In Flames (Swedish)

What can I say about In Flames that hasn’t already been said…inventing a musical phenomenon, carrying the torch for heavy music for 30 years as one of the biggest bands in the world, and now releasing album number 13. I, The Mask is in my opinion one of the strongest releases from the band for ten years.

Metal-Roos: First, I want to start by saying congratulations! What you are constantly achieving with In Flames is astonishing, 30 years as a band, just amazing.

Well thanks for making me feel old! hahaha

It’s been a long and great journey. There’re no regrets, everything we’ve done so far has led up to this point. Me laying in my bunk talking to you about our latest release…hahaha. It could be way worse, so thank you very much for those kind words.

I The MaskM-R: I, The Mask is the thirteenth release from the band, a phenomenal effort. The album sounds bigger and heavier, stronger even. I read that this was a major goal for the album, care to expand on that?

I think we didn’t really have a plan but, we had a few keywords and big was one of them. We already decided after battles that we wanted to work with the same team again, that experience was so awesome and great. For us it was also a chance to learn something new at this point in life and in our musical career, by working with Howard and his team was too good to be true. We wanted to have that experience again. We knew that we didn’t need to be as prepared as the first time, to be loose, at least in the beginning and see where it takes us.

The other thing that we said was that we wanted to have someone to mix it for us, and it would be awesome if that was Chris Lord-Alge. He agreed and thought it was a great idea. He and Howard had done so many things together. I think one of the key points of why the production so big and so heavy he put the guitars little bit more upfront. I also think it’s a very diverse album and I’m very proud of having songs like I, The Mask or Stay With Me being on both ends of the spectrum and making it work. It’s a great journey, it feels like an old-school listen, you can start at song one and go to the last one and the journey feels really complete. I’m very happy how it sounds.

M-R: This was the second album in a row that you chose to work with Howard Benson. How did this influence the writing and recording process for the album? How are his methods different to the way In Flames usually writes and records their albums?

He taught us on Battles that we have to work together, and we have to be more open if we’re going to do this together. We had decided that before working with him. We had the opportunity to talk to eight to ten of our favourite producers, who all want to work with us, and each had different approaches to our music, Howard just said the right thing. It’s very flattering to hear all these people want to work with you, people that we’re always looked up to, and wanted to record with, but Howard just said the right things. He said he’s not going to change anything, he just wanted to make sure we don’t fuck around, to get back to what we’re really good at. He wanted us to perform at the best of our ability and beyond. He wanted to take who we are, the essence of In Flames, and polish it, make it clear. I like that approach. He forced us to open up and lose some of the control that we’ve always had, which used to put us in a ridged stalemate musically at times, there used to be a lot of compromises. He forced us to open up and not to have those, to step outside our comfort zones at times to do what was right for the record. That’s how he works and that’s why I like working with him and that’s why I want to do it again.

This time we knew what we were getting into, so that was a very smooth ride. He’s super-efficient, working with me with all the instruments at this big house, it’s just phenomenal. If I’m looking for a special sound and ask him, in about two minutes he’ll have it. He was that efficient. So, we didn’t have to waste a lot of time. We had five or six hours in the studio and the rest was spent in the house with the lyrics, continuously recording. It was basically three months on intertwined back to back, writing and recording all the way up to the last week, which is going back to Stay With Me now.

M-R: You have said that during the recording process you had more energy to write and work on the songs outside of the studio. Can you tell me a track that evolved the most during the recording process?

All of them evolved a lot. Howard and his experience. I could just have had a couple of riffs, Anders would have some ideas, you know, put it together and get an idea of a chorus and a verse, and he could hear right away where it was going, even if it’s only a rough demo. That really saves us some time. A lot of the time he was like ‘I don’t feel it’ or ‘you can do better than that’ or ‘I don’t feel this as a chorus’. It just gave us clear direct orders of what’s the best sort of sound, which saved so much time. So, most of the songs, one way or another have been re-arranged.

One funny story, (This Is Our) House was recorded during the Battles sessions, and we were never happy with it. We were just messing around with the arrangements and it turned out to be not at all what we had aimed for in the beginning. So, we went to this recording, actually after the album was done, we went back for another week just to see if there’s anything left in the jar and there was! We still had this song, I totally re-arranged re-recorded it and it turned out to be a totally different song that actually sounds really good and a joy play live. It’s interesting how songs just don’t fit one day then you make these changes and then all of a sudden, they fit perfectly.

M-R: The acoustic passages on the album have a darker timbre to them, giving the quieter passages a serious quality, especially on closer Stay With Me, was this a goal? Can you tell me about the writing of that track?

Oh absolutely, that song has a weird story. I had written two riffs at home, when I was trying out a new mic and speaker at home, and I wrote a couple of small things. Then we started working in the studio and we felt like we were missing this kind of song, then I remembered that I had these ideas when I was trying out my mic. We put them together and I wrote some more parts, then we sent them off to a programmer, a buddy of ours. I told him ‘we have these things here and sort of a loose arrangement, can you have a look at it with programming?’. They said ‘whoa, we’d love to, let me just put all this stuff together and I’ll change Stay With Me’. Then Anders and Howard worked on the lyrics and vocals, the first time when I heard it when it came back, I was blown away. All this from me trying out my new mic, it’s amazing how it happened.

M-R: It seems, it’s important to you that In Flames continue to move forward, and not dwell on past achievements. Do you think this has helped In Flames be so revered and relevant for thirty years?

I know for a fact that it’s helped us enjoy this and still love and be passionate about what we do. Everything we’ve done in the past has led us to where we are again. All the experiences that we’ve had all go into the records that we do up to that point. I think the only way of being true is to write for yourself. It might be individualistic at times and people might wonder ‘why don’t you do this and why don’t you do that’ I don’t do that because I’m the one who has to play it for a couple of thousand times in a couple of thousand dates!

I have to be happy, I can’t write it for you. First off, I don’t know what you want. Then, if you like it someone else will hate it. So, I think being individualistic is a good formula for staying true and staying happy and honest with your music. I think also the longevity, we’ve been around for such a long time that we strike some people with awe and some with fear, you know? hahaha

Any chance on seeing In Flames come through Australia on the I, The Mask tour?

Well, that would be amazing. We love Australia! We’ve been down there a couple of times and I can’t wait to get back. We’ve got nothing solid yet, but we are talking about how to get down there again daily. I am really looking forward to getting down there and hopefully we can make that happen very soon.

I, The Mask is out now via Nuclear Blast.

Interview Date: 2019-03-02

Interviewer: Jonathan Hurley