Unearthing the Demons Within
CoC talks with Arch Enemy
by: Adrian Bromley
It would only seem fitting to call guitar axeman Mike Amott a "workaholic". He is. After all, this is the man who in the last decade or so has been part of some of the influential metal of our time. His work with Carnage is legendary. His days in Carcass are still hard to live up to for most metal musicians. And his continuous work with his two outfits (the stoner, doom/gloom-filled Spiritual Beggars and the blistering assault of Arch Enemy) seems to slap on the tag of "busiest musician in metal music."

But he loves his work and Arch Enemy's latest offering _Stigmata_ (their debut for Century Media) is testament to his dedication and hard work. As they say, dedication leads to perfection. Amott knows this all too well.

"With our first album [_Black Earth_], it was a great lot of fun arranging it and putting it together, but we never really spent much time working on it," begins Amott about the difference between the first LP and their latest. "We had done only four rehearsals for that LP. I basically had all of it ready to go and told everyone what to do, and it came out the way it did. I'm still proud of that record, but _Stigmata_ is all-around a much more professional effort with a lot going for it. The arrangements and guitar work are more advanced and the production is much better, as I had more money to put into the recording. This is really just the next step up for us. This is a natural progression."

The band -- rounded out by brother Christopher on guitars, vocalist John Liiva and drummer Daniel Erlandsson -- has had a knack for being able to meld together melodic rhythms and powerful dual-guitar harmonies with such ease, leaving us the listener crushed beneath the weight of such strict, well-executed song styles. Is the music easy to piece together in the studio? "I think the big part of being in the studio is working on ideas and stuff. You can have all of the material planned going into the studio but it never really seems to work out as much as you want. No matter what you do you'll always wind up in a situation where during the recording process something will not work and you'll have to improvise. And that is the fun of being in the studio. But for us, over the last few years, it has become rather easy to do the recording thing, 'cause the more experience you have, the more you know what's going on. When I did my first record, I didn't know certain things on working a guitar in the studio. I always left it up to the engineer or producer to do that but now I know how to mike up to the cabinet and get the guitar tones I want."

"Knowing how to do things, when we went into the studio to do _Stigmata_ [produced by Fredrik Nordstrom, of At The Gates and HammerFall fame -- Adrian], I really wanted clarity for the whole LP," explains Amott. "I wanted to be able to understand every word, every guitar solo note and hear the tone of the LP. I wanted to have this both raw and intense, but as you know this is hard to accomplish with this type of music. It's so down-tuned and heavy that things get muddy and mixed together. It's hard to keep things focused and get what you want. I aimed for clarity, but still trying to capture the brutality of Arch Enemy." As mentioned above, Amott's double-duty with Spiritual Beggars and Arch Enemy keeps him quite busy at the moment. Tours, press days and working on new material has this axe-slinger running ragged for the most part, but, like anyone holding down two jobs, you get by. "I have managed to do this pretty well for the most part, but maybe not too good as this year I lost my life in a marriage split and that was due to the amount of work I was doing with my music. So in some ways I have managed successfully to do this two band thing and other ways I haven't."

He adds, "Musically, in my head, I have managed to keep it all together. I don't have any other job. I have been able to make a pretty decent living doing this for the 90s and that is fantastic. And I have been lucky to be able to do this having a small fan base around the world that keeps me in mind and keeps me going." It has been a long transition of styles and sounds for Amott over the years, but he has managed to keep things heavy and still radiate a stellar guitar sound that feeds on aggression and powerful elements of passion. His love for this style of music is easily visible -- and heard. "I have so much hate in me that I gotta get it out," expresses Amott about playing this type of music. "It is a great release of energy to do this. When I play in Spiritual Beggars, it is a different kind of energy that I am releasing, but still somewhat the same as with Arch Enemy. I have always been into this kind of music since growing up. I grew up on the 80s thrash/speed metal styles like Metallica, Slayer and Kreator. It has always been in my blood and been an important part of me over the years as a musician. I guess my love for 70s style rock [influential to the sounds of Spiritual Beggars -- Adrian] came later."

On the whole song writing aspect, he notes, "I am very intense when I write songs. I lock myself away and write and write and write. It all comes in bursts for me, though. I'll write two and a half songs in one day and then go for a whole month with no new ideas. I really can't pick out how I actually write my songs. Sometimes I don't even think it's me writing. It's hard to describe it, but when I sit back and hear what I have done, hearing the songs inspired heavily by my thoughts and ideas, I can't figure out how I managed to do them and/or come up with such arrangements. It boggles me. I never had any classical training with guitar work. I was self-taught at playing the guitar."

He finishes, "It's kind of strange to hear all that I have done and take it all in, but I'm proud I have been able to create music and be happy with what I have done for the most part. I am not happy with some material, but it's the good stuff you create that keeps you inspired to keep going. I'm still going, ain't I?"

(article submitted 1/9/1998)

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