MP: What prompted the decision to return bring back more guitar harmonies and solos on Come Clarity?
Björn: Basically, it was something that we discussed before writing the album and decided that it was something that we really needed to do and want to do. With the last album [Soundtrack To Your Escape] we took the music in a direction that we’d never really tried before. With this one we wanted to find some new ground, so to speak.
It’s not a matter of looking for our roots though – these things have been with us all the time, it’s just a matter of production usually.
MP: It doesn’t really sound like a concession – the leads seemed to have been weaved into the modern sound
Björn: Yes, we’ve tried to incorporate that into the modern package.
MP: It’s an album that’s full of energy all the way through - did you push yourselves quite hard on the album?
Björn: We wanted to keep the tempo up there and a lot of the parts were difficult to play at first but this is always what happens – you want to push yourself a little bit further, get your playing better. But we never do complicated stuff just for the sake of it – it needs to make sense and not override the song.
MP: What songs are you most proud of on the record?
Björn: That’s like choosing one of your babies! I really like the dynamics in the song Come Clarity – I like the way the chorus is very simple but so powerful. It turned out really well – it could have been a cheesy power ballad!
MP: It’s almost like an In Flames spin on a power ballad and it seems quite a personal song for Anders, his lyrics seem to have become much more like this in general over the last few albums?
Björn: Yes, we haven’t really discussed the lyrics with him much yet on this album. The lyrics used to be more epic and concerned with mankind and the future – all very dark stuff. Now it’s more introverted, it’s the way Anders sees things. It’s like looking through his eyes and his way of dealing with things.
MP: Dead End also features a female singer – Lisa Miskovsky. How did that collaboration come about?
Björn: I think she’s just started out in England with her solo material and it’s very different. She’s actually really into metal and is a fan of us and we were all really surprised and pleased to hear that. She’s very cool and she’s got a beautiful voice. As soon as the opportunity came up we thought we not try and do something.
First of all we talked about writing a song for her – like a ballad or something like that. Anders suggested taking a typical In Flames song to another level by adding her vocals in there. Its powerful and not gothic in any way – because we’re not a gothic band.
MP: There’s going to be a DVD of you performing the album in full is that right?
Björn: We did film one but releasing it is something the label want to do – we don’t know if we want to do it yet. It was our way of presenting the album for the first listening session that we had with the media. It’s basically a long video for the album in black and white. It’s more fun to present the music for the first time in a visual way on a big screen. It was a good way to present it to journalists for the first time but we don’t know if we want to release it. Maybe we could do it later with a special package but with the first release it’s not necessary – the music speaks for itself.
MP: You’re clearly a band that has consistently moved forward musically and done what you want to do but do you read the opinions of fans on message boards and forums?
Björn: Yes we do, I read it but it doesn’t get to me either way. I’m happy when the fans are happy but I do get sad if somebody is unhappy with the music. But it’s not going to change what I do – it’s as simple as that.
If we had listened to what everybody else said all the time there wouldn’t have been time for us to listen to ourselves. If I’m out to please everyone in the world I’ll die trying!
MP: The Motorhead support tour was your most extensive visit to the UK so far – how did that go?
Björn: It went really well, I was surprised at how well it went actually. You hear that it’s going to be a rough audience to play a support slot to but it really wasn’t that bad. They are one of those bands that has a fiercly loyal audience but the audiences were really good. It didn’t feel like I thought it would and we’ve playing with Judas Priest and Motley Crue and they were really rough crowds because of the loyal following – especially with the music we do.
But Motorhead were totally awesome, they have rejuvinated themselves and they’ve got a younger audience now and our music seems to appeal to them. With very few exceptions the shows went really really well.
MP: You’re an established band – do you still enjoy the challenge of support slots?
Björn: We got to reach people we would never reach otherwise. There’s not way that we could have done a tour like that by ourselves – not yet. It was necessary to do it and it was a challenge but if you do what you’re supposed to do, most of the time it will turn out right. And also, like may other people I’ve been listening to Motorhead for a number of years now and it’s cool to watch them!
MP: Was the original plan to preview some new material on that tour?
Björn: No, if we had released the album as originally planned in September then we would have.
MP: Are you planning on coming back to the UK?
Björn: Yes, we are definitely going to do some more shows in the UK as it’s only London usually. We’ve got to do more that’s for sure.
MP: Have you noticed the fan base in this country has been building?
Björn: Yes it really has over the years but we didn’t really know what the situation was outside London. We’ve played the Astoria and Hammersmith and they were really good shows but everyone can’t just got to London to see us so we want to make it easier on those fans.
MP: And do you find the fans pretty enthusiastic in England towards metal?
Björn: Definitely; it’s a great audience and a lot of people come to the shows. It’s very influenced by the US. For some reason it’s a natural staging ground for US bands before they even go to mainland Europe. They get big in the UK first. But also it’s very biased by media in the UK- they decide what is cool and not cool, perhaps more so than any other country I have played in. While the audience is there but it’s hard for them to know anything new about us as we’ve never been one of the main issues in any of the metal magazines here.
MP: Do you think Swedish bands like yourselves, Soilwork and The Haunted get overlooked by the UK music press then?
Björn: After the next tour we’ll probably know better what the situation is. When we do more shows, we’ll do more press but at the moment we have a really good friend of ours taking care of promotion in the UK so we’ll see what happens.
MP: Looking back at your origins, do you get tired of the ‘Gothenburg metal’ tag?
Björn: It’s a title that everybody else used – we would never use it for ourselves. It’s really wrong to put a label on all these bands just because they lives or recorded in that city. When we started maybe we were influenced by the same things and recorded in the same studio and it was easier to label. But nowadays the differences between The Haunted, Soilwork and us are pretty big. It’s just a very lazy way of getting away with labelling something without actually describing what it really is.
MP: It’s a bit like grunge in a way – labelling bands with a musical tag because they came from the same area of a country.
Björn: Yes exactly.
MP: The focus in those early days was Studio Fredman where bands used to record – did you realise at the time just how infuential the music you were making may become?
Björn: We didn’t really feel it. The only time we did was when bands from all over the world wanted to go to that studio and record there. That’s when you see it and when people in interviews start talking about this Gothenburg sound or whatever. If you’re in the middle of it there’s nothin. There’s not a really cool scene here – you probably have more metal shows in England than we do here. It’s just a matter of a lot of hard working bands managing to get out there and tour. They are telented and they won’t give up and we don’t have that many other hobbies!
MP: In those days was there any comeptetion between those bands – were you pushing eachother in a creative sense?
Björn: If there was comepetion, it was friendly. For instance, our singer, Anders, used to be in Dark Tranquillity and Mikkeal from that band sang on the first In Flames album but there’s no real competition. But all these bands became friends through the music and touring. Most the Swedish bands know eachother because when we are away touring together it’s us against everybody else. It’s easier – we’re on the same kind of frequency!
MP: That happended on Ozzfest where there were a number of bands from Sweden on the bill...
Björn: There were four or five Swedish bands and that was a lot of fun!
MP: Was Ozzfest a good experience for you?
Björn: Everything around it was and hopefully it was worth all the hassle but I wouldn’t recommend doing it. We only had twenty minute sets and as we were on the main stage and the first fifty rows are reserved for people who want to see Black Sabbath and they don’t show up until two hours after we were playing each day. Then up at the lawn there’s thousands of people but they’re like one hundred and fifty yards away and they’d need fucking binoculars to see you! They can hear you but I defintely don’t think it’s fair for the bands and I don’t think it’s fair for the audience. Obviously people enjoy it though because a lot of people go to it.
MP: Have people becoming more open to metal bands with better standards of musicianship in the wake of nu metal?
Björn: Put it like this; the skill in metal bands is way higher than it used to be. If you want to be seen, heard and talked about you need to do something a little more extreme than everybody else. If you have good songwriting that’s one thing, if you have the best guitar player in the world that’s another and if you have the best live show that is another. Everything act has to do a little bit more than the other bands because there’s a lot of bands out there now.
Today’s audiences are looking for something a little bit more because they’re being forcefed all these bands: crap, good, medium and it’s hard to choose. A lot of it is music without a face and you need that individuality – that face.
Audiences are more picky but a lot them don’t know what’s available out there.
MP: Do you hear your influence on US metal bands – especially the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal bands?
Yes of course – they have stated that themselves and that’s fine. Killswitch Engage is a really good example of a band that got inspired and took it to a whole new level and did their own thing and this is exactly what I’d like to see bands that claim us as an influence should do. Bring something new and have your own identity. You can’t live in somebody else’s merits.
MP: Do you think the majority of bands like that are bringing something new?
Björn: I would say it was the other way around. There are a lot of these bandsthat sound and look exactly the same – for me it’s a blur. It was especially noticeable on Ozzfest with a whole bunch of bands that, for me, seemed the same. Awesome guys but I couldn’t figure out which bands they were playing in! They looked the same, sounded the same – maybe I’m just old but there were only a few bands that standed out on Ozzfest.
MP: You Played drums on the earlier In Flames albums, were you a guitarist first though?
Björn: It’s one thing to doodle around in the studio on drums but when it comes to touring it’s really a hassle playing drums if you don’t want to do it. I never felt like a drummer, even when I was sitting there punding the drum kit – it wasn’t me. When we were in the studio I was just playing the drums as fast as I could and then sitting down with Jesper on guitar and playing solos. That’s what I really wanted to do.
MP: So you were still contributing to the guitar writing?
Björn: I did a couple of solos and wrote a few riffs on The Jester Race; that’s why it was ok to do the drums, because I got to do that parts as well. When the decision finally came for me to move over to guitar it was a natuaral thing because then we could find a drummer who was a drummer. That was easy – the first try and we got the best drummer in the world! Very easy.
MP: Do you still play drums?
Björn: Very rarely – I live in an apartment and I can’t really. The neighbours wouldn’t like it!
MP: What is the writing process like in the band?
Björn: Me and Jesper do all the music from riffs to melodies and we put together small blueprints for songs and send them to the rest of the guys to see what they think. If we hate it then we don’t care! No, everyone has got their input and the rest is just cosmetics. When the base of the song is done then we present it to the others but things happen – when somebody else plays the drums rather than just the programmed drums then it will sound different. When Daniel plays the drums it sounds like Daniel – it will be In Flames drums and the same with Peter and Anders. It’s a joint effort but obviously the basic music needs to be done first.
MP: There’s obviously great chemistry as guitar players between you and Jesper but how do you differ as players?
Björn: I’m definitely more blues-based. I come from a background of Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Dio, Deep Purple – it’s way more blues and rock ‘n’ roll based. While Jesper is more folk-based but was influenced by Maiden and Queensryche. I have some of that as well but Jesper doesn’t like to play leads at all – he might play a couple of melodies but that’s about it.
MP: So you usually take on the solos yourself?
Björn: Yes but I’ve started to force him to do more because his ideas are usually so different to what you’d usually get from a solo guitar player. I really want him to do more leads and now he’s doing more on this album. It’s also more fun if we can do more on stage so hopefully we’ll be bringing that forward more live.
MP: What other players inspired you when you started out?
Björn: Ritchie Blackmore was one of my favourites and as a songwriter he’s written some of the coolest riffs in the world. One of my favourite guitar players right now is Zakk Wylde – amazing. I really like Chris Amott – he’s one of the best guitar players I know. He’s one of the most technically perfect players – too bad he’s not in Arch Enemy anymore.
MP: Iron Maiden seem to be a big influnce on the In Flames sound in terms of the guitar harmonies – did they have a big impact on you?
Björn: Of course – we sort of took what they did and mixed it with folk music and death metal. What they do is find really good melodies and put exactly the right harmonies on there and that’s what we try and do and what we have done, but in our own way.
In the beginning I think it was easier to hear where are influences came from.
MP: You’ve supported iron Maiden, Metallica and Priest now is that right?
Björn: Oh yeah, put like that it sounds pretty cool. After a couple of months it’s like you’ve never done it – like a dream! We played twice with Metallica and they were very cool and came in and said ‘Hey guys, good to see you again’. And we’re like: ‘It’s Metallica!’ It’s surreal – very cool.
We’ve been very fortunate with support tours. We did a really cool tour with Slayer who are one of my favourite bands of all time and they’ve really influenced aggressive metal. So that was an huge honour and it was almost two months long so I got to see a lot of Slayer shows!
MP: Any bands that you would like to tour with in the future?
Björn: We’d like to tour with Maiden properly. That’s more of an ego thing: it wouldn’t necessarily be good for the band but it would be good for my ego! If I could dream I’d like to tour with Rainbow back in ’76.
You were playing ESP guitars for some time but switched to Gibson a few years ago – why did you switch?
Björn: Well, if you look at the ESP Eclipse you can tell that they based it on the Gibson Les Paul and that is one of the most beautiful guitars in the world. It’s always been my favourite, even though Ritchie Blackmore played a fucking Strat!
It’s the most massive guitar I’ve ever played and ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to have one of those and now we’ve been lucky enough to have success and I can afford and have good deals with Gibson. I can finally get the best guitar out there and have five or six different Gibsons now.
MP: It was surprising ESP never did any signature models for you guys?
Björn: They were talking about it for years but I’d rather get the stuff I really want and pay for it than just get stuff I don’t want for free.
MP: Are you still using EMG pickups?
Björn: I used to only have 81s but since I saw the Zakk Wylde package and I really wanted to use the neck pickup I use 81 and 85 now. They are very massive in the low end and very rounded in the high end. Really, really cool.
MP: What amps are you currently using?
Björn: Live it’s always been the Peavey 5150s – I think they have been discontinued now and they make a very similar amp with a different name. It’s the perfect sound – we don’t need that much distortion. We tune down and I have .68 gauge strings. We tune to guitar to C then drop to B flat. There’s a lot of low end and it’s a very reliable amp. I’ve tried all these Mesa/Boogies and whatever but I’ve never liked them. They just don’t work for me, although they’re probably really good amps but just don’t have the same low end.
MP: Were you using those in the studio?
Björn: Yes, we experimented in the studio too. We used some of the Line 6 stuff like the rack-mounted POD. You can do so much with this stuff these days. And it sounds pretty good. I still have the original POD from when it came out – the one that looks like a kidney and it’s still working. We still use it to write music – me and Jesper. We record all the demos with that and it still sounds good but it’s shit compared to the new ones. We used a rectifier, Laney and an Engl I think for different parts. In the end we settled on a couple.
MP: What’s Jesper playing these days?
Björn: He’s got a Voodoo Explorer and a Flying V.
MP: How are you going to balance your live sets in the future between older and newer material? Will some songs be retired?
Björn: There’s always a downside with the good things and that is the more songs we write – we don’t get a longer set list. If some people could choose we’d play for eight hours straight but that’s obviously not possible! We want to go in and kick ass then leave – make an impact and leave people wanting more. We want to focus on dynamics within the set as well as individual songs – bring out a little old and a little new and not too much of their. At the same time you need to think about the songs that work live, even though they might not be the singles or whatever and then you have to play some well-known songs that people want to hear. It’s a balance and it’s not getting easier. I think we have over 100 songs now and it’s getting pretty hard to fit everything in.
MP: Are some songs like Jotun being retired?
Björn: We usually bring out these songs once in a while just to dust them off. If it’s fun. If not then there’s a reason why we retired it but we try to do the songs because we want to do them because people can tell – it will show if we’re not enthusiastic. We’re definitely going to shake up the set for the next year of touring because some of the songs we’ve played since the beginning, basically.
MP: You always used to play Behind Space – is that a superstitious thing?
Björn: We’ve played that over 1,000 times maybe! We’ve actually retired that one on the last tour but it’s a fun song to play.
MP: Do you write on the road?
Björn: No we’re very, very lazy. Being on the road is numbing and isn’t very good for your intellect - not very inspiring. You’d think that being out with all these great bands and hearing good music would help but we just want to play video games or drink shit loads of beer. There’s no recording equipment, at least not with us. We should do it because there’s a whole lot of time on your hands but with too much time on your hands you do nothing.
MP: So you tend to work better as a band under pressure?
Björn: We basically book the studio time and then start writing!
MP: I read an interview and you said the band were toying with the idea of re-recording the first two albums, is that true?
Björn: Basically, there’s a guy who owns the rights to the first two albums and every time we release a new album he copies the logo and re-releases it, fooling people into thinking this is the latest release from In Flames. It pisses us off. It’s not like I’m not proud of the CDs but it’s deceiving people. So re-recording them was an idea from people who know about these things.
If it was up to me there wouldn’t be a re-release of these albums because they are rarities, classic albums. It devalues them to re-release them.
MP: Have you got a song from the In Flames back catalogue that stands out as a personal favourite?
Björn: That’s a hard one. It’s when you play them live that you realize how much you like them. I like the reaction when we play Only for the Weak – but there’s a whole bunch of songs I could choose.
MP: How do you feel about the new album leaking on the internet?
Björn: It’s sort of frustrating because the album has been in our possession since April and it hasn’t leaked – as soon as we gave it to the label it seems as though it has leaked. I don’t really get how that happened.
People downloading music doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. I won’t get into label politics here but I’ve found bands that I really like by downloading MP3s – from their own sites obviously. I wouldn’t buy a band’s album just because their logo is cool and MP3s can be a way of promoting the music. But if an album leaks two or three months before release it can really take away the impact. We have worked really hard on this all the way, and that includes all the way up to the release. After that I don’t give a fuck. As long as people listen to our music that’s the main point. If people like it, really like it they will go out and buy it so I’m not worries about that. If it was a shit album then it would hurt that band but it is spoiling the impact in other ways.
Most people seem to like it which is fine but what really, really annoys me is when somebody downloads the album two and a half months before release and then they have the guts to write – in our guestbook – that it sucks! I can take criticism but sometimes you have to stand back and say: What the fuck are these people doing?
MP: Metal seems be really bad for this kind of negative feeling
Björn: The internet has become infected by people like this – they don’t really have lives and they just hide behind the screen. It’s always going to happen with every new thing you’ll get people abusing it. But it’s also a very good thing, the internet, and it has more upsides than downsides.
MP: The plan next year is solid touring then?
Björn: We start out in the US at the end of January, then touring in Europe in early March for about four or five weeks. This will include six or seven dates in the UK I think – finally. Then in May we have a couple of different options: either around the world in Asia, Australia or we might go back to the US – we’ll see what happens. Then in the summer we have the festivals and hopefully we’ll do a lot of festivals because we like playing to a very diverse audience and it’s usually a lot of fun. In the fall, I don’t know – maybe a support slot. A very busy year all around.
In 2005 we took it fairly easy with support tours but 2006 will see us going to a lot more places.