In Flames 2004

Another find from the archives is Dan's interview with Peter Iwers.

5/27/200415 min read

Conducted 5/26/2004 by Dan Barkasi

Myself and my friend Carl recently had the honor of sitting down and talking to In Flames’ bassist Peter Iwers when the band played in Cleveland at the Agora Theater on their recent co-headlining tour with Killswitch Engage. We discussed a variety of topics, including the band's future touring plans, practical joking, and even Family Guy! It was an excellent interview, and was a huge one for me, considering In Flames is one of my all-time favorite bands, and really, one of the reasons I’m so much into metal today.

Dan: I’ve seen that Soundtrack To Your Escape has done really well on the Swedish charts, coming in at #1 for Metal, which is cool. How has the album done so far in the states?

Peter: It’s been doing very well. I heard that it’s the best selling act for the first couple weeks of any Nuclear Blast or Century Media band. That’s what I heard. I haven’t gotten any exact figures, but it seems to be doing very well.

Dan: That’s good!

Peter: Yeah, it’s nice!

Dan: How has the tour with Killswitch treated you so far?

Peter: Great, great! It’s fun to do a co-headline thing with those guys each and every night. Well, every other night. Everything’s working out very well. Great band, great guys, and we both seem to gain a little bit. Their crowds seem to be enjoying our music, and the opposite. It’s perfect!

Dan: Awesome!

Dan: I’ve noticed that Soundtrack has a bit of a more heavier sound than Reroute. Did you guys write it out to be like that, or did it kind of come out that way?

Peter: It came out that way. Doing all the interviews, it made me think a little bit that maybe we were pissed off about stuff sometimes, but we never had the intention that we were going to write the heavier album. It’s just the way it came out. How we felt at the time being, basically. We never think in any specific direction other than that we want to evolve ourselves, between each record. But, it’s always the same recipe, and whatever comes out, comes out.

Dan: How do you guys come up with a setlist for a tour?

Peter: We fight a lot! laughs It’s really hard. The European tour was hard, and then we played like 22 songs, I think. That was really hard. And now, we had to cut it down, because there’s only 1 hour per band. We try to, ya know, change some songs here and there, take one out, get a new one in, or an old one in, or something. Just try to see so we can feature something from each record, basically. But, it is very hard. It’s not going to be easier.

Dan: I can imagine, since your catalogue is so big.

Peter: Yeah! We’re going to have to do a long, long set next time, I think.

Dan: For the last two albums, the usage of clean vocals has really gone up. I view this as adding a new dimension. How did you guys decide to go in that direction?

Peter: It’s just very natural. Anders uses his voice as an instrument. Or, it is his instrument, and he wants evolve, also. To also try new stuff, and whatever comes out. Like I said, we never write one song and think that, “this is going be perfect for clean vocals” or for whatever. We do the music, and he mainly does his stuff by very end. Some stuff in the studio, where it fits, and I guess the places it fits, he wants to try out the clean vocals, and mix it up with the rest of the stuff. Of course it’s intentional, but it’s never written to be that way. It just comes out.

Dan: Like a natural flow…

Peter: Yes, definitely!

Dan: You guys have toured all over the place. You’re like the iron men of touring. What’s the favorite place you’ve ever played?

Peter: I don’t know. It all depends. I mean, if we have been in the US for a long, long time, I miss playing in Europe. Of course, it happens the other way around. I mean, I love to play. There are a lot of wonderful places to play. Most places I really enjoy. There are some places where I don’t enjoy playing, but that’s mainly because of if you play in the middle of nowhere, and you can’t walk 3 meters because you might get killed, and dangerous places, and stuff like that. It’s hard to choose one favorite place. I love playing in Canada. But, I love a lot of places in the US, too, and Sweden of course.

Dan: If you could tour with any band in history, who would it be?

Peter: Hmm. Iron Maiden is always a choice, of course. We did the Slayer tour, which was a dream. Well, lets say Iron Maiden. I guess it’s a pretty obvious answer.

Dan: It’s a good choice!

Peter: Yeah! I always loved them. I grew up with them and Slayer.

Dan: Writing a song is definitely a pretty involved process. Do you guys have any specific way you go about it?

Peter: The latest couple of records, we’ve done it like this. Jesper and Björn, they sit at home with their guitars and come up with a bunch of riffs. Sometimes a little bit more structured in a song, and sometimes it’s just guitar riffs. Then we all go somewhere. We’ve traveled outside of Gothenburg with the latest couple of records to get away from all possible interruptions. They show us all these riffs, and we basically just jam the songs out. And Anders is writing his lyrics. I guess at the same time some of it, coming up with his stuff. But, first we focus on the music, and the vocals always come later. They do the riffing, but all the arrangements is a group effort.

Dan: What are your plans after this tour is done?

Peter: We’re going to go back to Europe and start the summer festivals. We have Rock am Ring and Rock im Park directly after this tour, and then we have like every 5 days, or something. So we have the whole summer. Then we have Japan and Australia in September. Then we don’t know, exactly. We gotta come back here, probably early next year. But, that’s not necessarily in the planning.

Dan: Touring and working in the studio are obviously a very different process. Which one do you prefer?

Peter: Touring, definitely. It’s nice to be part of creating the songs and the record, but sometimes it’s very hard to see the whole mess of it, you know what I mean? It can be fun being in the studio, but it also can be very boring. But, I really like playing live. We all do. That’s why we do all this, because we get the reward from the audience each night and get the kick and the energy from them, which is why go out all the time. Then we take that energy when we get back in and we write new music. It’s a full circle!

Dan: That sounds like a good way to do it.

Peter: Yeah, it’s very perfect for us! Definitely. We work hard, but we can’t do the same thing all the time. It would be boring!

Dan: You guys have done a lot of promo videos lately. Most recently, "The Quiet Place," which is quite cool by the way. Do you guys enjoy making those, and how did the filming for "The Quiet Place" go?

Peter: Oh yeah. It depends on how you do it. I mean, taking pictures and just shooting videos can be one of the most boring things ever. Because, there’s the actual time that you spend in front of the camera, that’s fun. But the waiting is so boring. For "The Quiet Place," we used a friend of ours, a director called Patric Ullaeus, and he worked very compromised, or compressed time schedules. We went in, and we did like 4 hours of shooting, then we went home and he worked on it. There wasn’t a lot of waiting, so that was very, very smooth and very easy. It was easy to work with. I mean, it’s fun, but it sometimes feels like a necessary evil, but it’s very important to have videos out there for people who don’t know In Flames. It’s a doorway into our music, which is why you do it.

Dan: Exactly. It’s a good promotional tool. Like, I’ve seen a lot of your videos on Headbanger’s Ball.

Peter: Yeah! I mean, it’s great that it gets there, because at least then people will know about us. And if they don’t like us, then fine, ya know? Being on a small, kind of independent label, it makes it harder to get out to everybody. So, this is a perfect way.

Dan: You guys also have been getting some songs on some soundtracks recently. "The Quiet Place" being on the Alone In The Dark, for one. Do you guys have any other plans for songs on any other soundtracks?

Peter: Well, it’s not that we sit and choose soundtracks. They basically come to our record company and ask for their permission to get our songs on the soundtrack. We’re always open for suggestions. But, it’s nothing we write the songs for.

Dan: Releasing DVD’s has become a pretty big trend. Do you guys plan on releasing one in the near future?

Peter: Yes, we do. We have been talking about it for several years, but it seems like every band puts out 1 or 2, or 3, or 4 DVD’s. We don’t want to do just another DVD. We want to do something very special. So, we’re taping each night. Every show, and we’re taping a lot of backstage material, and we’re going to keep on doing this throughout the whole summer, and the rest of the year, and hopefully put something together that we can have out early next year, taking a guess. But, it’s going to be something different.

Dan: That’s good, because it seems like sometimes it gets a little overcrowded.

Peter: Yeah, I think so too. It’s not fun anymore. “They did a DVD, so what?” I don’t care. I want people to think that our DVD is going to be special.

Dan: I personally have also seen a lot of bootlegs of In Flames shows floating around the Internet, and stuff like that. What’s you guy’s stance of those being spread around?

Peter: I don’t really care, for me personally, so much about it. I don’t enjoy it when people make money on something that…I mean, if it’s free.

Dan: Yes, if they’re making money, that’s just wrong. But if they’re only downloading it for themselves…

Peter: Yeah, I don’t really mind. I don’t really think about it. If I really start thinking about it, then maybe I will. If we’re about to put out the live video, then of course it wouldn’t be as fun if there’s already 20 out there. I don’t really pay much attention to it. When it comes to downloading music, that’s another side. It can be a good thing when you want to discover a new band or something, you just download and, “oh, this is good,” and you buy the record. That’s what I do sometimes, because I really like to enjoy having a cover, a booklet, read the lyrics, and stuff. I did that when I was a kid. I always went to the record store and bought like the latest Iron Maiden. Then I’d travel home on the bus, and studied the cover, and then put on the headphones and listen to it. I think it’s a unique experience, and you miss out on that if you just the download music.

Dan: Yeah, it takes the whole intimacy out of it.

Peter: Yeah! I think, definitely.

Dan: What’s your favorite In Flames song ever?

Peter: Oh man, I don’t know. I’ve been asked that so many times, that it’s very hard, because I’m right in the middle of it. Maybe if we ever quit, and 10 years after that, I can listen to the records and see that this record was better, or this record is my personal favorite. Right now, the song that I enjoy playing most live is "My Sweet Shadow," but that might change.

Dan: What are some of your biggest musical influences?

Peter: Hmm. A lot. Maiden, Slayer, Rush, KISS, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Testament, Anthrax, Megadeth, all this bay area stuff. I like a lot of pop music. Like Toto, and stuff like that. I also like older stuff. A lot of Jazz, stuff like that. Basically, anything that’s good. I listen to everything.

Dan: What do you think your biggest musical accomplishment has been thus far in your career?

Peter: I’m proud of everything we’ve done, actually. I think that we wouldn’t have been able to do this record if we wouldn’t have been for Reroute, and for Reroute we’d have to go down to Colony or Clayman or something like that. First time where I was on a CD. That was probably the proudest moment of that time. I don’t know. That’s a very hard question. It depends.

Dan: How do you keep yourself occupied while you’re touring?

Daniel Svensson holds up X-box controller

Peter: laughs Race car games, X-box. Watching movies. If it’s a nice area, we try to walk around and just get some food elsewhere just to get away. Sleep late.

Dan: Not much to walk around over here.

Peter: No! laughs That’s why we’re sitting here all day. Every day, I make it my ambition to sort of try and get away and clear my mind. If I go alone, or me and Daniel, or anybody, ya know? We just go somewhere to relax and forget that you’re on tour. It’s very important. Also, to see stuff. It’s nice. Sometimes I just sleep all day!

Dan: Does Soundtrack To Your Escape have a particular lyrical theme?

Peter: Well, no. I know that Anders doesn’t either. But, he writes all the lyrics, and I won’t comment on them because I don’t really know what they’re about. But, I know that he doesn’t usually do it either, because he wants people to read them and try to put themselves in perspective in the songs, so I guess he has somewhat of a theme, but that’s more feelings.

Dan: Do you have a favorite movie or TV show?

Peter: I have many. I’m a big Star Wars fan, of course. I like the new Family Guy.

Dan: Oh, I love that show!

Peter: Oh, it’s so funny! The Simpson’s, of course.

Dan: Who’s your favorite character on Family Guy?

Peter: The baby! laughs Is that Stewie?

Dan: Oh yeah, the evil baby laughs

Peter: laughs He’s really cool!

Dan: Do you guys pull any kind of practical jokes on each other?

Peter: Yeah, of course! Yeah! We have this rule in the bus, that if you pass out and your curtain’s up, anything goes!

laughter all around

Peter: You can start your imagination there!

Dan: I’m not gonna ask!

Dan: If you weren’t a successful musician, what do you think you’d be doing right now?

Peter: I would always be playing music, but the last job I had, I worked with a lot of kids. Youth kids, that have a lot of problems. I try to get them away from shit. That’s probably what I’ll do when this is over, also. I like doing that, but I had to quit because I didn’t have enough time at home. It wasn’t fair to them. Something like that. I like working with people.

Dan: This is the 2nd time you guys have used Daniel Bergstrand for production. Do you guys plan on using him again?

Peter: We don’t know at this point, actually. We haven’t began to start talking about it. But, there’s always the possibility. There’s always interesting to try somebody new, also. Now we’ve had him for 2 records, maybe we’ll choose somebody else. Maybe we won’t. We’ll see. It’s nothing that’s ruled out.

Dan: What motivated you guys to renovate a house in Denmark and turn it into a studio for recording?

Peter: We wanted to have something that was a bit challenging. The last record, we took the first step and we took it outside of Gothenburg. But, this time we wanted to do something where it was very relaxed, because when you enter a studio, it’s like the clock is ticking all the time. So, we wanted to bring the studio with us so we could work all day, or just a couple of hours, to start whenever. And, we also wanted to have a very family oriented atmosphere. Everybody had a room. We had a kitchen, we had a chef there, and it was just a very controlled environment, and it was interesting for us to build it from scratch, and then try to mic the guitar amps in a different way, for instance, singing. It was really challenging, and when we were finished, we were really proud of it.

Dan: What kind of music have you been listening to lately? Anything, like new bands that you’re really into?

Peter: I like Coheed & Cambria, I think that’s good. It’s usually Anders introduces us all to a lot of new music, because I’m not the guy who goes out and buys the CDs. He had Demon, something. I don’t know, it was very, very good. And I saw the greatest DVD I’ve ever seen, the Blue Man Group. Have you seen it?

Dan: I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never seen it.

Peter: You should see that, it’s the coolest. It’s more of the lights, ya know? Not so much about the music.

Dan: I’ve seen some performances on TV, and they’re pretty unique.

Peter: Yeah, they’re pretty cool.

Dan: Where do you see the band in the next couple years?

Peter: I hope that we’ll keep on doing what we do now. Because we’re having so much fun, and it would be a shame if we stopped it. But, at the moment when we stop having fun, we will stop doing it, of course. But I think definitely, we will continue doing this as long as we enjoy it.

Dan: What do you think of the current metal scene these days?

Peter: I think it’s good, but I don’t like the labeling of it. I don’t like the new wave of American heavy metal for some bands, because of two reasons. First, it started with new wave of British heavy metal, that was 15, 20 years ago. And, this American new wave thing is a lot taking influence from the Scandinavian metal, but it doesn’t sound the same because it’s mixed with the Hardcore thing or whatever. So, I think first, it does injustice if you listen to…like, I like Chimaira, I like Killswitch Engage, but there are other bands also that doesn’t sound like them, like Shadows Fall, but they all go under the same label, which kind of…if somebody likes that band, but not this band. Or the opposite, if they don’t like this, they won’t give the other band a chance. That’s what I don’t like. But, I think there are a lot of good bands coming up, and it’s nice that they’re influenced from Scandinavian metal, and at the same time bands like us get the influence from bands like that too, like Hatebreed and everything, and I think it’s cool. It’s a give and take relationship.

Dan: Do you notice any kind of difference between metal in the United States and metal in Europe?

Peter: It’s a lot less Hardcore in Europe, definitely. But, I guess it’s getting bigger also. You can listen to a band, and you can hear it, in an American band. I can usually tell. Sometimes you can be wrong, which is cool, but I like to think that I enjoy music, and there are good bands and bad bands. Some good artists from America, Saudi Arabia, or Sweden…I don’t care.

Dan: At our website, we run a pretty popular In Flames discussion forum, and we did a thing where we said that a couple forum users would get to ask a question to the band. So, we have two people who got their questions picked.

Lazarus asked: What was the thought process over the change in style that In Flames have undergone in the last couple albums, and is that a current trend, or is it stylistically going to keep evolving as it is now, or go in another direction?

Peter: First off, we never thought about it. A lot of people thought about it that we changed our sound, but we never did, ya know? It’s just something…we changed studios, we change producers, and that obviously had some input on the way the record sounds. But as far we’re concerned, we write the same way we always did. We just, we get the influences by more and more bands the further we go, and we never close our eyes or our ears. So, I guess, I don’t know. We’re just going to keep on writing music to whatever we feel like, and it’s very important that get into that we don’t write music because we’re going to sell more records or whatever people say. We just write for us 5 members, and when we like it, everybody else…if they don’t like it, then fuck it, ya know?

Dan: I’ve noticed that every album has a bit of a different sound, but you always can tell that it’s In Flames.

Peter: Yeah, it’s like we have this recipe and each time, we try to add more ingredients. That basically sums it up.

Dan: And, the other question was from Seventi. He asked, is it tough to handle the constant touring, since you for example have a family. A wife, children. Is it tough?

Peter: Yeah, sometimes. It depends on how long I am away. It depends on how smooth things work at home. But, we are fortunate enough to be at the level where we can fly them out. I flew them out, actually, to Houston. They were here for a week, and that made it a lot easier for them. Especially for the little one to understand where daddy is, and as long as that’s possible, I guess it’s easier. But, when they were younger, it was really hard, definitely, because they had no idea where I was. That made it hard.

Dan: Yeah, it would be a bit confusing for them.

Peter: Yeah! But, it’s my life and the way I chose it, and they’re a big part of it out there. The biggest part of it, of course. We try to work it out as well as we can!

Dan: Thanks, Peter!

Peter: You’re very welcome!

Note: I’d like to personally thank Peter Iwers for taking the time to sit down and talk with me. I’d also like to thank Hannah Raymond from Nuclear Blast for setting this up, along with In Flames’ tour manager Tom Kubik as well, and all the bands (In Flames, Killswitch Engage, and As I Lay Dying) for one hell of a memorable show. You all rock!