Australian online music magazine The AU recently conducted an interview with bassist Martin Mendez of Swedish progressive metallers OPETH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
The AU: I listened to [the new OPETH album] "Heritage" today and there's a lot of '60s and '70s sounds on it a bit of THE DOORS, a bit of URIAH HEEP, a bit of JETHRO TULL as well. It's been hinted at through previous records but why did the band decide to embrace that sound fully on this album?
Martin: Well, we've always been into these sounds. We always listened to lots of rock music from the '70s. We always had these albums in our record collections. We wanted to experiment with these sounds like we have done over the years more on this album, I think.
The AU: You joined the band about 12 years ago now. What drew you to OPETH and what makes you stay?
Martin: Well, I still love to play music. I think the problem with these past members is that they stop wanting to play music. I still love it and that's why I'm still here. I love playing it. I think it becomes difficult for many people because this lifestyle is not for everybody. The touring is pretty hard it's long. Sometimes you tour for up to a year and then you release another album and you start again. I think that's a big part of it, for some people. Maybe. They just want to be home. I can understand that.
The AU: Do you think if OPETH hadn't become a worldwide touring band, the band would not have enjoyed its success, to a certain extent?
Martin: Yes. I mean, we survive on touring, as a band. Making records and things, you don't see any money from that. For us, to keep the band alive and to survive, you have to tour. I think we do good for a lot of people, to play live. We put on a good show we don't put on a big [spectacle] like metal bands used to. We don't have any bombs, we don't have any fire, we don't have any image to [uphold], we don't wear weird clothes, or whatever. We just set up and play.
The AU: Writers and fans call OPETH a progressive death metal band and have been for a long time. How would you describe the music that you play if you were going to describe yourselves at all?
Martin: Well, that's a difficult thing, you know. I don't know how you would talk about it. I mean, there are so many journalists in music today. People call us death metal but I think we just play rock or heavy metal, but in a different way, you know. In the past, you had heavy metal but now you have all these different kinds. But now you have a name for every band and what they play. It's difficult to just make one up.
The AU: In the past OPETH was most certainly a death metal band, but now you've sort of moved away from that.
Martin: Well, that's true, but it's not like we want to move away from metal or upset our fans or anything like that. We still love death metal and we still want to play it as well. I mean, we are within metal but we also make other kinds of music. We try to experiment with all the other styles. It's natural. I mean, we're still the same. We don't use death growls, for example, in the new album, but it doesn't mean we're trying to get away from metal or anything like that. It was kind of boring to do another metal album following on from "Watershed"; well, at least it was for us. That's why we made this kind of record.
The AU: Talking about Mikael [kerfeldt, guitar/vocals], it seems he is the most prominent and dominant figure in the band. Firstly, is that reflected in the songwriting and secondly, does the band feel comfortable about that?
Martin: Mikael has been the only member that's [been there] from the beginning and he's always been the songwriter. But still, it's quite open. I mean, it's his band and we like to play this music. We try to add to the music to make it sound as good as possible.
The AU: In your playing, are you more influenced by music you grew up with or new music or even other things? Where do you draw inspiration from? How do you approach your music?
Martin: I think it's a lot of things it's about what is around you and that comes into your music. Other people and things might give you ideas, but music is the main thing. What I listen to influences a lot of my music. But people around you, situations around you that can influence your playing as well in either a good or a bad way.
Read the entire interview from The AU.