TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with the guitarist Björn Gelotte of the Swedish melodic death metal band In Flames was done face to face by Sam Chronic on July 9th, 2003, after having played with Chimaira, Soilwork and Unearth at the Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia.
It has been a long, sweltering night at the Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia and in fact cooling off required stepping outside despite the temperature from the dead of summer heat. The heat was potentially from the amount of people packed into the venue or it may have just been from the roster of bands including Unearth, Chimaira, Soilwork and a band that needs no introduction; In Flames. As the people poured from the venue left in their wake was a collection of beer bottles, water bottles and other trash that was a sure nightmare for some poor employee. Also left was a group of fans huddled around In Flames guitarist Bjorn Gelotte who was the last band member to hang around and chat with fans despite an air-conditioned tour bus waiting outside for him. As we parted to go backstage Bjorn was greeted by a fan that asked for the beer bottle that the guitarist was drinking from. “Why do you want my beer bottle?” Bjorn asked. The fan looked surprised, “Because you were drinking from it”. As the beer bottle was handed over a couple approached Bjorn with a more simple question. “Do you think that you could impregnate my girlfriend?” asked the fan. From behind us the beer bottle fan piped up “Yeah, me too!” That was our cue to leave…..
How has the tour been so far?
It's been really good. I did not know Unearth before this tour but I really, really like those guys and especially what they do live-they are very energizing and they get the crowd moving really well. Soilwork is old friends of ours so it is like a school trip for them...a day out. Chimaira, we listened to their latest CD, I did not know very much about them. I met two of the guys on the Slayer tour because they were on tour with Slayer as well so they came and visited and they are very cool guys. I totally respect them very much now because of their record and their live show.
What countries has the band been to on this tour so far?
This sounds like the papers that you have to sign to get to the US (Both of us laugh). We have only been to Canada for this tour but this is still the Re-route to Remain tour so we have been all over Europe but this is our first headlining tour for that album.
You just teamed up with Metallica for a show in Madrid. Was that a big honor for you?
Oh yeah, just imagine. Playing with Slayer is really cool; playing with Metallica was just as cool.
Was that your first time meeting them?
Yeah it was the first time. Since it was only one show it was hard to tell but they seemed to be really cool guys. I think they are very down to earth and they were interested in what was going on. Some of the guys were sitting off stage while we were played and that was very cool-they don't need to or have to do that. It was excellent for us, when they played there was about 30,000 people and when we played there was about 10,000 to 15,000...it was very, very cool. It was in the middle of the hottest period in 14 years. There was no shade, the sun was shining right in our faces, and I almost passed out after about 4 songs...it was ridiculous. But what can you do? You are playing with Metallica so you got to just keep it together.
Yeah, you can't be pussies!
(Laughs) No, exactly you got to show what you are made of.
I saw a picture recently with the band wearing shirts that had a [Link] In Flames logo on them. I was wondering what the story was behind that.
We had one of the biggest Swedish festivals; the only reason that we played it was because Linkin Park cancelled. They offered for us to play this festival before but we did not want to do it then because the offer was not very good and the spot was very bad. So we said no way and now all of the sudden we are filling in for Linkin Park so why not make something funny out of that? And since people already think that we sold out and all of that bullshit we figured we should do something funny with that (laughs).
That is pretty cool, I was wondering if you were Linkin Park fans?
Oh yeah, I really like what they are doing. I like the first album better but the new one is as good but the first one was very special.
It is different and it is always cool to see someone doing something different. I wanted to talk about the latest studio album Re-route to Remain. What was the significance of the title?
Going back to what we talked about before. People think that we should be doing the same thing as we did on the first couple of records but we don't feel like we need to do that. We feel that we need to do something different to remain the same, to be the same guys and to do the same kind of music. So we are doing something totally different with each and every member and we are still the same guys as the last record but we have to take a new way of doing the same thing. That is basically what it is all about-taking a new step but just making sure that you know it is the same band.
It is also a much more melodic album.
It is, but we have always had the melodic parts in there and we have had that since we started out. I would say that there is a lot of differences from the previous albums because we have a new producer, we have a new studio, the songs are written in a different way and everything is very different but still you can totally tell it is In Flames.
Oh yeah, definitely. This is also the first time there has been a large amount of clean vocals.
No, we used clean vocals before with songs like Ordinary Story. We have used clean vocals before but this time we actually got to work with the vocals. We set aside time for the vocals and Anders to work with the Daniel the producer-it was very important to us. Usually when we record in Studio Fredman it is like everything needs to be recorded and then; "Oh yeah!" we have the vocals and that is the last day or last two days. We wanted to use all of the potential of Anders so we started working pretty early on the vocals with Daniel. In that way it was different but we have used clean vocals before.
The guitars seemed to be dropped a little deeper.
No it is the same. We always tune to C and some of the songs we dropped to A sharp. There is one song on the album that we tune to A and then we dropped it which means we are playing G. That is pretty low…almost transparent.
It seemed like the crunchier guitar work gave the album an almost heavier feeling.
It did. Usually we dub the guitars to get a fat sound like a "guitar wall". But on this record we just had one guitar on the left speaker and one guitar on the right speaker.
I did notice right away that the production was superior.
It is more clean and it gives it more of a live feeling. And that is what we wanted with this album-we wanted a live feeling.
You also just released an EP entitled Trigger featuring the new track "Watch them Feed". What made the band release the EP and what is the new song all about?
We decided we wanted to make another video that is how it all started. But to make a video you might as well release a single or something but a single is so boring. I would never buy a single but I would buy an EP because there is more stuff on it and usually there is stuff that is never released before and stuff that is kind of rare. So all of us decided that we needed to do something extra with this so we had a remix of Cloud Connected, which we called "Club Connected" (laughs) because it is a little bit more "dancey” but it is still very cool. We did a cover of a Genesis song, which is very cool, and it fits for what is happening in the world right now-we are not a political band but we still have a point of view. We also did a version of Moonshield, which is an old song that we did on Jester Race and we did it the “Commodore 64” way, which is pretty funny. It is programmed and is very cool. We all had computers especially when it came out the first time like Atari and Commodore and everyone was addicted to these games especially us. So I thought it was cool to do something like that.
Everyone has all these new game systems but I am a firm believer that the Nintendo is the best one.
It is good stuff but when the Nintendo came out with the first 8-bit game system it was too good. I used to play the Atari with two bars up and down and this square-it could have been Ping Pong or volleyball.
What is so cool is that you can get all those Atari games on one disc for the Playstation.
Yeah you can get them for the PC as well.
It is fun to reminisce and go back in time when you play those. I guess I was like 4 or 5 when I used to play the Atari.
Yeah, I am 28 now and I was not very old when I used to play those games.
I am 25 now so not too much difference. Well you guys have certainly been busy and the word is that you have 11 songs written for the new album that will be entitled “The Tuborg Sessions”.
(Bjorn corrects my pronunciation) The Tuborg Sessions…Turborg is a beer label and the reason why we chose that title for the sessions that we did is that we were drinking so much beer obviously (Both of us laugh). We were stationed in Denmark at that time and we rented this small house and just recorded everything there and did a pre-production of the songs. We had a bunch of ideas with us down there and they turned into 11 songs, which are pretty much done, but they are going to sound very different when they are recorded for the album. The basics are there and that is really good because we have been working for a long time. I mean I have been working for about a year on riffs and melodies to get things right and to see what I can do, what is possible, what is not possible and to get stuff into the music that I have never tried before. So when we all came to Denmark and did this pre-production everything fell together and all of the sudden we had almost the whole next record but we are still going to write a few more songs.
Do you write a lot when you are on the road?
We are very lazy, we want to write on the road but it is kind of hectic. There are a lot of interviews and stuff but usually it is just that you don’t find the energy to do it. You want to do it but it is pretty tough sometimes.
Are we ever going to see you behind the drum kit again?
Probably not, I like playing drums but I would not do it full time.
Was it ever strange to hear a different drummer playing what you originally wrote?
You know what-This guy we called him up and we knew who he was and he was playing for Sacrilege and we knew that they kind have liked In Flames and he liked In Flames. So we called Daniel up and said “Hey can you study these 3 songs and make sure you know them so that we can go through the rehearsal room and jam them some day?” and he said “Yeah sure”. So a couple of days later he came to the rehearsing room and he nailed them better than I ever did myself so I was like that’s it! We said: “Yeah we’ll call you” and he was probably nervous as fucking hell! (Both of us laugh). But that was the only guy we have ever tried.
That’s awesome and he has been on since Colony.
Yeah it’s really cool and it was right after Whoracle we did a couple of tours and we did some test tours but after that we just figured that when it was time for the new record we wanted to have a stable line up so we went out looking. We had found Peter already before as a bass player but instead of me playing drums again which I was not comfortable with we needed to find someone. Daniel was the first choice and he wanted to play drums. I guess the band he was playing with was pretty upset.
Oh sure, they lost a good drummer. As far as band goes is it ever hard to come up with new material?
I mean it is the way we live, we tour half the year and the rest is recording and rehearsing-we do this all the time. This is what we do for a living, this is what we do for a hobby, this is the only thing that I can imagine ever doing so for me it is not very hard. You sit down with a guitar and try to record some stuff or actually sitting down with Jesper just jamming that is what we do and it is never hard.
Are you guys pretty friendly when you are not on tour or rehearsing?
Oh yeah, I mean we live in the same city and we hang out all the time. I think it is very important, some bands can manage to do records and they live in different countries-we would never do that. I need to have a personal relationship with each and every member because I need to be able to talk to them every day, see them once in a while every week or three days or whatever. Either we rehearse or we go out and take a beer somewhere and just sit down and chat. We are doing the same things and having exactly the same experiences-it is very important that we do what happens after the tour together. Ideas for the new record; I don’t want to talk about that over the phone I want to sit down and explain how everything is going to work.
It is funny to hear some bands that send MP3’s back and forth from other countries and that works for them.
I mean we basically do the same thing when it comes to musical ideas because it would be hard for me to sing it to somebody (laughs). So I either record it on a CD and we go over to someone’s place and listen to it or I upload to an FTP server and they can download it and listen to then they might say that is cool but try this or try that.
Lets say that I have $1,000 and the winner of a brawl between the members of In Flames gets the money. Who wins?
Peter. He is a big ass mother fucker (Both of us laugh). He is the strongest and he could probably kick ass.
Well how about this, in a recent interview with Dark Tranquility I asked Niklas Sundin (guitarist for Dark Tranquility) who would win in a brawl between Dark Tranquility and In Flames and he said that the numbers were on their side.
Oh really? I think not! (We both laugh). What people always get wrong is that there is some sort of competition and there is not. What we are doing is our thing, what they are doing is their thing, what Soilwork is doing is their thing. If there is competition it is friendly competition, it has never been about fistfights or “this band sucks”…it sounds too Norwegian to me.
I actually did it as a joke because when I was interviewing Dark Tranquility I had just gotten verified for an interview with In Flames as well so I was curious to see what sort of reaction I could get. I have never been one to compare Dark Tranquility and In Flames-that is for the people that say Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth sound the same.
No it is not the same thing, it is funny how people just perceive things.
People will say bands are similar just because they are on the same record label.
Yeah that happens. I think that it is a lazy way to describe a band and usually journalists do it because it saves time.
Uh…. I try not to do it…
Usually that is the way it is for a lot of people.
Like saying that this band is a heavier version of that band or a thrashier version.
Instead of describing the actual sound of the band and what they do. Labels are always appearing…
Like “Gothenburg metal”.
I am so tired of that shit and it is so untrue (Both of us laugh). Of course there is a sound coming from Gothenburg because most of the bands at least once used Studio Fredman and most of the things coming out of that studio sound about the same. But the songs sound very different from each other but it is easy to say that the bands sound the same because they are from the same city.
In Flames has been around about a decade now.
Yeah actually this is the 10th or 11th year which is a long time…don’t make me feel old now! (Laughs)
You guys have toured the globe and worked with the world’s finest musicians. What is next now?
I always have these small goals; I want to do this, I want to try that, I want to meet this person, I want to tour with this band. Like this tour for instance, this is something we have talked about for a while, touring with Soilwork and touring with Chimaira and this is one of my small goals. So next tour it may be some other bands that I really want to tour with or doing something in another country that I have never visited or something like that. But it is always small goals, we don’t have some master plan to take over the world or something-obviously we want to (Both of us laugh). But it’s small steps every time and try to keep our feet on the ground because that is what’s important.
To wrap things up do you have anything that you want to say to all the fans and readers out there?
Yeah, be here on the next concert or you will DIE! (Both of us laugh)
A huge thanks to Bjorn Gelotte who was kind enough to hang around after the show to partake in this interview and spend his time hanging out with all the fans which was also really cool. Go to the official In Flames website for any news updates and touring information and be sure to check out In Flames on tour right now with Soilwork, Chimaira and Unearth. All of the bands put on a great show and it is just a killer tour package…..and Bjorn said “Be there or you will DIE!”
Links of interest:
Nuclear Blast America