Interview: Anders Friden of In Flames
In Flames have laid seemingly dormant for the past twelve months, recently playing their first live show since last November at Knotfest in Japan… Not that the band had been sitting idle in that time. Quite the opposite, in fact. Having never been a band to rush themselves or their music, In Flames have spent that time away from the public eye writing and recording their latest album, Battles, along the way ushering in new drummer Joe Rickard who shifted into the driver’s seat vacated by long term skinsman Daniel Svensson.
Part of this musical journey involved removing the band from their comfort zone – their native Sweden – and placing them in Las Angeles to record with producer Howard Benson, also known for his work with Daughtry, Flyleaf, Seether and My Chemical Romance.
“I think going away from the normal world with your family makes the whole process more focused,” explains vocalist Anders Friden, “because you can’t go home every night. That’s one of the reasons we chose to record in LA, and the other was because that is where Howard Benson has a studio – he wanted us to come there, so we did. Leaving Sweden in February – when it is winter – to go to California where it’s sunny and 25 degrees makes it an easy decision [laughs]. For us, it was like good beer, barbecues and heavy metal 24/7 for those first few weeks, and I think that brought a lot of warmth and a general good vibe into the whole process.”
Choosing to use an outsider as their producer was also a new endeavor for the band, previously having preferred to keep their music within their inner sanctum. Aside from his previous success with other bands, there was one key element that drew Anders to Benson.
“If he can get Lemmy doing his thing, then he could probably get me doing it too,” he laughs. “We talked to a lot of producers who we respected, but Howard was the one with the closest idea to what we wanted to do. He said, ‘I don’t want to change you guys. I don’t want to turn you into something you’re not. I just wanna make you better and focus on your own individual instruments.’ He said the right things. We didn’t want the album to come out like My Chemical Romance [laughs]. He’s very talented and he wanted us to create demos for all of the songs – that’s something we hadn’t done before. We had to let go of our own control, because we are a very protective band when it comes to our material. We don’t let anyone in on the writing process, but he asked for things like the demos and he talked a lot about the music. He wanted to know what we wanted to say with the songs and we haven’t had to answer to things like that before, but he made the whole process better.”
“We come from a little town in Sweden and we took that sound all over the world – that’s something I’m proud of, and I hope people remember.”
Battles has actually been finished since April, with Anders admitting that although he understands that the process from the recording to the release date is just that – a process – the period of waiting for the world to listen to the fruits of their labor can be difficult.
“When you record something, you work really hard on it and you listen to it again and again, so sometimes it’s good to let it rest for a while,” he says. “But at the same time, you want people to hear it because you are proud of what you have done and you want to share it with people that appreciate your music. It’s the same every time. This is our twelfth album and we know the routine. The record companies need to plan their thing, management needs to plan their thing and we as musicians wait for someone to say here’s your plane ticket, go to the show [laughs].”
Although their music is full of pulsating riffs and harmonious interludes riding on the back of moments of aggressive intent, Anders says when broken down, In Flames’ music has one fundamental element at its core.
“Every time we write an album, we want to create good melodies, so that’s where we start,” he explains. “We start writing on the guitar – on every In Flames album, the melodies are super important. I think the reason why every album still sounds different is because we don’t write on the road. We write in-between tours. We set a date for ourselves, go into the studio and start writing. The main goal is always to write an album that we feel represents where we are at that moment, and that’s what we did on this record. It’s not like we sit around at the table and have strategies – we just write good melodies and ask questions of ourselves. ‘Does this feel alive? Does this feel good? Can you feel it in your stomach?’ If it’s a ‘yes’, it ends up on the album.”
As the longest standing member of In Flames, Anders admits that he is comfortable with where the band sits at present, and is equally as excited about the future.
“In Flames are exactly where they are meant to be and always has been,” he enthuses. “I would never put out an album that I’m not happy with. No-one tells us that something should be released unless everyone in the band is happy. I love what we’ve done in the past – I love all of our albums. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are. Working with music has been a dream of mine and I’m still living it.”
When pressed on what he would like In Flames to leave as their musical legacy, Anders ponders for a moment.
“I don’t really think about that,” he says, “it’s more about what we do now. In general, if we work hard on something and we create our own sound, we have achieved our target. I think that when people listen to our music, they know it’s In Flames. Whether they like it or don’t, they know it’s us and that’s something that I’m very proud of. Even though we have gone through all kinds of different costumes, it’s still us. It’s still that melody that I’m talking about. That important thing is there. We come from a little town in Sweden and we took that sound all over the world – that’s something I’m proud of, and I hope people remember.”