Famous Firsts: Amon Amarth‘s Johan Hegg on three day benders and blood-drenched drumkits

(Image credit: Steve Brown)

Sailing across the seas in longboats, raiding and pillaging any land they see fit, the Viking-loving Swedes Amon Amarth have been dominating the realm of melodic death metal for years. But what exactly led frontman Johan Hegg down this path of metaldom? Let’s find out…

What was the first single you ever bought?

Bruce Springsteen’s The River. I’ve always been a Springsteen fan actually. Not everything but I like The River [the album] and Born To Run, I guess those would be my favourite albums, and then Born In The U.S.A. He’s big in Sweden, still huge. I bought that single around the same time period as I bought my first metal releases. My mother had a record player but I didn’t so I bought cassette tapes, but then I bought a really old record player when I was 12 or 13 and I bought it around that time. It’s not that I listen to Springsteen a lot, but I still really like it, like the energy.”

What was the first gig you ever went to?

“That was Alice Cooper in ’89. The first gig I wanted to go to more than anything was Metallica in ’86. That would have been amazing in so many ways but that was the show where after the show Cliff Burton died. I so wanted to go to that show, I was going to go with a friend of mine and his older brother but my mom didn’t trust him, he was older – I was only 13 and his brother was 18, but she didn’t trust me to go with him and I was really pissed off. By ’89 I started working, so I made my own money and she couldn’t stop me. Cooper was amazing, it was a full live show with the guillotine and the Frankenstein. I had no idea what to expect so it was amazing.”

What was the first gig you ever played?

“It was with Amon Amarth. It was at the youth club where we rehearsed. We had four songs, I think, but I don’t remember much. I remember the headliner was Dissection and all the bands were playing with our drummer’s drums, so after the gig he had pig’s blood over them and he didn’t clean them up, so they had pig’s blood forever. I was about 19 I think. We weren’t that good. I don’t remember actually, for some reason I don’t have a strong recollection. But there were 300 people in the room – back then the youth clubs would put on shows everywhere in Stockholm and people would travel to the shows. People were dedicated, if you played a show you’d go on the subway and put up posters everywhere.”

How was the first Amon Amarth tour?

“The first thing we called a tour was just two dates in Germany! That was insane, we were stumbling drunk for three days, which is fucking nuts. But the first proper tour was the Summer Clash, a festival tour with Deicide, Six Feet Under, Dew-Scented, Brutal Truth and Naglfar. That was interesting. We almost got kicked off the tour before it even started. For us it was an excuse to party and going to the tour we went all in with the drinking – we had an early morning flight and we were just drinking beer from 5am in the morning. Before we took off we were shit-faced, by the time we landed we were plastered.

“We went to Dynamo festival because Deicide were playing, and they were fixing us up with passes to watch the bands, because everyone has to hang out there. All of a sudden Oli [Mikkonen, guitarist] decides he’s tired of waiting and starts saying, ‘Give me a fucking pass’, and being drunk and rowdy, and the wife of the booker and manager comes over and says, ‘Hey don’t worry, calm down, we’re fixing it’ and he just turns round and says, ‘Who the fuck are you, you fucking bitch?’ Oops. We were that close to being kicked off the tour but Metal Blade persuaded them, and Oli apologised 1000 times. The next tour the company did we were only allowed to play on one condition – that the band was split up over two buses.”