Don’t tell Swedish metal band Avatar that New York City metal crowds are typically the most unforgiving—mostly because they don’t care. Avatar is played its first show on U.S. soil Wednesday night at the Studio at Webster Hall in New York City, but according to vocalist Johannes Eckerström, the band is just as comfortable there as they would be playing at home in their backyard.
Reverb got in a few words with the all-to-calm front man to talk about their first show stateside and some of the band’s very unique obsessions:
Avatar will headline the Moon Room at Summit Music Hall March 1.
Reverb: How do you feel about playing your very first U.S. show in N.Y.C.? That’s a pretty intimidating place to start out…
Eckerström: I feel good about it because I don’t get intimidated by things like that. A show is a show no matter if it’s at home in my backyard or in New York or in Poland — it will be a place for metal-heads and we will play metal for them.
Are you guys going to change your set to adapt to an American audience?
We are the same band wherever we play and metal-heads are metal-heads wherever you go. We are the same Avatar on this side of the Atlantic as we are at home.
I saw the new video for “Smells Like A Freakshow”. Tell me a little bit about the video and the treatment.
Well, it’s about decadence. It’s like walking down a dark path where once you’re on it it’s real hard to get off it, no matter how hard we try to escape. That’s the conflict in it. So we portrayed it in the music video by shooting each band member fighting themselves and making different kind of power relationships with each other.
So I heard you guys have an obsession with Coney Island and freak shows?
I was hoping and we were first planning to go there — that was one part of New York that we were most excited to see, really. But sadly because of Sandy its still not open.
So without ever having been there where did the obsession come from? Where did the inspiration for freak shows and circuses in general come from?
Since we are trying to be a band that is as much a show as something to be heard, we felt that this kind of old circus freak show type of thing was something that fit very well into the music we’re playing. So we found inspiration from those kinds of things.
I also heard about an obsession with wrestling…
That’s something that made its way over the pond to Sweden and was shown on TV when I was a kid. It was something I grew up with and was quite a lot into. So when we made the video for “Torn Apart” it felt like a fight song and we wanted to do something [with that]. We were thinking about the movie “Fight Club” quite a bit — a bunch of angry young men beating each other up, ya know? So when we were looking for people to work with we found these people doing this homage to American pro wrestling. So we combined the “Fight Club”-inspired idea with circus freakiness and the beautiful tackiness of pro wrestling; which is also a form of circus entertainment. So it was all something that fit in.
Does all of this translate into your live show? If someone had never heard of Avatar, never seen you before—how would you describe your show?
Our live show is very intense and passionate, obviously. With this being our first American tour we can’t bring all the grenades that we usually use at home but we still have a very visual show for people to watch and enjoy. We are a very tight unit also. People should expect the feeling of a bulldozer with a Formula 1 engine built into it, basically. [Laughs]
Now, the first leg of this tour is in support of Sevendust & Lacuna Coil. You are headlining in Denver—any added pressure there with this being your first trip overseas?
Well…obviously it will be testing our wings. The thing is that while we are hearing good things, it doesn’t matter if it is in front of 30 people, 3,000 people or 30,000 people in the audience—whoever comes to pay will get the show and we love making that show for them.