Dark Tranquillity in search of their own truth

For their new record, Dark Tranquillity put some pressure on their shoulders. Afraid of repeating themselves, the band confessed that they constantly postponed its conception, choosing to be instead on the road. When the Swedish guys finally decided to make it, they tried hard to change their way of writing, not without keeping what is one of their most fundamental characteristics, that is to give their record a dynamic and a unique personality. When it comes to Dark Tranquility, you listen to each record completely.

Lyrically speaking, this album’s colour focuses on the notion of truth. Is there an objective, absolute truth ? And if so, could man disregard these subjective filters attached to his memories, his beliefs in order to see it ?

Mikael Stanne, the band’s very humble vocalist, tells us more.

« I’ve been focusing a lot and thinking about how hard it is to have a totally clear head and to understand things for what they are without having this baggage you carry because of all these experiences that you’ve had. »

Radio Metal: The new album is called Construct. A construct is something that exists in your own mind. The bottom line of the album is that you can’t trust the human brain, that everything’s subjective and that you’re always wrong. Can we say, then, that there is no truth, since we’re all misled by our own perception?

Mikael Stanne (singer): In a way yeah, sure. I mean, of course there is some kind of truth, but it’s really hard to get to it. Everything that is perceived as truth, is truth in our minds. But the absolute truth is, I guess, where I’m getting at. I’ve been focusing a lot and thinking about how hard it is to have a totally clear head and to understand things for what they are without having this baggage you carry because of all these experiences that you’ve had. It’s something that, I think, we’ll never really get to. But I’d like to think that, at least, we can try or, at least, we acknowledge the fact that we will not get to the truth but by putting ourselves on a higher level and understanding that we’re motivated by all the wrong things. If we can at least admit that to ourselves, then perhaps it’ll be a better starting point for new things.

Why did you choose this theme for all the songs?

I wouldn’t say all of them but most of them. It’s one of the overwhole themes, so I wouldn’t call it a concept album. But that’s the starting point for most of the songs, at least. It’s just become a growing source of frustration for me, and also an inspiration. I see this so much… The more I think about it, the more I see it and it become something that I just kind of shy away from. Whenever I get frustrated about something and I get angry and feel helpless, then I reach for my notebook and start writing. And eventually I’ll be in the rehearsal room in the studio or on stage screaming about it. That makes it all feel better. I realised that nothing I say or do or scream about will ever change anything but to get it out of my system is as good as it gets for me. It’s as close as I can get to some kind of release.

Construct also echoes to construction, the act of building. Did you mean with this title that this album is a fresh start for you?

You could easily say that. But it wasn’t my original plan for the title. When I told Niklas about it, for him it made perfect sense because that’s how we kind of made this album. We started out with a basic foundation, a basic structure, basic melody and then we started building on that: another verse, another different chorus, a chorus line there, etc. It was definitely much like a construction job. Because, normally we come up with stuff in the rehearsal room, we just sit around and work on things endlessly, day after day after day after month after month. But now we started in the studio instead and put together these pieces with the computer that we’ve collected over the last year. That made it so much easier to get an overwhole view of what we were doing and the songs that we wanted to write. And also, as soon as that foundation was built, that these kind of skeletal version of the songs were done, then we could start adding to that. So we had that as a blueprint, pretty much. And then I started adding vocals on it, and then we laid some drums, guitars and keyboards on it. And finally we could remove the blueprint and listen to was we had actually recorded. It turned out to be something pretty spectacular.

« We did work totally outside of our comfort zone. »

You declared that « Construct is the strongest and most exciting Dark Tranquillity album in a long time. » Is it because you consider this album as one of the most risky the band did since Projector?

I don’t know. At least, for us, it kind of feel like that. We did work totally outside of our comfort zone. We decided to not do the same method of writing again. We didn’t want to redo things that we’ve done. The making process for We Are The Void was pretty tough, it took forever, it was really hard work and it was really a struggle to get that made. And as happy as we’re with the result, the notion of going back and doing that again and spending about a year of just being frustrated again, how can we just wrap our head around doing that? We said: « No way! We have to change the method. We have to change the way that we write in order for this to still be interesting and be fun. » So we did. It was inexperimented first, it was « hey, let’s see if it happens, let’s see if it works. » And after a while we realised that yes, this actually does work and that this challenging and interesting. We decided early on that « fuck it, we’ll do whatever comes to mind. Let’s not be restrictive, let’s not talk about who will dig this, what people will get into it, what people will think, what the record company will think or when we’ll walk on stage what the audience will think. Hey, let’s do whatever feel right, right now, and let’s see what happens. »

Is this the reason why this new album took more time to take shape compared to the previous one?

I think it took a lot of time for us to get our shit together and actually do it. So what happened is that we were talking about if we had to do a new album now. We were so afraid of just doing it. We just didn’t want to subject ourselves to hard work again. I know it sounds lazy but it was more because we were kind scared and we were not really feeling inspired. This is why we did another tour instead of writing. And once we got home we figured out it was time to start writing but then we had the opportunity to do yet another tour and we said: « Alright, yeah, let’s do that so that we don’t have to write! » It was stupid. It was just a fear of not feeling good enough about ourselves and our music, about the fact if we could make or not something special. Considering the fact that this was going to be our tenth album, it had to be great. Otherwise, why else are we still around if we can’t come up with something interesting, new and challenging? I guess we had set a standard too high to reach for ourselves. That’s why it took so long to start writing. But once we decided « fuck it, let’s do it », started the writing process and went into the rehearsal room and the studio, it took six months instead of a year.

Did you need the tour and the live energy to get inspired?

No, because, the touring was so great and we had such great shows that it was so much fun, but it took us so much out of us as well because it’s very exhausting. We had such a great time that when we got home, all we needed was to relax and take some time off. And then we wanted to go back on the road, because it was so great, instead of writing. I think that it actually burned us out creatively, in a way. But at the same time, we had the greatest time on tour and we’re looking forward to doing that again. But we need to have some new songs in the set and to come up with something new and exciting as well. So I think initialy it was something that burned us out but at the same time that was what ignited this will to make new music so that we could start touring again.

« I know it sounds lazy but it was more because we were kind scared and we were not really feeling inspired. This is why we did another tour instead of writing. »

As you said, this is your tenth album. Does this mean you felt a pressure making this album?

Yeah, for sure. As I said before we had a really hard time getting all of our asses to actually go into the studio and record it. And part of that because we felt that we had to prove ourselves. If you have to do ten albums, then you just can’t re-tread your own footsteps, you can’t just keep on doing the same thing. It has to be special, it has to be different, it has to be something that matters. That has put a lot of pressure on us but that was something that we did to ourselves, I think. It wasn’t easy. But of course there’s a pressure to it and it should be like that, it’s good for us actually. As painful as it is sometimes and as tough as it is, it actually pushed us to perform better, write better songs and be a better band.

Niklas Sundin said that « a record doesn’t have to contain every aspect of a band. It’s more interesting when every album has a character of its own. » Do you think this is something that today’s bands have lost, by just writing a bunch of songs instead of thinking their albums as a whole?

That does happen, yeah. Not with the music that I listen to, I guess, but I can definitely see that it’s so important for some artists to put together some really fucking simple, catchy and straight forward songs that makes people say: « Oh this is awesome, cool! » and then forget about it. What I love about an album is the way that it progesses, with its ups and downs, its different changes in moods and atmospheres. We spend a lot of time making sure that the album starts on a certain note and ends on a different note and has all these different feelings in between. The sequence of the songs are incredibly important to us. So, an album should be heard from beginning to end. That’s how I feel. Sure, you can take out one or two songs here and there and just listen to them, but I think an album should be an album. I guess I’m old fashion about that.

Bass duties on Construct are handled by Martin Henriksson. Will he also play bass on stage?

No, we’re going to get a session bass player for the time being, until we find someone more permanent. Martin will still be playing guitar.

There are two bonus tracks on the limited version of the album. What can you tell us about these tracks?

« Immemorial » is a really heavy track, it’s similar to some of the more intense songs on We Are The Void, like « Arkhangelsk ». I love it but it kind of didn’t really fit into the sequence of the songs in the album. But I think that, for the special edition, it does a really good job finishing off the album. But then we needed something else and that’s why we recorded « Photon Dreams », an instrumental track that is really amazingly cool. It’s just that they were a little bit off of what the album should be in our mind. It was really hard at first to say what songs should be extra songs. We needed to do that. You know, it’s a weird thing. We would have liked to release everything that we have recorded but the record industry doesn’t work like that anymore. But I think it actually turned out pretty cool. There’s also another song that we recorded that’s going to be unique for Decibel Magazine in America on a flexi-disc. It came out really well, so that song’s going to be cool too. Hopefully people will get to heard it as well.

« What I love about an album is the way that it progesses, with its ups and downs, its different changes in moods and atmospheres. »

I heard you were making a video for a song from the album with Patric Ullaeus. Which song is it?

It’s a song called « Uniformity », it’s the third song on the album. We wanted to record a video with Patric Ullaeus, he’s a director from Gothenburg and he has done tons of stuff. We never really worked with him and we always talked about it, so finally we actually did it. We had a great time with him. I think it’s going to turn out really great. I can’t wait.

And what is the theme of the video?

It’s just a visual theme. It’s a pretty intense performance theme video… It’s kind of hard to say actually, because I haven’t seen anything from it yet. I just did my part and we’ll see what happens.

OK. Thank you. Do you have one last thing to say?

I’m really happy with this album. I can’t wait to get out and play. We’re coming to European festivals and then we’re going to tour like crazy the entire fall and winter. It’s going to be awsome to bring with us some of the best bands around. It’s going to be a fantastic time. We’re looking forward to it, so I hope to see everybody out there.

Interview conducted by phone on April 16th 2013
Transcription: Spaceman

Dark Tranquillity’s official website: www.darktranquillity.com

Album Construct, out since May 27th 2013 via Century Media

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