On 30th September 2016 Amon Amarth announced Jocke Wallgren as their new drummer. Jocke replaces long-time drummer Fredrik Andersson, who played with the band from 1998 to 2015. On the final night of their UK tour, OneMetal sat down with Jocke to get to know him and find out how he’s adjusting to life in one of the world’s biggest melodic death metal bands.
OneMetal How’s the tour going so far?
Jocke It’s going very well. This is… what is it? Like, the seventh show, I think so yeah – so far so good! Everyone is having a great time and everyone gets along and it’s just super fun everything!
OneMetal How does it feel to be playing above the legendary Testament?
Jocke It’s pretty weird [laughs] – for me, you know? Because I am from the Stockholm underground scene and now I get the chance to play with bigger bands. So Testament has been a great source of inspiration for me for several years so yeah… it’s quite weird to have Gene Hoglan doing the drums before I go on stage. It’s weird but cool! [laughs]
OneMetal As the new guy have you been the subject of any tour pranks or initiation rituals?
Jocke Not yet! No, not really and I think that’s a good thing!
OneMetal Obviously most of the guys in Amon Amarth have been in the band for over 20 years. Was that a tough dynamic to come into as the new guy?
Jocke They have been very welcoming to me. There were really no issues at all. We get along on a personal level and on a musical level so I think everyone is really happy about the situation. The only time I can feel like I’m the new guy is when they talk business because I’m not really into everything… yet. Otherwise we get along fine. The guys have been really nice – no hard times whatsoever, you know?
OneMetal How about in terms of playing style? Obviously they were playing with Fredrik for almost 20 years and sometimes when you have new musicians in a band they just gel, but other times it can be like putting a square peg in a round hole. Did you find that you had to adapt your style at all or did it come naturally to you?
Jocke I would say I just melded straight in there because I grew up listening to power metal and then I have pretty much only been playing death and black metal, and now I think I am in-between. It’s still melodic, it’s not cheesy, and it’s still heavy and quite fast so for me personally that’s a good thing because I feel like I’ve found “my spot” and considering having to adapt to Fredrik’s playing, that’s not really an issue because Fredrik is and was a great inspiration for me growing up so I’ve been listening to Amon Amarth for a long time and doing all of his signature fills and everything for a long time. So it was not really an issue.
OneMetal So when you’re playing Fredrik’s songs, do you play them as they are on record or have you started putting your own spin on things yet?
Jocke I would say I’ve been mixing and matching a little bit. You have to keep the signature stuff, you know? Like some signature drum fills and signature kick patterns and stuff like that but, of course, in some not-so-important fills – like in-between bars or something – I can just throw in something that I feel would fit. And the guys are totally okay with that, they were like, “Yeah, you’re the new drummer so that’s your style, that’s how you play!”
OneMetal Jomsviking was recorded with Tobias Gustafsson on drums. How did you come to enter into the Amon Amarth fold?
Jocke Uhh… Well, I’m not sure if I can go public with that. I don’t know… we might have to skip this question [laughs].
OneMetal But when you got the call was it a no brainer or did you have to consider your –
Jocke [immediately] No, that was a no brainer. I got an email from Olavi in the middle of the night back in… February, I think. And he said, “Hi, I need to talk to you,” and then we spoke and everything… turned out really well! I had an upcoming US tour with my other band –
OneMetal – October Tide?
Jocke No, Valkyrja. So I had to cancel it and find a drummer that could fill the spot in one day, pretty much! Because of all the visas and everything that have to be changed before we have to pay a lot of money, so that worked out really well and then I just jumped on the Amon Amarth train and the other guys in my old band were like, “Sure, do this because you’ll probably not get a better opportunity,” so they were real supportive.
OneMetal You pretty much jumped in and went onto a huge festival tour almost immediately. How did you adapt to playing those much bigger shows?
Jocke Well first of all we didn’t do the festivals straight away. We did a small press tour in the US.
OneMetal Oh, right, and you played The Underworld in London and a few other small venues, right?
Jocke Yeah, really small places with 700 capacity at most. So those four shows were like an entrance to the band.
OneMetal Like a warmup?
Jocke Yeah, exactly and then we did a seven week headline US tour and then we did the festivals. And by the time we did the festivals I was quite used to it. I was used to playing the songs but I wasn’t used to 50,000 people in the audience! So when we got to… I don’t know if it was Rock am Ring or Rock am Park first… but I was kind of surprised and… quite nervous [laughs]! But it turned out fine.
OneMetal I guess in terms of playing a show, the logistics stay the same – playing a show is playing a show, it’s just the size of the crowd that changes.
Jocke Yeah, it is. Actually I was more nervous playing the headline shows in the US than playing the festivals because it’s more intimate with 2,000 people than 50,000.
OneMetal Right, you can see the faces in the crowd directly in front of you.
Jocke Yeah exactly. In the festivals I can see someone and they’re, like, so far away but yeah it was so much fun. So much fun.
OneMetal What are your favourite Amon Amarth songs to play?
Jocke Wow. I like all of them [laughs]! Of course. But if I were to drop two or three I’d say… well, ‘First Kill’, of course and ‘War of the Gods’, ‘Deceiver of the Gods’, ‘Cry of the Blackbirds’, pretty much anything with the fast kick drums!
OneMetal You’re currently on tour with Grand Magus who also have a strong Viking theme to their music. In a Viking skirmish, who would win between Grand Magus and Amon Amarth?
Jocke Amon Amarth.
Amon Amarth are currently continuing their European tour in support of Jomsviking, which is out now on Metal Blade Records.