Despite making their own unique blend of melodic metal since 1990, Gothenburg quintet In Flames are only now enjoying the type of widespread success they’ve deserved for so long. A headline appearance on last year’s Download Festival second stage put the Swedes firmly on the map, and with new record ‘Come Clarity’ topping rock radio charts the world over, the tides are showing no signs of turning.
Ryan Bird took a brief break from proceedings at the Portsmouth Pyramids to grab a few choice words with bassist Peter Iwers in the hallowed backstage holy land.
How’s it going today? I hear the tour has been going pretty well thus far!
Yeah, it’s good! We’re the type of band that never expects anything but so far all the shows are either completely or almost sold out. It’s a good feeling.
You’ve just been at an in store signing, right? How did that go?
It was pretty good. I think there was a couple of hundred kids there. Maybe 250 or so.
That’s not bad for a place like Portsmouth!
Not at all! There was kids lining up right around the corner so that was pretty cool.
It seems like you come to the UK basically every year in recent times, but this is the first ever as a headline band. How have you found that compared to previous tours supporting bands like Slipknot and Motorhead?
Well as you said we’ve toured here as support with Motorhead and Slipknot, but apart from those we’ve only been here for one or maybe two shows so I don’t have THAT much to compare with. It’s definitely an honour to be able to be supported by a band like Sepultura, but I’m still not down with this rain thing you’ve got going on!
Why did it take so long for you guys to be able to head out on your own over here?
I think one of the main reasons is that our label (Nuclear Blast) wasn’t too big over here until maybe a year or a year and a half ago, so we didn’t have a proper publicist or anything in the UK. Now Dan (Tivemark – head of press and PR for Nuclear Blast in the UK) is here and doing an awesome job of getting us exposure. Plus the new record is really taking off and that’s helping a lot too.
Speaking of which, it seems your latest album ‘Come Clarity’ may indeed be putting you on the map in a bigger way than ever before, because the reception seems to have been nothing but positive. Are you pleased with how it’s been received thus far?
Oh yeah! Absolutely! As I said before we’re the type of band that doesn’t do something and then expect a certain result or whatever. We write the kind of music that we like and if people like it then that’s great. If people don’t then that’s fine too. It’s just also a reward for hard work I think. This is our eighth album now and it’s also the fastest selling thus far.
A lot of people were hoping for a back-to-basics return to your thrash roots with this one, but that’s not entirely the case. Would you say that you’re a band that thrives on going only forwards rather than back?
Yeah. A lot of bands tend to say things like “Yeah, well, with this album we’ve gone back to basics” blah blah blah, and I think that’s bullshit. I wasn’t even in the band when they wrote the first record but they’ll still have written what they liked and felt was right at the time just like with any other record. The best way to look at it is simply that we add different ingredients each time.
Plus, ‘Dead End’ is probably the song least like the typical In Flames sound, but it’s probably the best one on there!
I think it’s a classic In Flames song!
You see I disagree with that simply for the female element alone, because Lisa Miskovsky (Swedish pop songstress) guests on the previous song in question. How did you come to meet someone like her?
Just at festivals in and around Sweden and things like that really. We had a lot of mutual friends and found out that she liked our music, so when we met we discussed maybe doing something like this in the future. It’s really good because there’s been so many times where we’ve been drinking with friends in other bands and such and spoken about guesting on their records and vice versa, but nothing ever happens. Finally it has with this one and I think it’s come out brilliantly.
Who came up with the idea to have her sing on the track? Was she immediately interested in doing it?
It would have been easy for us to ask, say, Christina from Lacuna Coil or something. Someone like that would probably be more acceptable to the metal world, but it was nice to have someone from outside that and bring them in a little bit. Fortunately for us she was off whilst we were recording, so she just came down to the studio and she and Anders fired it out basically.
Did you anticipate that her vocals would work so well with the rest of the song?
No, no. She’s a very talented musician and singer, so I knew it was going to come out great right from the start.
Another interesting point on ‘Come Clarity’ is the fact that you apparently had the album finished last summer, but only released it in February. Why was there such a delay?
Actually we’d had it finished as far back as April. It was just the usual record company bullshit and politics that needed straightening out. Making sure it didn’t clash with other releases and stuff like that. Plus we were changing labels in the US and we didn’t want to release it over here before that was sorted out. Otherwise you get things like importing and downloading going on which sucks.
How’s it going with Ferret in the US?
It’s going really, really well. We just wanted somebody who could get our albums out there in all the stores as opposed to a really big label with a high profile. We wanted people to be able to walk into basically any record store and buy an In Flames record, and that’s what we’ve been getting so far.
Plus I guess it’ll be helping enhance your US profile even further – particularly when alongside tours like Ozzfest last summer.
Definitely. Ozzfest was a strange experience though. We were first on the main stage, but that happened to be right when Rob Zombie was closing the second stage on the other side of the venue. We’d be playing to half empty arenas in front of people who had paid like a couple of hundred dollars for great seats just to see bands like Sabbath. It was a good experience though and definitely one that I’m glad we had.
A lot of the American bands on that tour were bands that have gotten pretty popular in a relatively short space of time, but bands like yourself and Soilwork have been making similar music for a decade and then some. Why do you think American bands are able to find success so much quicker?
I think one of the reasons is tags that journalists and certain labels come up with such as this “New Wave of American Heavy Metal”. It makes it appear like they’ve created something new and as a result it has a good marketing appeal, but it’s just bullshit. A lot of these bands are heavily influenced and inspired by music like ours which is very flattering, but it’s certainly not new.
Plus, a lot of the American bands while gaining popularity quickly have been around for years anyway, so it’s not even new in that respect!
Exactly! It’s just marketing bullshit, but whatever. If it makes it easier for kids to get into then it’s only a good thing for bands like us.
So I guess that with the success you’ve begun to enjoy in the past year, maybe now is the time for In Flames to finally enjoy those same riches regardless?
Hopefully! We’ve been doing this for around 15 years and have taken the “slowly but surely” route, so I think that even if some bands that are enjoying success now aren’t around anymore in a couple of years, we will be. We’re not going anywhere.