By Carl C. Sundberg
Forming in 1989 in Gothenburg, Sweden, Dark Tranquillity is one of a handful of bands widely considered being one of the forefathers of Swedish death metal (along with At the Gates and In Flames).
The band recently celebrated their 20th Anniversary with a double live album and DVD entitled, “Where Death is Most Alive” recorded in Milan, Italy on Halloween night of 2008. The album charted #1 on the Swedish DVD charts and spans their entire spectacular career.
Dark Tranquillity spent the last few months recording the follow up to the bands most successful album to date, 2007’s “Fiction” and on March 1st/2nd, they will release this ninth studio album, “We Are The Void”, worldwide. The recording process was also filmed by Anders Bjorler (At the Gates/The Haunted) and released as webisodes on their official homepage. They have confirmed their first US Tour of 2010, hitting the road with Killswitch Engage and The Devil Wears Prada throughout February and March.
We spoke with vocalist Mikael Stanne from the comforts of his bed in Gothenberg, Sweden about their 20th anniversary, the upcoming tour with Killswitch Engage, the recording of their new album, their new bassist and overcoming studio anxiety.
Q: First things first, happy 20th anniversary, you got that killer live double album. Tell me about this. I mean it’s rare that audiences chant the riffs…
A: Thank you. That was fun. It’s something that…I think the Italians are amazing when it comes to that. It’s something we noticed the first time we went to Italy in 1995 or something like that and ever since then we’ve been dying to record in Italy. Let’s do something, do an album, record a DVD, whatever and we didn’t have the time or the financials to pull it off but now, last year we just decided, fuck it we had to do it. There was this venue we really liked [The Rolling Stone] and they were shutting it down so we decided we had to be there before they shut it down. So we raised a hell of a show and we had this camera crew and a sound crew and they came down from Finland to record it, and it turned out really, really well. We’re really fucking happy with it. They shut it down, I think the next day, they shut the whole thing down. It’s an amazing fucking cool place. So it just felt really special to do it there and the crowd as you can hear and see, they’re awesome. It turned out exactly the way we wanted it to. (Laughs)
Q: Is that a typical thing to see the crowd going apeshit for your band or is that few and far between for you guys?
A: Yeaaaaahhh, more often than not, I guess. Italy is special, especially when you bring out 15 cameras. They get a bit enthusiastic. But I mean south of Europe, for sure, that’s pretty much the norm and most of Europe I guess, especially the southern parts, like Spain and Italy and Portugal, France. It’s just amazing.
Q: Do you get that kind of response in the states?
A: No, not really. I mean sometimes, you know. But it’s definitely growing and that’s why we really love touring the states, we see this growth with every tour we do. We’ve done five, seven tours and every time we come back, the audience is twice as big. So that’s amazing and we’re really looking forward to coming back.
Q: Yeah, you’re going on tour with Killswitch Engage. That should be a pretty significant tour this year.
A: Oh yeah, absolutely. We’re really looking forward to that. That’s gonna be amazing especially since were going out before the album’s coming out, just promote the shit out of it, makes sure everybody hears it and hopefully we get to introduce our music to a lot more people. I think it’s going to be really, really cool for us.
Q: I want to talk to you about the new album, “We Are the Void”. Man, I’ve heard a couple songs on the myspace page and it’s sounding pretty outstanding, tell me about what you guys want to do with this new album.
A: Well, I guess since it’s been 20 years since we started, we figured we cannot just do another album that is similar to the last. It has to be new; it has to be different. We kept telling ourselves this is life or death stuff. This is serious. This has to be the first album for the next twenty years instead of the previous twenty. It has to show we’re still relevant, it has to show that we’re still a force to be reckoned with and we haven’t stagnated, we haven’t stopped evolving. It has to feel fresh and new and a good starting point for the next couple albums and the next twenty years. So we took it really, really seriously. We wanted to make sure the album was more diverse and had a wider range of emotions and ideas, so it goes from really, really heavy stuff to really, really fast and grinding stuff to some really kind of mellow slow, depressing stuff. Everything is in there. But I think it comes together really well. It’s a way more serious album than anything we’ve ever done because we looked each other in the eyes and was like, “fuck this is it. It has to be right. It has to be the best ever”.
Q: And you got a new addition, Daniel Antonsson, the old Soilwork guitarist on the bass for this album, is he just on the album or is he in the band?
A: Yeah, he’s in the band. He joined us for the tour we did for the DVD, which was a year ago and we just felt this was perfect, this is right and we’ve known him for pretty much 15 years, so it was the most obvious choice for us. He definitely contributed to the construction of some of the songs, with the build up and the setup of all the songs. He wrote most of songs that are up on the myspace page. He has a different kind of idea and a different background, which is interesting for us. The four of us have been writing music for 20 years together, so it’s kind of hard to have someone new in, but it actually has worked. It’s just a matter of him getting how we work and the way we communicate. But he’s totally grown into the band and for the next album I think he’ll contribute way more.
Q: On your website, I noticed also you got some sweet video of you guys recording the album. How did that come about?
A: We wanted some kind of update so the people knew what we were doing and kind of build up expectations for the album. And the cool thing is Anders Bjorler, guitar player for The Haunted and ex-At the Gates has been a good friend of ours for 20 years and he asked us, “Can I, you know, record and document this recording,” because he usually hangs out anyway. He loves to film and shoot stuff, so he starting shooting the whole recording process and he made these webisodes and I think they turned out really well. He managed to capture the boredom and the excitement and the anxiety of recording. We did like five or six of them and I think they’ll end up in a longer version as a full length, 50 minute documentary with the album, kind of a limited edition or whatever. The way we record is kind of laid back and simple and we wanted to document that so I don’t have to explain the process a 1000 times (Laughs)
Q: What I found interesting watching the videos, is that it really shows the modern day technology that’s available to a band in this day and age. I mean it’s all computers…
A: Yeah, there’s no tapes rolling, you don’t need tons of hardware. You need the proper computer and the software and a couple microphones and stuff like that and you’re good to go. And that’s how our studio works. It’s the bare essentials but it’s perfect for us. It’s just a matter of getting good, clean signals. Then you leave it up to a mixer and they create something magical out of it.
Q: I noticed you spent some time on the Xbox…I mean, vocalists are usually looked at as the key person in the band, but they’re usually the last to record.
A: Oh yeah, yeah yeah…(Laughs)
Q: You get to hang out and wait. (Laughs)
A: Yeah, Absolutely. Up until the last two weeks I do nothing. I just supervise the whole thing. “Yeah, that sounds good. Yeah.” Then I go home and finish all the lyrics. Yeah, absolutely. I’m so envious of all the other guys in the band, especially Anders [Jivarp] who finishes his drums in the first two weeks then he can relax and just criticize us.
Q: Do you have anxiety during that period when you’re waiting to do your thing?
A: Oh shit, yeah! Absolutely .It’s the worst! I hate it. I don’t sleep for two months or so and I’m up all the time rearranging vocal lines and changing things and adding words and removing stuff so yeah. It’s horrible. I hate it. We felt so bad, especially me and Martin Brandstrom, he’s always pretty late when it comes to keyboards as well. He has all his sounds, he does them all the way up to the last possible second. So we can call each other at 4 oclock in the morning, and be like, “Hey how do you feel?” “Oh, like shit. I hate it. I want it to be over. Fuck..” But I think that’s good. It’s a good driving force. And when you finish it, it makes the whole process…the first time you listen to it and we realized we were done, it was just fantastic. It’s just a sigh of relief. Holy shit, we’ve done it and it works and it sounds good. We’re happy. We can finally crack open a few beers and enjoy it.
Originally published on 101d.com