Interview: In Flames
Tue, 12 Aug 2014 10:37:00
In Flames guitarist Björn Gelotte is enjoying some much-deserved R&R before the band returns to dominating the road.
"I'm on an island out here in the blistering sunshine," he smiles. "I've been in the sea most of the day so I'm very happy. I'm glad to have a short break. This island is on the West Coast an hour away from Gothenburg. It's really nice. The weather has been insanely good the last few days. It's around 90 degrees. It's not very common here in Sweden so I'm super happy."
He's got many reasons to be happy though. The band's new album Siren Charms, out September 9, stands out as their best work to date. It artfully fuses the thrashed-up intensity of Whoracle with the tuneful darkness of Come Clarity and Sounds Of A Playground Fading. In that respect, it represents everything the Swedish juggernaut is capable of. At the same time, their sound progresses yet again on tracks like "In Plain View" and "Through Oblivion", offering something dynamic and different.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Björn Gelotte of In Flames talks Siren Charms, painting, and so much more.
Siren Charms captures the intensity and energy of your early material, but the songwriting is evolved. It's the perfect In Flames album.
Well, we try to do this when it comes to every songwriting period before a record. We try to not look back on what we've done but learn from what we've done. I've never been one of those guys who looked back to my roots because they're with me all the time. We do the same thing now. Maybe we're like a wine or a whisky. We mature slowly [Laughs]. We've taken everything with us. We really enjoyed the process of making this record all the way from the demo stage to when we had the final mixes in our hands. It was a tough, but great journey. We learned a lot from it and from the past few years of touring. We try to do what is In Flames and focus on that. I'm very happy hearing you say that. It feels like we hit the target we're aiming for.
What was the general mindset going into the album?
Well, we talked a lot about it. We changed the scenery from how we normally do records. We've done quite a few in Gothenburg. We've done a few experiments. We went to Uppsala once. We did one record in Denmark. We rented a huge house, built two studios in there, and just winged it. It turned out great. It was an awesome experience. This time around, Anders fell in love with the Hansa Studios in Germany. It's a classic studio in Berlin. So many classic albums have come from there, and so many artists have been there. He felt that maybe he could get inspired from that or something might rub off in the studio. I was like, "Fuck it. For me, it doesn't really matter. I can record anywhere". He was absolutely certain it was important for us to do that. I went down there and fell in love with it too. Anders explained the history of the place. David Bowie, U2, and Depeche Mode have all recorded there. All of these huge records have come from there. I was pretty sure it wasn't going to change anything. Listening back to it now, it did. Something came in there. There's a certain melancholic vibe to the album that I'm not sure would've happened anywhere else. It was a genius move from Anders. He talked us into it. Basically, we weren't really hard to convince when we saw the studio and heard the history of it! It was an interesting thing to do. It changed things a little bit. We came down there with the same goal to make the eleventh record. Jesus, we're old [Laughs]. We wanted to make something special out of it, and we really did.
What is that vibe or feeling for you?
I think it's a sense of melancholy. It's not something depressing or sad in a bad way. It strikes a certain note—at least in my heart. There's a vibe in it. I could never recreate it just by using the same formula. It's something that just happens. It's a mix of a lot of things. The ideas Anders is talking about in the lyrics all the way until the final mix and the way we put on extra guitars and the effects are all a little sadder in a sort of uplifting and refreshing way. There are so many things that work together in giving it that vibe.
What's the story behind "In Plain View"?
To be honest, that's not the obvious opening track for In Flames. We're not Dream Theater or Meshuggah, but it's got a little bit of that twist and turn in the rhythm part to a degree. That was the main idea to begin with. That was the first thing I played around with when I started writing that song. Then, we thought we should put something more straightforward as a chorus in there and make it a little bit more interesting when it comes to certain things and then be more straightforward when it comes to the obvious. It's a little bit of an experiment, but when you listen to it, you'll hear it's In Flames. In the end, it turned out to be a good opener.
How did "Everything Is Gone" come together?
That's more of an old school nod to death metal. It's partly where we come from. Sometimes, we really enjoy playing it. It's a little bit more of a challenge when it comes to the drums, but Daniel Svensson loves the challenge. We wanted to make it as hard and brutal as possible and still have it sound In Flames. We're not Suffocation. We're not Malevolent Creation. We're not Cannibal Corpse. All of those bands are artists we listen to and love. They're part of what we do in the end. It was like, "Let's see if we can do that and put the In Flames clothes in it and see what happens". It's got some Slayer vibes in there. I'm a huge fan of them!
Where did "Filtered Truth" come from?
There were two songs on the album where we had to work a lot to get the arrangements right. One was "Siren Charms", the title track, and the other was the ending track "Filtered Truth". It was a sort of a bitch to get it right because it came in so many shapes and forms. We had an extremely hard intro. We thought, "Maybe that's too much and we should strip it all away?" Then, we came down to this and that, thinking we should do an acoustic start. It was a big struggle. All of a sudden, when everything came into place, the vocals just flew in there. It was effortless as soon as we got the arrangements right. It's a cool thing. It's a sing-a-long without being cheesy. It sums up the album. It's got a nice little solo I'm happy with.
You want to have an epic finale.
Yeah, we've done that on the last few albums. It's nice to have a solid ending. You want to go back to the beginning and see what you experienced and explored.
Which song speaks to you the most right now?
If you ask me in a half-an-hour, it will change [Laughs]. There are a few songs that stood out when it came to the songwriting ideas. I think "Through Oblivion" is really cool. It's something we didn't try before. It's a very simple song, but there are elements in it that make it really complex. That one is very fun. I think it's going to go over very well live. That's going to be interesting to see how it turns out. Another one is "Everything Is Gone". Of course, there's "When The World Explodes" with the female vocals. It's made for the live set. I'm really looking forward to those.
What else influences you outside of music?
I'm not sure anything else really influences the way I write. Melodies turn up in my head, and I try to do them justice and put them in interesting arrangements and try to be true to who we are. We don't try to do something we can't do or something other bands are better at. We know how to play In Flames songs, and that's what we do. When you hit that string, tone, or vibe, we're on to something right. The last couple of years, I've been into painting and drawing. It's the opposite of being inspired. I use that as an outlet of something else to let go of things. It's not like I have to let go of my past, but I sort of zone out when I paint and draw. It resets my mind a little bit. I start over after I'm done with it. I like art very much. I have friends who are really talented. I learn from them and have that as an outlet or as a sidetrack to keep me focused on the music in a better way.
What do you like to paint or draw?
Let's say I just do a face. Maybe I want to draw Michael Jackson or whatever. It doesn't really matter. If I do that, I want to try to get the essence of what the subject is and what's important within the subject. I'm more of a realism painter. To be honest, that's what I am. I just love doing it, and I love that it cleans my mind.
Have you been drawing since you were a kid?
I drew a little bit as a kid. I was always into role playing games and things like that so the fantasy genre and sci-fi have always been important to me in terms of movies and books. I didn't draw for many years. All of a sudden, I picked up a pen and piece of paper and tried to draw someone's face. It wasn't absolute shit. It was decent first try so I said, "Wow!" I just noticed how the hours flew by in the tour bus. Everyone was partying around me, and I was just sitting there like time stood still and four hours passed. There was that clean feeling afterwards. I really picked it up in the past few years.
What have you been into musically?
There are all sorts of bands who come and go. They release fantastic albums. I'm very old school or traditional though. You can ask anybody in the band, especially Anders who's the opposite of me. He devours music in every shape and form. I have my go-to records. They'll never fail you. They'll always do the job. I go to my Dio records. I go to Iron Maiden of course. I go to a bit of old school death metal records. That's what I listen to. I listen to Van Halen a lot. I don't pay much attention to what's going on, but it keeps me focused on what we want to do.
If you were to compare Siren Charms to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I've never had this question before. I'd say maybe a Stanley Kubrick movie with this vibe of melancholy. At the same time, it feels a little spacey. It's an interesting question. I'd say a Kubrick movie. It could be anything from A Clockwork Orange to all the epic things he's done. Maybe I'm patting myself on the back too much, but that's the feeling I have. It's a good question—very interesting!
You can't go wrong with 2001: A Space Odyssey!
It's fantastic! Everything he's done is so twisted in a way, but it's got this vibe and nerve. It's always there. You can't put your finger on it. I really like that.
What's your favorite In Flames song?
See our "First Reaction" to Siren Charms here!