Hi Alissa, the last time we spoke with you was for the 2014 album ‘War Eternal’. What did that album mean for you personally as you had the difficult task to follow in the footsteps of Angela Gossow?
It was a super special album for all of us! I don’t think that we were really focused on the past at that time but more on the album itself. We knew that we did our best and wrote some pretty awesome songs in my opinion. We were really happy with the outcome and also that everybody seems to be enjoying them. That’s more or less what we are doing now too as we are really excited about ‘Will To Power’ and we’re excited to let everybody hear it. We’re taking the next natural step forward with this new record.
What did ‘War Eternal’ mean for the band, both from an artistic as well as a commercial perspective?
I think it was one of Arch Enemy’s best albums and all the responses for the album have been great as well. Especially in a live situation the song material of ‘War Eternal’ has been getting a huge response and the record has given us the opportunity to do more shows than for any other Arch Enemy album, as we’ve been touring for a couple of years doing more than three hundred shows. We charted very well with the album, broke some records and as such everything around ‘War Eternal’ has been great.
On ‘War Eternal’ Nick Cordle was the second guitarist next to Michael, but he was replaced later on by Jeff Loomis (ex-Nevermore). How did you get connected to Jeff?
Mike and Jeff have been friends for many years and Jeff is just a fantastic guitar player, while also being a great person to be around. Of course ‘Will To Power’ will be the first release that will feature Jeff, although he was already present in the ‘Stolen Life’ video from our previous record. He’s just a pleasure to have around and a great guy to tour with. I’m super happy to have him in the band.
A couple of months ago the DVD ‘As The Stages Burn’ saw the light of day which featured your show on the Wacken 2016 festival. Why did you decide to release this one? Was it an appetizer for the new album or was it to show the world that Arch Enemy was stronger than ever?
It was kind of a coincidence that the release of that DVD was so close to the release of ‘Will To Power’. It wasn’t really something we planned, but basically we just wanted to have a way to thank all the Arch Enemy fans, but also the people who have supported the band over the two decades. There’s been a huge love and support for Arch Enemy and that has given us such strength to keep touring for so many years and it has really given new life to the band. So we wanted to thank everyone and sort of document this by putting on Arch Enemy’s biggest production ever at the biggest metal festival around. We were basically headlining Wacken and we thought that this would be the best time to make a huge epic show and the great audience made it even more epic. The footage of that show was really good, so we decided to release it as kind of a live concert movie, that really documents how Arch Enemy has evolved over time.
It took you quite a while to come up with a successor for ‘War Eternal’. When did you start with the actual preparations for ‘Will To Power’?
It’s not really that it took us a long time to come up with a successor, it’s just that we were still in demand for ‘War Eternal’. We kept on getting new requests to do more shows for that record and we really wanted to play where we were asked to play, so it took us a while to get around all those different cities. We started working on ‘Will To Power’ quite a while ago already, whenever inspiration struck. Whenever Michael had ideas, he would record them in his phone. So over a period of time all these ideas were collected and we started molding these ideas into real songs only this year, so that’s why we’ve only just completed ‘Will To Power’ now.
In my opinion the material on ‘Will To Power’ shows much more variety (and maybe also maturity) than what is heard on ‘War Eternal’. Do you agree with that and if so, was this a deliberate move or did it happen naturally during the song writing process?
I really agree with you there. It wasn’t a deliberate move as we’re really musicians more than anything else and things come natural to us. We all love ‘War Eternal’, but with ‘Will To Power’ we did sort of diversify a little bit. We allowed ourselves to unhinge and unchain and unleash a little bit and go into a few different directions. I feel that it’s a very adventurous album, very fearless and it goes many places. Therefore it keeps the interest from beginning to end, while still sounding one hundred percent Arch Enemy, but it’s Arch Enemy 2017.
Talking about song writing, did this process differ in any way from the ‘War Eternal’ sessions as you were now a stable part of the band and also because Jeff was in the band now?
It did influence the song writing process a little bit. Of course Michael Amott has been and still is the main song writer in Arch Enemy but the cooperation between him and the band was more intense this time. Michael worked on the demos of the songs with Daniel, our drummer, and when these were finished he would send them to me to work on some lyrics, when they were not there yet. After the lyrics, it was time for the solos and Jeff was heavily involved in that. In that way step by step the songs came together and eventually we were able to create a complete album.
What are typical elements that need to be present in a great Arch Enemy song before you decide to release it on an album?
There’s no real formula for a great Arch Enemy song and the way we work isn’t really that calculated. But as musicians all five of us we do have our tastes and preferences. As a vocalist I know when my take is good and I know when the lyrics are strong enough. We’re all kind of like that with our own instruments, but also with the structure of the songs and the sequence of the songs on the album. It’s more of an instinct, you just know when a song is good enough to release it on the album.
Why did you decide to call the album ‘Will To Power’ as there’s no song with that name featured?
Not every album needs a title track and this is one of those cases where there is no title track. It was really at the end of the process when we had all the song titles and lyrics finished when it came to a point where we obviously had to name the album as well. We had been brainstorming for a few months already and when Michael was reading some Nietzsche he came across the term “Will To Power”. We discussed it for a while and thought that it would work really well. It sounded like the right title and the more we dug into what it meant and what Nietzsche wrote about the topic of will to power, the more we thought that it would fit really well with the overall sound and the overall feel of the album. It’s not a concept album, it’s just a collection of songs that are very cohesive, that fit together and the sort of underlying path to it all is will to power.
Most of the material can be categorized as, in a positive way, typical Arch Enemy material, but there’s one song that really stands out and that’s the ballad ‘Reason To Believe’, where you really expanded the Arch Enemy music limits. Who came up with the idea for such a different song?
It was Michael who came up with that song. He wrote the (clean) guitar parts with his brother, Christopher Amott, and the also wrote the lyrics for ‘Reason To Believe’. When he presented me with the idea, I instantly knew what I was going to do with this song. I asked him a bit about what he was feeling and thinking when he wrote the tune, because I wanted to portrait the words exactly how he pictured them. Once I did that, I went into our jam space and played around with it alone for a while to see how it felt. When we got into the studio it came out pretty much exactly how I wanted it to, as I really wanted to express that deep pain and hurt in the verses to lead up to the desperation and anguish of the pre-choruses and then the hope and triumph of the choruses. We were thinking that since it is Arch Enemy’s tenth studio album, the band’s been touring all over the world for decades now, so why not make a ballad this time around.
You alternate clean vocals with grunts on this one, which works great. Any chance that this will happen more in the future?
I guess we’ll have to see about that, as it all really depends on if the song needs it or not. As said before, we don’t have a formula, we don’t have a specific way of mixing the ingredients together, whatever the words and music needs we’ll use in a song. It’s all about making the song sound the best, which in this case was using clean vocals with grunts.
My personal favorites of the album right now are ‘The Race’, ‘Reason To Believe’, ‘Murder Scene’ and the almost catchy ‘A Fight I Must Win’. I know it’s difficult but if you had to pick one, which song on the album does represent the band best in your opinion and why?
Oh… that’s a tough choice as they’re all so different actually and everybody that I speak to has different favorites on the album which for me is a very good sign. My favorite songs are probably ‘Blood In The Water’ and ‘Reason To Believe’. For sure ‘Reason To Believe’ is a fantastic song, but it doesn’t really represent Arch Enemy, because it’s so different from what we normally do. Therefore I think that ‘Blood In The Water’ is a pretty good representation as it has that straight up classic Arch Enemy sound with killer solos, but it also has somewhat diverse vocals that we’re getting more and more into. It has the kind of hard-hitting political but also uplifting and awakening lyrics, which makes it a good representation of the band right now. But it’s hard to say, as we go so many different places on this album, so I think there’s not really one song that necessarily represents the band as it is and that’s also one of the reasons why we didn’t want to have a title track as there’s not one song that represents the whole album.
Which song will be released as a first single and when will the first video become available?
I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say this or not, but we are releasing a video soon (we know now that the song is ‘The World Is Yours’ – Sjak), but we’re going to release several videos actually because there are so many favorites on the album.
The album will be released in four different formats being the jewel-case edition, limited deluxe boxset edition, limited edition digipack edition and the gatefold LP/CD edition. How do you feel about record companies releasing this many formats, causing the real fans to spend a lot of money on their favorite band?
We don’t cause anyone to do anything as there’s always a choice. If people are collectors and they enjoy collecting the different formats then that’s great because we are giving them lots to collect. If people just want to hear the music and get the CD, they can still do that. Of course there will also be lots of people which will just stream of download the album, but hopefully they will come to a show and buy a T-shirt to support us.
The digipack edition will contain a bonus track in the shape of the Charmed G.B.H.-cover ‘City Baby Attacked By Rats’. Why did you choose for this particular song as bonus track?
We actually have several songs that we haven’t announced yet that are also going to be bonuses on various formats (In the Deluxe Box set, there’s an extra EP with seven punk covers of Skitslickers (four songs), Likvidation (one song), Anti-Cimex (one song) and the already mentioned Climax G.B.H. song – Sjak). The Arch Enemy members are all kind of punks at heart, we all really love punk music and whenever we do punk covers we always joke that we should form a secret punk band because it’s a lot of fun recording those old punk tunes. It’s fun to express ourselves in a totally different and maybe unexpected way.
Have you written and/or recorded more Arch Enemy material than what’s on the regular album release? If so, which ones and what’s going to happen with them?
No, as we’re really a band of quality over quantity. I know it works for some bands to record more songs and then select a bunch out of them, but we really work and rework our songs until they have the right quality level to be placed on the album. We don’t push them aside and only make them available in certain formats. That’s why we like doing these fun covers, as it allows us to do something a little bit different, but it’s still an Arch Enemy version of the song.
As a member of the Enemy Legion you get the opportunity to have your name in the Deluxe Box Set. Who came up with that idea and what’s the thought behind it?
As I said before, we have really devoted fans who are frequently vising our shows and collecting our stuff. So we figured it might be cool for these super devoted fans to actually get the credit that is due. In an album you normally credit the producer, the manager and the label, but it’s the fans that are ultimately responsible for keeping the band alive because they keep on supporting us no matter what. When you join the Enemy Legions as one of the first people that join up and sign up for the pre-order of the album, we wanted to credit them back. So we thought the best way to do that was to put their name in the release itself.
Was the album again produced by the band? If so, why do you choose for this option? Don’t you feel the need for an independent ear as you might be too close to you own material?
We produced the album ourselves again as we don’t feel the need for an outside producer or anything like that. We know what we need to do to get the sound that we need, we all take care of our own instruments and Michael acts as the one who overviews everything and he’s more the one wearing the producer hat than anyone else. Of course Jens Bogren is responsible for the mix and we welcome his input as well because he obviously knows very well what he’s doing. In this way we get the sound that we want and I’m very happy with the actual end result of ‘Will To Power’ sound-wise as well.
Who was responsible for the artwork of ‘Will To Power’ and what was the assignment that the artist was given? Is the artwork in any way connected to the lyrics on the album?
For us it’s fun to be in the album creating process, because there’s so much that goes into it. The cover was done by an artist called Alex Reisfar and we wanted to have a sort of authentic painterly feel to it, so it is an oil painting. But we also wanted it to be a strong symbol, almost like a seal on the front of the CD. That’s why it has become this almost geometric shape, like a strong circular shape with four strong figures in it, which actually ‘War Eternal’ also had. We have a wolf, a vampire bat and a goat in three points around a fleshless human skull. This is what Alex decided to create when he heard the album and read the lyrics of the songs. We told him to use these as inspiration, so that the cover would match with the music on the album and in the end I think he succeeded really well in that.
What are you own personal expectation from this album? When will it be a success for you?
I try not to have too many expectations for anything in life as I don’t think that’s really beneficial, but I know I love ‘Will To Power’ and we’re all super proud of what we’ve accomplished on it. We know that there’s a lot of hype around it and a lot of people are super excited about it, which makes us as a band very happy. We have put a lot of work into the album and I just hope that people get what we’re doing musically and that they love the songs that are featured on the record. I hope that people enjoy the new album as much as we do!
You’re very busy now with the promotion and interviews for ‘Will To Power’, but the album is only released on September 8th? Don’t you think that’s a very long time to wait, especially as we’re not allowed to publish any reviews before August 11th?
Nowadays it’s very normal to have this type of time schedule for the release of a new album, especially when there’s a bit of a hype around it. Normally record companies take about two to three months to really start promoting the album before the actual release date. I understand that the fans feel that it’s still quite a long time before they can get their hands on the actual product.
I guess therefore that you will not be playing the new material on the Summer festivals that you’re doing this year or are you going to surprise us?
The Summer festivals are technically still a part of the ‘War Eternal’ album cycle and also because of the fact that we don’t always have the time to play a very long set, we aren’t going to take out old classics and replace them by songs that nobody ever heard. But we are going to debut the songs that people have heard already so the single and music video will probably be a part of the sets played there.
After the Summer festivals you’ll be touring mostly in Eastern Europe, which will be followed by a North American tour. When will we see the band again in Central or Western Europe, as the band is even stronger on stage than on record?
Thank you, we definitely enjoy performing live, that’s for sure! We’re still in the process of continuously booking into 2018, so if fans don’t see their city listed yet they don’t have to freak out because we will be playing in your city as well, but we just haven’t announced it yet.
What is the ultimate ambition level that you have with Arch Enemy? How big can you grow the band in your opinion
Like I said before, we don’t really think about how big we are or how big we can become. We always want to make the music as good as it can possibly be. As we all have different tastes in music as well, we can be a hard bunch to satisfy. We thrive to constantly improve ourselves on our instruments, improve our live-shows, improve our songwriting and that’s our main drive. We just love music, we’re all music enthusiasts, we all appreciate music from different styles and different genres and we just love what we do. We just want to be able to continue doing what we love!
Okay Alissa, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
Just a big thank you from Arch Enemy to all the fans in the Netherlands. We’re super happy that you guys loved ‘War Eternal’ and we can’t wait to see you on the ‘Will To Power’ tour! Thanks for all the support!