Kicking off this week [September 8th in Nottingham, UK], Amon Amarth’s guitarist/songwriter, Olavi Makkonen checked in from his home in Sweden to explain to us how the tour came about, if there’s any potential for any more ‘secret shows’ since their Wacken performance and much more…
OD – The long wait for the release of ‘The Great Heathen Army’ finally came to an end last month [August 5th]. How long had you been sitting on the album prior to release?
OLAVI – We recorded the album in the middle of November last year and we finished around the middle of December. We got the final mixes in January, so we’ve been sitting on it since then. We had the whole album prepared, apart from a few lyrics that needed to be done.
We didn’t really plan to make an album, but after the first year of the pandemic…that’s when we decided that it was kind of pointless to come back to continuing, ‘The Berserker‘ touring process, so we said; “Let’s just start on a new album!”, and that’s exactly what we did.
At first we did recorded the stand alone single, ‘Put Your Back into The Oar‘ [listen/watch below] which was supposed to be released a lot earlier, as we couldn’t release a proper video because of the restrictions, so that’s why it came out so late. That was the first thing we did, and after that, we decided at that point it was time to start writing a new album.
OD – So you just kept writing and throughout the whole pandemic process regardless of the decision of a new album or not?
OLAVI – I am always writing. I just log all my ideas in case I need them one day. On the other hand, Johan [Soderberg] he’s more like a guy who just writes when it’s time to write.
I work whenever I’m inspired. I learned my lesson once and I think it was prior to ‘Surtur Rising‘  album, when I said to myself; “Okay, I’m not gonna write anything until I have to“, and then when it was time, I was like; “Oh shit! I can’t come up with anything!” [Laughing] It was really stressful, so now whenever I have any cool ideas, I just nail them down and then I can look them up when I need them.
OD – Having been writing, recording and releasing albums consistently since 1998, did the last few years seem very strange to the band?
OLAVI – On a personal level I really enjoyed the break. We have been grinding for so many years. Especially in the Summer time, we are either in Europe or America doing festivals, and to be at home for two Summers in a row… it was great, but for financial reasons, the only money we make is from touring, so there was some concern as to what was going to happen.
OD – With regards to the new material and the forthcoming co-headline tour with Machine Head, are there plans to focus primarily on the new album for the setlist?
OLAVI – I think we’ll be playing at least four or five new songs. We’re gonna swap things around a little bit to see what works best. We like to look at the Spotify stats and we’ll see what is popular and that helps us form our setlist for the live shows.
We try to do as much research as we can to find what the fans will like for our live shows. It’s a handy procedure that helps us connect with our fans that little bit more, when it comes to working out what songs to play in certain cities, countries, etc.
OD – Let’s talk about the ‘Vikings and Lionhearts Tour’ for a moment. How did this come about as Machine Head have been very vocal in the past about not wanting to tour with other bands etc?
OLAVI – It’s a combination of management and band members talking to each other. We played with Machine Head in the past in America, and in fact, Robb [Flynn – Machine Head] came to see us perform in San Francisco a while back and we were just hanging out. We said to him; “Whenever you decide to take a break from the ‘Evening With…’ shows, we should team-up for a tour.” Maybe that got him thinking and it planted some seeds, but here we are today about to embark on that very tour. I can’t wait for it to kick off!
Whenever we were looking into touring after the Pandemic, our approach was also from the mindset of teaming up with another great band to offer a strong package for the fans. But when it was spoken about, our first choice was Machine Head. I’m not sure if that was the mindset of Robb also, but the important thing is, that’s it’s happening.
With both Machine Head and us along with The Halo Effect on the bill, these shows are going to be incredible Metal events. The Halo Effect guys are smashing it right now. We all know each other, and everybody is really cool. It’s just a group of great people that are looking to bring as much METAL to the stage as possible!
OD – I understand that the production for this tour is the biggest the band have ever used. Can you elaborate on what we can expect on stage, or any highlights that you can offer our readers?
OLAVI – We’re the kind of band that like to do things the old school way. We’re not really into big screens, etc. We like REAL things, kind of like Iron Maiden. We have a great classic Heavy Metal production, and it’s the biggest production we’ve ever had.
OD – Can you give us some hints?
OLAVI – [Laughing] Well, imagine the set up we had back in 2019, it’s that but with so much more! It’s gonna be a feast for the eyes, that’s for sure!
Bearing in mind, Machine Head’s production is totally different to ours, so it’s like getting two shows for the price of one! Make no mistake both bands will be on full production…we’re not holding anything back. These shows are gonna be huge!
OD – The recent “secret performance” at Wacken was a sudden surprise to so many of us. How long in advance did you know that Amon Amarth would be performing at the festival?
OLAVI – We knew about it for about six months. And you know what? It was kept as a pretty solid secret for the best part of five and a half months or so. Which is not bad, considering how many people are involved in events like that.
OD – When you look back on that performance and just going up on that area/stage with no production and just letting the music speak for itself, did it feel so much more relaxed than all the other stuff that’s normally included in an Amon Amarth show?
OLAVI – No! [Laughing] In fact it was more stressful as there is a lot of pyro and lights that hides me if I want to be hidden for a while. But this was just us and the instruments and it was an intense feeling that so many eyes were on us in the sunlight!
The original plan was that we wanted to play the smallest stage they had but there was a lot of concern for the safety of people, so it was decided that would put a small stage in the middle of the main two stages in the arena.
It was a really awesome experience and we all had such a good time. We really didn’t know how people were going to react but now looking back…it was incredible.
OD – Going back to the tour with Machine Head, are there any plans for secret club dates while on the road or will you be sticking to the regiment of the itinerary?
OLAVI – Not for Amon Amarth. There really is not any time on this tour for side shows. Whatever dates we have off, we need to relax.
OD – With the band’s official formation in 1992, this would make it the 30th anniversary for Amon Amarth, has there been any conversations about marking the occasion with a special release, or a significant event?
OLAVI – The thing is, we haven’t really talked about it. If something like that was going to happen, I would say it would be next year. We celebrated the 25th anniversary, and in my opinion, it just feels a little close to do something else so soon. But then again, who knows! We might do something next year to mark the occasion.
OD – Since you’re on the road with Machine Head, would you ever consider doing a collaboration track going forward?
OLAVI – Yeah! I’m open to anything as long as it feels right. I’m not into doing things just for the sake of doing them, if you know what I mean.
OD – Finally, are there any plans to take The Vikings and Lionhearts Tour to America?
OLAVI – No, this is just for Europe and the UK. We have other plans for America.
Catch Amon Amarth with co-headliners, Machine Head, and special guests, The Halo Effect on the following UK/IRELAND dates:
8th Nottingham, Motorpoint Arena
9thCardiff, Motorpoint Arena
10th London, Wembley
12th Manchester, AO Arena
13th Dublin [Ireland], 3Arena
Tickets on Sale NOW via Ticketmaster outlets and online, via this link.