Monday saw the release of OPETH’S new live DVD extravaganza- In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall and we recently had a chat with front-man Mikael Akerfeldt about playing the legendary venue, how they chose the tracks they played and the reason behind the series of special gigs they played earlier this year…
Roadrunner Records: Tell us how you came to this idea to celebrate your 20-year career…
Mikael Akerfeldt: Well, it doesn’t feel like we’ve been around for 20 years really, but 20 years is a long time, especially when you see it on paper, it makes us feel old! But we have been around for 20 years and we wanted to celebrate it somehow, because we never really celebrated anything in those 20 years – we never had a release party, we never had anything.
We talked about doing a show or something, and we’d been looking at playing the Royal Albert Hall at some point in our career, and for me it was just something we’d talked about, not something that would become a reality at all. But we did it, and that was the first show we booked, then all of a sudden this party of ours became a big thing.
We didn’t want to go into the Royal Albert Hall without having played a few shows before, so we booked a few shows around the world at similar venues – well, we tried to get similar venues but it’s almost impossible because [the Royal Albert Hall] is so beautiful.
We played at the Cirkus in Stockholm, that was the first show, and then at an old movie theatre (called Lichtburg) in Essen, Germany, then we did the Albert Hall show. We did New York, Los Angeles, and we played at the Bataclan Club in Paris, which is a very nice place.
Basically we wanted to be prepared for the Royal Albert Hall because we knew we were going to film it and record it, so we wanted it to sound good. But that was it, we set up six shows around the world to celebrate 20 years, simple as that.
RR: What was your reasoning for including ‘Blackwater Park’ in its entirety in the set?
MA: The reason is it’s a popular record. We’d been a band for 10 years when we did ‘Blackwater Park’ but we’d never really had anything going for us, to be honest, until we did that album. The simple reason is that this is the tenth anniversary of our most popular record, many of the songs on that album are well-known Opeth songs, like ‘The Drapery Falls’, ‘Bleak’, ‘Harvest’ and the song ‘Blackwater Park’, so it felt obvious.
We were talking about doing an album ‘back-to-back’, and it’s quite fashionable for bands to do that – we’d done it before as well – so when we talked about it, we didn’t even discuss [which album we’d play]. We just said, “We need to rehearse all those ‘Blackwater Park’ songs then!” It just felt obvious.
RR: How did you choose the other songs in your set – what has become the second disc of the set?
MA: I guess it was difficult, but we weren’t on tour for ‘Watershed’ any more, so we didn’t have to plug that album any more than the others, it was just celebrating our career as a band. Our songs are quite long so we couldn’t really choose more than one song from each record for the second set. ‘Forest of October’, which is the first song we played, fragments of that song were the first things I ever wrote for Opeth. It’s a fun song to play, it’s a but na