Interview conducted June 6 2018
Interview published June 22 2018
"But of course, we're not true; we haven't made
The Jester Race 15 times, unfortunately, for the 5 people who think that's
what we should do."
Björn Gelotte, one of two guitarists
of Swedish outfit In Flames, visited 2018's edition of Sweden Rock Festival
and Metal Covenant took the opportunity to talk with him about the band's
progression and their own summer festival Borgholm Brinner.
Tobbe: Not so many bands have gone through
such a complete change in style of music as In Flames has and honestly
now, how many fans from the beginning are actually with you still?
Björn: From the beginning is hard to say. I was
19 when I joined the band and not many people listened to us back then.
I'm turning 43 later this year, so I can't give you an answer, really.
I believe and hope that some are still here, but a lot has happened.
As I said, I was only a youngster when I joined the band and musically
so much has happened, not only because of lineup changes, but you grow
and learn us a band.
joined when they recorded the Subterranean EP, in the winter, and then
Anders [Fridén, vocals] joined a couple of months later and there
we became a band. It was just a project before that, in a sense. Jeppe
[Strömblad, former guitarist] had an outlet, you know, and played
with a couple of buddies, and Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquillity was
there. Just a project and suddenly we became a band and "Maybe
we should play live a little bit. Maybe a tour." and started to
look for a sound maybe a little bit more. And there we began, really.
To me, it's absolutely so and maybe so for In Flames as well and then
this journey has taken us to where we are today.
There's a lot of records we've made, if you think
about it. In the beginning it was more like "How cool will this
sound in your car stereo or on a cassette? How many guitars can we stuff
in there?", but we don't really think like that anymore since we
play so much live and there's really where I feel we do best and the
way I think maybe music should be enjoyed. So we think more about how
we're gonna perform and what's possible to do in the studio in terms
of recreating it live.
Tobbe: As you left kind of the roots and
then went from Colony  to Clayman  and to Reroute To Remain
 a lot more people became interested in the band.
Björn: I think that was a combination of things.
We started to play more live, festivals and stuff, and suddenly we were
exposing our music. We played older songs too and we were exposing our
music to an audience who had no clue of our existence before. We toured
in the USA in '99 already. We did it with hardcore bands and we did
some European tours with black metal bands; all from Dissection to Cradle
Of Filth, you know, and there's not where we were musically, but it
worked and it opened up doors for us.
I see it more like we were out and showed people
what we do and how we do it and then people got hooked on it and then
you build from there. But you can't plan stuff like this. It easy to
say now, with hindsight, like "We did this and that right. We did
this and that wrong.", but as you're standing there between the
choices or the possibilities, it's hard to say what's right or wrong.
Do people have too much focus on that bands are gonna stay where they
were in the beginning in a sense?
Björn: This is such a double-edged sword to me,
because I'm a huge Dio fan. Ronnie James is kind of my teraphim and
I can honestly say that the first 4 records are Dio's best and after
that I wasn't really so enthusiastic anymore. But I'm not the one that
goes to the web and says "Fuck! This sucks dick!", because
it doesn't. It's still great and there's a thought behind it, but I
maybe choose to listen to the early records.
At the same time, as a musician and as a member
of a band, I also know the importance of doing what you want to do and
maybe not what's expected out of you. And we decided that in the beginning,
that we do this because we want to do it and not because management,
record company or even an audience should dictate what we do. You know,
we don't really know what the audience wants; we play what we want to
have, and that's hard enough for us, to agree on stuff and think that
it's an awesome record.
It takes time and when we're all happy finally,
we at least know that it's the best that we can present, and be proud
of, and be fun to play, and in that way be really genuine. But of course,
we're not true; we haven't made The Jester Race 15 times, unfortunately,
for the 5 people who think that's what we should do. But everything
doesn't suit everyone and that was never our intention either.
You know, I wouldn't have time for anything else
if I was asking everyone "What do you like? Which song?" and
then the next time there will be a totally different opinion. It's impossible,
you know. We must stick to ourselves, you know; what we think is fun.
So where might In Flames end up musically? You've got a long time left
to the end of your career and you could go on for 25 more years if you
Björn: Exactly. As long as it's fun and you still
get goose bumps when you hear something. And when that happens it just
feels right and it doesn't matter if it's a blast beat, a balled or
a synth intro. So, I have no idea. We have no plan. When we start to
write or start recording a record it's like "What will it sound
like?" and "Well, let's just see what will come out in the
end.". What we all like stays and everything else just fades away,
you know, and in the end you're just standing there with a record, like
"This was really great!". So I don't know. I can't give you
an answer about where exactly we will end up.
Tobbe: No matter what type of music you
guys have played from, like, Clayman up to Battles, you have always managed
to come out with choruses to really shout the words to, so how do you
approach and build that part in your songs?
Björn: The thing is: I come from Rainbow, Deep
Purple, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, so for me it's very clear what is
a chorus or not. So I want to go there really quick; you know, you want
the good stuff immediately. But I like long solos and stuff too, you
know. But the chorus is very important in what we do. It generally starts
with a riff or a melody and it's like "Okay, now we have the shape,
the idea and the tempo and stuff like that." and then you pretty
quickly want to build a chorus and then you take it from there.
This is the way I see it, but there are guys
who start with the intro and build the song from there, or you have
Tool, or Dream Theater, where it's like a long journey, like "We'll
take you on a 27-minute ride." with one song. Maybe that's not
really us, but there's different ways to do it, and I think as long
as the performers and the people who come to concerts like it it's awesome,
and when people smile when you're on stage it's like "Oh yeah.
This is great!" and you get that energy and you feel that it's
Your own festival, Borgholm Brinner. Why do In Flames need their own festival?
Björn: Well, we don't necessarily need it, but
we can do it, and that's what's fun. It's a little bit like the music
we're making, where we feel safe with what we do and that it's for ourselves
we do this, on our terms and therefore we don't have to keep to the
strict norms. We played here at Sweden Rock last year and that's pretty
much how good it gets in Europe, because this is really a great festival.
There are other great festivals as well of course,
like Wacken is super, for example. So, this festival is really good,
but we can't play two years in a row. You can't play every year here.
Well, I guess Motörhead could do that
So there wasn't any
other good alternative that fit our schedule, we do other festivals
in Europe as well, so someone came up with this idea, like "Do
your own one then." and that wasn't a bad idea, but "Well,
how do we do this? Well, we'll just have to learn.".
So we talked to people that knew about it and
we work with people who know what to do. We could pick the bands ourselves;
see who weren't busy and if they wanted to do it. You know, everything
from the bands, to catering, to what to drink, to portable toilets.
There's a lot of things needed, it's kind of sick, and that's the challenge,
something outside of the box for us.
Tobbe: And you will play both nights and
without mentioning the exact songs you're gonna play, how will you build
those sets up?
Björn: Well, we haven't really come to that part
yet. We have a huge pile of songs and our thought is that the two sets
aren't gonna be real similar, but two different ones more or less, but
some gems and some songs we like to play will probably be played both
nights and songs that we maybe think that the audience wants to hear.
Hopefully we'll have time to put together a good, mixed set for both
It's called the first one of an annual event and is it 100 percent safe
to say that this will be the case?
Björn: We don't know that. You know, if people
think it's fun. And we're ready to do it; we think it's really fun.
I mean, ask me again after the festival, but I think it's gonna be really
fun. I think the environment in which we play in is unbeatable and if
the weather is fine, this will be something that's gonna be hard to
Tobbe: Honestly, to what extent did you
guys take part in the process of picking bands to the festival?
Björn: Completely. Absolutely. We named a pile
of bands that we wanted on the festival. Everyone couldn't do it of
course. I mean, they're playing other festivals and maybe they're not
even in Europe then. But in the end we pulled it together. It's almost
only our buddies playing there. It's great fun.
Tobbe: And finally. Most bands have their
top for maybe 5-10 years, in terms of popularity, and where do we see
In Flames right now?
Björn: We're very fortunate, because we have
a pretty loyal audience and if someone leaves, a new one enters. I mean,
just look at when we play. That's what counts, because not so many care
about record sales anymore, you know. We play the big venues. So we're
lucky of course and I think we're doing rather good and I'm not the
one to complain.