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Interview with

Niklas Sundin (guitar) of Dark Tranquillity

This year, Swedish metallers DARK TRANQUILLITY pleased all their fans with the new album ‘We are the Void’. In the light of this release I’ve got a chance to catch up via email with guitarist Niklas Sundin and to discuss the new CD and some other musical issues. Read the article below for the details.

Reflections of Darkness (RoD): Hello Niklas! Congratulations to the new CD. I really enjoyed listening to it. And ‘We are the Void’ reminds me of ‘Fiction’ a bit. So, in your opinion, how much did the band grow in the period between these two albums?
Niklas: Hi! Thanks a lot! It's always hard to analyze your own output, especially this close to the studio session. There were roughly three years between the recordings of ‘Fiction’ and ‘We are the Void’, so things were definitely a bit different. I don't like to use the term "grow" since it implies that a band always strive for the same goal throughout the years and get progressively closer with every album. For us, each CD is just "different", ha ha! We approached the songwriting a bit differently this time and also had a member change.

RoD: Can you compare your new release with ‘Projector’ and ‘Fiction’; differentiate them or maybe draw a parallel?
Niklas: To me, the new album is pretty close to ‘Projector’ - not so much in the sound and style as in the atmosphere and general vibe. ‘Fiction’ was the culmination of the direction we took for a few years, while ‘We are the Void’ dares to be creative and different.

RoD: Are all the songs separate complete stories or has the album some inner concept?
Niklas: It's not a concept album, but there is a red line running throughout the songs. Maybe it sounds a bit vague, but we've always preferred to let the listener / reader draw his own conclusions and apply his own reality filter to the lyrics instead of explaining how they "should" interpret everything.

RoD: Sometimes a band finished the work on an album may decide that it would be better to change something. Do you feel the same about ‘We are the Void’?
Niklas: I don't really think in that way. No riff, song or recording is ever perfect, and by that token you probably could change almost everything afterwards. At the same time, I'm not very interested in perfection. Every album as a documentation of what we were about at the given time, and the result represents the work we put into it. There is stuff on every album that not every member is 100% into, but it's a natural result of the way we work.

RoD: Could you please comment on its title? It sounds rather categorical.
Niklas: Well, Mikael came up with the title and needless to say it alludes to emptiness and nothingness. Apart from that I can't really elaborate too much since I haven't delved into the lyrics yet.

RoD: And I guess the cover picture of the album is your work as usual. If it is what inspired you?
Niklas: I actually wasn't involved in the visuals this time. The deadline was very close to the album recording, and I didn't want to have to do a rush job out of the cover, so we commissioned someone else for the job. Also, we figured that it was time to try something new out; I've been doing more or less everything for the band the last 10-11 years, so it actually felt great for me not having to create yet another DARK TRANQUILLITY cover.

RoD: How important is the visual presentation of the material for you?
Niklas: It's important, especially in these times of downloading.

RoD: Is there any cover picture you are most proud of? Maybe created for DARK TRANQUILLITY or another band?
Niklas: Nah, I don't really view my album covers as my "children" or anything. When a project is finished, I usually forget about it and move on to the next one. If I should pick one project that really stood out, I'd say that the ARCH ENEMY ‘Rise of the tyrant’ adventure was the more creatively rewarding thing I've worked on so far.

RoD: And about the videos of the band. Do you prefer videos with a plot or live shots?
Niklas: It's rare to see a good story oriented music video, especially within metal or any other genre where the budget is limited. People get their girlfriends to "act" and the storyline is often disjointed or overstated. It differs from case to case - a live based video can be boring as hell and it can be really creative or interesting. We've had some bad luck with videos in the past, but the upcoming one for ‘Shadow in Our Blood’ feels very promising.

RoD: Last year DARK TRANQUILLITY celebrated their 20th anniversary. So how can you describe the way the formation has come during the years of its existence? Do you want to go back in time to change anything?
Niklas: No, not really. As mentioned before, the past is the past. Nothing is ever perfect, and there probably are a million things that could have been done differently depending on the desired result, but thinking that was isn't very productive.

RoD: And if you can change one thing about yourself, what will it be?
Niklas: Sorry, but I usually don't do these "getting under the skin" questions. Not to be arrogant or anything, but my viewpoint is that the music is the only thing that should matter to people in an interview context. There are lots of musicians that are happy to share everything about themselves with the world, but we're pretty private in that aspect and keep personal things to real life friends. So I hope you don't mind skipping those questions.

RoD: Sure! Let’s go on with this: Which concert of the band do you find the best and the worst?
Niklas: There's usually something good about every show, but we've had a few real disasters where technical problems have ruined everything. Our first ever show in Greece was a complete tragedy, and the debut US one was also pretty lousy. As for the best shows, I'd say that the Milan one captured on the DVD really did a good job in capturing the essence of what we've been doing for 20 years, but of course the fact that it was recorded also plays a part.

RoD: Which DARK TRANQUILLITY's song are you proud most of all?
Niklas: ‘Inside the Particle Storm’ and ‘Arkhangelsk’ from the new album. I must stress that this doesn't automatically mean that they're the best DARK TRANQUILLITY songs, but since I wrote them all by myself they're the ones that first come up when talking about taking pride in the creative process.

RoD: What do you think about modern Sweden metal scene?
Niklas: I don't have much of an opinion. The scene is pretty healthy in that there are a lot of bands and a lot of shows, but I'm a selective listener and there are only a handful of bands that I think are doing something of true value. We have tons of skilled musicians but very few visionaries.

RoD: And what about your music taste? Do you prefer to listen to death metal or any other genres?
Niklas: I can appreciate everything with quality, be it classical music or Electronica or pop or Grindcore. Different music can be good in different situations.

RoD: What was the last album you've bought? Or maybe you remember the very first one?
Niklas: The first every album I bought with my own money was the ‘Judas’ EP with HELLOWEEN back in the day. The last one was the album ‘Ett brus’ by the Swedish musician PELLE OSSLER.

RoD: How can you describe an ideal fan of DARK TRANQUILLITY?
Niklas: There is no such thing to me. People can listen to whatever music they like, and it'd be very elitist and weird to try to define our dream fan.

RoD: What are you plans for the future, as a musician and an artist?
Niklas: US tour in two weeks and then probably a lot of other tours and festivals in 2010. I'm taking a break from the design activities to focus on personal projects, so hopefully I'll find the time to do something productive with that.

RoD: And finally, tell please a few words to our readers.
Niklas: Thanks for reading & feel free to check the new album out.


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