Dark Tranquillity Vocalist Mikael Stanne Talks About Their New Album "We Are The Void"
Band Photo: Dark Tranquillity (?)
"How we do deal with the fact that we aren’t immortal and how do we justify the things that we do up until that last inevitable day?" asks Dark Tranquillity vocalist Mikael Stanne. For one of the pioneers of the Gothenburg melodic death metal sound it's taken the band a long time to finally get to the subject of man's mortality. In their ninth full-length opus "We Are The Void," the subject will be the focus of the music. "It’s something that everybody cares about and I’m being a little bit more honest about it and being more real than dealing with faith or other imaginary things." Mikael took some time out of the band's current tour with Killswitch Engage and The Devil Wears Prada to discuss the new album with me and their upcoming plans for a full headlining tour in support of the release.
xFiruath: Dark Tranquillity is a pretty well known band in the metal world, but can you give me a little history of when you got started in music and what the band has done for anyone not familiar with your work?
Mikael: We started back in ’89 because we were bored out of our skulls with the music that was around. We wanted to do something different so we started a band. In ’93 we recorded our first album and then ’95 we release “The Gallery,” which actually got some proper distribution. From there on we’ve kind of been on the road constantly. This is going to be our ninth album. That’s pretty much it, we started out in Gothenburg Sweden.
xFiruath: Are any of you working with projects outside of Dark Tranquillity at the moment?
Mikael: Not really, no. We hardly feel like we have the time to do anything besides Dark Tranquillity right now. We’ve been trying to stay away from that a bit. Niklas (Sundin, the band’s guitarist) is with Laethora and they released an album but other than that we spend all our time and energy on Dark Tranquillity.
xFiruath: The new album “We Are The Void” is coming out pretty soon. How does it sound in comparison to “Fiction” or your earlier albums?
Mikael: In my mind it’s more serious and has a different tone than the other albums. The melody and the way we present it is different. We tried to have a solid new approach to writing the album. Last year was our 20th anniversary as a band and we wanted to make sure this is a special album. Something to mark the beginning of the next 20 years that made us work harder and focus harder to make sure this album was something we could be proud for a long time.
xFiruath: What is the significance behind the album’s title?
Mikael: Well it deals with life and grief and kind of refers to that emptiness that comes with answering those big questions. How we do deal with the fact that we aren’t immortal and how do we justify the things that we do up until that last inevitable day? It’s something that everybody cares about and I’m being a little bit more honest about it and being more real than dealing with faith or other imaginary things. I’ve never really written about death before because it’s kind of the ultimate cliché. It’s something I wanted to avoid. So when I decided to deal with that on this album I wanted to do it as the big picture.
xFiruath: Tell me about the recording process for “We Are The Void.” Where did you handle the recordings?
Mikael: We recorded in our home town of Gothenburg. Our bass player Daniel has a studio where we recorded bass and drums. Our keyboard player Martin has a studio where we recorded everything else. It was very convenient. We started recording everything by ourselves for a few weeks and then sent the files to Tue Madsen who is a mixer and producer in Denmark. It’s the same thing we did for “Fiction” actually, same studio and same guy behind the desk.
xFiruath: I know most musicians don’t like to answer this question directly, but is there any particular segment or song on “We Are The Void” that really stands out in your head or you are the most proud of?
Mikael: There are a few but one that I really like is the last track of the album “Iridium.” It was actually written in ’95 or ’96 or something like that. It’s been one of those things that’s been laying around all this time. We’ve tried it a few times to make sense of it and record but it’s never worked or fit in to any of the previous albums. We figured it was about time to try it out and see if it worked. We started rearranging some of the keyboards and I re-did all the vocal arrangements and all of the sudden we had this song that fit perfectly to close the album.
xFiruath: You mentioned that you guys are celebrating your 20th anniversary as a band. Obviously that’s a lot of touring and performing. What do you do to keep your vocals going and get yourself into the right frame of mind?
Mikael: Vocal warm ups of course, that’s very important. I do that like an hour or two a day. But also we like to get into a good mood and get into death metal mode. We sit around and talk and drink beer and get into a good atmosphere. After five or six weeks of tour it can be hard but usually we manage.
xFiruath: Speaking of tours you guys are actually on tour right now with The Devil Wears Prada and Killswitch Engage. Those bands are definitely a different style than Dark Tranquillity, which seems like an odd line-up for the tour as these bands have different fan bases. How did you guys end up touring with them and how is it going so far?
Mikael: Killswitch Engage asked us if we wanted to be part of the tour and we said “Yeah, cool.” They have a huge audience which is quite different from ours so we figured we’d give it a shot and steal some of their audience. Get them over to the dark side. So far we’ve only done two shows but they’ve been really fucking great. Tonight we’re doing a headlining show and we’ll do a couple of those in-between during the tour.
xFiruath: I haven’t had the opportunity to see you guys live yet and I was wondering do you ever play any material from your first album “Skydancer?”
Mikael: No that was a long time ago. We’ve tried over the years to do it but it’s just never really worked. I think we should and I’m definitely always the one who brings up the subject when we talk about the set list for a tour. I’m usually voted down, but I think we should do it. I don’t know how it would work out though, because they are very different songs. It kind of means that you have to play really bad in order to make it sound like it did when we recorded it. That’s probably the hardest part.
xFiruath: What have you been listening to lately outside of your own music?
Mikael: I’ve been going through old progressive rock. I’m a big fan of old Italian prog rock. I’ve been going back into my vinyl stack and listening to that stuff. Some new stuff too though. There are a lot of good Swedish bands like Tribulation.
xFiruath: I actually reviewed that Tribulation album not too long ago, that’s a pretty good listen.
Mikael: Oh yeah, that’s actually the one I woke up to this morning.
xFiruath: So Mikael is there anything else you wanted to say about “We Are The Void?"
Mikael: I’m hoping people run out to buy it because that will mean we come back and tour again. We’re planning a proper headlining tour for the States in May which should be pretty special.
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