Dark Tranquillity interview (10/2018)

With: Mikael Stanne
Conducted by: D.T. Metal (in person)
Published: 03.10.2018

Band profile:

Dark Tranquillity

Dark Tranquillity - no introduction needed; they have been on the top of the Gothenburg metal food chain for as long as I remember. This past weekend I had the opportunity to talk to the band's iconic frontman Mikael Stanne. We chatted about this year's 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise, recording a new album and more.

As soon as this tour got announced I heard a lot of people comment on the strengths of the line-up. Fans of each band were looking forward to this one. So how is the tour been going?

Mikael: It's been really fantastic so far. These are one of my favorite bands; bands we have known forever basically, but we never really toured together. Except Omnium Gatherum, it's probably our 5th tour with them, but we never toured with Moonspell, we never toured with Amorphis and it's so much fun to finally get to know each other and share stories. Yes, it's been awesome; it's been crazy in the best possible way.

I bet. Now looking at the line-up, what's your take on having bands of the same or similar genre on the bill compared to a mix of genres?

Mikael: Well, this kind of tour makes more sense, at least to me. All these four bands have a shared, kinda musical DNA in a sense, yes very different, but there are still more similarities. If I want to go to a show and be able to see 3 or more similar bands, that's fantastic. Otherwise I just come late and see the band that I like. So having bands in the same general genre on a bill, for me, I think it's better.

That's true, I like it better also. Today you are playing in a smaller venue. North America can be a difficult market and bands that play in arenas overseas might play in clubs over here. At this point in your career and granted it's always nicer playing in front of thousands of people, does it matter to you?

Mikael: No. I mean especially on a (North) American tour like this, you can go playing from 1500 person seaters to 200. Or tonight; it's 500 people, which is going to be crazy in this small venue. (ed: and he was right; the place was beyond packed) But it's also cool to meet people and perform in front of a crowd who perhaps haven't seen you before. Going to new cities, going to new venues, that's the part I enjoy.

You are also a frontman who likes to personally engage with the audience.

Mikael: Yes, I like that aspect of it. I like when there is some kind of conversation going on between the band and the audience. Of course, not every day is like "wooo - awesome - I love everything about this" (laughs), but I think we are good about seeing the positives rather than the negatives (of playing in a smaller venue).

(ed: unfortunately Dark Tranquillity couldn't set up their whole production that night, including the visual backdrops, due to the size of the stage but Mikael told me they use it whenever possible.)

So, I looked over your setlist for this tour and noticed that you have a healthy mix of songs from your catalog; concentrating of course on Atoma but also 2007's Fiction. How hard, or easy, is it to choose songs for a tour?

Mikael: It's easy to pick the songs you know people will appreciate, songs you have played a hundred times before. The hard part is choosing which songs to leave out so we can play something we find more interesting. Songs where the audience is like 'holy hit, they are playing THAT song'. We want that experience. We want to give the audience exactly what they want but also something unexpected, or something they haven't heard in a long time. Yes, that part is a nightmare.

Who does pick and choose?

Mikael: All of us do. Anders our drummer is really great at this and he has taken charge when it comes to this, but we all try to pitch in and figure out how to change the set from the last tour.

Speaking of last tour; I just saw you earlier this year, once again on 70000 Tons Of Metal. With this being your 3rd appearance on the cruise, but your first on the bigger ship, what was your impression of the bigger one?

Mikael: I got lost way more (laughs) but I love the experience. Once again it was incredible. I didn't see as many shows as I perhaps wanted to, but I had a fantastic time. Our shows were great and the few that I watched were fantastic as well. But I got incredibly sick; the post-cruise crud is real. Both me and my girlfriend… we were sick when we got back, it was nasty. (laughs). But other than that it was awesome.

So how does the cruise differ from other festivals you regularly play?

Mikael: The main difference is that - since you are on a ship, in international waters, anything goes. That madness that happens on 70000tons you rarely see anywhere else. People moshing out in the pool (ed: on the prior ship) or in hot-tubs right next to the stage; that kind of stuff. Other than that - I think if you are going on a festival or cruise like that means you saved up money to do so and are beyond passionate and you probably gone to all the other festivals and want a new experience. That means you are a die-hard fan and it really shows. People are so into it it's crazy; and that is what I love about it.

Dark Tranquilitty Pool Deck on 70000 Tons Of Metal 2018

How about you as a fan? Some of your peers told me that they like to watch a band while also being part of the audience and not side or backstage like on regular land based festivals.

Mikael: Absolutely. There are smaller stages and you can go to the pool deck and stand on the balcony and check out some bands. I really like that too. Usually when you play at a festival and want to check out another band there is no way to just get out (into the crowd) and you are on the side or something like that. But then someone is going to notice you and people come over and want pictures or just talk. On the cruise, after the first two days you said 'hi' to everyone, took pictures with literally everyone and then you are done with that and can enjoy the rest of it. (laughs)

So when you are at home, do you go to a lot of shows or just want to take a break from music and enjoy peace and quiet for a while?

Mikael: There is no way. There are so many great shows in Gothenburg; I go to shows all the time. (laughs)

What is your preferred genre?

Mikael: Metal, prog rock - anything really that is interesting. We have some great clubs and venues in Gothenburg and I move in-between and I see maybe 2 or 3 shows a week. Sometimes it's crazy, sometimes it's like 6 shows a week; it's insane. I really love going out to shows; especially seeing some more obscure bands, in different kinds of genres. I have a couple of friends who are music journalists and sometimes it's like 'hey, I am going to review this show, come with me and check it out'. And then you go like 'wow, this is awesome'. I would never have gone but had a great experience.

Is there a band you could recommend to our readers to check out?

Mikael: There are a few just fantastic bands just from Gothenburg in all different genres. One of my favorite bands to see right now is Monolord. It's such a cool, energetic, super incredibly heavy band. It's one of the bands I would never miss.

Nice, I will pass it along. Now, if history is an indicator, in 2019 we should be seeing a new Dark Tranquillity album. Have you jotted down ideas already or solely do this in the studio?

Mikael: (laughs) - strictly at home I would say. That's where it starts and then put it all together in the studio; in our rehearsal room as well and then we figure things out. Well I do jot down lyrical ideas. On the road, it's not stressful, but you are constantly thinking about the show; it's more performance than creativity. At least for me, I need some time off before thinking about that kind of stuff. (a new album) But once we got the music I can add to it. So no, we have never been writing on the road; we need to have some time off first.

After almost 30 years in the biz, 11 Long Players under your belt, being hailed as the originators of Gothenburg metal - does this put some sort of pressure on you or is every new recording approached on its own merit?

Mikael: Wow, Long Player, I like it. Nobody uses that term anymore. Nice. And of course there is pressure, but it's mostly from ourselves I think. How do we top the last one? How do we make it interesting? How do we come up with something that feels fresh but still retains the sound that we have? How do we make ourselves happy but also satisfy the fans? That's always a struggle. It would be easy to do songs in the same way we always have, make the most obvious thing, but that wouldn't be interesting.

Check out this great 2016 documentary about Dark Tranquillity's beginnings: Out Of Nothing - The DT Documentary

It's always like finding a way to think about music in a different way or start from a different perspective or a different angle - at least have this process feel fresh. Sometimes we change the way we write a song, sometimes it's a location, writing in the studio or rehearsal room, sometimes we all sit in a room and come up with stuff and sometimes people write at home. We are trying to keep it fresh somehow and not the same old process over and over; I feel like that might hinder creativity.

So we can maybe expect more clean vocals with the new recording?

Mikael: (laughs) I have no idea. We haven't even gone that far.

Do you ever revisit or recycle songs from a prior session which didn't make it on an album?

Mikael: Maybe parts of songs, a riff here, a melody there, maybe - but it's rare. We haven't done it in a while. I know Martin (keyboards) has ideas lying around that maybe didn't work at one point and were dug up and see if they fit; I guess that had happened, but it's rare.

Do you also write riffs?

Mikael: For me it's just lyrics. Martin, Anders, Niklas - they write all the stuff and then I come in, try to put my spin, my words on it.

Dark Tranquilitty Live Line-Up

Are Chris (Amott - guitars) and Johan (Reinholdz - guitars) strictly live musicians or will they participate on the new album as well?

Mikael: We really haven't come to a conclusion how to do that. We are going to figure that out once we finish the touring cycle. Niklas is still very involved and does all the artwork and all the videos and stuff like that. It's easy to kind of push out these kinds of decisions for the future and just enjoy the moment and really enjoy a tour like this.

I read somewhere you had to step up your game once Chris and Johan joined…

Mikael: Yes. They are incredible. They are super, super talented and sound great. So yeah; and also Anders (Iwers) is such a great bass player (ed: he joined the band in 2015). So Anders (Jivarp) on drums has to be better and Martin has to be better and I have to be better. (laughs) So that's a really, really good thing and yeah, it has made us a better performing band. I think everything about the production, our tours, we keep ramping it up and everything is as perfect as it can possibly be. So far I've been really happy and the last 3 tours we have done have been incredible. I am really satisfied with how we sound, how we perform, how we feel and how the shows have been. It's been awesome.

They are a good fit and live additions for sure. And now that we come to the end of this little chat - the last words belong to you.

Mikael: It's pretty incredible that we get to do this after almost 30 years. We are very thankful that people are still coming out to the shows, hanging out with us and buying tickets to see us. It's incredible. So yes, big thanks to all those who still care about us and we love that.


Posted on 03.10.2018 by Admin / Photographer / Reviewer

Former Editor aka b**ch in charge and now just a
Professional concertgoer... dangerously armed with a camera!


Comments: 9   [ 1 ignored ]   Visited by: 158 users
03.10.2018 - 20:43
Amazing interview! Can't wait to see the show in Philly!
04.10.2018 - 08:46
Written by WorpeX on 03.10.2018 at 20:43

Amazing interview! Can't wait to see the show in Philly!

You will enjoy it. i went to one of the Canadian ones and I had an amazing time.
04.10.2018 - 09:42
Cynic Metalhead
Atrocious Virgin
Mikael Stanne is such a cool dude. I always love to read his head. His ideas, vision and of course his grasp on musical lenity is absolutely awesome.

True fucking metalhead.
04.10.2018 - 14:03
Dark Tranquillity is among the greatest bands on Earth ! I mean they do enjoy being here and the audience can feel it and it makes every gig so strong and intense. I could go see them play live every week or so ! As long as they keep rocking I'll keep following them !
05.10.2018 - 05:24
The Galactican
I saw them in Seattle a couple weeks back and was totally blown away. I went specifically for Omnium Gatherum and Amorphis, and while I have seen Dark Tranquillity once before with OG, this was the tour that finally turned me into a serious fan. They just exude cool and professionalism on stage. I have since gone back and revisited the classic albums and their most recent. I am all in.

Great interview!
10.10.2018 - 01:51
Were at the Vancouver set and it was brilliant. He's super powerful - like, you could feel that energy. And this interview just shows how true he is. Also the struggle between tradition and new, band and fans, this can be at the edge as there still possibilities of losing both. Sadly few of my all-time favorites had fallen into it, at least imo.

So when's the next album? I'm really starving for that. DT can never fail me.
There are so many bands that I just love one of their albums, so I won't list them out.
But no, I don't take suggestions.
13.10.2018 - 07:24
Written by EsotericSpiritc on 04.10.2018 at 08:46

Written by WorpeX on 03.10.2018 at 20:43

Amazing interview! Can't wait to see the show in Philly!

You will enjoy it. i went to one of the Canadian ones and I had an amazing time.

Holy hell, you weren't kidding! Just got home. Mikael sang the ENTIRE Misery's Crown from the MOSH PIT! I got as close as I could to him and sang with him and he shook my hand at one point. Ended up finding a DT guitar pick on the ground after. What an amazing show!
17.10.2018 - 09:57
17.10.2018 - 11:14
Written by WorpeX on 13.10.2018 at 07:24

Written by EsotericSpiritc on 04.10.2018 at 08:46

Written by WorpeX on 03.10.2018 at 20:43

Amazing interview! Can't wait to see the show in Philly!

You will enjoy it. i went to one of the Canadian ones and I had an amazing time.

Holy hell, you weren't kidding! Just got home. Mikael sang the ENTIRE Misery's Crown from the MOSH PIT! I got as close as I could to him and sang with him and he shook my hand at one point. Ended up finding a DT guitar pick on the ground after. What an amazing show!

That's awesome!!!

An American YouTuber who I like very much reviewed the concert.

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