“The sun is just rising and it’s 10:42. Scandinavian Winter, yay!” Joakim Broden, vocalist and keyboardist of Sabaton observes wryly. “You get used to it after a while. I could get used to Australian weather rather though, to be honest.” When hearing of the forecast temperatures in the mid-30s Celsius for Melbourne next week, Broden chuckles, “So no white Christmas for you, then?”
The military history-themed Power Metal band will be touring the East coast as part of the inaugural Australian Download Festival next year, but Broden was quick to point out, “I’m looking forward to going to Australia more than Download. Nothing wrong with Download at all, but it’s just we’ve done Download in the UK. It’s a nice festival, nothing against it at all, we enjoy it. But we do festivals 20, 30, 40 times every year, and I haven’t been to Australia in five years.”
Reflecting on 2013’s tour with Nightwish, he continues, “I remember some of the shows quite well, we had a good time. But what stands out best is – sounds like I’m licking somebody’s ass,” he laughs. “But the people in Australia in general, how friendly, and genuinely happy and friendly they were,” he emphasises. “Maybe there’s a lot of countries where they pretend to be happy and friendly. So coming back there, enjoying visiting some friends I haven’t seen in a while. Not freezing my ass off helps.”
Sabaton will also be appearing on Miami’s 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise in February. “Well, third time’s the charm they say, right? We were on the first 70,000 Tons in 2009, I think it was. And then we were at the event, oh I think it was 2013 again! So it’s been five years since that as well. So I’m looking forward to it, it’s a nice cruise. It’s also quite relaxing to do, because you do five days, you do two shows and things aren’t that crazy. It’s a pretty calm environment on the boat. You can actually walk around, hang around, have a few beers with people. It’s a bit more intense in the first day or so, maybe people want to go up, take a picture or talk to you, but instead of hiding I figure it’s better to let people take those pictures, and after the initial few who want to do that have done it, then you can just walk around and enjoy the cruise, talk to people, join the Heavy Metal Karaoke and stuff.”
The most recent addition to Sabaton’s line-up is Tommy Johansson, and Broden reflects on what he has brought to the band.
“We actually wanted him already in 2012 when we found ourselves with only me and Par [Sundstrom] in the band, and he couldn’t join us then, so when Thobbe [Englund] decided to leave us, or quit, he was the first one that came to our minds. He’s an amazing guitar player and singer. He actually plays the keyboard better than I do as well, so I am now officially the worst in every instrument in the band, I guess,” he laughs uproariously. “At least, I’m not the best. I always used to have something, at least I could play the shit out of everybody on keyboards, but not anymore.”
Thinking of the ‘Primo Victoria’ music video, Broden’s grin can practically be heard. “Well, working with Zoran [Bihac], he’s done a bunch of crazy videos, everything from Lindemann to Rammstein, you know, a lot of crazy stuff. We knew going in this was not going to be a normal video, and at first we thought we were going to have a lot of CG, the tanks and stuff, but he wanted to do it properly. So when you see, you know, the tank driving through the wall, there is actually a real tank driving through a wall.” Broden still sounds somewhat in awe. “And our bass player Par decided to be in it. It was quite funny because he was so full of dust afterwards you could barely recognise him. But it was kind of done a little bit old school, so we flew into Belarus actually, and there were tank battles filmed, of course, in the sequence without us being involved, but also tank sequences being filmed at the same time as we were playing, and quite close to us I might add. So very impressed by the tank drivers, because it seems like an easy thing but seriously, I’ve been in a couple of tanks. There’s not much space and visibility is, well, non-existent almost. Super impressed about the fact that we survived that shoot, actually.”
Broden has had one chance to drive a tank himself, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. “I had the opportunity once to do it, they asked me, ‘Do you want to take the controls?’ I had had a few beers and some shots of vodka at the time, so I figured maybe not,” he laughs.
Broden also appeared as a guest on the song ‘Call Me’ from the latest Pain album, Coming Home. “We were actually in the studio recording Last Stand and Peter [Tagtgren], as you probably know, is the main man behind the band Pain. He’s also producing our albums. So he just didn’t so much ask,” he points out precisely, “as ordered me to be on it, because he sang on our album Carolus Rex actually, some verses on the song ‘Gott mit Uns,’ and he said ‘Well, you made me sing on your album, so now I’m making you sing on ours.’ ‘Okay!’ I said. And thank god it was a good song! And it’s a song that fit my voice, actually, so it was a lot of fun to do. I think it’s a really good song. It was weird to sing it, with the lyrics, it’s about some kind of male gigolo servicing middle-aged women, so kind of weird, I’m not used to singing songs like that. But it was good fun, and I joined them on stage actually on a festival in Czech Republic, Masters of Rock this Summer, and we did ‘Call Me’ live.”
Conflicts such as World War I and II have been consistently mythologised over the decades, and Broden offers his thoughts on where humanity might go from here. “Well, maybe history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme! I’m afraid to say we’ll probably see more shit happening, but what’s good about these days that I think most people don’t realise actually, is starting a war these days is such bad PR for a country. I mean, they’ll be so sanctioned that the will to fight might still be there, but it’s getting harder. You can’t really tell people that you’re doing the right thing when you’re doing the wrong thing. Obviously in many cases, especially in the past, the state would control the media and everything the people knew or heard about. I mean, the young German soldiers who went into Poland on 1 September 1939, they were told and heard that Poland attacked them, so they thought they were retaliating. Stuff like that gets harder and harder to do, unless you’re in North Korea of course, then you can do what the fuck you want. It’s a tragedy what’s happening to the people there and everything, but the propaganda is kind of,” he pauses to choose his words, “entertaining as well. The current dictator’s father was Kim Jong-Il; He played golf once, and he did 18 holes in 18 strokes. He did only hole-in-ones. They landed a man on the moon, but they landed it at night when the sun was out. They make hilarious statements.”
As for his own research, Broden points out, “That process never stops. I do read and watch documentaries a lot. Basically too much, according to my bandmates and family,” he chuckles. “I never do serious research though, until we decide to make a song of it. Because it’s when you discover something, that’s when you’re most passionate about it. So I notice that if I find something that I really, really like, that I’d like to know more of, something I find hugely interesting, that if I do all the research and dive in then, maybe it’s going to be a year to making an album, and by then that’s going to feel old to me. I figured out that it’s better that if I find something interesting, I make notes of it; ‘Okay, look at this and this and this,’ have small notations for myself. And then I revisit that subject when we’re about to write lyrics, or when we start writing the music, because that’s when I get to discover it, that’s when I feel passionate about it. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but at least it feels like I can get a more emotional touch on the lyrics. It feels better to me, at least.”
In wrapping up, Broden has a direct message for Australian fans: “Thank you for the last time we came to Australia, that was – I’m sorry for the language, but fucking fantastic! So I’m looking forward to coming back.”