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An interview with Arch Enemy bassist, Sharlee D’Angelo

Ant May from Planetmosh spoke to Arch Enemy bassist, Sharlee D’Angelo before the band played their only UK show at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London on 6th December.

Planetmosh: First of all, welcome to London

Sharlee: Thank you.

Planetmosh: You’ve chosen to start your tour in the UK this time, but on the last few times you’ve ended the tour here.

Sharlee: Yeah you know usually its because you know its at one end of the continent so it makes sense to start or finish here.

Planetmosh: As with your last visit to the UK you’re only playing a single date.  Are we likely to get a proper UK tour sometime soon?

Sharlee: Nothing that’s been confirmed so far, but we like coming here, this is the first part of Europe that welcomed us with open arms, you know, I say this because a lot of people here don’t seem to know that you’re part of Europe.  It was firstly Japan then mostly England before Germany and many other countries.

Planetmosh: I agree that some English don’t see themselves as part of Europe, but equally a lot of European bands don’t seem to realise it either – they all announce European tours that don’t include any UK dates.

Sharlee: It’s actually true that it’s a very different market.  I don’t know if its because there’s a little bit of water in between or something you know, it’s an island.  The UK is very different than the rest of Europe.  Some bands can be huge in every other country but never really make it here for some strange reason.  I mean its usually the same bands that do well in America, do well here. I don’t know why.

Planetmosh: You’ve been announced for next years Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium. How did you enjoy it when you played last year?

Sharlee: It was cool.  I think most festivals have like a common theme, and it’s the first one I’ve ever been to where gender is one – it’s like you’ve got to have at least one girl singer.  Yeah it was a good one because that is like the overall concept then you get loads of different types of bands you know – it’s not a death metal festival, its not a thrash metal festival, it’s all kinds of bands. It was cool, I liked it.

Planetmosh: Since 2008 the band has been self managed.  What are the benefits you’ve found?

Sharlee: It is that we do things that we want to do, and not that somebody else tells us is good for our career, and if we get an offer from somewhere its a case of “do we want to do this?”, “yes we do” or “no we don’t”, and I think we also do a little bit better financially because there’s nobody else taking 20%.  So yeah overall it’s just the fact that we decide ourselves, we’re our own bosses, that’s the biggest thing.  It feels a lot better.  There’s more work involved but again we don’t do such long tours as we used to do.  I mean we’ve done stretches of like four months in a row before which is a little bit too much.  Now its rarely longer than five or six weeks so we try not to burn ourselves out, but its good that we can do that now, we can see what works financially, see what the benefits are in that department.  So overall it’s just better.

Planetmosh:  Is there a huge amount of extra work for you in doing it yourselves?

Sharlee: No its definitely something we can cope with.  Angela’s the one doing most of it, but she’s extremely good at it because 1, she’s a woman, she can multitask, and 2, she’s German so things are in order.  She’s extremely good at stuff like that so she oversees the operation and she’s fantastic at it. There’s a lot of strain on her though but she does enjoy that part as well.

Planetmosh: what can we expect from tonight’s show – lots of stuff from the new album?

Sharlee: There will be a bunch of songs from the new album but there will be a little bit from most albums I think, we try to mix it up a little bit.  We’ve kind of stopped thinking about “we’ve got to have something from this album, something from that album”, because with being 9 albums in it starts to get difficult putting the setlist together because there’s a curfew so we can only play for 90 minutes or so, its all we can do, but I think more than 90 minutes of our kind of music, its like all you can take anyway, but so putting together a setlist gets harder and harder with every album.

Planetmosh: It’s good to be in the position where you can’t include everything you want rather than struggling to fill a 90 minute set.

Sharlee:  Exactly, that’s the thing yeah.  People are asking, because we’ve done a few cover songs over the years, “why don’t you play that one or that one”, but I think we’ve got enough as it is. We try to do a little bit of everything, its not so much trying to get every album in there, more trying to get every kind of mood in there to balance the setlist as much as possible, and try not to play the same thing over and over.  The thing is also ten, twelve years into your career, even more, fifteen, you start to gain a few staples in the set – we’re already becoming like Deep Purple you know what I mean (laughing).  It’s like there are certain songs that if we didn’t play them, people will be extremely disappointed, so we get more and more of those and then so at least 40% of the set is stuff like that that we have to play, and then the remaining 60% we can vary.

Planetmosh: How have the fans reacted to the new material so far?

Sharlee: Very well, very well actually.  It’s different songs that go down the best in different territories, they all have their favourites.  One that seems to be going down well all over is “Bloodstained Cross”, because if you want a circle pit it works out fine with that.  Some places seem to like “No gods no masters”, others prefer “under black flags we march”, and I think “Yesterday is dead and gone” is a good opening song that gets people going, it seems to declare a little bit what we’re about, a little bit of everything Arch Enemy is in that song.

Planetmosh: It must get quite complicated with all the different territories having different tastes, trying to write a setlist for each place?

Sharlee:  Yeah.  With the places we’ve been to before, we kind of know a little bit what they like, style wise more than anything else.  A Japan setlist is very different from a European setlist – we can play stuff from our first three albums because people there are very familiar with them, whereas if we try and play that anywhere else in the world people kind of look a little bit confused and don’t know what it is, even though we did re-record some of it a couple of years ago, and that was one of the reasons why we did that – put them back into peoples mind and be able to play them live, but still it didn’t go down that well.  At least in Japan and South America we can do a bit more of that. A Japanese setlist is different from a South American one which is different from a German one and so on.

Planetmosh: You’ve played gigs all over the world including places like Dubai and New Zealand.  Where would you like to play that you haven’t played yet?

Sharlee: Yeah, everywhere we haven’t played so far really.  I was about to say that we haven’t played Africa, but we have actually played Morocco, so that’s North Africa at least.  We haven’t played South Africa yet.  i don’t know what the metal scene is like in places like Senegal or Botswana, but at least you can do North and you can do South.  Where else haven’t we played?  There are many South American countries we haven’t done yet, we’ve played Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Venezuela.  We’ve played Russia and Ukraine but not a lot else in that region, and you know there’s other places, some Asian countries – we havent played Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia.  There’s plenty of places we’d like to go.  We go everywhere that people want us and that it’s financially viable – its expensive to bring a whole band, crew and equipment halfway across the world.  And of course we haven’t left planet earth yet – there might be life out there

Planetmosh:  There might be aliens that havent bought any Arch Enemy albums yet.

Sharlee:  Exactly.  It might be fun – can you imagine a zero gravity wall of death?

Planetmosh: The internet has clearly changed the music industry, what do you think are the ways that the Internet is good for bands like Arch Enemy?

Sharlee: Well I suppose it’s good in the way that it spreads news faster.  The good thing about people not paying for music is that they can have more favourite bands because music is more accessible to them, that’s good in a sense.  As long as they support their favourite bands by coming to the shows and buying a T-shirt then that’s alright.  There’s no sense in complaining about it.  The bad part is the album as a concept is dying.  Even when people buy the music they often buy separate songs rather than an album, whereas I love the album.
Planetmosh:  It does put pressure on bands – in the past you often got bands putting out albums with two or three really good songs then a load of filler to make up the album

Sharlee:  But what constitutes a good song?  There might be certain songs that are more catchy, but certain others might take a few plays before you really get into it, and that’s the thing about albums, you might have heard something on the radio or a friend played you something, so you buy the album, and at first you play it for that song, then you get tired of that song but you’ve heard the other songs and your favourite song changes.  An album is a composition in itself.

Planetmosh:  I agreee.  I found with the new Nightwish album there are bits that grow on you and as you listen to the album more you notice more of the subtleties.

Sharlee: That’s a very good example of the sort of things that you can do on an album.  You can’t really put all of that effort into a single song, and I think this sounds like a tribute to the album which is wasn’t meant to be, but you put everything into one big piece of art, and they still do it that way and have the budget to do it, and they have a lot of young fans as well so it might make them start to continue to buy albums hopefully.  We can’t all make albums like that unfortunately.

Planetmosh: Which do you prefer and why – CD or legal mp3 downloads ?

Sharlee: I always buy the physical product.  I might sometimes buy single songs but its mostly if I like one song enough I’ll buy the album because there might be other gems in there.  I like having it in my hand, and looking at the booklet.  It makes you appreciate things more.  if you have to go to a record store, you go there and have it in a plastic bag and sit on the tube or bus on the way home, you unwrap it, read the booklet but can’t put it on till you get home so you appreciate it more because you’ve worked for it.  If you just press a button and get it its not as exciting is it.

Planetmosh: What was the last album you bought?

Sharlee: The last one was actually a re-master of Abba’s “Super Trouper” bought the other day because I haven’t had it on CD before, I’ve just had it on vinyl, and my turntable is no longer functioning so I have to get a new one, so that was the last one I think. That and Paul Stanley’s solo album from ’78.

Planetmosh:  Amaranthe said in an interview recently that any band from Sweden is influenced by Abba to some extent.

Sharlee:  When I was a kid it wasn’t considered very cool to like Abba, you know, girls like Abba and guys like KISS, it was that sort of thing, but I got exposed to a lot of it, so certain songs I can remember every note from my childhood, and now you listen to it and hear the genius that goes into those compositions.  I don’t like a lot of happy music for some reason, but they’re a little bit different because even if they do something in a major key, there’s still something kind of sad about it as well.  It’s just good song writing and the arrangements are fantastic.

Planetmosh:  Thanks for your time, and I look forwards to the show later.

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.
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