CHAPTER XI

Since you've last read this space here, there´s been so much stuff happening. Good stuff, bad stuff, horrible stuff and some absolutely fantastic stuff. We spent something like 19 months touring for the "Ghost reveries" album, which is more than we´v«e ever worked to promote an album before. I think it's actually quite insane. We deserve some kind of medal for that. Or a diploma for "Serving the metal community"? To be honest with you, there have been many rough times, many times where you´v«e felt like you just don´t want to do this anymore, but overall it´s been an amazing journey! I try to stray away from the pretentious way of describing our career, but there really is no other way to describe it other than a "journey" and with all that that would include.

I think what made the biggest impression of me (in my musical life) overall as unfortunately the downer events, like the whole Lopez thing and the Peter departure. Martin Lopez did the last show with us in Sauget/IL just outside the "Pop´s" club. I remember it as a good show for us, although the day before had probably been one of the worst ever. He went back to Sweden soon after that and unfortunately he never seemed to find the power to get everything back together. An era of great music was coming to an end right before my eyes and it was horrible. Lopez and myself are friends, but first and foremost we enjoyed playing together as we never really hung out as friends that much.

He remains a really important part of the band and I hope he´ll start a new band and just crush everything when he is ready!

With Lopez unavailable we´re desperate to find someone who could take his place. I´d known about Axe for some time because of the Bloodbath record he did, but I didn´t know his real skills as a drummer and I didn´t know him as a person. We met at the Sweden Rock festival since he´d been recommended to me by Patrik Jensen of the Haunted, who also plays with Axe in Witchery. I asked Axe about his influences and he said something like Ian Paice and Billy Cobham, and I said "You´re in"!

He reminded me a little of Gene Hoglan in that sense that he has an amazing ability to memorize music. Gene instantly knew how to play our songs and so does Axe. Our very first rehearsal with him was pretty fucking inspiring as we played "Deliverance" the whole way through without any major fuck ups. I was gobsmacked! And so were the other guys. There´s no time to loose really. We started rehearsing the setlist and everything went real smooth. However much we might have missed Lopez we certainly didn´t have any problems anymore with the health of the band.

Axe is like a Duracell bunny in many ways. He´s so energetic I have never seen anything like it! His first gig with us was at the Sziget festival in Hungary. We´d been told we had a 45 minute set to play before, but once we got down there it said we should play an hour and a half. A disaster... we only knew the 45 minute set. I must have talked so much bullshit that night to try and cover up the fact that we couldn´t play more songs. Somebody had a made a terrible mistake and we had to smooth it over. Axe played great however and I think the show went down really well over all.

That night we got smashed on booze. I was sharing a room with Axe and as I got back to the room I was so drunk I couldn´t find the toilet. I needed to go real bad, but I simply couldn´t find it. I went out in the hallway but found nothing. It got to a point where I couldn´t wait anymore and simply took a piss in the bathtub, only to find a door next to it which was the actual toilet. Well, well... The next morning I find Axe sleeping in the tub, in my piss! Apparently he´s got some crazy idea when he´s drunk he wants to take a bath (bad combo). Thinking back at that it´s like territorial pissings in a way, haha! He´s ours!! He´s shared a room with Mendez since then. I don't blame him.

Favourite memories? Very hard to say, but one is certainly our first gig in Japan. We played the Loud Park festival in 2006 together with some bands we already knew and some we´d never met. I really, really wanted us to go down a storm there and do a great gig...make« a good first impression. I remember my right hand felt a bit numb 10 minutes before the show which freaked me out. Like fucking Tommy Bolin, although I don´t do drugs. But the gig went great, I think we played flawlessly to be honest. There were 12000 people in this big hangar looking venue and I think we made an impression, a good one hopefully. I can´t wait to come back there. I also met Ronnie James Dio for the first time. Me, Peter and Mendez and our soundman Oyvind went down to the hotel bar for a drink. A real smooth looking place. Like a scene out of "The shining" with 60´s interior. My taste really! And the first fucking guy I see in there is Ronnie Fucking James Fucking Dio Fucking God! On top of that he stands up to greet us! He must have mistaken us for somebody else? Anyways, there´s just the 4 of us + Dio, Simon Wright and 2 of his techs there. Were sipping drinks and chatting away. I asked him about Ritchie Blackmore...Rainbow, all that stuff and he seemed happy to talk about it. I have to say he seemed to be a very genuine guy. He stayed with us the entire evening as the bar got more and more crowded with the metal elite. Dave Mustaine came down and had a beer as well.

I think I bought him 3 Guinness at least. And he bought me 3. Haha! A lovely guy! I was a bit intimidated by him when we first met but he proved to be a really cool dude. It was a cool scene for any metal fan to loom at. A bar full of people like, Dio, Slayer, Anthrax, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Backyard babies and us of course. As Dio was leaving he gave me a hug and called me "son"! Haha! Awesome!

We did so many gigs they´re all a blur in my head. Obviously we played the famous Roundhouse in London and recorded that night as well. I think the gig was OK, although we totally slayed the next day (of course) in Manchester. The recording came out fine. I´d problems with my throat and had to bring in a doctor to give me some steroids. That´s why Im so muscular these days you know...(joke!). The gig went well, my throat didn´t fail me that much and the footage came out cool too! We´re a bit nervous for the cameras of course, but after a few minutes we´re just trying to deliver as any other night. Loads of people there... I think one of our biggest headlining gig. We had maybe 2 700 people in there. Nice!

We interviewed a lot of fans both before and after the show and that footage was hilarious to watch. Some of you need to ease of the bottle a little, hehe!

For this one we toured with our good mates in Paradise Lost, and as always with these guys I end up laughing my guts out! Nick Holmes is the funniest guy I have ever met!

We did a whole bunch of tours everywhere...USA a number of times with Nevermore, Devil driver, Dark tranquillity, Devin Townsend band, Pelican etc...

In Europe we toured with Burst, Extol and Paradise Lost, however on separate occasions.

We played Australia, New Zeeland, Israel. We did the Gigantour with Megadeth, Overkill, Arch enemy, Lamb of god etc.... That was a good amount of fun. These festival tours are a bit tedious as you only play for maybe 45 minutes (if you´re lucky) and the rest of the you need to entertain yourself some other way. We´d gotten the Guitar Hero game from a friend of mine at Blizzard entertainment. I looked at those toy guitars and though, "Come on now...I'm fucking 30 years old!". Yet, I got hooked, real hooked. And Mendez got really hooked as well. We played all the time. Even right before shows, which is not recommended! As we´re blasting into the first chords of "The leper affinity" we´re like... "What buttons should I push?". It was horrible!

As I said before, Dave is a really cool guy. I first met him the day before the first gig. We´re in the bar of the hotel we´re staying at and the door is locked. There´s a knock on the door and I go up to answer it, and there´s Dave saying "Hi...Mikael...right?". I´m like "Yeah.....Dave..........................right?!" Totally intimidated and a bit scared! He bought me a beer and we chatted for a while. I´d met the Glover brother before and we´re totally down with each other... cool guys. James Lomenzo is officially the nicest man in rock! All of us really liked him. Very nice guy. I didn´t ask about White Lion although I guess I used to be somewhat of a fan back in the day.

Bobby Blitz also made a great impression on me. This guy is so full of life I feel like a old man next to him. Him and his wife has a chocolate company which he raved about! Awesome! The guys in Lamb of God are of course also good friends of ours by now and so are the Arch Enemy guys. So it was a nice tour with some old friends and we made some new ones as well.

More memories? Well, we played in Austria, Vienna at some festival...can´t remember the name right now. We´d been delayed and rushed to get to the festival site in time for the show. As we got there I saw the guys from Tool come in and all sorts of musicians.

We we´re in such a rush we had to run from the car into our dressing room and get ready for the show. As we´re walking on stage there´s 2 guys standing there... one of which is Sebastian Bach, the other one his drummer Bobby Jarzombek. I used to be a big Skid row fan so I was like "Wow"! He came up to me and introduced himself and just went totally "Bach-ish" on me. If you know who he is, you´ll know what I mean. He´s standing on the side of the stage for our entire show, headbanging and giving us the horn and all that stuff. Awesome! I dedicated a song to him as well.

Later he invited us to his bus for a beer, so myself and Mendez went there. It was one of "the" greatest moments. I laughed so hard it´s unbelievable. Baz is complelety insane and the sharpest comedian in rock! He´s hi-5´ing us every 2 minutes and just keep telling all these stories. It was a fucking party! Lovely guy! If I could have one extravagant party I´d invite Baz to be the fucking toastmaster! He also said "You guys are coming with me to see Guns n´ fucking Roses from the side of the stage". I´m like...."Yeah, right!". I didn´t really believe that was happening or was possible at all. But sure enough, come stage time for Guns, Baz comes to pick us up, walks us past the 4 guard stations (for real!) and we´re in!

Here we are, watching Axl come out a metre from us waving at Me, Mendez, Baz, Adam and Justin from Tool + Izzy Stradlin. Insane!

I remember when we passed the last guard station Baz was walking in front of us, and he´s a tall motherfucker, like a gazelle...he turned round and said "Who´s the man?". And I said, "You are, dude!".

We played Wacken as well with Opeth and it was a nice show. Hung out with some cool people. We´re sharing a bus back to the hotel with David Vincent from Morbid Angel and Ihsahn from Emperor. Axe was fucked up on alcohol and was giving out portions of snus. He had some disgusting cranberry flavoured snus at the time and made the now (for us) classic line as he asked Vincent...in broken English: "Do you like Cranberry?" Vincent: "No!"

We hung out with Tool and Placebo at a festival in Norway. I got a bottle of wine from Justin of Tool and those guys are really cool. I hope we can play more with them.

We did our final gigs for "Ghost reveries" in Italy. We´d had a really warm welcome in Rome since it´s been 10 years since our last gig there. We didn´t play that well, but it was certainly a memorable show.

My wife and Melinda and the other wives and girlfriends had flown down for that gig. I remember Melinda sitting on a few guitarboxes on the side of the stage as we´re playing with her fluorescent protective headphones. Completely in awe, and with her teddybear in her lap. Way past her bedtime as well. She must have thought we´re too loud as she held her fingers in the ears of the teddybear. Cute!!

After the final gig I, which was in Treviso... we said goodbye to our touring partners, the great Amplifier, and headed off to our hotel. It´s a melancholic feeling after having done so much work, and all of a sudden there´s nothing in your calendar at all. I knew I´d be busy writing music and I had my family back home, so I couldn´t wait to turn the page so to speak.

There were many issues to take care of as well.

Ahhhh, coming back home from endless tours...it feels like I survived a nuclear attack or something. It just feels totally unreal. My calendar (well, I don´t have a physical one, my wife tells me where to go, what to do...what to say) is empty...nothing booked whatsoever. It´s a very nice feeling for a guy like me. I knew we needed the rest, all of us.

Basically I wanted to get moving writing some new stuff and on top of that me and my wife were expecting our 2 nd child. Having kids is the best but it´s also very rough on a god forsaken slacker who loves late nights, vinyl, party, TV, beer, computer games etc. Now, having two... surely the last nail in my youth-coffin??

Melinda is going to kindergarten so I was writing up til the time I had to go pick her up there, and the rest of the day was usually spent hanging out with her. Going to the playgrounds, nodding to other parents (which...is a very rough thing for me. I guess I don´t want to be one of those...parents....like...you know....people who just follow the "rules". Those who eat nice dinners on Fridays.). But I love hanging out with Melinda. She´s the apple of my eye and basically I couldn´t live without her. I´ll gladly demean myself to make her happy...

Fast forward to late October. Writing is pretty much done, I´m happy, I feel secure and I know the songs are great. We´ve been rehearsing and we´re tight as a "witches cleft". My head is just burning with information and worries. Any day now I´m going to be a dad again. Anna´s a...monster! Haha, not really, she´s doing well, but basically we just want to get the whole labour thing over with. After some nighyt pains on Oct 27 we went to the hospital (same place where Melinda in 2004 and where I was born in 1974).

It went smooth, well for me...I basically just had to pep talk Anna a little, she did all the work (I´m sure you´re aware of the fact that it´s not exactly something we men are un-happy about). But it was very smooth overall. At 9 in the morning she gave birth to Mirjam Ebba Maria Åkerfeldt. A healthy young baby girl which basically is the cutest newborn I´ve seen since September 2004. Awesome!! They give you some sandwiches and coffee when everything is done, and that time is soooo relaxing. Now she´s a little blob, although insanely cute and she started laughing when she sees me. I´ve become a sentimental babbling idiot...but what the hell. My death metal cred has been in the grave for years and I aint looking back with regret.

Peter Lindgren and myself started playing together for fun as we´d girlfriends who knew each other so we´re a little gang hanging out. This goes back to the 80´s, maybe we first met in 1988 or something...maybe earlier. He had a band called Infinity which was a thrash type band, I don't think I ever heard them for real. Maybe they just had the name. I was in Eruption and later on Opeth. We'd found ourselves in a little bit of a squeeze since we had a gig booked, with Asphyx and Desultory and had no bassplayer. I asked Peter to fill in which he did. Since then he became the guitarist as the guy who played with us at the time left, and Peter was really a guitarist anyways.

We had the same type guitars, Yamahas with 24 frets, his was black and mine was white, but I'd painted blood on mine as well as had some stickers on it, the original sticker from Samaels 7" single "Medieval prophecy" actually!. It looked and played like shit to be honest.

Together we started playing guitar. All the time! There's a few riffs I'd written that were inspired by At the gates first demo, only that we played slower and even more melodically.

We wrote most of the songs on the first album in my boy room out in Hagsätra where I lived with my mum at the time. And once we had recorded that first album, something just clicked and we became sure of what we wanted to do. Peter was studying at the time, he also went in the army, something I'd been fortunate enough to hassle my way out of. I was a bum with a dream more or less. I eventually got some work in a guitar store and worked there up til the "Morningrise" tour in 1996 and then left.

Fast forward 10 years or so and Peter's not in the band anymore. It's quite insane for me, but it's reality. I think Peter had lost a little bit of that initial spark of playing guitar and I think his mind was occupied with many other things than just the music. He enjoyed the tours and everything but like anyone with a wife or family, it's extremely difficult to be away from home so much. Even though I'm still in some kind of state of shock, I think it was a good thing for him personally and for the band.

If you are in Opeth you need to be 100% all the time I guess, there's no time "off" so to speak, and I think Peter seriously needed that time off. I need it, and when I do, I just don't pick up the phone, don't touch the guitars etc...I mean, we could be working around the clock if we wanted to. But there's never been a question in my mind about what I want to do.

Peter also has an education to die for. It'd be a little bit of a waste not to do something with it.

Let's face it, being in a metal band is not a very lucrative career move if you want to have a long-lasting career and make a decent living. I love it because I love music and I don't know anything else. Peter always loved the music but I think his creative side needed more of an outlet, and perhaps that is getting recognized more now as he wasn't really writing that much for the band during the last years.

I will always be burdened by this, I always been a nostalgic person and I believe in "forever" but to be honest, all I want to do is to play music. If I'm not playing with Peter or Lopez I will be playing with somebody else. People change and there's nothing one can ever do about that. We remain friends to this day and I hope we'll become even closer friends now when we're not working together anymore.

Fredrik Åkesson is a little bit of a legend in the Stockholm scene. He's done a lot of work, but his metal ventures have been more or less limited to work with Krux, Arch enemy, Tiamat and Talisman. I'd known about him but didn't know him personally. I saw him play in a small pub here in Stockholm. He had a black Les Paul custom and plugged straight into a Marshall and just took our heads clean off. They played some metal classic covers set, but it was enough for me to be real impressed. I got to know him through his involvement with Arch enemy more or less and found out he's a great honest guy with the heart in the right place. He spent more time with us on Gigantour than with his band at the time.

As Peter was leaving I'd just been informed that Fredrik had been asked to step down from his position in Arch enemy. So even though we're going through a pretty rough dramatic time, at least we'd been struck with luck in the "perfect timing" sense.

He's the only one I called and only one we ever auditioned, and I haven't looked back since.

As I write this we have just finished the mixing of our last record and I know how his performance on this record will find you all completely impressed.

The new line up has so far only done one gig together, which was last Summer at the Iilosarirock festival in Finland.

It went well, I was a bit shit but the band probably sounded good. I remember looking out from the side of the stage just before we're going on and there was maybe a few 100 people there. I'm like... "OK, whatever, we'll just do this and then get fucked up". 10 minutes later we go on, and it is packed! Maybe 15000 people there to see us! Fucking nice! Thanks! That night we went to some kind of metal club and got completely shitfaced. I can still feel the hangover today, haha! But we needed that I guess. So many impressions during the last couple of years, we needed to let out some steam.

We're gearing up to be ready to see you all again. A few months worth of rest and then we'll go out again and tear it up, as the posers say. But we fucking mean it!

The Dream theater tour dates just got announced and it looks like it will be a very cool tour. Hopefully we can do the Mexico date as well even though noone told me yet whether we're supposed to do those too... * * *