Bjorn Gelotte: 'I've Always Been Interested in Drums'

artist: In Flames date: 07/17/2014 category: interviews
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Bjorn Gelotte: 'I've Always Been Interested in Drums'
When the phone rang at Bjorn Gelotte's house in Gothenburg, Sweden, he was watching the World Cup finals. His hometown Swedish team didn't quality but that hasn't stopped him from watching the other games. It is a rare quiet moment for the guitarist of In Flames. The band - Gelotte, vocalist Anders Friden, bassist Peter Ewers, drummer Daniel Svensson and second guitarist Niclas Engelin - has just completed "Siren Charms," their 11th album in a series of records that hve virtually redefined the boundaries of melodic death metal. And as one of the founders of the style, they well understand exactly which rules to break.

"Siren Charms" brings in clean and melodic vocals, non-shred-like riffs, old school-styled solos and even bits of electronic and trance synth sounds. It is precisely this pursuit of not adhering to the rules - even if they wrote them - that has placed this Gothenburg, Sweden-based band at the forefront of the pack since they first emerged back in 1990. "I think that actually gives a certain vibe to a song if you don't do it strictly death metal or strictly blues but you kind of mix it up a bit," says Gelotte. "That's what we always tried to do. I think it takes away the edges that I don't think need to be there when you have a little bit of a looser playing and it's not thrash metal and it's not death metal. It's metal - it's In Flames hopefully in the end. But it's metal or general metal I'll say."

Gelotte goes deeper in this conversation about Siren Charms, his approach to guitar, and selling hamburgers.

UG: You joined In Flames as their drummer back in 1995. Were you not playing guitar at that time?

BG: Actually it was the opposite. I started out playing guitar. I just happened to know a bit of drums because I was working at the time at a youth center and kinda teaching kids my age and older how to play together. So I had to learn a bit of drums. I've always been interested in drums.

Drums were never your instrument?

I was never a drummer until my cousin introduced me to Jesper [Stromblad, guitarist] at the time. They were like best friends forever so he said, "Well I've got this cousin. He knows how to play the drums." He didn't know anything about my drumming capabilities but he figured I probably didn't suck.

Did you suck?

The thing is I sucked but I sucked a little bit less than Jesper so I got the job. That's actually how I got into playing drums full on for a couple of tours and two albums. But I was never comfortable with that. The reason why I actually took the invitation so to speak to In Flames was because they let me write music right away.

That was your main goal?

Yeah, they let me do whatever I wanted and we tried to do everything together at the time so it was me, Jesper and Glenn [Ljungstrom, guitarist] writing and jamming up new tunes. I also had something to do with the songwriting and that was of course the main reason.

What was it like working on "The Jester Race" album?

I'd been in the studio before that but never to record a proper, full-length album. I'd done the demos like everybody else and when you do a demo there's only like three songs and you get a weekend to record. Now this time we had I think it was 11 days and that's way longer than we were used to. But still it's nothing compared to today. Back in those days also as I said we rehearsed and we jammed a bit together so we came fairly well prepared. Everything was written before and we had all the demos done so the session was really cool.

That was a good experience for you?

It kinda killed a lot of my fantasies about music because you understand it is a chore. You get very repetitive and at times very long hours and stuff like that. But at the same time when you listen to the finished first rough mixes in the car, it kinda gives you the magic back. At first it kind of pulled me down a bit because there was no magic happening 'cause it's a lot of hard work. Then you listen to it and you can't remember how hard it was to remember how hard it was to record it. You just hear what's going on in the song and that's fantastic.

It's like looking behind the curtain.

The session was really great. It's the first time I think you can call In Flames because before that it was more of a project so that was also important. Anders [Friden, vocalist] and me joining and then setting the aim a little bit higher. We wanted to go on tours and we wanted to do more shows. It became a band so the session was very important obviously.

You also played some guitars on "The Jester Race." Acoustics?

Yeah and some solos.

You co-wrote the instrumental "Wayfaerer," which was the first of many instrumentals the band would do.

Well, we did that more in the early days. Back then we wanted to try out stuff and obviously some of the melodies we put in the instrumental parts were not really meant as anything else than small, short melodies. We tried to put them together and make them interesting. We were never aiming for Dream Theater kind of long jam or anything like that. But we had so many ideas we wanted to put 'em together. But nowadays we try to focus more on the live material because that's where the songs are gonna spend the most time 'cause they're gonna get played live. We have a singer and it would be weird not to let him sing, hah hah hah.

On "Whoracle" you continued playing drums and writing songs. Was it strange writing these guitar riffs for Glenn and Jesper and not playing them yourself.

At that time I didn't know much about touring and I didn't know much about anything like that. At first when you start touring, you understand what you really want to do. At the time I played the drums but I knew I could write and the few shows we did really didn't change anything. But as soon as we started touring, you wanted to be upfront and play those riffs. I wanted to be there and try to pull off what you did on record. In the beginning I didn't think about that. I was just very happy with the way the band functioned.

You were still content at this point to write and play drums?

All the way up until Whoracle I would say because as soon as we recorded that two of the guys said, "We don't wanna tour." So we lost Glenn and Johan [Larsson, bassist] back then.

Did the other members of the band know your heart was really in playing guitar?

Yeah, I think that was kind of obvious. Being a drummer demands a lot physically out of you and you need a lot of stamina and you can't really party as hard as the other dudes even though we did. You still have a big responsibility as a drummer because together with the bass you're the foundation of every song and basically the foundation of the band. As a guitar player now I can totally see the difference because me and Niclas [Engelin, guitarist] nowadays or me and Jesper before that, we could be a little bit off. We could f--k around and do whatever we wanted to do onstage as long as the rhythm section was solid. It's a totally different freedom to play the guitar and one I really enjoy.

On the "Colony" album, you switch to guitar. Was that a major change for In Flames?

Well songwriting-wise it wasn't really a big change. The difference was me and Jesper wrote instead of me, Jesper and Glenn. We did the same for numerous records after that. We did the exact same way of writing and the same ideas popping up and me sort of helping him out with his and he definitely helping me out with my stuff and then putting the songs together. That didn't change but maybe I brought a little bit of a different tone to the guitar playing than perhaps Glenn had.

That is absolutely true.

The major shift I'd say is that we finally found a proper or not only a proper but a fantastic drummer in Daniel [Svensson]. That together with Peter [Iwers] on the bass created exactly that rhythm section we needed. That made us sound good - if I may say so - live all the time. Because they are so solid. It's fantastic.

When Glenn Ljungström left the band, did you think at all how that might impact In Flames?

He actually mentioned it very early in the recording. He just said, "Ah, dudes. I can't tour. I don't wanna do this. I love the band and I love you guys." He's always been very straightforward with everything so we knew. Finding a guitar player? Well, I saw my shot there - I saw my possible elevation to the guitar spot. So I was just like, "Ohhh, so sad you gotta go. But I know somebody who can fill that spot. Now we just have to find a drummer." We totally understood he didn't wanna do it.

What about when Johan Larsson left?

Johan on the other hand, that came more as a shock. Because he didn't mention anything up until right when the record was done. "Oh guys, I gotta go. I can't do this." That was something we didn't expect. But that was lucky he decided to do that and now he has a fantastic life with his wife and kid and we have Peter on bass. I'm very happy and it turned out to be for the better for everybody.

If Glenn had not left the band, is it possible you would have stayed on the drums?

I doubt it. It was taking too much out of me sitting down on the drums doing all those long sets on the touring side. If it's not exactly what you wanna do, it's a lot of work. I've never done this for a paycheck and I wouldn't start doing it for the paycheck either. Basically what you do if you lead that kind of life you tour so much you're never home and you miss your family and friends. You meet a lot of good friends on the road but it's a different kind of life and you really have to love it.

Conceivably you may have left In Flames to start your own band as a guitar player?

Probably. Umm, I'd say that's very likely. It's really hard to predict what would have happened. I remember the feeling I had when we were on tour and it was like, "Aw, this is gonna be a rough one again" when your heart's not really into it. Maybe it's because I was so happy when I got to play the guitar instead and when I started thinking back maybe I didn't enjoy it as much as I believed I did at the time. I'm not sure.

Do you think your songwriting was improving by the time you did the "Colony" album?

I think a lot of stuff happens when you're in the studio as well. Obviously you have the basic parts of the song but we call it cosmetics that gets added in the end. A lot of it you have in your head but as a drummer you have two guitar players already that take care of the cosmetics. It turns out more to be their thing. But now as a guitar player, you have a big chance of changing things. Well you have a way of changing things that you can't if you're not playing a guitar.

The drums are not a harmonic instrument in that sense.

We are a very guitar-based, riff-based, melody-based band so the instrument is obviously in the foreground and every little thing you do makes a difference.

On the "Reroute to Remain" album you changed from producer Fredrik Nortström to Daniel Bergstrand. Why did you switch?

We felt we worked enough with Fredrik. At the time he had a multitude of kids and he started working nine to five and that's not really how you make a metal record in my book. I don't think his heart was into it all the way the way it was working out. We felt we needed to do something else.

It was time for a change?

The first guy we actually came up with was Daniel because he did a Meshuggah recording before that we heard the drums from and they sounded amazing. So we checked him out and he was very interested and a very cool guy to work with. A very different approach compared to Fredrik. He really loved it and worked long hours. He just enjoyed different things than you normally would think. A very, very cool guy to work with.

Did Daniel Bergstrand offer song ideas?

Maybe not the writing but the way the songs felt. He worked very closely with Daniel 'cause he seems to love recording drums. That and vocals he's excellent at.

What about guitars?

Guitars? Mainly me and Jesper would do those in our own sessions. He came there and said, "This sucks. This is good."

General comments about Reroute to Remain is that the album had a lot of clean vocals. But Anders sings pretty forcefully on "Reroute to Remain" and other songs.

The thing is again we wrote that record in exactly the same way as we've done in our past. We have our sort of ways of writing and this is exactly the same way. We can't really - how do you say? —cater to anybody but us because we're the only ones that need to really like it. Since we're gonna play these songs maybe a 1, 000 times or 2, 000 times live, it better be songs we like. So we always have that in mind when we write and we did the same thing for that one but we changed the studio. So obviously a lot of people thought we changed, which we didn't.

Bands that try and change to meet fan expectations end up chasing their tails.

When you start worrying about that, I think you're not confident in what you do. That shows and will not make you be more successful I think. At least not when it comes to metal and rock in general because that needs to come from the heart. I think if it doesn't and if you start worrying about what other people think then you're not in it for the right reasons so to speak.

"Metaphor" had violin and acoustic guitar, which was not written to meet anyone's expectations.

That was crazy for us. The fiddles in there, the violins in there, actually replaced a guitar piece I had done. So I was really surprised when I heard the first version of it. I was, "What? Where's my guitar piece? What the f--k are these violins doing here?" But it actually turned out to be very cool.

Very powerful song.

That's another one of our experiments. We need to allow ourselves to do stuff like because it's an outlet as well. We need to try everything because this is the one band we want to play in and this is the one band we want to try everything in. So you can expect small experiments like that every now and then.

How would you define what you and Jesper Stromblad did as a guitar team?

Basically it depends a little bit on what kind of riff it is and who wrote it. Who's playing it best and what's more efficient for the recording? For instance I might play a whole song - all the guitars for a whole song. It kinda saves time because I already have all the harmonies figured out in my head and all the different ideas I want to add. And vice versa. So Jesper will say, "I'll do this one. It's quicker." You play tighter to yourself. It saves time. So you sit there and jam out and together you come up with the cool ideas you might think is cool at the time but hopefully they stand the test of time [laughs].

When it comes time to play the songs live, then you'll sit down and figure out exactly what each guy is playing.

Yeah, but what we're doing is not brain surgery in any way. Nothing what we do is technically extremely challenging for anybody who actually is a good guitar player. For us that's the level of where we are. So we try not to overdo things and do too complicated stuff that we can never reproduce live. That's a very important environment for us and our music so we need to keep it real so to speak.

On the "Soundtrack to Your Escape" album, there were interesting keyboards on songs like "The Quiet Place." How would you describe synths in the scope of what In Flame does?

They used to be kind of lurking in the background to - how do you say it? - highlight a guitar medley or in the lower regions maybe as a low-end kind of filler. But it evolved and that has a lot to do with all the live shows we played and all the touring. Because we kinda used that as one part of the foundation of what we do - there's a lot of drum loops and a lot of low-end noise tht is there that you can't really hear on the records. But live it serves a fantastic purpose and gives you a lot of dynamics we couldn't really recreate with just the instruments we have.

Keyboards serve an entirely different function than the guitars?

There's so many things you can do when you have a proper programmer and a proper keyboard player like Orjan [Ornkloo] for instance. He's amazing in finding ways to fill the gaps where you need them. You have the guitars and bass but there's something in-between that is missing in that frequency area and he just finds some cool sound or something like that and fills it up.

Orjan does understand how to play keyboards in a metal band.

He has a very German approach to things. Everything is a little bit distorted and that makes it perfect for our sound. So it has become a way more important element in the music than we perhaps thought it would be in the beginning when we started experimenting with it.

The band self-produced the "Come Clarity" album in 2006. Why?

We couldn't really decide on who we wanted to work with. We had done all these records before and we wanted to try doing things in a different way to mix it up a bit. Logistically it was a nightmare because fairly recently we started recording on hard drive. We had done a couple records before that but we did guitars in one studio, the bass in another studio and the vocals and drums in another studio. So just imagine how many hard drives were out and about? I think nobody actually heard everything until it got back from northern Sweden when everything got mixed. For us it was logistically a nightmare.

What are your feelings about "Come Clarity?"

It turned out really good and some things we might have changed if we would have worked with somebody. Because at the same time a producer is not only there to make sure you play your best but also to make sure you're focused all the time and do the right things. And a little bit like a dad or a psychologist or whatever you want to call it. But since we didn't have that it turned out differently. I'm super proud of it and love every song on it but it was an experiment at the time.

The title track is a great example of how you use acoustics and electrics in the music along with the harmony guitars and everything else.

There's a lot of guitar work there and it's always been there in everything we do. From the beginning already, it is a guitar-driven band and melodies are super important for us. It's always been there.

Your approach to melodies is what sets the band apart.

We've never been much for the rhythmical parts unless you can add some nice melodies to it. "Come Clarity" is one of our first ballads really.

You consider that a ballad?

It is somewhat of a ballad. We never really approached the songs that way before. We've learned from that experience and we love the song and everything. But we found there were things we could do a little bit better and I hope we have done that since.

"Sounds of a Playground Fading" is the first album without Jesper Strömblad. What was that like?

Basically when Jesper decided he needed to leave because he couldn't really tour, it wasn't easy for him and obviously it wasn't easy for us. But he had mentally been away from the band for a couple of years before that for different reasons.

Did you think the sound of In Flames would change after this?

When he decided to quit, I never really thought about how I would do things if he wasn't there because we've always done everything together. All the songwriting, touring and pretty much all the shows. It never occurred to me but all of a sudden a new record was supposed to be written and recorded so I had to start thinking about that.

Were you worried at all about writing a new album on your own?

I think the first thing I did was turn on my computer, turned on Pro Tools, sat down with the guitar and pressed Rec [record] and just felt what was going on in my head and if the juices were flowing so to speak.

Were they?

They were. I did maybe 25 different ideas in one evening. Nothing really ended up on the record but it just proved I was into it and it would work. So I decided I wanted to write this myself. Well, the basic ideas and take help from the rest of the guys because they are the guys that know this music best in the world along with me. I started bouncing a lot of ideas off the other guys and they said this or that and they liked it or didn't like it. But in the end I could prepare the basic ideas I wanted to show them and let them have their say and their sound be incorporated in the songs.

It almost sounds like the floodgates were opened on all these ideas you had.

It was very easy; very simple. A lot of support from the guys and again we've done this for such a long time, we know how far we can expand our borders when it comes to what kind of music and what ideas we can do. I think it brought me and Anders closer. I bounced a lot of ideas off of him because it's gotten more and more important to leave a lot of room for the vocals as well. Because his instrument is getting better and better and I tried to make the musical environment easy for him to make something nice out of it. So that definitely drew us closer as a songwriting team.

It's remarkable when you describe how seamless this process was because losing an original member of a band is a hard thing to overcome.

He was the founding member so it was more than just losing a songwriter or bandmember. He was one of my absolute best friends. I mean we've done everything together so I think that was a bigger change than perhaps the actual songwriting was. I'm not gonna change what kind of music I like because one of the guys quit. I'm still gonna do the same. If I do this for another 25, 30 years we'll see. But whatever I write will sound like what I write. I'm never looking for my roots or anything like that. I'm just trying to find what sounds good and interests me and makes me get goose bumps. Stuff like that. That's what I'm looking for and not to reinvent anything. That's been done.

Playing all the guitars on "Sounds of a Playground Fading" must have been challenging and rewarding?

Especially since I did the first demos at home and then we did a demo with all of us together just so everybody could play through the ideas. So I had to do all the guitars twice and then for the actual recording a third time, hahhahhah. So yeah, I knew the songs after that pretty much.

Do you have the last word on what guitar parts end up on record?

It used to be a way bigger discussion about what's gonna be there or not. That's also something you learn over the years. Somebody said "Less is more" but that's not always right. I don't agree with Yngwie when he says, "Less is more." What do you mean? "More is more." For us it wouldn't work but for him it definitely works. Sometimes adding that extra guitar over third harmony or something maybe didn't add anything to it. Maybe it actually brought focus away from what's important in the song. Stuff like that you learn.

But you do take a lot of time with your solos?

If it's a solo I've been working on for a long time, I really would want it to be on the record obviously. But then again songs I've been working the hardest on have ended up as bonus tracks sometimes and it's just a matter of what fits and what works in the end.

Was Yngwie Malmsteen someone who was on your radar?

Well, he's been the greatest for as long as he's played guitar I guess. I've never been the biggest number one fan but he's a guitar player like no other. I don't know if he invented the shredding but at least took it to the metal and rock scene. Of course his whole persona and everything is very big so of course you know about the guy. Most of my friends that play guitar have him as a god obviously.

You don't see him that way?

I'm from the '70s and my biggest hero is Dio. Along with that came Ritchie Blackmore and it's not the same kind of guitar playing. Even though I know Yngwie loves Ritchie and he's even said that. But they have very different approaches to songwriting and playing guitar. I was never a shredder but I could relate and understand the melodies that were created in Rainbow and Purple. So that's more closer to my heart.

Were any of those other classic rock guitar players on your radar?

Yeah, quite a few. Thin Lizzy obviously and anything they did back then was fantastic I thought. The twin guitars they did, we sometimes joke around about it and say, "Well let's do this Thin Lizzy thing with the dual guitars." It's been done many times and it's probably been called that by every other band in their own way. But it is a trademark thing they created. Of course it's easy to relate to that if you're a guitar player who likes melody and harmonies. In my opinion, that's where it started.

Who else?

Leslie West, of course, in Mountain.

Remarkable guitar player.

Yeah, very blues oriented but some of the riffing is really, really cool. It's a little bit like Zakk Wylde. Now very different guitar players but they have kind of the same approach. It's more like boxing than writing something beautiful. It's not poetry - it's a fight when they play guitar and it's very, very cool.

What about Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page?

Weirdly enough, my dad was never a fan of either of those guitar players, which meant I rarely listened to "Stairway to Heaven" and those songs unless it was in school. I was never a huge fan of those bands. It's weird, I know. Page obviously has been super important for the whole rock genre in general and probably Beck too but I listened way too little to his music to actually have something to say about it.

Did the early prog players like Robert Fripp or Steve Howe mean anything to you?

It's the same there. It was never in my dad's record collection and that's how I started listening to metal. Iommi obviously was there and Vivian Campbell and the rock from that time. Obviously Whitesnake was a big thing as well. I was never a huge Vai fan either. I don't know maybe I have a weird taste but it's just that it's a little bit too much sometimes. I like Nuno [Bettencourt]'s guitar playing very much.

What prompted you to go back into the studio and record the "Siren Charms" album?

It was a timing thing. For this record we weren't even signed when we started recording. Firstly we're extremely lazy - or I am - so when we're touring I don't write anything at all. So I kind of need to deadline to start. Like, "We're gonna record in October so you better start writing." I need that. We had some time off and we said, "Wow, it would be nice to have a new record to tour on."

Did you have any song ideas at all?

I had a riff bag with ideas that I didn't use that much for the record. But I started slowly doing that.

Why did you decide to record at Hansa Studios [U2, David Bowie] in Berlin?

Anders was down there and he was visiting and got to see all the facilities and got to meet the people working there and he just fell in love. Today recording is not the same thing it was 10 or 15 years ago. You don't normally go to a studio like this. You don't need to go to a studio like this to sound OK.

Now you can virtually record in your basement and sound amazing.

There was something in the atmosphere. Being in Berlin for six weeks and being in that fantastic studio where all these fantastic records had been made, it adds something to it. I can't really put my finger on what it is. I know it helped Anders a very big deal to be there and get the atmosphere and to have something to get in the right mood I think.

Were you picking up on the atmosphere as well?

For me it was more of a very cool place to be. I was at I don't know how many concerts because every band in the world seems to be touring through Berlin and I can live with that. And they have great food, great beer and a lot of awesome people. So I had a blast down there.

Is Hansa a digital studio?

We recorded digital but we could have done two-inch if we wanted to but that's way more time consuming. You lose a lot of editing opportunities that are necessary when you want to try out stuff. Since we don't rehearse we don't record everything at the same time. We do drums first and then we do the guitars and then the bass and then more guitars and in the end we do pretty much the vocals.

What was it like recording with Niclas Engelin on second guitar?

That was the whole point. He's been with us for such a long time now and obviously for him to feel like a part of this record, he needs to be playing on it. He didn't write anything but he recorded several parts because he has a different guitar playing than I have.

How would you describe the differences?

You can't probably tell the difference but I can sure tell the difference when I try to play some of the stuff because he's really, really good. He's a very thrash metal guy and very precise in his picking and he can do a lot of stuff with that kind of talent. So I let him do some of the more intricate parts and I just have to brush up my guitar playing when we do it live.

You described Niclas's style so how would you describe yours?

Hah, I think I'm way more loose. I don't bother with being super precise especially live because you can't. I pride myself on being tight and that I am. But when it comes to the actual technique and stuff like that, I don't think I have any good technique to be honest. But it sounds right in my ears. It's more like a little bit more old school way of playing perhaps. I haven't been sitting summer after summer or year after year just practicing scales up and down. I've never done that and that shows in my guitar playing I think. But then again what you don't know you can't miss so I think it's a good thing for me.

There are metal bands out there who play riffs so technically perfect that the character of the song disappears.

It can be that way sometimes. It could get a little bit one-sided because I know most of the newer stuff that comes out today is where they're really hard on it and they put down every drop of sweat, blood and tears like every band does. Not to take anything away from that but I don't think it would fit In Flames because I like that a little bit more loose. That means we can do it perhaps even better live if we rehearse a bit or play enough live.

In Flames is one of the bands credited with creating melodic death metal but you're so much different than other bands in this style.

It is because we like what we do. I'm not saying other bands don't tour but we tour a s - tload and you learn so much from that. Not only by seeing other bands but about yourself and your writing and how structures in the song could be and how it could help you and how the actual show could benefit from having more dynamics in there. And how when you listen and look at other bands, you learn from their good ideas and perhaps even from what you might perceive as their mistakes. I think it's very important just to play live. That's where you really distill your sound a little bit and also evolve it.

"Rusted Nail" is the first single from "Siren Charms" and features that great old school wah-wah.

I like the wah.

You've been a Les Paul player for some time now?

Yeah, a Les Paul, Marshall and the Q95 from Dunlop. It's very traditional and very classic stuff I'm using. I'm very happy with that and that's what I've been struggling with or aiming for my whole playing life basically. So I'm very happy right now.

You're not running through a ton of pedals?

No, it needs to be super, super simple otherwise I'd get nervous live. It's worked for everybody for 80 years almost with a guitar right through an amplifier and then straight out. It's worked for everybody and it's gonna work for me too.

"Paralyzed" is a great example of how In Flames uses those electronica keyboard sounds in the music.

It was actually one of the songs when we first wrote it and recorded it that we thought, "Well this is probably gonna be the first single." Because it sounded like that when we had the right tempo and the chorus was a big one and the keys were in there so we knew we were gonna play this live. But it ended up we had so many songs we wanted to have as singles and in the end we just said, "It doesn't really matter. Have the people that need to promote this decide what they think would be best." This is how it ended up and everybody was super happy with either one.

Your finger vibrato in the solo from "Paralyzed" was amazing. Is that something you worked on?

I didn't really consciously work on it. I don't mind being a little bit off-key when it's a solo with the vibrato. But if you have one of those stiff, rabbit f--king kind of things, it annoys the f--k out of me. 'Cause it doesn't matter how good the solo is if you mess that up. I'd rather have a tenth of the notes if you do 'em right. That's just me listening and hopefully that's where I'm aiming. I'm not saying I'm gonna play less notes but if you can't handle it why even bother doing it. Stick to what's important and try to do it that way.

That's your philosophy about soloing?

I cheat a lot and as much as I can to make it sound good, which means I don't do all the picking all the time. I just try to make it sound like something I would be enjoying if I didn't know the band. Hopefully that's something I would enjoy if I heard it for the first time.

The solo on "Filtered Truth" has this repeating phrase that becomes almost like one of the riffs in the song.

It's important if you're gonna put time and effort into a solo, it needs to be something that stands out. If it sounds very posh or cliche, it's not my point. If you're gonna have a solo in a song, make sure it counts. Putting a solo in there because you're lazy or don't have enough lyrics, it's the wrong way to do it I think. In that case it's better to do what the punk rockers did just don't have solos in that case. It needs to say something I think is very important.

It is easy to tell when a solo is there simply to fill up space.

Ultimately once in a while you hit that right note and it goes straight to somebody's heart and that's what's worth it.

You hit those notes all the time.

Oh, I don't know. I'm very proud of 'em obviously and I put a lot of work into them. I don't just sit down and jam out a solo. I work on them. Not for many days but I need a couple hours to get it down to phrase it right and structure the harmonies in there because I think they should be in as well. It is a recording after all so I can do what the f--k I want, hahhahhah. Live it's a different thing but I think it's important to put the same effort into that as you do into the actual structure of the song and make it count.

In Flames has gone through a lot of major changes so you must be really proud with what you've done on the "Siren Charms" album.

It's the best one we've done up-to-date obviously because it's the freshest. It kinda portrays us as musicians where we are right now not only playing-wise but writing-wise. This is where we are right now and it's a great statement and summarization of everything we've done without looking back to the roots. Everything we've done has put us here now in this mode and in this way of writing. So of course I'm extremely proud of it.

There have been some challenging moments along the way?

We've overcome many obstacles like many other bands do obviously as well. But it is something to be proud of and especially holding that first single or whatever. When you're holding it in your hand and sit there and listen to it, it makes you super proud.

We touched on this earlier but with "Siren Charms," In Flames has really changed the perception of what a Swedish melodic death metal band sounds like.

Thank you. That's a very nice thing to say to us actually, hah. Because it's something maybe not consciously struggle for but you want to make it interesting for yourself. And it makes you very proud and happy when somebody else on the outside realizes and recognizes those small things you've done. It's very cool.

Does your side project All Ends live in any way?

No, not really right now. They've all moved on pretty much into different bands and some others just don't do this anymore. It was one time when it really worked and it was a lot of fun. Nowadays it's hard to find the time for a side project at least for me. Running a restaurant at the same time and having three kids and In Flames pretty much taking up all my awake time in a positive way.

Will you be touring?

Right now we have our first summer off in 15 years so I'm not gonna work all through summer.

You own a restaurant?

Yeah, me and Peter opened a burger joint called "2112" obviously from the Rush record. It's in Gothenburg and it's very nice. It's something we built and wanted a place when you tour you want to be taken care of by the owner. They take you to their bar and they let you have a burger and a couple beers and you relax after the show. We succeeded pretty well actually with that and we have numerous bands coming over and pretty much any band that comes to town either knows about it or will find out about it and they go there.

For now you'll take the summer off?

Everything is really nice. The first single's out and I think we're gonna have some more singles out this summer. We start pre-production for the tour, which means a little bit of rehearsing or whatever they want us to do. We'll do that in September and then end of September we go out on tour. I'm really looking forward to that and charging my batteries right now.

Interview by Steven Rosen
Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2014
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