Interview with Peter Iwers (In Flames)

In Flames are releasing a new album, Soundtrack to Your Escape, very soon, and of course Metal Express is there to tell you. Here’s what bassist Peter Iwers told Torgeir Krokfjord.

I’m tired, he starts. I’m actually really tired. We’re doing interviews all day now, so I’ve been sleeping like nine hours in four days now. But what the hell, that doesn’t matter (laughs again).

At least your view isn’t bad (having noticed that a group of top-of-the-line 18 year old girlies had sat down right behind me, waving their G-string bottoms right into Peter’s face)?

No, I can’t complain about that (laughs even more).

You’ve got a new album out, “Soundtrack to your Escape?”

Yep, do you like it?

At this point, after only two listens, I didn’t actually like the album very much at all, and obviously that shone through my compulsory “yes”. Peter liked it though, and wanted to tell me just that.

I’m very satisfied with it, actually. Every time we make a new album we try to make it the best we’ve ever done, and top everything we’ve done before. We don’t like repeating ourselves and try to come up with new stuff every time.

Yeah, ‘cause you sound a bit more “modern” this time, don’t you? You started the renewing of your sound on “Reroute to Remain” and have drawn it even further now?

Yeah, to some extent. We always try to stay true to our roots and go on as we were, but still bringing in new ingredients all the way. If it’s modern or not isn’t really the matter, that’s up to others to decide. We don’t make music focusing on how it sounds style wise, we do it because we love music, basically.

It’s a pretty dark album, isn’t it?

Yeah, it maybe is, although it was not intended. It’s just how it ended up

Is it still Bjorn and Jesper who writes the music (my promo copy didn’t say anything about that)?

Yeah, they basically write all the music, and then the entire band helps arrange it, to make sure everyone’s been involved. That’s very important to us, making sure it’s a “band” product.

I see, because it looks to me that there’s much better “band” chemistry nowadays than during the first few albums?

Absolutely. After I and Daniel entered the band on a full-time basis everything’s just become better and better. We’re all agreed about what we want to do with our music, and how we want to do it. We agree on what we want to create, and we’re definitely a stronger unit now.

Do you still listen to your old albums?

No, we usually don’t. Of course, we may encounter older songs in TV- or radio shows or such, but we’re living with this band and the music to such an extent that we basically never listen to the old albums as such. Still, if we’re on the radio or so and someone plays us a tune from one of our previous albums we often go like “hey, that’s pretty darn good” (laughs).

What other music do you listen to, then?

Well, everything from Johnny Cash to Florida Death Metal, basically.

And to me that’s reflected pretty well in your music too?

Yeah, I agree on that. We try to incorporate everything we hear into our music and also to be very open to new bands and styles. It doesn’t matter whether something sounds like a Death Metal song or a pop song; it will always bear that little “In Flames” touch to it.

What about the lyrics, who writes them and what are they dealing with?

Well, Anders writes them, and I’m actually not completely sure myself what he writes about, cause he rarely tells. It’s his way of dealing with the troubles of everyday, basically. He wants people to interpret the lyrics themselves, actually, and he’s welcoming all to come up to him and talk to him about them.

So you’re not a political band so to speak?

No, we’re definitely not. Of course, everyone has times when they feel up or down and want to express it to others, but it’s not like we’re telling people to say or do in one way or another. It’s not like “vote for this or that” in any way.

I see. And now you’re onto the road?

Yeah. We’re starting some pretty intense rehearsal sessions now, to try to come up with a set list. It’s becoming harder and harder anytime, so we’re trying to rehearse some 30-40 songs to choose from every night. We’re beginning in Gothenburg and heading for Oslo the XXXX.

What about a live DVD, is that something you consider?

We won’t do a DVD because everyone else does one, and we have no concrete plans for that at this point. Still it would be very much fun releasing one in the future, and then trying to make it a bit special, backstage footage, live clips, funny stuff, and so on. Like with our music it should be something we’d be proud of and could stand up for, not just a DVD for the sake of it. Maybe you could look for something at the end of this year, we’ll see.

I’ve learned that you’re doing a lot of festivals this summer? Is that something you enjoy doing?

Yeah, we’re doing six festivals this summer, and it can be more. It would be great fun doing the Quart festival again (huge festival in Kristiansand, Norway) but we don’t know about that. I love doing festivals, it’s great fun. You come out and meet people and have a good time.

And party a little?

Yep (laughs)

Speaking of meeting people and bands, are there any new bands you’d like to recommend?

Yes it is. They’re not necessarily new bands, but the American bands Dark Camera and Hatebreed are bands I’ve been enjoying very much lately. Another band I’ve been listening to very much is Soilwork, I think they’re tremendous. Hypocrisy also is very good, there’s a lot of great stuff going on, really.

In general it seems to me like Metal is on it’s way back in the spotlight?

Yeah, I believe that too. Although the truly hardcore Metal fans have been listening to it all the time it looks like it’s become more “acceptable” among the general public to listen to Metal, that it’s become allowed to listen to heavier music again. You see Death Metal bands in the big newspapers, and in general things are made easier for the Metal fans nowadays, it’s easier to acquire music bands that are featured in media to a much bigger extent. It (Metal) was stamped as a bit of a subculture in the beginning of the 1990s, after the era with Poison and all that…

…not saying there’s anything wrong with Poison, of course?

(laughs) no, not at all, I love Poison, but still it went from being as big as the world to being considered more of a silly gimmick in very short time, making way for the grunge thing and all that. Still it looks like that period is finally over and that heavier music is coming back in an even broader perspective than before, which is great.

And how big are In Flames going to become, then?

We’re going to be the biggest band in the world, basically

You are?

Yeah (and he’s dead serious), through doing what we do in the very best way possible, and not giving a damn in what others say about us; doing the music that we love. It may sound a bit funny, but I think it shines through if you have the guts to be true to yourself and be honest in what you’re doing and not make music to follow trends or because people tell you to. We could never make music with a specific group of people in mind, everything we do is done to suit our tastes, and because of this honesty I think people will enjoy our music.

Still, for me songs like “The Quiet Place” and also others sound like they are created with at least a faint glimpse of commercial success in the back of your head?

Well, they weren’t intended so. We always try to come up with an album that sounds as one, not ten different bands contributing one track each, if you see. There are twelve tracks in there which together make the record complete, and I feel that just that song (“The Quiet Place”) sort of sums up the entire album in three minutes. While it wasn’t at all written to be a single we soon found out after listening to it that it was the song best suited to be the album’s first single, and we all agreed about choosing that song.

You’ve done some tribute albums earlier – Iron Maiden and Metallica, as far as I can remember – what other bands would you consider honoring?

Well, those recordings are very old – from the Metallica recording only Jesper is left in the band, I think – and if we were to do a new tribute thing I’d say that a band much more different from In Flames would be cool, Depeche Mode, Genesis or something. It’s much more fun doing a cover of something totally different than doing one of a band too similar to ourselves.

Spending that much time on the band, what do you spend time on outside the band?

Well, personally I don’t have any side projects, so I try to spend time on my family and friends, basically. Still you end up being very anti-social, at least I do, because it’s almost like you’re in the “twilight zone” and lose contact with the real world, in a way, being away this much. I also compose music for myself at home and maybe someday something will come out of that, but not right now.

Do you still practice much individually?

Well, that depends. When you’re out on tour you’re usually not very keen on sitting down with your bass or whatever, if I want to play then I’d rather grab an acoustic guitar and just strum something way different.

If you met a girl in a bar and she asked you what you do for a living, what would you answer?

A musician. That’s what we are.

So, you’re not a rock star yet?

No, not at all. I’m probably the least rock star-ish of us all, I think (laughs). Music is what I do for a living, and my profession is being a musician.

So do you consider playing music a profession, or is it still as much of a “fun” or hobby activity as it was in the early days?

Well, I can assure you that although it’s a lot of hard work it’s still as much fun as it ever was. The day when playing music isn’t fun anymore I’m outta here, no doubt about that. Still, it is how we earn our money, so it works as a profession so to speak, although it’s very different from a traditional job. Still, as you asked me before, if I were to say what my job was I’d say that it was being a musician. Traveling around the world being a kid, basically (laughs).

And you still get a kick out of having people screaming at you when you’re onstage?

Yeah, that’s what makes you go on. That experience is still as tremendous as it’s always been. Almost every time we go on tour we encounter days when we’re truly fed up with the whole idea of being in a band, but when we go out there and hear the crowds cheering everything’s OK again, really. You’re in the middle of nowhere, but there, right there, you understand why you’re doing this. I belong onstage, basically, that’s where I get to live out my complete self. If I were forced to choose between touring and recording in the studio I‘d choose the road, that’s what I love, and that’s the reason I’m into this thing at all.

If you could choose a band to tour with, which would you pick?

Maiden (answers very quickly…). My absolute favorite bands are Slayer and Iron Maiden, and last year we got to a tour with Slayer, which was completely awesome, and then there’s one band left.

Yeah. How was Slayer backstage, are they as crazy as they enjoy portraying themselves?

They were the loveliest guys you could ever imagine. Kerry King has to be the guy that looks “heaviest” in the entire world, but still he was the loveliest guy to hang out with. That’s the funny thing about touring with such bands too; I mean, I’ve been listening to Slayer since I was a kid, and then I realize that they’re just ordinary people like you and me, although they’re superstars and famous all over the world.

I’ve wondered, when you’re on tour and long gone from home, do you manage to maintain the friendships and relations back home – I mean, when you’re traveling around you meet lots of people, but seldom get to know them really well.

That’s an interesting question, actually. I travel around the world doing what I love, but still it’s very hard maintaining, as you say, the relations to people you leave behind. Although you meet lots of people everywhere still you end up quite isolated, as you never get to establish tight bonds to any of them. It’s like when you go off stage you end up standing alone in the corner. Also, when you come home, you’re naturally a bit tired of those five guys in the band, and you try to seek other folks to socialize with, but still there’s no one who can relate to what you’ve been doing and you end up with the band guys anyway. You’re true friends are always there, and then there’s those who drop in for free concert tickets from time to time.

Do they get the free tickets?

No (laughs).

When you play as many different places as you do, what do you enjoy the most, the big halls or the small clubs?

Well, that depends. It can be a tremendous kick to play a huge hall with thousands screaming at you, no it IS a tremendous kick – this was what you dreamt of as a kid, but still the experience of playing right next to the crowd, when you can feel the energy and sense the sweat in the air, that’s almost better. On festivals or in big stadiums the crowd becomes sort of abstract, in a way, you see something standing 10 meters in front of you, but on smaller stages it’s more like “this is business”, with your fans banging their head in your face, basically. I wouldn’t pick away any of them really.

Are there any songs from “Soundtrack…” that you especially look forward to doing live, then?

Well, as I mentioned we try to make as much of a complete album as possible, and when you’re in the middle of it like I am it’s very hard to pick favorites so to speak. Still there are songs I look especially much forward to playing live. “F(r)iend”, for example, the opener of the album, is a song I look very much forward to playing. I think there’s very much power in that one, and I look forward to putting that into motion.

Do you have the live format in the back of your head when you produce your album?

Yes, we do. We always try to write music from a live perspective, so to speak. At least after Daniel (Svensson, drums) and I entered the band it’s become so, earlier it may have been more guitar fills and additional layers which are not easy to reproduce live. For me that’s a bad thing, as the live version of the songs is very likely to end up not as good as on the record when you do them live. We have some synth and effects we have on tape live, but not very much more than that. Also we have a permanent sound technician who knows how we want it, and makes sure we sound equally good each time. I’ve never heard us live (laughs), but I hope we’re doing okay.

It’s your first interview with Metal Express, so we might just need some background info. How did you become a member of In Flames in the first place?

Well, I was a good friend of Anders and Jesper’s – Anders and I grew up together – and it was through them I got in contact with the band. I’d been fooling around with other projects some time when I heard that their bassist was about to quit, and when Anders asked me at a barbeque party if I wanted to join the band there was no doubt as to what to answer. I was as dedicated to the music as they were – that was what lacked with the former bassist – so it worked very well from the start.

So the band is just as much a group of friends than colleagues or fellow musicians?

Yes, I would even go as far as calling it a “brotherhood”. We’re great friends and we spend MUCH time together. Still, no relation this tight is always perfect and we do have our share of fights and arguments, but when things calm down again everything’s just fine. We have a very good dialogue one to another, and that’s very important, I think, to have the ability to speak about everything that comes up. Also, I think it’s very important to keep things as we do – to maintain the “friend” side of things if you want a band to keep together for some time, instead of having one “boss” who governs things and delegates responsibility to the other members. In Flames is not like that at all, and that’s a key to keeping things going, I think. There’s five bosses in this band, and that’s us.

There’s been lots of fuzz about the certain “Gothenburg sound”, and I’m sure you’re pretty fed up talking about it, but what’s your view on bands like Dark Tranquility and Arch Enemy today?

Well, I agree that some years ago you could maybe talk about a specific “Gothenburg sound”, but nowadays we’re far too different to try to compare one band to another. Still we’re good friends, and all bands consist of competent musicians creating very good music, but it’s no reason to compare us anymore.

How do you enjoy being at Nuclear Blast, then?

Well, we’re very satisfied with how things are. They (at NB) are music lovers, and really devote themselves to what they do and the bands they sign. We’re aiming at extending our contract, and are much more satisfied with this than signing for a major label which perhaps would seem very interested for the time being and then don’t give a shit in one or two years time. We’re getting along great with the folks at Nuclear Blast, and are very comfortable with our relationship.

Do you still consider the US a market you will focus on?

Yes, we do. The plan now is to do Europe five to six times a year, trying to include a lot of smaller, less obvious countries. Doing this we will have in mind that people must not get fed up with us through a form of overexposing, and we will do all we can to be able to surprise the crowd every time we go on stage. Then the US will be targeted after that, as we still consider it a marked worth putting some effort into.

Yeah, because I think I can hear some US influences here and there in “Soundtrack…” – some Limp Bizkit maybe?

Eeeh, no, really? (Gotcha!) Well, if so, that was not intended. There’s just as much Whitesnake (a Whitesnake-song is played at the stereo in the bar) as there is Limp Bizkit. I love music, basically, and listen to everything. It’s not like we hear a song and immediately think that “I’m going to copy this one”, but everything adds up to our style and sound.

Do you still hang out at the record store and check out new albums and new bands?

Well, not really. Of course, when Slayer releases a new album I buy it, but I’ve become really lame at checking out new bands. Anders is one of those guys who buy new albums all the time, whether someone has recommended it, he’s curious about it, or it has a nice cover painting. In a way I would like to be like that, but it’s just not how I am. I listen to everything that crosses my way, but seldom go out and buy new stuff.

So do the walls in the home of the Iwers family still shake when daddy wants to rock out?

He he, yes they do. Metal should be played loud, and whether I’m practicing or listening to music we’re talking serious volume (looks very macho while laughing out loud).

And what do your family think of both this and the life you’ve chosen?

Well, they’ve gotten used to it. Of course they have their afterthoughts from time to time, but then they have to realize that this is who I am, and this is what I want to do. I could never stop doing this just because someone else told me to. Then I wouldn’t be happy, and then they wouldn’t be either. They understand me, and accept that this is how I want to live my life.

Finally, where do you see In Flames head from here?

We carry on as we do now, and try to have as much fun as we do now. We hope to play much live, and reach out to as many people as possible. Have a good time, basically, through doing what we do how we want to do it.

And do you have some tips for a young band who wants to get rich and famous?

Yeah, I do. First of all you have to stop caring what others think, and do whatever you feel is right. It’s important to try to find your own thing, and when you do, hold on to that, even if some manager or record label come up to you and tell you to play like this or that. Playing like someone else tells you to will never work out in the long run, so it’s better to stand up to your principles even if it’ll cost you some. Then it’s very important to gig, gig, gig and gig, get out and play for the people!


  • Torgeir P. Krokfjord

    Torgeir was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. After hearing Malmsteen's "Vengeance" on a guitar mag CD at the age of 12 or 13, he began doing hopeless interpretations of Yngwie licks and it just took off from there. After shorter stints at other zines he was snatched to Metal Express Radio in 2003. Alongside Yngwie, Savatage, WASP, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Emperor, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, Motörhead, Manowar, and Queensrÿche are a quick list of musical faves. Torgeir is also guitarist in the Heavy/Prog/Thrash outfit Sarpedon.

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