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In Flames | Clayman | interview | Anders Friden | metal | Lollipop

In Flames

Clayman (Nuclear Blast)
An Interview with vocalist Anders Friden
by Scott Hefflon

I've been a fan of In Flames since the Subterranean EP, back when the band had shriekier, more black metal vocals and a flair for fantasy/folklore topics and musical interludes.
Björn (Gelotte, former drummer now guitarist) and I joined right after the recording of the record, so I'm not responsible for that. We didn't do any touring or anything at that time because we were on a really small, Swedish label (Wrong Again Records, or WAR) that didn't have very good distribution. Good label, but small. Everything - the touring and the exposure - really started when we signed with Nuclear Blast. We're proud of our background, and the band was doing well before I even came into the picture, but after Subterranean, we became a real band. Before that, there were session players, friends that came in and helped out with the recordings.

I remember hearing the original singer elsewhere, but I can't place him now...
Henke Forss, he's singing in Dawn now.

Right, right... By the way, who's idea was it to do "Everything Counts" by Depeche Mode on Whoracle?
That was mine. I've been a big fan of theirs since I was 10 years old. The drummer of Dark Tranquillity - who I've been friends with since I was very little, we grew up in the same neighborhood - had an older brother who played Depeche Mode for us and turned us both on to them.

It's a moving song with a great melody, and it lent itself very nicely to heavy guitars and your vocal snarling.
It was cool to take a song not based on guitar and turn it into a metal song. A lot of people thought it was our own, and I think that's a good measurement of success.

In Flames doesn't really go in for that whole cover/tribute thing...
We've done a few, usually one per recording session, for Japanese bonus tracks or whatever. I'm not really into the tribute CDs because you always end up turning out something not as good as the original. We've tried to do Iron Maiden and Metallica covers, and we were asked to do a Dio song, but I said definitely not because I would never bring shame to Ronnie. It's better to leave the originals alone.

You were on the Power from the North: Sweden Rocks the World comp, right?
Yeah, we did a Treat song. But that was different, and it was good to do. The guy who put it together was really cool and paid for it out of his pocket. Lennart Larsson is a metalhead and asked Swedish bands who are popular today to do covers of the older bands. I have a lot of respect for someone who'd do this out of their pocket and have the energy to do it right.

What year did In Flames officially begin?
I'd say '93, and I joined in '95. We still do two songs live from the first album which I really enjoy. But I do the vocals my way.

Give me a little history: What were you listening to when you first thought of joining a band, and what band was it?
As I said, I grew up with the guys in Dark Tranquillity and I helped start the band in '89 under a different name. It became Dark Tranquillity and I was a member until '94. We released a couple of demos and couple of 7"s, and I was on the first record, Skydancer.

Who released Skydancer?
Spinefarm. They have a good reputation now, but back then they were very small. But they've always been a good underground label, and they're getting bigger and bigger... As for what I used to listen to, I've always had a struggle because I liked pop/synth music and I also liked metal. And many people thought you couldn't listen to both. I liked Depeche Mode and Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and the older albums by the Scorpions. I have a lot of vinyl...

I practically learned how to play guitar by playing every song on Love at First Sting...
And I think World Wide Live is one of the best live records of all time... But after a while, you want more. I got into the speed metal/thrash thing with Kreator - one of my favorites - and Bay Area bands like Testament and, well, Violence had a couple good songs but I never really liked the vocalist...

I always saw them as followers, not leaders... But I liked Death Angel and Dark Angel.
Oh yeah, both of them, too. Death Angel did some really, really cool stuff. Then there's Death with Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy and you get deeper and deeper, looking for something more extreme, like Carcass, maybe... And now, for the last few years, I listen to all kinds of music, from really extreme stuff to ambient music. It depends on my mood, really.

Do you think the overall metal culture has broadened its perspective, allowing people to listen to all kinds of music?
Both yes and no. I think some people are very narrow-minded and think that if you're in a death metal band, you should only listen to death metal music, but I think that's totally bullshit. I think it's really cool that all the genres are borrowing from each other. It makes the music as a whole much more interesting.

Don't know if you've noticed this in your travels, but it's mostly the fans that are stubborn about their limited horizons. Most bands - musicians in general, really - listen to a wide scope of music, and they can't understand why anyone would hold it against them because they want to explore different styles of music.
Exactly. That's a very interesting point... The bands have to laugh at it. We all listen to many different kinds of music, and we're always playing tapes for each other with all sorts of weird stuff we find, stuff that fans could never imagine we'd listen to. There are a lot of people who judge us for what we listen to, and at some point, we have to say we listen to some jerky band for fun. Some fans'll stop liking us because they hear we were at a party, drinking and having a good time, and we had the Backstreet Boys on and were laughing at it and having fun...

What are your tour plans to support Clayman?
We're going out with Earth Crisis and Skinlab, both of which are quite different than us, so I think it'll be a good mix for everyone. We want to broaden our name, so if we can reach out to hardcore kids and they like what we're doing, that would be good. After that tour, we go to Mexico and begin a European tour with Sentenced, Dark Tranquillity and To Die For. We asked To Die For to come with us because I think they're doing some interesting things. We're really good friends with Dark Tranquillity, and we had a lot of fun when we toured together last year.

Dark Tranquillity and To Die For have a lot of of that Gothic metal thing, whereas you have a lot more traditional heavy metal riffs and solos and stuff.
People try to compare us with Dark Tranquillity, but they have a lot more theatrical elements to them, and we're more wide-legs, devil's sign, and let's go! We're much more of a rock'n'roll band. I'm not saying one is any better than the other, they're just quite different.

What was the other band that Jesper (Strömblad, guitarist) was in?
He helped Hammerfall at some point - writing songs and stuff - and he played on the first Sinergy record with Alexi ("Wildchild" Laiho) of Children of Bodom, but he's not with them anymore. He's full-time In Flames.

I noticed To Die For makes use of the drummer (Tonmi Lillman) and Kimberly (Goss, vocalist) of Sinergy...
She lives in Finland now, together with Alexi. Children of Bodom is a very talented band, and really good guys. Good drinking partners as well.

Tell me more about the rock'n'roll aspect of In Flames. I have to admit that the shift from the black Subterranean to the almost glam metal of The Jester Race (drumstick-twirling and mid-tempo paces) really threw me...
We like the mid-tempo as well as the fast stuff and the interludes... I like the verse-chorus-verse-chorus aspect of rock'n'roll because a lot of metal bands have riffs and solos thrown in to fill the space. To me, riffs need a purpose. We like hooks. I think we have a very distinct style and sound, and much of that is in the fingers of the guitarists. We have a mixture of New Wave of British Heavy Metal - Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, mostly - and we add in death metal and rock'n'roll structure and feeling. It's a little bit dirty and fun, as I said, wide-legs and the devil's sign...

What rock'n'roll bands do you think of when you use the term? Rock'n'roll got a bad name, so to speak, by glam rock/pop rock like Bon Jovi (and countless others), and much of what's been called metal I consider hard rock: the Scorpions being a perfect example. Do you mean rock'n'roll like the new, dirty rock being released by Nashville Pussy, the Hellacopters, Backyard Babies, and bands like that?
I think Hellacopters' Payin' the Dues is a great album. It has a lot of melody as well as garage sound. They have a really good vibe. When I talk about rock'n'roll, I don't really mean particular bands, I mean the feeling. We have a rock'n'roll approach. We have a lot of fun and communicate with the audience. People try to put us in the category of melodic death metal, but if you were to put us next to the other bands of that type, I think you'd see we have a more rock'n'roll attitude when we play, and the song structures are quite different. We like to have fun and have a good time, we get messy and can't take care of ourselves, things get broken... But when we get on stage, we rock.
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