Unleash the tanks! Sabaton are metal's own version of The History Channel: a band whose epic songs chart the history of war down the years. We've marshalled the troops – that's you – to assemble an army of your burning questions about tank injuries, male grooming and the Eurovision Song Contest and put them to mohawked frontman Joakim Brodén. Ready, aim, fire…
Why haven’t you written a song about Genghis Khan yet?
Joakim: “We haven’t delved that much into non-modern military history except for the last album but that would be one of the big ones, wouldn’t it? There is already a disco song about Genghis Khan from the Eurovision Song Contest by a German band, Dschinghis Khan. It’s amazing and we couldn’t ever top that.”
“Thank you! I would love to, that’s one of my favourite Metallica songs and they were at the top of their game then. From a singer’s point of view: how the fuck can I outperform James Hetfield on that? I can’t and maybe it’s better that we don’t. Metallica, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden – we’ve covered them all and they rarely turn out good because those bands are the best at being those bands for a fucking good reason. There’s a better chance of us doing an original cover of something from a different music genre or something that’s not so emotionally loaded for us. How do we step out of their shadow when we grew up under that shadow?”
How much time is taken out of your busy schedule to maintain that perfectly neat mohawk and thinly trimmed beard?
“Very little time! If I don’t trim the length of it all and I have to get a machine out to shorten it all, I would say less than 10 minutes, three times a week. I don’t have that much hair left on the top of my head but facially, I could be in Amon Amarth in a week or two if needed.”
Would you consider singing The Great War at an event like Eurovision? I could imagine it going down really well.
Oliver Wilson (Facebook)
“Yes and no. We’ve been approached by the Swedish part of the Eurovision organisation twice: the first time they sent us a song and the second time, they asked if we could work with a songwriter. It’s a whole circus of weeks of rehearsals and we’re seriously not gonna set aside months to be on Eurovision unless things were to align one day [where] we don’t have anything else planned. The only band Eurovision actually worked out for was ABBA and to be fair, they were so fucking good, they would’ve made it anyway. I love the guys from Lordi but it didn’t do their career much good because they got the big hype when it happened but there’s always the next Eurovision winner.”
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Do the metal plates come off your vest so you can wash it properly or is that thing rank ’til the end of time?
“They stay rank! The whole vest can be dry cleaned but sometimes I’ve had plates fall off during shows; they’ve been fixed with Superglue and gaffa tape over the years. Whenever I see somebody in the crowd who has a size medium or large, I trade them – I get a fresh one and then they go, ‘Yay! I got the Sabaton singer’s vest!’ Then they smell it and they realise they made an awful trade.”
How the hell do you end up with a singing voice like that? Surely it can’t be your natural voice…
Sian Pieters (email)
“No, it certainly isn’t! I started out in the band as a keyboard player, I was the guy they told to sing until they found a singer because I couldn’t sing. That was 20 years ago so they’re fucking lazy band members because they still haven’t found a singer. They found out I was a songwriter and asked if I had any songs because they were mostly doing covers; they could be playing anything from Dimmu Borgir to Sabotage so it was a fucking weird situation to get into in March 1999. I used to ask why they weren’t playing their own songs and they said they didn’t have any, but I did. When I showed them my songs, they asked me to sing while they rehearsed so they knew the melody I had in mind. I started screaming and belting it out because I didn’t know if these guys wanted black metal, death metal or power metal. I still consider myself a keyboard player but the only thing is now whenever I touch a keyboard, I realise my fingers won’t do what my brain knows anymore. In between albums, I need a couple of weeks playing keyboards and guitar to get back into songwriting at that level.”
Does your armour give you +2 fire absorption? If so, what other buffs do you currently have active?
“Somebody’s been playing roleplay games here – I like that. To be honest, it doesn’t give me anything but a fake six pack, which is really a family pack. That’s one of the best questions I’ve ever had over thousands of interviews!”
If you could participate in any battle or war without fear of death, what one would you choose?
“Going from Sabaton history, the first thing that pops into my mind is the Battle of Thermopylae with King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans, because I would like to separate fact from fiction. That point was so far back in time, not even the most professional archaeologists have a good grasp of what actually happened. It certainly would’ve been interesting to be at the last battle of Berlin, D-Day or Verdun but they are pretty modern; I could learn a lot from being there but not as much as the last stand of the Spartan 300. It’s a nerdy answer but I’m into history.”
If you weren’t allowed to write a single other song about war, what would you write about?
Domini Peplow (email)
“I’d write an album about ceasefires or the unexpected things, but it’d still be military history in a way. It sounds like a pubescent thing to do, but without even putting any lyrics to our music, you have aggressiveness, joy, elation, depression… all of these things in the emotional spectrum that are also represented in military conflict. We have a song called Inmate 4859 about a Polish man, Witold Pilecki — the story of his life is crazier than anything the most creative Hollywood producer has ever come up with in World War II fiction. I don’t mind other bands singing about killing dragons, drinking beer, having sex, but why would bands make up new stories that are worse than the real ones and the real ones are forgotten?”
If you could choose between having a real-life tank or never having intercourse ever again, which would you choose?
“I guess I’m going with the tank… it’s scary that I had to think about it! A tank is a highly uncomfortable vehicle, everything hurts in a tank. Even if you do a photo session on top of a tank, you get with bruises. We’ve done music videos where we have to get inside tanks and fuck it hurts so bad, plus I’ve been in the driver’s seat of two tanks and they drink a lot of gas, so I wouldn’t recommend a tank as a regular vehicle to do your daily business. Anyway, I’d have the American Sherman tank. For me, they 100% represent the liberation of Europe during World War II.”
Originally published in Metal Hammer #332