Interview By Mike Exley

If youíre an aficionado of any decent metal scene around the world, chances are youíve heard of the towering but gentle giant that is bass player Sharlee DíAngelo? Not only a key ingredient in the rise, and rise of Arch Enemy, but also with a huge hand in the career of King Diamondís later Mercyful Fate incarnations, this lad is a hugely respected yet occasionally ridiculed character who it appears sometimes gets unfair press for not committing to one cause and sticking to it, but nevertheless garners immense respect from the people with whom he has worked including fellow Swedes Dismember ("Hate Campaign" 2000) and thrash metal super group Witchery which is home to the bass player when he has down time, such as now, as well as Haunted guitarist Patrick Jensen and the wonderfully named (and painted) Toxine. New album "Donít Fear The Reaper" is released this month, but as Mike Exley finds out thereís little breathing space before the media scrum begins all over again. Does, Sharlee carry it all in his stride?

Sharlee - "I guess I do. Arch Enemy is going really well at the moment and I guess itĎs actually a bit easier to dabble a bit when you know that? Before Christmas we completed a load of dates around Europe and the UK which had been cancelled before and now, post Christmas, weíre getting some down time which is nice, too. Itís a good balance. I donít know whether we completely deserve all this recognition; I mean, countries like South America, Japan, places like that are really coming on board and there are many bands out there who donít and havenít had a following as diverse or as wide as ours certainly is, but I wonít knock it."

No, indeed not. Itís a great position to be in.

Sharlee - "Whatís nice, is that weíve been saying for a while that we really feel that we have something different to offer and now, after four or five years doing this, the following seems to be solidifying and not just picking on individual tracks from albums. I mean, I donít go out of my way to read all the reviews we get or stuff that over praises or over criticises, but I really sense that the fan base is really gelling in a way it hadnít say two or three albums ago. Some people still donít get it, but then, all 'constructive' criticism is fair, I guess?"

Right. And if you do believe that, how does that affect how these (says he holding up copies of "Doomsday Machine" and "Donít Fear The Reaper" together) come out in the end?

Sharlee - "It doesnít, ha! Ha!"

"No, I mean, it doesnít really affect the overall albums because theyíre a democratic process between members where hopefully the best is worked into songs and the worst is discarded. But, where constructive criticism works is when itís from friends or fellow band members, people who are close to you. You can read a forum and see patterns developing from fansí comments, but youíve really got to feel it yourself. What you read in magazines is just an opinionÖÖÖÖ.."

"Arch Enemy is about lots of different opinions - Michael (Amott), myself, Angela, whoeverÖÖ..all meeting up to produce the final deal. In the magazines, all the fans see of you is the smile, the gigs and the touring, but of course, thereĎs so much more to it than that and you have to listen to a whole bunch of different opinions as well as your inner self."

"I mean, the last time I was home when we were touring really hard was like September or something, for one day to do my laundryÖÖ Thereís really no time to be by yourself, so you have to adapt and remember who you are."

So, would Witchery then be something of a valve with which to let off steam? A break from the rigours of the other?

Sharlee - "Yes, I guess thatís a good word for it. People think I work really hard doing other albums as well as AE, but compared to a person that gets up at 7am to work in a factory until 5pm or whatever, I really donít. Iíve never been a person who could really conform to that kind of life. You have to make sacrifices to do this, but itís nothing like the sacrifices Ďnormal workí entails. "Donít Fear The Reaper", as an album, has been sitting around really since Summer 2004 when AE wasnít touring. The guys have been waiting for the right deal, the right distribution set up, stuff like that and meantime, Iíve been getting on with the main deal."

"Donít Fear The Reaper", though? Come on? Thereís a bit of Blue Oyster Cult plagiarism going on there, surely?

Sharlee - "Well, the title really goes back to the first album and its opening track 'The Reaper'. Weíd been playing around with titles for sometime. Weíve gotten all kinds of word play going with titles over the years - you remember 'House Of Raining Blood'? Well, on the Ozzfest where AE played with the Haunted, Jensen and I would just sit there in huge giggle fests trying to outdo each other on the title and it just got sillier and sillier. Finally we came down to "Speak English Or Try", this one and "The Last Inliance" - and you can see why this one got the nod? We even thought of just "Fear The Reaper", but that sounded like some kind of German Power Metal clichť thing, something by Gravedigger or something, so out went the rubbish and in came "Donít Fear The Reaper."

Who were the catalysts for the album?

Sharlee - "Well, Jensen pretty much controlled all of that. We used the same studio as for the last one - "Symphony For The Devil" (2001), and then gave the recordings over to Tue Madsen who mixed the Hauntedís last record. Jensen and his people pretty much sealed the deal as I mentioned, and itís finally seeing the light of day."

"I mean, looking at it realistically, Witchery is just something I have the privilege of doing like pretty much everyone else, when I can. It doesnít really fit into the plan. On the contract side, you can just take this huge red marker and cross out all those bits that talk about exclusivity and touring schedules and all the rest - impossible. Martin, the drummer, is out on the road with Opeth, Jensen and I are really busy and itís all a question of time. Hereís one for you - Martin plays in Opeth with Per (Wiberg) who plays in Spiritual Beggars with Michael, which Iím also inÖÖ.. You still with me here?"

Phew. Itís an unfair question, but itís unavoidable I suppose. Thereís this "Journeyman" tag that often follows you around and whilst youíd clearly feel that it was unjustified, youíd no doubt recognise its basis for existence?

Sharlee - "Well, I thank you for using the term Ďjourneymaní because itís often ĎWhoreí, ha! ha! But, I guess itís unavoidable really. I have done a lot of stuff in the past but that was around the time when a lot of the bands I played with or was asked to work with were not really hard touring concerns, merely studio bands. Putting my touches to an album really doesnít take that long and whether it be Dismember or whatever, I really havenít written for it, so Iím kind of straight in and out, arranging the parts and doing it. King Diamondís Mercyful Fate was great and we toured that of course, Beggars is a lot of fun and I know Michael really enjoys that too, but since AE took off and continues to take off, itís become more and more difficult to do other things. There are still things I want to get out of the system - Reaper is just one part of that - but time is very tight."

Are you a natural writer who hordes material for those kind of projects? Itís an unusual trait to find in a bass player after all? And are you, 'light' or 'heavy'?

Sharlee - "Not in the same sense as say Michael is a natural writer, but I do like to write and I find odd ideas do crop up for all three bands. Michael summed up the SB. scenario really well when we toured in Japan last year - he described it as a "mental vacation" and, in a sense, I guess Witchery is like that too which is why, if the time is available, Iíd really like to try doing some shows again. AE is the 'serious business'. This is just like a ĎBig Boys Night Outí. Itís like the difference between a big machine and a cottage industry. You take the music seriously, of course, I would never cheat the listener and I donít think anyone who does play in bands would do that, but thereís fun and thereís FUN."

'Light' or 'heavy'?

Sharlee - "Musical taste wise and writing? Both actually. When it comes to arranging, I like to have a bit of both going on, but rhythm and groove are very, very important. In AE I have Daniel to work with and Martin here is a great drummer with loads of expression, but whatís important is that the time signature really flows. Stiffness is my real enemy in any musical project because to keep me interested a project has to sound loose but still be very, very tight. And flow! Thatís real FUN!"

And, of course, that keeps the freshness up for albums like "Doomsday Machine"?

Sharlee - "Well, exactly. Iíve actually got the best of both worlds right now. AE is really upbeat because we now have the new guy Fred Akesson from the touring part of Tiamat who has replaced Chris Amott (reputedly unlikely ever to return, according to Sharlee?) and is really giving new impetus to Michaelís playing every night. And there's this, where I know that Century Media really want the release to be successful and the band to get out there and capture the kind of feelings we had when the band toured in 2001. You canít argue with that. When somebody has that much belief in what youíre doing, it gives you so much more impetus to push forward with your feelings and ideas. Like Fred kicks us in the ass, Witchery does a similar thing for me."

"I think Iíve pretty much done with my days of "sleeping around"now though; no more one off projects and stuff like that. As with Mercyful Fate (1994-1999), a long stint in a band makes you feel secure and when youĎre at home you donĎt stray too much, right?"