Interview with At the Gates
By Chris Brown
Photography by Michelle Murphy
Having come back from the ashes to reform back in 2007, At the Gates had previously stated that there would be no further material being recorded to succeed the 1995 release of ‘Slaughter of the Soul’. However, 2014 sees the release of highly anticipated and widely acclaimed ‘At War With Reality’. To promote this, ATG are embarking on a European Tour with Swiss black metal giants Triptykon and fellow Swedes Morbus Chron. We caught up with vocalist Tomas Lindberg ahead of the opening night at London’s HMV Forum.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. So, At The Gates have just come from playing a few days back home in your native Sweden with Morbus Chron, how do you think the crowd will compare here in London tonight?
I’ve come to realise that At The Gates’ crowd is very similar wherever we go. Erm, we have very smart fans. Actually, you know, they’re metal-heads but they’re smart metal heads and they really get into what we do, wherever we go because before, back in the day, its like it took some effort to actually enjoy At The Gates. Its a bit of a challenge you know, more than for more straight forward bands I would say. Fans everywhere are very welcoming I think. Its always a very rewarding experience and I believe its going to be the same tonight.
So ‘At War with Reality’ is the band’s first release in 19 years and has been met with wide acclaim. I’ve read that when the band first reformed back in 2007 that you hadn’t anticipated that you were going to be releasing another record. What was it that changed your mindset with regards to this?
I think if you start to think about it the reunion part of out career, it was longer than the actual first part of our career, so its kind of one of those things that grows on you. The statement that we did was just words being spoken in a certain context with certain experiences that we had at the time. Its actually no more than that. And when your experiences change, you have to be honest with yourself and also, to an extent, your fans as well and not hold back and dare to throw yourself out there at the project, I guess. To not do a record just because we made a statement 5 years ago, that would be… dishonest.
I saw in an interview with yourself that you wanted to create a ‘real album’ by a ‘real band’. What exactly did you mean with this choice of words?
Yeah, I would say, definitely in the studio and also in the writing process we would take help from all the modern equipment that’s available today but we also wanted to make sure that the actual feeling of the band came through on the record and that’s like a lot of rehearsing. Also, I think playing live together is so much the real part of our career and kind of spurred us on to have that real honest and direct feeling that you get when you know there’s 4… no 5 (!) of us playing music in a room together and that has actually helped a lot to capture that sound and make it sound really natural and warm. It’s not all digital, its a progress that really sounds natural.
I read today that the album has been nominated for a National Swedish radio award. What would it mean to the band to come away with that prize?
Errm.. to be totally honest… not that much [laughs]! But I mean, in one way those kinds of prizes are still prizes but the thing with this one though is that people will actually vote for it, so its actually people’s opinion and not some jury that going to decide who is the best or worst. It’s competing using this kind of stupid way, I think. But it will be kind of a reward, you know like a stamp of approval from people, like they thought that we were the best out of these people or whatever but you know those kind of awards, we don’t read too much in to.
Your new video for ‘Heroes and Tombs’, which has some really pleasing and stylised animation, seems to highlight some themes of desolation within it. Can you give us some insight to the creative process and the themes you wanted to portray?
It’s actually all Costin’s work, that guy who did our album cover. We gave him totally free hands, as we did with the album. So it’s basically his interpretation of the song and, of course, I told him the whole concept of the record, so he didn’t need to do that, but the story line and everything is just him. I just saw the finished product, I didn’t see any sketches or anything. I trusted him all the way and he depicted exactly the same feeling that I got from the song, so it’s brilliant.
While the band has been in this period of hiatus, what would you say has really changed in music over the past 19 years since you last released a record?
I would say the youthful, kind of, naivety is not there anymore so we had to work harder to get that true emotional contact with the listener. I think we really have to work harder as songwriters to get that line straight into the heart of the listener. The songwriting is so much more reflective nowadays and I would say we listen better – instead of being talkers we now listen to each other and actually try to understand the other persons ideas and give everything a shot, so it’s more open in one way.
What would say that you missed about being in a band over that period? Is there anything in particular that drove you to come back?
I would definitely say that throughout the reunion, it was like, to be creative and to actually write new music together, that was the one thing missing and that’s probably the one reason why we did this. Every artist will say the same; just playing your old songs over and over ends up like you’re just playing covers in the end, but to be able to play something new, to be able to create together – that’s very rewarding.
Looking to the future then, what are the band’s plan for after this tour?
I mean for us, we are exactly where we want to be. We have our own crowd, which is a fantastic crowd. We have an album that we are really proud of, which people seem to like. We have big shows booked with big bands. I mean, we can’t really ask for more, we are living the dream right now. Of course, if we look more into the future, we like to be creative together so we will see where that takes us. If it takes us further to do new albums or whatever, we don’t know yet. We just want to live this moment for now.