Q&A: In Flames guitarist Bjorn Gelotte11/28/2012
Sweden’s In Flames are coming to the Val Air Ballroom on Dec. 4 in direct support of Lamb Of God. Cityview music writer Mark Skaar recently spoke with In Flames guitarist Bjorn Gelotte about the tour, their newest album “Sounds Of A Playground Fading” and the band’s longevity.
CV: In Flames are currently on the road with Lamb Of God. How’s the tour going?
Bjorn Gelotte: It’s been a great tour. It’s a great bunch of guys, and we’ve toured with them before, so everybody knows each other. We had Hatebreed out for the first couple of shows, and now Hellyeah is joining us. One could say it’s a lot of partying!
CV: Have you had a chance to talk to Randy (Blythe, Lamb Of God vocalist) about his situation overseas? (Blythe was arrested for manslaughter in the Czeck Republic and was jailed for several months.)
Gelotte: It’s not really my position to sort of have an opinion about it, but I can say I think he’s a pretty stand-up guy, and as he said in his media statement, he’s gonna “man up.” If they ever need him, he’s there, and he’s going to go through with it. I think what happened is extremely unfortunate, but he’s going to do the best he can.
CV: Bjorn, let’s talk about the latest In Flames record, “Sounds Of A Playground Fading.” Tell me where the title and the concept came from.
Gelotte: I think it sums up the fact that we’re not 18 anymore. We sort of brought the mental state of being 18 with us into this, but at the same time not grow up. We have different inspirations nowadays, obviously, and a different way of doing things. All the touring we’ve done so far has made us a little grayer. (laughs)
CV: There are 13 songs on the latest record, and it’s a very diverse metal album.
Gelotte: It’s the first time I’ve written all the music by myself. I used to write everything together with Jesper (Stromblad-former In Flames guitarist). I had the guys (in the band) helping out with all the arrangements. There’s really no point in me doing everything, but I guess you could sort of trace my roots a little bit more. I come from a very classic rock background. I love guitar work, and that’s what I was sort of focusing on and aiming for on this one so it was a great journey to do it, and I had a lot of help from the other guys.
CV: So it was a little different in the songwriting process because you were doing all the music yourself. In Flames have now recorded 10 albums. Does the songwriting process get easier or harder as you get older?
Gelotte: A little bit of both. I mean, you don’t want to repeat yourself, but at the same time, we’ve always had very loose boundaries. We can do pretty much whatever we want to. We never let record labels or management decide what we’re supposed to do, so from that point of view it’s kind of simple and it’s getting easier. You know sound and you know how you want to present stuff, so that’s easier, but at the same time you want to keep yourself interested. You want to keep yourself on your toes a little bit, and that can get a little more challenging.
CV: Do you ever look back and think, “Wow, In Flames has been recording for almost 20 years now”…
Gelotte: Yeah, it happens. Especially when we pull songs in the set from the 90s. A lot of people that go to the concerts weren’t even born when we released some of those albums. That kind of makes you think about the journey that we’ve taken.
CV: Bjorn, what would you say is the secret to your longevity?
Gelotte: Loving what we do. That’s number one. Enjoying touring and each others’ company. The touring party becomes your second family; it’s your family away from home. As long as that works and the social part works and the music works, then it’s not a problem to do this for another 20 years.
CV: That’s a great answer. Obviously it’s isn’t as easy as it looks, and it’s a hard lifestyle, but at the same time you have to tread the line between business and pleasure…
Gelotte: I think it’s the best of both worlds. We get to party with awesome people, and we get to play music every night. The drawback is that you get to party everyday with awesome people (laughs). Also, being away is kind of tough. All of us have kids nowadays, and we didn’t have that 20 years ago. That’s been the harder part — leaving the kids at home and wives at home. That’s kind of tough.
CV: Since the last record was released in 2011, I assume you’re already thinking about the next one?
Gelotte: Uh huh. Yeah, I have the general idea for what we want to do. It might sound weird, but being on tour is not very inspirational. I can’t really focus enough to sit down and record. It’s not so practical either, being on the road with a bunch of recording equipment. I know a lot of people write on the road, but I rarely do that, so I’m going to start the actual writing process when we get home from doing this (Lamb of God tour), and I think we’re planning on recording toward the end of next year.
CV: You started out as the drummer of In Flames. Do you miss playing drums in a live setting?
Gelotte: Ahh, no…not at all! (laughs) The reason I was playing drums was because I was the guy that sucked the least.
CV: Did you draw the shortest straw?
Gelotte: Sort of yeah. Jesper (Stromblad) was playing drums before, and he REALLY sucked, and then I came in and I sucked a little bit less, and then we finally found an excellent drummer in Daniel (Svensson), so there was no point where I missed it, ever (laughs).
CV: You have to have good posture and sit up straight all the time to play drums.
Gelotte: Yeah, that’s not my style!
CV: What else is happening in In Flames world right now?
Gelotte: There’s still a lot of touring to be done and we have the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise coming up early next year and try to connect that with some shows over here. Then it will be the summer season, and of course that means festival season, so we’re going to do a bunch of those. Then we’ll start recording with pre-production and everything that entails.
CV: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the Gothenburg scene and the exciting times reminiscing of bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates. Those three bands sort of started off that scene, and it just exploded from there.
Gelotte: I think that the common denominator for all of those bands, and there were a few more, was basically that we all recorded in the same studio with Fredrik Nordstrom in Studio Fredman. He had an amazing way of mixing and recording and pulling melodies out of the bands. Melodies came from the bands, but he sort of made it the core of the music. I think it’s a joint effort from all these bands. It’s a very cool time right now because we have a cool festival coming up early next year that sort of celebrates the Gothenburg sound, so that’s going to be fun.
CV: It’s all kind of incestuous because you guys are all friends, and in some cases, have been in each others’ bands.
Gelotte: Oh yeah. We toured a lot together. Mikael (Stanne) from Dark Tranquillity, used to be the singer in In Flames, and Anders (Friden) used to be the singer in Dark Tranquillty. It’s bit incestuous, yeah. (laughs)