Interview: Dark Tranquillity
I think we have realized what we set out to do on this album more than maybe we have been able to before.
Dark Tranquillity released their latest album Moment last year and it features every element of what makes the band great especially the dynamic between melody and heaviness, further solidifying the bands reputation as Swedish metal greats. Gavin Brown had a chat with the band’s vocalist Mikael Stanne to talk about Moment and how it was created as well as discussing their livestream gig for the album and their thirtieth anniversary as Dark Tranquility.
E&D: Your new album Moment was released last year. How did the creation and recording process of the album go?
Mikael: This was a long process that started early 2019 with songs that Anders Jivarp had written. We decided to start working regularly to produce something that we felt was a good continuation of what we did on Atoma while exploring some other elements. We were also cautious about not straying too far from our sound that we have built for the last 30 years knowing that since we have new guitar players maintaining what is uniquely us is even more important. We started working together all of us as soon as we had a general idea of what the album could be and it all started taking form in the fall of 2019 and we started recording in March of 2020 just as the pandemic hit and it meant staying in the studio way longer than anticipated but it turned out to be a very good thing.
E&D: Would you say that Moment is the most atmospheric album that Dark Tranquillity have made so far and was that your plan from the start with the album?
Mikael: I think we have realized what we set out to do on this album more than maybe we have been able to before. Everything had been demoed and tried back and forth many times before we started recording so we knew exactly what was gonna end up on the record and that gave us the time to really focus on what was important and capturing an emotion and finding a clear thread through the album was definitely important to us. Then there is no doubt that once we started the recording and we realized that we won’t be doing any shows this year it affected our mood and our way of thinking on the songs. I’d be curious to hear what it would have sounded like had we recorded it last year.
E&D: I’ve always felt that Dark Tranquillity have always made sprawling and vast music but done in a concise way in terms of the length of the songs and what you for in. Would you say that’s an accurate statement about the band’s music?
Mikael: I think so. The challenge is often to say a lot, do a lot in a way that is direct and to the point. It’s easy to just let loose and go into whatever you feel like and eventually you lose sight of what the song is. Working within somewhat confined rules sometimes help drive that willingness to make every moment count in a song.
E&D: You have released a video for the album track ‘The Dark Unbroken’. How did the video shoot go and can you tell us about the video and its themes?
Mikael: Yes, we realized that since we cannot travel we might as well make the most of our empty, but beautiful city. So, we used an amazing director who works mostly in TV and film and we wanted to capture the city and the bleak surroundings in which this album was made. But it also shows us going back to a stage and it leads into the live shows that we did there in that theater the day after the record was released on November 21. Last year as well as being miserable has also opened up opportunities of different kinds, one being that we are able to perform on the most beautiful stage in all of Gothenburg.
E&D: Moment is Dark Tranquility’s twelfth album. Do you always want to make sure that your music evolves with each release?
Mikael: I would like to think so yes. We do take our time in between albums and rushing things doesn’t make sense to us anymore. We have a big enough catalogue that we don’t need to force out records, we rather make sure we have something new to say and a fresh perspective before heading back into writing after a long touring cycle.
E&D: You performed the album in its entirety. How did this go?
Mikael: We rehearsed like madmen and it’s an amazing feeling to play together again and the way set up the show is incredible. It was one of our most ambitious things we’ve done to date. Cannot wait to perform for people again, albeit under very different circumstances.
E&D: Have you missed playing live in front of an audience and will you be touring in support of Moment when things start happening again on that front?
Mikael: I have for sure. It’s been over a year since our last show and I’m dying to get out there. I realized I even miss airports now, what the hell? But we are already trying as best we can to start booking shows, it’s not easy of course not knowing when this is over but we will be ready and there as soon as it is safe for everyone.
E&D: How do you think that this global pandemic will affect the music industry when it comes to bands touring?
Mikael: It will affect everyone some way or another. Crew not working, venues closing and band finding other sources of income. It’s impossible to grasp how far reaching the effects will be but I remain optimistic somehow and know that the need for live music is strong and that we will come back to it in a big way.
E&D: What live performance from Dark Tranquility stands out in your mind as the most memorable?
Mikael: There are many but one rather recently was when we played in Colombia at this giant free metal festival. We didn’t know much about it more than it was some kind of state sponsored thing and usually those are cool but a bit weird compared to the “normal” metal festivals we play, but this was massive and I had a hard time finding any information about how many were there. It was us and Dark Funeral headlining the event so I figured it was gonna be cool but I had no idea. I somehow thought that it was one of those festivals for all kinds of music and it was big because of some band/artist I had never heard of but when we walked out on stage I couldn’t see the end of the crowd and it was the most insane thing ever. Someone told me immediately after that there were 72,000 people there and I did an instagram post about it only to be immediately contacted by the guy running the festival correcting me saying it was 140,000 people in front of us. And it was only us and DF that night. A night I will never forget.
E&D: 2021 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the first Dark Tranquility demo Trail Of Life Decayed. Are you marking this anniversary in any way and do you have fond memories of those early days with the band?
Mikael: Ouch, yes! I love the fact that we have endured that long but at the same time I’m not a very sentimental or nostalgic person so we don’t really celebrate such things more than kind of reminisce a little and laugh about how stupid and innocent we were, but I do remember it and I loved starting up this thing, not knowing where it would lead us. It was all youthful energy and blind ambition and I had an absolute blast.