This interview with the guitarist Niklas Sundin of Dark Tranquillity was done through e-mail in May 2003 by Sam Chronic.

How is everyone in the band doing?
Everyone is doing fine, thanks! We returned home from the last US trek a while ago and have just begun rehearsing again, so everything's in order.

Your last release "Damage Done" was a killer album and actually one of my favorites from the band. What can we expect to see on the next album and has anything new been recorded?
Glad that you like the album! As for the next one, I have no idea how it will sound or in what direction we'll go from here. Your guess is as good as mine. No new songs are written yet, but we've started toying around with new riffs and ideas in the rehearsal room, and everything feels very promising even if all the material still is in the embryonic stages. Traditionally, we take our time composing enough songs for an album, so I guess it'll take a while before we'll be able to enter the studio, but it's really too early to predict. We'll see what happens.

A new DVD is being released sometime in June from what I understand. Tell us a little bit about what performances are on the disc and some of the other features that will be included.
Well, the main attraction of the DVD is a show recorded in Krakow, Poland last October. It's professionally filmed with 6-7 cameras and the quality is truly excellent. In addition, there will be some promo clips, bootleg live footage, an interview, photo library and lots of the other usual stuff. All in all, it will be more than three hours of footage, so it'd definitely good value for the money. We recently got to see the final version of the DVD, and everything looks really great, so it'll be exciting to see how people will react to it. DVD releases are still uncharted territory for a band in this genre, and neither the record label or us have got any idea of what to expect in terms of sales and publicity, so it'll be interesting for sure.

What other events does Dark Tranquility have planned in the near future?
I guess that we'll mainly be focused on the songwriting for the next album, so there won't be that much happening apart from that. There are a few festival performances coming up this summer, but nothing too extensive.

You were recently on tour with Nile, Napalm Death, Strapping Young Lad & The Berzerker. What was the atmosphere like with so many bands playing from different regions?
It was a cool tour, with a good atmosphere. We got to present our music to a lot of people who were previously unaware of the band, and even if our sound is a bit softer than what the other bands on the bill offer, the response was truly excellent. The tour itself was also a success, with a really good crowd turnout in most of the cities.

After coming off tour do all the band members need to take a break from each other or do some of you jump right back into writing again?
It depends, but after the last tour we haven't been that active. First of all, we've been touring quite a lot the past year and have to compensate for lost time with our day jobs and families and so forth. Also, you're usually pretty exhausted after a tour and it takes a while to revert back to normal.

How does the writing process usually work?
All six members contribute to the songwriting. The basic riffs and ideas are being worked out at home, and then we bring the material to the rehearsal room in order to start arranging it into proper songs. It's usually very time consuming since we try tons of different structures and arrangements out for each tune, and there are lots of revisions and changes before everything feels perfect. When the actual music is finished, Mikael begins working on the lyrics and vocal lines.

There are so many genres revolving around Dark Tranquility such as "Gothenburg Metal", "Swedish death metal", "melodic death metal" and even "Swedish melodic death metal". I generally dislike the constant need for genres and classifications in music but I was curious to know if you find any of these to be a fitting classification of the band in any way or do you find most of them ridiculous?
I don't think that classifications are ridiculous as such, since there will always be the need to place bands in a certain category when describing them. It's a convenient shortcut, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, it can easily get extremely pointless when people are arguing whether or not a certain band belongs under this or that label. It's all so subjective anyway, and I don't see why pigeonholing bands should be such a big issue as it sometimes is. These days you have tons and tons of sub genres that mean different things to different people, so the whole classification thing doesn't hold the same merit as, say, 15 years ago when a band could be either thrash, death or speed metal and not a whole lot else.

In a nutshell (not literally...we know that the whole band would not fit in a nutshell!) How would you describe the bands overall sound?
I'm pretty content with just calling us a metal band. This also ties in a bit with the previous question; when we started playing and promoting the band, there was a need to have some sort of accurate description to it, for reasons of clarity and to get our music across to the people that would be interested in it. I think that "melodic death/thrash" was frequently used, among pretentious claims of "poetic lyrics" and "epic and majestic soundscapes", which helped people to get a decent idea of what kind of band we were. Since we're now an established act with a couple of albums out, there is no need for us to describe our own music anymore. It's totally up to the reviewer or listener to describe our sound if the need occurs, but we basically just write and perform the music without bothering about classifying it.

The sound of Dark Tranquility has certainly never been repetitious and always has a new feeling on each album but has never strayed far from it's original roots since the bands formation. Do you ever feel like you have painted yourself in a corner with Dark Tranquility and feel a need to try something totally different?
In a sense, we always try to come up with something different for every album, in order to keep the interest going, but it'd be naive to say that there aren't certain inherent limitations as well. While we try to stretch the borders as much as possible and try to reinvent our sound every now and then, there'd be no point in putting out a blues album under the D.T. moniker. I guess that our goal is to offer something fresh and exciting for every album while still retaining the basic core identity of the band.

The guitar always has such a rich and vibrant feeling. What tuning do the guitarists use to develop this feeling?
The guitar sound and general feeling has more to do with other factors than the tuning, like the actual riffs, sounds and playing, but we currently have the instruments 3 seminotes detuned, which means that the heavy E string is tuned in C#. There have been some different tunings on our albums, but I don't remember exactly what we used for each recording.

What are some of the major influences of the band members?
Hard to tell, really. Influences are seldom conscious anyway, and hopefully we're reached the point where no direct influences can be traced in our own music. We all listen to all sorts of stuff, and our musical tastes differ quite a bit. Between the six of us, almost all possible genre of music is covered, and since all members participate in the songwriting, it hopefully helps to keep our own material diverse.

What are some of your current favorite bands?
I have been lazy when it comes to checking new bands out lately, but I really enjoy the new Solefald album. Out of the metal category, the last Sophie Zelmani album is very good, and I'm discovering the excellent electronic band Assemblage 23.

Dark Tranquility seems to be a band that loves to tour. What would be your "dream" tour package including yourself and other bands?
I'm personally not fond of touring at all, and I don't really have any "dream package". We're played with lots of different bands, under lots of different circumstances, and it has always worked out fine.

I am a hockey fan-Does Niklas Sundin also play professional hockey in his off time? Just Kidding, but I always wanted to know if the two were related or if that name is common in Sweden?
He he, Sundin isn't that common, but I don't know if we're related. I'm totally uninterested in sports and automatically turn my attention off as soon as anything like ice hockey comes up, so I've never really thought about this.

Dark Tranquility versus In Flames in a steel cage match.... who wins?
The numbers are on our side, aren't they? ;-)

If you were to be anything besides a musician...what would it be?
It's not like the band is a full-time thing, so we all do other things for a living. A lot of people assume that having a couple of records under your belt makes you able to live from the music, but that's unfortunately a million light years (approximately) from how things actually work.

I look forward to seeing the DVD when it is released and of course seeing the band when they come back to the States on tour. Good luck in the future and thank you for your time!
Well, thanks for the interview!

Thanks to Niklas Sundin for taking the time to answer my interrogation and be sure to check out the Dark Tranquility website for the upcoming DVD release date and for tour and album updates.

Links of interest:

Dark Tranquillity
Century Media
Cabin Fever Media