At this point, it is safe to say Swedish power metallers Sabaton are one of a kind. We can only assume many wish they were their world history teachers. Just think about it, combining music and education could be a better learning tactic. No one goes to a show expecting to have a history lesson while simultaneously raising your horns and headbanging the night away. However, Sabaton has succeeded with this and we saw the result at their recent show in New York City at the Playstation Theater last Friday (21). The group returned to North America, this time as a headlining act. Before the performance, we were able to catch up with bassist and founding member Pär Sundström to discuss their return, Sabaton Open Air, and, of course, history.
It’s been five years since you headlined here in North America, how does it feel, knowing this is a very special night especially since you have the tank out this evening?
A lot of things have happened since we last headlined a tour in North America. It was in 2012, and we just went through the big line up change of the band and we came here and were doing our first headlining run. We hit a lot of small clubs and not so many people coming. And we realized back then that this wasn’t going to be the way we were going to continue playing these small clubs. We needed to up the game, so to say. So for the last few years, we have done many support tours that we became to be known as some promoters that as a support band can never pull anything on their own. I always knew that it will work, it’s going to work out as long as we get exposed to enough people and I think this tonight, will be proof that it worked very well and a lot of promoters have actually come back and say, ‘Wow we didn’t believe this. We thought you were going to be just a support band and bring in a few hundred people in per night and have no clue you were going to face a pretty much a sold out tour across North America.’
Yeah, you have shows that are already sold out, it’s awesome. Now that The Last Stand has been out for quite a few months now and that you stepped away from it, are there any tracks that you omitted that you wish you included on the album?
No. I mean there will always be so much but we just keep that for the future. It’s not like, ‘ok we oh we didn’t get to write about this.’ I put aside everything that is interesting, and there is so much. Unfortunately, it’s been in the human history to kill and murder each other for like, forever. So we aren’t going to end up with nothing to write about, that’s for sure. There are enough stories so we just take a couple which we feel like we connect to or find them interesting or inspiring and put them down in the album, and save the rest for the future.
Also with the new album, since you guys have been performing quite a bit for it, do you have different reactions from different cities, liking certain tracks better than others?
We can’t relate to any of that here in North America.
Of course, but in Europe.
In Europe, yes. Obviously, because if we sing a song about some historical song that happened at a certain place, people from there will be more affected. It’s just a fact. Yeah, it does happen when we are singing about a certain country, we go there and do play it even if it’s not normally on our setlist. As we have been doing this for a few years and have several albums about these type of lyrics. When we tour in Europe it becomes very interesting when we do the setlist because it changes every day. And we need to have a lot of songs in the back of our head rehearsed while other bands would go out with, I don’t know, 15 songs rehearsed or something for a headline tour. Because, ok tomorrow if we are in this country and we need to play this song and if we are in that country, we have to play these songs. So we are going out with 30 or 35 songs in the back of our head, maybe more.
Wow. That’s a lot of rehearsing time. I’m sure you have a backlog of writing material, do you have any particular concepts you’d like to explore that you haven’t yet?
There’s plenty. For sure. Exactly what to do? We can find different angles on things because it’s easy. You can pretty much do the same thing and write from different angles. We don’t want to put our own angle in, but there are still always different ones to do. Like the songs that we have in The Last Stand, it could be written from a different angle and called something else as well. It’s just a matter of us finding the right theme for an album than just what we have because the stories are there and we need to validate them so it fits into the concept of the album.
You guys tend to listen to the fans when they suggest song ideas.
We listen to a lot of fan ideas like that and we collect them because it would be impossible for us to maintain our jobs, which is playing heavy metal. If we were just doing research all day, which would be needed to do. Even though a lot of more things are easier to access nowadays on the internet, there are still so many things that only exist in a specific country, in their own language and been pretty much forgotten and only a few people know about it. And these are the kind of stories we usually look for which is not mainly known by the people around the world but rather this little region or country have a certain history that they want to tell.
Have you ever heard any bizarre suggestions or crazy conspiracy theories?
There are those yeah. We get a lot of things but it’s not what we want to be involved in. A lot of people tell us to write about current events. I guess one of the last ones would have been to write the war of the feminists against Donald Trump. And it’s not really for us to do that. That’s for somebody else if they want to do that. We are a nonpolitical band, we are not here to tell people what to think, vote, do, or say, or anything like that. We sing about things that have happened. Not happening or will happen.
…Or wishful thinking. You guys had a few lineup changes and what I noticed about that is it never affected the creative process on and off the stage. I was curious if any of the newer members have any military background?
Actually, they don’t. They have a background as guitar players, drummers. They have no military background and not so much interest. It’s not why we are. If we would have needed a new person, we don’t bring in somebody who’s like ‘oh this guy fits in the band because he has a lot of background in the military.’ You have to be good at playing, it’s the main thing we do. And the historic concept, it’s enough that I and Joakim (Brodén) knows about it. And the other guys get more and more interested in it. But for them, it’s as new as for anybody who’s listening. It’s like, ‘oh I didn’t know about that?’
Do you guys ever think about making an offbeat album or EP such as a cover tunes or one based off of fantasy battles?
Every now and then we think about what we can do and if we should go away from the theme. But then we think, there’s nothing we would rather do. So, not really. We have been doing a few songs that are sidestepping, like “Metal Crüe” (2006’s Attero Dominatus) and “Metal Machine” (2005’s Primo Victoria), they have been side-stepping a bit. Other than that, we like this theme. As I said earlier, there’s so much to sing about. We won’t run out of stories and sadly, there are new stories created every day. What happens today, we might be singing about in twenty years from now.
So you just focus on reality and history.
It’s more interesting than fiction.
Speaking of reality, how was it getting here into the states than say, your first headlining tour in 2012. With security, were things more difficult to get in?
Nothing. No change at all, we didn’t notice anything. It was very simple.
Wow, I thought that there would be. That’s good to know.
No. It was simple.It was way more complicated in 2012. We had to cancel a few shows in 2012 because we couldn’t get visas for the guys. But now, it’s all fine.
This summer marks the tenth anniversary of Sabaton Open Air. Do you have any spectacular plans for that since I know you guys assure it’s going to be the best Sabaton performance each year?
When we perform our festival, to say that it’s the best Sabaton show, it’s not the right word to use for it. It depends on what you want to see. It’s a different show because we can do it because we have nothing at all to prove. We are just there to satisfy the people, give them a different show. Because, the people who come there, they have seen so many shows with Sabaton already, and they have seen what we are doing on tours, what we do on festivals, and this and that. But they haven’t seen what we do in our hometown, which means, that on our festival, we just do something different. I wouldn’t say it’s always the best, but it is different and that’s what makes it special. I think if you are a new fan and you don’t even know that much about Sabaton and you have only one show to see and you can only choose one, I wouldn’t recommend going to our hometown. I would recommend seeing one of our shows after we’ve been on tour, doing the same show for two weeks. Then we are the best Sabaton. To see the show in our hometown, that’s when I suggest everybody who has already seen a couple of shows with Sabaton to go.
More intimate and familiar.
Yeah, sure it’s intimate, somehow in one way, it’s bigger than what we are doing tonight.
It’s intimate because it’s familiar, people over here have seen you guys perform maybe five times when over there, they have seen you guys over 100 times.
It’s a different tension in the crowd because nobody really knows what’s going to happen.
Would you consider making a special live or DVD package, similar to last year’s Heroes on Tour?
We have no plans for making a DVD at this time. We already did one from our hometown so not there.
My last question is, well this is what I admire about you guys, you make your own festival, you have your own cruise, you’re constantly touring and putting out new albums; is there something else that you wanted to try but haven’t had the chance to yet?
Yes, plenty. I have a lot of plans, I have a lot of things I still haven’t done which we will still do. It just takes more time to prepare and some of the projects, we need to be a bit more popular world-wide. But yes I have some things that are coming up which is going to be…interesting.
Does it involve more boat rides?
Well, we have the cruise, we have the festival, we have the radio station.
Ahh, let’s see what we can do. But sure we have different ideas!