Interview with NIKLAS SUNDIN

Original Portuguese version here:

Swedish DARK TRANQUILLITY almost don’t need any introduction. But for those who haven’t been paying attention: it’s one of the pioneer bands in melodic death metal and the one which has been standing the longest. Their career completed 20 years in 2009, the same year they’ve played at Vagos Open Air. The 9th album “We Are The Void”, saw the light of day early this year and the “Where Death Is Most Alive – part II” tour included Porto and Lisbon last October. Backstage talked to guitarrist and founder member Niklas Sundin about these and some more.

Backstage Music Forum: Hi there! Thank you so much for talking to Backstage Music Forum. The first question must be about your return to Portugal, obviously. After more than a decade, you came back last year for a festival and now for two headlining shows. Did you remember how it had been before? How did it feel now, after all these years?

Niklas Sundin: We did one or two shows in Portugal in 1996, on the tour with CANNIBAL CORPSE, IMMOLATION, IMPALED NAZARENE and VADER, and those were really good from what I can remember. The festival show during the “Haven” era was a complete disaster though. Most of the members were way too drunk, the festival tent almost blew away in the hurricane and it was a horrible performance, ha ha! We still think about it with shame as being one of the worst D.T. shows ever. In other words, we’re very happy to have restored our reputation by doing the Vagos festival and the two recent shows in Porto and Lisabon. You have a great and very devoted audience for metal, and hopefully we can play more in your country in the future.

BMF: Speaking of that festival, Vagos Open Air, we all thought it was really funny when you failed in the beginning of “punish my heaven”. What about you? As musicians, were you annoyed or you still laugh at it?

Niklas: You have to laugh at it. I mean, we try our best to put on a good performance every time and take our playing very seriously, but we’re only human and it happens on rare occasions that things get fucked up. It’s live music after all and nobody’s perfect – so it’s not the end of the world. I think we’ve had to stop and restart a song maybe 5 times ever, and that’s less than one show out of 100, so the ratio is still pretty good, ha ha!

BMF: Some bands take months for auditioning new members, but when Mikael Niklasson left, you announced Daniel Antonsson about 6 weeks later! How did that happen, such a fast decision?

Niklas: Things just felt really good right away with Daniel, so there was no point in delaying the decision. We got more than a 100 applications from people all over the world, but due to the fact that we had the European tour lined up, things would have to move pretty quickly. Daniel comes from the same scene has a similar background as the rest of us, so he really was the perfect candidate. It wouldn’t make any sense to have a huge audition with ten different guys; it’d just be a waste of time.

BMF: On Century Media Youtube channel we can see the “making of” videos of “we are the void” and during the vocal recordings, Mikael says at some point that “dream oblivion” is one of the songs that Daniel wrote the most so it had “a different vibe”. What did Daniel bring to DARK TRANQUILLITY?

Niklas: Well, it’s just good getting some new blood in the band. We’ve only had a few line-up changes in our whole career, and every time it has been about replacing someone who was worn out and not really into it anymore. Daniel brought a lot of enthusiasm and fresh ideas as well as being a very talented musican with a good knowledge about studio recording.

BMF: Also in those videos we get an idea of the process of recording a DARK TRANQUILLITY album, but tell us which are the most exciting and most boring things of that process.

Niklas: Actually, most of the things are boring and tedious. Studio recording is more about spending a lot of time getting the right sounds and documenting your ideas as good as possible, which is stressful and a certain amount of pressure. There is a creative element to it as well, and of course you have some great moments when everything feels just right, but on most party we’re always very happy to have an album completed and get out of the studio.

BMF: You’ve always been involved in the production of your albums, but in 2005 you were the sole producers of “Character”. Then you called Tue Madsen for “Fiction” and recruited him again for “We are the void”. You didn’t like the experience or you just feel it’s better having someone outside the band, with a more objective perspective, to do the job?

Niklas: This is a bit of a misunderstanding. The term “producer” can mean many different things to different people. In the traditional sense of the word, a producer would help the band with writing and arranging the songs, re-arrange things at his will and taking part of the creative process. We’ve never had anyone doing this. For every album, the role of the person we work with has been the same – to help getting the right sounds from each instrument and then mix it together to make the album sound as good as possible. This means that he’s involved the first few days for setting things up, and then we’re alone in the studio for some weeks, recording everything on our own. After this is done, the “producer” – Fredrik Nordström in the past and Tue Madsen on the last two albums – have done the mixing.

BMF: I think it’s commendable that you, being around for more than 20 years and one of the pioneers of melodic death metal, are humble enough to go on tour as opening acts, like you did early this year for KILLSWITCH ENGAGE. How was it? Were there many fans more for you than for the headliners? 🙂

Niklas: We never cared too much for prestige – we’ll do a tour if we think it could be fun. A lot of people told us that they think it’s a disgrace that we play before KILLSWITCH since they’re influenced by the Gothenburg scene, but that’s just stupid. They sell ten times more albums than us in the US, so why shouldn’t they headline? There are a lot of examples: Our our first ever gig in Finland, in 1995, we had HIM as the support act. ARCH ENEMY’s first ever gig was as a support band for us in a small Swedish town. IN FLAMES, SOILWORK, CHILDREN OF BODOM and several other currently big acts were all supporting D.T. back in the day. A lot of other bands would have refused to open for them a few years later, but we don’t really care about those things.

BMF: The first song from “we are the void” to be released was “dream oblivion” and then you made a video for “shadow in our blood”. But one of the songs that had most airplay on the radio in your home country and helped promoting the album was “her silent language”, which you’re not playing live. Any special reason for that?

Niklas: Hmm… it’s always a tricky thing to decide. “Her silent language” is obviously more radio friendly, but it’d be pretty boring to chose a video song based on that alone. I’m not sure if it’s even among the best songs of the album. “Shadow in our blood” isn’t very commercial, but it’s representative of the album and also pretty different for us since it doesn’t contain a lot of guitar harmonies. We’re usually happy to leave these decisions to the record label; to us it’s not super important which songs that get used for the various purposes.

BMF: This album is said to pick up where “Fiction” left. Any ideas if the follow-up will also work that way or will you try something completely different?

Niklas: No idea so far. We’re six people with very different music tastes and ideas and everyone has an equal part in deciding about things. My personal wish is that we’ll do something really, really different next time, but it’s way too early to know what will happen.

BMF: Before the release of “we are the void”, I’ve read a statement of the band saying, » The final result is likely to surprise ourselves as well as you people «. So, did it surprise you? 🙂

Niklas: It actually did! What we meant is that every album is an open book until it’s completely finished. We have a basic idea about how it’ll sound, but even if most of the material is written beforehand, the final outcome is always unpredictable.

BMF: Once again, thank you for your time and all the best for the rest of the tour.

Niklas: Thanks a lot!

About Pieni

A metalhead who loves photography and her friends.
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