Over 120 museums around the world (chosen by the audience) joined together to premiere „The War To End All Wars“ by Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton. The occasion is 105 years since the end of the Great War. In Belgrade, the premiere of the film will be held on November 11 at 7 pm in the National Museum of Serbia. On this occasion, we spoke with the bassist and manager of the Sabaton band, Per Sundstrom.
It’s widely known that Sabaton is currently one of the biggest names in heavy metal and one of the leading concert attractions. It implies you have an extremely crammed schedule, and before we get to questions concerning the film named “The War To End All Wars – The Movie,” could you tell us more about the current activities of the band?
Pär Sundström: As you said, usually the band is quite busy even if our touring schedule is currently not fully packed. At the moment the band is working on new music for a new album. The History Rocks project has also been taking up quite a lot of our time, but it is very exciting and is a new way to get our fans actively involved. Another thing we have been working on is the 25th anniversary of the band next year. We are not planning big tours to celebrate this, but we will be spending some time looking back at the 10 albums and 25 years of history we have.
BR: The premiere of the announced movie is approaching. Can you tell us when the idea for such a colossal endeavour was born and how much time did it take to realise it, knowing the band’s activity in several fields?
Pär: The idea for History Rocks was born when I visited a museum in Sweden, and they used some of our animated story videos for an aviation exhibition. I was looking for a way to get our movie out to the fans and I didn’t like the idea of cinemas or streaming services as an option for the premiere.
BR: Also, regarding the previous question, preparations were certainly very thorough. Can you tell us a bit more about the ways you approached the research and preparations for this movie?
Pär: We work with various researchers and writers when we write our songs. So, when making this movie, we worked closely with the animation studio, Yarnhub, which specialises in historical videos. Together, we wrote the script and figured out how to precisely tie each song into the storyline.
BR: Sabaton is known as the band that tells its amazing stories in two ways at once – epic and educational. Did you use such an approach in the movie?
Pär: We already had the songs, so the movie gave us an opportunity to tell the stories behind the songs in a very easy, accessible way. Tying the songs together into a near full-length film made it something we’ve never done before.
Since the stories are based on historical events, the movie is educational, and I believe that is how it will be used by some institutions in the future after the premiere. It is a simple and very accessible way to spark peoples’ interest in history, especially for younger audiences.
BR: „The War to End All Wars – The Movie“ seems like an excellent way to show the main theme of its namesake 2022 album in a more original fashion. Can we treat it as such?
Pär: Yeah. I believe that’s pretty good to say this. I sometimes explain that the movie is like a Disney film but with heavy metal and without the fiction. And when it comes to originality, I am sure that this is quite far from what anyone else has done in the past.
BR: The idea concerning the premiere in museums is also quite original, and as such, it has the potential to raise the level of knowledge and awareness of the First World War events. Was such an approach planned from the outset, or was it something you came up with while working on the project?
Pär: This came up as we were moving along and looking for a way to make the movie available to fans. There were various options. Our record label had the idea of publishing it on DVD/Blu-Ray, some streaming services wanted it to be available on Netflix, Amazon, or similar services, and there was a company that wanted to screen the movie in cinemas across the world. We ended up declining all of those and instead, let the museums have it and use it how they wish. That way, we’ve hopefully done a small thing to preserve history. While not all our fans will go to museums, I believe this project raises awareness of local museums as well as history. And what do we usually say about history? Let’s not forget it and let’s not repeat the bad parts of it.
BR: It also seems that museums from many countries were eager to cooperate with you.
Pär: Yes. We are very glad to see so many museums in so many territories join. And why not? It doesn’t cost them anything and they get access to the Sabaton fanbase!
BR: With historical topics being such an important part of Sabaton’s identity, how do you work past the thematic constraints to find new and exciting people and events which then become part of your lyrics?
Pär: Once we decide on a topic, we have quite big brainstorming sessions. We also look at the stories and suggestions sent in by our fans, since there is a lot that we will never find ourselves. The fans give us quite good feedback!
After we decide on a topic and find a lot of stories, the music takes the lead. We don’t usually attach the stories to the music until the music is written, depending on the vibe and the feeling of the individual songs. We then get a clearer idea of what fits where.
BR: Can you tell us a bit about the background of the History Rocks and the idea behind the project? In a word, how and when did history meet heavy metal in this way?
Pär: I think the heavy metal and history combo is actually quite old. Sabaton is not the first band that sings about these topics. One of our favourite bands, Iron Maiden, has done it a lot, however, they also sing about other topics.
When we tour, we are often invited to museums and they often ask us if we can collaborate on some project since all museums basically need two things: money and a new audience. When we started to think about the History Rocks project, we saw that while the money a museum gets from the project might not save it, the museum will have the potential to utilise media to get attention. And as a little bonus, they get access to the millions of Sabaton fans who want to see the movie and are now inspired to visit a local museum – and if there is no local museum, they have to travel, which a lot of fans are doing!
BR: Do you believe, especially when it comes to younger audiences, that this project is an opportunity to increase museum attendance and engagement with history?
Pär: I certainly hope so, and in a while, we will find out! It will be interesting to get feedback from museums to see if younger audiences came to see the movie – and if they also found the rest of the museum interesting.
BR: Finally, two more questions. What happens after the movie? There was an album in 2022 and a movie in 2023, so maybe work on new material? And do you have ideas or plans for another project of this kind in the future?
Pär: After the movie has premiered, it’s full steam ahead with a new album. At the moment we have a release date and as always, we will not reveal it until the album is finished. Then we look forward to taking the new songs out on the road to play them live for fans all over the world.
Author: Igor Stanić
Watch the trailer for the movie:
Listen to the song that the film is named after: