Interview: Ted Lundström – Amon Amarth

The mighty Amon Amarth released their twelfth full-length album, The Great Heathen Army, earlier this month via Metal Blade Records. It is everything their legions of fans love about Amon Amarth and more. More juggernaut riffs, pre-combat tank-up chants [Skol!], and growling invocations to Odin than one could ever want. This time our seafaring Pagans pay a bit more attention to their Saxon adversaries, because who knew a bunch of Christian farmers would be such a pain in the ass? Amon Amarth will not back down, as they promise “The armada of the Great Heathen Army is at sea on the way to raid.”

Just before the release of The Great Heathen Army, Trendcrusher spoke to bass player Ted Lundström about Amon Amarth’s nearly three-decade career, how the album came together, and beer. An excellent conversation, as always, which you can read below, watch on YouTube, or listen to on Spotify.

Trendcrusher (PK): I’m joined by Ted Lundström, the bassist of the mighty Amon Amarth. Welcome.

Ted Lundström (TL): Thank you very much. Good to be here. 

PK: It’s so great to speak to you. You guys are on the cusp of releasing your 12th album, The Great Heathen Army. And as someone who grew up listening to and was introduced to a lot of Melodic Death Metal through Amon Amarth, it’s great to speak to you. How does it feel to release your twelfth album?

TL: It’s kind of unreal when you think about it. When we started way back, we had no idea we would be playing this far into the future. But, we’re enjoying it full time. It’s just such a great feeling to be able to still do this. And especially now after the Corona, when we can finally get back out playing after this extra long break we had. So, yeah, we’re super excited. It’s going to be so much fun. 

PK: I love how you put it as an extra long break and nothing else.

TL: Right.

PK: Because everyone has a different take on it. So I really love this optimistic take you have and just to dive in before we get into the music. I still remember listening to Amon Amarth and being enamored not just with the music, but the entire concept and the album artwork, and stuff like that. And over the last ten to fifteen years, I’ve seen you guys take it from strength to strength. I mean, just looking at your shared production that you all put up on stage right now. Is that kind of the approach that you’ll take also to the music now? It’s not just about having just the music.

TL: Right.

PK: Because it’s the complete package. How do you kind of put the stage production, the artwork, the merchandise?

TL: Yeah, that’s totally how we think. When we think of music, we want to have more because, I mean, an album that’s great to listen to, but we also want to have, like you say, artwork and stage show. We write music more like a movie soundtrack idea, basically. We have that feeling in the back of our heads when we write music. And we also think about the live shows. How is this going to look? And when you buy a ticket to the show, you buy a ticket for an event, not only listen to the music you’re in there for. It’s going to be the whole package. And that’s how we love to listen to and watch music with bands like we grew up with. And we want to do that in our way.

PK: So take me back. One of the things I really enjoyed, as I said, was just the concepts and someone growing up in India and you don’t know much about the Vikings or the kind of story and things like that. It was really cool to kind of learn that. And your last album, Berserker, was, if I’m not mistaken, a concept album. So what were the initial ideas for the Great Heathen Army? What was the initial spark that you all had for the album?

TL: I don’t know. It’s hard to say because it was a bit different situation with Corona. We expected it to be maybe just six months or something like that because we were in the middle of touring. And then the Corona hit us in the middle of that. We missed a lot of touring for that album. So when we got back, we didn’t really think about starting a new album because we thought we were still on the last album. 

But then we kind of slowly realized that it’s not going to happen, so we might as well start a new album. So we started gathering ideas again, basically the same way we always do. So there was no big difference for us. Actually, the Corona didn’t make a big difference, except that we had more time to relax first and have a fresh start. And then we just started writing riffs and then came up with different lyric ideas. And then we kind of put that together when we meet up and we make an album. Yeah.

PK: I guess this is what happens when you’re releasing your 12th album, right? It’s all easy at this point. It’s like muscle memory kind of working in. 

Since you brought about coming up with the lyrics, I have to ask – from your press release – I’m  just going to quote [Johan Hegg] where he said “song by song, I think this might be the strongest album we’ve ever made.” It was difficult to agree on the singles for the video because everyone had different opinions. I think that’s a good sign. So since I have you, Ted, what was your pick for the single of the album, and can you tell us why?

TL: My choice, as I remember it, for the first single, like, to present the album, I wanted to have the title track because that’s like in your face. It has a really groovy, heavy start, kind of like Slipknot chug on the guitars, and then it goes into a lot of energy and it’s got a great chorus in the end. When you repeat The Great Army, it gets me into that kind of live mode where you want to sing along with the air. I thought that was kind of a great opening to present a new album. So that was my first choice. 

But as he said, we work with an album for maybe a year and a half before we even record it. And when we recorded it, we heard the songs a million times. And sometimes you get blind a little bit. You don’t really know. So we usually play the album for friends and people in the industry after we record it to see their opinion. Because sometimes we get lost in our own emotions for the song. That’s why it’s tricky when everybody has different favorite songs. Then you have to agree on the first single, the second single, and the album release day song. Uh, it’s always tricky for us.

PK: I totally agree. As any person who’s in a creative field, you get so subjective about something. It’s really hard to be objective, especially about your own work. So I totally understand where you’re coming from. 

And quickly, I want to touch on the music videos. Because, as I said, the scale of Amon Amarth has kind of increased. You guys are no longer just making music videos, which are five or six guys in a basement playing, right? You are doing proper mini-feature films. How does that feel? Is that a process you really enjoy? Because that’s part of the package, right? For a band. I’m just trying to think as a 15-year-old, if I discovered Amon Amarth like that, I would totally lose my mind just watching those videos.

TL: Yeah, it is how you say. You don’t want to have ten videos in a row where you just stand just playing your instruments. That could be fun for a few videos, but then we want to have fun, too,  making those videos and planning the ideas for the video. That’s part of the fun. So we had a great time for this album, coming up with ideas for videos, and we were bouncing ideas, with different video directors to try to find something. Because you also have a budget, you have to stay within and see what can we do for this budget and how can we make the coolest video so people will want to watch it more than one time.

PK: Yeah. And it’s truly fun, I think when I go back to watching, like, Painkiller, Judas Priest on TV and stuff like that. For me, it feels like that very similar thing now with just stumbling on YouTube, right? Because that’s basically what YouTube is. What MTV and all the other music channels are like. 

But you know what – quick segue because it’s great to talk to you about music – From what I’ve understood, there’s another thing that you really enjoy. And I think it’s not just you, it’s also the band, which is beer. And I was reading  that Amon Amarth did a collaboration with 3 Floyds Brewing. You did three beers, which were Ragnarok, Skoll, and Hati. Tell me about that. I think Metal and beer go hand in hand and just talking about the live shows again, what are some of the beers? Because I think that’s one of the cool things about touring around the world, right? You get to enjoy different beers and try different beers. Any highlights? Anything that has stood out for you?

TL: Well, I’m a big, uh, fan of American style, the IPAs, and stuff. But also I’m into more dark stouts and heavy imperial stouts. There are so many great places, especially when we tour America, we always get to visit the different breweries and meet people. Because a lot of brewers, at least used to be in the back in time, it was kind of like brewing these real cool beers. It was kind of underground. 

The guys from 3 Floyds, who were like metalheads, started brewing beer. And they have the same kind of inspiration we have when we make music. So they also want to have the coolest beer with the nicest package. And they don’t care. They don’t want to sell it to the whole world. They want to sell to people who really enjoy it. So it’s kind of like an underground feeling. That’s how we met in the first place because there were metalheads and we started meeting every time we were in their hoods. And this grew into making a beer and it continues that way. Hopefully, we can do more collaborations in the future.

PK: That’s really cool to see, especially since it’s a very seamless fit, right? It’s not something like you guys are selling like, bobbleheads or something like that. Although, if I’m not mistaken, is there an Amon Amarth bobbleheads or action figures?

TL: That was something we did way back for a special edition. A crazy fun idea we had. They were of poor quality. Many of them broke before they reached their buyer. It was great, though. You want to be serious with your business, but you also want to have fun sometimes. I think we try to stay on a nice level of seriousness, but also having fun and enjoying life.

PK: Since you brought up touring, I want to talk about that. Because you’ve got a lot of touring ahead. You’ve got the North American tour with Carcass, Obituary, and Cattle Decapitation. A European tour also coming in. And just to kind of add to the fact that you said your Berserker tour kind of got cut short. What’s it going to be like when you put together a set list of sorts, because there’s so much music, right? I mean, you’ve got twelve albums, and so many of them are live favorites.

TL: Yeah, it’s super tricky. Even more tricky than choosing the videos for the singles. Because we got so many songs now, we’re up to over 100. So it’s really tricky. And you want all fans happy. Fans have been with you since the start and the new fans maybe come for the last album. It’s really tricky to squeeze that into a 90 minutes show. It’s impossible to make everybody happy and ourselves, too. So, yeah, it’s a situation we have, but also it’s kind of a nice problem to have. It could be the other way around.

PK: Okay, so I know we’ve got a short chat, but I definitely want to get this question in before we say our goodbyes. It’s 30 years, twelve albums. You talked about beer collaborations, you talked about action figures. What’s left for Amon Amarth to achieve? Is that something you have thought about at all?

TL: No. Usually all these things, usually just crazy ideas that pop up, and then we say, “yeah, let’s do this.” So, of course, we have dreams, or what we want to achieve as a band, but that’s usually like to grow more. So you can play more places and bigger venues and have cooler stage shows. Whatever comes up, we think it’s fun. We try to make it happen. So we will see what the future has for us.

PK: Awesome. So here’s me on my parting note, wishing that Amon Amarth makes another trip to India because it’s been a while since you guys played here. So hopefully that happens soon. And I wish you all the best success for your upcoming album. Thanks so much, Ted.

TL: Well, thank you very much. And I’m pretty sure we will come back to India. We had India on the list for Berserker before the Corona. So now we will have to make it happen.

PK: Awesome.

TL: We will probably come.

PK: Awesome. Looking forward to that. 

Amon Amarth Official Website

Metal Blade Records Official Website

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