IN FLAMES have carved out an incredible legacy, but still at this stage in their career they have the opportunity to win over fresh faces. Two months on from the release of their twelth album Battles, they are doing just that as they open for AVENGED SEVENFOLD on their UK arena tour. As they prepared to take on Manchester (read our review here), we caught up with frontman Anders Fridén to talk things through on the album, this tour, the iconic scene from which they came and those pesky naysayers.
It’s been a couple of months since Battles and you’ve been playing songs off it live. How’s the reaction been?
Anders: It seems that the songs we’ve played so far, The End and The Truth which are the ones we released first, have gone down well. I guess it takes a while for fans to get used to the sets, they have their favourites, but when we play them we feel great. When you’re on stage you’re busy and in the moment so not really concentrating on what the reaction for each song is, and honestly I barely read or look at reviews. We’ve been trying to ease new songs into the set though because throwing them all in at once isn’t fair. I know myself when I go to watch bands I have my favourites and you don’t want bands to play all new songs with some old ones just stuck at the end, but we’re putting more songs in on the next tour. We have a long cycle so eventually there’ll be more and more.
Do you feel that there was a noticeable leap from Siren Charms?
Anders: Yeah I think there should be. All the albums do sound different to each other and if you put them in a row and listen backwards from Battles back to Lunar Strain even, you can see the small steps. There are years between albums and we feel like they should be photographs of the people you are at that point. Siren Charms was recorded in November in Berlin, cold and grim, in an amazing studio but with a walk from the apartment to the studio where you would walk past parts of the Berlin Wall and you’d see stones on the ground where people were deported or shot, and that puts you in a certain mood and affects you somehow even if you’re not really aware of it. The new album was recorded in the Californian sun. We had a house and we’d have barbecues with good beer and that affected us as well.
You’ve had a few lineup changes recently with Daniel and Peter both leaving the band. Does having those changes at this point in your career make it hard to maintain a solidified unit or are mix-ups necessary to keep things fresh?
Anders: I think it depends on where you’re coming at it from. Peter who recently left wasn’t a part of the songwriting process, but Håkan has been an injection. Musically it doesn’t do much at all but a person is a person and they have a certain feel and presence to them. Daniel felt at first like a bigger impact because not only was he a nice and very calm person but he played really well and hardly fucked up ever, so finding a drummer who made us feel as secure going on stage as we did with Daniel felt like it would be hard. When we went to LA we didn’t want to have a new drummer settling in at the time of the new album so we decided to get a session musician and do auditions afterwards, and then we met Joe in the studio and it was perfect, there he was. He brings in a lot of energy and has a similar feel to Daniel in that I again feel super secure having him on stage behind me.
When you look at the other important bands from the Gothenburg scene of the 90s like AT THE GATES and DARK TRANQUILLITY, you’re all in very different places now. Do you think that’s testament to the quality of that scene and the creative energies of the bands involved?
Anders: I think it’s really cool. It shows that we’re all individuals. We all took different paths. AT THE GATES quit for a very long time, which is one thing. When you do a monumental album like Slaughter of the Soul which is fucking awesome, and then don’t do anything for a long time, it’s still that album that counts. I think that if they had continued on, they would be in a very different place than when they were when they came back, but they’re doing great and I love the guys. Growing up, we were all friends hanging out who just had different musical drives as things went on. When AT THE GATES started out they were more technical and only really started putting more melody in on Terminal Spirit Disease. DARK TRANQUILLITY again took a wholly different path, going into that goth-like territory and I think their new album was one of the greatest that came out last year. I’m just really happy to have been a part of that era because we had so much fun. We had no idea it was going to make an impact, and I’m very proud of all of the bands from that time.
It’s the 20th anniversary of Whoracle this year and it was for The Jester Race last year. Do you ever think about revisiting those records as some bands do for important milestones or do you feel that is too nostalgic?
Anders: I love those albums but that’s so easy. It’s using something that’s gone before and would be so easy. We play some of the songs here and there but I don’t wanna do the whole thing, so many bands are doing that.
Would it be weird to play Lunar Strain songs for example considering that no one who actually played on that album is in the band anymore?
Anders: Not at all. Me and Björn have been in the band since ’95, we joined after the release of Subterranean, and I feel as much a part of this band as I could be. We still play Behind Space once in a while or Upon an Oaken Throne once in a while, it has been a while now but it is part of us.
I appreciate I’ve just done this myself, but you undoubtedly get lots of questions based around the early IN FLAMES albums which while brilliant are after all only a small chapter of the wider IN FLAMES story. Has there ever been times where the often backwards-looking nature of the metal scene has made you want to turn your back on it?
Anders: You’re actually one of the first to acknowledge that because that material all came out in like four years or something, but they’re fair questions. I love the metal scene too much and could never turn my back on it. Sure, some people are narrow-minded but I’m sort of the same. There are some bands where I only appreciate a certain era. I don’t go on the internet and rant about it but that’s a different story. I know that we are where we are today because of the journey, and I know that all of the albums in our discography are important, so I don’t mind talking about the great times of The Jester Race or of Colony. I’m proud of those times and I was part of it. The thing is, I just don’t want to do it again. I want to do new things and if we were to recreate it and try to do a Jester Race Part 2, it wouldn’t be the same and people would be annoyed at us for trying because we are not those same people. I love The Jester Race and if you like that album, awesome, and if you don’t like the new one, that’s also fine. I joined this movement and scene in the beginning though because I thought there were no rules. You get deeper in and suddenly these rules start to appear. We say “fuck that” and do whatever we want to do.
On this tour with AVENGED SEVENFOLD and DISTURBED you are the oldest and arguably the most influential band on the bill. Do you find it weird opening for younger bands who have clearly taken influence from you?
Anders: Not really, I mean they’re clearly bigger than us. They’ve had different levels of support and that’s just the way it is.
Does playing with younger bands inspire you to maybe play harder or try new things?
Anders: If they’re good, yeah. Playing live is a test really of how a good a band you really are. It’s super easy to record an album these days but playing live really separates the good ones from the bad ones, and we wouldn’t play in front of this many people if we toured on our own so here’s a chance for us to show these people what IN FLAMES are about. We’ve got twelve albums and maybe there’s something for you. I would love to find a band with that many albums out that I really love, it’s like a goldmine y’know, I do the same. I wasn’t born a PINK FLOYD fan, I found that out way later and had this journey of discovery.
Do you ever have to stop and pinch yourself that this little extreme metal band from Sweden is now playing venues like this?
Anders: I surpassed all of my dreams a long time ago, and now it’s all a bonus. It’s amazing that we can travel the world and play this music which we started in a shed outside of Gothenburg. You’re in a bubble often which is just going and going but at the end you will look back, and if it ended today I’d be fine with what we achieved. I don’t want it to end, we’ve still got more shows to play and more music to create, but it’s been an awesome trip.
Battles is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.
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