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Bringing Out Emotions/Making Audiences Feel Them: An Exclusive Interview With MARCUS JIDELL Of AVATARIUM

By Daniel Höhr, European Correspondent
Friday, September 29, 2017 @ 3:40 PM

"That's what music is all about, bringing out emotions and making audiences feel them"

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In 2012 CANDLEMASS bassist Leif Edling teamed up with SOEN, ex-EVERGREY and ex-ROYAL HUNT guitarist Marcus Jidell, TIAMAT drummer Lars Sköld and keyboardist Carl Westholm to form AVATARIUM. The line-up was soon completed by singer Jennie-Ann Smith, Marcus Jidell's wife. The band take a unique approach to hardrock music by melting classic rock with modern doom metal elements and have been incredibly creative in the last five years. Now, two EPs and three albums later, the present line-up of AVATARIUM with Mats Rydström on bass and Rickard Nilsson on keyboards are on their first real headliner tour through clubs in Europe, promoting their 2017 release Hurricanes And Halos. On September 21, the Swedes played the Kubana Live Club in the German medieval town of Siegburg, where KNAC.COM got together with guitarist Marcus Jiddel just minutes before the show to talk about the current tour, the band's new album, inspiration, songwriting, what AVATARIUM have in common with blues and jazz bands and a possible live album to be recorded on the present tour.

KNAC.COM: How's the tour been so far?

JIDELL: It's been very nice. You know, we're starting to learn the songs [laughs]. It's always at the beginning of a tour that there are a lot of things that need to work, you know, with crew and the band and everything. And it's been good from day one. But now it's starting to get real fun. We just heard a recording from yesterday and I was blown away because it sounded so good. We record every show from the desk to maybe do a live album or something like that. But now I have proof that it sounds very good actually [laughs]. So I'm very happy, we're having a great time. We have a great crew, the band sounds amazing, we've got THE SLAYER KING with us. They're great guys and are doing a great job and stage and sound really cool – a Greek, doomy, occult band.

KNAC.COM: And how has your audience been responding to your performances?

JIDELL: It's so amazing to see the audience. You know, we haven't played live that much and you could say that this is our first actual headliner tour and they're so much into it and I don't know if I've ever experienced that before. I'm overwhelmed, really.

KNAC.COM: Let's talk about your new album Hurricanes And Halos. What does the album title mean?

JIDELL: I think the title is a lot like what the band is, it's a lot like our music and our lyrics, it's about light and shadows, the bright and the dark, all this kind of stuff. I think, for me Hurricane And Halos just sums it up quite well what we're doing with our music and, once again, with the lyrics and everything.

KNAC.COM: What's your favourite song on Hurricanes And Halos?

JIDELL: I think my favourite song to play is actually “When Breath Turns To Air” because that's a very personal song to me. I think on that song we bring in a lot of stuff that's very important for AVATARIUM, you know, blues and a jazzy touch. Yes, I think that is very important for AVATARIUM.

KNAC.COM: Where do get your ideas from musically and lyrically?

JIDELL: It depends, it's always different. If you ask about the songs that Leif [Edling] wrote, he will tell you one story about that and if you ask about the ones that Jennie-Ann and I wrote, you know, there's always a different story. Usually, before we make an album, we get together and listen to a lot of stuff that we like, you know, “what about if we do something in this or that direction?”. We listen to struff and then we write a song but then it eventually sounds totally different but it can be very much influenced by something we have listened to. Take for example “January Sea” [from The Girl With The Raven Mask]. That was influenced by QUEEN. And I don't think anyone except for Leif Edling can hear that, because it was his idea [laughs]. But it was indeed influenced by QUEEN and then I arranged it, Jennie put her vocals on it and all of a sudden it became AVATARIUM. So we listen to a lot of different music, I mean all of us are real fans of music. We listen to everything from classical music, blues, rock, LED ZEPPELIN, BLACK SABBATH, of course, DEEP PURPLE, you know. And then we do our own little mix of everything. And we like some new stuff as well, you know, bands like MASTODON, the new GHOST album... well, I say 'new', but it's two years old [laughs]. But anyway, we listen to a lot of music and we get influenced by it.

KNAC.COM: In another interview about Hurricanes And Halos you said that your music is absolutely contemporary music. And yet your main influences are bands like BLACK SABBATH and DEEP PURPLE. So could you explain what you mean by that?

JIDELL: You know what we're trying to do with our music is that we want to be in our time. We don't want to be some kind of retro band. We're extremely influenced by bands from the fifties, sixties and seventies but I think the main reason for that is when they recorded their music back then, they couldn't edit it that much, so they had to perform really well. If they wanted to have a good recording, they needed to record it well, you know, play well and sing well and find the vibes, so to speak. And I think that's the thing that really inspires us. It's not that we need to get the sounds exactly the same. You also have a songwriting tradition from the old bands. If you listen to BLACK SABBATH or if you listen to THE BEATLES, of course. Those bands created something new and there's a tradition how to write songs and that's very interesting how, for example, THE BEATLES worked. So these things also influence us. But we don't want to be a retro band, we want to make music that feels new to us. Because otherwise we would just be like a parrot repeating stuff. We want to put our own stamp on the music that we're playing.

KNAC.COM: Can you see a trend like that in the metal scene, you know, back from the massive use of synthesizers, samples, choirs, orchestras to a more traditional and simplistic approach to playing handmade, back-to-the roots music?

JIDELL: Yeah, maybe. I don't know trendwise but to me it's important that that's the kind of music I like. It can be a great symphony orchestra or a great hardrock band or a metal band or whatever. I like when it's real, so to speak. That's what I experience when we play. You asked about the audience. You can see that they feel it. Many people say it doesn't matter when you use backing tracks or whatever. But they, the audience, feel it. And that's what music is all about, bringing out emotions and making audiences feel them. That's what I want to do when I go and see a show or when I hear an orchestra, I want them to grab me, I want to get my emotions out. We can probably do that in different ways but that's the way we do it. And it works for us.

KNAC.COM: You started in 2012 and you've been incredibly productive. You have made three EPs and three full-length studio albums. Are there any ideas left for the future?

JIDELL: [laughs] Well, we're actually starting right now. Rickard [Nilsson, organ] and I started talking about how our next album might sound and what we wanted to do. But when I have finished an album, I'm always totally worn out. You've been doing the best you can, you've had a mission and an idea and you've recorded it and put a lot of work in it and then it's like: “I have no clue what the next album will be.” But now it's been a while and we're touring and we're starting to be like: “Hmm, what if....?”. So there's little corn starting to grow. So we'll see. I don't know but I'm just thinking one album forward but at least there's one more [laughs].

KNAC.COM: Most of the KNAC.COM Pure Rockers are in the United States. Have you got any plans to come across the Atlantic?

JIDELL: Yeah, that would be nice. Of course we want to do it. We're very open for travelling to new places. But there's a lot of politics and a lot of stuff that needs to work to make it happen. We love to play music and if we can make it happen, we will.

KNAC.COM: I guess you must be looking forward to the show now.

JIDELL: Yes, really! Actually, Peter, who is sitting over there and who is our sound engineer, just played a recording from yesterday and we were quite impressed with the way it sounded. So I'm really looking forward to playing and we're gonna try to make it sound even better. As I said, we're recording each show, so hopefully we can make a live album ot something out of that. You know, the band is getting better and better each night. One thing about Avatarium is that the music is kind of free. We have a little bit the same philosophy like a blues or a jazz band would have. We can play in the moment, we can do different versions each time. Of course, we have a structure and everything but every night is a little bit different and that makes it very exciting.

KNAC.COM: So a certain degree of spontaneity is important to you.

JIDELL: Yeah. I play something and Rickard starts to follow or he does something and I start to follow. It's amazing to be able to do that in a hard rock band because in most of the bands I've played with it's been impossible to do that because everything is so structured. But we manage to keep some free spaces in the music. You mentioned DEEP PURPLE and that's a big influence from that band, actually.

KNAC.COM: Thank you very much, Marcus, and have a great show.

JIDELL: Thank you, Daniel.

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