Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity)

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Before we threw ourselves in the crowd for a night of melodic death metal with Nailed to Obscurity, Omnium Gatherum and Dark Tranquillity we sat down with the voice of one of Gothenburg’s finest, Mikael Stanne, to have a talk about the new album “Atoma”, the touring and… beer! Read the review of the show earlier in April this year here.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. How is the touring going so far?
It’s been amazing. We started out in America when the new album [Atoma] came out and this is the first European leg of the tour. We’ve been out for four weeks now, I think. Most of the shows have been together with Amon Amarth, but that tour ended yesterday so tonight is the first one with Nailed to Obscurity. Up till now we did headliner shows whenever Amon Amarth had a night off, but now is like the official start of the headline tour for us.

Atoma is album number eleven. How do you approach it to write yet another new album when you’ve already done ten before?
We try to find new inspirations. A new direction, a reason to get into writing mode. It’s tough because that often means a lot of conflict, anxiety, hard work… Those are reasons to sometimes keep it off and keep touring. Eventually, we say ‘let’s do this’. But it doesn’t get any easier. But at the same time, once you get going and you get in the mood, and when you get what kind of thing you want to do, the feeling you get when you realize you’re on to something good… That’s is amazing. But it took us a lot of time before we got this started. We started writing material two years ago, but we weren’t ready yet to delve into it. So it was really difficult, but at the same time once we were in the studio everything opened up.

You mentioned the feeling of anxiety there. My personal feeling if I listen to the album, compared to the previous ones, is that it is darker and more brooding.
Yeah! There was some personal frustration involved. Some stuff in our personal lives that affected the writing. That can take the writing in a positive way but also a very negative one. And I think that shows and it makes it a better album in the end. You try to tap into some of the worst feelings you have, the stuff you hate about yourself, world or life. It’s a painful process sometimes. The release when it’s done is awesome.

I also checked some reviews of other journalists and, to quote the critics, they say you start plagiarizing yourself. What’s your opinion on that?
Of course we do in certain ways. We all grew up on the same kind of music. We were 17 and 19 when we recorded the first albums and we knew exactly what we wanted. We knew what kind of melodies we liked and the tempos and beats we wanted to be in there. So no matter how far we stray from our original sound that’s always in us. That kind of early influences that changed our musical lives are still there. It’s sometimes really difficult too to get away from that, because we don’t want to just finish the tour and immediately start writing again. Otherwise we would definitely be copying ourselves. We need some time for reflection, re-thinking old things…

You mentioned the old days there. How is it for you guys to look back now? You have written a chapter in metal music’s history, now called melodic death metal, together with the guys from At The Gates and In Flames. How was it to grow up in that scene and when did you realize you had something new that you thought would have an impact?
We were just kids. We loved music, hanging out, drinking beers and going to shows. It became something very important. It became everything. I didn’t want to do anything else. We just had a shared passion, all good friends hanging out and trading demos and cassettes, talking about albums and shows. It just became a big part of our lives. You can’t really stop that. And then when everyone started releasing albums we were like “Wow, what the hell is going on here? This is really cool, this actually works”. For a long time it was just a hobby, there were no plans to take it further. In ’95 when the second album came out, then we were like “Okay, people are paying attention”. It felt really good.

With the current line-up changes there is also a familiar face from the old days in the band right now. How is it to bring in someone like Anders Iwers [Ceremonial Oath, Tiamat, older brother of Peter Iwers, ex-In Flames] in the group and and have him on stage with you?
It’s just really cool. I’ve known Anders since I was 15, maybe? We kind of grew up together. It’s stupid, he should have just joined us a long time ago. [laughs] But he was always in other bands. But it made perfect sense. We went without a bass player for a while, and it was weird. So we just asked Anders to try, give a chance, a couple shows maybe. It’s just perfect like this.

I also want to quickly ask if there is an update for a permanent replacement for the position of the second guitar player? [Niklas Sundin was on parental leave during the tour]
We haven’t decided anything. Now we have two guys playing, Christopher Amott [ex-Arch Enemy, Armageddon] and Christopher Reinholdz [Andromeda, Nonexist] and they are just amazing.

Yeah, I saw both of them live with their own bands and I’m looking forward to see them on stage with you guys.
It’s working out great this way. We’ll see, we’re taking it slow.

Stay tuned for the next part of the interview in our Pick Your Poison column that will focus entirely on Stanne‘s love for beer and the brewing of Dark Tranquillity‘s very own imperial stout ‘Atoma’!