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And 13 for the Swedish death metal giants! With "I, The Mask", In Flames is back stronger than ever. Meeting with singer Anders Fridén.
DARIALYS - 15.02.2019 -
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Born in 1990 in Sweden, the death metal band In Flames has come a long way. Considered a giant of the Swedish metal scene, the quartet still manages to continue on its path and excel in its art with its thirteenth album, "I, The Mask". Andres Fridén, singer, leader and co-composer of the band, came to present us this album, talk about the future, his joy of being part of the band today, and many other things that we let you discover!

Last time, when we interviewed Björn (Gelotte, guitarist of the band, editor's note), we talked about Daniel's departure (Svensson, former drummer of In Flames who left after the release of the album "Siren Charms" released in 2014, editor's note). Björn told us he wouldn't imagine the band without you. In your case, could you play in In Flames without Björn?

No, I'll leave. If he left the group, I'd leave.

Can we say that you are the hard core of In Flames between the two of you?

It's not very fair to use that term. We write the music, of course, but without Niclas (Engelin, the guitarist, editor's note), Bryce (Paul, the bassist, editor's note) and Tanner (Wayne, the drummer, editor's note) now, we wouldn't be as good as we are. It's quite a collaboration. We all found our place in the group. We've had several periods. There are members who have arrived and departed. When Jesper (Strömblad, former guitarist, editor's note) left, while he was writing music with Björn, it was a big change. With Björn, we've been in the band together since the album "The Jester Race", (the band's second album, released in 1996, editor's note). So it's a group that we know very well. I think it would be difficult for fans to hear a different voice on our songs for example. Even if it was a better voice! If Björn left, it wouldn't be the same. As for me, I wouldn't be there just to pay my bills or make some people happy. I'm doing this because I like it. It's my life, it's what I do, I need to be happy, and I'm very happy to write music with him.

How do you explain why it is so difficult for all groups to keep their original line-up? You two are among the few who have succeeded. How do you explain that?

You don't have to be together all the time. Except when we do music, we don't spend much time together.

So with In Flames, the difficulty is to live together?

There is no difficulty strictly speaking. In a band, people expect musicians to go out together all the time. In other circles, you don't keep your job for 20 or 30 years! You change jobs after a while, but not us. I've been in this business all my life! In the end, I find that each of the seconds I spent was worth it. In a group, everyone has different feelings. That's why some of them left, we never fired anyone. These are life situations, these are things that happen. I would never want to be in a band spending my time on my own personal tour bus, seeing the other musicians only on stage and going to rest in my private corner without anyone, only because there is a big company behind me dictating what to do and telling me: "this machine has to go on because we need money! You have to do this, you have to do that!" I've seen it before in some bands, but it's not what I want to be. In Flames is a collective group. When you're on stage, everyone can play perfectly, but 60% of the work is about social interaction.

In November 2017, you released a 4-track EP (entitled "Down, Wicked & No Good", editor's note) featuring tracks from Depeche Mode, Chris Isaak... It's a kind of secret garden. Have your tastes evolved over time, and how did you feel about covering a piece by Chris Isaak, who has a warm and deep crooner's voice? It was a delicate piece to pick up again!

A cover version is your own interpretation of a song. The purpose is not to copy. I can sing like Chris Isaak, but for me, the hardest part was to cover Alice In Chains (with the song "Down In A Hole", editor's note), because it is one of my favorite bands of all time. It's quite stressful to cover a piece of a band like this one! How to cover a song that is already perfect? You can only destroy the piece! But you have to let go and just do it, do your own version. Doing this EP was a real pleasure. We went to Japan where we played our first concert for the "Battles" album tour (released in 2016, editor's note). We spent a week in the United States before the American tour started, and instead of going home, Björn said, "Let's go to Los Angeles to record songs! So we did this with the team of the moment. It was a real fun, it was very easy.

About "Battles", this album is a testimony of your return to the Nuclear Blast label, and it was a real success. Did this return seem logical and be the best thing for you? Looking back, don't you think while you wasted time leaving this label (to sign with Sony, editor's note)? Don't you think that the album "Siren Charms" (released in 2014, editor's note) would have received better support if you had released it on Nuclear Blast?

Well... It's always easy to talk about the past! You can't really know. Nuclear Blast, they are the ones who gave us the opportunity to reach a wider audience. But over time, the relationships you may have in these kinds of labels can evolve. We released "Siren Charms" at Sony, in Europe, thinking we were reaching an even larger audience. And then things happened, the kind of things that only happen to others and that you hear about all the time! It happened to us. We were in the dark, we didn't know what to do. It's crap that happens in this business. Anyway, it's nice to be back in the Nuclear Blast team, it's kind of our home in a way.

"Battles" was a very dynamic album. It's a perfect compromise between the different eras of In Flames and your sound. Looking back, do you think this album is the very essence of In Flames?

(Laughs) I think each album represents In Flames well!

What I mean is that you've released a lot of albums. We are very happy to be with you today because In Flames is one of the few bands to evolve its music with each new album. Your new album is never a copy of what you did before, you don't play what is expected of you.

You have to realize that you write for yourself. We love our fans! I'll never forget how lucky we were. Thanks to the fans, we travelled the world and drank beers all over the world! Writing and playing the music I love is my job. It's the most beautiful passion! Each album is a representation of ourselves at a specific moment in our lives. I can't choose one album from our discography in particular and say: "This one is the one that most resembles In Flames! Each album represents the situation at a given time. I like to look straight ahead. I love the past, it brought us here, and now we're at "I, The Mask" (the name of the new album released in 2019, editor's note) which is the focus of what In Flames is now, just like "Battles" was the focus of what we were at that time. At the time, we were not at the stage we are today with "I, The Mask".

I guess every time an album is released, fans have said to themselves, "This is not the kind of album I expected from In Flames". And today, you tell me that you did the right thing by releasing each of these albums because the fans didn't expect it. In the end, after several listenings, the fans finally realized that the album was good and that they needed some time to adapt to it in order to really appreciate it. There are always disappointed fans when a record is released, and finally, a few years later, they tell themselves that this album is the best.

Things are changing. People were disappointed when "Whoracle" was released (in 1997, after "The Jester Race" which was unanimously acclaimed a year earlier and is still considered by many to be the band's best album today, editor's note) because it didn't sound like "The Jester Race". At first, it affected me, but since then I've given up because I can't control this kind of thing.

Today, you must be proud of all these albums, your discography and your evolution. There are fans who criticize of course, some will say: "It's a good album, but it's not my favorite", but all albums are good!

Generally speaking, I am glad that we are still in this business and that we are still doing this. I like what I do. I am happier than ever to be in this group in 2019. We're going on tour and I know the calendar is already full until next Christmas. It's a great feeling. I'm proud, but I can't rest too much either. I'm a bit in a bubble, I live for In Flames, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's great that the fans are disappointed or happy! It makes them talk about the albums. It would be terrible if no one cared about us!

This new album, "I The Mask", deals with the human being and his relationship with technology. I have the impression that you are shouting anger mixed with despair, as if rebellion were present, but in vain. Do you think there is no solution for our planet?

Well... It's hard to say, I'm Anders, a guy from Sweden. I'm not trying to take people with me.

But you sing in that perspective!

Yes, that's right! I understand what you mean.

It looks like a revolution anyway!

It is one, it is one! We are going in the wrong direction and we need to change course. Many scientists have proven to us that this phenomenon is accelerating much faster than we think. We only have a few years left to act, otherwise the situation will be irreversible. Having children and watching them grow up in this world sometimes scares me.

I have exactly the same feeling as you do. I think about my children and the future. It's horrible to see the planet we're going to leave them.

Yes. When I was younger, we used to deconstruct the walls around us. Today, they are being rebuilt for certain reasons. People point their fingers at each other and say, "You did this wrong!" You can't say anything because if you say it, millions of people are overwhelming you. Everyone is absolutely trying to be politically correct, it's crazy! The mask I'm talking about (in the name of the album, editor's note) is the mask we all wear to adapt to certain situations. Nothing is true anymore. The things you see can be distorted from reality. It's crazy and scary! And at the same time, as I said, I'm an old white man from Sweden! (Laughs). What can I complain about? I have a great job: traveling the world and drinking beers with my friends! It's more of an observation I make and pass on to people. Generally speaking, in music and lyrics, I say what I have to say, I use a lot of metaphors. I give it to the people who do what they want with it, who make it their own.

There is melancholy on'All The Pain' and'Stay With Me'. There are touching songs. Unlike the mask, it seems that you reveal your face and take off your own mask.

That's exactly it, I think that's what's important. The only way to heal is to open up to people.

It seems that more than ever, you're putting all your guts into these pieces. When you listen to these songs, it's almost autobiographical!

I know what you mean. We have to take this energy out so we don't keep it inside. It is a therapy for me to write this music and sing these words. I can have had a horrible day and go on stage, scream my rage for an hour and a half, and feel great again. For me, it's an outlet. The great thing is that you can share it with a lot of people. If you dare to say things, then someone else will feel the same way you do. This album is there because our fans are there. As I said earlier, the older you get and the more you are in this environment, the more you enjoy these moments. This is very important. At the same time, I'm no better than the others, I use masks too. But I don't like to talk about each song individually and dissect all the songs, all the lyrics, in detail, otherwise it would destroy the mystery and meaning of these songs. If I say: "this song means such and such", people will say to themselves: "okay". On the contrary, I want people to think about and take ownership of the pieces.

You very easily mix the saturated and clear vocals on this album. Are you training to be so fluid? Isn't the growl more difficult with time?

(Laughs) No, the growl is easier than anything else! I could do this day and night, or by waking up in the middle of the night without a problem! That's what I've always done. I took a lot of lessons from this album and from "Battles" too. The goal was to understand my voice and to maintain it, but there is much more to know than the only way to sing. You have to know the body, know how to breathe and relax, know how not to stress too much if there are very high notes to sing, let your body do the work without worrying too much about it, that kind of thing. It's like I'm applying for the next "France has an incredible talent!" I'm not trying to compete with anyone, I'm not trying to be the best singer in the world. I'm just trying to understand my instrument. If I were a guitarist, I would like to know everything about the guitar. I trained a lot to release this album, but it made the whole process more fun for Björn and I when we wrote it! We know which are the best keys to sing to, we know which octaves I can reach. Sometimes we change the music so that it sticks to the song, sometimes it's the other way around.

On this album, there is a good balance, a duality between anger and sadness.

Yes, this has always been the case on In Flames albums.

When the music becomes heavy, you do it with a force that we hadn't heard for a long time. This heavy side that we didn't really expect, is it related to the rage, to the anger you feel about this subject?

I do believe that music should stick to the lyrics and vice versa. We never sit around a table and decide what to do next. The only thing we said to each other was to give guitars a more important place in production. Maybe that's the more powerful side you want to talk about. There was no particular strategy.

But the result is really smooth! There are some heavy songs that are very good but there are also melodic and catchy sides to songs like'In This Life','We Will Remember','Stay With Me'. The more pop and colourful side of your sound has become more important in recent years. You seem more comfortable expressing yourself in this music. You are at a crossroads between that and extreme music. In this album, this mix is very natural!

It is! It is!

But that wasn't so much the case before!

That was the case. We've never looked for anything in particular. Every time, we try to write the best possible album at every moment of our lives. You listened to this album at the right time. Maybe you wouldn't even have listened to it five years ago. This album found you when you needed to listen to it.

Do you feel anything special when you listen to this album?

I think it's an excellent album.

I grew up with you and discovered death metal with you, especially when I was 13 years old. You have played a very important role in my musical culture, that's what I said in Björn last time.  This album hits the nail on the head. He achieves his goal. When you listen to it, you don't have to listen to the songs again, it works perfectly, so I thought maybe there was something on this album.

In that case, it means we've done a good job! We don't write singles, we write albums. "Voices" was the first song we composed, and it's the first song on the album. As soon as I heard the intro riff, I thought to myself, "This is the opening track!" "Stay With Me" was the last song we did, and everything in the middle is there to create a dynamic. We probably touched you at the right time, that's the beauty of music, it can be magical!

In any case, you can trust us, you did a very good job on this album!

Thank you! Thank you! The pleasure is all mine!

Thank you very much!

Thank you! Thank you!       

Thanks to Noise for her contribution....

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