Avatar : Ya’s Interview with Johannes

Hi Johannes ! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to CackBlabbath, so how is the tour going so far and how are you ?

I am fine thank you. It has been good , we have just started the tour but we have already broken our attendance record for Avatar headlining shows in Europe .

Wow that is impressive, congratulations! Was it from last night in France?

It is in France but not from last night, it was two nights ago, the first couple of shows are like the biggest, so we are off for a good start.

That’s great to hear. I was just looking at the tour dates , the band is traveling across 4 countries 4 days in a roll. yesterday in France , today you are here and then you go to Belgium and then Spain , it sounds like hell a lot of traveling

Yeah that’s right , you know our tour dates better than I do. It is indeed a hell lot of traveling but we are sort of used to it

How do you find travelling so extensively and how do you rest in between so you can still deliver the performance night after night ?

Well the thing is we have a nightliner you know, we have beds so we don’t have to sit up for the drive thankfully, not like our poor driver (he pointed at the fast asleep driver on the sofa next to us). so yeah, it’s not a problem anymore. It’s been many years now since we have been doing this , I think whatever that you spend a lot of time doing good or bad, it will start to feel normal at some point , I mean it is still fun the thing we are doing , for instance it is still fun to wake up in London when we went to bed somewhere in France , it’s not as strange as it used to be .

Are you saying this is the way of your life now ?

I guess, it certainly does not feel strange anymore because now we have been to all these countries since we have done rounds so many times and we have done this again and again , the routine of this has been normalised

One more thing about the tour dates , there is only one date for the whole uk , any reason why ?

Yeah we know we know , trust me we are working on it to fix it. Later in this year we will make it up and we promise we will come back to Scotland .

Good to hear that cause today I had to travel from Edinburgh to see you guys since London is the only date

Oh really! actually I have a cousin who lives in Edinburgh

Oh yeah ?

Yeah , he is German but has lived there for many years now

So have you been to Edinburgh then since you have a relative there ?

Unfortunately no I have not yet , I have only been to Glasgow when it comes to Scotland

You should come visit !!

Yeah yeah I know I really should and I will , I am working on it

Come visit and maybe have a gig there too maybe?

Yeah we would love to, we love to play places we have never played before

That’s great to hear I love bands who do that rather than go the same places all the time but to be fair Edinburgh does not have the best selection of venues

I guess most venues are in Glasgow , I have realised that not just us who go to Glasgow instead of Edinburgh.

Yes unfortunately that’s true , Glasgow does have a lot more venues but Edinburgh has some great theatres which I think would be perfect for Avatar

Oh yeah ! theatres will fit us perfectly, now we have to play there! And I have seen photos, it looks like a charming city , we will definitely go there soon

Awesome to hear , hope to see you guys there soon !

About the new album ‘ Avatar Country ‘. It’s another concept album so for the first couple of gigs of the tour have you found yourself needing to adjust the performance to fit in the new album , you know like the act needs to be different since the vibe of these two album is so different , Feathers And Flesh is very dark and sad when Avatar Country is very upbeat , do you feel the difference on stage ?

Well yes and no . the themes are different but we remain the same people . Because our king was our king and has been our king forever . so now it’s just time for us to tell people the truth about it , open up the board to the nation. It’s not that we go through this big personality change so to say , it’s not an act , there is no one playing a character , we are being ourselves. It’s just that there is certain sides of ourselves that come out more on stage than they do , for example when you and I having a conversation like this .

Interesting , you probably can read my mind since you just answered my next up question , so you are saying that when Avatar is on stage it’s not an act ?

No it’s not , I mean there is no stage name , not like Marilyn Manson or …

Alice cooper

Yeah exactly Alice cooper , those people they play different characters on stage with different names and even speak in a way the character does but for Avatar it’s all what’s within ourselves , it’s just that the stage becomes a place where other side of us comes out to play so we get to express ourselves in a different way that we wouldn’t have had a chance to do otherwise

 I am glad I have finally got an official answer on this , I have wondered about this for so long

Glad that I could help haha

So what do you think about the reaction from the fans so far regarding to the new album , I mean its been out for 2 months now , has it been quite positive?

We have many devoted citizen all over the world that took this on with open arms, and we are very grateful for that . it’s been purely positive and I think you know , for us nothing that we do is very strange to us cause we just follow where the inspiration takes us and what feels right for us.

Now one thing that feels whats right for us to do is to make sure that we never repeat ourselves. People who have been following us and know what we are about , they expect nothing else than that .

As a fan myself that’s exactly how I feel about Avatar, I am so glad as a band you have such an honest approach and fans really appreciate that .

Thank you . I mean what we do is actually going to be something new and different from what we came from, so in that sense, nothing is new if you know what I mean , and the fans are fully behind us , for instance Stature Of The King, when that came out on YouTube, the views we got has made it our fastest growing video ever .

I have watched that video from the moment it came out and man I was so stunned both by the music and video , it is amazing ! I mean I have always enjoyed music videos from avatar , they are always so different its more like watching mini movies , but this one in particular seems like an even bigger production. What was the experience of making this video like?

Well thank you very much , we do put in a lot of effort in our videos and I am so glad you like them . And yes it is definitely the biggest one so far. Since we started working on Avatar Country the videos have become more documentary oriented. It was terrifying hanging that high above the ground, with the  fear of falling to death, all these things made it a very dramatic day at the office .

But you are right you know , this scope is growing over time , its like we have had visions of what we want to do with this band since we were teenagers , and we have always driving to achieve those things , I don’t know, like the more people that feel like investing in us the more that we are able to invest in ourselves. This means we are getting closer to to realising these crazier and crazier visions .

So are there going to be more videos coming out for Avatar Country ?

Oh yes ! there are ( a wee Grimm he teased us )

Awesome ! are they made yet ?

Well not completely , we are constantly working on that when we have the chance , I don’t know if you have noticed that the latest one that has come out…

The King Wants You?

Yes ! The King Wants You. That’s part 4 of a multiple series. They are released out of order but once they are all out there you can piece them together and get a greater insight into the history of Avatar Country and the band

I cant wait to see them all and get to know the whole story behind Avatar Country ! You know you were talking about forming the bands as a teenager , so obviously you grew up with the influences of metal music. Can you imagine a life where you’d grown up where there is no metal music , would you grown up a different person ? Do you think metal music had a role in who you are today ?

Hmm.. wow tough question ( Johannes laughing and trying to think )

I guess it is a tricky question to answer, the reason why I am curious is that I grew up not knowing there is such thing as metal music

And where was that ?

China

Ah, so you are from China !

Yes I grew up in China but moved to Scotland when I was 18 , until that point metal was not heard of in my life

So it must hit you like a ton of bricks?

(Everyone in the room was laughing at this point like this is unbelievable ) oh yes , I was like what the hell is this and why am i only finding out about this now ? I have no idea how it feels like growing up with metal music around you

Well back to your question , yes of course it plays a role , I might had chosen a different style of hair. For me it’s hard to answer because music in general came in very early in my life , you know we got a piano when I was 4 and me and my 2 siblings got lessons. I am not a great pianist, not one of those “started playing piano at 4” Mozart kids , not at all ! But I can still play some and I was playing the trombone from the age of 10, and I was a huge Beatles fan at the age of 8, all these, and you know growing up living with my parents loving Micheal Jackson

I was always passionate about music from a very young age , and then just discovering stuff like Black Sabbath and Helloween and whatnot , just then gave life , my music life went in a whole different direction. What you get there beyond the music is of course different ways for thinking about life , philosophies and values , some more extreme than others , but you know like the dreadlocks hair , being vegan, guys in carcass, and the more questionable value of some black metal bands that I listened to. All that moved around my value system , and my view on the world was constantly challenged and I would like to believe that I could have found that in another place anyway you know, but as it happened to be I got most of that specially at a young age from my passion for metal music . But all my hippy values, they all come from that as well haha.

Thank you so much for that in-depth honest answer , even though now I can freely enjoy metal music and that’s great back in China the metal scene is still very underground it’s not mainstream at all , and not many metal bands get to play in China , would the king consider do a state visit to China at some point ?

We would love to and we have been aware that of the prospect of that being a successful thing way before our labels and management We are still trying to push that , you know for instance we are the only Swedish band in history of music that has not been to Japan yet

Really ??

I know its hard to believe , we really are ! I personally don’t know a Swedish band that has been signed by a label that hasn’t come to Japan except for Avatar , but we are also very aware that’s just one country out of many in Asia, and we also know some bands that we know have gone to China so i am basically just waiting for our turn and I hope that’s soon

That’s so great to hear I am sure Chinese metal fans would adore avatar

I hope so ! And its funny as you said about the Chinese underground because there was this clip I watched of this Chinese death metal band , you can find it on YouTube

sure , whats the name of the band ?

Ahh.. sorry I don’t remember the name but it was an epic video. It is a really underground band , it sounds like a demo band you know but it sounded really good. The vocalist is probably adult now but there she looks like a really skinny teenager girl and she speaks some Chinese, of course I did not understand it, and then the song started and her growl was like 10 times deeper than mine

That is impressive , it’s very hard for woman to growl to start with not to mention go deeper than men, I must find that clip now

Yeah definitely, it was very impressive . I am not surprised about that and those clips just to confirm my believe that there are plenty of metal talent in china

I definitely agree, there is a strong underground metal scene in China at the moment but in the general public’s eyes there is still this idea that people who like metal and tattoos are “not good people” and it is really hard to breakthrough that .

Yeah it is hard, it has not been normalised yet. But the thing that interests me is that where a sub culture like metal becomes valuable , extra valuable to me , of course it’s like me growing up in a nordic country where metal has been so ingrained in general culture today.

I think metal to me was what frees your brains, music in general , I think to me the underground scene in China that you were telling me about to me has a greater value than all these successful Swedish bands , it’s the same like that one of these band , aaa…one of these Saudi Arabian black metal band , sorry I cant remember the name again. not a good day for remembering names today

No worries i know exactly which band you mean but I can’t remember the name either , the one that they had to disguise their identities , that one ?

Yes that one , i cant believe i cant remember their name! they play black metal but at the same time they had to keep their identity as secret, the fact that the urge to create in a place it’s clearly has been proven is very dangerous to do , that says something about the needs of human soul and that is something so much greater than , you know that artists doing the way we are doing it.

Seeing fans letters from Iraq and you know I’ve seen pictures on social media of them with head scarf on but with our band t-shirt , that the rebellious nature , the value of rebellious nature from metal is just something so much more in places that its accepted . that also means its more needed and this is why the reason we would love to come to china and playThat’s so well said Johannes ! And yes come to china and I’d be happy to be the ambassador / translator

Oh yeah haha absolutely

Since Avatar has toured in so many countries , have you noticed that the audience has an age difference between countries? is there a pattern you see?

Actually yes ! funny you have brought that up , because I have always got asked whats the difference in fans between different countries but I have never got ask this question ! and in fact i do see a pattern going on and its very interesting , I mean people love metal behave very similar across the world , a mosh pit is a mosh pid does not matter its full of Americans or greek , but age actually yeah, i feel like for instance the general metal audiences for us is….

Let me guess, older ?

Yes spot on ! Our audiences in the US are slightly on the older side than, for instance, in the uk but I mean its metal music age is quite diverse , if you go to a different genre some only has teenage girls attending and others only has teenage boys , but metal has a much wider age group but still as we said earlier average age in us and in Germany is slightly higher than France and the uk and I don’t know why but I find it very interesting

I am so glad you have spotted that trend and find it interesting , because i have been noticing that trend for a while and has always wanted to ask you and I think someone should definitely look into the reasoning behind it at some point , it is so interesting

Yeah it really is ! I am so glad you brought it up we must dig more about this


We totally should ! as we were talking about different age groups of fans , since you have a huge audience that’s really young especially in the uk as you mentioned , does that add more pressure to you and the band to be a role model per say , i mean I am sure the band is behaving that way anyway , but do you feel the extra pressure ?

Hmm no , I don’t really see it that way . I think ultimately , of course I am going to use myself as an example again , as a teenager you think all these musicians are gods, and you think you are being shaped by them, i mean in many extensions that you are but depending on what kind of family you grow up in , what catch yourself with you when you turned 25 or 30 whatever is that, you see the influence of the people directly around you way more , so as much as I admire Rob Halford, I am still pretty sure my dad had more to do with how I cam out you know as an adult , and I also feel that if I had any responsibilities it would be purely artistic , I feel the way I look at any form of art is the most important thing of what you are doing , is being honest , and i think as long as you are being honest as an artist I think you should just exercise your right of free speech, and follow your muse and that is as far as I take my responsibilities, and that responsibilities I feel first and foremost for myself and to my fellow band members , and all the rest I just, you know , I will deal with the consequences later. I feel artistically I am free to say whatever I want and I wouldn’t have to, you know, hesitate for any reason

I think and that’s how the band can deliver one epic album after another , and talking about influences you are really active on tweeter but not any other form, is there a reason and do you enjoying interacting on twitter ?

Yeah I really enjoy twitter , well I don’t have this crazy 10m followers so I still can keep in track and stay up to date, and it fits into my toilet time ( we both laugh so much at this point )

haha i was just about to ask you since you are so busy do you have a set time to do this, i guess i have got my answers

haha yeah , it follows my fibre intake . Ahh..no but it’s still up to a size that’s manageable and i enjoy it because you know its social media, and its tricky animal to deal with and i just started to categorise them , where nothing online is private so i have my private life outside of my online life , then you have some personal life online , and that’s  how l deal with my Facebook for instance so I don’t add people on my Facebook based on interaction or music business and so on, but on twitter anyone is free to follow me and I have been pretty open as much as I can and that’s my public site , so I have my private , personal and public separated .

That is the greatest attitude I think you have got a great system going on and it’s clearly working for you , where you can keep your personal life private but at the same time can still freely communicate with fans , i think the level and openness you interact with the fans are just brilliant , I always enjoy your witty answers

Well i am glad its working and you enjoy it

 

My next question is about the support for this tour Hellzapoppin , how did this all happened ? I mean i have never seen band opened by a side freak show

 

yeah , it’s quite something you would love it . so yeah we are long-term friends and this was in the making for at least 5 , 6 years now .

the whole thing is something so different from anything else I have ever seen

yeah , they are amazing , do not miss it !

oh trust me I wont ! I am super excited to see both old Kerry McKee and hellzapoppin for the first time . I am glad we thought that through haha , do you happened to have any ritual before you go on stage ?

I put on my stage clothes, I warm up haha. There is nothing ..,it’s just physical preparation of getting ready to go on the stage that becomes a ritual itself like putting face paint on , getting dressed and you know stretch to warm up all that , but there is no special .., well we listen to a lot of metal normally to get us into the right metal spirits , you know to pump up some testosterone.

you know I know someone who would meditate before go on stage

yeah now you mentioned that , actually the king does that , he meditates before the show . But for me the series of things i need to do before go on the stage becomes the ritual

Thank you so much for talking to us it has been such an honour and good luck to the tour and new album , take care ,I will see you on stage tonight .

Thank you ! Its my pleasure , hope you enjoy tonight .