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In Flames: Road Worn and Weary

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Tuesday, September 10, 2002 @ 12:05 AM


Vocalist Anders Friden Sits Do

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One more show. One more bus ride. And then, finally, thereíll be a day off for Swedish power metallers In Flames. Comfy hotel beds. Clean showers. A pool! A chance to spend one night away from the reeking bus that has been their home for two solid weeks -- if only their road managers can find a place that can accommodate said bus.

But as it idles under the steamy sun of a mid-August Washington, D.C., afternoon in the parking lot of a warehouse-sized club called Nation, they arenít having much luck. One works the cell phone, calling one Cleveland hotel after another, while the other mans a laptop, rattling off phone numbers for the next one down the line.

As frontman Anders Friden shuffles groggily up from the back of the bus, where his bandmates are playing video games or dozing, itís easy to see why the hotel is such a big deal. He looks like absolute shit, and as he plops down on the front cabin couch, he introduces himself by noting, ďI feel like shit.Ē

In Flames has played 15 consecutive shows -- opening for Slayer and doing their own one-off headline gigs. Tonightís show in D.C. will be No. 16 in row before the day off in Cleveland breaks the string.

ďI canít sleep,Ē Friden notes with a sigh. ďItís the usual road stuff. Itís such a long trip and youíre so far from home, and this is one of those days when you really feel it. It happens to everybody.

ďI love to play in front of people and I love the half-hour that we have onstage on this tour. But itís only half an hour and it goes pretty fast, and then thereís all the sitting around and waiting and doing nothing. I like being on the road, but itís the same every fucking day.Ē

And thereís no real end in sight. As soon as In Flames finishes up its six-week U.S. tour with Slayer in mid-September, it will head right back across the states on a three-week headline tour of its own. But by then, the band should see some evidence of whether all the work has been worth it.

In Flamesí much-anticipated sixth album Reroute To Remain is due to drop on Sept. 3rd. It very well could see the Gothenburg-based quintet make the kind of mainstream impact in the states that is has had in Europe and Japan, where it is legitimate stars. The buzz around In Flames has been building steadily in the states since the band finally started touring here after 1999ís Colony. The well-received Clayman and even more extensive touring for it here made people even outside the metal underground sit up and take notice.

Reroute certainly will have a good head of steam behind it when it released, thanks to the bandís smash spring tour with Iced Earth and the current trek into some really big venues with Slayer. The album, however, already is the source of some controversy -- and has been for months -- with various sources claiming through the usual rumor mills that In Flames is making a deliberate stab at mass appeal in America by either shifting into nu-metal mode or making a brazenly commercial album.

Itís all a load of shit, of course, but Friden and company [guitarist Jesper Stromblad and Bjorn Gelotte, bassist Peter Iwers and drummer Daniel Svensson] are weary of refuting rumors about an album almost no one has heard at this point. Reroute may have added melody and more direct songs, but In Flames is as heavy and vicious as ever. Thereís just greater depth and variety Ė and if that makes the album more commercially acceptable, so be it.

From his seat on the tour bus couch, Friden had the following to say about Reroute, rumor mongering, Sept. 11th, mortality and Slay-er! Slay-er!

KNAC.COM: I take it you havenít gotten outside to enjoy our lovely August weather?
Anders Friden: No, not today, I woke up just a half hour ago. We played last night in Worcester, the Palladium, and it was a long drive. Everyone is telling me how hot it is out there.

KNAC.COM: Youíll definitely know youíre not in Sweden anymore.
Friden: [laughs] Iíll stay in here where itís air conditioned, that feels a little bit more like home.

ďThereís more catchy choruses [on Reroute] and a bit more clean singing, but itís still power metal songs. Vocal-wise itís still harsh and weíre still a very heavy band.Ē
KNAC.COM: How has the tour gone so far?
Friden: Itís going really good, I would say. We heard everything going into this about people getting booed off the stage to getting things thrown at you. Stuff like that. But so far, itís been going way better than we expected.

KNAC.COM: Have you guys gotten the Slay-er! Slay-er! salute most of their opening bands get?
Friden: Some, of course, but we donít pay too much attention. In between the sets there is always people going ďSlay-er! Slay-er!Ē You expect to hear that. But in between our songs we havenít been hearing it, so thatís a good sign. If everybody was doing that in between the songs, that would make us feel really bad. But if itís just a few, then it doesnít matter.

KNAC.COM: Iíve read a couple reviews of the tour, and everyone mentions your white uniforms.
Friden: [laughs] With metal, everything is about being black and dark and this and that, and weíre just trying to have some fun with that. We have done a couple of tours where weíve had uniforms or wore different colors, I wore red, I had a white shirt and tie, stuff like that, just to be a bit different than everything else. We just like to look nice, we donít have to wear metal shirts and just stand there and headbang. You can see that anywhere.

KNAC.COM: I was flying out to Denver last week and Tom Araya was on my connecting flight from Dallas, where he lives, Obviously theyíve been getting some days off?
Friden: They do have some days offs, but we really donít. We had to schedule some headline shows in between so we can afford to do this tour and maybe even make a little money. We want to live okay and we donít want to travel in a van, then you get all sick of each other and just get sick period. It stinks bad enough on this fucking thing. To be able to afford the bus and hotels like weíre staying in tomorrow in Cleveland we have to play, so time off is not something weíve seen a lot of on this tour.

KNAC.COM: Are you going to be able to get home between when this tour is done and the next one starts?
Friden: No, we are here for two months straight. When this tour is over, we start the next one in San Francisco, so this (the bus) will be our home for two months.

KNAC.COM: And then what happens?
Friden: We fly home to Europe, weíre home for five days then the European tour starts and weíre supposed to go to South America, but it seems that that has been postponed to early next year. So we get a little break in between and then we go to Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Before there wasnít going to be any break until Christmas, now itís kind of nice that we go some kind of break.
Until summer I guess weíll be pretty much on the road. And then thereís the festivals in Europe, after that then weíll see what happens.

KNAC.COM: How much of the new record are you doing, since you only have 30 minutes?
Friden: Two songs, we try to do. At least. There is a lot of people who havenít heard us before so they donít know if itís new or an old song. And we want to get the new songs in the set so when weíre doing our own shows weíve got any bugs worked out.

KNAC.COM: Do people seem to be into you, or are they just not being openly hostile?
Friden: I think weíve been making a good impact, so weíre pretty happy with how weíve been received so far. And we have a lot of people coming up to us and saying, ďWe havenít heard you before, but what you do is really good.Ē So thatís the whole point of this tour, to get our name our to a wider audience and spread it. Right weíre still small, at least here, kind of between the underground and on the way up. Hopefully it will keep going up.

KNAC.COM: There seems to be quite a buzz about the new album here.
Friden: Thatís great, because itís a big, big market and we are just in the beginnings. We donít see too much about our new record, except what we pick up on the road. Itís hard to stay tuned into whatís going on in the world when youíre traveling all the time, but from what I can gather there seems to be quite a bit of talk about it, which is cool.
Really we are something new that people havenít heard before, even though this band has been around for quite some time. The main metal audience, those people who do not pay much attention to the underground, havenít heard us before or heard this type of music before, so I think there is a place for a band like us.

KNAC.COM: You definitely do straddle that line between underground, extreme metal and more commercial metal.
Friden: I think so. We can be very aggressive and play really heavy and fast, and my vocals might be a bit rough for some people, but thereís a lot of melody in our songs and plenty of riffs you can bang your head to. I donít know if itís going get us on the radio, but I donít think it will scare people away either.

KNAC.COM: Where did all the ďnu-metalĒ rumors start?
Friden: I donít know. Maybe when we toured with Slipknot. Someone said to his friend who said that same thing and then the rumors spread. Go and just listen to the album. Why would we ever go in that direction? In Flames has a history since í92, the first album was in í94, way before this nu-metal thing. Why would we all of a sudden just change?

KNAC.COM: All it takes is some dipshit with e-mail, and all of a sudden you haveÖ Even if you really havenít.
Friden: Yeah, exactly. You get tired of the whole thing, but I guess thatís part of getting a bit more known around. We were kind of away from that rumor thing before because we were a smaller band, but now people pay attention. We laugh at most of the stuff anyway.

KNAC.COM: Are you ready to make the step up from the underground?
Friden: It doesnít bother me, I can take that step any day. I want to spread our music to as many people as possible, thatís why we do this, thatís why we tour. If I would be happy being home playing once a month in my garage, I would do that, but I want to get my music out to the people.

KNAC.COM: Are you happy with the progress the band has made, especially over the last couple years?
Friden: Yeah, we work hard. Harder than most of the bands that come from Sweden or play our type of music. We tour a lot. This is quite a new market for us, we really enjoy it and I think it works. Itís a good challenge for us because weíve done quite well in Europe and Japan, but if you really want to consider yourselves a successful band, you have to make an impact in the states.

Weíve taken small steps, so that we donít lose our feet from the ground, so to speak. We donít get bigheaded or whatever, weíre still the same people. And by the same token we havenít set ourselves up for a big fall. Weíd like to think this new record is going to do well, but if it doesnít weíll keep right on going.

KNAC.COM: Can Nuclear Blast handle things now that it seems like you could really take off.
Friden: Weíll see now.

KNAC.COM: This will be the big test?
Friden: Yeah. This is the last album [under our contract with them] as well, so weíll see what happens. It could be interesting.

KNAC.COM: Have bigger labels approached you?
Friden: They could have, but I donít want to talk about it at all because we are still on Nuclear Blast and they are our label. And theyíve done a good job so far. They are a small label, but weíve grown together.

KNAC.COM: All Iíve heard from Reroute is the four-track advance teaser CD. Is it representative of the album as a whole, one song to fit each type of mood?
Friden: Yeah, you could say that. I decided which songs were supposed to be there. Thereís one fast, one slow, one in-between and one typical In Flames song, so yeah I think it represents it pretty good.

KNAC.COM: There does seem to be some more melody and the songs are a bit simpler.
Friden: Itís got more depth. I enjoy the album, Iím really proud of it. I donít know if itís simpler, because the melodies are more sophisticated. But weíve gotten away from the hundred millions riffs in one song. Weíd rather have good, short memorable songs that have a more traditional pop structure. Catchy songs, but still keep whatever is In Flames, whether that means the aggression or the guitar tradeoffs or the heaviness.
And I believe weíve succeeded in that way. It sounds like In Flames, but it is new in a way. Thereís more catchy choruses and a bit more clean singing, but itís still power metal songs. Vocal-wise itís still harsh and weíre still a very heavy band.

KNAC.COM: The albumís subtitle is ď14 Songs of Conscious Madness.Ē What are we supposed to make of that?
Friden: I donít know, Iím insane. It should be conscious insanity. Iím aware that Iím a little bit stupid [laughs], insane. But itís good for me, it takes me somewhere and as long as we can keep it under control itís okay. You can do whatever you want with it, thatís what I do with my lyrics anyway. I write personal lyrics, but I write it in such a way that everyone can interpret their own feelings and their own ideas about what itís about.

KNAC.COM: Is there an underlying theme to it, are the songs interconnected?
Friden: No, itís just me complaining about this and that [laughs].

KNAC.COM: What is some of ďthis and thatĒ?
Friden: It could be people that I meet and things that I feel and things that I think about and relationships between me and other people. Love, disaster, all this, normal things that people think about, but I try to write it in an interesting way so itís not just really, really simple.

KNAC.COM: Since the music comes from some different angles this time, did you approach things any differently from a lyrical standpoint?
Friden: I guess itís a bit more happy, itís not as dark as before.

KNAC.COM: Really, despite the whole insanity thing?
Friden: Yeah, Iím a happier person now. Otherwise itís pretty much the same. I met a wonderful woman, thatís why. I got out from a self-destructive relationship, so I see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, and that helps a lot. But my lyrics did reflect the old relationship a lot, thatís where a lot of the insanity comes into play. Because there are a lot of things to talk about, a lot of things to dissect before I feel I can get it out of the system.
Itís easy to write about bad relationships, itís hard to write happy songs. Itís really hard. But thatís how people are. Itís easier to complain about stuff than say ďfuck, youíre a really good guyĒ or ďyouíre a really good girl.Ē Which is kind of stupid, I think. But thatís part of being human, for better or worse.

[The tour bus starts moving, taking a lap on the block around the club. The U.S. Capital dome commands the skyline less than a mile away, but when we pull back the bus window curtains, all we see is the industrial slagheap that is Southeast D.C. So much for sightseeing.]

KNAC.COM: Did you guys see any of the new truck-bomb proofing, blocked-off streets, security checkpoints or nuclear material detectors when you came through town? The Congressional office buildings that were closed because of the anthrax letters are less than a mile from here, and the Pentagon is just over there [I point west] -- so things are a little tense around here.
Friden: No I havenít seen any of that. And now Iím not so sure I want to! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: After Sept. 11, were things much different where you live. Was there a heightened sense of security?
Friden: We have had these politics for a long, long time, even though itís a total lie, that we are kind of independent, we stand in the middle. But the embassy, everything like that was shut off for days and there were anthrax threats there, too. People were sending stuff to our government. Itís weird, itís so strange because you really do feel like youíve got to watch your back now.

KNAC.COM: What were you doing when the attacks happened?
Friden: We were actually writing our album at the time, so we were renting this house. My girlfriend called me while we were going to buy beer, of course [laughs], actually we were on our way back, and she says that an airplane flew into one of the twin towers and we were like ďwhat the fuck.Ē
We were close to the house where we were practicing, so we ran straight in and turned on the TV. Ten minutes later the other plane hit the second tower [makes explosion noise] and then it was scary. We were watching CNN all day long, we couldnít do anything that day.
I guess it affects everybody in one way or another. Even thought itís so far away from where we come from, little Sweden, I know a person that died in the Trade Center. It was a classmate to my little brother, he used to come from the same neighborhood that we came from. That was kind of scary.

KNAC.COM: Shows what a small world it really is.
Friden: Exactly. The whole thing also affected the way we wrote the album, and my lyrics. You should take the opportunity right now to live your life. You donít know what can happen around the corner, you should just enjoy the time that you have.

KNAC.COM: Because you never know Ö
Friden: No, you really donít. Take care of each other -- we are so self-destructive, itís very sad to see. Weíre here on borrowed time and people just kill each other. It just doesnít make any sense.

(Photos from InFlames.com)


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