Surviving a vast array of fads and sometimes ludicrous sub-genres within metal’s history books, the Gothenburg natives continue to trailblaze into the horizon with their latest release, ‘Battles‘.
OD – The last few months have been quite hectic for In Flames with the release of Sounds from the Heart of Gothenburg and Battles (12 Studio album) in November, the tour with Avenged Sevenfold and the forthcoming ‘In Our Room’ tour. On paper, it all looks like a whirlwind schedule, even though you recorded the album early last year.
Björn – Yeah, it kind of has been to an extent. We recorded ‘Battles‘ back in January/February of last year and when we were all done with the recording we had a great deal of time off. We had managed to condense all of the work around one period of time in order to give us a break. There wasn’t really that much In Flames related work happening throughout the Summer of 2016 for us and that’s something that I don’t think we’ve ever had before (laughs).
So we had a lot of time to recharge the batteries and then we started to rehearse with Joe (Rickard, pictured below) our new drummer, in late September and then we just went out on tour in the US which ran until the 20th of December. I know it sounds like a lot on paper but it was very relaxed, to be honest.
As soon as we got into the new year we began rehearsing because we needed a new bass player and then we had the tour with Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed which was awesome and we are getting ready for some more dates in March.
OD – Just talking about the tour with Avenged Sevenfold and the large production that they have with them, do you find that these large production tours are becoming a thing of the past?
Björn – I like to see these huge stage productions. I actually really miss it, to be honest. When I was growing up, I saw Iron Maiden and Metallica and they had these enormous stages with all sorts of cool stuff, which just made the show even more incredible. So to see Avenged with this awesome set-up was just great. It’s about the impact of the live show that encompasses everything and not just the music if you know what I mean.
I’ve gotta say their production is insane and I’ve never seen anything like it for an indoor show, it’s more like a set-up you would likely see for a large outdoor festival or something like that. It’s awesome!
We had some good space on stage and they let us use what we needed. Those Avenged guys are really nice guys as is Disturbed. We have known them for many years and it was finally great to get out on the road with them.
OD – I’m sure you have crossed paths with either of the bands on the tour or is this a first for In Flames?
Björn – We have only crossed paths at festivals a few years back, but never shared a tour with either of them, which was really cool to finally do. For us is an excellent opportunity to get in front of new potential fans and hopefully come back for our own headline tour with our own production in the future.
OD – A lot has happened since the release of ‘Siren Charms’ in 2014 until the release of Battles, at what point did you start to write the material for Battles? Would it be right to suggest that after Daniel (Svensson – Drums) departed, you approached things with the mindset of a “clean slate” with a new, refreshed approach to things?
Björn – All I was thinking about was the next album. That’s always my way of doing things. I don’t write on the road and never had. I just don’t think anything practical comes from it and it’s just been something that I’ve chosen not to do. I have a good setup at home and I actually like working under pressure when the studio is booked (laughs).
We had the opportunity to talk to a lot of producers prior to recording and they all seemed to know who we were and when we sat down with Howard Benson he just seemed to understand exactly where we wanted to go with things and he also understood our concern of keeping our identity to some degree. It was really fun talking to him as he has so much experience and we’ve been very close minded in the past about things like this in the past.
He wasn’t part of the writing of Battles but he was a very important part of the album and was a great sounding board for us to bounce our ideas off and help with our direction. In particular, Howard was very demanding when it came to making proper demos for the album. The whole intention of what we wanted to do was to make melodic metal because that’s what we do. We didn’t want to have the whole process of auditioning a new drummer and getting to know each other during the recording process as it would have got in the way of the writing, so we decided to record with Howard in LA as there, are just so many session musicians over there and it worked out just fine.
OD – Something I have to address is the sudden departure of Peter (Iwers), this must have thrown things off course a little, especially with the release of the new album. Did you see any to this coming, or was it a total shock?
Björn – It wasn’t a ‘shock’ so to speak as we kind of knew that it was coming. I think he was just done with it all and not happy, no, happy is the wrong word. He just wanted to pursue other things. Peter is a very, very busy guy. He has his own brewery with Daniel (Svensson) called Odd Island Brewing and he’s also got four or five different musical projects happening, so he’s really got his hands full at the moment.
OD – Now with Håkan Skoger filling in for this tour, how was the anticipation for his first few shows and now that you’ve done this tour, are things running smoothly?
Björn – Yeah, he’s just an awesome bass player. I can’t put it any other way. From when he started rehearsing with us, he’s been just hitting the nail on the head with the tracks. It’s as goos as any of us can ask for and we’re very happy with things. It’s actually kind of funny because Håkan has not really been on the road and it’s all kind of new to him.
For instance, when we were out on the first few shows, he was asking more practical stuff like “when we get to the venue, do you think they will feed us?” (laughing) and “will I have somewhere to sleep?”. It’s kind of cute in a way, but musically he’s totally knocking it out of the park.
OD – How did the idea for the ‘In Our Room’ tour come about and did you have any say in the venues that you will be performing in?
Björn – We really wanted to have it special but also complementary to the music. We didn’t want to have the typical ‘rock club’ setting as the vibe just had to be right. We will be doing a very different set and wanted to do something special before the summer festivals and wanted to showcase some of the older stuff in a very different way, as well as the new material.
OD – Is this the first time you have done something like this?
Björn – Well, we’ve done a little something like this in the past in terms of arranging the structure of the songs acoustically, but in terms of doing it to this degree? Never before.
We’ve done large tours, festivals and club dates in the past but this is something a little different that I’m really looking forward to playing.
OD – Can we expect to see a separate In Flames headline tour coming through Europe and the UK perhaps later in the year?
Björn – That is our absolute goal and I can’t confirm anything at this stage. We really want to get out there and do what we love to do as we have a really great set-up now with the band, management and the record label (Nuclear Blast). We’re just really eager to play live and have some really cool festival announcements coming up and hopefully, we can get some shows happening in Ireland and the UK around those dates.
OD – It’s been quite a while since you played in Ireland, so a well overdue visit is much needed. Can we see that happening in the near future?
Björn – I think we have only been there once. So, yeah we need to get back to Ireland.
OD – The band are edging closer to the big 30 year anniversary, have you had any thoughts about this even though it’s a few years off and if so, can you give us any idea of what you may be thinking?
Björn – It’s way too early to be thinking about that (laughing). I just want to concentrate on the present day and let other people think about that kind of stuff. It’s funny because that’s becoming a topic of discussion lately and I can totally understand as 30 years is a great achievement for any band. We’ll just have to see what happens.
OD – When you look back to when you started out and you consider how many changes have happened over the last 27 years do you find the true spirit of extreme metal is still present in today’s bands?
Björn – No I wouldn’t say that it’s lost its purity. I’ve been in the band since 95′ and the band started back in 91’/92′ although there was nothing really recorded since ‘Lunar Strain‘ back in 1994. I still think that we are having fun and exploring new territories within music and have that excitement when we are on stage now, as we did when we were doing shows back in 1994.
Some bands can do the same record over and over again, but we just can’t do that. I would shoot myself in the face if that was the case (laughing)!
OD – There’s no doubt that In Flames have evolved over the course of the band’s history, you don’t seem to fall into the trap of sticking to one particular vision within the music and if anything pushes boundaries by experimenting with your sound. Do you approach the writing process with the mindset of “I don’t want to repeat what we have already done”?
Björn – We always try to push boundaries with what we do. It all starts with the melodies and they have to stand the test of time in our minds. When that’s done we start picking and choosing as to what is interesting to us right now with the stuff that we are influenced by.
OD – Congratulations once again for your nomination for the Grammis. Do accolades like this excite the band or have you become numb to it over the years?
Björn – I never did get excited about things like this. If it’s a people’s choice type of thing and dealing with the absolute audience, then it’s very exciting indeed. We’ve won some cool stuff in the past and I’m not dissing those awards but when it comes direct from music fans, it’s a whole different feeling.
OD – Finally, what’s happening for the duration of the year, can we expect to see you at any of the Summer Festivals?
Björn – I wouldn’t be surprised, let me put it that way (laughing). We have some really cool stuff in the works which will be made public over the coming months. There is no doubt that we are going to be very busy making sure that we promote this album as best we can.
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