Getting to 'The Root of All Evil'
with Arch Enemy's Michael Amott
October 25, 2009
Since Arch Enemy replaced its original singer, Johan Liiva, in 2000 and brought in Angela Gassow, from the Wages of Sin album onward, the band has risen to a new level in extremity and popularity. Wages of Sin, Anthems of Rebellion, Doomsday Machine and their most recent studio album, 2007's Rise of the Tyrant, are all extreme metal staples. But what about their older material with Liiva? Do fans remember it? Does it matter now that Gassow is fronting the band? Arch Enemy has handpicked songs from itsfirst three albums—Black Earth, Stigmata and Burning Bridges—and re-recorded them with Angela on vocals, calling the collection The Root of All Evil. The intention is to introduce these older songs to new fans with the possibility of including them in live sets for years to come. The end results are fantastic as The Root of All Evil brings these songs to entirely new heights.
Live-Metal.net's Jeff Maki spoke with Arch Enemy guitarist Michael Amott just as the album was released. Amott talks about the reasons for The Root of All Evil and all things Arch Enemy, not to mention another great extreme metal band that he's a part of—Carcass.
Live-Metal.net: I don't know if you remember this, but my brother and I actually interviewed you back in '06 at the 9:30 Club in D.C.? You guys were on tour with God Forbid and Chimaira.
Michael Amott: It was a backstage thing, yeah, absolutely.
You guys were dicks, I remember that! [laughs]
OK, first, the obvious question. Why re-record these songs for The Root of All Evil instead of focusing and writing new material? Or was the process of updating these songs basically similar to writing and recording new material?
It was very different than writing or recording new material. We rented the studio and selected a bunch of old songs we wanted to record. The ingredients were already there—everything's already kind of there. We just have to play them to the best of our ability and do something cool with them.
And when you record brand new material, you have a lot of choices that you have to make all the time. But these songs have already been written and recorded once before, so it's kind of a little bit easier.
The basis is already there.
Exactly. And the reason for us doing it is basically from fans and stuff, people asking if we were going to record some of the old stuff. And currently we were playing some really old songs from the first three records and we tried incorporating them into the live set a few times. And we noticed that the recognition factor was just way lower compared to our current material. From those albums onwards, I think we just became a more popular band. And when people go back and check out Arch Enemy stuff, they don't seem to go as far back as our first three records. Because we had a different singer and it was almost like we adapted ourselves with Angela joining. The first three records have some great songs on them. And we wanted to, if possible, put them back in the live set. We tried and it wasn't really possible, so then somebody came up with the idea to re-record and re-release them like this with our current lineup. So yeah, why not?
And then it was the matter of finding the time because we are always touring or focusing on new material. We actually had a little window there earlier in the year, at home for a few weeks to get this together. It wasn't that hard, just finding out what songs to do—we had to argue that out, rehearse a little bit, find out what the hell we we were doing 10-plus years ago on the old albums. Yeah, I mean it's been fun and the reaction's been really good. In a way, it's a mixed reaction but mostly positive.
Was everyone on board right away for this project? Was there any convincing that had to be done within the band?
No, we were all really positive about it. Angela was really into it because she hadn't sung on the originals and she was a big fan of the original albums, so she thought it 'd be cool. I was into it—I think everybody was. We had time off in January and it was fun.
We don't have a big master plan or anything like that for every step of a record. We get an idea into our heads and just do it. We all do our recordings and produce ourselves and all this kind of stuff—we just do what the hell we want really and now I'm here talking to you about it [laughs]. It's our project.
How do you think your ex-vocalist, Johan [Liiva], feels about the album, having his vocals essentially replaced? I guess you didn't have any contact with him regarding this album at all?
Well, we're still very good friends. So, we're not replacing his vocals, the original albums are still out there. I mean, we've all been replaced on this new album—we've replaced everything. So we haven't replaced the originals at all—it's all completely redone. Everything.
I also just noticed that he was left out of the band's official bio. You just said, you're still friends, so I guess there's no bad blood there?
No, no bad blood at all. Actually he helped out. We actually reissued through Century Media, the second album and the third—Stigmata and Burning Bridges. And he helped out with liner notes for those. I talked to him today, actually. So, we're good friends. You know, he's out doing his own thing and we have Arch Enemy, so ...
Is it me or do Angela's vocals sound different to me on The Root of All Evil. If you listen to this side by side with Wages of Sin or Anthems of Rebellion, there's seems to be a noticeable difference. Maybe more extreme?
Yeah, to me, she's kind of doing different stuff on every album. Somehow, she's experimenting. I think every album she's sounds a little bit different, yeah. Time travels between every recording we do, so the voice changes. So along the way, she doesn't sound identical from album to album. So yeah, I think it's a progression and I think that's cool.
You're about to do a tour supporting the album and many of these songs will make their way into the live set. But what songs do you think will become permanent additions to the live set, or is that for the fans to decide?
Some songs like “The Immortal,” “Bury Me An Angel” ... and “Demonic Science” I think is pretty cool, although we haven't played it live—we're going to now. So we've never played that song live ever, so I'm thinking that would be a good one. But I don't know, it's kind of hard to say what we're going to end up doing.
So now that The Root of All Evil is done and you're about to go out on tour, when can we expect an album of all new material?
We've got lots of ideas, jams—we've been rehearsing today and this week. We've been doing some new stuff but ... We don't really want to rush into it.. We don't see the need to do that. We just have this record out now, a live album out last year, the year before that Rise of the Tyrant.. So we're going to go out and play some shows and have some fun with that. A brand new album, realistically I'd say we record next year sometime and maybe release it in 2011. That might all change [laughs]. Depending on how quick we are, how fast we are.
Between this release and playing with Carcass, you've been playing older songs for a while now. A lot of people or bands don't want to look towards the past. But this seems to be something that you not only do not have a problem with but you seem to embrace it. Why do you think that is?
Yeah, it's been pretty much a retrospective couple of years now. We started doing the Carcass reunion in the summer of 2008—you're right. This is the first time I've ever gone back. I've always been looking forward, just writing new stuff. I've never really looked back at all. But at one point someone just tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey, look back. You've been a part of a very metal legacy.” You know, helping to create melodic metal, which today has been very influential on a lot of bands. So we did the Carcass reunion and had a lot of fun with it.
Speaking of Carcass, what's going on with the band right now? Do you think there's any chance of a studio album in the future? Maybe a live album at the least?
I guess we could release live material from the touring we did. I think it'd be a waste not to. Maybe a DVD or live album. I don't really steer the Carcass ship in that sense. I'm not as heavily involved as I am with Arch Enemy. But we definitely talked about some sort of live release. I know we filmed a bunch of shows and recorded audio at a bunch of shows, so anything is possible. But then somebody has to take the time to crawl through all the tapes. And nobody every wants to deal with that [laughs]. But something will happen at some point, yes.
As far as new Carcass material, that's not something we're working on right now. And I've been asked that question quite a lot in the last year, and my answer is never say never because you never know what's gonna happen. We're not in the studio now making any new Carcass record [laughs].
Obviously, for you, Arch Enemy is number one.
Absolutely. But the Carcass thing was just too hard to turn down. It was talked about for a long time before it actually came to fruition. And we did, it was just like grab it by both handles and go forward. Everybody's schedules aligned—we just went out and did it. It was a blast, a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go back and revisit that music with those guys. it was fantastic.
OK, Michael. You've gone through my questions. Anything else you wanna throw out here.
[pauses] Oh, I don't know. Hail Satan?