Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With In Flames
Drummer Daniel Svensson

Interview by Arto Lehtinen & Luxi Lahtinen

Let´s get some facts straight for starters: The Swedish masters of melody and progressive metal In Flames are definitely one of the hardest gigging bands around at the moment. They seem to be on the road more than 150 days in a year. The band was on the European tour in October with Soilwork and Pain and they stopped by here in Helsinki 4th of October 2002. The band’s drummer Daniel Svensson was more than eager to share a couple of words with us about the tour, fashion clothes (!), but above all their latest album, REROUTE TO REMAIN.

 

Your long European tour is coming to the end, and the whole tour has been more than an astonishing success for Swedish metal once again. How have you felt during your current tour with both Pain and Soilwork? 

Yeah! This is a really good package I would say. Three really good bands and I’ve really enjoyed touring with them both personally and musically. It’s been no problem.

 

 

You know each other from the past?

Yeah, really well, more or less.

 

 

How would you say that this tour has been different compared to other tours?

This is the biggest tour we have done by ourselves this time. Big stage, a lot of crew members, it’s a really big tour to be on the club level when it comes to stage sets.

 

 

Have you noticed that the venues have gotten a little bigger when you have been traveling with this package all over Europe?

inflames-pic3.jpg (7422 bytes)Yeah, for example our last headlining tour was for our CLAYMAN album and we have doubled the average number of people this time.

 

 

What size of clubs are you playing now?

From 1000 to 1500 maybe. The average is about 1100 people on this tour so far so it’s pretty good.

 

 

You won’t have any big break after this one before heading to the Far East countries like Japan, Korea and Taiwan. I was wondering what kind of expectations do you have for those countries? Have you been to those countries before?

We have been to Japan four times before.

 

 

Have you had a chance to play either in Thailand or South Korea before?

No, not Thailand or South Korea. I’ve heard really good stories about South Korea. I heard that Venom played there and they really liked it, but Thailand I really don’t know anything about it.

 

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I heard that metal fans are said to very fanatical over there. I heard Helloween has played there once.

Yeah, I think so!

 

 

But basically you have been on the tour the whole bloody year as in February you did the UK with Slipknot, American Head Charge and then headed for the first US tour of this year with Iced Earth, Jag Panzer and that was in April, and after a few European summer metal festival dates you were on the same bill with Slayer until in the mid of the September. Then, you continued the tour with Dark Tranquillity and Sentenced. May I ask where the hell do you find all that strength and motivation to do tours everywhere? Don’t you get exhausted, or even burnt?

Right now, I’m pretty tired! I haven’t been home since last July when we had four days in between our last tour and the European tour. I don’t know where the energy comes from. This is what we love to do, this is why I started out in music, to travel the globe and meet as much people as possible. It gets boring as with everything, especially after three months, you miss your family and everything, but otherwise we love to tour.

 

 

Did you like touring with Slayer and Soulfly?

Yeah, it was really cool. It was a really big opportunity for us to play in front of new people and everything, it was great.

 

 

Did you know the Slayer guys before getting on tour with them? I knew you played here in Helsinki on the “Tattoo the Earth” tour with them, but had you ever met them before?

Um, you could say that. We played some festivals with them. They were nice! We didn’t speak to Jeff very much but Kerry King was really nice to us. He invited us to the bus after the shows to drink this strange liquor which was really strong. It makes you…(pauses) go to bed! (laughs). That was really nice.

 

 

Speaking of touring a bit more, how does it differ to tour in Europe and outside of Europe? I mean, when you go outside of Europe in order to do a tour in some country or countries, does it make you feel a bit more ´special´ than if you do a tour somewhere here in Europe? Does for example very different cultures make you feel somehow ´special´ as I believe you´ve seen a lot of the world by now?

It’s so different. On the Slayer tour it was just four bands, bigger venues and close fellowships. When you do a headline tour by yourselves in the States the conditions are maybe not that good, no showers to use and so on. As I was saying this is a pretty big club tour we are doing so the conditions are pretty good. It depends on with which bands you are playing with.

 

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When you are traveling with other bands and going from country to country so those bands that you are touring with they have to be good for you friend-wise and overall come along with you, too…

Yeah definitely, everything has to work!

 

 

When we interviewed Marco Aro from The Haunted last year, he told us that when they toured in the States there were a lot of these ´karate guys´ jumping in the mosh-pits. Have you seen that kind of movement in there?

They have these mosh-pits which you don’t really see over here in Europe. They have these different moves, I think it is called ´The windmill…´ swing their arms like this and hitting… I think it’s pretty crazy! I would never stand in there! You have people who are standing and…

 ...they get hurt there obviously?

Yeah! Some people stand there and some people want to do that. I don’t really understand it…it looks funny! (laughs) Sometimes it looks dangerous.

 

 

Was it happening at every show when you were touring in the States? You were seeing it everywhere?

Yeah, it’s kind of their cultural custom when it comes to shows, to have big mosh-pits. Especially I think it is based on the heart produced…they are really harsh, you can have some really dangerous things.

 

 

You can be injured quite easily in those pits, I guess.

Oh yeah, that´s for sure…!

 

 

I guess you have toured with a couple of Finnish bands - with Sentenced, To/Die/For and Children of Bodom. How about them? Do you get along with them? I have heard tales that they just go drinking and don’t talk to other bands at all.

We toured with Sentenced a couple of times. I think we did two European tours with them and a short American tour. Since we know them pretty well, we didn’t have that problem. I mean some of the guys are really, really quiet…

 

 

Talking about your latest album a bit next, when did you guys actually gather seriously together for the very first time to start focusing on writing the songs for the REROUTE TO REMAIN album?

inflames-pic19.jpg (8844 bytes)It was last fall (2001) when we started out. We actually rented a small cabin in the countryside outside Gothenburg, just the five of us. We were living there for two weeks, cooking good food, drinking beer. It was during the terrorist attack. It was the beginning of September because I remember watching that on TV. It was the first two weeks of September. That’s when we started to write the songs. It was a really good formula because when we are back home and one of us has an idea, you can’t really gather the people up around Gothenburg and try to play the ideas, so this was really good. Even if someone was waking up in the middle of the night, “Oh, I’ve got some stuff!” we could go down to the instruments and start to play.

 

 

So you could claim that the songs for this album came out quite easily actually…?

Yes…Absolutely!!

 

 

You had fourteen songs for this album, did you write any other stuff besides that…

No...!

 

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…or was it just these fourteen songs?

Well, we had some other songs in the beginning, but we cut them off pretty fast because sometimes you can hear what you are working on won’t work.

 

 

As for bonus tracks, do they have any extra tracks on the Japanese edition of REROUTE TO REMAIN?

Yes, but it is not a new song, I think it’s “Colony”, live from Stuttgart or something, (laughs) They always want to have these bonus tracks because the CDs in Japan are damn expensive.

 

 

Yeah, we know…

It is like double the price in Sweden!

 

 

Really? They are that expensive?! I had no idea…

I know a lot of people are upset about the very special treatment that they get with all these bonus songs, but you simply have to do that.

 

 

You seem to be trying a lot of different things on REROUTE TO REMAIN; vocally, structurally, and so on. Do you believe that you´ll continue this sort of ´experimenting´ in the future, or do you take the stuff that worked the best on the album and develop that more?

Yeah, I think so. In Flames has always been the kind of band that goes their own way, finding new paths so to speak. I mean the main reason why we right music is that we want to play music and we want to write songs that we can be proud of and stand behind 100%. Having a lot people want us to do another JESTER RACE or whatever, but their opinion doesn’t affect the band because we don’t need these guys to tell us what to do for our albums, y´know. We have to take a new step every time. We develop as human beings and as musicians. Last time we recorded in the studio and a lot of different things happened in between and everything effects the music. We are always trying to experiment with different stuff. This time we have some more electronic stuff, maybe and some of the melodies are transferred from a guitar to Anders vocals. We try to do interesting things for ourselves because it’s In Flames that have to play the songs 300 times. We have to make it interesting for ourselves because if we get bored when we are playing it that is not right.

 

 

You are playing for yourselves in the first place and if your fans like it, it is very nice, of course and all that, but if they don’t it is of no consequence.

Yeah! It may sound hard, but we write songs and it is more like ‘take it or leave it’. We don’t write music we think that people will like…

 

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…because then it is self-deception, if you try to please others first by what they want to hear and don´t listen to yourself what you really like to do musically.

Yeah, I just couldn´t agree with you more on this!!

 

 

What do you think of the criticism of the new album? There has been a wide range of all kinds of reviews toward this particular album, even some of these reviews putting you down?

I haven’t seen so much, I just read the biggest papers in Europe because I have been on the road all the time, but I know in Metal Hammer and Rock Hard in Germany we got really good reviews. I don’t really care about that. Of course you get sad if you read a bad critic sometimes, but everyone can’t like it. That’s how it is. There was a lot of bashing on our homepage and it leaked out on the internet, so it was those really die-hard fans who want us to sound like we did in 1993.

 

 

I have been reading on some of the metal forums from different places and some of the comments that have been made in them, have been very, very negative. It’s actually kind of surprising and confusing really to read such harsh comments about your new album posted by your fans…

It’s funny because some of the guys who listened to it the first time… we always brace ourselves…it’s funny how stupid some people are.

 

 

You can say that you are doing quite well because of your record sales. At least then you know there are that many people buying your albums despite of some occasional bad criticism, right?

That’s the problem though. Those people might have known that before even they heard it that it might sell. They want us stay underground. They want us to be kind of like… “It’s MY band!! I don’t want anyone else to hear this...”

 

 

Yeah, I know what you are saying…

So that’s the problem and I think a lot of people that said they dislike REROUTE TO REMAIN actually like it, but can’t admit it.

 

 

That’s one of those things about the press;  to give some ´bad name´ to some certain albums in public, but once they are at home alone with a pile of albums they have criticized just recently, they might actually dig them a lot…

Yeah, they say, “Oh, how they suck nowadays…!” - and then they go home and listen to it and like what they hear. But in front of their friends they are like, “No, no they are not cool anymore…!”. But I still I honestly think some of them like it, however.

 

 

Yeah…using their headphones and kind of trying to ´hide´ what they actually listen to… (laughs!) Anyway, this time you didn’t use Fredrick (Nordstrom, a known Swedish metal producer) at all; instead you decided to use Daniel Bergstrand to produce this new album.

Yeah, it was a big step for us…

 

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I saw Fredrick at the Sweden Rock festival and he was wearing a huge In Flames t-shirt there…

Yeah? We came to that point with Fredrick where we felt that we couldn’t go any further. We had done everything we could and he did everything he could so far. We wanted to try something new, just to make it more interesting. Anders works in the studio…owns half the studio, so it was like going to work for him. He just had to get that kick when you record your first album where you don’t really know how it is going to be. We chose Daniel - and especially for his drum sound, it’s excellent. We like Strapping Young Lad, Meshuggah, Stuck Mojo and we thought, “Yeah, we’ll try Daniel this time.”. It worked out pretty good, he was really into it.

 

 

Do you think that Fredrick is a bit too into the ‘80’s style’ because he is playing in Dream Evil and Daniel is more ahead in time with bands like Strapping Young Lad and Stuck Mojo.

Maybe…Fredrick did the latest Dimmu Borgir which is really good, but I think he knows us so well, he is more or less one of us. We needed someone from the outside with another input, other perspective on the music.

 

 

Was Daniel like… he wanted to develop one step further, but Fredrick didn´t?

No, it wasn’t like he wasn´t hungry to do another In Flames album. We wanted someone to make it a real…make it 100% a perfect album to us production-wise, y´know.

 

 

He´s a real kick-ass producer…!!

Yeah, I think so, too!

 

 

The album artwork was done by Niklas (from Dark Tranquillity). Was there some kind of concept between the front cover and the music?

Yeah…there should be! I don’t know anything about the lyrics, though. Well, of course I read them, but it’s Anders who writes the lyrics. He gave him free hands to figure out something for the cover, but at the same time we wanted the album cover be something kind of different. We have had colorful album covers before, that was Marshall (Andreas), but a lot of bands are using him, especially a lot of Power Metal bands. I have to say it kind of limits us. If people just see the record cover art, to them it’s just another Power Metal band and we don’t want that. So we wanted something to stick out…

 …from the other bands by that particular cover?!

Exactly…!! Because everyone is using his arts. Therefore Niklas made this a bit more ´stylistic´ album cover for us.

 

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Niklas has done a tonz of covers for a lot of bands during these past a few years or so…

See, everyone is going to use him now (laughs!)!! He did a good cover and it really does have to do with the title REROUTE TO REMAIN.

 

 

Where did you actually get the idea for the cover? Who came up with it?

I don’t know. I think it was Niklas. I think we gave him some lyrics and the title and just said: “Do something for us…”, and he gave us a couple of different suggestions a bit later on.

 

 

And you picked this one out of them all?

Yeah. That´s what happened and we are very pleased with the final result.

 

 

And you changed the logo a bit as well?

We didn’t change the logo, the logo is the same.

 

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But it is different from the first album…?

Yeah, we tried it with an old In Flames logo first, but it didn’t suit the picture, but we still have the same logo anyway.

 

 

What´s the significance of the new white clothing that you that you are wearing? Is there a meaning to wearing white or do you just think it ´looks cool´?

It looks cool! When we wear the same clothes it looks a bit more like a unit. It feels good when you are standing backstage and everyone has the same kind of clothes.

 

 

When you are wearing these white clothes it is quite extraordinary in the metal community because every one seems to wear mostly black… black as a color is the ultimate ´fashion´ thing amongst metalheads and now this white thing comes up with you guys!

Yeah… It is so boring to see everyone wearing black only. If you play hard metal music it´s like obligatory thing that you have to wear black. We try to do the opposite of what people might think. I mean, we try to find different paths and experiment at least a little bit out of norm; with our music, onstage, everywhere...

 

 

What has the reaction been to you wearing these kinds of clothes?

Well, we have had these clothes for a couple of years now, but in different colours. This time we are white. This time it is more obvious, but people are not complaining, it looks good. It’s part of the show, y´know.

 

 

Also, when people go to your official homepage, there´s a sort of commercial banner where it says very effective way and bold letters: “Jävla Hårdrock (he-he!!) - In Flames Gothenburg”? Do you indeed consider In Flames more as a ´devilish Hardrock´ band than a metal band nowadays? Does it matter to you whether you are being called as a ´metal band´ or not? Does it make any difference really?

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I think we used those two words because it was taken from the Star Wars -prototype. It is from the “Empire Strikes Back”. They had two words ‘up and down’ there, so we had to figure out two words and eventually we ended up choosing two words that would suit to us. And those words were ´Jävla´ and ´Hårdrock´ and looked really cool in our logo there in our website.

 

 

But you put the words in Swedish instead of in English. I guess that is a part of your uniqueness…

Yeah, that’s funny. And now everyone is asking, what ´this´ and what ´that´ is…

 

 

So you can consider yourselves as Star Wars fans because you used the well known slogan from the Star Wars -movies, “May the Force Be with You…”?

Yeah. It’ has been a theme for us now, but we haven’t done it on all our records.

 

 

Are you kind of surprised to realize that In Flames is as a matter of fact one of those most rare Swedish - and especially Nuclear Blast bands that has managed to get a regular video rotation of some certain music channels that are mostly filled up by some dumb-ass Pop bands? For example, I have seen In Flames videos on German music channels several times…

It’s been pretty good on one Swedish music channel as well. They play our videos there quite often as well. Our channel is called Z-TV.

Is it a cable?

Yeah, it’ s cable, but a lot of people have access to it.

 

 

Well, Viva is available on European satellites here as you probably may know…

inflames-pic4.jpg (7677 bytes)Yeah, I know. This is the first time actually, the opportunity to get some ´airplay´. Everything was recorded and then nothing happened. It could be we recorded it too late, I don’t know why, and then all of sudden people are playing this video. I don’t know why. It’s a good song (“Cloud Connected” that is). It’s a pretty good video, plus we are on a really small record label. I mean, if you compare our video to the bands they show on TV in general. And on the other hand, if you compare those labels to them, it is good work to get this video played.

 

 

You have a few other old videos with a high quality resolution and so forth, too…

Yeah, some of the videos are not that good. Only “For the Weak” is pretty good. It is so expensive to do a nice looking video.

 

 

Yeah, I am aware of that. What do you think of other metal bands that went down their own paths, I mean, bands that who we as the fans who consider as sell-outs, but the bands themselves call it ´evolution´ or ´progression´. Metallica is a fine example of just that.

I mean, I wouldn’t call them sell-outs. I don’t know when people started to consider them sell-outs, maybe ´the black album´ was reason for the beginning of all that, I don’t know…or if it was their last album?

 

 

Arto: I think it started with JUSTICE… 
Luxi: Nah, you are wrong Arto. I started with their LOAD album for sure!! It has so different musical approach compared to their previous album which was their ´black album…´

inflames-pic17.jpg (7300 bytes)Yeah, probably. I wouldn’t consider them sell-outs. They can do whatever they want. I don’t know, but still, how many millions of albums they sold with ´the black album´, but it would be a sell-out to try to do the same album again because they know this is what people like. Sell-out is… (pauses) well, the example I just gave to you is what I call a sell-out. If we did another JESTER RACE today, that’s sell-out because we know a lot of people like THE JESTER RACE. We know that is a lot of people. So why to do this again? Probably some people might start screaming that we would be sell-outs for recording another JESTER RACE, so therefore I prefer sticking other things musically instead.

 

 

Yeah, and that’s why people are always referring to Metallica as an example because they have been changing so much for all these years. People kind of tend to think that “these guys must try to capture people listening to their stuff…”

I don’t know how long… they have their critics. They have influenced how many bands, I don’t know. I mean, they have been playing the same type of music for years. If they change from album to album, I totally understand that. They are surely getting old... (laughs!!) They are trying to do something new. They want to do it because as I said before, they write music for themselves in the first place, however.

 

 

With Slayer you can’t really say that they are a sell-out because there still are very aggressive and brutal elements left from the band´s ´wild and relentless days´ on their latest album GOD HATES US ALL which still proves they are a great band even if some people have criticized them for trying to sound too much bands like Slipknot and stuff like that which is completely untrue in my opinion…

Yeah, Kerry has said many times in public that he likes bands like Slipknot, so people come and tell him, “Kerry, that’s fuckin´ dangerous…”. Speaking of Slipknot, it’s actually funny that you mention them. Namely we were going on tour with Slipknot and we even hadn´t released our new album at that time and people were screaming sell-outs!? How can we be sell-outs all of a sudden because of a tour with Slipknot? Fuck them! People have so strange opinions from time to time…

 

 

What was the purpose to re-issue BLACK-ASH INHERITANCE and THE JESTER RACE together on the same CD?

inflames-pic2.jpg (4490 bytes)Some of the CDs are pretty hard to find, just like BLACK-ASH INHERITANCE, for example. A lot of people are looking for that. It’s good that people can find it nowadays.

 

 

What about Lunar Strain, your first album?

inflames-pic18.jpg (5749 bytes)I think it has already been re-released with SUBTERRANEAN. One year ago… one and a half year ago exactly. I think it’s good for people. If you f.ex. pick up either WHORACLE or COLONY, it’s always nice to check out the back catalogue, too, but you can’t do it unless you pick up our re-releases as well. Quite obvious, isn´t it, heh!

 

 

LUNAR STRAIN, your debut album on a small domestic label, Wrong Again Records, was a real kick-ass album from you (the year was 1994). That album was a really good start for you indeed. I remember when it came out, I read a review someone had written about it, labeling it as “Space Speed Metal with Agent Steel influences”. (Everyone burst into laughing!!)

I remember that review, too!! It was totally new. I remember when I bought it, I was like, “What is this?!” I wasn’t in the band at the time.

 

 

Yeah, I know…

It was totally new, all those great melodies in it…it was just great!!

 

 

Is there still something you´d like to achieve with In Flames either musically or some other way - like for example becoming as known as, let´s say, Metallica or Megadeth? I guess this ´fame and fortune´ thing would do any harm for you either by any means, -he-he!!

Yeah, we would like to tour as much as possible. I´m grateful as long as I can keep on touring… and the band is still together. I mean, I can pay my bills now and of course you want to play in front as many people as possible. I´m really grateful that I have come this far and we will see what happens. It’s of course hard to predict the future.

 

 

Is there any country you would like to visit at least once?

Well, I don’t like flying but…Australia. We haven’t played in Australia yet. That would to be cool to play there sometime.

 

 

Yeah, that’s a big country…

Yeah and it’s along flight…22 hours from Sweden to Australia.

 

 

Have you heard the In Flames demo from 1993?

Yeah, I think so...

 

 

Do you still like it?

inflames-pic5.jpg (6304 bytes)If I heard it now, I might not like it, but at that time it was pretty good. You have to think… it’s the same as when we did COLONY. If you feel right when you do the thing, it’s right.

 

 

But you haven’t released it on CD?

No, I don´t think it will ever happen.

 

 

Coming back to the tour again, I think most of the dates have been sold out like this one here and tomorrow you are going to play in Tampere here in Finland, too. Is that particular gig already sold out?

No, it hasn’t, but maybe later. It is nearly sold out.

 

 

What are some of the other sold out dates on the tour?

When we played in Stockholm the other day, it was completely sold out. We played in the front of 3000 people, by the way…

 

 

Wow…!! That´s incredibly much people at one single show!!

Yeah, it was. We were supposed to play in one club with a 750 capacity, but it sold out so quickly we had to change the venue. It’s amazing. Gothenburg was sold out, too!!

 

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I know that your new album went up to the Top 10 in Sweden...

Yeah!! It was really cool for us.

 

 

And here in Finland, too…

That’s great!!!

 

 

And in Germany?

If I remember correctly it was on their national top chart list highest either in 22. or 23. position…

 

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It seems like your band is getting stronger all the time. But even if the Swedish metal scene is getting constantly new line-ups under various monikers, the scene is not as strong as it could be band-wise. Namely many metal musicians may be playing in three or four other bands as well and that´s not even any new or unheard thing any more. What is your point of view from this ´sheer whoring´ between various bands there in Sweden?

I don’t know. I’m not so involved. In Gothenburg, we all know each other and we have all grown together somehow. It is like a big ´in-bred family´. Everyone has worked with someone in some project here or there. I think it’s coming around, a lot of new young Swedish bands. We’ll see…

 

 

How do you like the first wave of Swedish Death Metal back in the day? Bands like Entombed, Dismember, Therion, Afflicted Convulsion, Grave, Carnage and the likes?

It’s great, I still love them all!! Are you guys sort of old tape traders, by the way?!

Yes, we are… ´old tape traders´ specifically, -he-he!!

It´s kind of cool nowadays if you still have a tape collection. A lot of friends of mine have thrown away their tapes and really regret it.

 

 

That’s a real pity for them. People say: “Oh shit, I threw them all away…! I used to have all the old Speed, Thrash, and Death Metal demo tapes from several legendary bands before…” …and so forth!!

It’ s such a cool thing to look back in time, y´know…

 

 

Nowadays everyone is into CD-Rs and there´s hardly any tape trading at all these days. Well, our time is up, so thank you Daniel for your comments and have a nice gig tonight!

Yeah, thanks for the interview guys!! See ya at our gig then!! Thanks again…

 


Band Website: www.inflames.com
Label Website: www.nuclearblast.com