Interview by Mike Bax
In November, In Flames will unleash their 12th studio album entitled Battles, their first recording in the United States, and their first with producer Howard Benson. Battles is a natural progression from Siren Charms, boasting 14 new songs that take the band into some very familiar and equally different soundscapes. There is a cleanliness to this album that can be attributed to the band as well as their choice of producer, both of which work surprisingly well. There are numerous packages available via the band’s website for the physical product including double vinyl, new t-shirt designs, a poster and bundles of these items. In Flames also recently released a wonderful DVD entitled Sounds from the Heart of Gothenburg, that features pro-shot footage capturing the band performing at Scandinavium in the heart of their hometown.
In Flames are doing one single show in Japan (Knotfest) before coming to North America to co-headline with Hellyeah for almost 2 months. This tour touches down in Toronto on November 23rd at Danforth Music Hall. TICKETS VIP upgrades are available via the band’s website.
Lead singer Anders Fridén took 15 minutes last week to talk about the upcoming album and tour with Lithium Magazine.
Mike: Are you finding you are answering questions about your very recently released live DVD/Album – Sounds from the Heart of Gothenburg? Or more about the new album coming up?
Anders: Both really. You can ask me whatever you want. That’s fine.
Mike: What are you most happy about with the footage and live recordings on the Sounds from the Heart of Gothenburg release?
Anders: I’m really happy that we documented that night because the venue itself (Scandinavium) has a special place all of our hearts. Growing up in Gothenburg, that is where I got see all of my favourite metal bands when the big bands would come through. So it was fantastic that we got to play that very same venue. That was a good night. It was at the end of that tour. The audience was great. We were good. And I’m happy that people who weren’t there will be able to see it. We didn’t know it at that point, but now that Daniel (Svensson) has left, it’s nice to have that show documented and his legacy with us is captured there.
Mike: In Flames 12th album Battles comes out November 16th. What do you think is the most common thing that you are being asked about that album right now?
Anders: What I really think about it? (laughs) Or how different it is. But that comes with every album. I do answer them all the time, even though I do get the same questions.
Mike: Cool. I watched your webisodes that you have posted already on your social feeds. They are all so good and detailed I feel like I’m just going to be asking you a lot of the things you already discuss in these clips. So I’ll apologize here if I do.
Anders: That’s ok.
Mike: Did you go back to Berlin to record Battles (like Siren Charms)
Anders: No. We recorded it in Los Angeles.
Mike: Awesome. What brought you across the pond to record?
Anders: Well, we spoke to a bunch of producers and we ended up working with Howard Benson. He said to come over to California because he lives and works there. And we said “Of course” (laughs) That was great. Last time in Berlin it was cold and raining and we felt that the sunshine would bring some enjoyment to this album. The whole process was fun every day. We’d never recorded in America before so we thought “why not give it a shot?” It was kind of nice to get that distance away from our families. We work more effectively. (laughs) I don’t want to sound disrespectful there, we just dig deeper in isolation and focus on the whole concept. That’s what I what I want to focus on.
Mike: How long did it take to write this album?
Anders: Pretty quick. Björn started in late December. I’m not sure how many days he spent on it then, but I know he got some good material out of that session. He got some riffs and parts of songs completed. We met in in LA two and a half weeks prior to the actual recording and wrote the bulk of the music there. At the end of those two and a half weeks, we had eleven of the songs. We continued writing through the entirety of the recording process. We got another four songs out of a small studio we build out in a house there and got another four songs that way. We don’t really write in between albums that much. We need that time to ourselves and then we get into writing mode when we are together. We write the music pretty quick. I think that is why our albums sound different from each other because we don’t write all the time.
Mike: Would you describe yourself as someone who keeps a journal, Anders? Do you like to have something to refer to when you hear new music from Björn?
Anders: Well, I used to, but I don’t do that so much anymore. I sort of want to grasp the moment and build music up from what’s happening around us at the time. In the past, I would write stuff and we’d tinker around with it as we made music. But now I write the odd thing on my phone once in a while. Most times I write when I have something to listen to.
Mike: Do you have any guests musicians that appeared on this new album with you?
Anders: We have some people that were singing with us. I think it was four or five girls and two boys singing – they did some choir work for us. But that is about it.
Mike: Would In Flames ever entertain a remix project? Like Korn and Rob Zombie tend to do over here in north America?
Anders: Umm. Maybe. We’ve done a few in the past. But I don’t think we’ve ever thought about a whole album. I don’t think I would do it. I’d probably let someone else do it, and defaulting the sound to them. That being said anyone can do anything they want with music these days whether we want it or not. (laughs) If somebody wanted to do a remix of our songs that would be alright in my books. I’ve already written the song the way I want it to sound.
Mike: What were your first impressions of new drummer Joe Rickard?
Anders: We got along well in the studio. We went about things just wanting to record this album and not having a drummer in mind. We wanted to record the album and knew he was studio efficient. We didn’t want to have to deal with doing a track where we’d have to bring someone in and they’d have to learn how to play with us. We weren’t thinking ‘new drummer’ at the time. So he was in the studio, and he was really calm and came across like he was really dedicated to his instruments. Anything where we’d run into challenges he wanted to give it a shot. As soon as he started playing it was like “Wow. This guy is hitting really hard and he’s really determined and precise.” There would be times where we’d want to move onto the next song and he’d say “No. I want to perfect this.” That attitude is good, you know? We took him out with us a few times and had some good times together. He is an awesome, very down to earth type of guy. That was when we all talked and called him saying, “Well, you’ve played on the album, did you want to tour it with us as well?” And he said yes. So far I’m happy with the way it’s all worked. We don’t have to do auditions. We don’t have to try and find that good fit. That can be a bit tiring, you know? We found we already had a good fit with Joe. When Daniel Said he wanted to step down, it felt like such a big deal. He’d been a part of the band for such a long time. He is a good friend, and it felt different not having him there. It all just appeared this way as we were recording. We were lucky. There you go.
Mike: Has In Flames been playing much of the new Battles material live already? Or are you saving that for November?
Anders: We haven’t played any of it yet. No. Our first show will be the 6th of November. At Knotfest in Japan. It’s been rehearsed. At least a little bit. (laughs) We are going to rehearse it all some more now. It sounds good, though. We are happy.
Mike: How do you decide which songs from a new album will be included on an upcoming tour? It that an instinctive thing? Or do you have discussions around it?
Anders: We’d love to play all of the songs, honestly. But we won’t do that on the first tour. We’d like to ease some of the songs into the set. The natural thing would be to take the first few singles that we release and include them. It also depends on how long of a set time we have. if you only have a short amount of time, you don’t want to play that many and ignore the hits we have. if we get more time to play, then obviously we will play more of them. Eventually, they are meant to be played – all of them. We’d like to get there. Not playing them all in a row, though. Mixing them in and out.
Mike: The recently announced Forged in Fire North American tour with Hellyeah is pretty exciting.
Anders: Yes. We are excited about it.
Mike: I was chatting with Vinnie Paul last week, and he said he was really stoked to be on the road with In Flames. He’s looking forward to it.
Anders: Yeah? Thanks. Same here. We’ve played a bunch of shows with Hellyeah. Some festivals and such. And you know, I’ve known Chad from before, from the Mudvayne days. They took us out many years ago. I’m just happy to be involved, it’s a nice package and I’m eager to get out there and play again. We haven’t played for a year. We all took some time off just to charge our batteries really. And now we are hungry to get out there and play again.
Mike: I’m reading posts online about your maturing sound over the past few years – like they can’t or don’t understand your progression in sound. What is your blanket answer to people about how In Flames are progressing as musicians?
Anders: I can’t change their minds. I can’t do anything that way. (laughs) This is what we are writing now. I think we’ve changed gradually. It’s not like something we’ve done overnight. This is our 12th album. If you work your way through our catalog, you can see these connections. We’ve never been a band that looks back. We feel that we bring the history with us every album we make. It doesn’t sound the same because we are not the same people. To be honest, like I said before, we don’t write all the time. There are two or three years between our writing sessions. There is that element of following what is happening with everyone, following the chords that come out all of us. That is something that we have and something that we own. These albums come out and people just seem enraged, you know? Everybody is entitled to their opinion, you know? (laughs) I can’t control it. I don’t want to control it. That’s it. (laughs)
Mike: It’s great that you have that many people who care. That’s a good problem to have in my books.
Anders: Yeah, right? It’s not like I don’t give a fuck. I love our fans. I appreciate them. But if you don’t like where we are going, I can’t go over to your house and scream at your face and tell you why you should love what we do. I can’t do that. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. I do what I want. We are the best at being in In Flames. That’s all that we can do.
Mike: You have been with In Flames for just over 20 years now, Anders. What was it that drew you to the band in the mid-nineties. What would you say keeps you interested now?
Anders: What drew me to them? I was just asked to join. I’d been playing in a band before. I was a part of the whole Gothenburg scene. I was pretty active before. That was it really – it was before Jester, at the end of 1995 I think. Right now it feels like I’m still living my dream. I fucking love what I’m doing. It’s amazing that I can travel the globe and play music and have a good time. (laughs) I love going into the studio with nothing and coming out with something that feels complete. For me, that’s how I feel when I create. It’s an amazing feeling. I feel I have more to give and more to say when it comes to our music. There’s no 9 to 5 job for me. I’m music 24/7. It’s more fun.