An Offbeat Interview with Michael Amott of Arch Enemy, submitted by a friend to Sick Drummer Magazine out of Chicago… Oswald’s Ghost
Oswald: So I saw your new Dean signature models at NAMM, I know you had a lot of input on their production. Can you talk a little bit about those?
Michael: Yeah I mean, when I went to Dean I knew I wanted to do a flying V because that’s what I’m known for, that’s what I’ve been playing for a long time. But you know, we did something new with the shape, it’s a mahogany body, very simple two humbucking pickups. It’s just a good guitar, the whole neck profile and everything, how it’s put together is to my specifications. It fits my playing very well, and it seems to be going down very well, everyone who plays it seems to like it.
Oswald: Your bridge pickup on there looks pretty stacked, is that a signature idea?
Michael: It’s got those big lugs on the there – the chrome lugs. Yeah I mean that looks really cool, and that’s something I wanted. I wanted it to look very metal. It’s actually not a super high output pickup. It looks more aggressive than what it actually is. Because I don’t really like super high output pickups that much. This one is a great pickup, very well rounded and it’s got great tone. It’s a signature pickup that Dean will be selling separately from the guitar as well.
Oswald: How do you go about selecting guitars when you go in to track a new record?
Michael: Oh, I bring a lot. I own about 40 guitars, and I bring them all. [Laughs] Which is a lot of work. We just go through them, but to be honest with you I usually end up with the same few guitars that I always do. But it’s great. I’ve got some Strats and stuff and they’re great for clean things. And I’ve got some great Dean guitars now that I use as well. I used my Bloodstorm, the signature model, for my leads on the new record The Root of All Evil. Which was cool to get that in there, I just got it in time as well for that.
Oswald: The production on your records, the last couple in particular, has been very huge sounding. Can you go into the process of how you achieve that, record after record?
Michael: I guess it’s in how we play, and how we record, and ya know, the band has just been getting better and better. We tour these massive two year cycles and the band just kind of, I don’t know, every time we go back into the studio to cut a record it seems like we’ve just gotten a little bit better. It’s inspiring because usually things start to get a bit stale after a while after a few years, but not with us, not yet. [Laughs]
Oswald: With your recent departure from Randall, what are you currently using and rocking on the tour?
Michael: I actually hooked up with Marshall, which is the classic brand of amplifiers I guess, and I’ve always been a fan of the Marshall sound. It’s what I started out on. I’ve kind of come back to that now, and they do some great new heads that actually are great for metal stuff as well. Both me and Chris are using the JBM 410 heads, the four channel JBM head that they do. Good stuff.
Oswald: How do you write your leads and riffs? Do you ever have a lead melody first, and then build a riff around it? Is it a process, a free for all?
Michael: Hmm… Ya know, we’ve got a million different ways to…not a million [laughs]. We’ve got hundreds of different ways of putting together songs. From humming a melody into my phone when I’m on the phone when I’m on the bus and I’m like ‘Shit, I’ve got to remember this!’ And there’s no guitar around, to just sitting around jamming at home on the guitar. Or just improvising when we rehearse or at sound check, and we just tell the sound guy tape this jam, because there’s probably going to be something cool in there. Sometimes I write both the chords and the melody to present to the whole band, or Chris does that. Or sometimes the drummer’s got an idea, or we just improvise stuff. We tape everything and archive it, which is what we’re in the process of doing now because we’re writing a new record. We’re kind of saving it and archiving all of our ideas, then when we get back home we’re going to get into our rehearsal studio and sift through that and work on that stuff.
Oswald: How do you guys decide on your set lists for each tour?
Michael: Oh yeah, it’s getting increasingly difficult because now we’re sort of over what is now- in effect I guess- eight studio albums. You get the increasing list of ‘have to play’ songs. Once you’ve got those in, you’ve got your “Nemesis,” “We Will Rise,” “Dead Eyes See No Future,” “Ravenous,” then you sort of go ‘Wow okay we’ve already got 45 minutes and now we can only add so much more.’ It’s difficult, we try to switch around songs, now we’re playing a couple of songs from The Root of All Evil record, we’re playing “The Immortal” and “Bury Me An Angel” and those are fun to play because we haven’t played them in such a long time.
Oswald: Are there any moments on this tour so far that stick out in your mind, positively/negatively, good experiences/bad experiences?
Michael: The New York show was great. We had 1,700 fans there, which is a big New York show for us. We just did three shows up in Canada- Toronto, Quebec, and Montreal as well. And the fans up there are just crazy. We had sold out shows, and it was just killer. Bad stuff, I don’t know. Border crossings going in and out of Canada, just boring ya know? You just sit there for an hour and a half, two hours maybe, in the middle of the night. It’s not fun, but whatever it takes I guess.
Oswald: Any stops you really look forward to when you’re on the road, any locations where you know it’s just going to be slammin’?
Michael: Canada is always great for us. The crowd up there, seems to be something in the water up there. They’re just absolutely nuts for European metal, so that’s always a lot of fun. Other than that, I’d say the big cities are always great for us. New York, LA, Chicago- you can be surprised as well. Sometimes you play somewhere that you’ve never played before and it’s great.
Oswald: Is there any kind of pre-game ritual you have to prepare for a show?
Michael: Nothing really, apart from playing a lot of guitar. Today I’ve got a lot of press, so it’s difficult to get those hours in, warming up.
[Laughs] Sorry about that.
[Laughing] No, no but I try to play guitar for about a solid hour up to the show. We might have a glass of whiskey or something, a beer, couple of beers, nothing too much. If I drink before the show too much, I can’t really play. There’s a lot of precision in what we do, so I can’t go on with a buzz on. I just try to play as much guitar as possible, we talk about the set, little things we want to change. Or reminders like ‘remember last night, don’t do that again’ [Laughs] Ya know, stuff like that.