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Avatar Vocalist Talks Wrestling, Saturday Morning Cartoons + More

Johan Carlén

Avatar is not just one of the highest grossing movies of all time. It’s also the name of a Swedish melodic metal band with a bit of a Vaudevillian, carnival-like image and appearance.

Noisecreep spoke to vocalist Johannes Eckerström as the band kicked off its U.S. tour with Lacuna Coil and Sevendust. We learned that Saturday mornings in Sweden aren’t that different than in U.S. for kids. Eckström talked wrestling, Fight Club and what a “freakshow” really smells like.

What’s on the docket for Avatar in 2013?

In the U.S., Black Waltz is being released with bonus tracks, including a never-before-released track ‘Dying to See You Dead,’ and a remix of ‘Smells Like a Freakshow.’

This bonus track — was it meant to be U.S. B-side or was it a lost gem?

Some bands go into the studio and do 20 songs, and throw away half of them. We go into the studio and we have one spare song in case the others don’t turn into what we wanted them to. It eventually turned out awesome, but at the time, it didn’t fit into the album flow. We are including it now in our live set. It didn’t fit the puzzle at the time.

So it’s not a throwaway song. Great! This is your first U.S. tour ever. Are you nervous? Have other bands given you advice to handle U.S. crowds?

Everyone here is positive. It is a positive vibe. I am not nervous in that sense, just looking forward to going on stage. It’s the security and embassies and stuff that sucks. The red tape, there is always a different issue between cultures and countries, but we are here, for the metalheads, wherever they may roam.

So you are a big fan of wrestling. How did that develop?

I watched it as a kid on TV and right after Saturday morning cartoons in Sweden. There would be Swedish commentary and then I did the whole backyard wrestling thing.

Watch ‘Torn Apart’ Video

Wow, sounds like Saturday mornings in Sweden aren’t that much different than in the U.S. The wrestling thing stuck with you.

When we did the ‘Torn Apart’ music video, we talked about the Fight Club setting, with angry young men beating each other up. We got in touch with an underground wrestling movement in Gothenburg. It was like revisiting childhood. We were taking Fight Club to a freaky, bizarre, fantasy world; it’s a more circus-oriented way of fighting that fits the band as a whole.

Any fun recording stories from Black Waltz that you want to share?

When recording the album, for the first time ever, we did not show up in the studio with everything 110 percent prepared. There was stuff that we would let happen in a whole different way this time. We could jam around stuff and add things, and try things out in a more stoned manner.

Stoned? Like pot? You were high?

No, I meant that as a metaphor. You get to follow your guts in the last seconds of the process.

Do you have any non-music skills or hobbies?

I took up horseback riding for the new video. I am riding a horse that is the fastest horse in the Western riding style in Sweden. It was like sitting on a space rocket that you can’t control.

Watch ‘Smells Like a Freakshow’ Video

Did your butt hurt after? I know, that sounds so wrong…

It’s more ore like your legs get numb when you are not used to it. When you are younger, it’s okay.

Since this is likely an introduction of Avatar to some of our readers, how would you classify your music?

I am trying not to be the pretentious douchebag, since I don’t want to label our music, since that is something you hear that a million times. It is hard to label it, since we have used so many influences in such a way. But a semi-simple description that someone else told me is that there is this triangle. It’s extreme metal, which is our roots. Then there is rock ‘n’ roll in another corner, since we focus on grooves. The other is the avant garde thing going on. We focus on groove and worship the riff, and let it go. and go with it. We let it go anywhere. We play with slide guitar and harmonics, and we have longer songs.

What does a freak show smell like, literally?

In that kind of funky way, it gets you going, even if you don’t really want to.

Black Waltz is out now via eOne and available on iTunes.

Catch Lacuna Coil, Sevendust and Avatar on tour:

02/06 Clifton Park, NY – Upstate Concert Hall
02/07 Portland, ME – Asylum
02/08 Allentown, PA – Crocodile Rock Cafe
02/09 Lynchburg, VA – Phase 2 Club
02/10 Nashville, TN – Marathon Music Works
02/12 Fayetteville, AR – George’s Majestic Lounge
02/14 Biloxi, MS – Hard Rock Live
02/15 Broussard, LA – The Station
02/16 Beaumont, TX – Dixie Dance Hall
02/17 Little Rock, AR – Revolution! Music Room
02/19 Springfield, IL – Boondocks
02/21 Bloomington, IL – Castle Theatre
02/22 South Bend, IN – Club Fever
02/23 Cedar Rapids, IA – Pepsi Pavilion (McElroy Auditorium)

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