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Interviews Dark Tranquillity

Interview with guitarist Niklas Sundin

Interview conducted by Christian Renner

Date online: October 20, 2002

After the release of their latest album "Damage Done" I and many others that did the review of the album were hailing this work as not simply in the running for the album of the year but as one of those albums that redefine and raise the bar for what will be a great album for the genre in the future. I was able to get a interview with guitarist Niklas Sundin and here is what he had to say…enjoy!!!

First of all I just have to congratulate you and the rest of the band on a absolutely brilliant album. Like I said in my review this is the kind of album that will change the standards of the melodic death metal sound that you all helped to create.

Thanks a lot! Yes, your review was too good not to quote on our homepage. Actually, some local newspapers have been mentioning that review in articles about the new album, as an example of how good the response is.

Going into the studio were you all aware how strong these songs were?

I think that we were all very enthusiastic about the material, but it's always hard to judge the quality of your own songs. After having worked on a track for a very long time and tried every possible little idea and alteration out, you eventually lose the basic connection to it. Nothing sounds good and nothing sounds bad, you just know that you want to enter the studio and get the recording done.

This album sounds like a band at the top of their game with members that are focused on the job at hand going into the studio and ripping it to shreds. Was there any trouble or arguments in the recording process or did things go as smoothly as the album sounds?

It went really smoothly this time. First of all, we always have all the material 100% finished before entering the studio, so there usually aren't any arguments regarding the actual music. Also, after five album recordings in the same studio, we're very familiar with how things work, which gives a good and relaxing atmosphere. All in all, we had a good picture of what we wanted to accomplish and everything went according to the plans.

One of the most impressive things to me on this album was the songwriting as a whole. It seems that everything is exactly where it should be. The musicianship is just absolutely top notch (my personal favorites being the excellent drum work…?). Is this something you all had to work on or something that is a by product of a band that has stayed intact for this many years?

It's hard to tell. Obviously, we do our very best when it comes to writing the songs, and we always try lots of different arrangements and approaches out before deciding on which version on a song to use. Perhaps it's an advantage that 4 of the 5 original members are still in the band after 13 years, since we know each other's abilities very well, but at the end of the day it all boils down to lots of hard work.

Maybe it is my imagination but it seems this album has more of a groove oriented feel to it. A lot more guitar melody lines going over the top of the main riffs like in songs like Monochromatic Stains, The Treason Wall and Cathode Ray Sunshine is really giving the music that extra punch. Is this something that was a concerted effort going in or just how the songs turned out?

I've never thought about our music as being goovy, but you may have a point here. We've always used that sort of guitar lines, but perhaps they're a bit different this time - or perhaps it's because of the production.

Is there anything about the album you wished would have been done differently?

There are always lots of things that could have been done differently, but there isn't much use speculating about that. We're six members with very different musical tastes and ideas, so it's obvious that there has to be a lot of compromise going on.

The production is also the best I have ever heard on a DT album. Every instrument is so easily distinguishable. Not that Fredrik Nordstrom isn’t a brilliant producer but how much input did the band have on this part of the studio process?

Personally, I don't have much clue or even much interest in the recording process. Fredrik essentially helps us to get each instrument sound as good as possible, so I'd say that the credit for the production must to go him. Part of the reason is probably that we've paid more attention to the arrangements this time.

Some of the bands that started there with you all back in Gothenburg seem to be looking to lighten up the sound to try to appeal to a larger fanbase. Is this something that Dark Tranquility as a whole is dead set against?

I don't know, really. A couple of years ago, I would have said that bands striving for mass appeal are into music for the wrong reasons and should be lined up against a wall for quick assassination, but it's an individual choice. Every band has different motivators, and if someone wants to try to "break through", I can't see any problems with that. One thing to remember is that people often are quick to accuse bands of trying to get commercial success whenever they change their sound, but the reasons for the change may be totally on a musical level. Nobody besides the band members can know. We got a lot of sell-out accusations thrown at us when we released "Projector", even though it's essentially the most difficult album we've done and the one least likely to appeal to many people.

This sounds like an album that will be great to hear live. I have seen about 10-15 dates for the US. Unfortunately none near where I live. Will those dates be expanded at all?

I don't think so. It's In Flames' headline tour, and us and Sentenced are playing support on the last 12 dates of it. There weren't any possibilities for us to continue on our own, so this is a chance for us to at least introduce our music in the US. Perhaps we can return later on if the response is good.

Speaking of touring are there any places in the US you are looking forward to playing over others?

As dumb as it sounds, not really....I haven't been thinking about it that much and I don't know where to expect the greatest response. We're just happy to finally have been given the chance to play in the states.

Touring the US can be a bit of a hassle considering the size of the country and the possible distances between gigs. So what do you all do on those long highway trips to keep yourselves entertained?

Touring is always a hassle regardless of the location. Ye olde bottle is one way of relieving the boredom, another is to bring shitloads of books and magazines, a Playstation and similar stuff.

There are a lot of fans that prefer one DT album over another and a lot of them can’t agree. Are there any DT album you prefer over another?

Not really. I don't have a favourite among our own albums, and I rarely listen to them at all. The way I see it is that every album is a documentation of what we were about during the particular time of recording. It's a good thing that our fanbase is so diverse that there isn't one particular song or album that is everyone's favourite.

What are some of the bands you are listening to as of late?

For some reason, I haven't been listening to so much music at all during the last months. It's usually the same CD going on repeat for a week or so before I change it to something else. This week, the new Arcturus album has been on rotation and it's one of the few new metal albums that have captured my attention.

While listening to your guitar work it seems you play more for feeling than to be ultra-technical. Are there any guitar players that influenced this in your style?

Tricky question...I was never into the guitar-hero school of playing, and it's obvious that neither me or Martin or our former guitarist Fredrik are any shredders. I've never had any favourite guitarists as such; I mainly listen to a band as a whole entity. There are lots of musicians that I admire and whose work i dig, but I wouldn't call them influences as such.

I really like some of the artwork you have done for album covers. It seems to have a kind of cold and distant feel to it. What got you into this and what are some of your influences in the art world? Have you ever considered selling some of your work as a regular painting or print?

I've always had an interest in the visual arts and have studied it on university level. In the late '80's, I did quite a lot of demo and 7" EP covers for underground bands, and after I did the "Projector" cover, offers began dropping in. I'm actually taking a break from doing new album covers for 1-2 years since I want to focus on other things.

What is the one metal band from Sweden that is not well known but should be?

The Provenance.

I usually end every interview with something I call the "Final Five". These are completely irrelevant and ignorant questions I use to add a little humor and to break up the monotony you all must feel after answering the same basic questions over and over again…?

1. Recently on Ebay some moron spent like $25,000 to meet Metallica. How much would you spend to meet Metallica?

Nothing at all. Then again, there's no band that I'd spend money to meet in that fanboy sense. I just can't picture the situation. Why do people want to meet the persons behind their favourite music at all? It only leads to disappointment when they find out that the idolized images they have of their heroes don't match reality. Kill your idols.

2. There used to be a television commercial here in the US that featured the "Swedish Bikini Team". Do you know them and if so can I get their number?

Sure! It's +46 13 666 666. Say hello from me.

3. Who would you rather see live in concert….Heino (The blind German Folk singer) or N’Sync?

Never heard of Heino, but N'Sync should to the trick.

4. Would Dark Tranquility ever consider doing a cover song from ABBA?

Nuclear blast released that tribute album a couple of years ago where metal bands cover ABBA tunes. I believe that we were asked to participate, but I'm not sure...

5. Have you ever done an interview that asked you questions about Heino or ABBA?

Yes, but only one.

Thanks for your time and we all hope to see you soon coming through the US and Canada. Is there anything you would like to say to the fans that are eagerly awaiting your arrival here in North America?

Let's hope that we get our visas in time and that this US trek doesn't get cancelled in the last minute like the others we've been confirmed for. Thanks for the interview!

Other information about Dark Tranquillity on this site
Review: Haven
Review: Haven
Review: Damage Done
Review: Damage Done
Review: Projector
Review: Exposures: In Retrospect And Denial
Review: Skydancer
Review: The Gallery
Review: Lost to Apathy
Review: Character
Review: Fiction
Review: The Gallery

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