In Flames: Living Right Here and Now

Since 1990, In Flames have influenced the sub genre of melodic death metal. In September, the five musicians from Gothenburg, Sweden, released their new studio album “Siren Charms”. Now, they tour Europe and fortunately play a show in Hamburg, Germany, as well. STALKER took the chance to interview the band’s vocalist, Anders Friden, right before the show.

How did you come up with the decision to produce the new Album in Germany?
I was in Berlin a year prior to our recording. I work at the record company in Sweden called Razzia Records and we had an A&R conference for the label and Mick Ilbert was also there. He works at Hansa Studio as a mixing engineer, he did some work with for the label for other artists. I wanted to go to Hansa for a long time, being music fan. So we called and asked if we can come over to check out the studios and say “hi”. We went there and I thought it was perfect. It is a great place to record. The sound is fantastic. It has all this history. So I called the other guys and said that I have a place for mix up. And that was it.

What is your main influence for your songwriting? Is there a development in the lyrics from political type in the early days to more personal type nowadays?
It takes a while to find out who you are. I obviously see the world in a different way now as I have kids and that changes how you see things around you. It´s not about you, it´s about them and how they grow. But I would think I am critical to things around me. It [lyrics] is very personal but at the same time I use a lot more metaphors though. In my lyrics hopefully people can rely to in their way, personal to them.
I would never say to anyone, “Okay, this is how I feel about the lyrics, this is what I think about this song.” Because that is what takes away the personal [meaning] from them. I have a certain meaning [in the songs] but that does not have to be the whole time.

Do you like to travel? Can that also be a source for inspiration, like hearing new rhythms or sounds?
(Laughing) No. I travel so much all the time. When I am home I wanna be home. Which is not that cool to my family, I guess. Because they want to travel as soon as I get back. I was on vacation with my daughter in Turkey a few weeks before. And that was fantastic. We spent some time alone.
When we are touring we are constantly on the road and maybe go home for a week. And you want to spend your time in your own bed, in your own bathroom, in your own kitchen as well.

How about your own In Flames studio?
We don´t have it any more. We sold it two years ago.

And where do you practice?
We never practice. We go to the studio and create the songs. We don´t jam together. In the very early days we did but now we don´t practice anymore. We are in the studio recording the songs. And then we learn the songs and we go and play live. Going live every night is our practice place.

How different is the songwriting without Jasper Stromblad?
Not much. Two people instead of three. It was not like he was writing everything before. So now it is just me and Björn. We have the same attitude, we have the same approach. Earlier it was not like Jasper writing it and telling us what to do. We were all taking part in the songwriting process.
Everybody in the band have a saying when it comes to what we are putting out and if somebody does not like it then we scratch it. There is no real difference.

Some of your fans from the early days of In Flames criticize the simpler format of the newer songs. What is the reason for the new songwriting?
I know what you mean. There might be people who do not see things the way we see music these days. But there is nothing I can do. I won´t never change for what anybody else is saying though. It is the five guys in the band that decide in which direction we should go and how it should sounds. Well, the producers as well for recording the album. That´s pretty much it. No record company, no fan can ever tell me what to do. I love my fans! Don´t get me wrong! They have given me a lot. I can travel the world, can play the music I love. That is fantastic. Your question is not unique. I have been hearing that every time. With every album. Since I joined the band. I had to defend “Whoracle” to “The Jester Race”, I had to defend “Colony“ to “Whoracle”, and then I had to defend “Clayman”… It has been like that with every album. But we will always do what the fuck we want. We are creating our own path. And if you wanna come along –fantastic. If you don´t like anymore -feel free to listen to something else. There is so much music out there. Instead of getting angry at us for not sounding exactly like whatever, whatever, whatever. “Siren Charms” is the way how we see metal music being In Flames in 2014. We didn´t want to do another album. This is the exact album that we had in mind.

Are the mostly clean vocals part of the development of In Flames?
When you listen to the music. The music speaks to me in a certain way. It is like, how can I say, If someone hands me a painting and says to me finish this painting. Then I use my colors, my brush to finish this painting. In the way I think it should be. And that is exactly about the music. The sound of my voice in the way it is on this album is just the way it is. I love screaming. On stage I fucking love it! I have people in front of me and they scream right back to me. That is a whole different energy on the stage than it is on a dead mic in a studio. And also this is my instrument and I want to take it further every time and explore new frequencies, new things for my voice. Like the guys with the instruments, the guitar or bass and drums. They want to get better with their instrument. And I don´t want to do the same thing again and again and again. We are doing this for twenty years. It is a long time. Imagine eating the same food every day. I think people around us would see, if we did things we don´t feel a hundred percent, we aren´t proud on or are behind it. If we just start doing what others tell us to do, I think this band would not exist for that long time. We have to believe in what we do because we are the ones live or die with it. We are the ones getting live on stage every night.

On Open Airs sometimes the sound gets partially blown away. Do you think it´s hard to use electronic parts in live music?
That shouldn´t be any difference. If it´s performed live, the sound if you press that button still goes through all the gear and out. It´s just a matter of raising the volume. I don´t think it´s difficult and it works very well with our music. That question is unique; I never heard that one before. Let´s see for tonight, if you think the same after our show.

Since you use electronic elements in your songs like drum loops or certain sounds from the synthesizer. Is there the plan to perform those live and maybe get a sixth band member?
No. We don´t have keyboarding in that sense that is just melody. We have a lot drum loops and rhythmical parts. That is sounds instead of melody… We five of us are also very tight and I don´t see an extra person getting in. That would be too much.

In your opinion what was your favorite creative period in the history of In Flames?
That we are still around is fantastic. That we have been able to do eleven albums is fantastic. Way more than I aimed for when I joined the band. How far we got. I enjoy the now. I look back on what happened with great memories and smiles but I wanna go forward. Everything we have done in the past has lead up to today. “Siren Charms” would not sound the same if there was not that history… I don´t know if this answers the question.
“The Jester Race” is very special to me because that was when I joined the band. That was my first album with the band. But right now I am certainly proud on “Siren Charms”. I think we did a hell of an album. Really, really good! If I was sitting there and saying, “Well, the last five albums weren´t that good, I like “Clayman” and that was it, and now I am doing this of bla bla bla. I am not that happy…”. If you feel that way then it is time to quit. There is no point in doing this. I rather sit home watching TV, if this whole thing would be a drag. If I didn´t enjoy being on the road, playing the music and meeting the fans, being not passionate about it and everything would be a tough thing on me, I would quit it. I love all the albums, but I live right now and here.

Do you have a favorite song?
Of ours? Of all of them? “Come Clarity” means a lot to me because I wrote this for my daughter when she was born. But this is the fourth show of this tour and it is really, really fun to play the new stuff. Just because we haven´t played them that much. I can´t say that “Only for the Weak” is my favorite song every night because we have played it almost every show since we released “Clayman”. Sometimes I´m amazed how much fun it is to bring back stuff from “Lunar Strain” like “Behind Space” or “Clad In Shadows”. But it changes from night to night. Depending on the reaction of the crowd.

Do you listen to your own music?
Just for learning the stuff of course. And for this tour I had to listen to the old songs we haven´t played for years to bring back, for memorizing the lyrics. Then I do it. But I don´t listen for fun to my own music. When you write and record an album and you listen to the mixes it´s so intense. You hear every single thing. It is hard to listen to my own music and enjoy it like I enjoy other bands.

Also because of the fact that you might hear what could have been done better?
I will never release something I am not happy with. When we give it away to the record company we are a hundred percent satisfied with everything. Otherwise there is no point in releasing an album. That is why I can say that I am super happy with every single thing we have done. That is the best we could do at that point in our lives.

If I took a look in the play list of your player, what would I see? What are you listening to these days?
Not what you expect. I have some stuff on my phone that will probably surprise you. I have everything from Cannibal Corpse to The National, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Testament, Megadeth. I have a lot of new things, old things, really heavy music and real soft music.

Thank you very much for your patience in answering the questions and good luck with your show!

Author: Falko Nik, Photos: In Flames

GastmitarbeiterInnen / guest contributions

Regular guest contributors e.g. Melanie Kircher, Tatjana Tattis Murschel, Grit Kabiersch, Marina Minkler, Jasmine Frey, Maria Levin, Elvira Visser, Nina Ratavaara, John Wisniewski