Moments of Clarity
CoC chats with Anders Fridén of In Flames
by: Jackie Smit
Nearly two years to the day have elapsed since I last met up with In Flames' dreadlocked frontman, Anders Fridén, to discuss what was to become the band's commercial coup de grace. From playing alongside the likes of Motorhead and Judas Priest to slaying the main stage at Ozzfest, the last twenty four months have seen Sweden's premier melodic metal band scale heights that no one ever could have foreseen. But you're only as good as your last album, as the saying goes, and with the release of the band's latest opus _Come Clarity_ looming on the horizon, one wonders whether lightning can strike twice.

CoC: _Come Clarity_ had been confirmed as being completed as far back as July, yet it's only being released some nine months later. What was behind the delay?

Anders Fridén: We didn't have a deal in the States, because we were in the process of changing from Nuclear Blast to another label. That happened because we didn't feel like the relationship was working out anymore. We were touring a lot, but kids weren't able to find our albums in the stores, and we tried for many albums to get this problem resolved, but nothing happened. Don't get me wrong -- we're very happy with Nuclear Blast in Europe, but we needed something different for the States. So we ended up with Ferret Records. They convinced us that they had the best plan for us and that they were going to be able to do the best job for us, and it seems like it's going to be great. That's why it took some time, because we didn't want to release the album in Europe and then have to have our fans in the States wait for however long to get it there.

CoC: So the problems that you had with Nuclear Blast in the States, was that just down to their ability to distribute your stuff effectively?

AF: It was a lot of things that I don't want to get into now, but what I will say is that there were people there who were doing stupid stuff that just made us wonder what we were doing there. You know, if people aren't interested in selling records then they should not be doing this job. We want to sell records. Our main goal is ultimately to have a good time and enjoy ourselves, but we want to feel good about what we're doing as well. If we weren't interested in selling records, we'd be recording our music in a basement somewhere and passing the tape around to our friends.

CoC: What made Ferret Records an attractive option then, because I can imagine that given the extent to which your profile was raised after _Soundtrack to Your Escape_, labels must have been clamouring over themselves to sign you guys?

AF: Yeah, that did happen. But it was important to us that we have control over what we do and that no label can come in and tell us what to do. We don't listen to what people tell us to do. Labels know how to do promotion and we know how to do music, and we need control over that process. I think it's a struggling time for a lot of majors. They're searching desperately for the next big thing, not knowing whether they might fail along the way. Ferret just said the right things, and I think that they have an ear to the underground, which is very important to us. That's where we came from and I believe that's where we are still. Our roots are important, and from that point of view, they are the perfect link for us.

CoC: It's interesting when you look at the Ferret roster how many bands were very obviously influenced by yourselves.

AF: <laughs> Yeah, I don't know. That's not why we're there though. I think that they need a band like us. We're the most metal band that they have and I think that we're good for that roster. We'll have to see how things work out, because it's always a gamble. But right now, it's great to see and hear the plans that these guys are coming up with and how into the band and the new album they are.

CoC: Getting to the new album then, the most obviously striking aspect to the new music is the heavier reliance on guitars over keyboards. What brought that on?

AF: We just felt like we wanted to make something a little more aggressive, and a little darker. We would never consider doing a _Soundtrack Part 2_. At the same time though, I think that there's a pretty distinct line between the last album and this one. It's definitely another In Flames album. It just sounds like we're more angry, and to be honest it just came out that way. The melodies are still there; they're just more hidden.

CoC: You guys took care of most of the production this time around and had Daniel [Bergstrand] take care of the tracking, if I'm not mistaken.

AF: We did the tracking for guitars and bass in my studio, actually, and Daniel only did the sound for the drums and the vocals. We took care of pretty much everything else ourselves, and I think it came out pretty well. I went to the studio myself many times and took care of a bunch of stuff which we were getting through from Gothenburg and from Daniel. There were other times when we would just tell the guys at the studios what we wanted done.

CoC: After so many years of working with essentially the same group of people, has the temptation ever arisen to use another producer or go to a completely different studio?

AF: I think it's always good to have an outside opinion, and this time around we did do things slightly differently. I would like someday to have a different producer all the way and see what they can do with the music. Not to have them change it, but just to see what they can bring to the table and what sort of perspective they can bring to things. So, we'll see what happens in the future. We're not at that place right now, but we'll see what where things are at in a few years' time.

CoC: Who would be your dream producer to use?

AF: <pauses>

CoC: Bob Rock?

AF: <laughs> No, maybe Rick Rubin. Terry Date would be cool too.

CoC: Getting back to _Soundtrack to Your Escape_, I do think that the response to the album probably astonished quite a few people. How do you feel about the success you had with that album, now that the dust has settled and you've been off the road for a couple of months?

AF: Pretty good. That album was a small photograph of what we were at the time and there's nothing I would want to change about that. There's always a part of you that will hear things and think that you'd want to have done something differently. But that was where we were at the time, and it's great that we were able to reach out to a wider audience. Now we're on a different chapter and it's a new time for the band. I don't really know quite where we're going to go with this new record, but that's kind of the fun of it; to see where we can take things. We'll always be In Flames no matter what happens. We can change songs here and there, but we will always be melodic and we will always be aggressive.

CoC: Keeping with the response to the new album, were you surprised when you got the call to go to Ozzfest?

AF: No, not really, because we'd been asked many times before, and every time they called we'd already been booked into a bunch of European festivals, which made it impossible for us. We were surprised that we played on the main stage though.

CoC: With all the controversy that followed the tour around this year, what was it like playing Ozzfest?

AF: A struggle. It's not that fun to play for twenty minutes in front of a crowd who are pretty much sitting down all the time, waiting for Ozzy and Maiden. It was hard -- we were on in the daytime, the intimacy level is not there whatsoever, and as soon as you feel warmed up, you have to leave the stage. We had a lot of fun in between the shows, because we had a lot of friends there, but if I could do it differently, I would never play the main stage again. It's not rock 'n' roll whatsoever. It was a good way to promote ourselves though, and it was great to be able to reach out to different people. I guess we'll see what's been gained from it all when the new album comes out.

CoC: Another instance where you played to an older crowd where people didn't really know you was your Motorhead tour through Europe.

AF: That was actually great. It was the same as when we went on tour with Priest. People told us that would be a struggle, and I was taken by surprise. We did over eighteen shows on each stint and maybe three out of those weren't so good; you had people sitting down, or the theatre we played at sucked. The rest of the time, I couldn't believe what I was seeing sometimes. And it's great to play with these guys -- these legends like Motorhead, Priest, Motley Crue...

CoC: It's incredible though -- did you ever consider ten years ago or back when you started this band, that you'd be supporting Motorhead or Judas Priest?

AF: <laughs> Not at all. It's cool when you look back on your career and you think of all the things you've done. But I never thought that things would turn out the way that they have. Then again, I don't think you ever thought so either?

CoC: Not naming any names, but given that you -- like so many people reading this and who listen to this music -- probably grew up with these bands and most likely had a very different idea of who they were as people; did you have any rude awakenings, or were you surprised by any of the people you met on these tours?

AF: No rude awakenings. When you're young and you're listening to these bands, the only things you ever know about them is what you read in magazines. These days when I meet somebody it's different though, because I realise that it's a lot of hard work and it's not glamorous all the time. You play every day for one hour or ninety minutes -- or less when you're supporting -- and the rest of the day is pretty boring. There are fun things to do here and there, but I have a totally different perspective now, and when I meet guys who I used to look up to, it's not that special anymore. I do respect them, but I wouldn't run up to them as a fan anymore. Being in a band for such a long time, you kind of get numb to such feelings. And I don't mean that disrespectfully at all, but it's just a case of the masks being off, and you realise that these are all just people. There are some people that I'd still like to meet, but they're dead already.

CoC: So looking back on your career as you mentioned earlier, do you feel like you've come close to achieving everything you ever wanted to when you started out?

AF: I never had any aspirations when I started with this. You know, with any band, first you want to get a rehearsal space, and then you want your first song done, and then your first demo and your first album. Then what? You want to go on tour. There are always new things. So I am far beyond what I hoped to achieve in the first place. These days I think I'm way more relaxed, and if somebody says something negative about my band or something we do, I don't really care. If you like my band, that's great. If you don't, then that's fine. It's definitely a more relaxed atmosphere in the band now than it was when we started.

CoC: What do you think of the music press?

AF: I don't think anything bad about journalists. We need them and they need us, you know? And I don't blame them when an article comes out and maybe I don't sound like such a cool guy. I think that a lot of things that are said and quoted come from the band members and it's their responsibility to make sure that they're not saying anything they shouldn't be. A lot of bands tend to love the press while they're doing well, and they hate them when something bad gets said about them and people turn on them. They always blame the press and some people just love to say certain things so that they can be seen as being rebellious. And when that goes wrong, then they blame the press and they say that they were misquoted. That's their fault, and no one else's. Personally, I've never had any problems with any of the press. I've been misquoted sometimes, but it's never been anything serious. Sometimes you shake your head at a review, like when people were saying that we were going nu metal with _Reroute to Remain_, or when they say that now you sound like this or now you're sounding like that band. We're just doing our own thing. We're not trying to sound American. We're Swedish. We've been around for a long time and we've been doing this same thing since we began. The musical climate might change, but we don't. Sure we don't do the same album every time, but we're still In Flames every time. We are on our own path somewhere. And it's hard to be original. A lot of people try to do it and they fail, but I don't think that there's another band who sound like In Flames. No doubt about it. I don't think anybody can sound like we sound.

CoC: My next question is about Passengers, and I was wondering what's happening with that project now that your priorities with In Flames have obviously begun to take up a lot more of your time.

AF: Well, I've recorded vocals for about ten or twelve songs. I don't know how many of those will make it on to the next album, but it's really just a case of finding the time to do it. Right now In Flames takes up my time 24/7. And to be really honest, Passengers is more of a nice outlet for me to do things I can't do with In Flames and spend some time with my friends. We'll see whatever happens.

CoC: With In Flames now becoming such a massive priority, how has that impacted on your personal life?

AF: I don't go out that much when I'm at home anymore. I try and spend as much time with my family and my daughter as possible and try and understand and appreciate what's important in life. It's not often that it happens, but I try to just relax and get away from that hysteria of being in a band. When you're in a band, there's a lot of people that want a part of you and want your opinion on things, and when I'm off the road and I don't want any of that. I just want normality.

CoC: Well, I'm afraid to say I think normality is going to be a distant memory when this new album hits the streets. What's going to be the plan for In Flames once that happens?

AF: Touring, touring, touring. Just on the road all the time. Our American tour starts in January. March we start in Europe. Summer is shaping up already with festivals, and I guess over the next couple of months we'll be back and forth between the US and Europe. We also want to hit Asia and Australia at some point. Japan. It's going to be a lot of hours on a sweaty tour bus, that's for sure!

(article submitted 1/9/2006)


CHATS
3/23/2004 J Smit In Flames: A Soundtrack to Comeuppance
8/12/2000 A Bromley In Flames: Molding Their Visions
3/10/1998 A Bromley In Flames: The Flame of Ingenuity
4/9/1997 A Bromley In Flames: Serious About Success
ALBUMS
4/15/2008 K Sarampalis 7.5 In Flames - A Sense of Purpose
1/9/2006 J Smit 6 In Flames - Come Clarity
8/22/2005 J Smit 9 In Flames - Used & Abused: In Live We Trust DVD
2/29/2004 J Smit 8 In Flames - Soundtrack to Your Escape
9/1/2002 C Flaaten 6 In Flames - Reroute to Remain
10/19/2001 M Noll 3 In Flames - The Tokyo Showdown
8/12/2000 P Azevedo 9 In Flames - Clayman
6/15/1999 A Bromley 9.5 In Flames - Colony
1/1/1998 P Azevedo 9 In Flames - Whoracle
7/17/1996 B Meloon 8 In Flames - The Jester Race
3/14/1996 N Bassett 9 In Flames - Subterranean
GIGS
11/29/2006 J Smit Slayer / In Flames / Lamb of God / Children of Bodom Hung, Drawn & Quartered
9/12/2005 A McKay Mudvayne / Shadows Fall / In Flames / Trivium Dodging a Bullet
5/13/2001 M Noll Dimmu Borgir / In Flames / Nevermore Crimes in the Mourning Palace
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