By Rebecca Bulnes
By Lee Zimmerman
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It's no secret that Swedish death metal and its innumerable subdialects have had a massive impact on the extreme-music world. Sometimes, though, In Flames is left out of the conversation. Still, this five-piece's early discography remains an occasionally unheralded benchmark of heavy melodic tuneage.
Last week, New Times spoke with In Flames drummer Daniel Svensson about golfing with Alice Cooper, the band's sonic evolution, and what exactly is in Sweden's water that makes for such high-quality metal.
New Times: Have you been playing a lot of golf?
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Daniel Svensson: I try to, as much as I can, but the golf season in Sweden is not that long. And it's tough to fit in the schedule, even when I'm back home, because I have kids. And if you're away so much, you want to spend as much time as possible with them.
But while on tour, if we find good courses, we try to play as much as we can.
So you bring your clubs on tour?
Sometimes we do. I think it was two summers ago when we played the Mayhem tour, we brought the clubs. But during the wintertime, we don't because we can only play in, like, Texas and Florida.
If it could be arranged, would you go head-to-head with Alice Cooper?
Anders already did when Alice was in Stockholm!
No chance! Who won?
I don't know. Alice is a really good golf player, even though he is getting old. He's been playing for a long time. I think we have the same golf endorser, Callaway. So they hooked them up. It was pretty cool!
You've said the Florida death-metal scene was a big part of your musical upbringing. What bands really got you started?
Personally, Deicide. That was one of the first bands I listened to, and that's the band that I played along with the most in the beginning when I started to play the drums. Then I tried to catch up with all of the bands that recorded at [Tampa's] Morrisound. You definitely knew what you got when you picked up a CD and it was recorded at Morrisound.
Do you feel that In Flames' Colony was a turning point for the band?
I think Colony and that era was a big turning point for In Flames. I don't know musically. But before that album, In Flames was more like a side project, basically. It was first on Jester Race that In Flames got some steady members, but some of those didn't really want to tour.
When I joined, it was right before Colony, and we had five guys that were really committed to tour as much as possible and see how far we could bring this music, because we felt that we had something special. You can't just be practicing in your rehearsing room and then sometimes release an album. You need to get out on the road. We decided to do that after the release of Colony. I think that was the most important thing, and then came the music itself. But I think that transition was more important than the sound of that album.
Do you ever see the band moving back toward the older sound a little bit, with the death-metal vocals and a little more aggression?
Time will tell. We write songs that we enjoy playing, and whether it is more growling or less growling, that is not really important. We don't say before recording: "This time, we need more clean vocals or less guitar solos." We write songs that we feel represent what we stand for today and songs that we can perform in front of our fans. And that's not cheating.
For being a relatively small place, Sweden — and Gothenburg specifically — has produced a staggering number of influential bands. Why?
It is a good [place] for young people to start bands. We pay a lot of taxes in Sweden, and sometimes you can actually benefit from that. When we grew up, you could form a band and we got lent drum kits and rehearsal spaces at youth centers, which helped and created a lot of new bands. So I think that's a big part of it. It's fucking expensive if you want to start a band and have no one to help you.