DARK TRANQUILLITY :  Interview with Niklas Sundin 

 mail interview  by dalia "gryphon_spirit" di giacomo__    12/02/2004    

organized by Mr. Niklas Sundin and GryphonMetal     


                                                                                              live reportage  from A Day at the Border 

DARK  TRANQUILLITY Program SingALong to be downloaded at www.darktranquillity.com  


Dalia - As Italian, i would begin my interview asking you which are your impressions about your recent tour in Italy, and... in particular, how was the concert at Motion, in Zingonia, near Bergamo


Niklas - The whole Italian tour was a great experience for us. We've always enjoyed good support from your country, even during our demo days over ten years ago, but for some reason it has been very difficult to get gigs organized. On the european tour for "Damage done", we sadly only got one Italian date (Milano), so it was great to be able to return for five full dates. All in all, we're very satisfied with how it all turned out.


Dark Tranquillity have begun the song writing for the seventh full-length album. Can you please reveal us some details about?  i would also know whether there will be some differences concerning drumming ,  with attention to an expansion of the double bass effect.


We'll begin the recordings pretty soon, but it's still a bit early to tell anything about the general direction. First of all, we don't want to give away too much in advance; you'll be able to hear the album for yourselves in a couple of months anyway, and secondly our songs usually go through a lot of changes in the songwriting process. Nothing is 100% sure until it's recorded, and details and arrangements are constantly modified. We did play one new song, "One thought", on the Italian tour, though, but it's not impossible that the final version will sound a bit different.



What would Mikael Stanne say to a fan- listener imploring: "...everything , but please no (too much) clean vocals in your next album" (that person is me!!) ??


I have no idea...We usually finish writing the actual music before Mikael decides on the lyrics and vocals, so it's too early to tell how he will sing on the next album. Clear vocals may or may not be present; we'll see.


For DT this is a period of remastered re-releases too, re-releases of earlier CD's like The Gallery and The Mind's I. Speaking about that, i wonder whether  you feel some nostalgia looking back in time. Are you satisfied with your career? what do these re-release mean for you, beyond the fact that many new fans in the world will have a brilliant occasion to approach your music like it was in middle 90's?


I'm not much for nostalgia, really. I rarely listen to our old albums and seldom think about the past unless the question pops up in interview, like this. As for the re-releases, the main reason for putting them out is that they're still pretty hard to get hold of in some territories. Any music fan knows how annoying it is to have to buy an expensive import version of an album that you want to have in your collection, and there are a lot of people that discovered our band during the last 2-3 years that have difficulties finding the earlier stuff. 



Always related to the more recent events... which were the reactions of your fans concerning the dvd live?


The response has been truly excellent so far, and we're getting a huge amount of emails every week from people that are very satisfied with the DVD. It's still a pretty new thing for a band of our stature to release anything in this format, so it's good to see that it was a successful move. We tried to get as much stuff as possible included, and it felt nice to be able to add some more basic bootleg footage to complement the very clean Polish gig. 



Dark Tranquillity was founded around 13 years ago and many of the original members are still part of the band. So you have one of the most stable line up's around. I imagine that you all are tight friends, and that music is only a part of this friendship. Do you feel to have an identity as group even when you are far from venues and stages?


Absolutely. As you say, we've played together for so long, and we grew up on the same street and have known each other since the age of 3-4 years in most cases, so it's more than just some people playing in a band together. This year is actually our 15th anniversary!


Your music is aggressive with lots of attacks, sometimes even raw and straight to the point, but it also presents melodic passages of an undisputable beauty and not banal catchiness. How can you conciliate so well harshness and aesthetics? Do you consider your style as Melodic Death par excellence?


I don't know..I think it's up to others to put a tag on our sound or pigeonhole it if they have to. It's a cliché, but we just play our music and don't care at all what people chose to call it. Some of our albums fit well with in the "melodic death metal" category, while others certainly don't. There's no secret formula to what we're doing; just hard work and dedication.


Projector, Haven and Damage Done: 3 mile stones of your discography: for me it would be seriously very hard to say which one is the best (if the thing could make any sense) but they deliver an example of evolution in the continuity. In your opinion, how far can bands go develop an evolution and how much strong should roots remain?


It's very individual. Some bands are more or less supposed to change a lot from album to album and people would be let down if that wasn't the case, whereas other bands base their whole concept around delivering the same style of music over and over again. There is no right or wrong here, and no-one has the right to say to any band what they should and should not do. As for D.T., I think that our "goal" is to keep surprising the listener with every album while still keeping the a strong band identity. If we were to do something _totally_ different, we'd probably release it under a different name.



Every time i listen to Haven, i feel like a kind of "pagan" connection with ambience and nature. I am just thinking of Indifferent Suns but to The Same also. This atmosphere is present in the more aggressive Damage Done imo. Who is the romantic soul among all of you, DT?


Sorry to disappoint you, but we're all cynical bastards. I think that we're all atheists as well, so if there is any "pagan" atmosphere it's unintentional, ha ha! I see what you mean though; there definately is a tint to some of the melodies.



Dark Tranquillity use electronic insertions which are anyway well measured imo, emphasizing the melodic aspect only. The amazing thing is that your electronics don't make sound your music less aggressive at all...


Thanks - I'm glad that you like our use of keyboards. Martin doesn't come from the typical metal background, so he approaches the music a bit differently than what your typical keyboardist in this sort of music would do.



Fredrik Nordström and Studio Fredman seem to be an inseparable combination for DT...


Well, it's a great studio and it's very convenient for us to record there. We all have day jobs and families and lots of other things to take care of besides the band, so it wouldn't work for us to go to another city or country to spend a month recording an album. Also, we know how everything works in Studio Fredman, and we take care of ourselves during the recording, which is the way we want to do it.



I saw DT live only one time (unfortunately!): in Milan during  A Day at the Border, last June. Among the song presented, The Wonders at your Feet sounded like an absolute hammer. In which way and in which point of the concert do you usually deliver your most killer tracks?


I think it's up to the audience to judge. It's very individual, and everyone has got their own fave songs anyway. We try to build up a good enough sense of dynamics and variation to keep every part of the gig interesting, and it's important to find a good balance between different types of songs, but there isn't a definite "killer moment" as such. "Wonders..." usually go down very well in a live situation since it's a very catchy and bouncy track, and I guess that "Punish my heaven" is sort of a trademark tune.


Like just mentioned, unfortunately i have seen only one gig, so "i really don't know much" from personal experience concerning your set lists: how much they change, how they are determined...


It differs a lot depending on the situation. If we play a headline show, our set usually lasts for 80-90 minutes, but if we're a support act or play at a festival, time is much more restricted. At the festival you visited, we only got 25 minutes, and still the stage techs wanted us to leave the stage after 20 (!). As you understand, we have to adjust the setlist a lot from time to time, and also from tour to tour since it's important to keep a good level of variation.



I read somewhere somehow, that Dark Tranquillity is a very extroverted band, a band that likes to be photographed, which likes to be on stage and that enjoys every minute with their fans. Is it true?


It's true about some of the members, I guess, but as with any other band we're pretty different in this respect. We all enjoy being on stage of course, but it's not like we're a bunch of attention whores. A lot of the things surrounding the music (autograph sessions, photo shoots) are part of the job that you need to do whether you like it or not.


Do you consider yourself as an ambitious band?




I see that you Niklas have done many cover arts, and that you have practically always contributed to the development of graphical concept of DT's releases. If i understand well you have a illustration studio. Can you tell us something more about Cabin Fever Media? Who is your fav painter and/all photographer? In general, when it's artistic musical inspiration, what comes first for DT as inspiration source: an image that evokes certain chords or the contrary? And how are mixed then lyrics in all this process?  which can be in your opinion the artistic message that goes deeper in people's mind: a visual or a musical one?


There isn't that much to tell, really. I like to keep my occupation separate from the band, but it's of course a good thing to be able to have full control over the visual aspects of the releases as well. The artwork for the band usually comes into the picture when the music is next to completed, so it'd not a case of having a certain visual framework that would ignite the songwriting process or anything.



What does the band generally think about subliminal and/or subtle suggestions? do they exist and if yes, where in your opinion?


I have no idea if the other guys have any opinion on this, but so far we haven't had much success from the "send us money" messages we did plant on our older albums, so I'm getting sceptical towards subliminal perception. 



Noticing that i have not asked anything "Swedish" (!), i could also propose our typical last question of the Game of the Tower (for the bands we interview for the very first time), putting on that famous bloody tower 3 Swedish Death metal bands, waiting for you. But i will not! I will choose 3 so called "nu metal" ones: Papa Roach, P.O.D., Linkin Park... you can push down from this high tower 2 of them, saving only one...


So I can keep one of those bands at the top of the tower? To be honest, I've barely heard them apart from a few snippets in TV commercials, and none of them have impressed me very much. Nothing against those bands, but it's not my cup of tea at all, so I can't really judge their qualities. If I have to decide one band to remain, let's go for Papa roach. They have a melody from "Punish my heaven" in one of their songs, so at least they've got good taste. ;-)


Thank you Niklas and DT very much!! :)



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