Dark Tranquillity ventured out to The Grove of Anaheim to enrapture local metalheads with their own thrilling band of Swedish death metal. Based out of the metal mecca known as Gothenburg, Dark Tranquillity was greeted by a surprise rainstorm behind the infamous Orange Curtain – normally sunny and warm but not on the day this tour was scheduled to pass through the Southland. Although The Grove is cavernous and a bit intimidating due to its size and dynamics, the fans arrived en masses to bang their heads as Dark Tranquillity unleashed songs from their various albums – including selections from Construct, their 2013 release from Century Media Records. Prior to their set, we caught up with front man Mikael Stanne to discuss the current tour with Insomnuim, the various Dark Tranquillity albums released within a vast and glorious 25 years, and plans for future recordings. Read on…
What do you think of our rain in Southern California?
I was a bit surprised, we’ve been out on a tour for four weeks and it hasn’t rained a bit and now we’re getting it in Southern California. It’s been a good day, when I woke up, beautiful. It’s kinda different, it’s cold and dark and miserable back home in Sweden, so we’re happy to be here.
Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Dark Tranquillity.
My name is Mikael and I’m the singer and lyricist.
How has this overall tour been going so far and what have been some of the highlights?
It’s been really cool. We figured, we wanted to do a tour with our friends in Insomnium, they’re great guys. We’ve toured before over in Europe so this was a no brainer. We did a similar run a year ago, which was good, but this one has been even better. We started out in New York 3-4 weeks ago, we’ve been up in Canada and pretty much everywhere. Shows every single night. It’s been fantastic, super cool.
What can one expect from your live show tonight?
Wow, I don’t know. Loud, crazy, passionate and hopefully visually interesting as well. Niklas, who’s our guitar player and also the guy behind all the artwork for the band does animations for all these songs that we have on stage as well. That’s usually really cool. This room is super large so I have no idea how it’s going to look when we get it up on stage.
You did vocals on an Insomnium song “Weather the Storm.” Are you going to be performing that with them tonight? Have you ever performed that with them before?
I’ve done it twice. Once in London and once at Summer Breeze festival in Germany and we were talking about doing it tonight but I’m not sure if they have it prepared, or if they could do it or not. We talked about it a lot during the tour, but I’m not sure.
Is there overall story or concept behind the title of the latest album Construct?
Yeah, I guess it’s about skepticism and atheism in many ways. It’s about critical thinking and also about being critical or honest about personal relationships. There is one part, a personal part and the other is a skeptical / analytical kind of atheist part. It deals with all kinds of questions of belief systems and how that affects you in your everyday life. How to be critical about whatever information you’re being fed.
The artwork on the various versions of the album, a little different than what you’ve done in the past. Tell me about the artwork that we had here in America, and who did it. Was that Niklas Sundin?
Yeah it was Niklas. Niklas was super stressed out because he had spent so much time writing the album and recording it, so when we started talking about the covers he was unsure. He didn’t know if he had the time or energy to do it. Once I came up with a title for the album, he was like – hmm alright. The next morning he emailed me the entire cover, he was up all night brainstorming. It’s different. It’s more, for me at least, it’s more his personal style that I really like. Doodling and drawing that he’s always done but most of the covers that he normally does for other bands as well are these photoshopped slick looking things. This is more hand drawn stuff that I really like.
Select any two songs from Construct and tell me what inspired the lyrics.
The song we open up with every night is “The Science of Noise” and it’s about how you falsify evidence and research. How you can actually, out of randomness get a result that is not true or right but it happens all the time. It’s about critical thinking when it comes to things you read in the news. Because it’s always so biased, and the last couple of years I’ve been so frustrated and angry at that. How we perceive, and how media delivers news and information to us. It’s so biased and not what’s actual truth.
Another song, “State of Trust” is about trust among individuals. Relationships, it’s about how important trust is in any relationship and how it can be that one factor that destroys everything.
With Construct being released in 2013, how close are you to doing a new album?
We’re going to start as soon as we get home, this is the last leg of the tour. We’re going to do a couple of festivals throughout the summer, but the main focus will be writing.
When you look back on the first albums Skydancer and The Gallery. What do you think of them now in retrospect?
It’s interesting. We did this re-release of Skydancer a couple of months ago. We remastered it and got to listen to it again and rediscover it. I’ve realized, yeah, we were young. We had no idea what we were doing but we had an idea at least. We were full of ambition and hope that we had something to offer to the world of heavy metal. We wanted to be so different. I remember going into the studio, we thought we could do everything. We can have clean vocals! Female vocals! Clean guitars! Acoustic guitars! Everything! These grandiose ideas. They were kind of squashed, but we got some of that in. Then The Gallery was different. I guess we finally learned how to play properly. At that point we were 22 or something like that and that age, you’re looking at the world and you believe you can do anything. There’s nothing in your way and you’re full of confidence, I think that’s what I remember most. We felt like we could do whatever we wanted. It was an open space, we can do whatever.
What do you think about the middle period, Haven, Projector – looking back on those?
oth of those albums were kind of reactions to the ones that preceded them. After The Mind’s I, we toured a lot and we just – it was all about playing fast and intense music. Then we just felt like, where do we go from here? How can we top that? There’s no way. So we had to go in another direction completely, that’s what Projector became, something very very different. I think Haven, back to form, that was the first time when Martin joined and we had more keyboards and we experimented a lot with that. We were kind of like – finding a way to incorporate all the stuff we learned on the Projector but to have more into the heavier stuff we like to do.
What was it like being the vocalist for In Flames for two minutes?
Jesper started In Flames out of frustration because he was in another band called Ceremonial Oath. I had just stopped playing guitar and started singing professionally and he just asked me. Do you want to sing on a demo? I have a few songs that I’ve written for another project and I said yeah. We had a great time. We’ve been friends for a long time. We did a three song demo and then they got a record deal immediately. That demo turned into an album, they asked me – do you want to sing on the album? I said, I don’t know. I dont want my first album as a singer to be something other than Dark Tranquillity. They convinced me somehow with free beer or something. So I ended up recording that and we ended up doing two or three shows, randomly and that was it. It was never something that I wanted to continue. I knew that they would eventually get another singer, they did, and then they ended up with Anders. It was fun for sure.
Do you still keep in touch with your ex-bassist Daniel and who is playing bass now?
I haven’t seen Daniel in a while but he’s a super cool guy and a good friend. Now, actually since he left we’ve been doing a pre-recorded bass. So, Martin who is our original bass player recorded all those songs and we brought it with us. It’s kind of weird, but for this tour we figured that’s the solution.
If Dark Tranquillity could open for any band either now or from the past, what band would it be and why?
RUSH. Always. They’ve always my all time favorite band.
What’s up next for Dark Tranquillity?
I think we’ve done 160 shows for this album, so yeah, we need to do another one. Get home, relax, have some time off with our families and write music and then do a few festivals and see what happens. We have no other tours planned right now, it feels good.
Do you have any messages for Dark Tranquillity fans here in the Los Angeles area?
Super excited and thankful that we get to come and do this. This is gonna be really cool, last year when we played Hollywood was fantastic. I’m sure this is a bit a ways, but it’s going to be awesome.
(Interview by Ken Morton – Photos by Jack Lue)
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