Swedish metallers Avatar, kicked off their world tour in mid-January. Along with them they are bringing a literal folk and metal experience with support from Dylan Walshe, and Canadian Celtic punk legends, The Mahone’s. It is undeniable that these 3 acts together managed to spice things up for the evening, leading to a truly one-of-a-kind tour scenario.
From the intimacy of Dylan’s melodies and poignant lyrics, down to the rowdy attitude of The Mahones and ultimately, Avatar’s technical proficiency and killer showmanship, anything is possible. One of the most interesting things about this varied line-up is that it seems to be growing in intensity as the night goes on. Dylan is armed with a simpler stage set up, but what he lacks in wattage and loudness, he makes up for it in emotional intensity. His sounds have a timeless traditional Irish vibe, and his voice is hauntingly cinematic, somewhere in between a young Tom Waits and Shane McGowan.
The Mahones took to the stage, introducing a change of pace. The group’s energetic antics and fast-paced tunes are all about combining classic Celtic-Punk stylings with old-school punk aesthetics. The Canadian group put up a show that was pure fun. Their stomping rhythm sections and incendiary guitar tones matched the vitriolic grit of the vocals to perfection, keeping the energy high through the whole set.
Avatar took to the stage at Trix on January 22nd and as always, they always set out to stretch the boundaries of metal, featuring influences as diverse as Death Metal, Groove Metal, and post-metal. The band’s live performance was meticulous, while also being incredibly fun and unhinged. It is clear that these musicians are pros who are committed to delivering a great show, and it is also clear that they’re having a lot of fun in the process! I caught up with Henrik Sandelin to talk about the current tour, as well as touring life in general.
You’re a few days into this tour, how’s it been going so far?
Really good! We’ve just done show in the UK and most of them were sold out, tonight is sold out as well. No catastrophes, no problem with the ferry or anything.
How is the crowd in Belgium warming up to you? -in that note- how was your experience at Graspop last year?
We’ve been playing quite a few year in Belgium now and it’s is one countries that treated us the best. Graspop this year was one of the best festival we played on because the last time we played, we had a lot of problems with delayed flights and almost missed the set. This year we had the chance to bring the whole production with us and gave a proper “Avatar Country” experience.
You have been around for almost two decades, and you’ve had the chance to tour extensively and experience the global music scene. How are things different in 2019?
The music scene has changed a lot, but for us, its changed even more. We started this band when we were in out mid-teens, so in 2001 we weren’t part of any scene. We were in a garage figuring out how to play our instruments. Some of us didn’t start in the band till 2003, though it feels as they’ve been around forever. So the band evolved a lot since then. They thing that changed the most is that people know our band, we get to tour everywhere, and since we stayed in the same band we grew up together. So the transition from kid to young-adult to adult was a real growing process with five individuals.
Do you have a specific approach in creating your set-list for a show? How concerned are you about balancing old and new material?
There are a handful song that you feel you have to play, we know the songs that the crowd wants to hear the most, relatively speaking. We try to play 80-100% of those. It’s not a guarantee that we play all of them, sometimes it’s exciting to skip one of them. Aside form that, we treat all song as part of a larger composition. The importance is not really what we play but in what order, and it doesn’t matter if they are old or new songs combined. We’ve experienced that on this tour where one show the line-up didn’t add up, and instead of removing one of the song, we changed the order and that completely changed the dynamic of the crowd.
Your new material opens up to a wider range of influences, including welcoming some electronic / ambient tones. Is it more challenging to recreate these tones on a stage, as opposed to coming up with soundscapes in the studio?
We use samples for a few things, drum, guitars, bass and vocals are all real but for the synthesizer and the other stuff we don’t play, we use the backtracks from that. So we can recreate the sound that you hear on the recording on the stage. Though there will be always different kinds of energies when playing live than in the studio. That is what we try when playing live, getting that energy into the studio and not that way around. There you can always add some more sound and effect in the studio. The real song will always be the five piece work. We have that mentality when a song is ready for recording, its also already ready for on stage. There is very little that gets lost from the studio that gets on stage.
If there was a dream band or lineup that you would like to tour with, or that you would tour for, who would it be.
Strapping Young Lad reunion would be cool, Devin Townsend Project also, but that is not big of a dream because I think that could happen for real because we are friends as it is for silly dream tour. I would say ABBA. You’d be surprise how many Swedish (metal) artist are influenced by their music.
Speaking of which, your line-up hasn’t changed much over the years, how does that go?
We had more conflict when we were much younger, now we got most of it out of the way. In your late-teens there is you ego sitting in the way and since we survived that then we can handle everything now since we are adults. And because we were working together as band from a young age, we learned to talk about it or leave it be. Being in a band is a combination of being friends and being colleagues able to have this company together and discuss economics, and also because when you are on the road so much together you become more like a family. It’s always a risk with five artists and individuals to get along for a long time but up till now we’ve managed to balance it out perfectly.
Since everyone seems to be doing the 10 year challenges these days, if you would meet your past self 10 years ago, what would your advice be to him?
“Keep working out you lazy bastard, you could be such a hunk by now” (laughs)
Sometimes you want to go back in time and changes everything but those good and bad moments that happened to you in the past lead up to what and who you now are. What I see now is that when we were younger we wasted time on the wrong things but it’s hard to know then what those things are and where we now are, today, I think I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.
I’ve once heard someone describe your music as “Kiss-ified Beatles with extra hot sauce and Viking fury”. What do you think of that description?
I like it! I like Kiss, I love The Beatles we are hot sauce and we’re form Sweden so that description is very accurate. I think people say that because they cannot pinpoint exactly our music and I like that. I feel that what we make is very honest and pure and there is no specific genre for that. We try to make song that we love and that we haven’t heard before, and it doesn’t always succeed, but keep trying to do something original. We don’t have many rules for that, well, the riffs has to be good and that it. (laughs) But I suppose that is for every metal band.
What does the future bring for Avatar?
Short version, we will keep doing this tour and we’ll announced more touring, festivals, and since the day we’ve finished Avatar Country, we have been working on new stuff. Not always on the same intensity but there are new thing on the way.