The Download Interviews: In Flames
Hailing from Sweden, In Flames are a seminal heavy metal band who have bridged the divide between the sub-genres of the heavy metal world, and this summer are playing on the biggest stage of them all, the hallowed ground of Donington at this year's Download Festival. We sat down with guitarist Bjorn Gelotte to discuss where In Flames are at right now, their latest album Battles and their slot at this year's Download.
Battles, the most recent In Flames album, has been out for a few weeks now and some of the songs have made it onto the setlist, how have the fans been taking to the new material?
It's been really good for us, usually it's about selecting singles but we don't really write music that way. That's more of a record label way of presenting an album and we write the full album and we have to choose songs to start with and this time it felt good.
'The End' and 'The Truth' are in a way representing the album in a good way. They are slightly different, both guitar driven and very melodic sounding. It's been really fun to play them also because sometimes you need a refresh and a bit of a challenge. In the end I want to play all of these songs off the record but at the same time we only have a small amount of time to play and the crowd will want us to play some of the old stuff as well.
Battles is produced by Howard Benson and the majority of the In Flames back catalogue is either produced or co-produced by the band yourselves. How was it working with an outside producer like Howard?
It was scary as shit to begin with. It was very eye opening and ultimately ear opening experience in many ways. First we have always been highly protective of our music and the writing process, but at the same time we are very open minded but that doesn't mean we are going to let someone in from the outside. In the end when we started to talk to all of these producers, our management asked us who we want to work with and we lined up eight to ten producers, that are the most highly rated and Howard said the right things.
He didn't want to turn us into something we are not. He respects our history and what we have done in the past and he wanted to keep us focused. He demanded that we produce demo tracks so we could see at an early stage what we were working on and what the shape would be for the record. We ultimately found new ways to write music together which we haven't done in the past. In hindsight I just wish we had found these things out earlier!
As well as Howard producing he is also a credited songwriter, how did that come about?
Well, he was a part of every song. I mean he didn't write any of the riffs but he was there helping Anders with his vocals, he helped out with the arrangements and he was interested in filling out our sound. So we felt it was fair to have him credited.
In terms of recent touring activity, you recently toured the UK with Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold, how was the run of dates for that?
It was fantastic to be given the opportunity to present our music to a new audience which may not cross over unless we are at a festival of course. It was a great opportunity and a great platform to reach people. These are awesome bands that we have known for many years and have respected over their career. They have been working their asses off. It was an easy decision for us. We are not used to being the first band on but the venues are really cool and we get to play when most people are already in.
Do you pinch yourself sometimes when you think to yourself that you were an Extreme Metal band from Sweden and now you get to play massive arenas in other countries?
It's been a long journey and tough at times but we are very fortunate to do the thing we love, over such an extended period of time. We are still having fun and we love what we do. To still have that excitement gives me goose bumps just talking about it.
Your next run of gigs are billed as 'An Evening With In Flames', is this a run of dates where you are going to be playing for longer and play some deeper cuts and rare tracks that haven't been played in years?
Let's just say we have a different approach to what we normally do. We played up to 20 songs on a headline show with lots of pyro etc. but here we want to make it more intimate and present the songs in a different set of clothes, so to speak, like you say play some deeper cuts from older albums. We can mix it up a bit, for example some of the shows are actually going to be in churches. We are doing them now as well because soon the festival season will start and that is one large stage after another and we wont get a chance to do it for a while if we don't do it now.
So that brings us on nicely to our English festival of choice, the mighty Download Festival held at Castle Donington each year. This year you play on the Sunday of the festival with Aerosmith on their last ever world tour, you've played Download 2005, 2008 and 2014 before. How is the Download experience been for you?
To take it back to the beginning when it was Monsters Of Rock back in the day, we would get all of these TV reports in Sweden showing all the bands playing. So it really connected us to the place, and there are not many rock festivals in the UK, mostly in Europe for this kind of material, so it's important for us to do this and connect with new fans. We can't wait to play and drink some good English Beer!
Thanks for your time Bjorn, see you at Download Festival 2017!
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