INTERVIEW: In Flames – Their Future, Past, and Highlights

Throughout the course of time, bands come and go. Some bands stick around longer than others. For the ones that do stick around for awhile, it’s interesting to see how their sound progresses and evolves over time. Five-piece melodic death metal band In Flames are one of those bands who have been around the block a few times, having their 11th studio album Siren Charms set to release Sept. 5 via Sony Records.

Read below for an exclusive interview with frontman Anders Fridén of Gothenburg, Sweden based melodic death metal band In Flames regarding their upcoming 11th album, what the band is up to when they’re not making music and some highlights from the band since their debut release of their album Lunar Strain in 1994, and how certain things have changed and other things have stayed the same.

Substream Magazine: Hi Anders. How’s your day going?

Anders Fridén: It’s good, working a little bit with my record company. I’ve been home barbequing with my kids and I got some people working here on my yard, trying to cook for them and make them happy.

SM: Yeah, sounds like a good day. Alright, I guess I’ll start right in with my questions if that’s alright. 

AF: Yeah.

SM: Okay, so, your 11th upcoming studio album Siren Charms is set to release September 5. After releasing ten albums before this one, how would you say your style has evolved from your first release of Lunar Strain?

AF: You tell me (laughs), you know, obviously we’re not sounding the same although we have the same mentality. We’re still writing melodic-metal music, but I’m not 20 anymore. People change, and we don’t want to repeat ourselves and try to write the same thing again and again. If it wasn’t for the earlier albums, this album wouldn’t exist, so they are equally important. They’re all very dear to me. Every album I kind of look at as a photograph of who we are at that point in our lives, and our career. Right now Siren Charms is a bunch of 40-year-old dudes trying to write metal music (laughs), and enjoying it at the same time.

SM: Sounds good (laughs). The artwork for “Rusted Nail,” in addition to the artwork of Siren Charms as a whole, was created by Blake Armstrong of Space Boy Comics, who’s also the creator and artist behind the In Flames comic book The Jester’s Curse. Why did you ultimately decide to go with him as your choice for the album artwork?

Siren Charms Art

AF: He supplies really, really good work for The Jester’s Curse, and we’ve met him a bunch of times when we were in the U.S. on tour and he’s both a great guy and a fan of the band. He knows our history, and he likes the band, so it’s really cool. It was kind of an easy choice this time around.

SM: Is there a particular track that really stands out and that you’re really proud of off of Siren Charms aside from [the single] “Rusted Nail?” 

AF: I’m not more proud of “Rusted Nail” than I am of any of the other songs, they are all very dear to me. Well, let’s say it like this: on previous albums, I always said to the record company ‘okay this is a single, this is the second single, this is the third, etc;’ and everything is supposed to be like this and this and this… But now, I was so pleased with the album, and so tired of the album (laughs) at the same time at the studio, so I said you guys [at the record company] decide [on a single]. Then they said, okay, let’s go with “Rusted Nail” as the first one, and I was like okay, whatever, you know. The other songs are great, I stand behind all of the songs. If we write the music, you [record company representatives] take care of the business, and if that’s your pick then that’s your pick.

SM: I believe I saw on your Facebook page a little while earlier that…

AF: It’s probably a lie (laughs)

SM: Probably a lie? (laughs) About the backing vocals of “Rusted Nail” coming from fans invited to the studio in Berlin?

AF: Yeah, actually, we had some people who were a part of The Jesterhead  in the studio and I said ‘why not you guys sing a little bit.’ So they are doing the chanting, the choir thing on “Rusted Nail.

SM: Okay awesome, kind of like a payback to some fans?

AF: Yeah, I mean its good fun. It’s a happy occasion, they were in the studio and I thought it was cool. I would be super stoked if my favorite band would tell me to sing on their album. I would probably say no because I would be too afraid (laughs).

SM: Right (laughs). Okay, so I noticed some of the members of In Flames are involved in several other endeavors, like Peter and Björn own the 2112 in Gothenburg, Sweden, Niclas playing in Engel, I noticed you yourself have your own beer brand FrEQuency.

AF: Yeah, and a record company too. So, I’m quite busy.

SM: Right, for sure. I was wondering how you and the other members find time to be involved in all of these other things in addition to writing music and touring?

AF: I think we all need that by now just to keep sane. Trying not to walk around and say ‘hey, I’m in In Flames’ you know,it’s just a different outlet. You do have time off stage, off writing music and since we’re recording every third year kind of these days, you find time. And on the road you’re on stage one and a half hours, an hour, depending on your headline or sport act or whatever, then the rest of the day you need to kill with something. I think it’s a healthier way to kill time with record company decisions or taking care of your employees in the bar than actually drink the whole bar all of the time (laughs).

SM: Right (laughs). So it’s kind of like a break from the music?

AF: Yeah, I would say so.

SM: Awesome, yeah. I was actually going to ask you about the record label [Selective Notes] in my next question. What made you decide to get involved with being a record label manager in particular?

AF: It’s just, I love music and working with people. I love music too much to stay away. It’s probably the wisest decision because of the climate these days with downloading and streaming. Well, streaming could be a good thing definitely. People probably tell me to stay away, but I love music too much to. I want to be involved. I’ve had a studio for quite some time, and still do own my own studio, and I’ll be producing bands and then be playing in a band, so the next step was kind of having working with bands as well: signing and finding new acts. I find it really interesting too, to find new music. It’s kind of a way for me to give something back, because you find new bands and I do have some sort of (laughs), knowledge about the scene and about the music business, and maybe I could help them out and have them not fall into the same traps I did when I was signed on my first record deal. I’m sort of a mentor, a record company owner and a label boss A&R [artists and repertoire] at the same time.

SM: Okay, awesome. That’s cool that you want to give back and everything. In regards to the creative process of writing a song, has that changed at all in the 20+ years you’ve been writing music?

AF: Yeah. We start on the guitar, usually, or it does, all of the time. But these days, we don’t struggle in the rehearsal room anymore, the five of us. Usually the riffs starts with Björn and then I come and we sit down and talk about it, then try to put down some sort of structure, and then when we have the basic structure of the song, we start adding in elements. And then we all combine melodies and all that, and then we end up with a song. We kind of learn it afterwards (laughs), instead of before. The beginning is more of a studio effort, and then we’ll practice, instead of the other way around where you’re done and practice ended and everything’s fine and then you go into the studio. I like to keep it pretty open when you go to into the studio.

SM: Okay, awesome. This next one is going to be kind of a tough one I think: In your time of being with In Flames, who would you say your favorite band to tour with? Or at least up there in the rankings, or really memorable. 

AF: Slayer. It’s such a legendary band plus when we toured with them the first time, to see them, and they’ve been touring, and touring, and touring and playing for so many people, and playing so many shows. And to see them, no matter how tired they are in advance, just go out there and kill it every night, it’s really inspirational. That’s something that I took from them and try to have that in my head every time it’s time for a show no matter how I feel. The one’s that bought the ticket, you have to give something back to them, and give 100%. That was really inspirational to see them do that, and it was just a great tour in general. We sold fliers with them, we’re good friends with them. But we tour with so many bands, and we have a lot of friends like Killswitch [Engage], As I Lay Dying and too many to mention really.

SM: Yeah, I remember seeing on your page that one of the members of Slayer [Kerry King] turned 50 recently. Pretty crazy, and they’re still doing their thing. I noticed that In Flames is going to be playing Knotfest Japan 2014 alongside Slipknot, Five Finger Death Punch, Trivium, Korn, Lamb of God, Limp Bizkit and many others. How do you decide what tracks to include in your setlist for festivals of that size?

AF: Throw a bunch of names up in the air and collect whatever falls down into our laps and then decide (laughs). Now we’re going into a new touring cycle, and we just obviously want to play stuff from the new albums. I guess some of the older ones have to leave or we have to extend the setlist. I guess for a show like Knotfest where we probably get 50 minutes or so, it’s hard to pick and choose. Something new, something old and something in-between.

SM: Yeah, definitely. I was going to say you’ve got a lot of choices to make [for tracks].

AF: Yeah (laughs), I mean 11 albums. We can’t play them all. It’s hard to satisfy everyone. We’ve done it so many times now, try to bring back tracks from some of the earlier, earlier albums. But when we play them, most people will be like ‘what is this?’ I’ll be like ‘you don’t know about our history, people?’ And then there’s two dudes in the left corner far in the back like ‘yeah, that’s my song man!’ And then we’re like okay, should we satisfy those two or the other thousand people? So it’s hard, and we try to do something for everyone.

SM: Okay, yeah, awesome. I’m going to track back a few years for a second. I noticed in 2012 you played RAMFest in South Africa. Having played in South Africa, America, throughout Europe and many other countries, would you say that energy levels of the crowd are different playing in certain places of the world?

AF: A little bit, it changes a little bit. Earlier in our career, I noticed a big difference in it, not as much these days with internet and everything’s open. Everyone can watch on TV, well, not everyone, but most people see how other people behave and then everything is more common and everybody is doing the same like ‘oh, they’re doing that move’ and we also have our circle pits. When we started to get to America at first, I was like ‘woah, we didn’t have that in Europe.’ People would just stand next to each other headbanging (laughs). But now we have the circle pits and all that stuff as well. What was extremely cool, that I saw for the first time we were in South America in Columbia, there were so many cameras in the air we barely didn’t need any other light and it was just like bling, bling, bling, bling, bling! It was crazy, and spinning, and throwing shit and probably their way of showing appreciation, but I was like ‘woah, this is awesome!’ And then there was a lot of energy in the room, and it was just really, really cool. 

SM: I noticed Revolver Magazine recently had a 24 hour pre-stream of the song “Through Oblivion.” Do you plan on having any other promotions for tracks on the upcoming album in the near future before its release date?

AF: I have no idea what people are planning (laughs). I’m just like, ‘okay that happened, woah, I didn’t know that’ (laughs), so, I have no idea.

SM: Okay, yeah. That’s the line of work of other people, I understand (laughs). I’ve just got one more for you: are there any specific tours you and the other band members are looking forward to in the future?

AF: Just getting up and playing. We’ve been off the road for a year, [so we’re looking forward to] when this tour kicks in in September. So, just getting out there and being a touring band again, and hanging out with the rest of the guys, our tour crew and seeing fans all over again. I’m just really looking forward to it. Playing these songs live and seeing how they go down live. Hopefully, it works. If not, we’re not in trouble, because we have all of the other albums (laughs).

SM: Yeah, you’ve got a big list that’s for sure (laughs). Alright, well, that pretty much sums up everything I had prepared. I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to answer my questions.

AF: Yeah, no worries man, thanks a lot! Thanks for the support and so on. You have a good day, I’m going back to my apartment.

SM: Alright, see ya!

AF: Cheers man, cheers.