Dark Tranquillity is a band that has never limited themselves to what they can accomplish. For these six men, boundaries do not exist. With each album they have brought fresh ideas and new interpretations of who they are. Other bands have done the same thing throughout their career, and made huge, dramatic changes, becoming a completely different being altogether. Yet Dark Tranquillity evolved into a new and mighty machine each time, never throwing away the blueprint. The closest thing that comes to mind is a person with multiple personalities, each album being a different person or personality. All the while, the "characters" expressing themselves have remained the same, and shone through.
Interview with Mikael Stanne on 1-11-05.
METAL UPDATE: The name Dark Tranquillity could be interpreted as "peace in darkness." Is this nihilistic philosophy part of the bandís collective mind?
MIKAEL STANNE: I guess, well yeah, to me it means more the inspiration of where creativity comes from. The most comfortable, at home, and at peace. Death could be the beginning of life. To me is where it all comes from, where I find the most creative. I wouldn't be able to write music that's very angry, it would all be like, happy tunes.
MU: Did guitarist Niklas Sundin handle the artwork as usual? Does he work on the videos also?
MS: No we actually did this video with this guy from the record company. The structures, the buildings . . . his idea, kind of concept of it. He's an old friend of ours so it was great fun.
MU: Do you think videos are a work of art, or just a tool to show how the band looks?
MS: We would love to be able to make videos that are truly exactly what we want to do, but obviously metal videos don't get aired that much so it wouldn't make sense to spend so much. We made the best with what we got, and I think we succeeded. It's a simple video but it shows what we are all about. We focused more on the cover; the rest of it. We try hard with every visual aspect to try to make it like a complete package.
MU: I know for me, I can have a burned CD but I donít feel like I actually have it until I have the cover and the lyrics or pictures.
MS: We've been lucky and have had an increase in record sales. It's one thing to download an album and get an idea of what it's all about. Metal people know that buying a record will help you see the band on tour, so we can continue playing. Yeah, it was out a month before online and it might have hurt the record sales, but hopefully it will give us more exposure.
MU: Character, is a much more abrasive album. This almost seems like commercial suicide considering your fellow countrymen Soilwork and In Flames both put out much slower and easily digestible albums, leading them both to have more recognition since. Do you feel putting a much heavier album out was the right choice?
MS: We wouldn't feel right about doing something that everyone else is doing. We just thought, letís put out an album that will have a longer life, something that people can still listen to in a couple months. We really wanted to go the other way and make it a more difficult album. It's all about pleasing us first, and if other people get into it, cool. We recorded it in February, and we can finally release it. Over in Europe the response has been mind blowing. We don't really care though about the sales or what the media will say. It really doesn't matter in the end. We are six guys making music together and nothing can beat that. We don't do it to make money or to get recognized, that's just an extra.
MU: You originally sang for In Flames. During this time you played guitar for Dark Tranquillity, and Anders Friden handled the vocals. Then he left Dark Tranquillity and you left In Flames. Just saying that confused me, care to give me the full story on those events?
MS: Anders was with Dark Tranquillity from the very beginning, and I was on guitars. In '92 we recorded Skydancer, shortly after that we realized we couldn't work with him. So we fired him and I took over vocals and threw away my guitar and we got another guitar player. Sometime after Jesper formed In Flames, as kind of a side thing cause he was doing Ceremonial Oath at the time. He wanted someone to sing it so he asked me and I just started, because I needed the experience and the practice. We did the demo then the album, but I was kind of reluctant at first because I wanted my first vocals to be on DT. I was never a full member really though.
MU: Have you always wanted to be a vocalist? Did anyone inspire you to become one?
MS: My parents listened to Tom Jones and many other things when I was a kid. When I heard Kreator the first time I was blown away. It was the coolest thing I had ever heard, so that was a huge inspiration.
MS: Looking at the success In Flames has had, do you regret leaving at times? Do you think their success is well deserved considering the huge change the band has made musically?
MS: They are a great band, and it's amazing the success they have had. I think it's really cool. They changed a lot over the years but that's only natural.
MU: Dark Tranquillity incorporated female vocals in the past. Would you ever try this again or do you think it is overdone nowadays?
MS: I think it's overdone. I like it when it's done right, but all these vocals with female and operatic vocals, I just don't get it. We stopped when everyone started doing it. It's cool half the time, other times thereís no point to it. It's one of those things you get tired of, I guess.
MU: Will there ever be a repeat of Projector? How about an album that bridges the somewhat goth sounds you had then with the aggressive creature you have now become?
MS: Depends on where we are going to be for the next album. Right now we are all about the extreme side of the band, you know really fast and a lot of aggression. Who knows, we will see after a year or two of touring. We don't have anything planned. I know a lot of other people want another Projector.
MU: Whose idea was it for the DT karaoke? That was definitely something original and odd.
MS: It was just some guy, some fan that put it together. He sent it to us and asked if we wanted to use it. It's cool for people to learn the lyrics so they can sing with me, when I fuck up.
MU: You have described your lyrics as reflections of who you are. Care to go into more detail?
MS: I try to not be too obvious, to not reveal too much. What I feel most comfortable writing about is the stuff I am least comfortable talking about. You know, the things I hate about myself. I don't want to write about something that doesn't matter. I'm going to be screaming these songs for years so it has to be something that makes me angry and frustrated, and still mean something in a few years.
MU: From knowing about your work with the elderly, do you think America, and possibly the world, discards our elders way too easily?
MS: Here we have to learn from them. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from people with more experience. You have to take something from that, but it's easy not to. You learn from history as well, otherwise you end up repeating all the mistakes.
MU: Over here the big thing is metalcore, a style of music that "borrows" from the Gothenburg sound that Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, and At The Gates have helped to create, and mixes this with basic hardcore riffs and breakdowns. A lot of other musicians from the melodic death scene have shown support to this new scene, such as Tomas Lindberg and In Flames. What are your thoughts on this sound and do you feel cheated?
MS: I think it's really good, there are some really great bands. I think it's a good combination. I think it was what was needed for that kind of music to break out. It's a great compliment that bands are influenced by our kind of music. I've heard some bad copies of us from bands around here. To me it's all about originality, and that's what we've always been about.
MU: What do you think of the metal crowds over here?
MS: It's been amazing. We have only done two short tours so far but we are really looking forward to coming back. It's really different from Europe, but it's all different wherever you go (in the States). From the west coast to the east coast. We always meet so many different people and it is just amazing, every tour.
MU: Soon you will embark on what could be the biggest tour of the year, with Soilwork and Hypocrisy. How did this tour come together? Do you feel tours like this and the one with Nile give you enough exposure?
MS: Soilwork were planning their first headlining tour, and felt comfortable having some friends around. This is pretty much our crowd as well. The Nile tour we played to a very different crowd, but it worked out great. In Europe we toured with Kreator. We are definitely coming back to the States though.
MU: What do you like more, recording albums or playing shows?
MS: Playing shows. Recording albums I hate. There's no life to it, it's so stale, I don't like it at all. I love playing, feeding off the reaction of the crowd. There's no place I'd rather be.
MU: Well I look forward to seeing you perform in Seattle. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
Dark Tranquillity Interview - July 19, 2000
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Review of Dark Tranquillity's 2003 Tour
Review of Dark Tranquillity's 2002 Tour
Review of Dark Tranquillity Damage Done
Review of Dark Tranquillity Haven
Review of Dark Tranquillity Skydancer
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