Musician First: An Interview with Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Monday, February 22, 2010 @ 11:26 AM

"I hate the 'Hottest Chicks in Metal!' Itís an embarrassment for womenÖItís an embarrassment for female musicians, who actually are musicians."

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Swedenís death metal heavyweights, Arch Enemy, have embarked on a U.S. headlining tour, along with thrash legends Exodus, Arsis, and Mutiny Within. The Tyrants of Evil tour will push the recently released The Root of All Evil, a compilation of re-recorded songs from Arch Enemyís early days before vocalist Angela Gossow joined the fold. Lucky fans attending these shows are going to enjoy a most salubrious set of Arch Enemy songs that date back to former singer Johan Livaís reign in the band on up to now.

Angela Gossow checked in from Sweden just a couple days before coming to the States. Hereís what she had to say:

KNAC.COM: Hello, Angela. How are things going?

GOSSOW: Good. Almost in the U.S.

KNAC.COM: The Tyrants of Evil tour is ready to kick off and Arch Enemy will be headlining. Youíll be sharing the stage with Exodus, Arsis, and Mutiny Within. Will there be any surprises on your setlist?

GOSSOW: Itís just going to be Ď70ís oldies. Itís going to be Abba (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Are you going to play ďWaterlooĒ and ďDancing QueenĒ?

GOSSOW: No (laughs). Weíre just going to mix it up. We have a re-recording album (The Root of All Evil) and weíre going to be playing the older tracks from before I joined Arch Enemy. So, itís going to be, pretty much, a journey through the lastÖhow many years is it now? Almost 15 years of Arch Enemy.

KNAC.COM: The Root of All Evil tracks sound killer. What were your initial thoughts of singing songs that Johan [Liva] had originally done?

GOSSOW: I didnít really think about it, because Iíve been singing those tracks live for a couple of years now, at least some of them. I donít know. Itís like when you live with a child for that long it doesnít really matter if itís yours or somebody elseís. Itís just part of Arch Enemy for me.

KNAC.COM: Michael [Amott] plays some amazing guitar on the record.

GOSSOW: Heís become a better player. When he went from Carcass to doing Arch Enemy he wasnít such a refined musician, probably, as he is now. Heís definitely a lot better. Heís an excellent solo player these days. He kind of shows it off as well. I think itís really fun for him to rediscover these tracks. He did some really good stuff back in the day, as well. Heís got a really low opinion of himself (laughs). Heís very humble, so itís cool he gets some recognition for these older tracks as well. He shines the most with Arch Enemy, also with Spiritual Beggars, but his project has been on ice for a while. Heís got a lot of different styles. Heís a very emotional player.

KNAC.COM: The last time you and I spoke was just after Christopher [Amott] had left the band and Fredrik [Akesson] came in as his replacement on guitar. Gus G. did the 2005 Ozzfest dates prior to that. Is Christopher fully committed to the band now?

GOSSOW: Absolutely. I think if anything theyíve actually gotten closer as a guitar team, Chris and Michael. He really complements Michael. Itís always different when you have two brothers playing. They grew up with each other. The way they write, it fits perfectly. It was definitely different with Fredrik. Fredrikís a great guitar player. He just goes and learns a song, note by note, exactly how it should be. But, itís a different chemistry in the band when you go onstage, when you have Chris back. It feels again the way itís supposed to feel. The funny thing is that Gus, obviously, was introduced to Ozzy Osbourne at Ozzfest and now heís actually playing with Ozzy Osbourne. All these good things came out of that whole thing. We toured with Opeth and Fredrik got to know the Opeth guys. Now he plays in Opeth. Chris had his time out, Fredrik Akesson got his break, and Gus G. as well, really. Itís amazing how fate works. I donít really believe in fate, but thatís just almost too good to be coincidence.

KNAC.COM: Itís a divine accident.

GOSSOW: (laughs) Yeah. Itís really cool. All of them are doing well.

KNAC.COM: A couple of years ago I was flipping through a metal magazine and there was a fold-out poster of you and Cristina [Scabbia] from Lacuna Coil representing their Hottest Chicks in Metal feature. To be considered as one of the hottest chicks in metal wasnít a career goal of yours, right?

GOSSOW: Itís funny that you mentioned that, because I just had a huge clash with the editor of Revolver. Heís put me into the 2010 Hottest Chicks in Metal calendar with that picture in of 2004, so they keep kind of recycling that one. And, Iíve explained several times I donít want to be featured in thatóin that corner. If they want a picture of the band and itís about the music, all cool. No problem. But if itís about me being a womanÖI donít like the Hottest Chicks in Metal movement at all. I think itís very counterproductive and kind of retro, you know? Going back in time and he said, ďOf course. If you donít want to be featured then I will make sure you wonít be featured in any of the other publications we have.Ē So I burned that bridge by saying, ďI donít want to be part of it. Iím not cool with it. You should have asked me.Ē So thatís what I got for it, and I donít give a fuck. Thatís so bad, Revolver magazine. Itís just all about highlighting the crap thatís going on backstage, highlighting a pair of tits, and all the crazy stories on tour. And then you look for the actual bits on music and you canít even find them anymore. I donít even know what kind of music these bands are playing that they are featuring, because it doesnít come through in the articles, at all. We havenít even had a feature in this magazine for the last three years, so I can very well live without the wholeÖI hate the Hottest Chicks in Metal! Itís an embarrassment for women, I think (laughs). Itís an embarrassment for female musicians, who actually are musicians. I donít think weíre ever going to be popping up in Revolver magazine again, after my little e-mail conversation with the editor (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Maybe someday theyíll do a music-related piece on Arch Enemy!

GOSSOW: Yeah, that would be lovely! That would be a real turn of events.

KNAC.COM: Going back to the Anthems of Rebellion period in 2003 on up to now, you guys have continuously been busy. It seems like youíve never slowed down, despite the little change in personnel back when Christopher left.

GOSSOW: Yeah, itís been a crazy ride since then. When I joined Arch Enemy we didnít really know what was in for us and where it would go. We have evolved as a band. Weíve become very self-confident musicians in a scene full of victims. I think the music scene is terrible when it comes to how musicians are being treated. Weíve come out on top. Weíve done really well. Weíve released a bunch of really good records; weíve done a bunch of very good tours. We fired our management in 2008 and now I do all that.

KNAC.COM: Really?

GOSSOW: Yeah, weíre totally free. We own all our songs. No management in the back telling us what to do. Yeah, itís amazing. And the weird thing, since I took over management, is Iím not getting sick, either anymore. I donít feel so victimized, like somebody else has decided that I got to make it through no matter what. When youíre in charge of something, you really want to do it. Youíve got a different strength for it.

KNAC.COM: Itís not like slavery.

GOSSOW: Exactly. The music business is setup to enslave the musician. The record sales are dying, so theyíre going to put a lot of pressure on a band to tour as much as they can. Sometimes I think some bands are touring to death. How much are you enjoying playing your 260 shows in a year? Whatever we do we do it very consciously. Yes, we want to go to the U.S. now, because we havenít been there for two years. We do a lot of touring, but we hop from continent to continent. There are a lot of different scenarios we experience, and thatís how we keep it really interesting. We picked out the support bands. Weíre totally excited about the package. Yeah, I think weíre in an excellent spot as a band, but it takes a lot of self-confidence and a lot of knowledge. If you want to run your own business, you better know your business. Not everybody can read a contract or really concentrate on it, or negotiate a deal, or a tour, or speak to promoters. You have to have a very equal relationship in the band to be able to be self-managed. Everybodyís got to do some jobs. Weíre very lucky with Arch Enemy. Everybodyís equal. Itís a team.

Check out these photos taken by Charlie Steffens of Arch Enemy's recent performance in Hollywood:

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