Sabaton's Vocalist Joakim Broden

Mr J speaks of war and peace, new members and stuff...

Joakim Broden, power-vocalist with Sabaton, is feeling “very good”; he’s chilling in his hometown of Falun, with tourist attractions aplenty, including The Great Pit (to all intents and purposes a big fucking hole). Whallop! That’s another Swedish geography fact, right there…

He’s enjoying the hearty and loved up reviews of Sabaton’s latest offering Carolus Rex but for him it’s not about the reviews, it’s all about the fans’ reaction; “I do really appreciate nice reviews but what counts in the end is what the fans think about it because if we have all the best reviews in the world and the fans still hate it, it’s not going to do it.”

I ask if Carolus is the bands sixth or seventh album but he’s not even sure himself; he does a quick spot of mental arithmetic and reckons “It’ll be our sixth I think, if you don’t count the demo…” It’s a concept album (but wait! It's a good one!) based around the Swedish Empire and Charles the XII, King of Sweden, who was named Carolus Rex. Mr J explains: “It starts a bit before him; it’s about a hundred year journey through the Swedish Empire, the rise and fall of it. It starts with Gustavus Adolphus the Second and ends with Charles the Twelfth.” who according to Joakim was “a megalomaniac crazy man.”

Previous albums all have their focus on historical war and Carolus Rex continues the theme?  “Yeah, we’ve always been interested in military history and it’s still about that but in a totally different way; we usually stuck to modern warfare from World War I and forward in time but we had some good help on this album, we had a history professor called Bengt Liljegren who helped us to find what we needed – he’s also written a book on Carolus Rex (the monarch not the album) and he’s a very good guy. He used to be a punk rocker so he knows what needed to be done!” And what was his contribution? “He was involved in the first line and the last line.” I’m not even sure what that means but I think Joakim is suggesting that Bengt was a major help with research; “In the beginning we would discuss the kind of songs we needed and what we were looking for and he could point us in the direction we wanted to go in so we wouldn’t need to go through 400 books of ancient history.” Joakim also explains how Bengt helped check the historical accuracy of lyrics – so did he get a credit on the album as an additional band member? Joakim cracks up at the idea, “No! No! Not as a band member! But he is very much credited on the album.”

The album has a vast, epic sound and was produced by Peter Tagtgren (Pain, Hypocrisy), who also did some guest vocals, aye? “Yeah, on a song called Gott Mit Uns he’s doing the lead vocals in the verse instead of me, and some harmony vocals and stuff in the album as well.” So it was good fun to work with him? “Yeah, we’ve been with Peter on and off with different projects since several years back now. We started out recording with his brother Tommy in 2001 for the first time and he’s always been around helping us out and we always thought of him as our in-house producer; he mixed our album The Art of War in 2008 and then he recorded the drums for the Coat of Arms (2010) album and we’d done extra material with him, and mixed the live album with him. Then we talked and he said ‘When are you gonna let me do an album from the start to the end?’ and then we realised then “Oh! You haven’t, have you?! So it was like ‘Let’s make one now!’ and it worked out fine.”

Regarding the massive production values – they’re huge - how will you top that? “I don’t know but I do know that more is more! Less is more is never right! More is more! So the solution would be more, I guess?” Though he’s keen to point out “We’re not that heavy on the channels. There’s a lot of stuff happening in certain songs like A Lifetime of War or Long Live the King; there are some orchestral arrangements in there and the fact that we’re singing all the harmony vocals and we also do it in a four part harmony vocal with male and female and we also add an extra language so of course you’re gonna run into some ‘channel abuse’ but I don’t think we’re up to more than 60 channels.”
You guys released the album in English and Swedish; was it easier to get more emotion when you’re singing in your native tongue? “Unfortunately I have to say that no matter how good we think we are at English, it was easier to get the emotional delivery – that extra ‘it’ - in the Swedish version. We probably spent twice as long singing the English one than we’re used to, because the Swedish one came so naturally and easy and we didn’t want the English one to suffer so at a point I was actually singing till I was coughing blood! Then I decided it was time for a short break!”

So the band is heading to Australia in January 2013 with Nightwish; an epic tour to be sure, when I ask if he’s looking forward to it I get a heart-felt: “Oh yes! For fucks sake, it’s been like almost minus thirty here and you’ve got what? Plus thirty? Forty?” I point out that it’s nine o’clock at night and it’s still 30 degrees. He laughs madly. “Oh yes! I’m gonna love it!”

Sabaton are one of the hardest touring bands at the moment; it seems like you’re forever on the road. What about time off? “Time off? We get a rest when we die, don’t we?! I think since April we’ve done 110 shows. It’s fun, and as long as it’s fun, why not?” A fine attitude to gigging, indeed. And you’ve toured with some of the biggest names in metal; Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and The Scorpions to name just a few. Who haven’t you toured with that you’d like to? “I think NIghtwish is one of them. Obviously we’ve met them several times at festivals but we’ve never actually played with them so I guess the only one left would be Metallica.”

Sabaton are booked for the infamous 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise but I hear there’s a Sabaton Cruise; what’s that all about? “We were way ahead in Sweden with the Rock N Roll Cruise – though obviously not as cool as being off in the Caribbean! But in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland; we’ve been having these mixed metal band cruises for ten years or something like that, and the Sabaton Cruise is basically an extension to that. It started with us travelling between Sweden and Finland because we were touring and we figured ‘Hell! Why don’t we have our own cruise?’ and play on the ship so we don’t have a day off resting because that’d be boring. So it started out as a regular cruise with metal bands but these days it’s become more of a Sabaton fan meet and more of a special night because we do two different sets, some acoustic parts in there and we’re switching around with the instruments and we have guests coming and stuff like that.” See what I mean? That’s the hard-working Swedish work ethic, right there…

Back in March 2012 the band almost band almost imploded; members left the band and there was only Joakim and Par Sundstrom (bass) left. You guys have reformulated and recruited. How are the new members Robban Back (drums), Throbbe Englund (guitar), Chris Rorland (guitar) fitting in? “Everybody’s having fun and I actually think it’s more fun to tour than it has been for quite some time.” Are you all writing together as a unit yet? He’s laughing as he says “No, not yet; so far I’m the only songwriter and the new boys ask if they can join in song-writing and I said ‘Sure! We’ll try and write some songs together; if it works – fucking great! And if it doesn’t; let’s not have that on the album! Easy as that!”

 When I ask if they’ve found a replacement keyboard player, Joakim answeres “Yes and no.” They band’s not averse to the idea but are happy to play to a backing track for now. “If we find the right guy we’re happy to have a keyboard player but if it means bringing in someone we’re not sure if he fits or is gonna be right, then I’d rather just go with the track anyway.”

Robban just joined but just had child so he’s off for six months off. How will you work around that? “We’ve got Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Dream Evil, Therion) coming over to Australia with us.” Now that’s fucking exciting!

Given your interest in historical wars, do you collect any military paraphernalia? “I haven’t done much of that myself but I do get gifts sometimes; I guess I have a small collection without ever buying anything! We’ve had people come and give us like empty machine-gun shells from the Normandy D-Day landing and stuff like that; that’s kind of nice. One really amazing thing is we’ve got a song called 40:1 which is about a Polish battle (the Battle of Wizna, if you’re a history buff) and there’s a captain (another one for the history fans; Captain Wladyslaw Raginis)  and his 720 soldiers who actually held the Germans at bay for three days – yeah, they lost because they were way outnumbered, which is why the song is called 40:1, and we got a piece of his hand-grenade  that he used to kill himself and the German officer he was about to surrender to. It was a real honour to receive a piece of memorabilia from a battle that we actually sang about.”
So what are your plans for the festive season? “This is when I start writing. At Christmas everyone is at home, busy with their own things which means my phone ain’t gonna ring all the time so I lock myself in the studio and just write music because it’s a good time when I don’t get disturbed and get some good, new music written.” Joakim assures me the next album will continue the military theme “unless we make an album called Cease Fire just to piss everyone off…”
I hear they may do a cover of John Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance…
Sabaton. Bringing the sun-screen and war-themed metal to Australia early next year.