About 'Damage Done', touring, influences, everything a fan from Dark Traquillity wants to know, Niklas took the time to be in front of his screen to answer my questions. Always a real pleasure to get interviews from REAL artists. |
Dimitris: Hello Niklas. I am really honoured to host an interview with you for our webzine. I hope it will not grow that big so that I won't tire you. Either way, let us start. The tour is finished or you have more gigs planned? Please tell me how was the touring so far? I bet a lot of really good memories as always.
Niklas Sundin: We've just arrived home from a one-month US tour, and things went really good even though our music is considerably less brutal than the other bands we played with. This was the third trip we did for the 'Damage done' album, and at the moment we're not sure if there will be another tour or not. There are a lot of good memories as well as some not-so-good ones. Touring can be a real pain in the ass, but the actual gigs are always enjoyable.
Dimitris: I saw that a lot of concerts were cancelled. A friend of mine was about to see you in Monterey, Mexico and was unable to. I read on the website that the concerts in Colombia and Moscow have been cancelled too. What went so wrong three times?
Niklas Sundin: Good question. To be perfectly honest, we're not really sure what really happened. For Moscow, we just heard that the promotor had cancelled the show without giving any real explanation, whereas the Colombia/Mexico trip is a way more complex affair. I'm not qualified to go into details since the band isn't involved in the booking matters at all, but we had our bags packed and was ready to leave when we our management informed us that the gigs were cancelled. I feel really sorry for the fans and for everyone involved (not to mention ourselves of course), but touring is always an unpredictable business and last minute cancellations are unfortunately not rare. Most bands that have been around for a while have lots of experience of being ripped off by dishonest promotors.
Dimitris: Since I am Greek (hehehehehe), I know that you have a lot of fans here in Greece. I was planning to see you with Candlemass but unfortunately, the distance (348 km) kept me away from a concert I really wanted to see. How was the gig in Athens and tell me do we have any chance to see you on the Rockwave Festival?
Niklas Sundin: The gig in Athens was AMAZING! We were totally happy afterwards and kind of agreed that it definitely was among our top 3 best gigs ever, in terms of audience response. The Greek fans are just incredible, and it felt really good to make up for the horrible gigs we did in Athens some years ago (with The Haunted). We had so much technical problems last time, which resulted in a pretty poor performance, but this time everything worked out really well. Of course it was a pleasure to see Candlemass and Entombed live as well.
Rockwave? I don't know, really. At this point we don't have any information on festivals for this summer.
Dimitris: Since, I have asked you for a festival, can you please tell me if you guys are going to perform on any this summer?
Niklas Sundin: We certainly hope so, but as far as I know we're not booked on any festivals yet for some reason. We simply have to wait and see what happens.
Dimitris: So, almost a year has passed from the release of 'Damage Done'. For me it was an album that gave a new perspective to the band, and I don't really agree with the view I have read somewhere, that it is just a sum-up of your whole carrier. Correct me if I am wrong, but I feel that more melodic roads have been opened for the band, while still remaining hard as hell. I couldn't make it for the review of the album, but surely the album kicks ass. How do you feel about it now that sometime has passed?
Niklas Sundin: I don't know. I'm not the sort of guy who listens to his own albums at home and try to analyze or judge them in every little detail. We're all satisfied with ‘Damage done’ and I don't think that any major mistakes were committed in the recording or song-writing phases of the album. I was a bit surprised that so many people and reviewers labelled it a ‘back to the roots’-album, since that was never our ambition, but everyone's entitled to their opinion anyway. We're still trying out lots of new approaches on the CD, so I don't agree that it's just a mixture of all our previous records.
Dimitris: Your music sounds for me, more like Doomy than any other genre (although I hate labelling music). Where do you draw your influences from? Every day life or just imagine things that can cause you feelings to start composing?
And please tell me, what is the procedure of composing on the band?
Niklas Sundin: We have a very democratic writing process. Every member contributes with riffs, ideas and suggestions, and all songs are arranged in the rehearsal room. We try every single idea out, and then to re-arrange the material a million times before we're fully satisfied with the result. As for influences, I believe that everything you experience in some way will affect your creative output, be it everyday life, music, movies, books or whatever. I wouldn't consider our music doomy, but it's just a matter of definitions.
Dimitris: I have seen some nit-picking for 'The Projector'. My personal taste tells me that this is maybe your best album so far (together with 'Damage Done' of course). Are we going to listen something like this in the future, clean and female vocals and maybe more of this atmosphere?
Niklas Sundin: It's not impossible. I know that lots of people want us to bring back some clean vocals into the music, but we can't do that unless those songs require it. The material on 'Damage done' didn't leave any room for real singing, and it would be a total sell-out to put them there just to please the fans. I have no clue how our future albums will sound, but if the songs will benefit from clean vocals, we'll certainly be using them.
Dimitris: Talking about the future, when should we expect the new album out? Do you have any titles (maybe you would like to share) or any new ready ideas on songs that would allow you to tell us in which direction the new album will go?
Niklas Sundin: We haven't even begun thinking about the next album yet, so there isn't much to tell. There has been a lot of touring for 'Damage done', and we usually need some kind of break after each album, so there hasn't been any need to begin working on the new CD yet. Realistically speaking, I think it'll be out in 2005, and I have no clue about how it will sound, ha ha!
Dimitris: You are going to have a DVD out also soon, right? What should we expect from that?
Niklas Sundin: Actually, I'm not sure what the DVD will contain since we're still waiting for the final information on the contents. There will be professionally recorded live footage from a gig we did in Poland last autumn, and I guess that some backstage footage, promo clips, interviews etc will be added. It all depends on what's possible, and since we've been on three different record labels there might be some problems to get all the practical things sorted out.
Dimitris: On 'Damage Done' there is a song that when I first listened to it, I was hanging my jaw for almost an hour, since I listened to it for about 20 times in a row. I am talking about 'Ex-Nihilo'. Maybe you would like to tell me how this song was done and if maybe there is a story behind it. I always believe that sometimes instrumental can 'talk' more than a song with lyrics. More of like 'a picture worths 1000 words'
Niklas Sundin: There isn't any real story behind the song, and even if it was, I'm not into analyzing our own music in interviews. Basically, we wanted to include an instrumental closing song what would sum up the essence of the album without any pointers in the form of words, and ‘Ex nihilo’ was what we came up with. I'm a big fan of instrumental music since it leaves things open to the imagination in a way that music with vocals can't do.
Dimitris: I have 'met' Dark Tranquillity this spring with the new album. It really blew me off, as I have already said, and was able to get almost the whole discography. What really amazes me and this is something that I find rare on any band, is that the songs may not be technical or complex, but they surely have that progressive feeling on them. Do you accept the term progressive for your music? Moreover, I think that Dark Tranquillity is of the few bands that are able to keep balance between everything. Nothing sounds as a left-over on the songs and every little tune adds a lot to the songs. How can you achieve something like this?
Niklas Sundin: I don't know, really. There isn't any magic formula or any secret trick up our sleeves. We just work hard at trying to make the songs as good as possible, and as I mentioned before our working method is different from the normal. Most other bands have one or two song writers that compose all the material, but in D.T., everyone is writing the music. Also, we're perfectionists and don't include a riff unless everyone is really into it. 95% of the material we come up with gets thrown away, which hopefully means that only the really good stuff is left. Progressive? I'm not sure. That term fits well for an album like
Dimitris: I am having troubles of understanding your influences. Maybe, because I am not into death metal that much? More or less, only one name comes to my mind and it is Candlemass. Will you please tell me what were and are your influences for composing? And since I know, and thank god, you guys do not suffer from the guitar hero or any other syndrome, what are your favourite influences on guitar playing?
Niklas Sundin: We were all great fans of Candlemass when we were younger, and it was an honour to play with them in Greece, but I don't think that they've
influenced us that much. Perhaps we share a similar ‘gloomy’ vibe, but the actual sound is very different. I don't know if there is any particular band that has influences us so much that you can trace it in our music, but obviously we listened a lot to death metal during our earlier years. As for guitar influences, I don't have any fave guitarist at all. The guitar hero school of playing never interested me, and I usually appreciate bands for the songs and not for the playing skills. Some of my favourite bands play very simple and basic music.
Dimitris: How did you come up by doing the artwork on albums? Do you accept any proposals from other artists for doing their artwork?
Niklas Sundin: I've always been drawing and painting, so it was a natural step for me to take care of the visuals for the band. I don't know of any professional artist or designer that would come up with a ‘proposal’ for a band. Either you get hired to do the job, or you don't. I'm not against the idea of having someone else doing our artwork, but as long as the rest of the members are happy with what I do, I'd like to continue.
Dimitris: The name 'Dark Tranquillity' also is the perfect description to your music. How did you come up with this name? Is it just a description of your music or there is a story behind it?
Niklas Sundin: The band name is taken from an old song of ours, ‘Void of tranquillity’. Our lyrics were pretty pretentious at the time, and that sort of pompous band name suited perfectly. Honestly, I don't think it's a good band name at all, but we're sort of stuck with it.
Dimitris: I only did a search on Google, and was able to find the whole 'Damage Done' album ready for download, through an html page. Some artists sue napster, some other are threatening their fans with legalistic tricks. How do you feel about the whole mp3 business?
Niklas Sundin: It's a complex issue. I'm convinced that mp3's and file sharing doesn't harm artists in a more specialized genre, and for us it's probably good promotion than anything else. Most metal fans are devoted enough to try to buy the real album if they find something they like. All D.T. members have fast internet connections and download music and movies regularly [‘Editorial Note: Hell Yeah!!!!!!’], so I'd be a hypocrite if I was against it. There are so many different ways of looking at it, and it'd take forever to discuss all the pros and cons of the file sharing phenomenon and music being accessible for free. In a way, I'm not comfortable with having all our songs available 24/7 on the net, but at the same time I've met so many people that first got introduced to our music via mp3's.
Dimitris: As you can understand, I have another 15 questions for you, but I don't want to tire you. Maybe someday by telephone or when you come here to Greece I will be able to talk to you more. I really admire your work and I hope that we will be able to get more things from Dark Tranquillity, for many years to come. Thank you really much for your time, if there is something you would like to add, please feel free to do so here. Many, many thanks and good luck with anything you do in the future.
Niklas Sundin: Well, thanks for a very good interview! Take care!