Fredrik Åkesson of Opeth: Deliverance and Damnation in Australia

The man behind the guitars of Opeth talks us through the Sorcery, Deliverance and Damnation landing on Australian shores this February.

Swedish progressive rock giants Opeth are Australia-bound this February in the wake of the release of their twelfth studio album Sorceress. In the midst of preparations for travelling to Sydney for the third and final of three iconic-venue concerts at the Sydney Opera House, Metal As Fuck caught up with guitarist Fredrik Åkesson, to chat about venues big and small, spiders, and what’s in store for Opeth fans in Australia.

So, how are the preparations going for your forthcoming Australian tour? “Just about after this interview I will go to the rehearsal room and pack the gear up for the Australian tour.” How exciting!!! “Yeah, cables and gear.” …I can imagine you are bringing a lot with you…”Well, when it comes to amps and stuff, we rent that, onsite, because it’s way too expensive to ship our main rig, so we have two separate rigs, like a fly rig, a bus tour rig, so to speaking, so most of the backline is rented in Australia actually.”

Well, fair enough…it’s pretty exciting to be coming all this way to play at such an iconic venue as the Sydney Opera House. “Yeah it’s unbelievable really.” So what can people expect at the Sydney Opera House? “Well it’s going to be a longer set list than the other ones, cause we've done two tours for the Sorceress album already; one in the States - we started there, and one in Europe, we do three of these special shows in total. The Opera House is going to be the last of these shows. Which is basically the set we do, in the normal gig so to speaking, which is about two hours and we play a few songs from the Sorceress album then we play a lot of stuff from the back catalogue, a good mix of the heavy stuff and the, ah, spacey stuff. So it’s going to be that set list, and on top of that, we are not going to make it ‘in two parts’, basically we have a little thing that kinda divides the sets we do, a compilation of songs from the Damnation album and also the Deliverance album. So some of those songs we've never played live before, apart from these special shows.”

It’s certainly a very grand venue…“Its going to be different for us, that particular show, because they’ve sold the tickets for behind the stage as well so it’s going to be audience all around us, so we need to rent this wireless system so we can…jump around…walk around the entire stage.” Have you ever played on a circular stage before? “No we haven’t done a show where we are all surrounded by the crowd, no, that must be a first, actually. So it’s going to be different. That show will be light-designed differently to a regular show with a backdrop and everything.”

I guess it will change the dynamic of the crowd interaction…“Some poor people are just going to be watching our arses all the time [laughs].” Well maybe those are the tickets some people want [laughs] “Oh okay! [laughs]”

Opeth have booked several other Australian tour dates. Do you think that your approach to performance will change depending on the scale of venue? “Well for instance, when we play in Melbourne, we play two nights there, so I think we will probably mix up the set list for the second night a bit, I mean, some songs, we kinda have to play them, our ‘Smoke On The Waters’ so to speaking, there’s a few songs these days that we always like to play, like Deliverance and stuff like that. But we will definitely change it up a little bit, but basically its going to be based around the new album Sorceress, to play two or three songs from that then we will try to pick one song from each album. But I believe we play a couple from Ghost Reveries. The last show we did was in Berlin so it’s definitely going to be around that type of setlist but ….we might change a song here or there.”

Well, every show is special in itself…“I hope so! We at least try [laughs]…. It also kind of means that Mikael [Åkerfeldt]… will be engaging with the crowd, and how he interferes with the crowd, sometimes he can be a bit of a …stand up comedian with this silly ideas when doing the show, you can never really know what’s going to happen.”

Are there any songs from Sorceress that you are particularly looking forward to performing? “Right now we are playing the title track and also that song Wildflowers. It’s always fun to play the new stuff because it feels fresh, of course.  But I’m looking forward to playing the song Chrysalis. We haven’t done that yet… I think the song Era could be a good song to play live too. That said, I think the set list we have now is really good. It flows well and it has a lot of old stuff and some new stuff…I think this one is really good. Because it is always difficult for us to pick set lists, we try to look at what we played last time we were there to make it different, but some songs we need to play almost every night.”

Which songs do you feel that your fans expect to hear? “I think they like to hear Deliverance, that’s one of those songs.”

Of course…“This time we play two songs from the Ghost Reveries album, so it’s a little bit different. It’s impossible to cover a song from each album, actually. I believe we’re actually not playing anything from Heritage this time round, and nothing from the two very first. But you never know what’s going to happen, if we start jamming on stuff, or if Mikael starts taking requests…” Oh dear…he can be a loose cannon on stage…“Yeah you never know really.” What’s your most memorable moment of Mikael letting loose on stage? “Ah, probably one time we played in Dublin in Ireland and he started rapping…that had never happened before…started rapping about his genitals…” Oh no! [laughs] “And I was like, what are you talking about? [laughs]” So how’d that go down with the crowd? [laughs] "It came down really good, people were actually laughing out loud. Yeah some days are more fun than others. Sometimes he still cracks me up really.”

Do you enjoy touring? “Yeah, we all moan sometimes, but the shows are the highlight of the day. It’s a lot of waiting…sometimes you’re lucky enough to get out and do stuff. I believe now it’s the first time for me playing in New Zealand, I haven’t been there before, so we almost have one off-day, I will definitely try to go and see something. We had off days in Brisbane before and went out on a boat trip and stuff like that, so that’s always nice. It doesn’t happen a lot but sometimes you get the opportunity to do some stuff so you have to grab the moment. Or you can sit up in your room and stare at the wall.” That doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing to do in Australia? “No" [laughs] …"Just stare at the wall and be afraid of spiders and snakes.”

Well, perhaps justified…“I always look in my shoes when I visit you guys.”

Well we are excited to have you back in Australia soon! So I guess all that needs to be said now is 'happy packing!' “Thankyou! We are excited to be coming back, I hope you enjoy the shows!”