The worldwide metal scene largely knows Michael Amott from two bands: Arch Enemy and Carcass. The Swedish guitarist has more or less cemented his place in extreme metal with his tenure in these two bands. However, fans shouldn’t be quick to ignore his 70s hard rock side-project, Spiritual Beggars. Dating back as early as the start of Arch Enemy itself, Spiritual Beggars have released eight albums full of bluesy stoner riffs harkening to the glory days of 70s psychedelic rock. After their last album, ‘Earth Blues’ in 2013, the band is all set to release their new effort, ‘Sunrise to Sundown’ this March via InsideOut Music.
Metal Wani Assistant Editor-in-Chief Sairaj R Kamath recently caught up with Amott for a chat about the new album, Spiritual Beggars’ return in 2010 after a five-year gap, the influences in the band’s music, the status of new Arch Enemy material, and more!
Hello, Michael! Thank you so much for talking to us at Metal Wani. How’re you doing?
Michael Amott: No problem at all. I’m doing very well, thank you!
Well, we’re now on ‘Sunrise to Sundown’, the third album after the band’s comeback in 2010! Do you think this album’s going to show that Spiritual Beggars are bigger than ever, and are here to stay?
MA: This is our ninth studio album and the band has been going for over 20 years now. I don’t think we have much left to prove as far as longevity is concerned. We are very happy to still be around making music, and we’re still enjoying the process very much!
A lot of fans know by now that your music is inspired by 70s classic and psychedelic rock. That formula has been constant in your albums so far. So, are there going to be any surprises for us in ‘Sunrise to Sundown’, or are you just playing to your strengths on this one?
MA: Of course we have a signature sound that we as a band have developed over the years. But every album we have made is quite different from the last one. If you really go back and listen to our catalogue, you will find a wide variety of writing styles and performances. I would say that the new album ‘Sunrise To Sundown’ is the logical continuation of the work we’ve done up to this point.
If we’re not wrong, quite a number of the songs in the new album were contributed by keyboardist Per Wiberg and drummer Ludwig Witt this time around. What was the atmosphere like in the studio, with everyone submitting songs and lyrics for the album?
MA: Yes, that is true; both Per and Ludwig have contributed more material than usual this time around. It was nice to relieve myself of some of the responsibility and workload! The recording atmosphere itself was fantastic this time.Wwe worked with an amazing producer in a beautiful studio in the south of Sweden.
I have a feeling that Per’s keyboards have become more prominent in your music ever since the last album ‘Earth Blues’. That 70s-style keyboard intro on the new song “Diamond Under Pressure” seems to suggest that, too!
MA: Yes, well that particular song is obviously a very keyboard-driven track with the main riff there. Per’s keyboards have been a big part of the group sound since the late 90’s. We couldn’t do this band without him, that’s for sure!
Going back a bit, what made you finally want to re-unite Spiritual Beggars in 2010, after five years? And do you think the band will be more consistent now, without any breaks or hiatuses?
MA: The band was never really broken up; it was more a case of everybody being so busy with other projects and their lives that we just never had the time for Spiritual Beggars during that five-year period. We were all very happy when we finally got the band going again and made the ‘Return To Zero’ record with our then new singer Apollo [Papathanesio]!
How do you manage to divide your time between touring and making music for Spiritual Beggars and Arch Enemy?
MA: I’m not sure; I just do it!
We’re also aware that you are working on a new Arch Enemy album. What’s your progress on it so far? Will Jeff Loomis be part of the songwriting?
MA: So far, I’ve written some stuff on my own and also with my drummer and longtime songwriting partner Daniel Erlandsson. We know the Arch Enemy sound so well by now, and we’ve got a great feeling about the new material. It’s brutal and melodic. But there is no rush for us to make a new album right now; we’re taking our time. So don’t expect it to be released until hopefully sometime in 2017!
You formed Spiritual Beggars right around the time you left Carcass in 1993, and before you kickstarted Arch Enemy in 1996. Tell us how that shift was for you, from playing extreme and melodic death metal all your life to suddenly embracing classic rock!
MA: Well, it was a big challenge of course, and something that I was really excited about doing. Spiritual Beggars was an opportunity for me to broaden my horizon – not only as a guitar player but also as a songwriter. To this day, the band continues to be a great source of inspiration and fun for myself and the guys in the band.
Being Indian myself, I couldn’t help but notice the pictures of Indian gods and mythology on the artwork of Spiritual Beggars’ albums, like ‘Return to Zero’ and the self-titled debut album! How much of an influence does Hindu spirituality have in your music and themes?
MA: I would have to say no influence at all, except for exploiting the aesthetic in some of the artwork, particularly the early stuff. None of us in the band are very religious or “spiritual” whatsoever.
After you guys, a lot of bands like Rival Sons, Blues Pills and Orchid have come up recently to revive classic and psychedelic rock. Do you think the existence of bands like Spiritual Beggars is important to show the roots of rock music to today’s fans? Or to show them that there’s a world beyond “modern” rock and pop music?
MA: I think there will always be demand and a place for real heavy rock music played by real musicians.
Finally, have you had any offers to bring Spiritual Beggars or Arch Enemy to India? We have a fanbase that’s rabid for old-school rock AND melodic death metal, don’t you know!
MA: It’s very nice to hear that we have fans in your country! We’ve had plenty of offers over the years for Arch Enemy to come and play in India. Those things have always fallen through and not come to fruition, though. Hopefully, we can make it over there someday with a serious and professional concert promoter!
Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us, Michael. We wish you the best of luck with ‘Sunrise and Sundown’ and can’t wait to see what you bring this year with your other projects!
MA: Thank you very much for the interview and interest in Spiritual Beggars! Cheers!