Swedish melodic death metal pioneers, famous for the Gothenburg sound, In Flames are set to release their long awaited album "I, The Mask" on 1 March 2019. I had the possibility to talk to vocalist Singer Anders Fridén, and lead guitarist Björn Gelotte about the new release, their festival Borgholm Brinner, and what the future brings for the band.
Watch the interview here, or read the full text below.
Hi guys, thank you so much for taking the time for this promo day. You guys are releasing your thirteenth studio album. How are you feeling about the release?
Björn: Excited, because we had the songs done and the album ready for quite some time so yeah we can’t wait.
Let’s talk a little bit more in detail about the new album. What was the creative process behind the album like?
Anders: We went to Los Angeles last year in February, I believe. Right?
Björn: Yeah, February.
Anders: And then we were done three months later writing and recording during those three months. The experience was awesome, we had a great time and I hope that people can hear that when they are listening to the album. You’re hanging out with your friend, it’s sunny outside, you’re having a barbecue in the backyard, good beers, you know, everything. So that’s like living the good life, and writing music, you can’t do wrong. No, I feel great, I feel we are topping ourselves every time, at least that’s from my perspective.
Björn: I feel like I would agree with that.
Anders: But it’s our perspective, it’s like when we’re done, we’re waiting for the album, we’re 100% satisfied, then it’s up to other people to see if they agree with us or not. Overall, it was a fantastic experience.
Björn: From the recording point of view it was great again, this is the second time that we worked with that producer, Howard Benson, so we kinda knew what to expect this time. Everything was smooth, his team is amazing, Chris Lord-Alge, and others, so there is some assistance and everything. It’s super quick, gives us a lot of time to write, it wasn’t that we wrote for a month, and then recorded for two months, it was an ongoing process, which really fits us really well. Since we are rarely prepared when we go to the studio. It works really good, they’re really good to work with.
I think “Battles” was a try-out for us, by working with a producer like Howard Benson, and his team, and by writing the way we did in-house and then go to record, by having a producer listening to our demos, because we didn’t really write demos before either. We knew what we were able to do, Howard knew us, so this was a bit more relaxed I think. That made our overall experience better.
I understood that the writing process was a bit different from when you wrote “Battles”? How did that affect the album?
Anders: It wasn’t that much different, with that album it was the first time that we worked with Howard, and the first time, we had a new management on that album, I mean we’re still working with that management, but that was our first album experience together. They asked why don’t you guys try to write with some other people, just to get inspired, or just change things up a little bit, so we did that on a few songs. When we got back home from the actual writing process, we changed all the stuff back to what we normally would have done. With this album we said we do this on our own, and that was different, but the rest wasn’t that different.I think “Battles” was a try-out for us, by working with a producer like Howard Benson, and his team, and by writing the way we did in-house and then go to record, by having a producer listening to our demos, because we didn’t really write demos before either. We knew what we were able to do, Howard knew us, so this was a bit more relaxed I think. That made our overall experience better.
What about sound-wise? I read a lot of comments on YouTube videos you released so far, they’re kinda comparing it to your older work. How do you guys feel about the sound of the new album?
Björn: I think this time around we got fortunate enough to work with a mixer guy that basically only mixes nowadays. He has worked together with Howard for I don’t know how many productions, Chris Lord-Alge. He just sounds excellent and he really compliments the music and Howard’s way of producing so, I don’t know… I never even thought about it being towards what we did in the past because you can’t really compare it to those days.
Anders: We wanted to have more guitars up front in the mix, but that’s from a producing or mixing perspective, that was basically it. In our heads we are not writing for old or new, we’re just writing for us, as we are right here right now, being a band, releasing an album. You always have people saying this or that, that’s fine, I don’t care. (laughs)
When it comes to writing the lyrics, I mix that with what’s going on in my mind, in my own space, and just try to write lyrics that are a big part of me, but at the same time they can be a big part of you, because I think that the experience is greater if fans take it to their hearts, it will make our art, our music, our lyrics, everything better in the perspective of someone else.
Lyrically the new album, is a social commentary about the state of the world. Can you elaborate a bit on that?
Anders: Sure, I mean I live in this world (laughs)
Björn: At times
Anders: Yeah, at times! (laughs) My eyes and ears are open to what’s going on around me, but when it comes to writing the lyrics, I mix that with what’s going on in my mind, in my own space, and just try to write lyrics that are a big part of me, but at the same time they can be a big part of you, because I think that the experience is greater if fans take it to their hearts, it will make our art, our music, our lyrics, everything better in the perspective of someone else. There are a lot of social angles to these things, but I don’t wanna explain too much, because that takes away from the experience. I hate to explain everything because then people are just like okay, and there’s nothing there anymore. That’s how it is with the world as well, speaking of the world, now there are no secrets, it’s out there, my friends know more about what happens in my life before it happens to me because of Facebook and Instagram. You can barely come to someone and say you have experienced this unique thing, or they will tell you they have seen the same. That’s different, I wanna keep some stuff unexplained in a way. It’s personal, it could have happened today, it could have happened twenty years ago. It could be through my eyes or through the eyes of someone else as well.
If you’re talking about social media, how do you think it changed the music industry? Is it more difficult to be a private person as an artist?
Anders: I think you can decide that on your own, either you’re a part of it or you’re not. Nobody is forcing us to be on Instagram, but we are. I don’t picture my family, there’s no family matters on there, there’s a certain private life that I love to keep private. I only show what I want. I am my own filter, but yeah it’s definitely more difficult to be private, and people know a lot of stuff already all the time. What happened in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas anymore (laughs), that goes forever and ever. It is a good and a bad thing, you can use social media to your advantage, people turn that into a career. But at the same time, this thing that people do on concerts and they pay for a ticket to see a live experience, but then they watch it through their phones. That’s something I would never agree with, you do what you want.
Björn: It’s weird seeing all those phones in there.
Anders: I’m not gonna ban anyone, and there’s also not gonna be any In Flames concert where you can’t take pictures, that won’t happen. But I advise people not to and when someone is commenting something you know they watch a live experience on YouTube, they were not in this venue, but they were commenting on the sound whatever, it’s like, don’t, you can’t compare that to something through a phone speaker or microphone. There are good things and bad things about social media. That’s the world we live in now, it’s adapted, so adapt to it or don’t.
You guys also have been using fan footage for some music videos in the past, there is kind of benefit from it though, in the way that it is content that you can use.
Björn: The interaction with the fans, of course, is way more immediate today. You can take that to your advantage. I think also from a band perspective, it’s a good media platform, it’s a good outlet to present new music perhaps or just mention to people well we’re gonna be in your part of the world, playing maybe you should come party with us. I think it could be a really good and powerful outlet for a band, at the same time anybody can do it today. There’s a gazillion Instagram accounts, a lot of them are from bands, it’s kind of hard to distinguish sometimes.
Going back to your album, I wanted to ask you some questions about the new music video “I Am Above”. First one being who came up with the idea to cast Martin Wallström, from Mr. Robot?
Anders: We talked about it with our management to do this, we had this loose idea to base it on Sinéad O'Connor’s video of “Nothing Compares To You”. This black background and just a head. I wanted people to really focus on the lyrics, of course the music as well but if there’s nothing going on and you just see this one face singing along, you really focus on what’s happening instead of having all these distractions with fire and bombs in the background or someone running around doing something else, it was easy for us not to be in the video, because we don’t really like it that much, that’s not why we joined a band, to be in front of the camera. We wanna do the music (laughs).
Oh sorry. (laughs) One more question about that, the role that he played in Mr. Robot, did that define who you were going to cast?
Anders: Well, we thought he could be good for it, of course we saw his expressions and all that, and I knew that’s what we wanted. I mean it’s not based on his role, that’s got nothing to do with it, but he did exactly what we hoped for. He did a great take on it. And, I know it’s me singing, I know it’s me writing the lyrics, but it’s almost like it’s him, so that’s scary in a way.
Yeah, I guess if you really didn’t know the band at all, one might assume that it’s actually him singing.
Anders: That might be better for us. (laughs)
Björn: He looks pretty good.
Anders: A younger version of me, that’s awesome! (laughs)
So, I also read in the press release you wanted to challenge yourself vocal-wise, and you took some vocal coaching. To me personally, that really sounded through in the clean vocals. I was wondering how did that kind of shape the album for you?
Anders: It started already on “Battles”, it was Howard, he sorta came up with the idea, he asked why I don’t do it when I’m there. It’s better for him as well as a producer if I’m on point, if it doesn’t take 3 or 4 days for me to get in shape and I had a great experience with Mark Renk, that’s the vocal coach. When we decided we wanna be in Los Angeles this time around, I immediately said make sure his calendar is free so that I can go do it again, as you said it’s challenging, I learnt more about what I can do with my voice, but it also helps us when we write songs. When Björn is coming up with a riff, or a certain part, he knows that he doesn’t have to worry that I’m not gonna get to that point, he already knows this is the piece that I prefer as a singer to sing, maybe I sound better here than I do in this register, cause I have sort of high and a low register and nothing in between. But that’s fine. I’m not gonna collab in The Voice and ask for an audition, that’s not what I’m doing, or I’m not trying to become to best singer in the world. I’m just trying to master my own instrument and knowing my boundaries and limits, and if I can push those limits, which I feel I have it makes the whole experience better for me.
In 2018 you guys organized a first edition of your festival. I’m not even gonna try to pronounce it.
Anders: Try it, come on! Try it!
Borgholm Brimmer (mutters)
Björn: That’s pretty good!
Anders: You can get away with it.
So, how was it for you guys to organize the first edition?
Björn: It’s something we were thinking about for a long time to do. It was really cool that we were able to it, we had the time, we had the means.
Anders: It was a lot of different things to take care of, I mean, if you wanna be responsible for it as a band it’s not just about showing up, playing and leaving.That’s stressful at times, but the overall experience is definitely worth it and you feel the accomplishment is greater when it’s done. The show that we played is one of the best shows that we have ever done, the feeling that we had, that we were part of. Especially the first night, we played two nights, the first night I think we could have played forever and nothing went wrong, everything was just perfect, the audience was perfect, we were perfect, surroundings, everything was just great. The only thing that was kind of sad was that there was a drought in Sweden and we couldn’t use any pyros and we couldn’t use the smokers for the food, that was the only thing that was wrong. Apart from that, fantastic.
Björn: Yeah, those were luxury problems.
What can people expect from the 2019 edition?
Anders: Hopefully a little bit more rain so we can use the pyros, but apart from that, it’s a new festival, new year, something special will happen. We will try our very best to top last year, but hopefully people have a few beers in their system and feel it’s better than last year. I have no idea.
Björn: It will be awesome, it was a great experience and can’t wait to do it again.
How does it feel as a band to do something that is like on the other spectrum of music business?
Anders: We had a lot of cool and wonderful people helping us with these things, but it’s good, it’s a good experience, it makes you appreciate being on stage and doing what you do more. You value small things when you see what it takes to put a festival together. There are a lot of things that have to work, the parking, the toilets, the food, the drinks, it’s like so many many different things. And everybody needs to be happy, otherwise it doesn’t work, from the people who let you in to the people who packed the last trailer, you have to make everybody feel happy.
What are your plans for after the release?
Björn: Tons of touring. We talked about it earlier, I just looked at my calendar and I’m like okaaaaay I’m not gonna be seeing my bed for a while now, which is what we do.
Anders: We start in February.
Björn: In the US.
Anders: And then we do, actually two tours back to back in the US, and then we come home and do UK, France, Switzerland, Belgium, we do that and then I can’t say anymore. But we have more. Some of the summer festivals are announced already. But we are busy for the majority of this year. Then it’s Christmas again, and then we have another year which is gonna keep filling with shows, so we gotta keep ourselves busy.
You guys are playing a headlining show at Rockfest in Finland, what can you tell the fans about what they can expect from the show?
Anders: We don’t know much. We are gonna be there, some of our songs are gonna be there. That’s as much as we can tell, we’re looking forward to play.
Björn: We love Finland, it’s always been great for us. The festivals there are amazing.
Anders: It’s gonna be good, so don’t miss it!
Do you have some last words for the viewers?
Anders: Yes, of course we do! We are so grateful that we can do what we do. We work really hard, we had some luck, but without people like you or our fans it wouldn’t be possible. We are extremely grateful, so thank you for sticking around.