It took me a while to find Mandeville Hotel, regardless of the fact that it's located in the very centre of London.
While enjoying a cold pint of lager (cheers Karl), I met Anders Friden (Vocals) and Peter Iwers (Bass) from In Flames, for what proved to be a very interesting Interview.
Congratulations for your new album 'Soundtrack To Your Escape'. Tell us a few things about it.
Anders: The production of the album was handled by the same guy who did the previous album, Daniel Bergstand and his companion (I didn't catch his name). As an album it's just bigger and better than our previous ones. That's what we're trying to do every time, we're trying to write better In Flames songs. This album though seems to be heavier than anything we did before and production wise it's also different. We recorded the drums as usual in Daniel's place in Upsala and then we moved to a big house in the north of Denmark where we brought the drums mix with us along with our recording equipment. We recorded in two different studios: In one we recorded keyboards and samples and in the other we recorded the drums, the bass and the vocals. It was a lot of fun. We lived in this house for almost six weeks, all in the same room. We cooked, we recorded music and we generally had a good time trying to make the best possible album.
What was you main inspiration for the creation of this album?
Anders: Our audience. We draw our energy from the people we meet when we're playing live, that's the best thing about this whole situation. We write music because we have a passion for it. We love to be in a band, we love to write In Flames songs. We are inspired by all kinds of music cause we listen to many different things. The lyrics are inspired by things that happen in my own personal life, by people I meet, my surroundings basically and things that I think about.
Every band follows a different method of songwriting. What is it that In Flames do differently than any other band?
Anders: I don't know. I don't know how other bands write their songs, we're just trying to write better songs every time, trying to top ourselves. We are not a band that writes forty or fifty songs for every album. We are writing fourteen or fifteen songs, as many as necessary for one album. We write one song and when we're done with that we feel like we've wrote the best In Flames song ever. Then we go to the next song we try to top the previous song and that happens until we feel that we have a whole album together. We're trying to stay true to whatever is In Flames and of course we also try to find new paths to express ourselves, to come up with new and interesting ideas without losing the essence of In Flames. What other bands do, I have no clue!
I understand that, but how does it normally happen (the creation of a song)? Does Jesper or Bjorn come up with a riff and based on that you build the whole song for instance?
Anders: It's different but of course somebody comes up with the riff. It's a riff or sometimes a small part of the song. We rented the house in Denmark to do the pre-production as well, that's how we came up with these ideas. We were in the house for two weeks and while we were jamming one of us came with a riff or with a part and then based on that, we are jamming in order to put the song together and make something really interesting.
Since the release of your first album 'Lunar Strains' back in 1994, the band seems to have had an ascending career. What's the band's secret of success?
Anders: It's not a secret: Hard work! We don't have a private life. We release albums or we are touring. We are constantly doing something that has to do with In Flames. Hard work basically.
In the last couple of albums you have chosen a totally different music direction from your previous releases. Why have you chosen to do so, and what should your fans expect from the band in the future?
Anders: I really don't feel that we have chosen a different direction. There are a certain amount of years between each album and as I go back to what I told you before we're just trying to write something better. Yes, the albums are a bit different but they still have everything that is typical for In Flames: the melody, the aggression. What happens in the future? I don't know, we will keep trying to write interesting music and trying to avoid repeating ourselves. I believe that this is also the secret to our success, we don't make the same albums over and over again. Sometimes we lose some people because of that but you also gain new fans along the way. All you have to do is write songs for yourself. People see that and they like it.
One of the things that impressed me about the new album is the fact that it's so fresh but the In Flames spirit is always there. You have combined less ordinary songs like 'The Quiet Place' which is your new single and also your video with more traditional songs like 'My Sweet Shadow' and both of them carry the In Flames stamp.
Anders: We are trying to be In Flames and also move forward at the same time. We never felt like we lost our roots, we always carry them with us, we just want to evolve and make our music interesting and challenging for ourselves.
'Soundtrack to your Escape' is your 7th studio album with Nuclear Blast records, something that's really difficult to find these days. Tell us a few things about your relationship with the label.
Anders: Nuclear Blast and In Flames grew together. They trust us, they know that we will deliver a quality album and we know that they will sell it and get the best possible promotion.
So you believe that you're promoted the way you wish as a band?
Anders: Yes, definitely.
In Flames had quite a lot of changes in their line up throughout the years. Is this something that helped the band to progress in your opinion?
Anders: Yes, I hope so. I think that the band would sound different if there were still the very first line up. I believe that I brought a lot of stuff into In Flames when I came and I have developed that over the years. The band has a steady line up since 1998. In the beginning things were much different, for example 'Lunar Strains' was recorded by session musicians. Now we have a steady line up and things are much better.
Many people believe that touring is the ultimate test for every band. Do you guys like touring, and what are your plans for this album?
Anders: If you have to be a member of In Flames, you have to love touring. That's our way. We normally tour from eight months to a year for each album. We start now in April back home in Gothenburg and then we're going to tour for the rest of the year. Basically, I don't want to look further into the future on how long we're going to be on tour. It's very important that you enjoy it. I like to record, I like to write music, but to be there and see the people who buy our music, to see their reactions and their happy faces, that's the most rewarding thing. I want to continue to tour and record albums.
In the past you have played with many important bands, among them Dream Theater and Testament. Which is your most memorable gig, and why?
Anders: Wacken this year was one of the big ones because everything clicked, we were great and the audience was amazing and everything worked. It was an overwhelming experience. The tour with Slayer that we did was wonderful and we also did a gig with Metallica. These are bands that, if somebody would have said to me ten years ago that we were going to be touring with bands like Slayer and Metallica, I would never have believed it - that's something amazingly cool!
'Ceremonial Oath' was the band Jesper and you were in before the birth of In Flames. How easy were things back then for you guys? Did you believe back then that one day the band would become that big?
Anders: I don't miss the old days, we had a good time and we used to have fun and not think of anything else. It's pretty much the same thing today, except we have reached another level. We still look upon this thing as a fun, good experience and I'm happy I played in those bands as there were a lot of things that happened in our town, Goteborg, when we grew up and we were in those bands, but I don't miss those days. Today I'm doing more things than I ever thought I would be doing.
Swedish bands had always occupied one of the leading roles in the Metal scene. Bands like Bathory, Hypocrisy, Dismember, Therion, At The Gates and In Flames have one thing in common, and that is quality. Is there something about the Scandinavian music culture that's responsible for this great success?
Anders: I don't know how it is these days with young people. When we grew up, when we went to school, we were supported by the school and the State and we could practise an instrument once or twice a week for free. Especially the boys would choose powerful instruments like guitars or drums and then they start to practise from a very early age. Soon enough they realise that it is boring to play on their own and that they need to find rehearsal rooms, then they start finding friends who share the same musical tastes and also want to form bands. A lot of young bands start by playing covers and after a while they get tired of that and want to concentrate on their own music. I also believe that there is a lot of talent and open-mindedness for different music: if you keep an open mind, you will be good at what you do. That's why I believe Sweden has a good musical reputation.
[Anders leaves for a photoshoot and we continue the interview with Peter Iwers (bass)]
I also asked the previous question of Peter...
Peter: I think there must have been something in the water when we were growing up! I think that because Sweden is so small and in Goteborg everybody knows each other and we played in many different bands together and different projects and just learned from each other. All of us learn not to jump on any trends, just to try to make the music we feel like playing and not caring about anything else and just making music. If you take it back a couple of years when we started our sort of music was just for Sweden and Germany, basically, so we never expected any of these bands to make music and be loved by different people. I think this made us make music that we wanted to, we had no trends, unlike a lot of American bands which jump on trends as they are surrounded by them all of the time. We never did, we always played the same kind of music and then each and every body evolved individually. I really don't know the answer - I was just part of it and never really thought about it.
What influences you as a musician, what makes you want to write music?
Peter: I hear stuff that I really like and I want to make music for other to hear and I want to create music that I can appreciate myself, I want to contribute to the whole music scene, I just love making music. And also I love making music in order to go out and play for other people - I love being on stage...
That's what Metal is all about - you can't really be a Metal band and not enjoy playing live?
Peter: That's true, that's very important. We make a record and then we go on tour and then we make another record and go on tour. This is all we know, that's all we love, basically.
Do you want to tell me a couple of things about the new album?
Peter: It started as always with Jesper writing all the ideas like guitar riffs and he showed it to us and then we travelled to Denmark for two weeks where we had the pre-production of the album, in order to get away from the everybody else and have no interruptions - no surprise visits and no phonecalls...We just wanted to focus on our music. When we went there we were jamming and writing songs and then we took everything back home, listened to it and then we went on tour. Afterwards, we listened to the songs again, polished the album a bit and added a few things, took some things away and we wrote two more songs before we went to the studio and finally completed the album.
I feel the need to ask you about your new single ‘The Quiet Place'. Why did you choose this to be the single, since it seems to be different from all the other songs on the album?
Peter: It was most representative of this album as far as we were concerned. It was equally melodic with our previous albums and perfectly representative of the way In Flames sound in 2004. We took a vote and we made a list of the songs we would choose for a video and everyone had this as number one, so the choice was easy.
What is the new video about?
Peter: Basically, Anders goes to a movie and watches the Quiet Place and he falls asleep and wakes up in his own head. It's very twisted and dark and a lot of funny stuff happens. It's the first time that we are actually acting in a video and I really really like it because it's very professionally done.
I guess that it's one of these cases when you need to see the video in order to understand what's going on.
Peter: I can tell you all the things that happen in the video but a) it wouldn't be fun and b) it's better for you see it for yourself in order to understand it and enjoy it.
How do you see In Flames in the years to come? Are you satisfied with the levels of success you have achieved?
Peter: I am pretty satisfied with the way we are right now but I think that we can sell more tickets. That's what we try to do with all the touring that we do. We try to tour with many different bands that will bring their own audience, so that we can present them our music also. Of course we always try to ‘grow' as a band, but we will never write music in order to achieve that. We write music that will make all five of us happy, and then we bring our music to everyone's hometown, and hope that they'll appreciate it.
I grew up in the 80's when, as far as Metal was concerned, music was all that mattered. Do you believe that Metal nowadays is different than what it used to be back in the 80's? Do you believe that image ended up being more important than music?
Peter: For some bands, absolutely! As far as In Flames are concerned we let the music do the talking, but at the same time we're trying to be very interesting live. We're trying to do something that's fun and interesting for people to watch. I don't like the idea of standing perfectly still on stage and trying to perform the songs perfectly. I find it more interesting to move a lot and if I make a couple of mistakes it doesn't really matter, because what's more important is the energy and the feeling we give to our audience when we play live. Of course there are a lot of people who will go for the image, and if you take that away there's basically nothing left! There are a lot of bands that have a really cool image and play good music. Back in the 80's the image was important too - all the curly hair and the make up. It was always about the image.
What made you become a musician in the first place and who are your favourite artists?
Peter: A lot of my friends were interested in music. We always had a guitar back home. My brother plays music and he is older than me. I guess that it came out naturally.
Why specifically Metal though? What advice would you give to a band that's making their first steps in the music industry?
Peter: They should first find out how they want to sound, and write the music that they love to play, not to write things just to be liked by any audience. They should be true to themselves. I know that it's a cliché, but it's true: you should just try to make the kind of music that you want to, try to have fun with what you do and don't take things too seriously!
Rate your new album - scale 1 to 10.
Peter: I would give it a ten (!!!???). We always try to write songs the best way we can, we never make ‘ok songs'. We stop working with a song only when we believe that we made something really good with it. This is the best album that we could have done for now from our point of view, otherwise we wouldn't have released it
Which was the most important moment in the history of the band so far?
Peter: I think it was actually when me and Daniel joined the band. That was the first time when every member of the band started focusing more on the music and committed ourselves more to the band. The previous two members were not that committed, and that was the reason why they decided to quit.
If you had to convince someone to buy your new album, which would be your main argument? What would you have said to convince him?
Peter: I think it's the best album that he would buy this year (laughs). I really believe that we made an amazing record, and I'm not just saying that because it's our latest album. I'm saying that because I am a fan of music myself. You need to listen to the songs before you come and see us, because you will come to see us (laughs).
Have you heard of any good music lately? Which was the last CD that you've bought?
Peter: I honestly can't remember. I heard the last CD of a band called Raunchy (author's comment: great album indeed!) which was really great.
A message to your fans?
Peter: Thank you very much for supporting us. I hope that you'll enjoy this new album, and when we play near your town, I hope that you'll drop by and say hi!
Interview © 2004