Following his departure from death metal legends Carcass in 1993, Michael Amott formed something different to what he is usually known for (Carcass, Carnage and later, Arch Enemy). This new band of his was called Spiritual Beggars and is still rockin’ hard with their latest – and amazing – album Earth Blues (Inside Out Music). This band is nowadays labelled as “stoner rock/metal” but was there such a musical genre or scene back then? Per Wiberg (keyboards, also member of Kamchatka and ex-member of Opeth) claims that Spiritual Beggars pay tribute to classic rock and metal with their music and that there was no “stoner” scene back then.
Now with the comeback of the cult record label Music For Nations, four Spiritual Beggars albums – Another Way to Shine, Mantra III, Ad Astra, On Fire – are being re-released on vinyl. This is the right time to enter our time machine and revisit the 90s and early 2000s. Enjoy our chat with Per Wiberg!
Dom: What prompted the band and the label to re-release the albums on vinyl?
Per Wiberg:We’re just very happy that these albums will be available again. It’s difficult for us in the band to know about the label decisions but it’s great to see them released on vinyl, since 3 of them never were released in that format.
Dom: Is vinyl the audio format you prefer to use?
Per:To be honest, personally it doesn’t matter so much. It’s all about the music to me and not formats. If a song sucks, it’ll suck on vinyl, cd and digital… Also since I travel a whole lot it’s quite difficult to bring vinyl on the road, meaning the majority of times I listen to music it’s in headphones via phone/iPod. Having said that, I still do enjoy buying vinyl a lot and when having the time at home to just sit down and let an album sink in, the vinyl format is very rewarding. At those times I’m exactly the same as in my teens and just had picked up an album I really waited for, especially if the artwork is cool and there are lyrics etc.
Dom: At the moment in the music industry, do you think that producing vinyl is the way forward for bands and record labels?
Per: Not really the way forward, but I think it’s a welcome addition for those growing up with the vinyl format as well as the generations of guys & gals that grew up on digital releases and might not have experienced the physical format like this, speaking of both the sound and the artwork.
Dom: What do you think of the whole physical vs. digital debate? Do you support both formats or do you prefer one more than the other?
Per: I definitely support both formats. In a sense, I’d say digital is way more fair to people who only like a song here and there and maybe don’t care so much about packaging, whole albums or even what artist it is. They just want to hear a song they like and music might not be their way of defining their lifestyle (probably 95% of all the music consumers…). In the vinyl days they had to buy the whole album (well, there were cassettes but that was illegal, remember?) and now you can just buy/stream the songs you like which I think is great. For the rest of us that have a hard time laughing at the High Fidelitybook/movie cuz’ it’s too close to the truth… there will always be physical editions of music, I believe. Personally I just enjoy the whole procedure, walking to a record store, spend some time there, listening to stuff and then bringing a couple of albums home, listening to them on the stereo. It’s old-school and I’m aware of that but that’s just how I grew up discovering and purchasing music.
Per: I think it’s great, it’s a classic label for rock & metal with a huge back catalogue dating back to the early 80s. MFN was the label that believed in Spiritual Beggars when no one else did and exposed the band to a lot of people. It feels good to have been part of that legacy and to see some of our contemporaries at the label being re-released as well. Also since ’Beggars are very much alive and kicking, it’s cool that these albums are available to some people that might only be familiar with the later era albums.
Dom: At this time when anyone can record an album and release it themselves via the Internet, are record labels still necessary?
Per: Very complex question. It depends on what your ambitions as a band/artist are. If you just play for fun or maybe do the occasional gig locally I’d say it’s never been easier to record and release music than now. But If you’re looking at it from a professional level it means that you have to think like a label and surround yourself with people (and pay them) that have an understanding of what it means to run a business within the entertainment industry nowadays. It’s not every band/artist that have that drive, contacts, finances and time to do these things so for most pro/semi-pro bands I’d say record labels are still needed. What I think is cool nowadays, is that at least the prospect of doing everything on your own is a lot more accessible than before but I don’t think there’s a right or wrong with the label/self-released way of doing things. For some it’s better to do it on your own and for some it’s better to sign to a label.
Dom: How different do you feel the band was when those four albums were released compared to the present?
Per: Except for age, not too different actually ha ha. We still have the same influences and ambitions to write rocking songs with big riffs and hooks and then perform them as good as we can. It’s never changed really, ’Beggars is a very simple band in that way. We don’t have a hidden agenda, it’s just a celebration of our love for classic rock and metal.
Dom: Do you consider yourselves a “stoner metal” band? If you had to classify the band, what genre would it be? What is “stoner metal/rock” to you?
Per: Labelling bands is something for journalists, I’d say. When ‘Beggars started out, there wasn’t anything called stoner rock, or even a scene. It’s kind of amusing to see what new names people can come up with for classic rock and metal. It doesn’t matter what people call us really, it’s in the “ear” of the beholder. For someone who has never heard ’Beggars, it’s pretty obvious we’ve listened to the likes of Purple, Sabbath, Heep and Lizzy and to me it would be weird to call those bands Stoner Metal, but if our take on that music is considered to be Stoner Metal then so be it, we’re stoner metal!
Spiritual Beggars – PR shoot – Camden Studios and Regent’s Park – 2nd September 2002 – Photos: Hayley Madden for Music for Nations
Dom: Some of your songs hint to the usage of marijuana. So, what are your opinions regarding the legalisation of it?
Per:Honestly, I couldn’t name one ’Beggars song that’s about smoking weed. There’s quite a few about drinking though (we’re Swedish ha ha). There’s a line in ‘Wonderful World’ that says something like ”oil the universal joint.” but that’s just a play on words I guess with UJ being a scientific term as well. Regarding the legalization of weed I don’t smoke myself so it’s not a problem that I think of, but I’d say people should be able to do whatever they want, so I’d vote yes for legalization.
Dom: Mantra is present in your lyrics and imagery – what interests you about it and how does it relate to the song “Mantra” on Ad Astra and the album Mantra III?
Per:The Om symbol we’ve used a lot is a very simple mantra and it’s a common deliminator for many bands/artists, to find peace through music or art. A lot of times we take music and everything that surrounds it for granted, it feels like. To play music or do any kind of art is an easy way of finding peace, I think. To just focus on the present can be very healthy, especially since the world’s turning faster and faster. As for the song, “Mantra”, Spice (Christian Sjöstrand) wrote the lyrics so this would just be my interpretation of them. I assume it’s about finding a place/time in life to make peace with yourself after many disappointments.
Dom: Are there any plans to promote the reissues with live shows?
Per:No immediate plans but we’re getting together to start working on a new album and I’d expect us to be out on the road in 2016 again.
Dom: Thank you for your time! If you would like to add something which I may have missed above, please do so here, thanks!
Per:Thank you, and hope that all the ’Begheads out there will enjoy the reissues both visually and sonically! See you in 2016!
I started this website in 2011 because I always had a burning passion of sharing music and keeping people informed about what's going on in the metal and rock worlds. If I am not sitting in a dark room in front of a computer, listening to some obscure music (or Whitesnake), then I am usually found at a concert or a festival interviewing bands (or drinking beer).
"Making this album was anything but depressing. It showed the strength of the new line-up we had got together, and it was an inspiration to see how things came together and evolved through a new-found enthusiasm in the band."