The saying goes history is written by the victor, any conflict, any major battle, the historical record is written by the winning side. Sabaton, the Swedish Power Metal are doing things a little differently. With a lyrical narrative telling stories of both sides of any conflict, we hear stories of The Red Baron to the ghosts in the trenches. The band are actively educating the musical world with what is war, why war exists and how we can essentially learn from past mistakes and come together in common humanity. We spoke to the band at this year’s Bloodstock Festival about their headlining Friday night set and how you actually move a tank drum riser around the world.
This is your 4th Bloodstock Festival and the first as headliners. Does the place feel like a second home or even like a house band?
(laughs) No not really like a house band. It’s great to be back!
Having played here so many times before does it feel like you have earned the spot at the top through sheer hard work and determination?
The first time we played here we had a 25 minute slot on the main stage. Just before Vixen or Girlschool maybe. Now we are at the top, its been around 10 years on this journey. Every time we come back we always bring a little bit more stage production with us. The first time we came here we couldn’t even afford flight tickets we had to drive here. It took us a whole week to go from our home town in Sweden to get here and that was only for a 25-minute slot!
Next time you headline Bloodstock you’ll have to do an AC/DC ala Download 2010 and bring your own stage with you!
Yeah that’s the dream! What a challenge that would be, last week we did Wacken and that was two stages at the same time.
Your latest album The Great War is weeks old at this point. The band’s output is pretty steady, how did this one come about?
When we finished the last cycle we left it about 9 months to start writing this new one. We were creatively exhausted and we just needed to live, but it doesn’t take too long before ideas start to flow again and one member will speak to another and then before we know it, the whole band are coming together.
Did you try anything new in the studio?
The final track was something different for us. We took a poem and tried to turn it into a song and have not even the band perform it. That song was something new for us. We mostly go into the studio with the songs fully formed. 95% is done musically, lyrics are written in the studio. It would super risky as a band with deadlines like we have. If we entered the studio not knowing what we are doing it just wouldn’t work. We are planning things 18 months in advance, we need strict deadlines. For the level we are at now, we have to plan these things out.
Do you thrive on the pressure of those deadlines?
Oh yeah, we thrive on that pressure. If you have too much time you would never finish the album and get out on tour. As a creative person, you could work on something forever and it would never feel right, so sometimes you have to let things go and trust the vision.
Your albums are heavy on the war theme. Do you feel alongside being a Power Metal band that you have a desire to be teachers?
Yeah we do that with the Sabaton History Channel, we are teaching history. Our songs are only touching on these themes as you only really have three minutes to get it all across but the channel is where we can expand on these themes. We don’t teach with our songs, we inspire with them, the channel is an added bonus. The channel is going to be launched in February and then we will be proper teachers. We never thought we would do this in the beginning, we are more metalheads than teachers of course, but with this we are teachers.
I don’t see a problem with teaching this, it can only be a positive thing. As we travel the world with our music, we get ideas about why this country exists, why is there a border, why don’t this person from this country like this person from this country? When we talk to Swedish fans, they have been taught one truth and one idea. We get the whole picture and we hope to bring people together and see that bigger picture.
Sabaton are 20 years old this year. What would you tell yourself from 1999 if you could go back in time?
I would certainly say to myself that I am on the right track and to stop posing! (laughs)
Whats changed in the music industry for you as artists in that 20 year period?
So much has changed and it’s not even in chunks of time so 5 years or 10 years, it’s changing on a year by year basis at this point, it feels very accelerated. When we started there was no Youtube or Facebook, it was just MySpace. We have seen it change rapidly change and we didn’t fight it back then, we embraced it and it helps get the bands name out here more. Seeing it from the inside the music industry nas killed and corrupted itself in large parts. It’s sad to say but nothing we can do now can change it. If I was to go back in time 20 years ago I would tell the guys in Metallica to buy Napster and make it profitable for all musicians rather than the other way around.
Sabaton latest album The Great War is out now. Sabaton return to the UK in 2020 for their only show of the year at the legendary Wembley Arena, tickets can be purchased here.