Dark Tranquillity interview

"The ultimate construct is religion and it's scary. That's the basis of everything that goes wrong in this world"

15/05/2013 @ 11:45
Sweden's Dark Tranquillity are without a doubt among the elite of the melodic death metal scene and pioneers on the genre. Being especially loved in Greece and with works that always catch our attention, like they did once again with "Construct", they agreed to talk with us, in an important time in their course, since they decided to make a detour on the path they followed in recent years. Read below what Mikael Stanne, Dark Tranquillity's frontman, had to share with us.

Dark TranquillityHello Mikael. I’m Alkis from Rocking.gr. How are you doing?
Awesome. I’m really good.

It’s the first interview with Dark Tranquillity.
It was about time. (laughs)

Yeah, sure. So, you are releasing a new album named "Construct". In my opinion it’s something really new and differs from "We Are The Void". It even goes back to the times before "Damage Done". Did you intend to follow that direction?
I don’t know. This is what made most sense right now for us to make. Something that we really needed to do, break out a little bit. Recently we needed that something that sounds fresh, to reinvent ourselves. Something that feels new, so this album became a reaction to what we have done in the past years. We need to come up with something that feels new in order to feel alive.

Dark TranquillityAnd bring new elements to your sound. If I’m not mistaken, "Fiction" was the first album based entirely on a fictitious theme. What’s the lyrical context of "Construct"?
It’s as far from fiction as possible. I didn’t want to tell a story. It’s pretty straightforward. The basic themes of skepticism, atheism, rational thinking, the scientific method of looking at things. It’s about stripping away your baggage, taking away this bias that you constantly have whenever you view or experience things. And try to remain as pure as possible, to see things the way they truly are, and try to research and investigate and find out what’s behind things , so you better understand what’s going on. And that’s both a global, a universal,  as well as a personal, thing. It involves even the relationships, friendships and everything else.

So, "Construct" is the verb or the noun?
It’s the noun. It’s the thing you create subconsciously and leads and controls you. The ultimate construct is religion and it’s scary. That’s the basis of everything that goes wrong in this world. It’s an excuse for our behavior. We should be able to see things clearer than that.

Dark Tranquillity - ConstructI see. As far as the artwork is concerned, did Niklas (Sundin) take care of it once again? We can see a lot of symbols on the cover.
Yes he did. And he wanted something simple, yet effective. At first he didn’t want to do it, because he was so busy writing and recording the album. But once I came up with the title, he got inspired, and created the album overnight. He showed it to me the next day and for me it made perfect sense. It had the same atmosphere, the same feeling, that I felt. He made three different covers for all the versions of the album, and they all complement each other.

"Construct" is a very diverse album, and people will certainly compare it to "Projector". What do you think about that?
Yeah. For me that comparison works, because both albums came about in the same way. In the late 90s we were very frustrated to be compared to all those bands from Göteborg. Our idea was always to be original and be different and try to do something no one else was doing.

Dark TranquillityIt was time for a change then.
Yes, and we had to prove ourselves and to the fans that we could be different. And so came "Projector" and many years after that we wanted to the same again, and not just release album after album. We wanted to make something that feels the energy of creativity. And it was also hard writing new stuff for "We Are The Void". We wanted it to be all the stuff we were known for, but also way better and more of everything. It worked out at the end, but it was so frustrating. That’s why we didn’t want to go back and feel the same way again. So this time we focused on the simplicity of the melody and the directness of couple of notes and the individual parts kept their focus. It was such a liberating way of writing this time, it opened so many possibilities for us. And it became very challenging.

It seems that you focused more on the vocals on "Construct" and that at times the guitars aren’t on the foreground.
Yes, that’s true. We aimed for the melody, so whatever worked best for the song, that came up in the mix. It was definitely more ‘song oriented’, even though I don’t really like that term.

Dark TranquillityThis time you collaborated with Jens Bogren. What did he add to the album’s diversity?
The way that we work is that we bring Tue Madsen or this time Jens on the first couple of days to set everything up on the studio. To make sure we have the right equipment. And then we are left alone for two months or so, to record everything the way that we want to. Then we send it to Jens to mix it. We love working like that, to have full control of everything in the studio and also get the best out of it thanks to Jens. When we got the first mix from Jens we were so blown away. It was exactly what we wanted. I’ve been a huge fan of his productions for years now and we talked a lot about working together and we finally made it. He did an outstanding job of finding exactly what each song needs. I think it’s the best sounding album that we ever made and I’m so happy that it turned out that way.

Dark TranquillityI think it is the first time since 1999 that you recorded as a five piece. How different was it this time?
It was pretty much the same, except that Martin (Henriksson) played both the bass and the guitar this time. (laughs)

Are you going to find someone permanent for the bass?
No, right now we want someone to fill in for the tours. We are not really ready to have a new member in the band. It somehow feels good to be a five piece again. So we’re gonna take it easy and see what happens.

You can also take up the guitars again and Martin go back to bass.
Ooohh! (laughs)

Dark TranquillitySpeaking of bass players. Do you keep in touch with Michael Nicklasson? I think he left due to health issues.
Yes and he is ok now. He is not playing that much though. You see with the weird lifestyle during tours it can be a problem to be diabetic. It’s tough to control it. But he is doing fine now.

That's good to hear. Back to "Construct", are you planning on releasing a video for the new album?
Yes, we have chosen "Uniformity". It’s just us playing, trying to look cool with some visual stuff from Niklas. I’m really happy with the outcome.

Dark TranquillityHave you ever regretted a choice you made in Dark Tranquillity?
I don’t really believe in regretting. It’s unproductive to regret things. I’d rather stick to my choices and learn from them. So I don’t look back and say I could have done that or the other. Of course I could have done some things better, but that’s the best I could do at that time.

I see. So now are you planning a European tour promoting "Construct"? Will you come to Greece?
Of course we want to, but you see it’s tough due to the crisis now. People don’t have the money to buy tickets, and promoters can’t bring us there. And it’s sad because we had some of our best and memorable moments in our career in Greece. We’d love to come as soon as possible there, but it has to be financially feasible as well.

Dark TranquillityDo you remember your concert in 2002 with Candlemass and Entombed?
Of course, that was one of my favorites. I talked with Candlemass the other day and we all said how great that show was. I remember standing in the audience, watching Candlemass with tears in my eyes.

It's been thirteen years already. Time flies. So, if you had to choose an album to play full live, which one would you choose?
Since it’s been twenty years since we did "Skydancer", I think it should be that. But I don't believe we could pull that off. No way. We could go back to playing shitty. (laughs) We could easily do "Construct" though or "The Gallery", which I think would be the most appreciated. But "Skydancer" would be the most challenging.

Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity)And a last question for you. Which song do you prefer to perform live?
It depends. I really like doing "Iridium" or "Punish My Heaven" even though we do it often, it's still something special.

Ok. Please end the interview with a message to your fans.
I just hope we come and see you guys very soon, but in the meantime check out the new songs that we put out. Get the new album and enjoy it and see you soon.

Thank you very much Mikael.
Thank you too. Goodbye.