Interview by Tony Cannella
Arch Enemy’s popularity continues to grow in the metal stratosphere. When the band released their latest album “War Eternal” in 2014 there was a wait-and-see attitude as there usually is when one of the key members gets replaced. Enter lead vocalist Alissa White-Gluz. She had enormous shoes to fill in replacing the iconic Angela Gossow who stepped away from the band to focus on managing Arch Enemy. Before stepping down she hand-picked Alissa as her replacement and the results have been phenomenal to say the least. Recently, Arch Enemy was out headlining the Summer Slaughter tour throughout North America. It was at the tour’s stop in Worcester, Massachusetts where I was able to catch this tour and conduct an interview with Alissa. Here is what she had to say…
Hello Alissa. Thank you for joining us. So, you are currently out on Summer Slaughter tour. How has it been going so far?
Good. It just started. It’s always a little chaotic when you have so many bands on one tour. It’s pretty uncommon to do tours like this but we’re working out the kinks and getting into the rhythm now, so it’s going well.
You played the Heavy Montreal festival on the 7th August. How did that go?
That was cool. Montreal is always a cool show whether it’s a festival or just a normal club gig. It’s really cool for me because I live there, so that’s a hometown gig for me.
Now that you’ve been in Arch Enemy for quite a while. How has the experience been so far?
Perfect. If feels totally natural. It feels great to be in a band with people whom I respect as individuals and musicians, I feel that respect is returned as well. We have a great manager – which is Angela (Gossow) – we have a great new addition which is Jeff (Loomis), so it’s been great.
You mentioned Jeff Loomis. So, he has fit in quite well with the band, then?
Oh yeah, yeah. From the first show we did it was like normal. It felt totally natural. Everyone in this band has a lot of experience playing shows. I’m the youngest, but even I’ve been doing it for more than ten years in a variety of different kinds of bands. We all have a lot of experience playing shows with many different bands and I think because of that it allows us to be able to gel pretty easily together.
“War Eternal” has been out for quite a while now. How do you feel it’s been received by the fans and media?
Great. We were just like, “look all we can do is just make an album that we love. Make a bunch of songs that we are proud of and put them out there and hope people like them”. And people do like them. We’re really thankful for that. We worked hard on that album and we’re going to continue to work hard. I’m glad it was so well received.
How do you feel the Arch Enemy fan base has accepted you? You’re replacing a pretty iconic singer in Angela Gossow.
Yeah, that was also great actually. I think maybe the reason that was so smooth was because Angela chose me herself, you know it was really her that was like, and “hey do you want to sing in the band?” I think that probably made it easier for fans to accept. It’s not like she was kicked out, it’s not like she just quit and there is bad blood, she’s still a big part of the band, she’s the manager of the band. She’s not involved musically anymore or in terms of the performance but she is involved in the business side of things. It’s great because we still have her brain.
What are your plans following the completion of this tour?
After this tour we actually have a small break, which is the first one in a long time. We’re going to be off for a little bit. We’re going to play Loud Park in Japan in October. I’m personally going to play a show with Metal Allegiance which will be in New York and that’s in September.
Is that the project with David Ellefson of Megadeth among others?
Yeah, there’s Dave Ellefson, Alex Skolnick, Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein will be there. We’re putting it all together now. And then later in the year we (Arch Enemy) will go on tour with Nightwish.
Oh cool. North America or Europe?
Is there any plans for a DVD chronicling this tour?
We have been trying to gather as much footage as we can. On this tour it’s really tricky, because like I said these are really long days, especially for our crew. They wake up at 9 am and start working and they’re done at like 2 am, because there’s so many bands playing, so I don’t know if we’ll have too much footage from this tour. We’ve definitely been trying to gather a lot of footage, behind the scenes stuff, stuff that people normally wouldn’t actually get to witness. We’ll see, we should have a DVD out pretty soon actually.
In your previous band The Agonist you combined rough vocals with clean vocals. Is there ever any chance of that technique coming to the surface with Arch Enemy?
Yeah. There’s a couple of songs on “War Eternal” that have clean vocals actually, they’re just blended in and live I do sing clean a little tiny bit. I think that in any song where it would fit, we would gladly do it. We’re not stuck up musicians stuck in a tiny little box. We’re very open minded. If it feels good to do really brutal black metal screams on a song, that’s what we’ll do, if it feels good to do singing on a song, that’s what we’ll do, if it feels good to have very few vocals and a lot of guitar solos, that’s exactly what we’ll do. We’re very open minded when it comes to building the songs so it just depends on what we come up with next.
I remember when I first found out that you were the new singer in Arch Enemy it came as a huge shock. In fact, when the news was announced, “War Eternal” was already done. In this day-and-age, how did you manage to keep it a secret?
We’re professional when it comes to this. This is our career, this is our job, it’s not like some gossipy thing. When I was asked to join Arch Enemy by Michael (Amott) and Angela, I was like this sounds really cool “Angela are you sure you don’t want to sing anymore?” She was like, “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, I know you’re the one to replace me you’re going to do amazing, I’m sure” I asked if I can continue to do The Agonist then and they were like, “Absolutely. We want you to be happy so just continue your work. We’ll make the schedule for you to be in both bands”. So the next thing I did – because I was actually on tour with Kamelot at that point – so the next thing I did once I got back to Montreal and I was back with all the members of The Agonist was I told them, “I have big news, I can’t tell you all the details but I am going to start singing in another band, it’s a band we all like from Sweden. I’m going to work with them, make an album, it’s going to be great for us because it will give us exposure because I’ll be in a bigger band but we’re also going to make the schedule work so that’ll be great”, and they also said, “okay cool”. That was in like July of 2013. For like six months I was on cloud nine thinking, “Great. I’m going to get to work with Arch Enemy and I get to keep my band, it’s going to be fantastic”. Little did I know that during that six months, The Agonist were lying to my face and they were actually going behind my back trying to find someone to replace me. They waited through an entire European tour with me, through local shows until the last show we had booked in 2013 which was I think December 7th. We played that show and the next day they all came to my house and basically kicked me out of the band, spit in my face, locked me out of my emails – what a big f***ing mess. For the next week I was in total panic mode trying to regain access to my accounts and in total shock that the band I had built for ten years – for more than a 3rd of my life at that point – was now stolen from me. That was the hardest thing about this whole transition. It wasn’t hard to join Arch Enemy, it wasn’t hard to keep it a secret. It was totally professional and smooth on the side of Arch Enemy, unfortunately on the other side of the things it wasn’t and that was a very difficult situation for me, which I’m still coping with actually. In terms of the joining Arch Enemy side of things, it’s been totally smooth. We all have the same goal in mind, we want this band to succeed and we want to continue to bring this music – that we think is great music – to as many people as we can all over the world.
How will this affect you working with Kamelot going forward?
Well, originally in that six month period in the second half of 2013, when I naively thought that I was still going to be able to have The Agonist and Arch Enemy, I was like, “okay, I’ll probably have to stop doing Kamelot because two bands is a lot”. Since The Agonist kicked me out and I don’t have my band anymore, I’m still doing Kamelot. Like I said, Angela and I had been planning for me to be in two bands, so we already allotted time for me to actually be not doing Arch Enemy stuff. Now whenever I’m not doing Arch Enemy stuff, I go and do Kamelot stuff. I’ve done a bunch of shows over the past couple of years – I’m going to do Loud Park with them. So yeah, whenever I’m available I’ll go and do Kamelot stuff.
Well, Alissa we have come to the end of the interview. In closing, is there anything you would like to say to the fans to sort of wrap this up?
Of course. Thank you for supporting Arch Enemy. We hope you like “War Eternal” and hopefully we’ll see you guys on tour soon.