Avatar started in 2001 as a typical Gothenburg metal band but it wasn't until 2006 that their first album `Thoughts Of No Tomorrow' was released.`Feathers & Flesh' is their sixth album in ten years time. Avatar is now travelling through the United States of America, their main market at the moment. Singer Johannes Eckerström finds the time to answer some questions for HeadBangers LifeStyle.
How is the tour going so far? ,,Good. Lots of festivals mixed with headliners. I like it when each day is different from the last one.''
‘Feathers & Flesh’ is AVATAR’s 6th album and the first concept album. A natural evolvement? ,,It's actually the opposite. We are always looking for the next unnatural step. We want it to be hard to create and always keep on challenging ourselves.''
Did you have the story ready when you started working on this CD? ,,Depends how you see it, as people always write riffs here and there, but the story did come into play very early in the process and started to guide the direction of the music.''
Was it a difficult album to make? ,,Yes and we did it in a surprisingly short time. Some things become easier with the years passing, but we know how to ruin that.''
‘Hail The Apocalypse’ can be seen as your breakthrough album. How tempting was it to continue in that direction? ,,Not tempting at all. The most rewarding realisation was that all things that have become successful for us were born from honesty and integrity.''
Avatar started as a band with a pretty ‘normal’ stage appearance. When did you decide it was time for something different/unique? ,,It was a process around 'Black Waltz', we knew we wanted to achieve something more with the visual aspects of the band and started to treat everything about what we do as art.''
Was the idea behind the authentic Swedish folk clothing to stay in touch with your roots? ,,It fits the feel of the album. The fable is built around animals from the nordic fauna and we wanted the visual side to fit with that.''
You went for a ‘clown’ image, hiding behind a mask. Does that give you the freedom to do things you wouldn’t or couldn’t do without? ,,Nothing is hidden. The paint exposes me more than ever and I never feel as naked as when I put it on. Conforming looks are way more of a mask. The exposure is what helps me kick in the higher gear.''
Is there a difference between Johannes on stage and Johannes off stage? ,,I smell better off stage. Other than that no. I don't have a stage name for this reason. I just emphasize something else on stage and open up to other parts of my mind.''
During the first few years of your career you focused on Europe, now the USA is your main market. What’s next? ,,Balance I hope and to have the set up in Europe work as well as it is in the US. Then I hope that we will be able to tour the world properly.''
Is there one specific item you always with you on tour? For good luck maybe? ,,A plush toy penguin.''
Do you have a special ritual before you go on stage? ,,The typical stand-in-circle-team-moment with our own set of magic words. Most of our pre rituals are personal.''
What is the last thing you do before you go on stage? ,,Pee.''
Do you think the continuous touring plays a big role in the success Avatar has right now? ,,That's the only way to do it.''
What would you have become if not a musician? ,,Working with kids in some extent I believe.''
When did you know you wanted to become a musician? What sparked it? ,,Beethoven at the age of four. Michael Jackson at the age of five. Beatles at the age of 8. Black Sabbath and Helloween at 12 and then it was too late to stop.''
What do you consider Avatar’s biggest achievement so far? ,,Surviving.''
What advice would you give to kids who want to become a musician as well? ,,No shortcuts. Practice, rehearse and challenge yourself.''