What can you say about In Flames other than these guys know how to crank out one solid release after another? More than 20 years after their inception, the Swedish metal outfit is still going strong while headlining shows all over the world. They’ve sold millions of albums, toured with the likes of Dream Theater, Slayer and Motörhead, and have firmly entrenched themselves as one of Scandinavia’s premier metal bands.
While In Flames was sitting comfortably for some time and pumped out great CDs like Colony, Clayman, Reroute To Remain and Come Clarity, the band went through some changes in 2010, when guitarist and founding member Jesper Strömblad announced his permanent departure from the group. It was the band’s first lineup change since Daniel Svensson joined in 1998. Jesper has since been replaced Niclas Engelin and the quintet still has Svensson on drums, guitarist Björn Gelotte, bassist Peter Iwers and lead singer Anders Fridén.
In Flames is currently headlining a North American tour with Trivium, Veil Of Maya, and Kyng. I recently spoke with Svensson while the gang was in the midst of touring to discuss the band’s latest album, Sounds Of A Playground Fading, their recent transition from Nuclear Blast to Century Media, and their future plans. The conversation is below.
You’ve been on the road for a little while now. How has the tour been going so far?
It’s been going well. We’ve been on tour for two-and-a-half weeks now and we’re starting to get into the tour mode, so to speak. We’ve had a couple of really good shows. It’s a good package, and we’re having a good time.
It seems like the band has been coming to America pretty often the past few years. Is there something about coming here that you guys really enjoy?
We enjoy playing anywhere but it’s convenient touring in North America and we have a solid fanbase that we’ve been building up since we started. We don’t really mind touring; we can go wherever, basically. As long as there is a scene, we’ll go. The U.S. and Canada have been treating us well so we’re happy to be back.
Your latest album has been received very well from both fans and the press. Have you paid attention to what the reaction is like?
Of course. We’re really grateful that people are still supporting us even though sometimes we experiment a little bit with the music, but our fans are really staying loyal to the band and we’re really happy. But we try not to think too much about what people would think about the album while we’re writing. It’s most important that we can stand behind it and be proud of it. And we’ll never release something that we can’t stand behind. If people like it that’s a bonus and they do, so we’re happy.
Speaking of experimenting with the music, do you think the band’s sound has changed much over the past few years?
Yeah, if you compare the first album with the last one there’s a big change, of course, but it’s been a smooth transition in between every album. And we’re not a band that wants to record the same album twice. We’re not like AC/DC or Iron Maiden, they basically sound the same all the time—which, it’s them, but we want to experiment a little bit and work in different ways when it comes to production and everything. We don’t want to stagnate, we want to try new stuff all the time and of course, this album would change with that but it’s not really any drastic change though, I would say.
What are your own personal thoughts about the album? Do you listen to it all in your spare time?
No, I don’t listen to it. I did before but now when we’re touring and we’re playing the songs every night, I try to stay away from the songs when I’m not playing them. But I’m really happy with the album and how it turned out. We put in a lot of work on the album and since we have our own studio back home in Gothenburg we can really sit and work till we’re really satisfied. We don’t have the time pressure that other bands can have when they record because they’re renting time in the studio. But yeah, I can’t be [happier] with the album than I am.
The album charted the highest in the band’s history here in the U.S. Was it one of your goals when recording this album to reach more people across the world?
Our goal is to record the best album so far in our career and then you need a whole lot of luck that the fans approve of the album. We don’t have such goals, I mean, of course we want to grow as a band, but you do that by touring, I think. It’s not really the sound of the album that will help you to gain more fans around the world but we do want to tour as much as possible and play in front of new fans in new places. I mean, it is our goal but it’s not our intention when we do the album basically. That’s a different story.
Was the recording or songwriting process for the album much different without Jesper?
We did the same. Björn wrote his riffs since he writes all the riffs and ideas of songs and I always start to puzzle it together arrangement-wise—we’ve done that before—but before, Jesper was bringing in riffs as well. This time Björn was alone. Otherwise, it was not so different from the earlier recordings. We spent more time in the studio. We did two demo productions and we really tried to organize each and every note from every song until we did the final recording. I mean, Jesper quit quite some time before the recordings—we already knew that we would record as a four-piece, so that transition was kinda smooth as well.
What are your thoughts about the music video for “Where The Dead Ships Dwell” considering the band wasn’t in it at all?
Yeah, the thing is, we didn’t have time. We were on the road and we needed to record a video so we couldn’t participate because we were on the other side of the planet (laughs). The record company needed a video, like, really fast, so we had to do one of those stories, you know. I don’t like recording videos anyway—you have to, but it’s all in advertising.
What has the transition been like going from Nuclear Blast to Century Media?
We’ve been working with Nuclear Blast for so many years and I always felt like it’s good to try something new. We know that Century Media knows their metal and we know the guys, I mean, the business isn’t that big. We know a lot of bands that have been on Century Media are really happy with it so we took a chance and they’re treating us really good, I think. I mean, it’s tough times nowadays for the bands and record companies so it’s hard selling albums but they do a good job and we’re really happy so far.
Is In Flames working on anything new at the moment or are you just focusing on the tour?
We never write music during our touring periods. We tried to bring like a small studio out on some tour but I think we wrote like one or two riffs in a half-year. So we focus on touring until we’re done and then we take several months off to recharge our batteries and then we go into the writing process with a fresh mind. So no, we haven’t even discussed when or how or whatever. Right now, we’re just focusing on the touring part.
You’ve toured with Trivium in the past. Have you guys established a relationship with them that you like to tour together?
Yeah, it’s important that you can stand each other and we’ve been—I don’t know how many tours we did with those guys, but we’ve come along really well. I think it’s a good mix music-wise as well. Hopefully we can bring them some new fans and they can bring us some new fans and it’s been a very good time.
Is the setlist for the tour primarily concentrating on Sounds Of A Playground Fading?
Of course you want to promote the latest album but at the same time, we want to give a treat to the older fans—older fans who like the older albums as well, but it’s really tough making a setlist when you have 10 albums out, and it’s really hard to please everyone, but we try to do a good mixing between new and older songs, even though we noticed that when we play the older songs, most of the people haven’t heard them.
Do you have any plans for after the tour is over?
Yeah, it’s going to be more touring (laughs). We leave America on the 22nd of February and we’re going straight to Australia for two-and-a-half weeks and then we go to South Africa. And then we go home and we have three weeks off or something, and then we start another European tour, and then we have all the summer festivals and yeah, it’s all about touring right now.
You can catch In Flames at the Best Buy Theater on Saturday, Feb. 18. For more information, head to inflames.com.