Interview with Niklas Sundin - Metal Bite magazine

Dark Tranquillity are certainly not just another metal band from Sweden. Be it their experimental yet powerful combination of many styles of music or the complicated theme’s running through every release, they are certainly making a clear and defined name for themselves amidst the influx of metal acts hailing from Gothenburg. I was lucky enough to catch up with guitarist Niklas Sundin as he and the other members of Dark Tranquillity are busy writing a new album.

Michael ‘XCase’

How has the European summer been going for you guys, have you played many festivals this year?

We've only played 3 or 4 festivals this summer, but all of them turned out pretty well. Earlier this year we've also managed to play in countries like Portugal, Japan, Greece and Mexico, so things have been very happening for us on the live front. We've never been too active when it comes to tours and gigs, so it's good that things are happening on a larger scale now. We'll play in Turkey this weekend and then there won't be any more gigs before the next album is out.

After listening to "Haven", it seems to be a step toward the darker side of Dark Tranquillity, much harder than "Projector". Was that intentional?

In a way it was intentional, but we never really plan too much ahead when it comes to writing music. After the more introspective and mellow "Projector", we simply felt the need to bring back some intensity to our music again, so "Haven" can be seen as a reaction to that. We actually started out writing a couple of really slow, semi-acoustic songs with only clear vocals directly after "Projector", but the enthusiasm just wasn't there, so we re-arranged them into more energetic songs instead. Most of the songs on "Haven" were originally very different from the versions on the album.

As expected from you all, "Haven" contains some really interesting experimental parts and keyboard sections. Just how important do you think these elements are to the sound of Dark Tranquillity?

Since "Haven" was our first album with a "real" keyboardist, we wanted to emphasize that part of the music. We approached the experimental parts from a different angle as well. The actual song structures are pretty basic, but the complexity lies in the arrangements this time. What we strived for was a catchy and direct sound with lots of small details and surprises hiding beneath the surface, so to say.

I've read that you are currently working on new material for a new album. What can you tell us about your progress? What should we expect?

It's a bit early to tell. At this point, no song is 100% finished, and we're constantly trying new ideas and arrangements out. There are lots of riffs and ideas that we're toying around with, and we have to see what direction the album eventually will take. The material we have is very diverse, so I guess that the album will feature a good mix of "traditional" D.T. music as well as some new influences showing through.

Any ideas on a title and/or theme yet?

Nope. Mikael is busy writing lyrics, but no titles are 100% decided on yet. It's under constant development, just as the music.

Do you plan on recording at Studio Fredman again?

Yes, we'll be returning to Studio Fredman. It's the best choice here in Gothenburg, and we're not really able to travel somewhere else for a month to record an album either. It may seem a bit predictable to go there for the 5th time, but they're constantly upgrading their equipment and keep expanding their studio, so there's no risk of stagnation.

Are there any plans to make any video's for the new album?

We've done three video clips so far, 'Zodijackyl Light' and 'Hedon' from "The Mind's I" and 'ThereIn' from "Projector". The latter was also featured on the "Haven" album as a multimedia bonus. Hopefully there will be a video from the next album, but it's always a question of money. It's really expensive even to do a low-budget video, and there aren't a whole lot of channels that would broadcast it either. But we'll see. It's mainly the decision of the label, not the band. We actually planned to release the gig at the Wacken Open Air festival as a live video, but the camera crew were on a lunch break (!) during our performance, so that will never happen. Spinal Tap, anyone?

How would you describe the writing process? Is it an individual thing or is it done with the band as a whole?

The main riffs and melodies are usually written at home, but all the songs are arranged in the rehearsal room with the whole band contributing with ideas. It's very much a group effort. All six members write music for the band, which is a pretty rare thing. Hopefully it helps to make our music more individual.

Dark Tranquillity is more than just the music, it's like another world. How did this concept come about?

We've always tried to do our best in every aspect of the band, be it the music, lyrics, artwork or whatever. That's the only answer I can give. It's very flattering if people consider us to be more than just music.

Recently Century Media Records re-released a remastered version of "Skydancer" including the rare EP "Of Chaos and Eternal Night", was this an idea of yours or theirs?

It was their idea, and the main reason was that the "Skydancer" never really have had proper distribution in the states before. It has always been very hard to get hold of there and was often available only as an expensive import disc, so it made sense to re-release it. Many US metalheads first heard of us via the "Projector" and "Haven" albums and might want to check our earlier stuff out as well. I heard that there were some discussion about making "The Gallery" and "The Mind's I" available through license as well.

After reading the current playlists of the members of the band from your website, I've noticed that none of the band seems to listen to too much metal. Has this always been the case?

Not at all. When we started out, we listened almost exclusively to underground metal, but as you grow as a musician it's pretty natural to begin to appreciate other genres as well. Also, since we work so much with the band, it's usually more interesting to listen to something that is as far from our own music as possible when returning home from the rehearsal room. We still like quality metal of course, but there's so much good music out there within other genres.

Who did you listen to while growing up? Who has been the biggest influence on your musical career?

We grew up as fanatical tape traders, listening to underground bands like Fatal, Dr Shrinker, Sindrome, Assassin, Thanatos, Athropy, Varathron, Zemial and Intoxicate as well as old Kreator, Helloween, Sabbat (UK), Merciful Fate, Maiden, Scanner, SDI, Blind Guardian, Not Fragile, Testament, Death Angel, Crimson Glory and so forth. I don't know if any particular band has influenced us so much that one would be able to trace it in our sound, but Sabbat were my personal fave band for a couple of years.

Thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate it. Best of luck with your new album, and if you can find the time, tour Australia!!!

We'd definitely like to tour Australia, but no offers have been made yet. Anyway, thanks for the interview!