This interview with Niklas Sundin of Dark Tranquillity was done by e-mail by Alexa Kasparek in February 2005.

Hi, how are you doing?
Things are just fine. We're in Straubing, Germany, preparing for the first date of the European tour.

Your new album is out for some days now, here in Europe - are you satisfied with everything so far?
Absolutely! The reviews and general response has been nothing but fantastic so far, and some days ago we got the news that it's on the 3rd place in the Swedish charts, which is totally unbelievable. "Damage Done" reached #47 or something, and that was a major surprise back then. It almost never happens that any kind of metal album gets into the top 30, so this is something special. We're getting success reports on a daily basis; the album appeared on the Italian and Finnish charts as well, which is the first time for us.

To me it sounds "harder" compared to Damage Done and its predecessors; are there any specific reasons for that? What are the differences between Character and the other albums from your point of view?
Well, as you say, the album is a bit harder, and I also think it's more technical and complex than the past couple of releases. We didn't really make any grand plan during the songwriting - it just felt good to take things more to the extreme and to try to complicate things a bit. "Damage Done" was a great album, but perhaps a bit too accessible and easy to digest. "Character" is an album that you need to listen to quite a lot of times before everything unfolds, which also means that it'll last longer.

The artwork is done by yourself again. What are the ideas behind it and what shall it say?
I'm not too much into analyzing or explaining everything, but in general I tried to come up with something that would provide a good visual identity for the album while at the same time being relevant in association to the lyrics and the music. The different songs of the album can be seen as different characters or different parts of a single character, a single mind, and I chose to use the metaphor of this being represented as a big city.

What about the album title?
"Character" was the only serious suggestion we had, and it originally was the title of the song "Am I 1?". It's just a good title that can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. It represents our struggle to keep our music as clean and honest as possible and it also represents the whole essence of the lyrics.

I already read that "Through Smudged Lenses" (my favourite song, by the way) is supposed to be the quintessence of Character, although it wasn't the first song you wrote. Could you please say something about the song and also about your functioning during the song-writing process of the album?
Umm...I don't know about that song being the more representative one; I guess we all have different opinions about that. The first song we wrote was actually "Lost To Apathy", which at least some people seem to think is the best example of the "Character" sound. About "..Smudged..", I think it was the 8th or 9th song we wrote. I don't really remember exactly what went on during the writing process of that song. Most likely, we did as we usually do: start off by taking some of the riffs and ideas we have and begin playing around with them in the rehearsal room in order to see what works. After the music is finished, Mikael begins to work on the lyrics and vocal lines, and then everything's hopefully completed. My own function on this album? I guess that I'd basically be a riff provider, though all of us take an active role in arranging the songs as well.

Lost To Apathy was chosen to be released on an EP in December. What were the reasons to take exactly this song for that purpose?
Hehe, we just couldn't decide what song to choose, so we let Century media make a pick. The whole point of "Character" was to make an album without any obvious hit songs, so suddenly trying to agree on a tune for the video and single was impossible. In retrospect, I do think that "Lost..." was a decent choice, even if it's not my favourite song of the album.

I'm one of those persons who absolutely love Projector, especially because I love the clean voice of Mikael. Is there any chance that we will hear him sing clean again?
Yes, I'm pretty sure that it will happen sooner or later, but then it has to be because the songs demand it. The last two albums has been all about aggression and intensity, and then it wouldn't have worked with clear vocals. We'll just have to wait and see what we come up with in the future; personally I think that we have a lot of things to explore in the field of clean singing. Our keyboardist has got a really good voice as well - perhaps that could be used in some exciting ways.

Talking about Projector: I have read that you are still very proud of it.How does it feel that a lot of your older fans can't get into it?
I couldn't care less, to be honest. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but we never consider the opinions of others when writing the music; it's something we do for ourselves first and foremost. The moment you start thinking about how your old fans will react to the material, you brand yourself as an entertainer and not an artist. This isn't wrong at all, but I just can't see that kind of thinking applied to D.T. We've never been about keeping people happy or making sure that everyone is satisfied with the albums. I don't have any problems with people disliking "Projector"; the vocals make it a pretty hard album to get into, and I can completely understand if they're not to everyone's taste.

Last year several bands released their best-of. What do you think about those albums and do you plan to come up with one, too?
No, I think they're pretty pointless. Usually they're either a way for the record label to make a quick buck or a way for the band to get out of their current contract. What's the point of simply taking 2-3 songs from every album and put them on a CD? People have internet connections these days and will just download songs if they want to get a feeling for what a band sounds like. If it's rare or previously unreleased material, it can be worthwile, but in general I think that the need for ordinary best-of or compilation albums is disappearing.

Generally there of course have been several albums put out last year. What were your favourites and what do you think is worthy to keep an eye on this year - except for Character?
Ummm...I didn't really keep track of the music scene in 2004 for various reasons, so there were just a handful of albums that I got into. The new Enslaved album was one of those; it's really good. As for non-metal, Morrisey's new is fantastic as always (not sure if it was out before 2004?), Stina Nordenstam as well. For this year, I hear that the new Mars Volta is amazing.

Your upcoming tour with Ektomorf, Hatesphere and Kreator seems to be a package of very different bands, compared to some years ago when you were touring with In Flames and Children Of Bodom. What are the reasons - is it harder to fill the locations with similar/one-sided bands these days?
I have no idea; we´re not involved in the booking matters at all, so I don't know if the general situation has changed compared to a couple of years ago. How it usually works is that the managements check around and see what other bands that will be touring in about the same period, and if everyone agrees that it's a good match, they'll try to make things happen. We've always been touring with different sorts of bands, and usually it's just a matter of what's available at the given time and how well the different promotors and managements can communicate and agree on things.

Back to your tour: What will the setlist be like? Surely you will concentrate on your new material and I heard that for example Undo Control probably won't be played - but what can we expect like from the older works?
Hehe, let's keep it a surprise for now. We have some really neat songs lined up for the tour, but it'd be boring to reveal the whole setlist in interviews. I'm also not 100% for how long we get to play, so we'll see what happens. I'm sure that longtime fans won't be disappointed though, as we'll re-introduce some songs that we haven't been playing for many years.

Touring seems to be quite an exhausting work - do you (still) enjoy being on the road at all? Or did you already have the feeling that you're too old/not ambitious enough anymore to do this kind of job?
Nah, it has nothing to do with age. I feel much more enthusiastic about touring now when I'm 30 than I did when I was 23; it's all about what you make out of it. I still wouldn't want to be on the road for 7-8 months a year as it's really devastating at times; but on the other hand it's a very different and unique experience. We'll probably be touring as much for this album as we've done for all the previous albums put together, so we'll see if we want to kill each other after that, haha!

Is there anything left you want the world to know?
Not really; I think we pretty much covered it all.

Thanks for the interview!

Links of interest:

Dark Tranquillity
Century Media
Cabin Fever Media