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IN FLAMES

Artist Interviews


COME CLARITY: BASSIST PETER IWERS EARNESTLY REJOICES IN THE BELATED COMMERCIAL SUCCESS OF GOTHENBURG QUINTET IN FLAMES

INTERVIEW : ANTHONY MORGAN

28 June 2006

Casual observers could be graciously forgiven for assuming Gothenburg Death Metal quintet IN FLAMES are relatively fresh to the bubbling, vibrant scene, though such a blithe, dismissive remark couldn't be more grossly false. It must not be discounted that once bands start to make an impression on the charts, they come to the attention of an up and coming Metal generation. Crystallising in late 1990, the vastly influential band amorously perfected such seminal recordings as 1995's 'The Jester Race', 1998's 'Colony' and 2004's 'Soundtrack To Your Escape' – aggressive, melodious harmonics. Since then, intense, gruelling live dates with such notable acts as MOTÖRHEAD, JUDAS PRIEST, SLAYER, SLIPKNOT, DREAM THEATER and TESTAMENT have marked arduous attempts to push the act.


Formatively christened 'Crawl Through Knives', 'Come Clarity' was meticulously committed to perpetual tape in the dying spring of 2005. Anders Fridén patiently cut remarkably diverse vocals at the Dug Out Studios in Uppsala, Sweden, while the rest of the Swedish group diligently performed their respective instruments within their native Gothenburg. In February 2006 it respectably claimed 58 upon the US Billboard Charts, their highest to date, shifting nearly 24,000 copies, while in both their native homeland and neighbouring Finland they topped the charts. The hammered, pulverising anthem 'Take This Life' eases into an impressive festival staple, while balladeering duet 'Dead End' with Pop songstress Lisa Miskovsky capitalises upon fashionable feminine vocals. The title track, boasting opening keys reminiscent of those of BLACK SABBATH's 'Children Of The Sea', gradually morphs into a full blown IRON MAIDEN-esque ditty with twin guitar harmonies.


Peter Iwers, with previous stints within bands such as CHAMELEON to his credit, has occupied bass duties following the departure of Johan Larsson after the completion of 1997's 'Whoracle', embarking upon a mini-tour with Norwegian Black Metal veterans DIMMU BORGIR, eventually culminating in an offer to permanently stay. 'Come Clarity' donated priceless minutes for intimate conversation.


First of all I want to start with your new album 'Come Clarity'. How do you compare it to previous releases?


"It's a step forward," states the bass player. "In between each record we try to move on and take whatever we had last time and add more ingredients to it. We just want to keep on exploring and trying to add something more to our sound. I think we did that this time, and I think we've done that everytime so far. Everybody's been saying that this sounds like a mixture of all of our albums and I guess I could agree to some extent. It's not like we sat down and listened to our old records and tried to get inspired by them, but we wanted more guitar melodies on this one and we wanted a more uptempo record. Those are basically the two only thoughts we had when we sat down and did this record – everything else came pretty natural."


It was originally called 'Crawl Through Knives'. Why was the title changed?


"Anders felt that it fit better with his lyrics. It's not a concept record, but the song 'Come Clarity' fit better with what he wanted to achieve with his lyrics basically."


On your last three albums you've used producer Daniel Bergstrand. Why did you decide to end your long-term working relationship with your old producer Fredrik Nordström?


"When we stopped working with Fredrik we wanted to have somebody that hadn't been a part of IN FLAMES so much as he had. He was there from the first record. I'd recorded with him in previous bands, Dan (Svensson; drums) has recorded with him in previous bands... Jesper (Strömblad; guitarist) and Anders as well. He's been a part of basically everything we've ever recorded, so we wanted somebody who could come from the outside, look at our music and get a different angle to it. That's why we chose Daniel Bergstrand for 'Reroute To Remain'. We kept using him for 'Soundtrack To Your Escape' and again on this latest album. Daniel did the vocals and the drums, and we done the guitars and bass by ourselves in Gothenburg. Then we took everything and sent it up north to a studio called Tontechnik where they mixed it all. Anders was there to supervise and give his ideas and thoughts about how we wanted it to sound. It's healthy to bring somebody new in now and then I think."


On one track, 'Dead End' there's a Swedish singer, Lisa Miskovsky. How did she become involved?


"Well she's a very famous singer songwriter, Pop artist or whatever you'd like to brand her? She sings very mellow music and we like her a lot... I'm a big fan of her music. We talked to her at a festival a few years and it turned out that she's a Metal fan, of course, as everybody is secretly! When Anders was doing the vocals he called her up and said, 'Are you really interested in doing some sort of collaboration for real?'.Usually we talk to a lot of people and there's always talks about this guitarist going to be on this record, blah blah blah, but it never happens, so we called her up and saw if she was really interested? She was and she was free, so she flew down to where he was recording his vocals. 'Dead End' was already written and he decided that her vocals would fit perfectly to that song. It wasn't like that we wrote a song for her – it was already an existing IN FLAMES song and they shared the vocal duties on that."


What do you think her vocals lend to the song?


"I think they gave it a bigger atmosphere. The vocals would've probably been a little different otherwise, but it blended in so perfectly and I think it kinda helps the song stand out a little bit."


Are there any male or female artists the band would like to collaborate with in the future?


"Nobody in particular right now that I'd like to mention. There's always thoughts and ideas – friends in different bands that we hang out with at festivals and on tours, and we talk about somebody doing a guitar solo here or somebody whose doing guest vocals there. But so far it has never happened."


Which track affects you the most on this record?


"I don't know? I mean, it's really hard to sit down and choose one right now. Maybe in 10 or 15 years I can look at all the records and choose the best. There are songs that I prefer and that I actually love playing live more than the others... I love playing 'Leeches' live. I think that's a really dynamic song and it seems to get the audience going, so I'll choose that one."


Have any songs taken shape for the new album?


"No, not yet because we don't write on tour – we write when we're at home and have a break. So far we haven't had a break, so nothing's done for it. I guess Björn (Gelotte; guitarist) and Jesper have some ideas and Anders has some lyrics, but there's nothing that's been finished into a whole song."


What would you choose to be your favourite album in the band's career so far?


"Like I said before, I'll sit down 10 years after we're done and then look at it. I have no idea? I mean, if I have to choose one right now then I'll obviously pick 'Come Clarity' because we always try to make a better record each time. If my favourite was ''Colony' then something would be weird, because we try to top ourselves each time. So if have to choose one right now then it's definitely 'Come Clarity'."


Is there an IN FLAMES album which is your least favourite?


"No not really. I mean, all the records that I've been on at the time have been perfect for me. I've been giving it 100% and I think that we all have. The next time we'll just try to make it even better. I'm proud of everything, even the stuff I wasn't on."


Everyone keeps saying IN FLAMES are from Gothenburg and they continuously use that particular tag. Do you think this limits the musical credit the band receives?


"I think that there was a time when bands were just being compared to each other because they came out of Gothenburg, and us and DARK TRANQUILLITY seem to be involved in a big media contest thing. People were saying all the time that they're selling more here, drawing more people here and they sound similar blah blah blah. If DARK TRANQUILLITY would have been from Norway then nobody would have cared, so I thought that was kind of unjustified. These days, and we've been saying this a lot in interviews, the only thing that I can reflect to the Gothenburg sound is that we're actually from there – we sound way different than anybody else I think. You don't have two bands that sound the same – DARK TRANQUILLITY doesn't sound like THE HAUNTED, and THE HAUNTED doesn't sound like us and blah blah blah. It's just that it was a good thing because we all grew up together – we played in the same venues, we helped each other out before we actually got record deals and stuff."


My first ever concert was in February 2002 in the Cardiff CIA to see SLIPKNOT, and you were actually on the support bill. That's a lot bigger venue than here at the Coal Exchange. Does this more intimate setting affect the relationship with the audience?


"Yeah, the closer we are with the audience then the more I can see expressions on faces and see if people are enjoying themselves or not. If I had to choose one I'd always choose the one where I'm closest to the audience and where I can interact with people a bit more. I mean, I love playing a big venue or a festival as well, but it's a little bit different because then it's more like an ocean of people so you can't have that same energy."


'Come Clarity' is the first album to hit the top 100 (Billboard Charts) in the U.S. Why do you think the U.S. are taking notice now, rather than before?


"I think there's a few different reasons. We switched record labels in the U.S. because we wanted somebody that could get our record sent to every store. If you make music and go on all these support tours in order to promote you and then realise that your record's not out there, it's very frustrating. This time we managed to get a label that we knew would have the record in every store, so that's probably one thing. Also, we've been touring our asses off in the U.S.; I think we've done like 12 tours there now and I don't think there's any other Swedish band that have done as much. So I guess it's paying off. We're not a commercial band in the sense we have hit singles and stuff, so we need to be in people's faces and the word needs to be spread that way. It's an awesome record too of course... that helps!"


When you was a kid what actually inspired you to be a musician?


"If I had to choose one band I'm going to say the obvious – IRON MAIDEN. I think everybody listened to IRON MAIDEN, but they were my favourite band and probably the one band that made me want me to start playing music."


How did your family react when you told them that you wanted to become a musician?


"Well it wasn't like a really big change. I mean, it's not like I said that I wanted to stop doing law studies and was going to play bass instead – it's something I always did. All of us played in my family; my grandfather and even my mother. It just came natural."


Could you talk me through how you came to join IN FLAMES in 1997?


"I was friends with Jesper and Anders. I played in various bands in Gothenburg, and at the time when they asked me, I was in between bands. I had joined so many bands and started some bands – I was kinda tired of doing that, so I decided to do nothing for a while until something better came along, something I really could focus on. I was tired of playing in bands and then we broke up six months later, and then doing that over and over again. So I just decided that I'd do nothing, and then they asked me at some barbecue if I wanted to try out because their bass player was quitting. I said, 'Well yeah, sure, I'll try out'. It's funny because I wasn't too much into the Death Metal scene too much; I liked ATHEIST and bands that were a little more technical. But I liked IN FLAMES because they had this mixture of aggression and melodies. So when Anders asked me I said, 'Yeah I'll try it out!'. We went on tour a few months later together with DIMMU BORGIR I believe. At the time Gelotte was still playing drums and we had a session guitar player, and after that tour we went to somewhere like Japan I think? We did a few tours and then the guitar player left, so Björn then started playing guitar, which was his main instrument. I stayed, Daniel came in, and the rest is history."


During your time with the band, is there a particular time when you've actually considered leaving?


"No, not really. There's always a time in the middle of the tour when you feel that it's not so much fun sitting around all day – in the middle of nowhere, no shops, no restaurants, no nothing around. Of course there's that time when I speak to my daughter on the phone and she wants me to come home. There's always been that time when I've considered doing something else. But the moment I get on stage then that's where it all changes. That's when, like we discussed before, I get that energy from people in the crowd and I get to do what I actually love. I don't like sitting around doing nothing, but I love playing music and once I hit the stage it's all worth it."


Do you have any side projects outside of IN FLAMES?


"Nothing that's official. There's always the songwriting process that kinda builds up more and more. Maybe one day I'll do something about it, but not right now."


Anders' lyrics seem to deal with inner turmoil and things of that particular theme. If you actually wrote the lyrics, what direction would they go in?


"It'd probably be metaphors around shit around me. The lyrics I write at home are for something completely different and can be like made-up stories. It can be metaphors for something that I dislike or like... it can be so many different things. It's hard to choose one subject – it'll probably be whatever happens to me at the time I guess."


Will you write lyrics one day for IN FLAMES?


"No Anders does that. He sings them – he needs to sing his own words."


When you started as a musician, which bass players did you particularly idolise?


"Well I had some weird influences as a Metal musician, but I think my biggest influence as a bass player was Mike Porcaro, who plays with TOTO, and obviously Geddy Lee from RUSH. I never really had any heroes, like 'I wanna be that guy'. There were different musicians that really inspired me, like John Myung from DREAM THEATER, but if I had to choose one I'd go with Mike Porcaro."


As you become older, does family become more important than touring?


"Family is always the most important thing. It's a big sacrifice to be on tour – I'm a grown up, I can deal with my feelings, but when you have kids and they're sad that you've gone, that's really hard for them. You get really bad feelings and I start thinking bad thoughts about myself. In the end I believe a happy father makes happy kids. If I was at home doing something that I wouldn't want to be doing then there'd be a displeasure that would go out against the people that I love unfortunately. So if I'm happy I believe that they will be happy".


How do you feel Anders' vocals compare with previous singers for IN FLAMES?


"I think he's the best, obviously. We had Mikael (Stanne) from DARK TRANQUILLITY, we had Joakim (Göthberg) from MARDUK and Henke (Forss) from DAWN and FUNERAL FEAST, and they're all good singers, but I feel that Anders is the strongest one though. He has the biggest variation in his vocals; he can go from singing clean to altering the aggression and he has power in his vocals. I really think he's a very good vocalist."


What are the bands plans for the future?


"We're pretty much going to keep on touring now until the end of the year. I guess we'll take some time off at Christmas and then tour again early next year. Then we'll make another record and do the same thing again."

Credit/s: Anthony Morgan
(Live photos: Nadine Ballantyne)
(Promo photos: Patric Ullaeus)
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Last updated: 28 June 2006