All photography by Matthew Higgs.
Ahead of Sabaton’s show in Cardiff, we sat down on the Sabaton tour bus with bassist Pär Sundström to talk crazy crowds, special shows and cats! See what happened below.
So you’re nearing the end of your European tour – how’s it all gone so far?
It’s been absolutely great. This UK section is only a small part of it, as we’ve been on the road for about a month, and it’s been a very successful tour. The UK dates have been great, so I’m really happy about that, and it feels good that we can play some bigger rooms. We’ve done quite a lot of shows in the UK over the years and we haven’t been playing these kinds of venues since we supported Dragonforce in 2006 – we’ve been playing small little places constantly. I was actually calculating it the other day, and we’ve done 87 shows in the UK in the last ten years, and like I mentioned, they’ve mostly been small rooms, so it’s good that we can have some more space onstage and play some more decent places that includes a shower! (laughs)
I know the UK is really bad for stuff like that!
Well, the smaller clubs are a bit rough, and we’ve seen our fair share of those…!
So what can fans expect from tonight’s show?
Well, let’s just say we’re in a very good mood. Everybody is in good health and everybody is happy, so I think we are just going onstage and having fun at the moment. There’s no pressure and it’s very easy-going at the moment. We feel comfortable and always welcome with the crowd, so we just love it. When I was walking in this morning and looked at the stage, I felt it would be good because it’s not super far away from the crowd, so I think it’s going to be absolutely awesome tonight, and everyone’s been feeling good after the soundcheck because it just feels awesome on the stage. It’s going to be one of those nights where we walk out and have fun, with no pressure as nothing will be difficult for us. It’s just going to be fun.
What’s been the best night of the tour so far then?
Well, I would have said one of the first shows on the tour, when we played in Serbia, because that was an amazing crowd. Over there, they’re just out of their minds! They had proper crash barriers and by the third song, they’d completely broke them – there was flying screws and stuff, it was crazy! It took about fifteen-twenty security guards to get the fence back and they were just out of their minds, so we thought “okay, that’s one of the top five wildest crowds we’ve ever played for!” and we thought that was the highlight of the tour, so it’ll be all downhill from there! (laughs)
But then we ended up in Zurich, which is supposed to be a civilised place in Switzerland where people are like…normal. But they were even wilder and it was so hot inside that it was raining from the ceiling! It was out of this world. I don’t know what happened…but they were not civilised! They weren’t human beings in there! It was fantastically fun, and very very loud.
To be honest, I think London might be a similar situation! London dates on tours are generally pretty crazy.
We’ve actually had some really good shows out here too. We were playing Glasgow a few days ago and that was really wild. Manchester was insane too – that was on a Saturday evening in a big venue in front of a sold-out crowd, so of course that was going to be amazing. We’ve had lots of great shows.
Are there any interesting stories to report from the road?
To be honest, Sabaton isn’t exactly the wild and crazy bunch of guys that we used to be in the past! (laughs) This Saturday we had a day off in Dublin and it was the first pub night of the whole tour – that says a lot! I mean, we’ve been on the road for four weeks and that was the first real party we had, going to pubs. To be honest, we have busy days and then head off to bed, then wake up and do another good show. We don’t really have the will to drink ourselves senseless and do crazy stuff any more, so we don’t really have any crazy stories! If I told you the top crazy stories of Sabaton ever, they’d all be a couple of years old. We’re now a sensible band that takes care of ourselves in order to do a good show every night and I think last year we were travelling for 300 days so if I drank every night I don’t think I would be living any more!
Talking about touring on a broader scale, is there anywhere you’d like to play that you haven’t been to yet?
There’s a lot of places that we haven’t been. Because of the strategy of the band, it’s always been that we secure one area before we leave for the next one to ensure we don’t open all doors at once and are unable to handle what’s behind all the doors. We started with Europe, and when we felt safe and secure in Europe, that’s when we went to America. We’ve now spent a lot of time out there and have established ourselves in North America as a band that can now tour there. So then we started to look at the next places, which would be Asia and there’s plenty of places there. We’ve also never played in Africa and I’d love to go there. I’m sure it will happen at some point – in fact we’ll make it happen. But everything has its time and that’s why it took more than ten years from the first time we got offered to go to Japan to finally confirm the show because I felt that we needed to do it at the right time, when we felt that we were comfortable to do it.
I think that’s a really good approach to take.
Yeah, we’re not in a rush! It’s a good thing, it means we still feel young! (laughs)
So what about your dream lineup, if you could play with any band in the world?
Well, we’re already there because we toured with Iron Maiden. There can’t possibly be anything better than that, so we’ve already made it to our dream lineup!
What’s the best show you’ve ever played?
That’s a difficult one! I don’t know, because there’s so many different things that can make a show the ‘best’. I think one of the best was a show we played in Poland, in Wizna. We played in the middle of a muddy battlefield for an army of Polish people on the actual day that we sing about in the song 40-1 – we played on the minute that the battle started. The opening act for the show was a re-enactment of the battle, with tanks and artillery fire and bombardments. That was just so emotional and actually on the stage, we were offered honorary citizenships of Poland by the president, so that definitely has to go down in history as one of our best shows. It was a very very special night.
So that one, yes, but also we once played a show in Cyprus for 400 people that was organised by my friend, and they were absolutely out of their minds. We had so much fun on that stage and they were all absolutely wild. And after a while we said, well, what are we going to do when the setlist is over? So we asked if we could play longer, and the guy organising it said that we could play all night if we wanted. We were supposed to say to the crowd, “okay, we have played all the songs on the setlist, so the night is supposed to be over, but we want to play longer!” but Joakim only mentioned the words “okay, we have played all the songs on the setlist, so the night is supposed to be over” and the fans all stormed the stage, stole us and carried us around in the venue. Like, we were crowdsurfing and they were pouring alcohol into us, so we subsequently couldn’t play any longer! (laughs) The show was over because they stopped it by storming the stage and stealing us! We were just crowdsurfing around and drinking alcohol so they never got their encore. That show was quite special for us too.
I’m not sure if you can top that, but what about the strangest or weirdest show you’ve done?
Oh! Well, we had this show once in France, where we had one ticket sold to a fan and three other random people showed up, so there was four people in the venue, and I think that one could well fall into that category! We locked the doors so that nobody could come in afterwards and we invited all the people working in the venue to have free drinks – we paid for everything the whole night. For those fans, they got all the drinks they wanted, and could have anything from the bar. We didn’t get paid anything for doing the show, because obviously nobody showed up, and we paid back the ticket price to those four people who did buy them. We lost a lot of money that night, and played the longest set of the whole tour!
Must have been a fun show to be at, despite the lack of crowd!
Well yeah! That one fan posted the setlist for it on our forum because people did that to say “hey, I saw the show in this place and they played these songs” and so he posted that and everyone was just like “what the fuck did you see, why was that so special, were there shitloads of people?” and he was like “no, I was alone!” (laughs) We basically played all the songs we knew, all the songs we didn’t…we played everything we could! We had a great time and everyone got free drinks.
And the three random guys who showed up that didn’t know Sabaton at all – they basically just saw that there was a metal concert on in town and decided to check it out – bought their ticket and walked into the venue, probably thinking that we’re the crappest band in the history of the world, but then they got free drinks the whole night and we gave them all our CDs and t-shirts they ever wanted. I guess when they woke up the morning after and were asked “what did you do last night?” they probably responded like “we went to see this Swedish band we’d never heard of and they gave us free drinks and CDs!” It was something special, to tell the truth, but I guess that’s one of our weirdest! But still a whole lot of fun.
That sounds like one of the best shows ever! So, moving onto some more random questions, if you could choose an animal to represent the band, what would you choose?
It’s got to be a cat. I wouldn’t say it’s super-Sabaton but it would still have to be a cat!
Are you a big cat fan then?
YEAH! Cats rule.
You’ve already put your name to some sunglasses, but if Sabaton could put their name to another product, what would it be?
Beer. That would be awesome. And actually, we’re working on it – there’s going to be a Sabaton beer some time this year.
If there was going to be a movie released about Sabaton, what actor would you want to play yourself?
What actor…? Hmm, I think Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or maybe Peter Stormare. He was already in our music video for Uprising and he’s a great guy who likes heavy metal. But Arnold likes heavy metal too – and he also likes tanks! So of course he would be awesome.
Can’t say no to someone who loves tanks! And my last question – what’s in store for Sabaton for the rest of 2016?
Well, we’ll be wrapping up this tour and then we’re going to head to the studio in the Spring. We have some new songs that we’re gonna record. I know exactly what’s happening, but I can’t talk about it yet because things haven’t been announced and it’s not ‘official’. You can ask me and I would be able to tell you because for instance I know exactly what we’re doing on September 13, for instance, because we plan that far in advance. But I’m not saying anything!
You can check out our review of the Bristol Sabaton show, with accompanying photos from London, right here.