Exclusive interview – hellfest.fr: SABATON [Pär Sundström (basse)]
“Hellfest is not just about giving people bands. It’s about giving the people an experience.”
Pär Sundström – Olympia, Paris – January 19, 2017
How is the tour doing so far?
It’s doing fine. We have about seven-eight shows or something and it’s been fantastic so far. We are having great reviews, people are happy. I’m glad to see that most fans react, they’re happy about the production we’re bringing, that we are doing the nicest show we have done so far, which is great. So I’m happy with this. Now, everybody’s getting a bit sick, which can happen on tour. It’s a bit complicated as we have three or four people with stomach flu, several people with a cold, we’ve got fever, shitload of stuffs. Me, I’ve got fever and a cold so I’m not really healthy but I have to go up.
Your setlist is quite stable: you don’t make changes from one day to the other.
We are still trying to figure out the best way to do it, actually. We did a lot of newer songs on this one as we focus a lot on the new album. We’ve got a few older songs that we haven’t played for a long time. But we changed a little bit from the first show, like yesterday for example, to try out things. It should take a few weeks before we have a very good setlist. And of course, with Sabaton and what we are singing about, we try to figure out what’s best depending on the countries
You play six tracks from the new album. Is there one song that the crowd likes in particular?
Yeah, we can easily see that the new favourite is the “Shiroyama” song. The crowd loves it and there’s a great sing-along for that.
There’s a focus on the last 3 albums [Carolus Rex (2012), Heroes (2014) and The Last Stand (2016)]. As if Sabaton has two careers: before and after Carolus Rex.
I wouldn’t say that songs are better now but we have been touring a lot and there has been a big focus in the past on The Art Of War, for example. On almost any tour before there was so much focus on The Art Of War. For years, we’ve been playing “Ghost Division”, “40:1”, “The Art Of War” and some more. For so many years. And there’s been a few other songs we played every night. So we decided we tuned down a little bit The Art Of War as it’s 10 years old, so we can focus on newer songs. And I’m really happy that the crowd likes it this way because it shows that we’re still able to write good songs. If they only want to hear The Art Of War or Primo Victoria songs, it means that we are not doing very well: it’s not the sign of a healthy band, you know, to focus on the past. It’s great that we can focus on the new stuff.
You are to play Carolus Rex in its entirety in Norway this Summer…
It was supposed to be there from the beginning. Carolus Rex is about the Swedish king, Carolus Rex, who died during a siege on that castle. And we’re going to play that castle! So it makes total sense to do it. Actually, one of the last songs of the album is when he was murdered at that castle! So we thought, when we were writing “Hope that one day we can play at Fredriksten fortress!”. So now, we’re doing it! It makes total sense to do it at this place even though a lot of Norwegians will be like : “You’re invading our country!”. But they have to take it: they won the battle and they killed our king anyway!
In 2014, I asked Joakim (Brodèn – vocals) the following question: “If you could sing in another band for one day, which one would you choose?”. He answered : “Accept”. So, is there a chance that something could happen in that vein during the tour?
No, I don’ think so. You never know but I don’t think so… They have to play their show and we have to play ours. We both have our specific time to deliver the best show we can to the crowd. There is a big thing with this: to go out on stage and do an extra performance. Like Joakim was playing on the album with Twilight Force as well so they asked him ealier whether he could sing one song with them. And he said no cause if he goes onstage, he doesn’t want to do it half-hearted: he has to go out full, like what he is. And then he has to go offstage after having spent a lot of energy. So he has to go down and build it up again. It’s pretty complicated. We do it every year on our Sabaton Cruise. It’s very complicated because we play two shows in one night: first, we play one show and then we go offstage for about one hour and a half and then we play another show. It has many reasons. Partly because there are so many people that we have to circulate a little bit and secondly, when we are taking our break, it’s the high sea so that there’s a chance that crowd will not enjoy it because we are doing this in December: the waves can be a little bit rough. So we are taking a break when it’s on the high sea and then we come back and do our secondary show. And in between, we all come off, sweaty and exhausted after the first set and we have to keep the energy level high. Normally, if you want to stay on top of something, you go offstage and you start to drink a lot of beers and you keep yourself in a happy mood. But Sabaton doesn’t want to come back and do a drunk show two hours later. So we go to our dressing room, full of candies and we just sit eating candies! I know that eating candies for two hours is not really healthy but that’s what we do! So when we come back for the second sow, we’re always happy and with our spirits high. So if you’re doing an early show or you’re being a guest earlier and that you’re giving 100% and you have to go back, relax and do another 100% later that day, it’s not ideal, you know. You wouldn’t do two successive gigs in one day. You build up that tension and you just unload it for one opportunity: that’s the focus of your day. Maybe you can prepare yourself for one day on the tour but you can’t do it every night: it would be totally exhausting.
The Last Stand was released on August 19, 2016. How do you feel about it a couple of months later?
I already said that I was so happy to be on tour with so many new songs. That shows that the fans like it. And I’m very happy with it. I really enjoy playing the new songs, they are very diverse. It’s fun to play different ones. We actually practised a new song today that we haven’t played live yet. We did it for soundcheck but we’re not going to play it tonight. I think that every song we play on the new album sticks out in different direction and it’s great to do it. Live-wise, I’m super happy with it. The reaction to the album is great, sales are great: I have nothing to complain at all with the new album so…
I was listening to some reviews yesterday evening and they were not as good as for Heroes. Are you sensitive to comments stating that Sabaton is doing the same album over and over?
No, not really. Things like “they are doing the same album again” or something like that: this is the weirdest thing because you have half the people who will complain that this is not new enough and another half will thing that this is too much new stuff… This is what it is and for us, we don’t even bother about it all. When we make a good album, we’re not like: “This sounds too much like that”. Who cares? It’s a good song and that’s the only thing we care about when we write an album. Good songs = good album. And if it sounds like previous albums or not, we don’t give a … Some bands evolve and that’s their strength. Some bands don’t evolve and that’s their strength. And I think that Sabaton’s strength is that we do Sabaton songs or whatever they are! (laughter)
Let’s talk about Meet & Greet packages. There a “Meet the band” section on your website with a possibility to meet the band without being charged. Will it change in the future?
I don’t know… I mean, the whole idea “meeting the band”, a lot of people are requesting this. Lots of people want to do it. Some wanna pay for it, some don’t want to pay for it. Some people hate bands who charge for it, some don’t. On our website, we have a request: “why do you want to meet the band?” Trust me, it’s a lot of people writing to this and it’s impossible to answer everybody. We tried and looked through this but… The whole thing started out because, over the years, a few people have invited us and some people have become permanent friends of the bands since as they came out with good ideas. They have invited us to inspiring places or told us stories to write about, stories we would have never heard about otherwise. But tonight, there must have been about fifty requests or more from people who want to meet us because they like us. It would be impossible for us to do it unless we do it officially with an autograph session, meet and great, stuff like that. Then comes the second question: if we do it, do we charge for it? Or we don’t? Some bands charge for it and it does make a big sense because, economically, it’s no working so well to be an artist, to be honest. Venues are charging more and more… There, in France, it’s not completely owned. But we just came from England where Live Nation has bought the entire country. If you wanna play a venue, you have to pay the money to them: their ticket, their beer, their venue, their staff, their merchandise… It’s not our t-shirts anymore but their t-shirts, with our name on it… They take everything from us and leave nothing. We did four shows there and we had to pay a lot of money to them even though we were selling big venues. So it doesn’t really work. The only way would be, you know, to find something that they cannot steal from us. The last resort would be ourselves. I hope they cannot own me as a person. But I’m sure they’re going to try to do that as well one day. That is really, in the end, the only thing that remains. If we would have made any money in the UK, it would have meant to sell ourselves, to sit and sign autographs for fans. So we went to UK for promotion and losing money. So… I know fans hate to pay for meeting the artists but I think it’s unavoidable . In time.
You also have your own beer, The Last Beer. Could you tell me more about it?
It was actually only for journalists in the beginning, for the pre-listening of The Last Stand album. We wanted to serve our own beer there, for the journalists from all over the world. We thought it would have a nice impact to serve our own beer. Some brewery just branded up a few bottles for our listening party, for fun. All the journalists were like “Great beer!! Where can I buy it?”. So, later, we went back to the brewery and we tried out some different ones and then we figured out our own recipe. And now, it’s available if you live in Sweden only. For export, it’s complicated: it’s manufactured in Sweden and it’s very expensive: taxes, etc. It’s complicated for us to get it out of the country. I don’t think it would work well on international markets. In countries like Germany, France, Belgium, Czech Republic or Poland, I don’t think that you want to pay that much for a beer. And you have a different kind of taste and Swedish beer was always a little bit ugly… I doubt it would work because the price is more than €2 to manufacture, plus you have to add the taxes…
Sabaton does not mean music only. There’s a festival, a cruise, a beer, a ticket store… There’s gonna be a Sabaton franchise one day?
No but as I said earlier, it’s getting complicated towards money these days so it’s good to do things like that. The Sabaton festival is not about making money, though: we don’t make any money with that. We pay money to the other artists: they are the ones who make money at our festival. But it’s a fun thing to do. And every year, I have tears in my eyes when I see how many people are involved in it. We have 300 volunteers from everywhere in the world, working for us, many fans from all over the world coming to live in our home town for two weeks building the festival: it’s amazing. The atmosphere on this festival is kind of one the best atmosphere you can ever find. It started out as a small thing: we just wanted to do something for the release of The Art Of War. And it grew. Now, it’s a four-day festival, including the warm-up day. And the cruise… If we stopped it, people would be so angry! It can’t be any bigger. We sell out in 15 mins and there is no bigger ship: we can’t do anything more. The cruise ship is what it is. It started out as a solution for a problem. To transport the crew and the band from Sweden to Finland, the ferry company wanted to charge us so much, just to cross over! So I hired the entire boat instead, sold tickets and filled it with fans! It was seven years ago and it sold out every year. We also have our radio station. We had to put it to rest now because… We’ve kept it running for a while. You could listen to it everywhere in the world but it was in Swedish. Most of the stuff was pre-recorded but we did some live broadcasting as well. It was pretty funny. We inaugurated it on the day we had the pre-listening of The Last Stand. It worked fine, we had quite a lot of listeners and I’m waiting for a full report after this tour. We’re going to sit with the radio company and see if they’re happy with it.
Hellfest now. 2017 will be your third time there. Any memories of the previous ones?
I remember the first one pretty well. Mostly our singer would remember that because he was on salmonella! I remember that! I remember us being so happy and surprised the first time we played. It was early afternoon and there was a good crowd. There were many people for the signing session as well. We were not expecting that because we were such a smaller band in France. So that was a good memory. The last time was more a quick-in/quick-out. But I have to say it’s a great, beautiful festival. And I love the area. It’s a place where I would love to walk around and have a look. We arrived late and it was straight into the media, etc., to the stage and then eat. It was really compact. I think I didn’t even have time to eat or something. It’s a lovely, beautiful festival. It’s one of those inspiring ones and we take a lot of it to our festival because this is not just about giving people bands. It’s about giving the people an experience. American should come and look at Hellfest because in America… Last time we played a festival in America, they didn’t even put lights on the stage! Because they thought: “Who needs that? We save on the lights and we put as many artists as possible. 15 mins-change between everyone and everyone plays 30 mins”. What the fuck is that? OK, some artists have to play shorter, yes. But it’s like we were second to last and still, we played 30 mins. It was still 6 to 7,000 people watching our show and they would only get 30 mins of it. Stupid. Hellfest is obviously selling out before announcing bands now as people come for the festival itself: the festival means something itself. I’m really impressed by Hellfest, you know?
Is the line-up to your taste?
Actually, it is always one of the best. That will probably be my last chance to see Aerosmith, I think. That’s gonna be great. For this show, we are bringing a big show as well. Tonight, we have quite a lot of stuffs with us but still, we cannot use the pyro inside here. But at Hellfest, we will. So that will be a very nice show at Hellfest.
I meet the guys from Betraying The Martyrs last week and I asked them to ask you a question. Here it is : “Can we borrow your tank for Hellfest?”.
(laughter) You need a truck to transport it and a couple of people to operate it so it’s a little bit complicated, you know. And also, we need it for the next year and a half… It’s a good question, though! Everybody wants it. That was the idea when I started to think about it. I wanted the coolest drum riser in the world and now… We have it!
Many thanks to Roger (Replica).