Focusing on World War I, Sabaton‘s latest album is The Great War. Par Sundstrom is the Swedish power metal band’s bassist, writes much of the music, and handles many of the band’s management duties. He gets us up to speed on the album, some of Sabaton’s other ventures, touring and other topics.
Chad Bowar: This was guitarist Tommy Johansson’s first studio album. How did that affect the recording process?
Par Sundstrom: Tommy contributed in songwriting with the song “A Ghost In The Trenches” and of course with his guitar playing. Tommy did a lot of recordings before Sabaton so he had experience and the whole process was simple.
How did you go about selecting the song topics on which aspects of World War I to focus on?
There were so many that we had to discard that we really liked since we did not have a song that would fit. For Sabaton music comes first and then we try to fit the topics, so actually the music chooses the topic in a way.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of The Great War?
Personally by directing the voice actress on the History Edition of The Great War. I really liked this part, it was new for me to be involved in such a creative process but I loved it.To script it, do auditions, directing, editing.
Sabaton has a distinctive sound, but what different things have you incorporated on this record?
There are always a few things that we try new on each album, for sure the end song “Flanders Fields” is something new. First, to start with lyrics and then add music is something we did not do before. Also to take a famous poem and make it to a song, that’s also new. And finally not to even play on a song. Probably our most weird song so far.
For The Last Stand you recorded several covers as bonus tracks. Is there additional material for this album as well?
This album exists in three different versions. The standard version, the History version and the Soundtrack to The Great War. They are all different and we decided to do this instead of making some covers.
How was the video shoot for “Fields Of Verdun”?
Great. I had the idea how to make it and then there was a great team of excited re-enactors who helped to make everything historically accurate and also exciting to watch.
How important are videos these days?
Important for sure. However, it is hard to say what makes a video successful. There are many things that must match for it to be a success. It is very expensive to make videos, though, and as everyone knows the income from album sales is not really that great anymore.
Speaking of videos, tells us how the Sabaton History Channel on YouTube came about. How many episodes are planned?
We had the idea 15 years ago, to be able to tell more stories behind the topics of our music. It took so long a time since this is a quite heavy job. It requires basically 10 people to be involved to make an episode, so it is a lot of work. But it is very exciting and I am so damn happy to finally have it.
We plan to make at least one episode behind every song, possibly even more since there are so many stories to tell of some songs. So the Sabaton History Channel will go on for years hopefully if we make it according to our plans. It is also a question if people want it to continue. Since it requires support from fans!
You’re playing a lot of summer festivals. Besides your own, are there any you’re particularly looking forward to playing?
This year I think Wacken Open Air will be a highlight for sure! We are doing a two hour headline set where we play on two stages at the same time. How it will turn out, people will see but I am extremely excited for this once in a lifetime show.
Give us a preview of this year’s Sabaton Open Air festival.
The festival gets better and better each year and we always find new stuff to improve and we always find new exciting bands to book. Often we have bands who never been to Sweden before or are even totally new. This year Northtale is doing their first show ever as a band at our festival.
You’re coming back to North America this fall, and have put a lot of focus here. Are you satisfied with the fan base you have built here?
Lets say it is a good start. We are still far from the size of the audience in Europe, where we aim to be. We want to bring the same show to North America as we do in Europe and that is difficult to do until we reach into arenas.
What can we look forward to in regard to your stage set/production for the North American tour?
It is always the venues that are the problem when it comes to production, but we plan to bring whatever we can fit in each venue from the stage set that we have built. It was always how we worked in the past. We bring as much as we can fit.
You did not issue a live album after The Last Stand. Is there one planned?
Not at the moment. I think the time of live albums is past. Fans listen online if they want live music. YouTube has almost everything in good quality these days.
You handle most of Sabaton’s management duties. What are the pros and cons of self-management?
One of the best things is to be able to be involved, feel and see the creation of Sabaton grow. I believe the cheering of the fans means even more when knowing that we made this journey without someone telling us what to do. For each successful thing we do, it means more of the idea was ours. The negative could potentially be the time it takes. But since I have nothing else that I do in my life, for now it totally works out. I could not imagine a life without this. I can’t be bored.
What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
Since I work most of the time there is not so much time for any hobbies, but they would be video games; not only playing but the gaming industry and nerdy gear. And perhaps a bit of running in the wild.
(interview published July 18, 2019)