Interview With Niklas Sundin Of Dark Tranquillity0 By Rick Bakker
We recently spoke with Niklas Sundin, guitarist for Dark Tranquillity about the band’s history and their new album, Construct.
For over 20 years, Dark Tranquillity have been creating some of the best and most captivating music the melodic death metal genre has to offer. They have been a mainstay of the Gothenburg metal scene and have been able to stay very relevant and original in an ever changing metal genre while never straying far from the hard edged sound that spawned them. We recently spoke with Niklas Sundin, guitarist for Dark Tranquillity about the band’s history and their new album, Construct, their 10th studio album which released on May 28th through Century Media.
Metal Arcade: How did the writing process for Construct compare to previous albums? Did the band have any specific motivation or goals for the record?
Niklas Sundin: The biggest change was that the album was written in the studio instead of the rehearsal room. For all the previous albums, we’ve had the habit of gathering the whole band in the rehearsal space and trying different ideas and arrangements out, but this time we needed a new approach in order to feel motivated. The only goal was to make an album that would take us out of our comfort zone and allow us to experiment with new ideas.
Metal Arcade: What are your favorite tracks off of Construct? And which song did you have the most fun recording?
Niklas Sundin: Hard to say…things like that tend to change pretty often, and we still haven’t gotten enough distance from the recording to be able to fully enjoy the album as listeners as opposed to musicians. With the risk of sounding a bit jaded, there’s really nothing “fun” about studio work at all. It’s a very stressful environment with a lot of pressure and frustration, and we always push ourselves to the breaking point. It’s all worth it when things are finished, but the process is devastating to your mental health and ability to function as a normal human being. I absolutely can’t understand bands that claim to have a good time recording an album – how is that even possible?
Metal Arcade: After emerging in the early 90’s Swedish metal scene, Dark Tranquillity have maintained a high profile for 20 years despite the fact that many of your contemporary bands have fallen by the wayside or disbanded. What helps keep Dark Tranquility going strong into this next chapter of your careers?
Niklas Sundin: One important factor is probably that we’ve known each other since the age of 2-3 years and grew up on the same street, so we have a very easy working relationship. No big egos, no drama queens. I also like to think that we formed the band for the right reasons. Success or mass appeal was never a priority.
Metal Arcade: What are your opinions on other current releases by fellow Swedish metal bands Soilwork and In Flames?
Niklas Sundin: They’re very solid. Both bands have found the essence of what they’re doing and have managed to come up with their best albums in several years.
Metal Arcade: What bands inspired you as you were growing up? When Dark Tranquillity started out, were there any other bands from the Gothenburg metal scene that helped inspire and motivate the band in the early days?
Niklas Sundin: There wasn’t much of a scene at all back then – the underground death metal movement consisted of 20-30 guys and a handful of bands. Credit must be given to Grotesque, who I still hold as one of Sweden’s very best bands ever, and there were a couple of local thrash bands such as Intoxicate, Valcyrie and Pagandom that were a big inspiration. Not so much in terms of the actual music, but more by just being local bands that showed us that it’d be possible to start playing ourselves.
Metal Arcade: What challenges have you had to face as a band over the past decade? Were these circumstances you envisioned having to deal with when Dark Tranquillity first broke out on the international metal scene?
Niklas Sundin: Compared to a lot of other artists, we’ve had a relatively smooth ride. Any touring band will eventually run into problems, and of course we’ve been ripped off, had equipment stolen, band members rushed to the hospital and a lot of other things, but that’s probably true for most bands that have been around for a while. If one expects stability, the music world is definitely not the right place, haha!
Metal Arcade: How do you feel about online streaming music services like Spotify? Do you think these innovations can successfully battle online music piracy?
Niklas Sundin: It’s such a complicated issue that giving a good reply would go way beyond the scope of a regular interview. I do believe that streaming music is here to stay, and it’s shown that traditional piracy like P2P sharing is dying out in the territories where Spotify is gaining ground, but at the same time the big issue is the fact that recorded music has lost most of its perceived value in the eyes of regular listeners and that very few people will pay for an album in the future. This has way bigger implications for bands like us than what people tend to think, since the income from CD sales has been crucial in allowing us to tour as much as we’ve done in the past. However, no-one really knows what the situation will look like in 2-3 years, and we’d rather focus on all the positive things about being musicians.
Metal Arcade: Are there any other album releases this year that you have really enjoyed? Are there any up and coming metal bands that have grabbed your attention?
Niklas Sundin: Not really…there’s a lot of great artists out there, but after a studio recording it takes a while before I can enjoy music as a listener again. I’ve listened to the new Cult of Luna, which is really good, but apart from that I’m taking a break from music listening.
Metal Arcade: What’s next for Dark Tranquillity and what are your future goals for the band?
Niklas Sundin: The festival season has started, and we’re very excited about the upcoming shows in Dubai and India. Apart from that, our booking agent is hard at work finalizing the details for the upcoming tours in North America and Europe, so there are busy times ahead!
You can buy Dark Tranquillity’s latest album Construct on Amazon here.