Interview

AVATAR (2018 - English Version) - Johannes EckerstrŲm (Vocals & Public Relationship)

On this glorious day, in NÓmes, I have the honor to meet a member of the Royal Court of the AVATAR Country. Sir Johannes is here to explain to our French citizens the story and ways of the AVATAR Country in order to sign an allegiance between our two countries.
Gentle and smiling, Sir Johannes doesnít want to be called Minister, as he said he is a humble servant.

SBM: Hello Sir and thank you very much for your time. We are here to talk about the AVATAR Country in order to sign an alliance. The first thing, that you know, is that France had kings a few centuries ago.


Sir Johannes EckerstrŲm: Yes they had a complicated relation to the kings.

Yes, it ended in blood and violence, so are you confident about this meeting and getting more French people?

I think it has been evident with the shows weíve made. France is a strong republic and they are very much embracing our King. But you have to understand that thereís a big difference between the King of the AVATAR Country and the past kings of France.
It is simply that like a lot of countries, France has to select and find its leadership among mere mortal and normal human beings. In those situations I would recommend a republic and some forms of democracy.
But the difference is that our King is so much more than a mere human, heís basically a half God. And he is also the only leader in the whole world to have a 100% approval rating among his people so this situation is like comparing apples to oranges.

So even a nation like France with its History of kings, beheading and corrupted leaders doesnít have anything to worry about our King.

It is a good point that our french citizens will appreciate. Iím actually supporting the Kingís Campaign, but I have to ask these questions to fill my report.
You talk about your King as a half God. I consider him more as a Messiah. In the genesis of your country it is told that he took his six stringed axe, smashed the ground and brought water. Somehow itís religious and I was wondering a religion exist in the AVATAR Country.


Well I think that every metalhead would say that good heavy metal would give you a religious experience. And as the AVATAR Country is the greatest metal nation of this world, that would mean that there are constant religious experiences within the AVATAR Country at the same time.
Our King guarantees all His people a freedom of religion and also, most importantly, a freedom from religion. So thereís not state churches, we just worship the heavy metal.

Religion free sounds perfect to me. Another good point for the King which is actually touring around the world to meets His new potential citizens. How is it going? How are they reacting to the new release of the AVATAR Country?

I think people have been longing for a strong leadership like this because itís going really well. On the very first show of this tour we broke our own attendance record for a headline performance in Europe and to this day we broke it again and the majority of the shows have been sold out and those who havenít are close to. I think that as a band, as the King Elite Orchestra weíre doing better than ever.

Itís true that you recently attracted attention in France. On the last tour you did three shows that went sold out and now youíre having a six dates french tour almost sold out and in bigger venues. So that is a good step for the AVATAR Country.

Yes especially in France things have really taken off. There seems to be some understanding between us and French metalheads that alongside that the King has found the best people to work with in terms of promotion and everything around it and France has helped a lot obviously.
But there seems to have a connection, weíve had all these great opportunities to do things that has helped us deal in a very organic way in a quite short time.

That is true and Iím looking forward tonight to see how it will go. And in a few days in Lyon because Iíll be there to.

Oh our last time in Lyon was one of the wildest, I remember it being particularly crazy.

Well I hope it will be crazier in a bigger venue!

Yes and Iím excited about tonight to because we never played there.

Oh well I donít know how many tickets were sold by there is a pretty good crowd in hereÖ

Well I hope because you know, itís easy to get stuck in a routine when you go to a country, itís like ďOh we go to France, thereís Paris and Lyon etc...Ē. You do those two or three cities and you say ďHey that was FranceĒ. But this time weíre going here and Cognac and so on. Thereís always more on a country and this is a new region for us and Iím excited.

Well we wonít disappoint you. Your latest official document was named ďFeathers & FleshĒ. It was very long, dark, rich and has attracted the attention of the world on the AVATAR Country. Why have the Rulers of all Things Worthy of Being Ruled and the Royal Court have waited this long to extend the frontiers of the Country?

Well it was just a question of waiting until the feeling that people would be ready to hear the truth. Because the time was right for many reasons but also just because now we were inspired to tell the story in particular. Because with ďFeathers & FleshĒ as you said itís very dark, itís about fear, lost, death; thereís a lot of sadness in it and itís fiction.
And so I think that like every artist, when youíve done something you kind of want to do the opposite the next time. So now weíre telling the truth and instead of death itís about life. Instead of weakness itís about strength. And itís way more hopeful and I think it will be seen historically as the most positive AVATAR album ever made.
So itís a reaction after ďFeathers & FleshĒ and we thought that people would be ready to embrace the King because we had touch on the subject in the past, if you look at our booklet thereís always a special thanks to Kungen and Kungen is Swedish for the King. And the AVATAR flag has been seen in the ďNew LandĒ music video so we were already touching on it.

I admit that I agree with you, this album is way more full of joy than the others but thereís also an important point: itís really shorter. How is it so?

Well when you write an album, when youíre a band which is album oriented, I look at the piece of work as a whole and it needs to be perfection in its own little universe.
As we said in ďFeathers and FleshĒ there is this epic storyline of once upon a time there was someone and something happened, and that requires more materials to make that journey with sense. With the ďAVATAR COUNTRYĒ the album is much more of a statement and lyrically the songs throw light on our King from different angles and the Country as well and I think we did everything we needed there to have it fully explained if you know what I mean.
And what was interesting to me is that the album, on the shorter side is two minutes longer than Black Sabbathís ďParanoidĒ, which also has an instrumental.

Itís like if you were hoping to get a new long play list to pick and choose some favorite songs to put in your other play list to use at the gym, yeah maybe you didnít get what youíve expected. But again when it comes to tell the full story I think itís all there and thereís no boring moment on the album, every moment, including the instrumentals, the speech or our National Anthem, all together they help telling a full story that makes a full complete album.
I mentioned Black Sabbath but one of my favorite album of all time is ďNone So VileĒ by Cryptopsy, I guess itís my number one death metal album.

My apologies but I donít know them.

Itís very brutal, a fantastic album. Ok there is more songs but itís thirty two minutes long and I donít need a second more of it. To me that album is perfection in thirty two minutes! I also love Pink Floydís ďThe WallĒ andÖ Well I donít know how long it is but itís much longer. One hour and twenty minutes or something and it has everything it needs to have.
Because we have such a digital relationship to albums nowadays, we donít just put a vinyl and go for a ride as often as people would have done in the past. We count quantity over quality sometimes. But I know that people who would listen to the album would have a nice trip I know I do at least.

Thatís true but know how fans are. Iím a little bit like that sometimes: you want more.

Exactly but the thing is that itís not our last album anyway. So we just focus each time on, whatever the project weíre doing, to have it become the best version of itself it can be.

So do you have already some ideas growing up for the next album, because once again you came with a large range of musical influences. Look at ďThe King Welcomes You To The AVATAR CountryĒ which is a country rock song. I love that idea. Very funny! I thought while reading the title ďWill they do it?Ē and you did!
My point is: the more album youíre creating, the less violent it is. So how would you sound in a few years?


I donít look ahead that far into it. Because we donít have a formula weíre writing after. Actually we treat every album as if it was our last effort. The thing is that there are only five people in this planet that really have to live with the result for ever. If we make an album that you donít like, you can turn the album off and you can put something else on but we will live forever with what weíve done.
Thatís why we only worry about how we feel about it, so once I have the master in hand I should feel ďOk this is my new favorite album, letís see how it goesĒ. Will somebody agree? If yes thatís fantastic because I get to do this for a living but if they donít itís fine because I like it. And since you have this relationship itís always our last album: we have one chance so what do we do right now?
With that approach you canít think how youíll sound in ten years.
I think I can speculate that in terms of heaviness itís a pendulum going back and forth. Iím a huge Beatles fan and a Morbid Angel fan and sometimes it comes from one side or the other but itís a natural state of things.
As this album is so full of joy I can imagine that the next one will be even darker.

Or maybe in between the two previous ones?

Yes exactly. Maybe. But at the same time, being in between never felt really metal to me. Thatís the way Iím reasoning now because weíre always writing and thinking about this and it already feels like weíre getting deeper into darkness next time.

Well to me itís a good thing!

And so do I.

I think that itís a good thing for the King and you as an Orchestra to have no musical boundaries. A lot of band would think ďOh no itís too rock, people wonít like it, letís put the distortion upĒ.
And, pardon my French, you donít give a shit about it and itís great!


We really donít, I know itís the second time I mention the Beatles. Because many times a band try to figure out what are their sound, and I realized that most of the bands that I like the most, letís take The Beatles and Queen for instance. The sound of Queen is not so much that they play those four choirs and playing that tempo and sing those kind of lyrics. Because ďI Want to Break FreeĒ, ďBohemian RhapsodyĒ and ďFat Bottomed GirlsĒ and so on are all very different, but they all sound like Queen because Freddy is singing, Brian is playing the guitar and so on.
And we do believe that our voices in the band, not just mine as a vocalist, but the collective voices, the voice of the drums, that created the AVATAR sound and in fact we know we want to do some kind of metal. Whatever the ideas we have we want to turn it heavy, thatís the only thing. Everything else is just an open playing field where we just try to make the best thing we can every time.

You did it and in a great visual way too because the first piece of work that as been shown on all the screens of Earth was ďA Statue of The KingĒ. And it makes sense: you wanted to show the world that the King is back and ready to go on the road.

And heís THE King.

Yes and about that I have aÖ off topic question, thatís just for me butÖ Tell me: how high is the statue?

Oh itís very high! I could have fallen and die. Thatís for sure.

I know, it scared me, and people in the crowd were as well. It was terrifying.

ActuallyÖ humÖ 56 meters? NoÖ I must be bigger, way bigger. Iíll have to look back at the footage but from where I was standing it felt like mount Everest!

On my screen it seemed really really big, people were so small. And they looked happy to see the King but also maybe because the statue was made after, if Iím right, the ďBattle of the Decibel LimitsĒ.

Thatís actually another war, there was way more in the past but the way we count time is actually a complicated thing in the AVATAR Country. Right now in France itís the year 2018, in China itís the year of the Dog and in the AVATAR Country it is the year of the King.
But our system is a bit archaic because last year was also the year of the King, of course itís always the year of the King. So in our historical documents itís very hard to know which year of the King weíre reading about when we study history. And so it is very hard to determine the age of our King.

Itís one of my question actually. At the end of the record, with ďKing after KingsĒ, I thought your King died into battle. But here he is. So itís like he was immortal or reincarnated.

We donít know. He doesnít really want to share the details so what is speculated is that it seems to have some kind of reincarnation going on.

Iíve read rumors about it.

In fact he does dye but he does come back so if itís not some kind of cloning facility somewhere weíre not aware about, it seems to be reincarnating, which is also interesting because it gives some clues about the age of our King.
We know that a lot of events have been inspired by our King and also many religious tales of the world. So if we follow some famous cases of reincarnation at the end it leads to a conclusion: that would Jesus Christ of course.
So as it was written somewhere in the early 200 or 300, which correspond approximately to your year zero, and that suggests that our King is older than 2000 years.

Well he doesnít look this old.

And thereís also tales of Hinduism that would take us further back. So he might be older than that but nobody really knows.

But it is only speculations as you said. So what is your belief about it? Live after death, reincarnation?

Well thatís tricky because thereís two different branches coming out there. Do I believe that I will be reincarnated? I donít think so. Do I believe in higher powers? No I donít think so. However I do believe in my King who, for a fact, has return, and I also believe in my Kingís higher power on this world. How else would you explained that he is so much loved by his people?
Thatís not something you see happening with a normal King, President or Prime Minister.

About that, do you think that his longevity and powers come from the mineral you have, the so called metal?

DefinitelyÖ And everything in the AVATAR Country is feed out of Metal. It is our most important export and it also explains the complicated nature of our country and its mythology.
We have all these elements on earth: oxygen, carbon, plutonium and whatever. But in all the biology and chemistry labs in school and the AVATAR Country thereís also this Metal. And that affects everything, including time.

That explains why you donít have the same calendar as usÖ

Exactly! And hereís the thing: you have these amazing songs that are fourteen minutes long, I love ďAnd Then There was SilenceĒ of Blind Guardian and thatís fourteen, fifteen minutes long and that feels like five. Because of the way itís written, the way it sucks you in and take you on a trip.
So; that makes time change, you experiment that only a third of the time has passed and you have these songs that fill your live with such purpose. I remember listening to ďParanoidĒ for the first time and that song filled up my whole existence but thatís just two minutes and those two minutes were all that existed so those two minutes became infinite.
And when you have a country built on the sound of Metal, these things manifest as real forces within our borders, real natural forces. Thatís why time as become really complicated.

Well somehow, time has always been complex.

Yeah it is true.

That resource is really powerful I have to admit, and the King has agreed, with The Royal Mad Scientistís Laboratory and Research Center, to share it. But what are you waiting as a return? I assume youíre not giving it away for freeÖ

Well the fact is that Metal, when shared, grows, it isnít divided. So the fact that people join the nation makes the nation stronger and whatís beautiful with the AVATAR Country is that weíre not coming here to take over because the AVATAR Country frontiers can spread and grow without decreasing the other nations borders, and the King accepts all citizenship. You can be a french citizen and still be part of the AVATAR Country.
So the AVATAR Country can become infinitely stronger, infinitely richer and infinitely happier frankly with us recruiting more and more citizens. Itís a win/win situation and that enrichment of the souls will also be a benefit for France.

So youíre saying that everyone can apply. Even itís the areÖ not into Metal? For example if someone is a fan of Justin Bieber, can he apply?

We can cure him I believe. Actually thereís a story about that, a true story. We once played in Colorado Springs and there was these parents who brought their children, and itís funny because French people and American people are really good at bringing their kids with them in things like that.
So they brought their kids and they wrote to us afterward because their daughter which was eight years old, after our show, march into her room and torn down all her Justin Bieber posters she had from the walls. That day she became a metalhead.
So our King has already cured a sick child and he can do it again.

I really hope so because in France thereís a lot of sick people. No not sick, letís just say lost souls.

Yes lost or confused maybe.

That will be a hard task but you did it by the past, Iíd like to go back to the ďBattle of The Decibel LimitsĒ. You apparently fought a powerful enemy and defeated him. Who was he? The Industry of Artless MusicĒ maybe?

Weíd like to keep them nameless, like a Voldemort thing (Laugh). There are always these people in the world that want to ruin a good thing. Sadly. Thereís also that saying that says ďThatís why we canít have nice thingsĒ, and we want to fight for those nice things.
Even though AVATAR Country automatically stands for very positive things, it can goes against someone self interest and how they value things might lead to conflict and therefore they might want to destroy us. Maybe they want people to conform more to certain norms.
Our King is, I wanted to say tolerant but itís not about tolerance, he is welcoming and understanding and apparently to some people itís dangerous.
So weíve been constantly challenged and one of these battle is of course documented in ďThe King Wants YouĒ.
Sadly we fought more than one war BUT never to invade. I donít know if youíre into computer games.

Into video games yes absolutely.

So in the ďCivilizationĒ game you can achieve cultural victory without killing anyone but doing it so hard, so I always end up in war and try to kill Gandhi instead but in those games you can take on the world with cultural influence.

I didnít know it was even possible.

Yes because it is so hard but sometimes when your city states are strong and great enough sometimes it makes the city over just want to join your nation. And we use the same peaceful methods, we are aiming for cultural victory in the world.

That message of peace is great for our people. With the Kingís iron will and his powers, Iím sure you can achieve it, but what will you do the day the whole will be under the AVATAR Countryís banner? What is the end of this quest?

Well then weíll write the next album and start the next quest.

What about conquering other planets?

Yes weíre trying to set up things to see if we can make a concert on Mars.

Thatís amazing! But I think you should start with the Moon itís closer.

Well it seems that people are more into the next step and this next step is Mars, so we just have to go where the space people go.

Well as some people of the Kingís Court went to space, Iíve seen it in the documentary calledÖ Oh sorry I donít remember the songÖ

ďNew LandĒ?

Yes! ďNew LandĒ thank you. So youíve really been there, Mars should not be a problem.

Exactly and as you can see our space program was a little dated at the time, we built our space ship out of wood mainly. So in order to facilitate larger crafts to bring the audience out there, we have to figure that out. It seems like weíll have to work closer to other nations space program, and right now it seems to be the American private sector, it would be a great partner for us, so weíll see how it goes.

So you have to get all the Americans with you.

Exactly.

Your last tour there went well so thereís hope.

Yes and we also played in Houston where we were close to the NASA people.

Well youíll tell me on the next chapter I guess. And as Iíve collected enough data, the tradition wants me to leave you the final words if you want to broadcast a message to the french citizens.

I would like to tell them that if the feel the urge to join the AVATAR Country, if they feel that in their heart, then they already passed the test. Thatís it: the King loves you, the King wants you, and also you can be a citizen of the AVATAR Country.

Thank you very much Sir.
 
Critique : SBM
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