Christopher Amott: Following Your Impulses
Words: Sam Radojcin
Latest release: Impulses (independent)
As one half of Arch Enemy's blazing guitar arsenal for almost 15 years, Christopher Amott set a standard for modern metal guitar shredding that was hard to match. Earlier this year he departed Arch Enemy for the second and final time to concentrate on his solo career, which has so far produced two albums, 2010's Follow Your Heart and new effort Impulses. Loud caught up with Amott very recently to discuss his reasons for leaving Arch Enemy and his exciting new venture.
Hey Chris, How’s things? What’s happening in your world at the moment?
Well to start with, I have moved to the US. I’ve been living here since April and I actually got my green card in the mail a few weeks ago, which was cool. It took a while but now I am all settled in and can get down to business over here.
So, what I’m doing right now is writing for... wait for it... a new Armageddon record! Yes! it’s true. I’ve got a brand new band together and some kick-ass material that I can’t wait to unleash on the world.
To be honest, haven’t been this excited about working on an album in about ten-plus years. This one’s gonna be 100 per cent metal with loads of shred guitar and intricate compositions. I am writing the music together with Matthew Wicklund (God Forbid, Warrel Dane, Himsa) who is the second guitarist in the band. The hooks and melodies we have come up with are huge. Very excited...
On drums we have Van Williams (Nevermore). Bassist and vocalist I am not revealing yet... but I can say this much; it won’t be me singing. I’m predicting a release for this album by summer 2013.
Many people would know you from your tenure in Arch Enemy, but you have also had projects such as Armageddon and your solo career? What made you decide to finally step out on your own and create your own music?
For me, the excitement and creativity had gone out of that collaboration and I needed to step away to find out what it was I really wanted. After two solo albums with various musical styles and band members I have finally found the right outlet with the new Armageddon band and upcoming release.
Your last solo release Follow Your Heart was a very stripped back melodic and mellow effort, where as Impulses heads more into the hard rock territories of your past. Was heading in this direction planned from the beginning or did it slowly come out during writing?
I planned it that way. The reason being, I felt I alienated a lot of my fans who knew me from Arch Enemy with Follow Your Heart. So, for Impulses I wanted to have a bit more of a hard rock/metal edge to bring the audience with me. Also, I was excited about playing that style of guitar again. Some people like the stylistic mix, some don’t. I have heard both sides. Either way I’m very satisfied with the album and actually, I think it contains some of my best guitar performances and most unique compositions to date.
Did you find the songwriting process changed dramatically with Impulses and your solo work, compared to writing with Arch Enemy or Armageddon? Do you prefer writing alone, or collaborating with other musicians?
Well sure, with the solo thing I was writing whole songs mostly on my own or sometimes with arrangement input from the drummer (Ludwig Witt). The biggest difference is that my solo material isn’t based around guitar riffs but around vocal melodies. I would write the vocal and guitar parts together, and that would be the basis upon which the rest of the music was layered. With the old band we used to piece a few riffs together and then fit the vocals on top of that.
Is there any specific meaning behind the album title and it’s artwork and do they tie in to the music in a conceptual way? Do you have a favourite track from Impulses? If so, why?
I was thinking about electrical impulses, or sound waves. Like music or sounds being impulses. My favorite tracks are “Dream Away” and “Back To The Jungle”, because they each represent a new stylistic sound for me. I am pleased with how the production and arrangements came together on those.
Instead of releasing Impulses through a label, you have decided to release it yourself via the internet’s various digital mediums (such as iTunes and CDBaby etc) and have undertaken all of the promotional aspects yourself.
How have you found releasing Impulses this way in comparison to traditional mediums? Do you think more artists should start releasing their work this way?
For me personally, I couldn’t get the damn things released any other way! My two solo albums are simply too diverse stylistically. It would be hard for a label to find the right audience to market it to. Actually, I had two labels that were interested in putting Impulses out, one gave me this ridiculous old fashioned all-exclusive recording contract where I was supposed to sign all my rights away forever. He wouldn’t budge on this. Things turned kind of sour when I told him I didn’t agree with the offer and might just release it myself, at which point he threatens me with “How are you going to get the record into the stores!??” Hello, Is this 1987? What record stores? Get with the times...
The other label was Favored Nations, the label Steve Vai founded. They were interested but wanted to postpone it until next year due to a huge Steve Vai release at which point I was thinking, “to hell with it, I’ll just release it myself again”. I just wanted to get it out there so I could start focusing on my next project.
You recently played Loud Park in Japan. How did it feel being back on the stage again, and what are your plans in terms of touring Impulses?
It felt great, I had a fantastic time, the Japanese crowd was amazing as always and I was really happy with my guitar sound, I love my new Charvel/EVH rig. However, the events leading up the show took a catastrophic turn when our bass player’s passport got lost in the mail, making it impossible for him to travel. This was when we were applying for the Japanese work visas.
This was roughly 48 hours before we had to be on stage in Tokyo so I had to scramble and get some pre-recorded bass tracks together to use as backing tracks. Said and done, we went on stage as a three-piece. The backing track idea was a bit of a mess too as we had some technical difficulties on top of it all. Plus it was a festival so we just had to throw our gear up there and go. But, we did our best and it came off OK I think. I am hoping to go back to Loud Park next year, and then we will really nail it!
You visited Australia with Arch Enemy a couple of times. What are your memories of Australia and do you have any stories to share? Could we possibly see you grace our shores in support of Impulses at some stage in the near future?
Awesome place and such a long trip from Sweden. It really is the other side of the planet from there. Of course, I remember the fascinating trip to the zoo, seeing all the fauna unique to the continent. I definitely hope to come back to play again someday.
If you could collaborate with 5 artists, either dead or alive, who would you want to work with and why?
Hm... not much for collaborations as you perhaps can tell from my discography. Regarding the artists I like, I think I’d rather merely be a fan and listen. Having said that, if Ronnie James Dio (R.I.P.) would have asked me to kick some ideas around I would’ve hardly said no! It’s just that I don’t seek out the collaborations.
If you could pick one track and an album that you have been involved past or present with to put in a time machine for future generations to hear, what would you choose and why?
Probably “Funeral In Space” from the first Armageddon album. The performance on the recording could have been better on my part but it’s the songwriting that counts I guess. I wrote it at my parents house one night before going to sleep. I picked up the guitar and it just happened all at once. When I write quickly and instinctively without over-thinking it always turns out the best. Coincidentally, I am planning on re-recording it on the upcoming Armageddon record.
What have albums or artists have you been listening to as of late?
Don’t listen to much music to be honest, I enjoy silence. I just listen to my own songwriting demos and sometimes to the radio in my car. I used to listen to music super-intensely, especially as a teenager, but not anymore. I’m too busy now.
So, following Impulses and it’s touring cycle, what are your plans for the future? Do you have a follow up to Impulses planned?
I’m pretty much focusing solely on getting the new Armageddon thing together in the right way. Getting this project on the go is going to take up all my time next year. I will definitely be trying to tour as much as possible with this one.
Thank you very much for your time Chris, do you have anything else to say to our readers and your Australian fans?
Thanks for buying my records and supporting my music, I hope I can come back to Australia again some time.