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ROCKET Interviews Johannes Eckerström of AVATAR


Sweden’s AVATAR reinvented their look and sound with 2012’s “Black Waltz”, adopting a more theatrical approach both in the live stage performance and music videos. Lead vocalist Johannes Eckerström decided to apply face paint, allowing for a much more wicked rock persona to come alive. In February of 2013 guitarist Simon Andersson departed the lineup. He was replaced by Tim Öhrström, who joins Jonas Jarlsby on guitar with bassist Henrik Sandelin and drummer John Alfredsson.

Quickly gaining a legion of devoted fans worldwide, AVATAR has been delivering their unrelenting melodic groove metal devastation to the masses, sharing the stage in recent years with the likes of AVENGED SEVENFOLD, IN FLAMES, IMPALED NAZARENE and OBITUARY. The Swedish heavy metal unit will next be touring America starting this May with POP EVIL. AVATAR is set to release their new album “Hail The Apocalypse” on May 13, 2014 via eOne Music.

The Metal Den’s Randy “Rocket” Cody has conducted an EXCLUSIVE interview with vocalist Johannes Eckerström of AVATAR for TMD’s loyal following of DEN HEADZ all across the globe!


ROCKET: Where were you born and raised?

JOHANNES: I was born and raised in Lindome, just south of Göteborg on the westcoast of Sweden. Pretty rural and with many healthy metal feeding tubes plus good reasons for escapism.

ROCKET: Do you recall your first rock concert?

JOHANNES: It must have been AC/DC on Ullevi, the big football stadium in Göteborg. I remember being nervous, not knowing what to expect. Megadeth were opening and half the reason I went was for them. I remember when they turned on the full PA half way through the set. My head almost flew off and I was a better person because of it.

ROCKET: When did you first realize you wanted to be a vocalist?

JOHANNES: In secret I wanted it since I was 8 and my father showed me the Beatles who still is my favorite band. Before that I was very sold on Beethoven and wanted to be a conductor. It was many other instruments first thought; Trombone, piano, guitar, and finally I got my first electric one, am mexican Fender Stratocaster when I was 14 years old. Then I looked into joining a band in school but since I was the last one to enter, I had to play bass, which was cool since Gene Simmons and Paul Mccartney were my personal favorites in their respective groups and I was just about to sell my soul to Type O Negative. Problem was I didn’t own a bass and we realized that singing was more crucial for us at the time so I went with that. A long and painful learning curve took off, but I am pleased with how it all turned out.

ROCKET: Who are some of your biggest vocal influences?

JOHANNES: Devin Townsend, Ronnie James Dio, Tom Waits, Hansi Kürsch, Michael Kiske, Lord Worm, Peter Dolving, Marco Aro, Tompa Lindberg… I just realized that this can be a very long list. Aside from technical influences I admire the vocalists who make me believe in what they’re singing.


ROCKET: Let’s talk about the new album from AVATAR entitled ‘Hail The Apocalypse’ that will release on May 13th. Where was it recorded and who produced it?

JOHANNES: Tobias Lindell produced and since he moved to Thailand he dragged us with him to Karma Sound Studio. A very cool experience.


ROCKET: I have watched the music video for the title track and was very impressed by the production. It’s absolutely brilliant. How much fun was it to make the video and will there be another music video released from this new album?

JOHANNES: Thank you! The videos are important to us and if we could we would make one for every song. In any case more is on its way. Bloody Angel is up next.

It was fun making the video as it usually is when everyone shares a vision and are pulling things in the same direction. This one was a bitch to figure out though and I mostly remember the grinding, mind numbing nine hour meetings before we decided what we wanted to do.


ROCKET: I noticed your band covers the Nirvana song ‘Something In The Way’ on your new album. Can you explain your thinking behind wanting to cover such a classic tune?

JOHANNES: It was a spontaneous decision taken in the studio. We had some time left and thought that having some potential bonus tracks wouldn’t hurt. It was a jam that turned out to have way to much nerve to not be on the actual album.

It was also fitting since mr Dave Grohl’s spirit ended up being strongly present during the recording session. On the way over to Thailand we saw his documentary about sound city studios and that gave us the final push to change recording plan and do the album live. We finally dared to embrace the fact that music should be built on imperfections and the in metal very common strive to do clinically precise takes kills the soul of the songs. As we did this I don’t think we will ever go back to record in any other way.

ROCKET: How did the songwriting process work on this new AVATAR album?

JOHANNES: It’s organized chaos, very democratic actually. We go away together to different cabins and studios and steal eachother’s ideas until we forget who wrote what and everyone is equally proud of everything. That is what makes the music Avatar and it allows everyone to pitch in without is turning in to five different albums killing eachother off.

ROCKET: AVATAR first began as a band in 2001 but you did not start performing in clown makeup yourself until the ‘Black Waltz’ album in 2012. What made you decide to start wearing makeup? What exactly was the inspiration behind that?


JOHANNES: It was a happy accident. We were doing a collaberation with some side show artists for the video for the song Black Waltz and just wanted me to fit in to the feel of it all. Once the paint was on everything fell into place and the music finally got a face. We always wanted look and sound to go hand in hand and through ‘the clown’ this finally came into reality. From there the Avatar as concept art has grown so mich more and it cemented the statement that we have found our own road and are starting a new journey woth the band.

ROCKET: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who is starting a heavy metal band today with the dream of becoming a successful musical act?

JOHANNES: Don’t get stuck on the idea of success because it will ultimately cause you to make the wrong the decisions. Work harder than everyone else, not to be the biggest but to be the best. In that way you will not lose your soul and it will help you retain personality that makes the music worth to be heard. If you sound to mich like Testament, people will rather listen to Testament. Push yourself to new territories and don’t be a clone.

ROCKET: Who are some of the other underground metal bands from Sweden that you think deserve a mention?

JOHANNES: My favorite one doesn’t exist anymore, but if you can you must listen to Crang’s album Burden, the stone. They didn’t go anywhere but the should’ve.

ROCKET: How do you get warmed up vocally before you hit the stage and perform for a live crowd?

JOHANNES: Skip ropes, push ups, sit ups mixed with your typical batch of vocal warm ups is the best recipe for me. It’s pretty elementary really. Sometimes we don’t have much time and then it is limited to just push oneself over the edge where you simply decide to kick everyone’s asses that evening.

ROCKET: What are some of the upcoming AVATAR shows in America that fans need to watch out for?

JOHANNES: All of them. Every show is equally important to me and the band.

ROCKET: Rock on! What can fans expect from your band when they go to see you perform live?

JOHANNES: We push ourselves extremely hard to be in ‘the zone’ when we perform and we intend to bring the audience with us. The ambition is to make people lose the sense of space and time and tickle them on the inside of their skulls. Once we draw you in, you don’t want to leave.


ROCKET: Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

JOHANNES: I see the band having established itself on a much higher level which should give my life stability in a way that’s been lacking lately. Other than that the music needs to evolve and I am confident in that future me would blow me away if I knew what he was up to.

ROCKET: Thank you for rocking this out with me. Best of luck with your music. Any last words for the fans?

JOHANNES: Don’t be afraid. Thank you for this interview. Cheers!