In Flames Guitarist Bjorn Gelotte
Interview by Lord of The Wasteland
stalwarts of Swedish melodic death, In Flames, are now past
their tenth year of existence and their new CD, SOUNDTRACK TO
YOUR ESCAPE, has granted them unparalleled success. Having
conquered the Billboard Top 200 chart as well as charting highly
around the world, the band has reached a new high and can only
aim higher. On the way to their show in Austin, Texas, I spoke
with In Flames guitarist Bjorn Gelotte — six days after
live spectacle that the band still unleashes.
I live in Vancouver and I saw you guys play here last
Oh, you did! Yeah, that’s a really cool venue there, The
It was a great show. Everybody seemed really into you
Thanks. That’s really, really cool. We haven’t played in
Vancouver very many times—maybe twice?
This was the third time, actually.
Third time, yeah, and it’s been great every time we’ve played
there. It’s really cool to see a lot of people showing up. We
even get a lot of Americans coming from Seattle to see the
So how is the tour with Killswitch Engage going so far?
Brilliant! We’re having a lot of fun. We know those guys from
before, so it’s more like a school trip with old friends, you
know? And As I Lay Dying…I didn’t know them before, but I really
like those guys. They put on a really cool, energetic live set
and we all get along really well.
I was kind of the same with As I Lay Dying. I’d heard the
name but never any of their music. They sure put some amazing
energy into their show!
I’ve heard a couple songs, not the whole record, but they
sound really, really good.
have a really rigorous touring schedule. I see that you’re
playing seven or eight days in a row, then a day off, then
another seven or eight days in a row. Is that starting to take
its toll on the band at all?
Tomorrow is actually thirteen shows in a row! It’s pretty
rough and on days like this where you’re stuck in bumfuck
nowhere, it isn’t really fun. We go to the mall and spend a lot
You finished a European tour last month, too, where you
played in ten countries in fourteen days?!
Yeah! It sounds bad, but it really isn’t because we played
really nice venues and a lot of people came out to see us.
It was also just announced that In Flames will be touring
Japan with Chimaira in September. Are you looking forward to
going back there again?
(Laughs) Oh yeah, yeah, yeah! That’s going to rock,
especially with our really good friends in Chimaira. We’re going
to hopefully bring them to Australia at the same time.
When you came into Canada, did you have any problems at
the border? I know last time you had some troubles getting into
the country and there have been a couple of other bands this
past week who have had trouble, too?
It was because of our driver last time. He has a record. None
of us have records—we might look evil but we aren’t really
(laughs). We don’t use drugs or anything so it’s never been an
issue. We have another driver now, so it wasn’t a problem. It’s
always the merchandise, too, where they want to add taxes. We’ve
learned through the years to ship the merchandise there and pay
in advance. We’ve learned a lot of lessons.
of merchandise, when you were in Vancouver, you had your merch
guy come out and do some filming with a video camera for a DVD.
What are you collecting?
We’ve been collecting stuff for almost 2½ years now but it
finally looks like it’s going to happen. We did a really cool
tour in the U.S. and a really cool tour in Europe. Then we’re
going to Japan and Australia, so it’s going to be very special.
I think we’ve finally managed to get something put together and
some good extras for the DVD.
Is it going to be out this year or next?
Well with Japan and Australia not happening until September,
it all depends on how fast they get stuff put together after
Will you be recording another live CD to go along with it,
or will the DVD be released on its own?
There are no plans for that. Actually the first time I heard
it mentioned was by you just now (laughs)! It’s going to be a
DVD with live material on it but also the regular stuff that you
expect from a DVD. We’re not going to do a HammerFall, if that’s
what you wondered (laughs)!
When the show ended here, there were a lot of people that
were disappointed that you guys didn’t come back out and do an
We’ve never done encores as far as I can remember. We just
find it a waste of time to save two songs and go back out on
stage and play them. We play all the songs that we meant to play
to keep the intensity up. Hopefully we can leave the people a
little bit hungry instead for the next show we play there.
I’d like to talk a little about the new In Flames CD,
SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR ESCAPE. The band has had the most success
chart-wise so far than any other In Flames CD. It’s top 10 in
Sweden and you’ve hit the Billboard charts in the U.S.. What do
you think when you hear how well it is doing?
been very lucky with chart positions and stuff. It’s pretty
cool. We’ve been around for a long time and once in a while it
works and once in a while it doesn’t. It’s important to keep
your feet on the ground, though. It does not mean that much
What do you have planned for the next record in order to
top SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR ESCAPE?
We haven’t started any writing yet, but I’m confident that we
can take it another step and top what we did before. I don’t
really see any point in competing between our own records.
That’s just stupid. The next one will be better because it will
be fresh and new. On this album, this is the sound we have today
and how our songwriting is now. Next year is going to be
slightly different because it will be what we’re playing at that
You’ve used a lot of sound effects on this record. There
are lots of static patterns and things that sound like a radio
being tuned in. Is that supposed to signify something?
Well we didn’t want the record to have any pauses really. On
a soundtrack to a movie, it’s very rare that it’s quiet. There
is always some sort of noise that keeps a continuation of each
song going…little acoustic parts, clean guitar parts that you
can’t really reach without listening to the whole thing. We
wanted to do things differently with stuff like that.
I love the little clean guitar outro on “A Touch of Red.”
Is that you playing that or is it Jesper [Stromblad, guitar]?
It’s actually a mixture of both.
“Evil in a Closet” could almost be called a ballad. I
think this is the first ballad for In Flames (laughs)!
(Laughs) Actually it was not meant as a power ballad. It’s In
Flames but with a turn towards a power ballad, like the Skid Row
ballads and all that stuff. Ballads always have a vibe to them
that can be really, really powerful, so we wanted to experiment
with them and see what turned out. It turned out so good that we
definitely wanted to have it on the CD.
Can you explain the title, “Dial 595-ESCAPE.” I guess it’s
a phone number?
Actually it’s more of a TV channel and I will not say anymore
Who came up with the title of the CD?
That was Anders [Friden, vocals]. All the lyrics, all the
titles are Anders.
This record seemed to come out fairly quickly after
REROUTE TO REMAIN, which has only been out for 2 years. Had you
been doing a lot of writing on the road?
Some of these songs we had been working on for a year and
half to two years almost. They were back to back with REROUTE TO
REMAIN, so some of this stuff is really old for me!
I have the digipack version of the new record with the
extra track on it—“Discover Me Like Emptiness.” Were there any
other extra songs that were left over from the recording
Nope that’s it. We don’t write thirty songs and then pick
twelve. We only write what is expected and what we want to have
on the CD and then we work around those songs.
There is a single out now for “The Quiet Place” and on
there is a track called “Varmlandsvisan.” What does that mean?
“Varmlands” is a part of Sweden and “visan” means song, so
this that part of Sweden’s song. It’s a really old traditional
song. A very beautiful piece. It’s cool to do something like
that, because we haven’t done that in many years. We did “Pallar
Anders Visa” and “Hargalaten,” that’s also traditional stuff, so
it was good to do something like that again.
How come you don’t do traditional songs anymore? I think
that was a great part of the sound on the first few records!
We aren’t an instrumental band. What we do on the records, we
would also like to be able to perform live, as well, and stuff
like that doesn’t really fit in our live set. “Varmlandsvisan”
was good because we could put it on the single and still get it
I saw the video this morning for “The Quiet Place” at
www.inflames.com. That’s pretty slick! Did you spend a million
dollars on that or what (laughs)?
Yeah, it came out pretty cool. It’s a great director that did
it [Patrick Ullaeus]. He did Dimmu Borgir’s latest and two or
three for Lacuna Coil. He also did one for Anders’ other group,
Passenger. He’s a good friend of ours, so that makes it easier.
Have you decided what the next single will be from the
No, we haven’t really decided, but we have a couple of songs
in mind. Maybe not even as a single, but definitely to do a
video. I’d better not say, though, because that probably won’t
be the one we end up doing anyway (laughs).
(Laughs) With the success that you’re having with the new
CD and the big North American tours, do you think you’ve cracked
the market over here?
We’ve been over here since ’98, I think, and we’ve been
working pretty hard. The only way to really succeed is by having
a lot of luck and working really hard, which I believe that we
do. We’re really happy just to be over here and play in front of
all these people, you know? Hopefully things grow a little bit
and take a natural course.
In Flames, of course, was one of the big bands that helped
shape the Gothenburg scene. With that “scene” basically dead,
where is Swedish metal going next?
It’s so hard to say. All these bands, like Dark Tranquillity,
At The Gates, who are now basically The Haunted…all these bands
have moved on from what everybody originally started out doing.
Even at that time, all these bands were different and so diverse
that you can’t really say they were the same except for
geographical purposes. I don’t really see it is a “scene.” I see
it as a bunch of friends and musicians that tried to put their
stuff out. There was never any scene because we don’t have that
many venues. There weren’t shows going on every night. It’s
pretty rare that you get metal concerts in Gothenburg.
There are bands in North America who are embracing that
sound and look at it as the greatest music of all time.
I know and that’s very flattering. The bands that embrace the
more melodic sounds that we do tend to mix it with a hardcore
sound that is very American. That totally twists it around and
opens up new ways of writing. Bands like God Forbid, Killswitch
Engage, Shadows Fall…all these bands have a unique sound for the
U.S. and it’s nothing that could have ever come out of
How has your own personal taste in music changed over the
years? Do you find that you aren’t listening to a lot of the
stuff that you were even five years ago?
Actually I listen less to music now than I ever did. Since I
play music, I’ve come to appreciate the quiet more and more.
Music is pretty much with me every day anyway, but I just pick
up a few bands here and there that I really enjoy. I still like
Malevolent Creation, or even Weezer. I still listen to all this
stuff, but it’s getting less and less.
You’ve covered bands like Genesis and Depeche Mode in the
past. Is there any other band or song whose music you would like
to record with an In Flames twist?
I think it’s about the song and not the band. It has to be a
song that we feel is a challenge to do because if you do a
cover, you should do it really, really different. You should do
it so that people will think it’s an In Flames song. There are a
couple of songs out there…nothing I can really think of right
now. Maybe “Big in Japan” by Alphaville? That has a massive
riff, but you never know. That’s just one song that I think
would be really cool to have on an In Flames record.
In Flames has also covered Iron Maiden and Metallica on
some past tribute records. Are they big influences on the band?
Oh, of course. I think they influenced everybody our age. I
think they had a tremendous impact on all aspiring songwriters.
Roots are roots and you can never get away from that stuff.
That’s why I still love twin guitar melodies.
You played drums on THE JESTER RACE and WHORACLE. What
made you decide to switch from playing drums to playing the
I’m a guitar player from the beginning, but In Flames needed
a drummer at the time and I happened to know how to play a
little bit of the drums so it worked out fine.
Do you offer advice to Daniel [Svensson, drums] when
writing, or do you leave all the drum arrangements to him?
Maybe something like, “This is what I had in mind. What do
you have in mind?” Whatever makes it better.
On all of the In Flames albums up to REROUTE TO REMAIN,
there was the jester mask on the cover. Did you ever have a name
Not really, but we called him “Jester Ed.”
Why did he get left off the last two records?
He’s not our “Eddie,” so to speak. When it fits, it fits, you
Anders has Passenger and Jesper has Dimension Zero that
they work on as side projects. Are you involved with any other
bands outside of In Flames?
Not really. I have some plans, but we’ll see what happens.
There’s really not much time as it is right now with all the
touring and everything, but we’ll see when I finally find some
Alright, Bjorn. Thanks for your time. Good luck with the
rest of the tour and of course with the new album, too.
Thank you very much. Take care!
In Flames — Official site
Thanks to Hannah at
Tom Kubik for setting up the interview.