After being blown away by the complexity of the cd "Projector" I just had to find out more about the band Dark Tranquillity and what better way to learn more them then to goto the source and pester guitarist/webmaster Niklas Sundin.
Prof.ManiC: I first heard about you guys because when I saw NEVERMORE in Cleveland Ohio... Warrel Dane was wearing one of your guys t-shirts and they played a song or two of yours before the show. Did you know he was a fan? Are you guys fans of his? Or is there some Century Media rule about wearing other CM band t-shirts and playing their cd whenever possible?
Niklas Sundin: He he, that's great to hear! We met Nevermore very briefly when we played at the same festival in Belgium last summer, and they said that they really liked "Projector". I'm sorry to say that I haven't heard that much of their music, but what I did listen to was excellent. They performed a great show at the festival, and people often tell me that I ought to check them out more since they're a terrific band. We were on the verge of touring with them in the US last autumn, but it fell through due to our European tour. There isn't any CM rule about bands having to support each other - but it's always a cool thing to do.
Prof.ManiC: The reason I got your cd was because I wanted to explore new genres of metal since power/prog metal is getting kinda flooded with copycats so I wanted to checkout what people called the "Gothenburg Sound" and I heard you guys were one of the best at it. How would you describe this sound to someone who has never heard it? How does DT fit into this style and how have you guys grown beyond it?
Niklas Sundin: Well, this particular subgenre is also flooded with copycats... I guess that the whole thing started in the early '90's with a couple of bands from here being very bored with the limitations of the then dominant "brutal death metal" sound, so we started experimenting with guitar harmonies, more complex and layered arrangements, harsh screaming vocals instead of the usual grunts and so on. The term "Gothenburg sound" was coined by journalists to describe the bands that had these common denominators; us, In flames, At the gates and so on. None of the bands have ever been interested in applying some kind of group tag to our music since we don't think that we sound that similar at all. But we're sort of bound to say that, ha ha.
Prof.ManiC: What musicial and cultural backgrounds help this sound EVOLVE? What other bands do you consider to be some of the founding fathers of this sound?
Niklas Sundin: I haven't analyzed it too much, but the main trigger was probably the need to create something that would stand out from the generic death metal scene. We searched for an own method of expression. There was a lot of inbreeding going on between the bands, and we were a group of people sharing the same influences and motivations for our music. Of course, back in '92 it was challenging and innovative to play "melodic death metal", whereas now it's a bit conformistic and has been done a thousand times before. Founding fathers? Well, At the gates were probably the first to put out a CD with excessive use of guitar harmonies and stuff, and the early releases by us and In flames helped to define the sound.
Prof.ManiC: Care to share some info on recording of the new cd "Haven"? How long did it take to record? Did you guys try anything different with the recording process?
Niklas Sundin: We were in the studio for about a month, and everything went really smooth. "Haven" is the 4th album we record in the same studio, but there were a couple of things that were different this time. First of all, it was our debut recording with a real keyboardist, so a lot of nifty production gadgets were used to make all the electronics sound right. Secondly, this is the first album where we've had the possibility to record demos of all the songs before entering the studio, which helped a lot both for us and for the producers. Because of this, we were very well prepared, so the actual recording was relaxed and confident as opposed to the usual chaotic scene.
Prof.ManiC: What are some of the issues that the lyrics tackle on "Haven"? How much of Mikael's Clean vocals will we be hearing?
Niklas Sundin: The lyrics aren't as topic- and issue-related as they're self-centred. We've never been out to promote a certain message or to use our music as a tool for our opinions. We're pretty different people in the band anyway, so it'd be useless to try to distill any message from our songs. Lyricwise, there has always been a certain egostic slant to our albums. "Haven" is the first album that we've shifted focus from the interior of the mind to the exterior, and the lyrics are more about observing than participating, which also is a new thing for us. There aren't that many clear vocals on this album, since the aggressive voice simply worked better with the music.
Prof.ManiC: How much did the fan response from "Projector" influence your style on "Haven"?
Niklas Sundin: Hopefully it didn't affect the sound in any way. I'd like to think that we write our songs for ourselves and for our own artistic expression (ever heard that one before? ;-) ). "Projector" was a difficult album for many, while "Haven" is more direct and accessable, and I think that this to some degree is because of the touring we did between the albums. A lot of the songs on "Projector" simply weren't too exciting to play live, neither for us or for the audience, and after having returned home from the tours, I guess that we were all eager to bring back some intensity and mayhem to the music again.
Prof.ManiC: Since some of DT lryics are about very complex issues like Chaos Theory and Advanced Phyics is that something all of the band into or is it mostly Mikaels interest? What outside influences does he draw from when dealing with these ideas? What kinda books have the band members been reading?
Niklas Sundin: I guess me and Mikael are the bookworms in the band. I can't comment too much on the scope of his influences and how he intergrates them into his lyrics, but he basically maintains an observant and curious attitude to the world and likes to indulge in movies, books, computer games and so on. I have no idea about the rest of the guys, but I'm currently reading Carl Sagan's brilliant "The demon-haunted world".
Prof.ManiC: Since I'm not very familiar with the older stuff I was wondering How and when did the whole Ying & Yang concept of DT's music and lyrics evolve?
Niklas Sundin: I'm not quite sure what you mean with a Ying & Yang concept to be honest. Our lyrics have always circulated around dualistic themes and feelings, but there isn't any concept as such. Regarding the development of our lyrics, I think they've more or less gone through the same stages as the music. On our earlier albums, the sound was complex and multi- faceted, and the lyrics were very overblown and pastoral. A bit pretentious, even. These days, we have a more compact sound and as a concequence the lyrics are more compact as well.
Prof.ManiC: Based on the Info on your webpage it seems to me most of the bands listens to music outside of the metal genre is that part of the reason for your sound or is it so you don't get drawn into that 'copycat' frame of mind some bands do?
Niklas Sundin: I guess that having a diverse music taste helps to write original music, but there's no real plan behind liking the music that we do. We're simply open to lots of different genres and tend to appreciate a bit of everything. 10-12 years ago, we were pretty narrow-minded regarding music, listening to extreme underground metal 99% of the time, but when you start playing an instrument you often learn to appreciate music on a wider level. And as you say, there's a risk of your own music not sounding too original if you listen to extreme metal only.
Prof.ManiC: What do you think metal bands can learn from Tori Amos?
Niklas Sundin: Hmm...artistic honesty (for lack of a better word), musicanship skills, the ability to have nearly make love with your instrument on stage....loads of helpful things! She's truly a godess *sigh*!
Prof.ManiC: Since my page is devoted to metal and using it to help people control or at least understand their emotions, mind telling us what you like to do when your feeling down or pissed off to take you mind off it? (doesn't have to involve metal)
Niklas Sundin: Hmm...I usually paint when I feel down, but I guess that method wouldn't work for everyone.
Prof.ManiC: What inspires you for the cd covers artwork and band webpage? Looking at some of your other art is it just me or do i notice a thing for Paleontology and south America/Mexico Folklore? If so what inspires this?
Niklas Sundin: I'm very interested in natural history and folklore. For CD covers, I try to pin down a concept that will work with the lyrics and general theme of the band. Usually, I get loads of ideas and pictures in my mind just from getting some brief info on a project, so it's mostly a matter of chosing the best alternative and develop it further. Sometimes the band has already developed a clear concept of what they want to express with the cover, but in most cases I provide the ideas. The art that I do for my own private need is more abstract and fucked up than what can be seen on the album covers I've made.
Prof.ManiC: What computer artists out there put you in awe of the stuff they do and why? What guitarists but you in awe of the stuff they do?
Niklas Sundin: Let's see...there are many artists that I admire. First of all, Dave McKean deserve credit for having inspired almost everyone dabbling in digital art with a slant to the darker side. Travis Smith is also incredibly skilled. I just saw his work for the next Nevermore-album and was totally blown away. Usually, though, I'm not too impressed by most "digital" artists since I find their work too dependant on the tools they're using, but the ones that are able to produce computer manipulated art with originality are great. The most jawdropping images are usually a combination of different media. Guitarists? I have no idea...I'm not interested in the guitar-hero school of playing at all. My first choise would probably be Blixa Bargeld of Einsturzende Neubauten. He genuinely dislikes the guitar and everything it stands for, so he has developed a totally unique way of playing it. I think this is an interesting way of approaching the instrument.
Prof.ManiC: How do you think the future of the internet and heavy metal will grow hand and hand? What do you think is the maximium growth level for either?
Niklas Sundin: Complex question. It's clear that the whole music industry will be drastically changed in the next 5-10 years when music gets distributed digitally. This doesn't only concern metal, but all music in general, and my hope is that it'll lead to a win/win situation for both the musicans and the fans. As it is now, the artists only get a tiny percentage of what a CD costs in the store, which means that lots of bands that sell 30-40 000 albums still can't make a living out of the music. If some of the middlemen are removed, it'll be possible to lower the price of CD's considerably while the musicans still get a larger sum of money for each sold album - which is good for everybody.
Prof.ManiC: To explore deeper into the abyss of talent known as Niklas Sundin wander to the Dark Tranquillity Website
Niklas Sundin: