Dark Tranquillity released their first album in four years, Moment, on November 20th via Century Media Records (order here). The follow-up to 2016’s Atoma is a first with guitarists Chris Amott (ex- Arch Enemy) and Johan Reinholdz and showcases a different creative approach from the band’s previous efforts. We caught up with frontman Mikael Stanne to discuss the record, what the pandemic has been like in Sweden, and more.
First of all, I wanted to say thank you for releasing Moment in 2020. You guys probably saved this year with the new record.
That’s okay, wow. That’s good. Thank you.
It’s an amazing record and it has given us some sort of hope for this year.
Well yeah and it has given me something to do.
Were there any setbacks or challenges that you faced releasing an album during a pandemic?
Of course, like the most important, I think is the fact that we want to go out there and promote it and play it. Play these new songs, meet an audience with new material, but that’s not going to happen. So of course, we faced some difficulty because like Chris lived in America when we were supposed to start the album, but fortunately he came over here a little bit earlier, but he couldn’t go home, which was weird. So there were some hurdles, but more like Sweden is different, the fact that there’s no real lockdown, you don’t quarantine, you cannot shelter in place here. Everybody’s just kind of going on with their lives anyway. So it was easy in that respect that our studio is a 15 minute walk from my house. And so for four, five, six months, I was either at home in my home studio working on material or in our studio together with the other guys writing.
We kind of decided that, all right, let’s not meet anyone else. Let’s not go out. Let’s just take it easy, focus on this. So, that actually turned out to be a good thing. So in terms of hurdles, say, it’s the shows obviously and the whole insecurity, not knowing what’s going to happen, not knowing when it’s going to happen, but like the record industry is still going strong. People are still buying records. We can still release everything and send it out and all that stuff.
So it could have been worse in terms of writing, but I think creatively, this has been one of the best years so far because what else are you going to do? You might as well write and kind of spend as much time as … all the time that you have on doing something that you love. Otherwise, there is … any other year where you would have 200 other things going on, preparations and travel plans, all that stuff. Then it shows you how to deal with it now, it’s just about recording and writing and I’ve found that really kind of liberating and creatively fulfilling in many, many ways. So, for me it’s been weird and also like viewing it from Sweden and from our little studio, peeking out to the world has been like giving us a unique perspective that kind of fueled creativity as well. So yeah, it’s weird, but we managed to do it and I think it came out better because of it actually.
The first listen of the album, it just blew me away. I think I listened to it at least like 15 times already. It’s really good but I do have to say, in a way, it’s kind of like a 180 from Atoma, and there’s a darker and heavier energy with Moment. How would you compare the two albums?
I think like initially when songs were written and this was early last year, like January or February of last year when we started digging through some of the stuff most of it felt like a continuation of Atoma and it was very strong and it was really melodic and it was awesome. And then we started working on that and after a while we decided to pull in Chris and Johan to see what they could add to it, to these songs that we were working on. And I think that’s when things changed, not just because of them, but also because of now we have two new players in the band. We have a way of working that I felt was more open to experimentation and do new things. So the framework might’ve been very similar to tell them about the way we worked on it, the way we viewed it and the starting points of what we wanted to do was very, very different. So I think it’s like for me, I feel it more as a refinement of … rather than like a 180, but it certainly feels different, but there were a lot of things that feel familiar, at least to me.
How has the new lineup affected the creative process?
It definitely inspired us more and also like Johan really dug into the writing as well. He wrote some of the songs and tried to have new guys come in and understand the way that we have been writing songs for 30 years. Now that was a bit of a challenge, even though Johan and Chris, and that we know we’ve known each other personally for a long time, it’s still like letting someone in really close to the process is weird because we’ve been doing it in a certain way for such a long time. Then all of a sudden, having someone else there to kind of try to figure out how to do it together. It was a lot of fun at first where we didn’t really know what direction to go, but after a while we found what we wanted and what felt right. I think more than anything, Martin Brandstrom who produced this, realized that he needs to be there and focused and make sure that every single note is under his direct supervision. Otherwise, we’re going to lose it, because there were so many loose parts and so many ideas and so many strong wills, leading in all different directions. So having someone there to really pull everything together was really important and I think it turned out to be a stronger album, just because a strong vision that I think more than that to change some of the songs, I just wrote some, some of the stuff that you’ll want to write to, into something that is very cohesive and fits the criteria.
Can you talk about the song “Identical to None?”
That’s one of the earlier songs and is a really good example of this kind of back and forth that we were doing early on, where we had a song that Anders wrote, me and Martin and Anders worked on it and tried to figure out what we wanted with it. And I recorded some Scotland, scratch vocals, send it to Joe and then said, go nuts. And what came back was a totally different track. And we were like, Oh, wow. Okay, cool. You know this is interesting, but this doesn’t sound like the song anymore. So how do we change that, work on that, and then we send it back and then he changed it again. And then it was back and forth. Four, five, six times. Eventually we ended up with something that we both felt good about. Like, this is where we are going. So, that was one of the early learning experiences that we had on this album. And eventually things became way smoother than that, but that was an eye opening thing where you’re like, all right, this is how things are going to work. This is how someone else views our material. And it’s missing, like you’re such a great musician and it has to do really unique takes on things. And, and that really helped, kind of open up to some new things on this album overall.
It’s a really good album. And now I would say, it did surprise me seeing the announcement for a North American tour during this whole uncertainty right now. I wanted to ask, how did you put this tour together? Are you guys prepared for any last minute changes due to the pandemic?
Yeah, of course. Now it seems it’s not going to happen, then we’re going to try to reschedule it, but hopefully around the second time and the same kind of shows, but we’ll see. But we have shows in December. I don’t think that they’re going to happen. We have shows in February and March and April. Yeah. And I’m very much kind of okay with nothing happening. I’m not okay with it, but I’m at peace with the fact that maybe we won’t be playing until after next summer or whatever it may be. But we keep planning anyway. It’s good to have something to look forward to. And also of course, we need to be there when it opens when it’s okay. Otherwise, we’re going to be left behind because everybody wants to go out and tour. Right? So we might as well book it.
Everybody’s planning for a tour right now.
So it’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be like a catch a bottle effect as like … fuck, everybody’s going to be on the road. It’s going to be nuts. We might as well, at least have book up some venues and have a tour planned. And if it doesn’t happen, we’ll reschedule. But I really don’t know. And we talked about it with our tour manager, about a European tour that we are hopefully going to do in April. And if it’s going to happen, if the rules change so that at least maybe we can be like 500 people or a 1000 people, or whatever, we still can’t go out and meet people, you and you still can’t go out and hang out the way you normally do. So it’s going to be a very, very different kind of touring situation.
And I don’t know if we’re ready for that, or if we want to do that, like part of the enjoyment, part of what you really love about playing and being on a stage and being with a crowd is that intimacy, and being close to people and screaming at them. And I know exactly what kind of super spreader I would be if I were ever in fact that I’m there in the front of the stage screaming my lungs out and I can see how many people I spread, like in real time. So it’s going to have to wait for sure.
Sweden is like the only country that didn’t have the full lockdown. How have things been for you from March to where things are now?
It’s crazy. And I kind of feel weird about it because it hasn’t been on lockdown. Sure. Venues, movie theaters, all that stuff. Like everything that, where the crowd is, it’s shut down, but restaurants and bars and stores, everything is open and nobody’s staying at home. Well, people in risk groups obviously are … nobody’s wearing any masks here. And so it’s kind of strange, but it seems like we had a strategy and everybody’s really, really sticking to it. And I think that’s the reason why it’s, I don’t know if it’s successful, but at least like it’s working the way that the government kind of planned it. And because we’re kind of used to it, and it wasn’t any politicians that told us to do anything. It was just like the epidemiologist. So the Prime Minister of Sweden would say, “I’m going to leave this to the professionals”.
And he did. And so everybody listens to the experts and so everybody takes it to greasy. Like, there’s a lot of distancing going on everywhere. There’s a lot of respect among people. And you never want to go close to anyone. And a lot of people are staying home. Some are going out. So obviously, like a lot of businesses are suffering, but they can still be open. And I think that’s the key. I’m at home, most of the time, I know that I can go out and that, so it doesn’t have that crippling effect of knowing that you just cannot do anything and you’re kind of forbidden to do anything. And I think at least for me, like a big difference. Maybe, I don’t go out for two weeks, but I know I can and my favorite bars are open, my restaurants are open and I can go wherever I want and I can travel at least by car.
So it’s weird, but of course, people are still stupid and there are big gatherings here and there, and there are parties and there are, spreading of like events where disease spreads. But so far, I don’t know it like seems to be going in the right direction, but it’s a slow thing and maybe it’s going to flare up again in this, but it’s weird, but personally I’m really happy with the way that we decided to handle it here, because it seems to be working, but a lot of people of course lost their jobs and all that stuff, but it’s still, the whole overall vibe is pretty mellow. I would say.
Is there anything else that you just wanted to say or add about the new album?
We worked longer and harder on this album than we have ever for any other album, which is crazy. But it’s just because we could. We were supposed to release this album before the summer actually originally, but since this hit, we realized, maybe we don’t have to, because there won’t be any festivals anyway. So we might as well keep working and make the most out of the time that we have. And now it’s November 20th instead. And I think that’s great. And I’m really kind of in a way, thankful for that extra time, because that afforded us the luxury to really, really, really fit in this, the way that we wanted it.
Yeah. As I said, it’s a really good album. You guys pretty much saved 2020 with this new piece of work. Thank you.
Yeah. And it will cure all your ailments and stuff like that. Just listen to it and you’ll be fine.