Arch Enemy 2004

Another find from the archives is Dan's interview with Michael Amott and Sharlee D’Angelo.

11/16/200415 min read

Conducted 11/15/2004 by Dan Barkasi

While on the Fall 2004 edition of the MTV Headbanger’s Ball Tour, I got the chance to chat with Michael Amott (guitar) and Sharlee D’Angelo (bass). This interview was one of the funniest one’s that I’ve gotten the chance to do. Both guys were really cool and incredibly funny. I hope you all enjoy it!

Dan: How has this tour treated you guys so far?

Michael Amott: Real good. It’s running smoothly. All the bands are working well together. We’re on our 10th show now. The first week is kind of tons of equipment, tons of boxes, and you have to figure out how you want to do the show. Now we’re getting into the swing of it.

Sharlee D’Angelo: The first couple of shows, it’s just finding out who’s who in what band. I’m trying to remember!

Michael: Everybody wants to know who we are, so. laughs

Dan: How did you guys get onto the Headbanger’s Ball tour?

Michael: I don’t really know how. These kinds of things just happen. We have a booking agent who deals with out management and talks about various options of what we could do. We were actually looking at coming over and doing our own tour; putting together a package with just Swedish bands and do that over here for like a month. We actually started putting that together, but then this came around and we figured, ‘why not do this?’ We’re going to play for more people.

Sharlee: Another thing about this is that we have some family relations going on here, with Cradle’s drummer and our drummer are brothers. So that whole thing was cool to do.

Dan: The new EP is really cool. What motivated the band to make the EP and cover the bands that you did?

Sharlee: Probably just to put something out and just have a little bit of fun. Recording an album is such a serious piece of work, where doing something like that is just pure fun for us and hopefully for people that listen to it to.

Michael: There really wasn’t that much thought that went into it. The cover versions was stuff that we already kind of that we already half knew, or somebody knew a riff or two, and we’d say ‘well, we’ll do that one because we can get that together quickly.’ Stuff we’ve been jamming on.

Dan: How’s the progress with the new material going?

Michael: Very good, I think. We have ideas for five or six songs. The plan is to come out of this tour and take Christmas and New Year’s off, and start rehearsing in January and start doing demos in January and February. We’re going to set up a little studio in our rehearsal room and try to get everything together then and try to record in March. So we’re keeping busy.

Dan: Is there going to be any kind of lyrical theme that you guys like to go by on your albums?

Michael: laughs Romance!

Sharlee: laughs But yeah, there’s usually a prototype for every album, although it’s not like a concept album. But usually one song starts out, and the rest of the stuff follows.

Michael: The last album, Anthems of Rebellion, had a lot of things about personal freedom and not sticking to the norm. Trying to find your own identity in life. Rebellion.

Sharlee: I guess it was a reaction to the Wages of Sin album, which was more about stuff like inner demons I guess and a bit more abstract things.

Michael: The next one is going to be a concept album about refrigerators! points to a mini-refrigerator we’re standing next to laughs There’s so many fridges! You just don’t know till you’ve done some research.

Dan: Yeah! Like there’s the one’s with automatic ice makers and everything.

Michael: That’s right!

Sharlee: This is going to be the long piece, the last song on the album. It’s about 12 minutes. It’s going to be about the thing that you push that makes the crushed ice! laughs

Dan: Does the band follow a specific process when writing new material?

Sharlee: Basically we just string notes together and beat to that. Something you can jam to!

Michael: How the music comes together? We kind of do it the old fashioned way. Me and Chris do the riffs, and we just jam on it. Guitar, bass and drums. It’s just kind of the old fashioned way. We just jam around different riffs, our drummer Daniel will work with me. Like I’ll have a couple riffs that I think will fit together and then we kind of jam on them together. He comes up with these different rhythms and they usually end up being a different one usually than what I think it’s going to be. We try to give each other that freedom to add each other’s personal flavor. Except this guy! points at Chris We keep him pretty out! laughs

Chris shrugs his shoulders and laughs

Sharlee: You should utilize what you have in the band. If you have a great drummer, don’t tell him to play like a 4-4 if he can do something better.

Michael: We do it the natural way, making music. We don’t do it on computers. Just the old fashioned way.

Dan: Arch Enemy has been gaining a lot of solid ground in the states. Does this exceed your expectations?

Michael: We thought we were going to be bigger now, actually! laughs I’m trying to be humble there! You know, it’s always a surprise when people get it. I’ve always said that the best music is always the stuff that never gets any recognition. We obviously feel really good about our music; that people are picking up on it is great. We’re kind of different, too. There’s a lot of trends going on right now in America. Like metal is coming back again in America finally, but it’s really a different kind of metal. I feel that we’re a little bit of outsiders. That we don’t really fit into exactly like bands like Shadows Fall, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, those kind of bands that are big now in the states and having a lot of success. I really don’t feel like we’re part of that, either. So we’re kind of doing our own little thing - which we’ve been doing all the time - but people are digging it. So it’s getting a little bit bigger every time we come around. The sales are going up; the ticket sales and everything. It’s a good feeling.

Dan: Do either of you have a favorite song to play live?

Michael: I always like playing “Dead Eyes See No Future.”

Sharlee: That’s always a good song to play. It’s like, the favorite songs that you play live are always the ones that you haven’t played for a while.

Michael: Yeah, like we played “The Immortal” today. We haven’t done it on this tour so far. We threw that in today.

Sharlee: It was up in the air. We did the “Burning Bridges” intro and all that, and it’s fun to do that once in a while. We should do that more often, actually.

Dan: Have you been mixing up your set lists a lot during this tour?

Sharlee: We’ve changed it a couple of times.

Michael: We rehearsed some things before we leave. We try to sit down and say, they’re going to give us 35 minutes or 45 minutes, whatever it might be. We try to work out a set at home in our rehearsal studio, but usually you sort of end up changing it up a little bit.

Dan: What kind of music have you both been listening to lately?

Michael: I bought the new Clutch album. I really liked that one.

Sharlee: Six Feet Under, Graveyard Classics II. That’s been running.

Michael: Yeah, you know, they covered the whole Back In Black album. Did you know about that?

Dan: Yup, I’ve heard it.

Michael: Yeah, that was funny! We’ve listened to that quite a lot.

Sharlee: Molly Hatchet!

Michael: Molly Hatchet! Old southern rock!

Sharlee: Mike just bought a “Best of Molly Hatchet” album. laughs It’s cool to listen to stuff like that because it’s different from what we’re doing.

Michael: Yeah, it’s different from what we play.

Sharlee: You don’t want to be listening to like, the latest Dimmu Borgir before you go on stage. You want something totally different.

Dan: What are some of your biggest musical influences?

Sharlee: How many hours do you have? laughs

Michael: A lot of traditional kind of like heavy metal and classic rock and kinds of stuff. I think that’s the biggest influence. From classic rock like Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple, that kind of stuff; into Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon; all that kind of stuff.

Sharlee: Then into thrash.

Michael: Yeah, like Slayer, Metallica. Then death metal. It’s the whole spectrum, really. We enjoy everything from like Jimi Hendrix to Suffocation.

Sharlee: Yeah. Cannibal Corpse, too.

Michael: Yeah, you know what I mean? Good music is good music. We’re kind of real open-minded toward music.

Sharlee: I think as listeners as we are a band, we’re more song-orientated. Like if somebody has a good song and has a good vibe going, it’s always fun to listen to and that’s always fun to play as well. We try to take after our heroes.

Dan: What do you think is the best show that you’ve ever played?

Michael: I don’t know. There are lots of good shows. A lot of them are good for different reasons. We played one up in Canada. That was a headlining show up in Toronto. It was real manic and a girl flew into my pick guard. Some girl went crowd surfing and smashed into my pick guard on my guitar. It was one of those really intense shows and that was a lot of fun.

Sharlee: And then you might have, you know, playing with Maiden in front of like 18,000. That’s a different kind of intensity because there’s so many people there with this energy going on. It’s always like different crowds in different parts of the world.

Michael: We’ve always had a pretty big following in Japan. When we play over there, the crowds are really different, the venues are really big and the stage is huge. We always put on like a special light show. It’s like this big heavy metal extravaganza. It’s real clean and everything is well organized. You go to some places, it’s like a war zone basically! You’re trying to get your gear up through. Like some gigs we’ve played in America and around Europe. A lot of little clubs, real dirty, and we like that as well.

Sharlee: The really great shows are like when we always rock out. Like in the middle of Illinois. Those were great shows!

Michael: Yeah, they really were. And the kids make the shows.

Sharlee: Yeah, it’s like it was probably the shittiest venue in the world, but still. One of the greatest shows that we’ve done was actually in there.

Dan: Do you have a preference between working in the studio and touring?

Michael: I like both a lot. They sort of compliment each other. Like when you’re in the studio, it’s fun creating new music. Sometimes playing live, especially what we’re doing right now, it’s kind of more like you just go in there and rage for a short period of time. You don’t really get to be that creative, really. Like if you’re doing a headline set, you can be a bit more creative. We don’t have like ballads or anything, but we have instrumentals and stuff that we can play to break it up and you can be a bit more creative. This is more like going in and trying to spread the word.

Sharlee: Yeah, just trying to make an impact.

Michael: When you’re in the studio, you’re a lot more creative, let's say. We enjoy that. I think you need both. I would hate to be just stuck in the studio and I would hate to be just on the road and never record a record again.

Sharlee: Once you’ve done the whole creative thing in the studio, the process takes a long time. Then you get more and more things back. The song takes shape and all that; then the whole album takes shape. Then I guess it’s like the cliché compared to a newborn child. You want to show it off to people. We want to take the album on the road and play the songs.

Michael: That’s the good thing about metal as well, is that when you release a new album you can throw in like five or six new songs and that’s what the fans want. They’re excited about the new album and everything. I think with a lot of other music, like pop music. They only play one or two new songs and the rest will be the hits. The good thing about metal is that the fans want to buy the new t-shirt, they want to hear the new album, they want to hear some of the new songs they’ve been playing.

Sharlee: They come out to a lot of shows and they’ve probably seen you a couple of times before, so they want new shit from you.

Michael: But we’ve got our hits as well. Our good old jams!

Dan: What’s been the most fulfilling part of your career thus far?

Michael: I think the most fulfilling part, in the career of Arch Enemy, was taking it from basically a loose concept record I did that was not really a band. The first album was very; I guess what you’d call a project type thing. Seeing that transform into what it is today; it’s like a family basically. It’s like a musical machine. Every member now is so perfect for this band. It’s a good achievement in itself.

Sharlee: I think we’ve come to the point now where it would be really hard to replace anybody.

Michael: Except the bass player! laughs

Sharlee: But that’s the case with every band, isn’t it? We’re no exception to the rule! laughs

Dan: Where do you see Arch Enemy in the next couple of years?

Sharlee: Huge! Fucking huge, dude!

Michael: This place here. We’re going to be back here! laughs I think it’s about growing, but we don’t want to compromise the music. We want people to come to us. That’s what we’ve been doing the whole time. We’re at that point now that if we did some things a little bit differently, there are some elements in the music that might be a little bit more “hip.” But you have to stay true to yourself.

Sharlee: Yeah, because otherwise you’d start hating yourself after a while. You might be rich, but then again.

Michael: I think what we’re going to do is basically still be here in two years. We’ll probably have one more album out, and be on the road on the end. I don’t know, we might still be touring for that record.

Dan: Do you have a favorite movie or TV show?

Sharlee: Movie would be Footloose! laughs

Michael: That’s a good one. Dirty Dancing 2!

Sharlee: Or Cannibal Holocaust. Either or; they’re all the same genre anyway.

Michael: We all like movies. I buy a lot of DVDs and watch a lot of movies, especially on the road. Nothing to do. I guess my all-time favorite movie is the original Planet of the Apes movie.

Sharlee: The Fifth Element. A classic.

Dan: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen while on tour?

Sharlee: Actually liking our music! laughs

Michael: Getting tattoos of our logo and stuff. I don’t have any tattoos. I can never think of anything that I’d like to get tattooed that I’m serious enough about. It’s not really my thing. Then you see kids that get them like it’s nothing. “I got this small back piece with your album on it,” and you go, “wow!” That’s pretty crazy.

Sharlee: There was somebody I met on tour in 2002 that we, you know, signed her arm. She came back next time and it was actually inked in. It was like, “woah!”

Michael: There are some pretty crazy things. Especially since Angela joined the band. She’s awakened some sort of dark love amongst metal fans. People do crazy shit to meet the band and meet her and it gets pretty freaky at times. I think the coolest thing is fans that travel. We’ve got fans from Japan that come and see us when we get to the west coast. There will be Arch Enemy fans from Japan that just fly in to see the L.A. show.

Sharlee: I remember some people from France.

Michael: Yeah, the French fan club. They were in Florida.

Sharlee: Yeah, they came out to see a few shows.

Michael: That kind of dedication is really cool; when people start coming out and you get to know them. They become a part of the whole thing, really. There’s not that many negative things to say. Being appreciated for what you do and getting that recognition is great.

Sharlee: There’s always a bit of self-pity involved. We’ll be bored during the day and like there’s nothing to do and there’s nothing around here. But then again, you’re actually doing it. Later at night, you’re actually having fun on stage.

Dan: What do you guys like to do to occupy yourself during your off time?

Michael: At home, it’s just constant work basically. I work a lot with the band and keeping that whole thing moving forward. So I work with the management, and I guess we just rehearse a lot as well. It’s all about the music, really. You have this as a hobby. You grow up and music is you hobby and you dream about doing music full-time. Then when you’re doing music full-time, then you have to sort of think what’s going to be my hobby then? I don’t have a hobby right now because playing guitar is what I love to do, and creating music with my friends in the band. At one point that was my hobby. I had a job and this was what I do to get off. Now this is what I do full-time.

Sharlee: I think your hobby is actually buying records from other people to listen to, to get new music.

Michael: Yeah, I like buying records.

Dan: What’s your opinion on sharing music on the Internet?

Sharlee: Well, it’s a whole double-edged sword, isn’t it? I mean, it’s done us a lot of good in one way; to spread the word. But then again, being in a band at this level. You need every sale.

Michael: Yeah, every sold album means something. Because if we sell 50,000 albums, and if Internet file sharing hadn’t been around, maybe we would have sold 100,000. That’s just the reality of it. There’s no two sides to that. That’s just fact. But at the same time, now maybe 200,000 people have the album on their hard drive. You don’t know. You have no way of knowing. Maybe those people come to the shows? Maybe they don’t have our albums but they come to our show and buy a t-shirt. It’s a different world now. The music industry is changing and I really don’t know where it’s heading. I think maybe record companies won’t be around. Well, they’re definitely getting fewer of them.

Sharlee: They’re all merging now. They’re big monsters.

Michael: That’s not going to be much fun, either. I like the small independent companies. If you’re into metal or any kind of small genre of music, I think you should support that. I don’t care if you download the new Shania Twain or anything like that, but if you’re into a band like Clutch for instance, you should go buy their album. Because that means with SoundScan, if they sell so many records, they could probably play bigger places or people take notice of them. Because it’s all about those numbers, even in this kind of music. “How much has that band sold?” “They’re selling so much a week, then they’re not big enough to do this tour then. They’re not big enough to come to America.” So people say, “why doesn’t that Swedish band – they’re so great - why don’t they come over? They’ve put out six CD’s and they’re fucking awesome; why don’t they come over here?” Well, because there’s not the sales.

Dan: Do you notice any difference between metal fans here in North America compared to Europe?

Michael: Yeah. I mean, American metal fans are more full on. I think American’s in general; they show their appreciation a lot more. They’re a lot more open about it. They’re not afraid to tell you “you rule,” and all that kind of stuff. In Europe, people are a bit more reserved.

Sharlee: Yeah, like in Germany.

Michael: People expect to meet the band here, at the show. But in Europe, that really isn’t part of the deal. Basically, you go to the show and they don’t really…here, you’re sort of more or less required to hang out and be really cool to everybody. Which is cool, we can do that. But sometimes you don’t feel like it and your sick or whatever, but then people get pissed off. In Europe, that doesn’t really happen. People don’t expect to get all of their stuff signed and whatever. That’s one difference.

Sharlee: People are more reserved in Europe, basically - most European countries at least.

Michael: You get a lot of love here, but you sort of have to give more as well. It takes a while to get into that, because we’re obviously European. We’re brought up in a different mentality. But we enjoy playing here. We enjoy it a lot.

Dan: Do you and the rest of the band like to pull any practical jokes on each other?

Michael: laughs Not the normal sort of pranks. We get in trouble with everything we do, I think.

Sharlee: I think our sense of humor is more sort of like…middle of the road. If you compare us to a band like Cradle; it’s all about the practical jokes.

Michael: Yeah, like shaving somebody’s head while they’re sleeping.

Sharlee: Yeah, shit like that.

Michael: We don’t do that kind of thing.

Dan: With them on tour with you, you’ve gotta be careful!

Michael: Yeah, that’s right! We lock the bus at night.

Sharlee: We don’t let anybody in with makeup on!

Dan: Is there anything else you’d like to add!

Sharlee: Thanks for the interview!

Michael: It was nice talking to you; lots of good questions. Thanks for your time!

Dan: Thanks guys!

Note: I’d personally like to thank Michael and Sharlee for taking the time out after their show to do this interview. I’d also like to thank their tour manager Dave and George Valle from Century Media for making everything happen.