CD’s of the year’ list 2013. The new band from Candlemass mastermind Leif Edling (bass) and guitarist Marcus Jidell (solo and ex-Evergrey) with female singer Jennie-Ann Smith appeared to be a shot in a bull’s eye. Late October the sophomore full length album ‘The Girl With The Raven Mask’ was launched at the world and it brims again with magnificent doom-like, bluesy melodies. A record that surely will put them on the map in a wider perspective! We talked with guitarist Marcus Jidell about things going on in Avatarium.

End of September 2013 we talked for the first time when your debut was about to come out. And that album turned into a huge success, isn’t it?
Yeah, it was amazing. You can never expect how well it is going to be received. We were so happy, all of us, because we started this just to make something we liked, not to make something big, but things happened in a way we could never expect. We are extremely happy that it is like this.

When did you see the first signs and sparks of a growing success and how did you experience that? What was going on after the release?
Actually when we did the first show. We played way up North in Sweden at a festival. When we started to play, there were people in the front row crying when Jennie-Ann started to sing. We thought like: wow this might be something different. I could hardly understand we had an audience, already. Amazing.

Indeed and the second gig was already at the famous Roadburn Festival…
Yes, that was also amazing to do that. Such an extremely cool festival!

What were the immediate consequences for you and the band? You thought, wow, this is working, and then?
We already knew that we wanted to play a lot with this band and to work hard, but you need to be able to have a band, you need to have a fan-base. So when we saw that, we were like: okay, we can continue and we can keep our plan. Now let us just play music and try to get better, try to do as good as we can and do everything we can to have fun with music and to meet new people with new stuff.

I am very glad with your success, because usually doom is a bit of the underdog from all the subgenres in metal, reaching a selected audience, but I think you overgrow that…
At festivals it is very nice to not only have extremely up-tempo things, cliché hard rock or whatever. People are listening and enjoying when we do what we do and I am so happy about that. Even at festivals we can get this nice vibe and people’s tension. People are listening. That is the greatest feeling in the world, when you have that connection with the audience. Then we do it together, it is not just us, because it becomes a unity. It does not happen all the time with all the bands, you know. This is something different, because I have played with a few bands and I feel that there is a difference when I play with Avatarium than with the other bands I have played with.

And probably it is also because it got so busy with Avatarium that you left Evergrey?
There was a different reason, but that is another story, I would say. (hesitating) It was probably one of the reasons I can say.
Okay, I respect if you don’t want to talk about that. I just ask it because you were still in Evergrey when we talked last time…
Yes, it took a very fast turn. It was Tom Englund’s decision. Maybe it was because of Avatarium, but maybe because I wanted to produce and do that kind of stuff, I think he did not want me to be that involved. Maybe that is why he asked me to leave. You never know.

Then it was time to write a new album. Was that a heavy job, was there pressure or did it come natural?
I think it came quite natural. We were happy with the first album, but we felt quite soon that we wanted to continue from the first album and take the band further. So we had a lot of energy and a lot of ideas. I could say it was actually quite easy, but of course we spent a lot of time. We started last year in December. We started with the demos and did that for a few months and then we started to rehearse the songs and then we went into the studio for the first recordings around May. I think we worked on the album for six months or something. It was a lot of work, but it was enjoyable and fun.

The first album was recorded at your Damage Done Studios in Stockholm, but now you went to Ghost Ward Studios. Why this change?
The thing is… the Ghost Ward Studios have a very nice room, a brilliant and very special sound. And also the sound engineer David Castillo, who mixed our album, is a very good guy to work with. They have extremely good equipment and they have great rooms. So it is an amazing studio, but my studio has also been involved. I actually changed the name into Deep Well Stockholm. My studio is also a lot better now, so we also recorded some stuff in my studio.

Indeed, you are the producer of this record. Congratulations!
Thank you.

Can you tell something more about that part of your job? You said a minute ago that you wanted to focus on producing, that’s another dream that came true?
Yeah really. I have been starting to produce stuff more and more lately and now I feel like I really know how to do it in a good way. That has been a dream for me to do that and I have always been very involved in most of the bands that I have been working with, but it was nice to be the head of producers so to speak, to be able to take the decisions and everything. Producing music is very challenging, but also extremely fun and rewarding. When you are done with something and you listen to it and it sounds the way you imagined it, that is one of the most amazing feelings I would say. So it is an extremely interesting journey as well, to make a song from scratch and then make it as perfect as you can, making it come alive.

But playing live and share that kind of spiritual vibe in the audience is also important for Avatarium, I guess?
That is also what I try to bring in the studio as well. Many bands feel a little bit stiffer in the studio than they sound live. One of my aims was to keep the feeling we have live and bring it into the studio. So I talked a lot to the musicians in the band, to be free and not be scared about doing mistakes, because it does not matter. It is supposed there are mistakes. If you do not play mistakes, then you are doing it wrong. Then you play like cowards, like a machine. So that was one of the things we decided and everybody in the band plays extremely well on this album and everybody really plays their hearts out. Listen to the drums on ‘Run Killer Run’, by Lars, amazing drums! Listen to Leif Edling’s amazing bass and Carl’s organs are extremely cool and Jennie-Ann is amazing as always. I think everybody really tried to do something special on this album.

I have the impression that vocals are lore featured on this album, or am I wrong?
When we worked on the material of the first album, we did not even know that Jennie should sing. But then when we had Jennie as singer, both me and Leif said there should be more vocals in the songs, because she is so amazing. That’s when we did the EP ‘All I Want’ where we tried that a little bit and then we continued on this album. On this album you heard more of Jennie-Ann, even in the arrangements, because she is more involved. She is with me when I am recording guitars and she is very much involved. She grew into the band, also by playing live as much as we did. That’s how a band gets a band. You meet the audience, you work together and something special happens.

What is true from the rumour that Leif asked Mike Akerfeldt in the first place to be the singer of Avatarium?
Yes, that is true. He is amazing. I really like Opeth, but I am very happy that it turned out to be Jennie-Ann anyway. Besides that Opeth is really one of my favourite ‘modern’ bands. I was happy he invited us for Roadburn as curator. He is a very nice guy and a great musician.

What can you tell about the lyrics? I know that Leif has written them, but maybe you can tell something about them too?
The influences for the songs come from bands like Mountain, early seventies Scorpions, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin, The Doors… that kind of stuff. About the lyrics: every song is like a little story. ‘Girl With The Raven Mask’ is about a little girl with a bird mask that shows up here and there at different places and you wonder why she is showing up there. Who is she? Why is she wearing that mask? All these kind of questions. Every time I hear that lyric, I have new questions. It is a very cool lyric. Someone should do an underground movie of that lyric, based on that character. That would be very cool. ‘The January Sea’ is about the ocean and the reveries it evokes. You can withdraw from the ocean or the ocean can withdraw from you, whatever. For me it is also the feeling of January, when it is dark here way up North. Sometimes you feel like doing a nice jump in the sea and disappear. It is a very beautiful and sad song. With the arrangements of that song though, it was important to have some light, not only dark. It is important to have positive things in it as well. That is always what I want. When it is cloudy, after a while the sun always comes back. That is what I wanted with the arrangements for that song as well. ‘Pearls And Coffins’ is about a relationship that ends up. ‘Hypnotized’ is a kind of a horror romance lyric, a couple who promises to love each other for eternity. One of them dies and the one who dies continues to ask for love on the other side of the grave. ‘Ghostlight’ is about not to let the fear in, not to be scared for strange things or strangers. ‘Run Killer Run’ is about Bob Durst, the American billionaire. ‘Iron Mule’ is about the railways constructed in the 1900’s in Sweden. It goes back to my ancestors.

To occlude: Leif has not been with you on stage for a while now. How is he doing and what is happening now?
He has been overworked for quite a while and that’s why he cannot tour with us. He is getting better and better. He is very creative and writes a lot of music. I meet him a lot. He is in good mood, but he is overworked. Sometimes after a day’s work together, he goes home and sleeps for 24 hours. He needs to get better, but I think he gets better. Hopefully in the future he can tour again with us.

What’s on the planning for the near future?
In November we will do a tour with The Vintage Caravan and Honeymoon Disease, but unfortunately we do not cover Belgium. We have many things in the pipeline after that and hopefully we can come to Belgium as well then.

Geplaatst door Vera op woensdag 04 november 2015 - 20:07:48
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