Interview with Marcus Jidell of Avatarium
Swedish band Avatarium are releasing their 3rd album Hurricanes And Halos on May 26th and Amnplify’s own Swede, Josefin, had the opportunity to speak to guitarist Marcus Jidell all about it.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
We’re influenced by music from the 60’s and the 70’s but we’re not a retro band, we’re trying to find our own style and our own sound.
To describe it in short I’d say if you listen to 70’s Black Sabbath and Crosby, Stills & Nash from the late 60’s and mix them together you’d get some kind of feel of what we’re trying to achieve.
Your new album is coming out on May 26th. Tell us a little about it.
We have a new keyboard player named Rikard Nilsson or we use organ most of the time. When he joined we felt the need to strengthen the organ influences, so we listened a lot to Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and those kind of bands and got some inspiration from it. We’re inspired by bands from the 60’s and 70’s but want a modern big sound in what we do, and we want to find our own niche. Some journalists have issues and get a bit frustrated and asks; What are you playing? What’s the genre called? Cause they can’t put a label on us. We think it’s a really good thing, that we seem to have a really good sound.
Our front woman Jennie-Ann Smith is such a versatile singer with so many dimensions in her expressions, she can be both strong and powerful with a lot of energy and aggression, but she can also be really soft and fragile. She’s one of the main reasons to why we’re so different from other bands. She bring so many different dimensions to our music, she strengthens what we want to achieve. Whether we want to play soft and beautiful and fragile or bombastic and really powerful. This has always been important to Avatarium and that’s what we’re doing on this album.
One way of achieving this sound is to record it live, all the bases are recorded live, drums, bass and guitar. Jennie-Ann Smith was also there and sang live in the studio and part of her vocals on the album is from these live recordings. It was so good I wanted to keep it, I’m the producer and said “We must keep this, these vocals are great”. Sometimes when you record music for the first time something happens that’s impossible to re-create. It also shows what an amazing singer she is. If you listen to Medusa Child, and Sky at the Bottom of the Sea, both of those songs have live vocals from the studio where we record which I think is fantastic.
So yes, studio and live are two different things but I want to emphasise that we’re a group of really ambitious musicians and artists and we want the artistic touch on the music we’re producing, which makes it important to get the energy that you have on the when you’re on “the edge”. To do this you record the song live and it will either make or break, which gives a special tension. To be able to make great music you have to be out on deep water sometimes, almost so deep you can’t reach the bottom. It makes it exciting. I think David Bowie said this and I tend to keep it in mind.
I find this album very genuine compared to a lot of other new music that comes out nowadays.
That makes me happy, when people say that it feels like we have achieved what we want.
Music is a bit like a relationship. Like when you talk to a friend and you dare to show your ugly sides too, not only your most beautiful side all the time. That’s when you can get a really good friendship, right? When you dare to show who you are. And music is a bit similar, when you dare to be fragile and not only show perfection, perfect recordings etc, it can get a bit boring as if you’re trying to hide something.
That’s both when it comes to music and in life for me, I’m trying to live like it. To me music and life goes hand in hand. I learn a lot about my personality through the music. And the music is a way for me to vent. I must be honest with my music to be able to be honest in myself.
Have you been playing music for long?
We have been working as a musician for a long time and been playing music since childhood. Always played music and been singing. Music is a part of who I am.
So you sing and play guitar, do you play any other instruments?
Yes, I play other instruments too. I started playing the cello, playing classical music as a child but then I found the electric guitar and something happened!
But yes I play whatever I can find but It depends what you mean, guitar is what I’m good at. But I play piano, bass, mandolin, most string instruments. I still play the cello sometimes too.
Classical music seems to be a good way to start.
I think it’s good foundations but then you have to break away from it if you wanna play rock and blues based music, which I’m doing. I went on to do blues and hard rock and it’s a different approach towards the music. Classical is a great start, but I had to wash some of it off. The reason why I like hard rock and metal is because of the expressions. It’s such an unrestrained way of expressing yourself. It also requires that you dare to be aggressive sometimes and it brings out large emotions. It suits me really well. You can do it with classical music too but it’s a lot of fun to play guitar really loud.
How did you all meet?
It was me and Leif Edling who started it all. He contacted me a few years ago and wanted my help to turn a few of his songs into a demo. He wanted to do something different to Candlemass. Something more feel based. We had an intuition for it to be dark heavy and poetic. But we also wanted to get a bit more “feeling touch”, a bit of a Led Zeppelin that kind of feel. Heavy, modern but also influenced by the 60’s and 70’s. We started writing and had a few singers in mind but some people we asked didn’t have the time and then we asked Jennie-Ann Smith, who’s also my wife. She wasn’t my wife at the time but we were a couple. We met through music years ago and she’s a fantastic singer. We knew she had a good rock voice and tried to record some demos with her and all of a sudden a lot of doors opened up musically. As I mentioned she’s very versatile as a singer. And all of a sudden we had something. Something way better that we could have hoped for. From there it all started.
The initial plan was to release 500 copies of the album through an American record label. Print 500 records and that’s it. But all of a sudden we had multiple record labels being interested. And this big contract with Nuclear Blast made it way bigger that we could have ever hoped for. And we keep growing which is so much fun.
We met and decided to do something from the heart, something we like and don’t care what happens around, and thats when it works.
How did you come up with your band name?
Leif Edling came up with it. An avatar is like a half god. Like a god in the shape of a human. To us Avatarium is be a place for half gods where you can glorify humans or beings. A room for worship or something, we all have different things that are important to us in life. A room for serenity. We were thinking something like that, a place to contemplate different things in life.