Avatar's Johannes Eckerström reveals the similarities between wrestling and performing onstage (Exclusive)
I recently had the chance to catch up with Avatar's larger than life frontman Johannes Eckerström to discuss all things wrestling - including whether he believes Bray Wyatt's Fiend mask was influenced by himself.
The Swedish metal musician, though, went into great detail about just how similar musicianship and wrestling are as artforms.
A lot about stage performing, I have learned from professional wrestling - and the fact that nowadays the whole internet is full of shoot interviews... Just because of the nature of how these masters of performing arts end up talking about it, looking back at their careers - it's completely different than what you would get from musicians that I admire and musicians that I tried to emulate or learn from.
Like Rob Halford, I haven't seen an interview where he really, really breaks apart what he does on stage the way I've seen with, I don't know, Jake Roberts or Al Snow, or whoever.
Therefore, just in terms of seeing that there are more similarities than differences between wrestling and music, I have more opportunities to learn from professional wrestling. I also, just the other day, got to do this little thing for German television as we played at Wacken Festival. They needed someone in a band to stand and chitchat with the founder of the festival, and just talk about Wacken, answer some questions, and when I spoke about it to my wife afterwards, I said, "Yeah, I cut a promo."
Talking to press, being on stage, being a singer in a band, especially being a frontman, it's promos. Ring psychology and stage psychology are very similar. You have the art form, you have your songs to lean back on but how you perform it and the physical performance of it is where you call spots on the fly, as you would say.
You have a general idea of what you want to say and how you want to perform it, but then you have the Ric Flair thing of just listening to the audience and going with them, and just letting yourself be immersed in that moment. Just like how the greatest wrestling is where it becomes, in that moment, real. The story becomes the reality and the beautiful thing is it becomes a super-reality because the emotions are magnified - that is how I want to reconnect with our songs once on stage.
The things you say in between the songs, there are all these tiny, microscopic differences, just a little pause or something that depends on engagement with the audience. That is wiggle room for improvisation. That is me saying, "Irish whip me into the corner, I'll duck."
Half of what you do is set in stone, like a comeback, a big boot, Leg Drop, 1-2-3 and Hulk Hogan wins - that is set in stone - but the journey there is very fluid and very much a living, breathing part of what you do and, in that sense, I think rock and metal concerts have a strong connection. If you go watch a symphony orchestra, of course that is different. It becomes something else. But in our little corner of the big world of performing arts, I see a lot of similarities.