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Without much of an introduction, here's a conversation Alex had already back in June with frontman Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquillity:
About lyrics, how come that Niklas doesn't write them anymore?
Well, he kind of chosen not to. He prefers to express himself differently, with music and with his artwork. His full-time work is to paint, to create images, and he feels pretty drained by that, you know. So, he spends everything by that and writing music, he doesn't feel like writing lyrics is his thing. I'm totally ok with that, I really love the stuff he's done and stuff he still does sometimes, but I'm happy writing myself, and it feels good to sing something that I know, that I have intimate relations with, instead of singing what anyone else - even your friend - has written. But that was his choice.
I kinda miss his lyrics..
Yeah, I can imagine. I do feel that too. But I appreciate his desicion because he didn't have time to write. But maybe when he feels drained with his artworks, he will start wrtiting again, I guess. Who knows.
On the upcoming album, will there be any clean vocals, like on "Projector"?
No-no, definitely. It will be more heavy and kinda intense than everything we've done so there will be no room for clean vocals. It's definitely the most angry album we've done in a long time. It's a difficult album, more diverse and complicated, it's not a hit song records, it's a really angry death metal album.
The other thing I really miss on recent Dark Tranquillity albums is your clean vocals...
Well, then you'll get some of it on "Exposures". That was actually one of the reasons to release the songs that we've left out. Some of the songs are really light...
Why didn't you include the songs from your pre-Dark Tranquillity era, from back when the band wasn't even called Dark Tranquillity?
I guess you answered your own question. It's not Dark Tranquillity's material, it's not even funny. We've recorded three songs, we were just a joke band that had some fun - just making jokes in a rehearsal room and playing songs... It's definitely not something that is worth ever releasing. That was a totally different thing, before we ever learned to play the instruments at all. Just a fun joke. So it didn't feel right to include it on this one at all. So if you want to find that out, go on Ebay or something like that and search for them.
About your DVD, do you specially wanted to include so few material with clean vocals to the set list?
Well, we played lot of shows with material from "Projector", it's something that sometimes work and sometimes does not during the tours. Sometimes I get tired and my voice fucks up, and I can always scream, but when I start to sing, it's horrible... Some of those songs are kind of laid back and more suitable for another kind of show, very different. It always feels, when we do all these songs, it gets too mellow, too easy, when we rely on something else, the energy, it feels kinda weird. It depends on what we do. When we do shows somewhere in Japan or something like that, sometimes we can do more songs like that, but sometimes we want more energetic set, kinda anger and frustration, the aggressive set of the songs. That's the reason. And this was the set that we had for the "Damage Done" tours, which compiles mostly of "Damage Done" material, set of the songs had some kind of concept, at least musically. But we definitely do some of those songs here and there, depending from the kind of atmosphere we want.
Have you had any plans to release CD version of that live recording back then?
Yeah, there was a talk about it, but we felt that it wasn't really necessary that time. The company wanted to release it separately as a live album, but we felt that it was kind of redone and pointless. It looks and sounds really great on the DVD, why have a CD? So we thought "if we release it lets have it for free then", because it's not a perfect live album, not in my ears, so we thought of making it a bonus, so people get it for free, it's cool. When we do a live album, we gonna do it differently, that's the reason. We wanted something special, we didn't felt like making a rip-off release, you know.
You didn't include all your videos on the DVD, why so?
We couldn't get the rights to them. They're owned by Osmose Records, so we couldn't release them. It's kinda sad, I really wanted to, but we couldn't. They will be included on the new editions of "The Gallery" and "The Mind's I" because they're re-releasing them and those videos will be on them. But it's kinda sad, it's always sad when people who have rights don't want to release something, let it go, it's all pretty stupid, but there's nothing to be done about it.
And what else is gonna be bonus on those re-releases?
Ah, it's gonna be, for "The Gallery", I think all the covers that we did: Kreator, Sacred Reich, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate and Metallica covers. And on "The Mind's I" - "...Of Chaos and Eternal Night" mini-CD, and the videos. I think I'm correct. I'm not sure, but all those extras will be on those two releases anyway. They will be re-released mainly in America, but in Europe as well. You know, the focus is for America because there has been no distribution for those two albums in America in the past, but because the albums are hard to find in Europe too, we decided to do some kind of limited release in Europe as well.
Not too serious question....but Dark Tranquillity seems to be the band of switching the instruments..
Yeah, that's true. But it's all simple. When I started to play guitar, I was also singing, and I realized that I'm not a good guitar player, I was better singer, so that was the reason why I switched. And when Martin played bass before, he was always writing on guitar, he was always playing guitar when Fredrik wasn't there, and his bassplaying is more pretty much guitar-oriented anyway, so it was very easy to switch. As for Michael, he actually started playing bass, way back with the guys from Dismember and old Carnage that later became Dismember, and Luciferion needed the guitarplayer, so he played guitar, but he also played bass, actually he plays bass on the album, but he's not credited. The main thing was always the bass. So you have it. We didn't switch for the sake of switching.
Do you still play guitar?
Very very rarely, it's acoustic guitar, for my daughter and for myself. That's it. Just for fun. I'm a crappy guitar player, so I only play when no one else listens.
How do you compose the songs, do you play them on guitar, or use the sequencers?
I don't write that much music, but if I write anything, it's on acoustic guitar. But for the other guys, they tend do sit at home, come up with stuff, and then record them, with a sequencer, like a concept or whole songs. Then we email them to each other and when we meet on rehearsal the next day, we try things out, try variations of those ideas, come with thousands of new things and eventually we have a new song. That's how we do, everybody contributes a lot and we rehearse almost every day.
"Day To End" is, I think, the only Dark Tranquillity song that you wrote completely by yourself?
Oh, not counting "Exposures" then because there's two other songs I wrote. But yeah, that's just a song that I wrote on the acoustic guitar to play to my friends. And the same with the songs "Inside" and "Misery In Me" on "Exposures" as well. It just those simple songs I just play to myself, and when I play them to friends they're like "alright, it sound good, maybe we gonna do it?".
So "Misery In Me" is also your song? Because I heard it a couple years ago as a live recording from the "Projector" tour. I like it a lot!
It was recorded in Japan, that was the only time we played it. But the recording on "Exposures" is very different from what we played live. I really like it.
By the way, why didn't it make it onto the album?
We just didn't like when it was recorded. It just didn't feel right, you know. It was supposed to be like the really slow and mellow song with clean vocals and then we decided to make more heavy metal songs, it just got harder and more agressive, so it lost all that stuff it got from the beginning. We put the song away. We kinda reinvented it for this album, and its still there. Its not my favourite version of this song, but that's what we recorded.
How much of the new material are you gonna play on the upcoming shows?
We got home from Japan yesterday, and we played one new song, and it's very well received. People are happy about it. Hopefully we gonna do two songs from the album on the festivals. You know, we gotta try out new songs.
I don't know if it's true but I've heard that you and Niklas participated in very first lineup of Hammerfall?
Yeah, that's true.
Are there any recordings? And who else was there back then?
In the beginning it was Oscar Dronjak, Jesper Strömblad, Glenn from In Flames...
Yes! And the other guy, who was on the first album, the bassplayer. Fredrik something. I haven't seen him since then. That was it. And when that bassplayer left there was Johan from In Flames at one point too, I think we did three shows, and there is no recordings. Unfortunately.
You played the same that was on their debut album?
Same songs actually. "Steel Meets Steel", "Hammerfall"... Some of the songs we wrote back then that ended up on the album in little but different form.
I think it would've been cool to listen to you singing "Steel Meets Steel", hehe.
Yeah, it was cool! Very cool.
Not very serious question, did you ever regret that you picked the English way of spelling Tranquillity, with two L's?
Not really. I mean, I would've always getting it wrong, people would misspell it the other way around, if we had one L. We were all influenced by old English poetry, so it was natural, we don't regret it.
In computer game Rainbow Six on one of the maps there was "Damage Done" poster... How did it end up there?
We have a fan working in Ubisoft Italy, and he asked if he could do a tribute to us. I said, "Yes, I'd love it!". I play computer games all the time, I love Rainbow Six, so it's a great honour. There's actually another hint for Dark Tranquillity in that game but I will never tell you where it is.
Next question is not very much related to the interview, but anyway. Are you in contact with guys from Gardenian?
Only Niklas Engelin, he's the only one I still meet.
What are they doing now? I mean, are they disbanded or something?
I think they are disbanded. Last thing I heard from Niklas is that he was recording with another band. He just finished the Passenger album, and doing another album with the other band. He has another band he's playing with, so I'm pretty sure Gardenian have split up.
I was huge fan of them...
Yeah, I liked them too. That's sad.
I think I got one last question for you, I'm sure you've been asked this thousands times... have you heard Dream Theater's "Ytse Jam" before completing "The Gallery"?
Hahaha! No, absolutely not. We had not. I'm a huge Dream Theater fan and definitely Anders is too, but we haven't heard "Ytse Jam" when we were writing "Punish My Heaven".
Have you had a crazy idea to do a live cover of it, just as a joke?
Haha! No, we have played it on rehearsal, but never done it live. We had no idea, honestly. It's one of those things that happen.
Ok, that's all questions I got, so good luck to you, and maybe see you on some of the summer festivals.
Alright, take care!
submitted by Alex 25.12.2004