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In Flames’ Bjorn Gelotte on ‘Battles': ‘If We’re Happy With It, Then It’s an In Flames Record’ [Carolina Rebellion Interview]

Veteran Swedish metal act In Flames have a couple new faces that were on display at Carolina Rebellion. Drummer Joe Rickard (Red) joined the band prior to last year’s Battles album, with bassist Bryce Paul coming aboard for the tour. The band showcased plenty of material from their new disc along with an old favorite or two.

They also played one of the smaller stages at the festival, with frontman Anders Friden making the most of the limited space. Paul really appeared to be enjoying himself, and gregarious guitarist Niclas Engelin always has a good time. Before their show, Loudwire caught up with guitarist Bjorn Gelotte and talked about the newest members, the reception to Battles, his thoughts on revisiting past albums live and other subjects. Check out the chat below.

Who do you have playing bass for you on this tour?

His name is Bryce Paul. We have a new drummer as well as you know, Joe Rickard. Bryce is one of his best friends. The guy we had with us for the last couple of tours now, for family reasons he couldn’t continue. He’s got a couple kids, the wife has to take care of everything. He’s in a time in his life where the timing was not right.

So Joe came up with the idea of us trying Bryce. We had a couple days in Nashville and rehearsed there before the tour. We sounded great. He’s been working his ass off to get the tunes right and it sounds great.

Joe has toured extensively prior to joining In Flames. 

They did a lot of touring and enjoyed a lot of success. He was very experienced when he joined the band already. That is important to us, because we don’t want somebody who gets brain farts all the time or gets nervous.

Was Joe your first American member?

That was our first American member, and there’s two right now.

Lineup changes aren’t fun, but can they provide a new energy for a band?

Totally. That’s really what it’s been about. It’s always sad when a member leaves, especially when you’ve done so much together for such a long time. No matter the reason why people quit, it is a loss. New guys are not going to have the easiest of times. It’s going to be a lot of work getting into it. Most people can do what we do musically, because it’s not brain surgery what we do. It’s really not that hard. But socially you need to function within the group. That’s the hard part. That’s really hard. You need to focus on the same things. You want to work to get this thing going.

During tours you’re with these guys pretty much 24/7.

It’s so much more intense, because this bus is not that big. It might look awesome, front lounge, back lounge and everything is so cool. But there are 13 people on that bus and there’s 13 people sleeping there.

Your latest album Battles has been out for about six months and now you’ve had a little time to live with it. Are you happy with the response?

Yeah, super happy. More people are interested. We’re doing really well on radio it seems. We have a bunch of singles coming out. We never thought about our records that way. We’re old school; we do a record and it needs to feel right from the first track to the last one.

But it’s cool. Our manager said, “Well, we can just pick any of these and see if we can make singles out of them.” So we’ve got five or six singles. That’s a lot of fun. That shows every aspect of the record and it’s fun to do it that way. We’ve never really done that before.

So are the old school fans finally coming around to your current sound?

We’ve always made waves. We’ve always been parting our audience, in a way. It’s in the nature of things, it’s how we think. We’re not here to please everybody, we never were. We never claim to. What we have always said is that the only thing that we can actually control and make sure we do right, is that we write stuff that we like. We five, are we happy with it? When the record is done and songs are written and everything, if we’re happy with it, then it’s an In Flames record. Then we can stand onstage and play one of these songs and love it and have fun. That energy hopefully translates.

So that pisses off a lot of people. They say, “You should do this on this record again. You should do this.” No we shouldn’t. That was never our intention. There are a few bands that can do that, we’re not one of them. We just want to move.

So you’re not likely to do a tour where you play an early album in its entirety.

I would never want to do that. I love the fact that bands are doing that, that they can do the whole record. But I would never want to do it. For us, it’s 20 plus years and so much has happened — not only lineup changes that we talked about before, but also musically. We’ve learned so much from all the touring. We’ve learned so much from all the recordings and from all the experiences and everything that we’ve been through. So doing that first record again or the second record again because it is the 20 year anniversary, is simply not interesting because it would so go above a lot of heads in our audience right now … and also for us.

I see a lot of similarities to Opeth in how you follow your own musical path even though there might be resistance from some quarters.

I love that band. We’re really good friends, too. I have the utmost respect for them, because they are doing exactly what they want. I think that shines through most Swedish bands coming up from that time and that genre. It was friendly competition, but I would say definitely everybody tried to create and carve out their own niche and staying true to that, but still explore. I don’t think anybody looks back at their career and says, “I wish I did that album over and over and over again.” Everybody explores.

On the album Anders seems to have taken a big step with his clean singing.

For Battles, he actually had a vocal coach. With everything we do, we try to improve. With the skill level of my leads, my solos and stuff, it’s a little bit above what I can actually do, so I have to actually practice my butt off in order to get there. I think it’s the same with Anders. He wants to get better and develop his instrument, which is his voice; have more fun with it, explore, see what he can do with it. We’ve got the growling in there, you got the clean vocals. It’s just another really fun way of delivering melodies, really, which is what we’re about.

In Flames have been touring in the U.S. for about 20 years now. 

It’s huge, it is like Europe. But it’s just one country. We’re lucky we can tour here and people show up and support us. We feel really lucky. We know there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and we’re happy to do that work.

Do you write new music on the road?

I’m super lazy, and also I think that’s two different things for me: being in touring mode or being in writing mode. Certain things need to be in place for me to be comfortable and relaxed enough to write. So I’d rather just tour.

As you get older and have more family obligations, do you schedule your touring so you’re out for shorter periods of time?

Not really. What we want to do is make sure that the tour, whatever tour it is, makes sense, that there’s a reason to do it. We don’t want to go out just to get a paycheck because that’s not why we’re doing this. What we want to do is make sure that the tour means something, the tour makes sense, that we promote the albums, the songs. For instance, we went with Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed in the U.K. as an opener for them. But the venues were so big, and the U.K. has been a tough market for us for years.

It was such a great opportunity hanging out with those guys that we’ve known for years. They’re hard workers. For us that was a no brainer. But that’s not paying the bills.
So for us the tour needs to make sense; if it’s a good investment time wise and if it’s a good way of promoting the record or promoting your band brand. And also if you can have some fun during it!

Our thanks to In Flames’ Bjorn Gelotte for the interview. You can pick up the band’s ‘Battles’ album at both Amazon and iTunes. And be sure to catch In Flames on the road at these locations.

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