INTERVIEWS — January 14, 2013 at 11:46 PM

Joakim Broden Of SABATON – “There Are Enough Bands Writing About Drinking Beer, Fucking Women And Killing The Gran”

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It was a chilly evening, and press were all huddled like penguins outside the stage door ready for their audience with the Swedish King of Power Metal, Joakim Broden of Sabaton.

With Carolus Rex, their sixth studio album since their inception in 1999, receiving huge press and fan support, Sabaton have relentlessly toured which took its toll on several (four out of six to be precise) band members and almost a full line up change ensued.

Par Sundstrom, bassist and one of the remaining members has been quoted as saying that this was no surprise to the band, and had been planned for a while. Thankfully it had no effect on the touring of ‘Carolus Rex’, Sabaton’s take on their homelands somewhat chequered history.

After writing about other countries for years, the band met with revered historian and author, Bengt Liljegren to research their subject. One of their main themes, King Charles XII, had a Latin title which was ‘Carolus Rex’ and since Sabaton had had Latin album titles before, the album title was born.

I was meeting Joakim for the first time in a dressing room at The HMV Forum in Kentish Town with very limited time, so we got straight down to it and what a cheerful and accommodating chap he was!

I can of course confirm that I am not pregnant. You’ll understand why I said that after you read the interview.

sabatonPic01 Joakim Broden Of SABATON   There Are Enough Bands Writing About Drinking Beer, Fucking Women And Killing The Gran photoDo you have long sight or short sight? Cause I’m afraid I am not wearing lenses hence grasping a list of questions that looks like a 5 year old wrote them…so bear with me if I’m not as fluid as I usually am..

(laughs) Um, I would see very well up close, but nothing there. I wouldn’t even be able to read that myself you know, I wouldn’t even be able to read that from here [holds questions a small distance away from his face].

So you’re short-sighted. I could only see from a distance, I can read that. I’m a bit rubbish, I’ve got one that does one and one that does the other.

Oh right, yeah, yeah, yeah. Pirates, get a pirate patch!

Someone suggested that to me, get one eye done and just wear a fucking pirate patch, they went yeah, you could probably get away with that. I’m fairly sure…er…no, probably not a good idea. Ok, 1999 you guys were formed, what did you do before Sabaton?

Oh, what did I do? I basically came off… I was still in school when we started in ’99 obviously, but the work I had been doing in a while playing with the band before we could make a living out of it was basically everything from music teacher – I did that for a year – and then there was some music production at university and one year as, what’s it called?

Well ok, lets just say something fucked up with the phone exchanges in Sweden, and they would send a technician out to the phone exchange, I would be the guy helping patch things up by phone, or by the computer, I studied that in school.

You’re a nerdy techy!

Yeah, yeah, it doesn’t look that way obviously, but yeah. (laughs)

Stereotype metal head?, let’s not have a stereotype in here please! Erm, straight onto Carolus Rex. The theme of the album King Karl the Eleventh was somewhat a touchy subject. Did you give yourself free rein lyrically on it or did you choose to be very very careful about what you wrote?

I mean we were very careful that what we wrote was historically correct obviously but we decided early on. And also since we’ve worked with Bengt – A history professor, we decided and it was also something he wished that we would show the glorious and good side of the Swedish, you know what they did, but also we shouldn’t censor the really fucking….when they were bastards you know, show it all you know?

Do you think that’s why the Swedish press have probably been the only ones that have not been as…not spoken as glowingly as the rest of the world’s press?

Well it is a touchy subject in Sweden because Swedish history is somewhat connected and has been unfortunately to right-wing extremism. I don’t think at all that Swedish history should belong to a political religious group. It’s Swedish history no matter what.

sabatonPic02 Joakim Broden Of SABATON   There Are Enough Bands Writing About Drinking Beer, Fucking Women And Killing The Gran photoCan’t exactly change it or hide it really…

No, and er and so in Sweden people were a bit afraid at the beginning but actually since the album – it was worse when we announced it – but since the album came out people actually read the booklet, heard the lyrics and since we recorded in Swedish as well I’d say that 95% of all that fear has blown away.

Nice one. Is their any war or lyrical theme that you will deliberately stay away from? Or is everything fair game for Sabaton?

Everything almost is fair game and we’ve chosen to stay away from things that are still a hot topic obviously. We’re not afraid of offending people really, because I think historical fact is not something you should take offence from.

But obviously, things that are too current that we think, that we know today isn’t really always history it’s more like what have the media pulled which side and shown to the world at the moment and you see new facts are coming out even today about WWII so I think the WWII has been the sweet spot for us, we’ve had a lot of songs from there.

Not only because it’s a popular subject but it’s because there are films from there and eye-witness accounts have been recorded and books have been written on it and by people who were there and still have been a long time ago, most of the archives and most of the information is out there so you can make a fair judgement on.

Ok the soviets report this many died, the Americans report this many died, the Germans report this many died, all these things are public knowledge.

Yeah so you can check out the facts for yourself you mean. Why is it so important to you as a band to write lyrics that mean something? Obviously a lot of power metal bands will write the fantasy, they will write the theatrical if you like but you seem very adamant on how lyrics have to mean something… they have to matter…

Not really matter, but yeah, they have to… they have to tell a story. To be honest there are enough bands in the world writing about drinking beer, fucking women and killing the gran.

You mean Tankard, don’t you.

Yeah. HAHA! They actually made the very thing, so that’s cool! In that case it’s cool because they made it, it’s a thing, but yeah.

Who the fuck sings about killing their granny? I wanna find out about that band!

Hmm, it would be fun…to listen to it?

No. (laughs)

But no, there are so many fantastic stories in history they are being forgotten so why don’t we re-tell them before they’re forgotten. Instead of making up new ones.

sabatonPic03 Joakim Broden Of SABATON   There Are Enough Bands Writing About Drinking Beer, Fucking Women And Killing The Gran photoYeah, yeah, that’s a valid point. Do you think that in any way that maybe you wanna…teach…. in part?, because you’ve got an awful lot of young fans out there. You said you did some teaching?

Yeah yeah, I did some music teaching.

You think you might extend your career to include something like that?

Ah, that was never the plan but I hope, I mean yeah, I get emails on weekly basis where people say ‘yeah thanks for the song you know Primo Victoria I now remember the date of D-Day on my history tests you know’. Stuff like that. And we had videos sent to us where our music has been used in history lessons, but obviously not university level though. (laughs)

And why not?

Because they probably avoid the facts that we’re doing…

I don’t think that’s very fair. Is it harder to be creative in writing factually accurate songs? Rather than the fantastical version, because obviously you’re limited with it, it’s pretty limiting because you can’t use your imagination?

Yes, Well in some sense yes, I mean, musically there is nothing, nothing different because I write the music first. I write all the music and then me and Bengt we sit down and listen to this song, what does it say and then we’re like ‘oh yeah, I read this book, we should look, yeah it fits perfectly’, and then we write it. But in a sense  it’s not like we’re gonna run out of material. So we got a lot of variation there but, but what we noticed is vocabulary there are only so many ways you can say ‘tanks’.

(We all start laughing)

So tanks, panzer, armoured vehicle…what the fuck, where do we go from here? So, that’s the hard part actually, the vocabulary, I would say. It was a nice change to go into Swedish history now seeing as the album spans from the early 1600’s to the early 1700’s, now you’ve got a little bit more words you can use, but, it’s still artillery! It’s still cannons, you know. It’s tough.

You’re gonna have to start making your own words up.

Yeah, that could be fun.

The Sabaton Dictionary Of War!

That could be fun actually!

You should so do that, that’s actually started you thinking about that hasn’t it, I saw your brain going…

I could probably write a small dictionary of  military words in different languages. We actually usually borrow some German words like tank we use Panzer instead and stuff like that.

sabatonPic04 Joakim Broden Of SABATON   There Are Enough Bands Writing About Drinking Beer, Fucking Women And Killing The Gran photoYeah, everyone borrows from the Germans. The English version of Carolus Rex, everyone’s been sorta harping on about the same thing. Why did you do two versions, was it difficult to translate? This does actually lead on from the last thing. Was it difficult to translate the same emotion, I haven’t heard both versions but  from what I’m reading people are automatically saying they prefer it in Swedish.

Yeah, everybody in Sweden and 90% of the Swedish people do, yeah.

Obviously in Europe they prefer it in Swedish cause the feeling comes across more in its native language, so was it harder to translate the emotion into the rather caustic and basically pretty bland English language?

Nothing wrong with the language, probably my skills in it, my impaired skills (laughs) I mean obviously we do speak decent English but  you know, lets just say I would know one or two ways to say ‘snow’ in English, let’s make that as an example, I know five ways to say the same word in Swedish, and so I don’t think the writing part was lacking because we didn’t translate them, they were written separately the lyrics.

So they are not direct translations, sometimes they are way different, for example, the song ‘A Lifetime of War’ is an objective account of the 30 year war in the English version and it’s a personal experience from a young soldier in the Swedish version. It’s the same topic, but totally different lyrics. And erm, the tricky thing was that were more of these magic moments where I’d just sing and the emotion travels with the words better in Swedish because I am Swedish, unfortunately the English version suffers a little bit in comparison. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the English one.

If you don’t make a comparison….

If you remove the Swedish one, it wouldn’t exist, I don’t think there would be any problem with it at all. It’s just the fact that Swedish is my native tongue.

It’s very fluid though, the Swedish language is [makes sort of Swedish sounds] where Brit language is very…

Ours is a bit more melodic I think.

Yeah, yeah it is. Meet and greets, you did it in the US…why didn’t you do it in the UK? Why not…WHY NOT!!?! (laughs)

1) Because it’s a different thing over there. Here, we usually hang our with fans after the shows and do stuff like that, the problem is I don’t like it personally. The thing I didn’t like in the United States is that every body does it and they use it as a business model. you charge extra for tickets for people who want to meet the band and I don’t….somebody would pay extra to get in and they get a special t-shirt or they get something for it, that’s fine, but 2) I don’t feel comfortable with people paying to meet me.

So we work in ways that you know maybe talk to people, I dunno, maybe outside the tour bus after the show or you know meeting them at the merchandise because, ah I don’t like it. In all the countries we have fan clubs we arrange our own meet and greets with the fan clubs so the head of the fan club says ‘yeah I got four guys coming in or 8 or 18 coming from the fan club in that show in Germany’ ok cool, let them know that we’ll meet at the exit of the venue 15 after the show  one of our guys will come and pick them up into the dressing room and we’ll talk for half an hour after the show.

sabaton joakim broden interview Photo 05 Joakim Broden Of SABATON   There Are Enough Bands Writing About Drinking Beer, Fucking Women And Killing The Gran photoHave you had any real meet and greet nutbags?

Yeah..(Laughs)

What have been some of the more bizarre ones?

To be honest, It’s usually people who get nervous or freak out, if that’s the case, but that, it’s very rare to have any nutbags, maybe people.

*Laughs* It’s great you say how you say ‘Nutbags’ say it again.

Nutbags (smiles)

Haha, so sweet! I’m sorry, carry on.

(laughs) It’s very very few and rare couple of occasions  in most of those cases it’s just kind of cute, maybe it’s a young girl goes high-pitched in voice or something. Or some kid that gets really excited and starts shaking.

Awwwwwwh!

In that case it’s more cute than you know, ‘cringe’, but there are some things we have had…Yeah for me, I had a girl who claimed to be in a relationship with me, claim that she was pregnant with what’s supposed to be my child. Obviously there was no child  and she wasn’t my girlfriend so people kind of figured it out after about 9 months.

….and the fact she lived in Australia and was 50 might have been a give-away.

(laughs) No, she was Polish actually and she lived in Poland. But she decided to tell people that we were together, and she was gonna have my baby, people kind of…some believed her; which was kind of uncomfortable. But seeing the belly didn’t grow and there was no child people started to figure out in the end, that it probably wasn’t true.

It was like a five year pregnancy huh…

Yeah

She’s doing really well keeping people guessing then, she’s taken after the elephants…she’s got elephant DNA.

I tried to figure out, you know. hmm. Met this person once, and we were in Warsaw and the gig was sold out, and we were having a…a signing session, and I asked her, you know see you later, you know, tonight? and there were 3 younger girls and they said, you know ‘shit we can’t come because tickets had sold out’ and then I said, ‘oh, I’ll put you on the guest list then. So I wrote them on the guest list, shook their hand and gave them all a hug, so that to them qualifies as…

You’ve clearly got a very very virile handshake…

Yeah, yeah exactly…so err, that constitutes for a relationship in Poland I guess.

Ooooh, I shook your hand and we had a hug! I’d be bloody fucked if that was the case then, I hug people, I’d be pregnant for thousands of years. I’d be married to everyone. Oh dear, at least that particular thing died down but you know as you’re ascending the ranks you’re probably gonna get a lot more of that…

(laughs) I like to think most people are nice anyway, you shouldn’t let the fact there are a few crazies make you hide and be afraid of people.

sabaton joakim broden interview Photo 06 Joakim Broden Of SABATON   There Are Enough Bands Writing About Drinking Beer, Fucking Women And Killing The Gran photoNo, exactly.. although the Dime situation… and some nutters these days..you’ve gotta keep it a bit, ‘you know’…

Oh we played that venue just a few months ago, same place as him, ‘ok, it’s here’s where he got shot ok’… well that’s one for security, sounds proper scary today.

So this isn’t actually a bad idea really.. (taps Joakim’s metal chest plate)

Yeah.

Has that actually got Kevlar in it?

Nah, it’s just regular metal.

You so need a Kevlar vest!

Yeah, I do have one actually. They gave one to me at Fort Bragg when we were in America! We got invited to the army base so…proper Kevlar vest…flak jacket from the US army.

Amazing, you should wear it! Oh, I need to know, what vocal range have you got? How do you keep your voice trained – I mean power metal is obviously a very distinct sector of the metal genre for vocals – loads of stuff really, how did you realise you had the power metal vocal ability? How do you keep it well oiled?

Well…I don’t know the answer to any of those questions! I started out as a keyboard player. When I got in the band they didn’t have any of their own songs, it was ’99, it wasn’t basically the same band, it was a different band. It was a different name as well when we started out, they were doing some kind of Black Metal covers and I figured I’d join in because I played the keyboard and I told them, cool I’ll play with you but if you guys are thinking about getting serious about this playing a lot live then don’t count me in.

They said no no, we don’t really wanna play this music, we just don’t have a singer at all, or we don’t know how to write songs, I can’t sing I said, but I know how to write songs, so I wrote some songs for them and they liked it and they asked me about the vocal melodies as well, yeah sure, can you sing them? Yeah I can sing them while we rehearse,  so we know where we are in the song, but I don’t wanna sing in the band you know.

They said, yeah, we’ll find a singer later and that was my ’99. So I hadn’t been practising, I started screaming into the fucking microphone and I had to learn the hard way how not to destroy your voice when doing it…but my range, that I use, isn’t very wide at all. I can go, effectively an octave and a half using it in Sabaton, obviously I can go a bit lower or a bit higher but then I have to go into falsetto which I don’t do much and if I go lower I couldn’t keep the [does a low growl] you know? 

Growling isn’t the word maybe,  I’d be overly low, Leonard Cohen style. So effectively in Sabaton, I think I’m in about an octave and a half.

So you’re a vocalist by accident, what an accident, it’s brilliant.

It started out as ‘oh we’ve gotta record a demo, we gotta find a singer first’…no no we’ll use the demo to find a singer, ok, cool, makes sense you know and then…we got a gig. GET A SINGER, no no, come on, we’ll find that later, and then there’s another recording. I think I didn’t realise I was stuck in singing till 2004/5.

(laughs) What, it was like.. ‘wait a minute, this is 5 years!’

(laughs) That’s probably how long it took before it stopped sounding like shit! To be honest I can’t look, if I listen to stuff we did in 2004, it’s the first time I like my voice [now]  and I actually think that’s alright, you know.

Lastly, why does the latest album exceed your expectations and everyone else’s expectations with regard to your previous back catalogue. Carolus Rex has been so well received, why, why has that been do you think?

It’s 2 fold I think, 1) there is a very closed theme you know where I got lucky with the song writing, that’s one. And 2 that’s the help we had from Bengt the history professor helps us, you know he didn’t write the lyrics but he helped find the subject, find the ideas you know where to look for it, these books, cos you know there’s not too much on the internet and you gotta go to libraries, find books that are not in print any more which never happened to us before and then Peter Tägtgren our producer – he does PAIN and Hypocrisy – his production of this album, he took it to the next level. They were three things in combinations I’d say.

The Holy Trinity of album success, brilliant, Thank you very much for your time dude.

You’re welcome!

 

CAROLOUS REX is out NOW on Nuclear Blast Records and you can grab the limited edition version HERE.

You can check out the Sabaton gallery HERE and head to Sabaton’s Facebook  or Official Site for all the latest updates and tour news.

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