Avatar's Johannes Eckerström: The 10 Songs That Changed My Life

Avatar vocalist Johannes Eckerström guides us through the music that made him

Avatar's Johannes Eckerström: The 10 Songs That Changed My Life
Amit Sharma

We have a rummage through the music collection of Avatar frontman Johannes Eckerström and find out that his family are already considering the soundtrack to his funeral. Yep – this gets weird…

The first song that I remember hearing...

Johan Helmich Roman – Drottningholm Music (1744)

“My dad would put this on while we were having our breakfast at the weekends. It’s a Swedish piece from centuries ago. It was written for a royal wedding, so it contains all these parts made with different purposes, like entrances, dancing and so forth. When I hear it now all I can think of is the smell of tea and scones.”

The song that reminds me of my childhood...

Michael Jackson – Black Or White (1991)

“I must have been around four or five when the Dangerous album came out, and I heard it a lot because my whole family were MJ nuts. I feel like the music video was on all the time too, and yet I don’t even think we had MTV back then. I remember having a really vivid dream when I was six, where I could turn huge spotlights on just by pointing at them in a very Michael Jackson manner. We actually implemented that into our stage show at some point. Dream big!”

The first song that I learned to play...

Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

“I took piano lessons from the age of four up to about nine. I remember starting out with Mary Had A Little Lamb, but by the time I picked up the electric guitar the first thing I learned was Paranoid, although I had no idea how to palm mute at the time. Not long after that it was Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

The song that inspired me to be in a band...

The Beatles – She Loves You (1964)

“I remember seeing The Beatles on TV and I was hooked for life. They are still the most important influence in my songwriting. They are a key example of why a band shouldn’t worry too much about breaking their own formula. What other bands evolved so much so fast with so much success?”

The first Avatar song I ever heard played on the radio...

Avatar – War Song (2006)

“This was played on a local radio station on the Swedish West coast. It was actually a demo version from the super-early days of the band. I think I originally recorded it purely so I could listen to it again myself, which was pretty dumb as I ended up with 50 copies of that demo sitting gathering dust at home. The first time I heard our music on national radio, however, was when our first album [2006’s Thoughts Of No Tomorrow] came out. We went to Stockholm to do an interview on Swedish radio station P3, and they played some songs as well. I remember sitting with some friends in one of their cars when it aired later. Listening back to that I felt very famous!”

The first song I crowdsurfed to...

Slayer – Raining Blood (1986)

“It was during the outro segment when we covered it as part of our first show ever. I fell flat on the ground, but it was awesome. I only knew half the lyrics and couldn’t read my cheat sheet as I’d lost my glasses from headbanging too hard. There’s footage of it somewhere. Luckily you can’t hear how awful we were.”

My favourite song to play live...

Avatar – Raven Wine (2016)

“I must admit I always look forward to the instrumentals – bathroom break! Seriously, though, it tends to be the ones we haven’t done in a while, which is currently Raven Wine. When we make our set lists we spend as much time thinking in arcs as we do deciding which songs to play.”

The song that reminds me of my first love...

Laleh – November (2006)

“I was so young the first time I fell in love I don’t think I connected those feelings to music, but this reminds me of an ex. I didn’t let it ruin the tune though. Afterwards, I wrote the lyrics to our song Pigfucker and felt great again, although the words had more to do with the guy that came after me. Ironically, they broke up while we recorded that album.”

The song that picks me up when I'm down...

Freedom Call – Freedom Call (2001)

“I could pick any German power metal song, but if I had to choose just one it would be this. Music like that helped my teenage years go from angsty to nerdy in a really healthy way. I’m still fascinated by bands that put weight on positive vibes.”

The song I'd like played at my funeral...

Devin Townsend – The Death Of Music (1997)

“I’ve always felt like this song would be fitting. In reality, I’d probably leave it up to those attending. I can imagine my family singing Fattig Bonddräng, which is a Swedish classic based on a book by Astrid Lindgren, who wrote Pippi Longstocking among many other things. My little sister even morbidly suggested that at one point!”

Avatar's new live album The King Live In Paris is released May 17.

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