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Dark Tranquillity Interview

A Conversation With Vocalist Mikael Stanne

By

Dark Tranquillity

Dark Tranquillity

Century Media Records
Updated May 26, 2013
More than two decades after they helped pioneer the Gothenburg sound of melodic death metal, Dark Tranquillity continue to be one of the top bands in the genre. They went through a bit of a rough patch and had a lineup change, but they have emerged with a new album Construct. I talked with vocalist Mikael Stanne about a variety of subjects.

Chad Bowar: You’ve had a lineup change since the last album, with bassist Daniel Antonsson exiting. Was his departure amicable?
Mikael Stanne: Yes. It was one of those things where we felt he was going in a different direction and not really focusing on what we wanted. His head was somewhere else. He thought he would be better off playing guitar and focusing on his own thing. He wants to be the main guy in a band, and with us five strong-willed dudes, it’s hard to break through that. I think he wants to be in charge, and that’s really hard with us.

Who played bass on the new album?
Martin Henriksson (guitar) did. He played bass from the start of the band and then switched to guitar after the Projector album in 1999. He hasn’t really been playing bass since then. We considered going with someone else, but decided to go with him. He took it really seriously and came up with some really cool stuff. I was happy to hear him play bass again. It was awesome.

What are you going to do on your live shows?
We haven’t really decided yet on who it’s going to be. We’re going to go with session players for the time being and see what happens and take it slow. We don’t want to rush into a new member of the band.

Did being a member down change the songwriting process for Construct?
One less wheel was perhaps a good thing. We have always been extremely democratic in the band. The recording for We Are The Void was very difficult in many ways. It kind of left a bad taste because it took forever and there was so much friction and conflict and frustration. The album came out really great, perhaps because of that, but the process was so long and so arduous.

After coming back from 2 1/2 years of touring for the album, we started thinking if we should go back and start writing again where it felt so weird last time. We said no, and just kept booking more tours. We were afraid of getting back into writing. Eventually we realized we had to do it, had to come up with something new.

Martin Henriksson is usually the guy who runs everything and makes sure everything happens and arranges most of the material. He said he couldn’t do it, he was too burned out. He said we should start and see what happens. So Martin Brandstrom (keyboards), Niklas Sundin (guitar) and Anders Jivarp (drums) sat in the studio and collected all the material we had written and started building songs.

That was totally different from what we normally do. That’s never happened before. It was an experiment at first, but then it turned into this really creative thing. We were all really excited. We could talk and be more objective about the songs and what they needed and what the album should be like. It was so liberating. Finally we could make music and not argue about it too much. It was a very positive experience.

Did doing it that way make the songs more diverse and creative?
I think so. It was definitely a reaction. We wanted to do something different from the last couple of albums. We wanted this to be something new and focus on different things than just making a flashy, intense album. The material we had was pretty emotional. It was written during this period where we were struggling. It was almost writer’s block. We had material, but we couldn’t bring it together and make songs out of it. Most of the material was emotional and sad and heavy. That’s what the album became. The stuff we wrote during our darkest period was put together in the most creative way we had done in many years. It was really interesting for us.

How much clean vocals are there on the new album?
Perhaps it’s a little more than we’ve done in the past. The songs kind of lend themselves more to that. We worked really hard in the studio on the vocals. I was really happy with the way it came out. I tried some new techniques in the studio and did things a little differently. I loved the experience. Normally I hate recording because it takes forever and it’s doing the same thing over and over again. It doesn’t feel that good You’re trying to be perfect. It takes away some of the passion for it.

But this time I had a different microphone that I could hold in my hand and walk around in the vocal booth and move like I normally do with a microphone. I didn’t have to stand there like a statue and scream into a microphone on a stand. That made a huge difference for me. I was so happy with that. Finally I could feel the way I wanted to feel when I was singing. That made the whole experience much more enjoyable.

When you record, how do you divide up the singing and screaming vocals?
I ended up doing most of the screaming parts first. I did some of the clean parts after that. I did go back and forth a little, but not screaming and singing on the same day.

When did you come up with the album title?
For me it’s always the hardest thing. What title should represent the entire album? It becomes a big thing for me to come up with that. We had to decide, the deadline was coming up. We had a song that didn’t make it onto the album, but will be a bonus track later on. It’s called “The Memory Construct.” It deals with the idea of things we make up, safety nets. It made sense. It felt good and sounded good.

You did a video for “Uniformity.” Do you like shooting videos?
It’s kind of fun if we do it right. When we did the video for “Zero Distance” it was kind of cool because Niklas and his buddy did it, and we were experimenting and coming up with stuff on the spot. That was kind of cool. The last one we did for We Are The Void was horrible. We did it in Finland when it was like minus 20 degrees.

This one was actually the most enjoyable. We talked to Patric Ullaeus, who is a friend of ours and someone we’ve been dying to work with. We said we wanted to make a simple video, something cool. We went to his studio and did it in five hours. It was so efficient, so cool. I have no idea what it’s going to look like, but I trust him to make us look cool.

You have some festivals coming up this summer. Do you have any other tours booked yet for later in the year?
We are going to start an American tour in late September. It’s getting close to being completely booked, and we’re going to announce it soon. It’s going to be awesome. We’re going to bring some really cool bands that we love. It will be an incredibly strong package. Then we’ll do a European tour after that, and a South American tour at the beginning of next year.

You’re also doing 70,000 Tons Of Metal again next year. How was that experience playing on a ship?
It was weird, but very cool. I love it. There are tons of awesome bands, cool people and a great atmosphere. I’m glad to get back there.

As you get older and everyone has more family obligations, do you schedule tours any differently?
We do. When it comes to days off, we’d rather go with less days off. Every day spent away from the family is a working day. If I’m not home, I want to be playing. We try to have the tours as jam-packed as possible, no days off, just go and pack as many shows as possible into it and then go home. That has always been very important to us. We never do too many long tours.

Do you listen to much new music?
I try to listen to a lot of new music. I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting stuff. That’s my passion. I try to find a couple of new albums I can get into every week. I have a lot of friends who recommend stuff. I’m in the Century Media office in Germany today, and they played me tons of cool stuff.

Anybody specific you’ve really liked recently?
The last one I really got into was the new Leprous album. They are a Norwegian prog metal band. The new album Coal is fantastic.

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