Interview: Colin Liddell
CBL: Your voice is astonishing. Do you remember the first time you sang or spoke in that kind of “death growl”? What were the circumstances? I imagine it was when you suddenly got angry with someone and then you produced that deep, scary voice and then you maybe thought, “Wow, I can do that” and the rest is history. Was it like that or how was it?
AG: I discovered Death Metal when I was 16. I was simply singing along to my fave vocalists – Chuck Schuldiner, John Tardy, David Vincent. I did my best to emulate that sound they produced – and one day I succeeded. Thus said I was naturally angry every minute of the day, being a teenager and all, ha ha. That def fuelled my love for this extreme vocal style as well.
CBL: Do you ever use ‘The Voice’ in anger, like when someone cuts in line or bumps into you or something in daily life? Also, that kind of voice must be pretty scary or a turn off for your boyfriend. Is that ever a problem?
AG: No, I don’t growl at people. I usually stay calm with a firm voice. Shouting in daily life makes you look like you’ve lost control. If you want to be in charge and on top, you better stay calm.
CBL: In your performance, you seem angry and enraged. How genuine is the rage we see on stage and what makes the rage? Is it just tight trousers?
AG: I feel empowered and wild. I guess it comes across like angry and enraged. But a roaring lioness is not always angry either – It’s just being interpreted that way. My performance is very genuine, I feel very strong and dominant on stage and my voice transports these notions.
CBL: How do you keep your vocal chords intact? Got any special secrets or does it just involve going straight to bed after each concert while the guys in the band party?
AG: That is such a cliche – you really think the guys still party after every show, twelve years into touring, having played thousands of gigs? That gets old and boring so very fast. We usually have a rather chilled evening after the show, enjoy some nice food, a glass of wine, listen to music and hitting the shower and bed early enough to get a good night’s sleep. If you have pride in being a good performer you have to preserve your energies. We all do this, not just me. As for my voice – I do a quick but effective warm up before the show and a warm-down after the show. I make sure I keep fit and healthy and try to get enough sleep.
CBL: You recently lost a member in Christopher. How did that happen and did you try to stop him leaving?
AG: Chris just wasn’t happy for quite some time, he doesn’t want to play extreme Metal. We could tell that he wasn’t really feeling it. You can’t stop a traveller – and Chris simply needed to move on. We are cool with his decision and very confident about Nick and the future of Arch Enemy.
CBL: How and why did you choose the new guy Nick? Is he on board for good or just filling in temporarily?
AG: Nick can pull off Chris parts with utmost ease. He’s young, driven, talented, positive and hungry. He is just as passionate as we are. We don’t know yet if he will be a permanent member – the upcoming tours will show if we’ll get along in extreme situations. The stress test is about to commence 😉
CBL: When you visit Japan, will you be mainly playing ‘Khaos Legions’? What about other material?
AG: We will cover the entire back catalogue. Japan loves Arch Enemy since the release of the first album in 1996. We will honour that of course.
CBL: The themes of the latest album seem to reflect your atheist (‘We Are A Godless Entity’) and anarchist (‘Under Black Flags We March’) views. I take it you wrote all the lyrics? Do the rest of the band share your values or are they too scared to disagree with you?
AG: Why would they be scared of me? They are not weak little boys. We are all atheists and we live like anarchists. An autonomous cell. We do all our own business, we are self-managed, we own our music, our merch and our publishing. Nobody can tell us what to do.
CBL: BTW, calling oneself an atheist has always struck me as strange. For example, I don’t believe in pixies, but I don’t call myself an ‘apixieist’. If you don’t believe in something why even mention it let alone make it part of your identity?
AG: Religion is such an overpowering force in this world that I feel I need to tell people about an alternative way of thinking. Atheism means believing in science and reason. It is a very new idea for many people out there – not everybody grows up in a free society like you and me do. I have to think more global as our audience is global. And I have to make a very clear stand for some of our fans as otherwise they are mislead, believing we are Satanists or support some kind of religion in one way or the other. I dont want to leave any doubt about my beliefs. or rather, non-beliefs. So I call myself an atheist.
CBL: Typical modern Western civilizational values are freedom, choice, democracy, and tolerance. In a sense these are all negative values in that they are open, empty, and undefined until each individual defines them, as opposed to positive values that just tell people what to do or be like (e.g. beards are good, wear a hijab, etc., etc.) Although your lyrics have an added element of violence and aggression, Arch Enemy’s values seem a perfect fit with mainstream Western values: “Be as free as you can be…” Are you in effect just a cultural wing of the Western global superstate?
AG: Be as free as you can be – the line is taken from the song ‘Cult Of Chaos’ which describes how the universe was created from chaos, the beginning of this world, a chaos that has given birth to so many different life-forms and creatures. I interpret this line in a more artistic and philosophical way, not in a social or political way like you do. Freedom Of Expression. You can always be absolutely free inside your mind – there are truly no limits. Your interpretation of the line is already limiting, trying to put it’s meaning into a ‘box’, so I reject it.
CBL: You recently made a post on your Facebook page about the persecution of EMO kids in Iraq. You said “If they target EMO kids they will most likely target Metal fans…” Your comment echoed the famous quote by Martin Niemöller (first they came for the communists…). This sounded a little bit like you are equating Islamic conservatism of the Iraqis with Hitler. Is it really that bad?
AG: You are putting words into my mouth. I simply stated that I’d be a target too in Iraq – just like these emo kids – if I’d be living there, being a female Metal fan. The Iraqi police is waging a deadly war against ‘Satanism’ – how do you think wearing a Slayer, Morbid Angel or Death t-shirt will look to them?
My culture, appearance, as a teenager, would have put me right in the crosshairs of this particular outrage. I feel empathy and revulsion. with the story printed worldwide, the Iraqis will know that they are being watched. That it’s not being ignored. That’s all we can hope for. It might save one kid’s life. That’s what I am trying to do. Not having some fancy discussion about Islamic conservatism and Hitler.
And yes, it is that bad. Child murder is THAT FUCKING BAD. It is the most horrible, awful, disgusting crime one can commit.
CBL: Despite cultural differences, Metal in its various forms continues to spread to new cultural zones. This tour sees you visit India and Israel for the first time. Even Japan, which is familiar territory, has a very different culture. How aware are you of the cultural differences as you tour the world? Does this effect the way you play to different audiences, or does everyone get the same show?
AG: We are very aware of the cultural differences, but we have also found that the passion for this extreme form of music unites people and overcomes those differences in a very powerful way. Every audience gets our maximum output of energy and passion. I don’t change my message either, no matter if we play in a Muslim country, in Israel, China or Turkey. I am not afraid of Governments or religious extremists. Whatever happens, happens. We practise what we preach. Fuck the system. Be as free as you can be!