“I guess you should probably not have those ambitions [of fame and fortune]. I think you should start with the essentials, just practice, play and have fun.
“It’s so different to when we started. We were recording cassettes and sent those out to record labels and got signed through 10-second cassette rehearsal recordings. This was like ’93 or something.
“Today, I wouldn’t know, but I think you enter the scene from the wrong direction – from the asshole basically. If you go in thinking, ‘I’m gonna make myself a career and make money’… I think you should start with essentials and everything else.
“It may or may not happen – probably not. So I know there’s a lot of people, and I was one of those dreamers who was like, ‘That’s what I wanna do!’ But now there are so many bands and it’s saturated, it’s hard to find good bands, even for record labels.
“So start with essentials – have fun. And maybe it’s a good idea with do-it-yourself type of thing. But don’t expect to make a living. If that happens, good for you.
“Even with the record deal, and even what was then like pretty big record labels, it took us a good 10 years before we had any money in our pocket. We put out five or six albums before we even had enough to pay the rent.
“It is difficult, even if you have a setup with record label and office packed with people working for you, for your record. So it’s not a good choice if you want to make a living. So you should start with just the innocence of having fun.
“I love people making music, it makes me happy. You create something out of nothing and you go, ‘F**k, I can do this!’ Or at least I think it’s good. And maybe the five guys in your band – you think that you’re good, that you’re a team. That’s really important, that’s where you have to start and not thinking like, ‘Maybe I should get a new flat now because it’s all gonna happen for me.’
“That’s what I did at 19. Thinking ‘Hm, record deal! Guns N’ Roses!’ It didn’t happen. I’m still with my Volvo from 1988, and we’ve gone for 27 years. [Laughs]”
Asked if he wants “to have as much as creative control as you possibly can,” Mikael replied:
“Yeah. I mean, we signed I don’t know how many contracts, it was like, ‘I don’t understand this, but yeah, I’ll sign it.’ But with time you learn more, and now we have a management, we have an agent, we have all those types of things to keep track of everything.
“But I think I’ve seen a lot of colleagues of mine, who have been around in the scene for as long as we have, who have started taking more control of the, sort to speak, business situation in the band and what happens with a lot of those people is that they lose their musicality.
“If you’re a musician – do that. Hire other people to do other stuff if you can afford it. There are a lot of bands who take care of their own business. But I’ve seen that with the people who used to be very musical type of people gradually turn more into business people, and kinda lost the musicality which I think is a bit dull.”
Asked if he’s OK with one of the guys in the band also being a “business guy” even though he also plays, Akerfeldt replied:
“That’s the relationship we have with our manager. He makes a lot of decisions for us. Plovdiv for instance, that thing was his decision. And we go out with ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’
“Like Arch Enemy for instance. Angela [Gossow], who used to be a singer, she is no the manager. I guess she started taking care of the management and gradually just like ‘Oh, it’s too much work, I can’t go out on stage if I’m just gonna squeeze the promoter for the fee 10 minutes before.’
“So she’s doing the managing of that band now. She helped other guys to find her own replacement. I guess it works for them. For us – we want to play.
“I don’t think that’s a bad way of trying to get into the music business if that’s what you want to do. But I think you need that type of original honesty, at least in the beginning.”