Before the start of the show, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Niclas Engelin, the guitarist of In Flames. The following is awesomeness that took place.
Q: Let’s get started, Niclas, guitar player with In Flames, just brought back on since, what, 1997 that you did your stint with them?
Niclas: Yes I, back on the ‘Whoracle’ album, I did a touring cycle with them. It was 3 weeks in Europe and that was it, so now I’m here again. I have my own band called Engel, you should check it out, you’ll love it. There will be another album out in May, at least in Europe, Engel ‘Blood of Saints’ and I recorded it while I was at home over the holidays on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Q: What has it been like working with them since you got brought back on?
Niclas: I mean first of all I have to say that we have been buddies since ’88-’89, way back and even me and Jesper went to the same high school together we formed a band called Poltergeist way back then. And me and Bjorn grew in the same place, same neighborhood, so we knew each other and all that. Then I remember meeting Anders when he was the singer in Septic Broiler, pre-Dark Tranquility, and I was playing in a band called Sarcazm back then and we did shows together and would hang out, have a beer and a laugh. So, we knew each other well.
Q: Being that you have been a part of the Gothenburg scene since its essential inception with Swedish Melodic Death Metal, what have you felt to be the biggest change in the scene from its beginnings to now?
Niclas: I think it’s been quite a natural change. I remember when I was playing with Gardenian, another band I was in, and we did an album ‘Soulburner’ and we included clean vocals on that one. For example, the song ‘Small Electric Space’, stuff like that. And before we went in the studio to record the ‘Soulburner’ album we did some demos just to try it out and we actually find out at that time we can use clean vocals as well because, even though it’s Death Metal, it had its melodic touch or whatever or kind of harmonies that were quite sing-along friendly, so adding clean vocals to that was just a natural progression to that. That was really cool and then Dark Tranquility started on that stuff so. The cool thing about is that it had developed with synth loops, beats, which you can add without loosing any Metal touch to it, it still is Metal in my world.
Q: The scene itself, of course I haven’t gotten to experience it hands on just listening to it over the years, seems to become its own entity. It doesn’t just attack you like original Death Metal or Black Metal, it has so much wonderful structure in it and the technicality is amazing.
Niclas: Exactly. When I started of listening to Heavy Metal or when you started listening to Metal there wasn’t genres, there was Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, maybe Death Metal and then there was Hard Rock. But nowadays in my world I like Depeche Mode, it can be very, very heavy and therefore nowadays you can blend those into the Metal. And I think the genre is beginning to be a big pile of stuff.
Q: The Melodic Death Metal scene with the added in keyboards or the very eloquent guitar structures in the songs, it’s creating this atmosphere that’s very heavy in a sense of emotions.
Niclas: Yeah, it is. To be able to raise those elements you have to be open-minded, you have to not think, ‘That band? Blah.’, it’s just music. In my opinion music should be fun, music should be positive, you should be uplifted with music because it’s everything. And I remember when Korn put out the new single ‘Narcissistic Cannibal’ it was a cool thing to do. I mean Skrillex really exploded and I really understand it cause it’s still really heavy. That can be powerful as well. Therefore I like that there were no limits, just go with it.
Q: What’s atmosphere of playing with the band on stage now as opposed to the time you spent with them back in 1997? There much of a difference?
Niclas: Of course, we became better musicians, we were teenagers back then and now we’re grown men, have families and kids and all that stuff. Now it’s more focused, now it is more like relaxed then it was. I think it’s more the performance nowadays is more with a laugh, not that we don’t take it seriously because we do, it’s 100 percent serious, but we can afford ourselves to let it out. And playing live to me is something very special because you have to be there and you have to really push it. I used to play a lot of soccer, football, and I really love that sport and when I go out here on stage it is 90 minutes I will do my best, I will play football for 90 minutes if I don’t show myself where I get the ball I don’t get that ball, it’s the same with the audience. If I don’t confront the audience and push it, I don’t get the energy back. And the good thing with a live situation is you give and you get something back and then it just blends together with the band and the audience and it’s just like ‘Wow!’ And that energy is a positive energy and I love it because football is positive.
Q: As far as the new record goes, Sounds of a Playground Fading, I know you just came in with the departure of Jesper, were you involved much in the writing process?
Niclas: No, I wasn’t because I think they wanted to write this album themselves because they wanted to prove they could write without Jesper because Jesper is the founding member. I think that was very important to everyone that they could do this, and the album is really good.
Q: You’ve been on the tour for about a week now, how are you all liking it so far?
Niclas: I mean we’ve been touring since May, and we had a short break for Christmas and New Year’s Eve and then we are here, so we kind of started where we took off in December. It’s been really good. During the summertime, Mayhem tour was really cool, a really fun one. And this one is fun and maybe a little bit tougher because it’s wintertime and all that, it’s cold. It’s just good, we like it.
Q: How was it playing with Megadeth over the summer?
Niclas: Yeah! It was really cool, because you’re still a fan, you’re still a Metalhead. And that’s important to stick to that, I mean they were playing ‘Hanger 18’ and stuff like that, that was cool.
Q: One final question, if you could pick the favorite shows you’ve seen over the years, what would they be?
Niclas: That’s hard to say, really hard to say. I’ve seen so many shows over the years, I mean the shows you see in the beginning, those are the shows that stick to you. I think I was around 10 years old, I went to my first concert, it was Dio Last In Line Tour and the opening act was Queensryche and they put out the album Warning and the drummer had chain symbols and putting out killer harmonies, solos and really pushing it and of course there was Dio, but something about Queensryche. I saw Nine Inch Nails a couple of times, the last tour they did the drummer was more groove oriented and that was an amazing show because that drummer gave more groove to it and vibe to it, so even the Industrial parts had more groove into it. And, yes of course, I’m so proud of this. I remember when Alice In Chains put out Dirt and for us back in Sweden seeing Alice In Chains and Soundgarden and such was really hard because they didn’t tour that often in our area, but I did catch them in Sweden and Screaming Trees was the special guest, that’s a good band. And it’s a shame, Lane Staley, my God that was really great, I really promise you that.
I would like to thank Niclas once again for his time and one of the coolest experiences in my life.