Avatarium (Marcus Jidell)

"Sometimes the mistakes are something that makes the things interesting"
on Fri, 06/02/2017 - 13:37
We had a talk with Marcus Jidell about the new Avatarium's effort and the rest of the projects that he participates.
The conversation with Marcus Jidell, the multi talented Swede musician and Leif's Endling fellow worker for the last years, despite the fact that it took place under "severe" conditions due to technical difficulties, revealed us a lot of interesting things. In a discussion about everything, from Avatarium and The Doomsday Kingdom till Soen’s last record, we talked about what is going on the inside of the bands that we mentioned before, we analyzed track by track the excellent "Hurricanes And Halos" album and we indulged once again in the alabaster music works of the '70s.
Markus Jidell
Hello Marcus, I’ m glad we have the chance for this interview! So, how is your recent tour with The Doomsday Kingdom going? 
We did just a few shows; we did the Roadburn show and the show in Stockholm, the first show for the Doomsday Kingdom. I guess everybody was a little bit nervous like it always is in first shows but the reception was extremely good. I am saying that at Roadburn, the first one, we really felt welcomed and we really felt that people there really liked and understood what we were trying to give and it was very nice. Also Stockholm was very warm and welcome being and it’s always very nice for me being there. It was a great Doomsday Kingdom show for me and the band. It was a very old school jam and we really played loud and powerful and I really liked that.
Before we talk about Avatarium and your new effort, I want to congratulate you for your guitar work at The Doomsday Kingdom record. It was exceptional, especially your solo parts… So, how do you feel about this album right now, since you are the person that organized the whole work about it? 
Yeah, you know, with the Doomsday Kingdom record we did a little bit similar things as we did for the first Avatarium album. The band cannot gather together during the process which I think it’s a typical thing when you work with Leif Edling. I only wanted to do a metal album like straight forward metal kind of the same very early ‘80s late ‘70s, like the kind of things we grew up with and it was a very nice opportunity to be able to do that. You know, since Leif is an amazing songwriter, nothing can go wrong and when I listen to it I was very happy with what we achieved.  I think it’s a very good first album for the band and hopefully we can continue even better. Well, I love the album and I love Niklas. Niklas’ voice is such a cool metal thing and I love his energy. Also Andreas, the drummer, he is a very good drummer. So, to play with such a good drummer it’s amazing. The things he does with the drums are crazy and he still lives the songs, which is the most important.
So, let’s talk about the new effort with Avatarium, “Hurricanes And Halos”. As a first comment about it, I would say that this is maybe the most ‘70s influenced release of your career and maybe the most complete one in my opinion. Do you agree with that?
I am happy to hear that. I totally agree with you. I am very happy that you said that because I feel that I am finally starting to be where I want to be as a producer as a musician or as a human being. So, I totally agree with you and I am very happy that you said that.
I have noticed that, as the years go passing by, Avatarium has less metal and doom elements and more hard rock. You know, your debut was something like Candlemass with more keys and a great female voice and “The Girl With The Raven Mask” had some really heavy riffs, but it was more psychedelic and bluesy. Now, we have this new album, which is almost pure ‘70s hard rock and I wonder, that was something that you aimed to achieve from album to album or this progress came naturally? 
I think it came naturally. Well, of course it’s about an ambition and as it’s for me the vision was being kinda where we are now but to get there you always need to do albums you need to write songs. I’ve been doing all this stuff to bring forward myself as a musician. In the new Avatarium album we are different than the past because we are different people now, we live in different time and we learned new stuff. Everything is about to accept the situation around you and everything you know. That’s how it is and what we are doing.  You know, I am big fan of the ‘60s and the ‘70s music section like Neil Young, Mountain, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, The Beatles and Crosby Stills & Nash; they are very big influences for us so to me it’s very natural to try to get closer to these bands. But I am interested in a lot of different music, like folk and rock and I don’t see us like a retro band. I listen to modern music and I like some newer stuff, you know, but I like the warmth in the sound from recording and I think I like the mentality how we put the music together. It was more like a few people in a room playing music and then someone recorded it and that’s it. That’s what I like with the great recordings from the ‘60s and the ‘70s and that’s what I tried to achieve. But when I listen to the album it’s obviously modern music. It’s a lot more of energy; it’s like a big fat 2017 sound to me because it doesn’t sound like an old album. You can hear the influences and you can hear the history, as I think we have a lot of old elements in our style actually but in a different way. It’s bluesier, it’s jazzier, you know, we bring in more things, but for me it’s just music I like to play. When I listen to the album I am like “yeah this is something I would really like to hear but there was no opportunity”.
Some weeks before I had a conversation with Leif Edling and he gave me some information about the album’s songs. So, it’s ok with you if we have a little track by track analysis about them? 
Of course, let’s do that.
The album opener is “Into The Fire/Into The Storm”, which is also the first video from the new album. I suppose this is the Deep Purple song of the record? And why did you choose it as the first single? 
You know, it shows the energy in Avatarium right now. To me it’s what I like in rock and roll, hard rock and metal. You always need a lot of energy; you need the powerful sound to make it interesting. For me, this song has all those things and that’s why we choose that.
The next one is “The Starless Sleep”, which has a great Blue Oyster Cult vibe in my opinion. Am I right about your influence here and what about its lyrical part?
We always had a little bit of Blue Oyster Cult vibe, you know, it comes natural to our music but to me it’s also very Jimi Hendrix. If you listen to it closer you can hear a lot of like Jimi Hendrix thing going on and that’s what I brought with the way I played the melody and the way I arrange everything. It’s lot of like Jimi Hendrix or The Mamas And The Papas ‘60s style but in our own dark Blue Oyster Cult-ish or you can call it gothic way If you want to, with dark and poetic lyrics. As about the lyrics, they’re a lot about of being afraid to die or being afraid to go to sleep. You know, because of these reflections when you go to sleep, which are a small death penalty to me every time I go to sleep. It’s almost like we leave this life, maybe it’s the same thing if you know what I mean. Maybe it’s a link to another world, I don’t know but it’s my reflector. So the lyrics are dark and when you have this kind of lyrics of course you need to reflect that in the music. For me, when I arrange or produce, the lyrics are really important. I mean, it leads all and that’s how we work. I arrange and produce and then Leif, he is used to like it or having a conflict or when he writes a song I have a conflict about some stuff. I have learned a lot of things from him and that’s what happened, that’s the way we work with Leif. 
Next we have “Road To Jerusalem”, which is maybe one of my favorite songs from the album. I feel a strong Led Zeppelin vibe to it or it’s only in my mind?
I actually tried to write a Crosby, Stills & Nash song but I love how it sounds. It sounds very happy in some way. I used a special tuning for this. And I think I “stole” that tuning from Crosby, Stills & Nash. But it also reminds a lot of Led Zeppelin. I really like Robert Plant’s albums all these years. So, in this song maybe we can hear a lot of influences from those Robert Plant’s albums. I really like this song as well and I’m glad you like it so much. 
Then we have “Medusa Child” which is probably the most complex song in the album and also one of the more interesting ones. It has a great refrain, a great psychedelic ending and I think I hear a little child singing in there? What about it? 
Yeah that song is amazing. Leif wrote it and that song is just typical for Leif. He is an excellent artist and songwriter but the thing with Leif’s songs sometimes is the arrangement. When Leif first bring the song I was like “ok how can we make this song’s parts work together”? When he has a vision I usually know that it’s ok. If he thinks that it will work I trust him and then we definitely going to continue to work and find the way for the song to be finished. It was a hard song to arrange but sometimes when something is hard is proved to be great. So, this one really turned out extremely good. Then the little child of course it’s the Medusa’s Child. We had the children and they all loved to be part of the record. The lyrics are about exclusion. I think medusa exclude people because she is scared of them. But people usually get scared; they don’t see the part of your sight, of what you do or think and then they become scary.
The next one is “The Sky At The Bottom of The Sea”, obviously the Uriah Heep song of the album. So, can I suppose this huge similarity with “Easy Livin” was intentional, something like a clear tribute to this underrated ‘70s rock band? 
We really love Uriah Heep. I actually played with Lee Kerslake a few times and he is one of my favorite’s drummers. Uriah Heep is a big influence for us and that’s maybe why we really wanted to do it like Uriah Heep. But Andreas is a musician that he will do something in his own way, he is not a typical drummer. And he does the way he wants to play. Luckily, when Leif writes a song, it always turns out in something very interesting. I did some arrangements here, I think I added some lead stuff like Jimi Hendrix and the vocals from the song are live from the studio where we recorded the guitar the bass and drums. We listened to it and we were like “wow these vocals are so good”. Jennie said” I wanna change these vocals” but I said “no please listen again because this is excellent” and she listened to it and said “ok let’s keep it”. So the vocals are live from the studio, something that it’s amazing. 
I know that the next song, “When Breath Turns To Air”, has deep meaning to you. It’s a very emotional song with a passionate performance by Jennie Ann. Could you tell us a few words about it? 
Yeah I had this idea but I didn’t finish it with the first weeks. I had a general theme, a melody but then I just forgot about it. But last year my father passed away and I recorded a lot of different songs for a kind of therapy for myself that’s just like instrumental music but I worked on this song as well. I asked Jennie Ann if she can write the lyrics. You know, when you take your final breath, you become like a part of everything. It’s for sure a sad song, but with a posthumous message in it. Also, in this one there’s a Deep Purple ballad influence. They all were excellent musicians and they had a lot of great songs that weren’t part of an album.
“A Kiss From The End Of The World” is maybe another favorite moment for me from the album but I am still searching the influences to this one. Can you say something more about this song?
For me, it’s a typical Leif Edling composition, you know, a lot of Black Sabbath stuff. And then, I had to make the arrangements of this song, to make it a little different. It’s a bit fragile and it has a great feeling. For me, it’s a very good, doomish song with a lot of Heaven And Hell vibe, you know, the last album with Dio. This song is just the way we play, just the way we’re doing this.
Last but not least, we have the instrumental one the “Hurricanes And Halos”. Why did you choose to close the album with this way? 
It was a Leif’s idea and it felt very naturally to end the album with this one. It’s a simple little tune, but it’s very beautiful. We recorded the guitar at my studio, we had a melody and then we did the arrangements. It was a very quick process, actually.
Finally, I really have to ask you about the last Soen album, which was simply fantastic. What contribution did you have to this and how did you manage to create this special sound? 
The thing is that I got into the band right after the “Tellurian” album and when we started to play live I told them that I feel like this is how I think we should sound and not like the overproduced old albums. They are very good but I wanted to be more personal and I said “let’s try to sound the way the songs sound live”. I wanted to hear Martin Lopez to play the drums, I wanted to hear Joel’s vocals clear and I wanted to hear everyone trying hard. I wanted to feel Stefan playing bass, not just playing bass. That’s how I always do when I produce. I always try make the personality stands out of the bands because I think that’s when the music gets interesting; when you can hear the person behind the instrument, if you know what I mean. So, what we did was... I don’t know how to say this... We tried to be honest and keep in some personality. Some people may think that putting much personality it’s a mistake but sometimes the mistakes are something that makes the things interesting. So, I am very proud until now. I like the production and I actually recorded all the guitars and the bass in my studio which I also did only for the Doomsday Kingdom. You know, sometimes I work in different studios but about these two albums I actually worked only on my own studio.
That was all from me Marcus. Thank you very much for your time. Close as you want...
Well, I really hope that we can come to Greece. We have been really welcomed by the Greek fans last time so I know the whole band wants to come back. So, let’s hope that the album will be liked and that we can get there for you.