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Per Wilberg (Opeth)

Interview with Per Wilberg from Opeth
by Katrina Cannon at 28 November 2005, 1:05 PM

Opeth, one of the most talented bands ever known to Metal. I'll never forget the first time I heard Opeth about a decade ago, I was amazed to say the least, so this interview is a very special one to me. On their 3rd run through the U.S. in a year, newly appointed keyboardist, Per Wilberg, takes time out of the busy tour schedule to sit with me over a cup of coffee and speak about their new album, their upcoming performance on BBC and the future of Opeth.

How's the tour going so far?

It's good. It's been really good turnouts and the crowd reception has been really good. I think people are too nice to us (Laughs). It's been a lot of fun because we did the summer festival, Sounds of The Underground tour, I mean we played really short sets, but it was the same for every band. But obviously it's a lot more fun to come back and do a full set. We do almost 2 hours every night.

Yeah, I saw you guys on the Sounds of The Underground and I was disappointed you had such a short set, but I knew that all of the sets would be short being that there were so many bands.

Yeah, I guess it's easy to notice that we have a short set because we have so many long songs and we only get to do like 4 songs when other bands get to do like 10 songs in a 40 minute set.

You've been with the band since the Damnation tour but have just recently become a permanent member. How did the decision come to be for you to be a permanent member?

They asked me (Laughs). To me it's not any different than what it was before, it's more of a technical thing. I have to be in band's photos and do interviews (Laughs). When they asked me to do the Damnation tour, I only thought that I was gonna do that and nothing else, and they also thought that, but it turned out to be quite fun. They asked me if I wanted to try to play keyboards over the heavy stuff to kind of experiment and we learned some more songs as we went along. I guess when we got through touring for Damnation (2003) and I had played over 100 shows with them, they kind of got used to me being there and maybe most of the crowd as well (Laughs). Especially since I played on the Lamentations DVD, so I don't think it was a big surprise for the fans. I guess they more or less took for granted that I wanted to be involved in the new record as well and I guess I did (Laughs).

Speaking of Damnation, that album is a lot more melodic compared to the others. Do you plan to ever write more music along those lines?

It's not a master plan for the band but I think definitely that album rubbed off, so to speak, on the song writing for Ghost Reveries as maybe one or two songs that would have been good on Damnation as well like Adornment or Isolation Years. I think that was a really important album for the band to write. It was kind of a brave move for them to do.

Your video for The Grand Conjuration debuted this past Saturday on Headbanger's Ball. How was it making the video?

It was pretty fast. It was done during the Sounds of The Underground tour. We had a day off in Los Angeles and we just went down there to headbanged for 3 hours in a dark room and then we were done I guess (Laughs).

That's a pretty short shooting time for a video.

Yeah it was, I was surprised, but then again there weren't a lot of band pictures in the video either (Laughs).

How did the recording go for Ghost Reveries and how is it compared to previous albums?

Well, it's hard for me to compare to previous recordings because I haven't been there. But it was relaxed and easy even though it's a lot of hard work, but it was creative and inspiring. The other boys have said that this recording was a lot easier than Damnation and Deliverance because there were a lot of problems recording those 2 albums. This was the first time for many years that they/we took the time to rehearse.

Right, the previous 4 albums were non rehearsed but you guys decided to rehearse for this album. Why the change in habit?

I guess to avoid that feeling of stress (Laughs). Before we went into the studio, pretty much every song was finished, like the basic structure of the song and that has never happened before with them. Before they were more or less writing and recording in the studio before at the same time, and I guess it's enough with just recording in the studio (Laughs). It also gave us a lot more time to focus on details instead of just trying to come up with songs, to come up with an album before the deadline (Laughs), so I guess that made it a lot more relaxed.

Back in May you signed with Roadrunner Records. What sparked the label change?

The previous label, Music For Nations was bought by a publishing company that was owned by BMG and they decided to just get rid of that label. All of a sudden the band was out of a contract, so we were free to sign with whoever, which I guess was good in a sense. There has been some talk since we chose to sign with Roadrunner that it effected the music as well. There's a lot of people who say Eh, Roadrunner, you're a sellout now but the album was done, mixed and mastered before we signed with them. I guess everyone has an opinion about record labels. To me it doesn't matter what label you're on, they're all trying to do the same thing, all of them, they want to earn money, that's the purpose of having a label. I don't think anyone's better or worse, really. A lot of people have the romantic ideas that small labels are really nice people and the bigger labels are the bad guys or whatever, but it doesn't matter. I guess as soon as you sign the record deal, you're selling out anyway, it doesn't mater if you sign to a label that will make 1000 copies of the record or one that will make 100,000, it's the same anyway.

That is very true. Back in August, you played the Metal Hammer festival with Korn. How was that and how did that come to be? That's an odd match. It's a big difference between music styles.

To be honest, I don't know (Laughs). That's I guess our booking agent in Europe who sort of had more bands on that bill. I thought that Fear Factory was gonna do it but it appeared that they weren't gonna do it. I don't know, I guess it's a lot more fun with a diverse bill than 5 bands that sound exactly the same.

Like Sounds of The Underground; that was pretty diverse for the most part.

Yeah, no, I think there were a couple of bands that didn't… that sounded like… well, there were a lot of bands that were…you know (Laughs).

They're called clone bands. (Laughs)

(Laughs) Yeah, they're pretty much the same but then again you have to start from somewhere as well. There were some really good bands on Sounds of The Underground like Strapping Young Lad and Clutch, one of my favorite bands and really good friends of mine. It was a pleasure hanging out with them all summer, and High On Fire, a great band. But to go back to the Korn thing (Laughs), that was a bit sad, because we were like the main support for Korn and everything was running late that day so we had to cut our set which meant we only played 30 minutes and it's a drag to fly to Poland to do a show for only 30 minutes. But Korn put on a good show though, the audience was crazy (Laughs).

In just the past year, Opeth's U.S. fan base has grown significantly and we're seeing more and more of you guys here. Do you think that Opeth will continue to concentrate on touring the U.S, especially now being on an American label?

It's hard to say, hopefully you'll continue to see us. I think for being a band from Sweden we tour a lot in the States and we're gonna come back in February again. There are a lot of places that we need to go to as well. Opeth has never been to Japan which is quite interesting, a lot of bands from Europe go to Japan to play but Opeth has never been there, so I guess we're going to do that next year as well as Australia, New Zealand, maybe south America, so there's a lot of work to be done.

In December you are going to do a recording for the BBC. Tell me about that.

The only thing I can say is that we have no idea what songs we're going to do. I think everyone's pretty stoked about it because it's a very classic show and Rock 'n' Roll history has been made there several times before. Being the music nerds that we are, I guess all of us own at least one BBC recording of their favorite band (Laughs). I think we're going to try to record it and use it for future DVDs.

I've seen Opeth quite a few times and you don't seem to play anything off the really early albums like Orchid (1995) or Morning Rise (1996). Why is that?

No, on this tour it more or less had to do with time to rehearse because Martin Axenrot was filling in for Martin Lopez on drums for this tour, so we had a very limited amount of time to rehearse after Sounds of The Underground before the festivals and European tour that we did before this one. So I'm just happy that we're here anyway because if it wasn't for Axe we wouldn't be here because he learned this set really quick. I really hope that we have time to learn a couple of songs from those albums for the next tours.

What are your immediate plans for after this tour?

There's going to be a 5 week European tour after we come back from this and then it's Christmas and it's going to be Santa and Christmas songs for everyone. (Laughs)

So Opeth is going to do a Christmas album then?

(Laughs) Well, you never know'.But after that we have January off then the plan is to get back over here in some form in mid February. Hopefully it's going to be a headliner. Then certain territories in Europe that we haven't been able to go yet, like Greece, Turkey, maybe Israel, then it's Japan, Australia, New Zealand, then it's summer again, so it's festival time. Then it's south America in September next year, it's not all set in stone but it's just a rough plan for next year.

Awesome, well I'm sure the world is definitely looking forward to seeing you again next year. I know I am.

Yes, we are looking forward to it as well. So see you next year!


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