Professional Wrestling First Inspired Avatar’s Theatricality
Sweden's Avatar are among metal's most dynamic and theatrical bands. On their latest album, Avatar Country, they delivered another highbrow concept album, this time describing their homeland and its somewhat mysterious yet powerful king. An Avatar show is unlike others, embracing full immersion where fans can play carnival-like games and experience a slice of Avatar Country.
Frontman Johannes Eckerström was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program, discussing the band's motives, how their next record will differ from the last two, and that his childhood interest in theatricality was sparked by professional wrestling.
Let's talk about Avatar Country. It incorporates many different styles and influences. What challenged you most about fitting all those musical pieces together?
Actually, at this time around it wasn't even a challenge to do that because since we had talked about this before, I'm sure that this album became the time and place for us to reveal the true nature of our king and of Avatar Country. That meant that as we entered the studio and the whole songwriting process, it was the clearest and focused vision that we've ever had. Everything simply fell into place in a way that I don't expect it to ever again.
Being the singer, people obviously focus on you the most. What's foremost in your mind when you're onstage trying to connect the audience to the entire band?
Well, my number one focus is the music and finding ways to perform the music well but also to visualize the music. That is what we are all about as a band in Avatar. So, whatever I felt while putting those lyrics to paper is what I try to portray and share with the audience during a performance. Then, that is the kind of weird thing when you do something as theatrical as we do because of course, all the lyrical content comes from a very real place that you can suddenly transform it into a show. So, you turn your real life, your real emotions into theater and it's weird but it's also what we do.
Avatar Country goes beyond music to the stage show and every vendor selling merchandise at each show. Why is it important to extend the concept so extensively?
It's important to us, absolutely, and you can take that back to our childhood heroes. They're not the biggest influence on the band, but a very good example of it would be KISS or Rammstein or something. We were always fans of artists that rock every aspect of what they are doing into the world of music and it's just something that we all have become very, very passionate about through the years and because one of the things that metal can be and metal music is particularly great at also compared to other styles of music is, that it really can invite you into a different world in a different universe hidden in your mind. We want to do everything we can within our power, and ability and budget for that matter, to help people make that journey into the universe that we are building with the music. That then reflects on the whole visual end of the band, what we're doing, how we dress, how the stage show is, and above all I would say the music videos.
Avatar have become known for theatrical performances, especially now, supporting Avatar Country. What first inspired your interest in big stage productions?
Well, speaking for myself, I would say that it's probably being as a kid, I fell in love with pro-wrestling, so Hulk Hogan and people like that probably had more to do with it than anything else combined with Michael Jackson, because that is when the seeds were planted way, way, way back in the day. There's just been additional inspiration put on top of that and there I can mention just millions of billions of bands like growing up with stuff like Iron Maiden and then that leading up to bands like Behemoth. It's just the way we want to express our self where the music isn't enough.
After two concept albums, you said that the next would probably not be a concept album. Lyrically and musically, what would you like to do instead?
I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being another concept album anyway because I've said this before Avatar Country as well. Feathers and Flesh — we were trying to find out what it even means to make a concept album. Once we did that we weren't supposed to revisit it, but then of course the vision of telling the story of Avatar Country fell into our laps and we simply had to run with it because that was what we were inspired to do.
Aside from that, I'm very much interested in getting back into the darkness artistically speaking and also deal more with reality or at least a universe closer to our reality and deal with ... there are a few scary things that would be healthy for me to talk about and I feel the urge to do that both musically and lyrically and that is pretty much how the whole band is feeling.
Touring schedule through the middle of 2019. It looks like you guys are gonna be very busy.
Definitely. This train won't stop.
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