In Flames

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AN INTERVIEW WITH ANDERS FRIDEN

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Listening to the tracks for the new album (Battles), I noticed the tracks seem more guitar-driven and melodic than the other albums since Jesper (In Flames founder and guitarist Jesper Stromblad) left the band – is this a deliberate effort to throw back to past styles?

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 “I don’t know what we try to go for.  To be honest, we just try to write good metal, at least that’s what the band’s always been about, and it comes out in different ways, you know?  Every album sounds slightly different from each other because they are between rock music and metal, that’s the place we’re in at the moment.  We never sit around the table and talk and discuss what sort of direction we should take. I mean we always try to be In Flames, and to our ear we hit the mark, but again we’re just focusing on good melody. This time around it sounds like this, and two years ago it sounded like Siren Charms and two years earlier it sounded like something else, so we have to see.”

 It definitely sounds like In Flames.

“Yeah! I think so. That is important to us, and at the end of the day we have to be happy, and we are quite happy – we’re happy every time with the result.  It’s other people that say this or that, or they like it, some don’t like it and that’s fine.  Because we are happy with what we delivered, every time!”

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I noticed that ‘Battles’, the new album, has some melodic rock stylings in it, especially noticeable in the title track.  While it still sounds like In Flames, how would you describe the album, in its totality?   Are you aiming to deliver a new sound or are you trying to reference something?

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“Well again, we are not aiming to do ‘something new’, we’re just trying to write something with good melodies.  We don’t have this big goal of taking this turn or that turn, it’s all about…I mean it starts with the guitar, all the time.

I don’t want every song to sound exactly the same, but still, when I look at the album, we don’t write singles.  We write albums.  You look at the songs, you need to look at the certain type of songs.  It can’t be all like 3 minutes blast-beats throughout – that’s not us, and it tends to get boring after a while. The dynamics of the media on different playthroughs.  So, we wrote 15 songs for this album, but 12 ended up to on the album, so we have some extra – probably end up like on a vinyl or a bonus track here and there.  

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And we left them out not because they’re ‘not good enough’, it’s just they didn’t fit on the actual album, the dynamic of it.

And maybe there are some rock elements, maybe there are some whatever type of elements, but you know Bjorn (songwriter and guitarist Bjorn Gelotte) grew up listening to RainbowDeep Purple, those rock elements.  He’s still stuck in that era in a way, he doesn’t listen to any new music and that guitar method shines through, where he’s coming from.  There’s no deliberate intention to get into melodic rock – I mean we are melodic, we’ve always been.”

‘No complaints here!’

“To answer your question, you want me to describe the music – I don’t really like to, because it’s not up to me anymore.  As soon as the album’s out, it’s up to everyone else.  I can’t, I mean I’m really happy with it.  It sounds perfect, it sounds like exactly the way we’d want it to in 2016, but again, it’s not up to me anymore; as soon as it’s out there it’s up for grabs, everyone can make their own description, which is fucking awesome I think.  When you join a band, sign a record deal, put your music out there – it’s out there!  That’s the way it is, that’s part of the game.”

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“When you join a band, sign a record deal, put your music out there – it’s out there!  That’s the way it is, that’s part of the game.”

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On that point, how much of that sound came from Bjorn, how much from yourself, how much from the new producer (Howard Benson) that you worked with on ‘Battles’?

“Well, me and Bjorn, we work really – we’re really tight, but for this album, working with someone like Howard Benson, it was slightly different because we’ve never had a producer like him – never really had a real producer ever, I guess.  We were working as a really good team, he’s a really good guy, but Howard wanted to hear demos of all the songs before, and we haven’t done demos in the past.  We’ve done a few, you know, let’s see where we are, but now he wants every single song, and he asked us what we want to say on every song, and so on.  And that’s something we’ve never had to answer to before.

But we go to LA two and a half weeks prior to the recording of the album, and created those demos, and plans came towards the end, and we just worked drinking beers, having a BBQ, and focusing on the metal 24/7.  So it’s very much a collaboration between us, and inspiration-wise we’re inspired by everything, but like I said, most of it comes from what we listened to when we were younger – it still sticks with you.”

What are you listening to now?

“Well I listen to all kinds of music, and I think I might be the more adventurous guy because I want to hear new things, I’m excited to hear new music, but my favourites are still the ones I listened to grew up with.  I think that’s the same for everyone.”

On that point, how much of that sound came from Bjorn, how much from yourself, how much from the new producer (Howard Benson) that you worked with on ‘Battles’?

“Well, me and Bjorn, we work really – we’re really tight, but for this album, working with someone like Howard Benson, it was slightly different because we’ve never had a producer like him – never really had a real producer ever, I guess.  We were working as a really good team, he’s a really good guy, but Howard wanted to hear demos of all the songs before, and we haven’t done demos in the past.  We’ve done a few, you know, let’s see where we are, but now he wants every single song, and he asked us what we want to say on every song, and so on.  And that’s something we’ve never had to answer to before.

 

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But we go to LA two and a half weeks prior to the recording of the album, and created those demos, and plans came towards the end, and we just worked drinking beers, having a BBQ, and focusing on the metal 24/7.  So it’s very much a collaboration between us, and inspiration-wise we’re inspired by everything, but like I said, most of it comes from what we listened to when we were younger – it still sticks with you.”

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“Then you pinch yourself; ‘get yourself together, this is the ultimate dream, this is the greatest thing you could be doing’, and you realise, fuck yeah, it’s awesome”

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How do the new songs work out when performed live?  Have you had a chance to try them out?

“We haven’t!  We’re in Germany right now, we are about to rehearse the new material in a couple of hours. We have a show in Japan where we get perform the material on tour for the first time.”

Long-time drummer Daniel Svensson quit the band in late 2015.  How has the transition to the new drummer Joe Rickard gone?  What stood out about him to select him as the new permanent drummer for In Flames?

“He had some big shoes to fill, as Daniel is of course a long-time friend of ours – he’s been with the band eighteen years.  Having someone like that on-stage, you feel really secure – how do you replace a man like that.  And we didn’t really feel like doing a big audition process, we just said ‘Ok let’s record this album without a drummer in the band’.  And Joe (Rickard) was in the studio working with Howard, and Howard said ‘give the guy a chance’.  So we played with him a little and Wow, this guy can play; he’s hitting the drums really hard and on top of that he’s a really cool guy, we had a couple of beers and he fit perfectly into our group of people and we said do you want to record this album with us?  And he said yeah.  I was expecting hours and hours of auditions back in Sweden, but that didn’t happen.  We are practising and everything is smooth.  We haven’t toured yet but Joe has been on the road before and he can work a few beers, you know?  So we are in good hands.

You guys formed in the early 90s.  How do you keep the same drive to keep making metal, creating albums, touring, etc at the high level that you do after two decades?

“Because I love what I’m doing.  It was a dream of mine to play music, to record albums and then tour those albums – so I’m still living the dream!  You gotta  love what you do, and playing in-sync, on stage, in front of an audience that are really happy and give you tonnes of energy back is like the ultimate high, you know?  Nothing comes close, it’s fantastic.

And I get to create something in the studio, out of nothing – another album releases and a guy from Australia calls me up and asks me about it – it’s pretty good!  But the bottom line is I love it, and if you do that … I mean some days it’s a drag, of course; you wake up and you feel like you don’t want to do it.  Then you pinch yourself; ‘get yourself together, this is the ultimate dream, this is the greatest thing you could be doing’, and you realise, fuck yeah, it’s awesome.  But you have to have the passion, you have to have the drive, or it’s not the right place.  It’s long hours, it’s a lot of travel, it’s hard, hard work and if you don’t have it anymore, you gotta go.’

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You guys and Dark Tranquility have been cranking it like that since day one.

“Yeah! Exactly.”

Are you planning an Australian tour off Battles?

“Ooh yeah.  Of course we will come to Australia.  I love being in Australia.  The first time I was there I told my girlfriend ‘We have to move here, it’s awesome’.  But I don’t know exactly when, but for sure.”

Are we going to ever hear another Passenger album?  I loved that album, it was fun.  Are there any other current side projects being worked on?

It was super fun to record, that was the thing, we just had such a good time and went touring on that album, and the record company wanted us to record another album.  But at that point, we didn’t have the drive (for another), it wasn’t that fun and we actually started recording it, but we felt extremely uninspired in the studio.  And if you feel that way, you shouldn’t just do it for the sake of putting something out there.  So as a band we just decided, ah, fuck it, let’s not put it out there, and I’m happy with that because you should do stuff you are 100% behind and I don’t think we were.  Maybe one day we will record something else, we’re focused on the new album right now – but it has to be fun!

Anders pleasure to talk to you tonight, and I will recommend the new album now that I’ve had a chance to listen to it in full – it kicks ass.  Thank you for your time.

“Thank you man for the support and the interest!”

Written By Alec Wilson

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LISTEN TO IN FLAMES

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Written by Dave Griffiths

Dave has worked as a music & film journalist for over 20 years now. Aside from Heavy he does radio and various podcasts as well. He is the proud owner of Metal Cat.

Nuclear Assault

HEAVY ROOTS – ANTHRAX