June 5, 2015 Interview – Joakim Brodén of Sabaton
Hailing from the industry city of Falun, Sweden, Sabaton have been one of the country’s hottest imports in the Metal world in recent years. Initially forming in 1999, after being a part of other projects, Sabaton distinguished themselves among other Heavy Metal bands, taking on a lyrical theme telling stories about historic war events of the world, thus becoming a signature of their style. After years of hard work and dedication, it was 2010’s Coat of Arms which not only saw the band reach charted positions in their homeland, but in other European nations as well, and in 2012 Carolus Rex saw the band boldly recording a success record both in English and in their native language. Now charging across the seas, in recent years Sabaton are taking the North American region by storm after the release of 2014’s Heroes as the band tours alongside the likes of Amon Amarth, Iced Earth, and most recently, Nightwish. Known for their powerful, energetic music, and unmistakeable live shows, Sabaton are one of Heavy Metal’s elite. Recently we sat down with lead vocalist Joakim Brodén for a closer look at the story behind the band, touring the world, passion for history, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You began Sabaton some sixteen years ago now. In that time, the band has really grown into a leading force in Heavy Metal through Europe. Now in recent years, the band is starting to breakthrough in North America more. What has the ride been like for Sabaton?
Joakim Brodén – (Laughs) Well, it has been a long ride with lots of good memories, very few bad ones actually. Of course there is bound to be shit happens along the way when you do something like this. In general, I guess we have just been doing what we love actually. We started out in ‘99, and back then, we were very bad. I would not recommend anyone listening to us, the way we sounded in that period. Then in 2005, we started touring internationally, and ever since, we have been on tour and releasing albums basically.
CrypticRock.com – Any ride, there is going to be ups and downs and growth periods, but the band has really grown a lot in the past decade.
Joakim Brodén – Oh yes. Actually, we have seen the next generation, since I would say maybe 2006 or so, depending on how you look at it. That also comes with us getting a bit more experienced, also with a bit more exposure of course, and switching from our independent small record label to Nuclear Blast obviously makes it easier. People can actually find the albums (chuckles). Even though we were a Swedish band and had a Swedish record label, it was hard to find our albums in a Swedish record store. That problem does not happen anymore, at least (chuckles).
CrypticRock.com – Right, exposure is a way for people to understand what happens and what is going on in the band. Thematically Sabaton’s songs have always lyrically associated with epic battles. What inspired this lyrical direction?
Joakim Brodén – Well actually, on accident in a way, we had the music for our song called “Primo Victoria” and when Pär Sundström (bass) and sat down and listened when were going to write the lyrics, we did not know what topic the song should be about. We realized it was a big sounding song, so we needed an epic subject or something like that. Then we thought, “How about we make the song about D-Day and a tribute to those who went ashore.” We both liked the idea, we started writing lyrics, had to do a little bit of research, of course we knew it was June 6, 1944, but we checked stuff out a bit. All of a sudden while doing this, at least for me, I realized that writing lyrics was not necessarily evil anymore. All of a sudden, it was just interesting and fun, so we basically said,”Hey, let’s make a full album about war and history,” and that was 2004.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it is quite interesting, obviously as a songwriter, for yourself and for fans to listen to. It is different and is something that actually allows you to give a perspective on history, where we are, and where we come from.
Joakim Brodén – Yes, I think there is so many real stories that have been forgotten, so why the fuck make up new ones? (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is very true. The band’s 2012 album, Carolus Rex, was a massive success, going gold in Poland and platinum in your home country of Sweden. The record was in fact recorded both in English and Swedish. With that said, why do you think the album is so successful?
Joakim Brodén – Well in Sweden, obviously having the Swedish version, singing in Swedish about Swedish history, helps a lot. In Poland, I have no idea. We have went Gold in Poland before on other album albums, but there is no song in that album that directly corresponds to Polish history. I think it is one of these things where it is doing the right thing at the right time and being lucky about it. It is quite uncommon for a band of our size to record an album in two languages, one being Swedish, that does not happen everyday. It is still military history. It is about the Swedish empire, early 1600s until early 1700s, so with that getting quite a bit of a boom in Sweden, it also starts to rub onto European countries. We are all pretty close.
CrypticRock.com – Right, as you said sometimes things just take off. We do not know why, but it definitely is an excellent thing to see that the record was so successful. That record definitely carried over into 2014’s Heroes release, it has been received very well worldwide. What was the writing and recording process like this time around for Heroes?
Joakim Brodén – It was Hell (laughs). The writing process was very tough because we had some new band members. That was going to be the first album with them and there was a lot of performance anxiety, a lot on the writing side. Actually, throughout half of the album, in November we started making new stuff. In the end, when they actually came to the recording, it was really fun because we have not had that much fun recording Heavy Metal in ten years I think.
CrypticRock.com – Well that is good, and the record came out excellent. It is a very balanced record and powerful from start to finish. You worked with the great Peter Tägtgren on Heroes, as you have with in the past on other albums. What is it like working with such a well-versed producer as Pete?
Joakim Brodén – I think it was like working with an old friend. We have known each other for many years. We started recording in his brother’s studio in 2001, it was the first time we were out there. Even though we did not record with him until 2008, he has been around helping us, giving us tips. When it comes to the production side, he has been like a mentor to the band in many ways. We only used another studio that was not his or his brother’s once, that was because he was on tour with Hypocrisy.
CrypticRock.com – Right, well that is great that you have that relationship and he has helped you through the years. He really is quite a talented individual musically and production wise.
Joakim Brodén – Yes, that is a good thing. He is not only the production, he also understands musical advice. It has been really helpful to us, I think.
CrypticRock.com – As you stated earlier, in recent years the band’s lineup has changed a bit. With that said, how has the chemistry been with the latest Sabaton lineup.
Joakim Brodén – Oh, very good, we have not killed each other, yet (laughs). In a sense, we are kind of baptized in fire because we are looking at 160 shows approximately from April last year, the last twelve months. So, if we would not have worked together, I guess we would have a split up already (laughs)
CrypticRock.com – Well that is good that it is working well. Chemistry is essential with the band, you need to be able to get along on and off stage.
Joakim Brodén – Yes, a lot of people do not realize, being on tour or being in a band, those few moments when you are on stage are very much a minor amount of the time compared to the other stuff. You have to stand in line at the security checkpoint at the airport together. You have to walk past each other on the tour bus, fight over who goes on the toilet first, or whatever (laughs). Actually, finding somebody you can enjoy playing with is easy, and there are several thousands of good musicians out there. It comes with expanding the combo, somebody you like to play with and you can be around with 250 days a year.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, you are absolutely right. It definitely is a long trek when you are on the road touring, and you would need to get along together as well, absolutely. Adding to the excitement of 2014, you also toured North America with Amon Amarth as well as Iced Earth earlier in the year. Now, relatively quickly, you return alongside Nightwish. What has your experience been like in North America?
Joakim Brodén – In general I like it here. People are friendly, easy to communicate, sure as hell beats trying to communicate in Russia.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) It is true, we have spoken to other bands in the past, and they really enjoy touring in America when they are from somewhere else, say like Sweden or Norway, or anywhere in Europe. A lot of people told us the reason why they enjoy it so much is because you do not need to go through security checkpoints every time you go to a different city because you are within the same country. You do not have to worry about those stresses. You are just driving state to state in America.
Joakim Brodén – Well, true, but in general, going up and down from Canada twice can put you through as many border controls as a normal European tour does. Within the European Union, we do not even need a passport. On the last tour, of course if you go into the UK, there is sharing agreements, so you have to go out and show your passport, but it is not like you are in the mainland Europe. To be honest I would be surprised if you have to show your passport more than once or twice in the same month.
CrypticRock.com – That is true as well, a lot has changed over the years. Only country in Europe that requires you have to show a passport in Europe is the Ukraine.
Joakim Brodén – Yes, exactly. Technically, Russia is part of Europe, and there are also former Soviet States that would also be a hassle. Also, around the Balkan peninsula, that is where these things can happen as well. Going all the way from Sweden thru Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and into Portugal, you will never have to show your passport once.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, it is definitely a different world now than it was years ago. It seems like Sweden has a very strong base of Heavy Metal, whether it be Power Metal, Death Metal, or Black Metal, it just seems that Metal is very prominent in Sweden and in Scandinavian countries in general. Why do you think Swedish people love Metal so much?
Joakim Brodén – I have no idea, but it is true actually. In Sweden, and especially in Finland, Heavy Metal is no underground movement; it is a major music genre. I guess there are several reasons for it. One, it is easiest. It is a friendly environment when you want to start out. You can rent from the local government, or organizations will help you out when you pay eight bucks every month. You get one hour per week in a rehearsal room when they already have guitar amps. There is a drum kit, you just bring your own cymbals or guitar, they have this so you can already start playing. Everything from web to public schools training in music, I think a factor is the traditional Swedish Folk music, which is very popular in Sweden. Basically, you hear a lot of Traditional Swedish Folk music in our band. You can hear that, sometimes in a song that Max Martin, the Swedish songwriter, wrote for Bon Jovi or the Backstreet Boys.
CrypticRock.com – Swedish people, Scandinavian people, like the music that is epic, and Heavy Metal is epic.
Joakim Brodén – Oh yes, I like it big. When people say less is more, they are wrong, less cannot be more. When it comes to production and song writing, yes you should eat the cookie and try and keep it at the same time! (laughs)
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) It is true, that is something that Scandinavian people enjoy in their music. What are some of your musical influences?
Joakim Brodén – There is a lot . I got into music when I was a kid, I was three or four years old. I saw Twisted Sister for the first time. I was pretty much stuck from that early age. In the later years, I still enjoyed Twisted Sister really, so it is actually really sad to hear that A.J Pero passed away recently. Later on, the classics, I love Accept, I love Rainbow, one of the best bands, ever. I love Black Sabbath with Dio or Tony Martin or Ozzy Osborne, the usual suspects of the ’70s and ’80s.
CrytpicRock.com – Right, those are some of the best band’s of all time. As you mentioned Twisted Sister, it is a shame about A.J. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Joakim Brodén – Horror movies, not very much. A movie I really liked was The Thing, the one from the 1982 with Kurt Russell. That is almost the newest Horror movie I have seen (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – That is actually a very good movie. You said Horror movies are not your thing too much. Do you have a particular type of film that you enjoy?
Joakim Brodén – Yes, I do. I do like being a History nerd, I do like a good war documentary, or something like Band of Brothers series (2001). When there is a perfect mix of fact and fiction together, that is something I really enjoy.