Niklas Sundin is one of the founding members of DARK TRANQUILLITY; one of Sweden's biggest and most prominent extreme metal bands. The group has been at the forefront of the metal scene for 20+ years; with their unique and uncompromising blend of melodic death metal. Being one of the pioneers of the genre; DARK TRANQUILLITY are known for staying true to their music, never giving into trends or drastically changing their sound to appeal to a certain demographic. The band simply releases crushing record after crushing record!

Niklas is also a renowned graphics designer, and owns Cabin Fever Media which is responsible for some of the most vivid artwork I have seen. He's also the guitarist for extreme metal band LAETHORA, a much more chaotic and extreme sounding project.

I had the pleasure of asking Niklas about his work with Dark Tranquillity, and how it differs from his work with Laethora; if we'll get another stunning song like "Inside The Particle Storm" on future D.T. material. We also discuss the band's most recent record "We Are The Void," and the fans reaction to it, among many other topics.

Here's how it went:

Mohab: Thank you for doing this. What have you been up to lately?

Niklas: No problem! We've been pretty busy recently, first doing the 70 000 tons of metal cruise in Miami/Cozumel and then spending a week in India for the first time. Right now we're in the process of moving into a new rehearsal space.

Mohab: Being in Dark Tranquillity for 20+ years now. And having your side project Laethora; which is basically the insane bastard cousin of Dark Tranquillity, while also having a day job as a professional graphics designer. How do you manage to balance between all projects? Do you ever feel burned out or overwhelmed?

Niklas: Yes, sometimes - but at the same time I enjoy being busy. Laethora is very much a side thing that happens when everyone involved has some time, so it doesn't really require that much attention on a daily basis. We've only played two shows in six years and don't rehearse very often. And most musicians, even in bigger bands, do have regular day jobs as well, so I'm not sure that my situation is that extreme.

Mohab: On all previous D.T. albums, you guys would only use producers mainly for the "mixing" process of the record. Are you as a band comfortable working with outside help on the recording process? Do you guys tend to minimize any external contributions?

Niklas: We've always been very keen on taking care of ourselves, so to say. We're already six people with different opinions on a lot of things in the band, so having a seventh person getting involved in the arrangements or suggesting things left and right would probably just lead to total chaos. The term "producer" can mean so many different things to different people, but the traditional meaning is someone that is actively involved in writing and arranging the music and making the final decisions on the general sound and style. It'd definitely be an interesting experience to actually bring in an external producer to see what happens, and I'm not ruling it out for future projects, but at the same time there's a bit risk that it wouldn't work out at all. It's probably easier for bands that have one single songwriter, but everyone in D.T. is already deeply involved in making the music.

Mohab: For the first time, over the past 2 Dark Tranquillity albums, you fully wrote the stunning songs "Inside The Particle Storm" and " Iridium." Will we get to hear another song along the same lines on future material?

Niklas: Hopefully, ha ha! I have to add that parts of "Iridium" was written by the two Martins as well. We actually just started trying to write new material, so it's way too early to know that the next album will sound like. I enjoy writing those dramatic end-of-the-world songs, so if inspiration allows there definitely will be more of them in the future. At the same time, it's important for us to do something relatively different next time. It'd be a bit pointless if the next album also had that one "Niklas song", but maybe that vibe can be intergrated in a different way?

Mohab: Speaking of future material, and knowing that you guys have a ton of riffs prepared for every release. When might we get a new record from Dark Tranquillity?

Niklas: It's impossible to say. We usually take our time writing music, and it's not really possible to force the process either. So far there are no new songs finished since we've been occupied with touring and festival shows, but the plan is to really start working on the next album soon. It's probably realistic to expect a new release sometime in late 2012 or early 2013, but it's just speculation at this point.

Mohab: Last year saw the release of "We Are The Void," the latest offering from Dark Tranquillity. How has the reaction from fans and critics been towards the record? Looking back at the release now, are you content with the end result?

Niklas: Absolutely! From my own perspective, I got more of my material featured on "We are the void" than on any other D.T. album for the past 12 years, so it's definitely my fave record from our recent period. Songs like "The fatalist" and "Iridium" have turned out to be amazing in a live setting. The response was mainly very positive, though a bit different from country to country. In Sweden, for example, the reviews were better than ever. In some other countries, people concluded that it's a great album but a bit too similar to some of our previous releases. It's all very subjective. I've talked both to people who dislike the album for being too different as well as those who dislike it for not being different enough. It's impossible to please everybody, so the only thing that matters is that the band is satisfied.

Mohab: Bands like In Flames, Iron Maiden, Killswitch Engage, Sepultura, Machine Head and many more have performed at Dubai Desert Rock in the past. Dark Tranquillity recently announced shows in May, that would take place in cities like Istanbul, Turkey, and Athens, Greece. You also recently performed for the first time in India. Given the chance, would you guys be interested in performing in a middle eastern city like Dubai?

Niklas: Definitely! We've been wanting to play at the Desert rock festival ever since we heard of it, but the reality is that there are lots and lots of bands "competing" for the slots and there are many things (timing, budget, visa applications and whatnot) that need to fall into place before something can happen. We've actually had quite a lot of offers and negotiations from the Middle East the past few years, but unfortunately none of them became reality. We always love coming to new places and play, so hopefully there will be more of it in the future.

Mohab: Countries like the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Tunis, Lebanon and many others in the region, have been producing quality metal records, that has been receiving rave reviews from internationally renowned magazines such as Metal Hammer, Rock Hard and many others. Have you heard of any bands from the region. (Apart from Orphaned Land and Salem)

Niklas: I admit to not being very up to date with the middle eastern scene - or any scene - these days. I know and like Salem and Orphaned land of course, and I'm getting more and more artwork requests from bands in the region, so it seems like things are developing. Carthagods from Tunis sounded good when they we supporting us on our gig there two years ago.

Mohab: Let's talk a bit about your brutal side project Laethora. I've searched high and low to find out what Laethora means, and the best I could find was a previous interview where you mentioned it might be a mix of Latin and Swedish. Is it a play on words, as sort of "inside thing" between the band?

Niklas: Well, as silly as it sounds, the band name is sort of a secret that never will be explained in interviews, ha ha! It might be a mix of different languages and it might be an inside thing or even something completely different.

Mohab: While with Dark Tranquillity, you guys tend to record everything to a precise and tight level. As opposed to the almost live set up of Laethora's recording process. What is the main difference in your point of view, between writing for Dark Tranquillity and Laethora?

Niklas: It's exactly that. Dark tranquillity material is always very meticulously arranged and everything needs to be crystal clear and really tight in order to work. Since we have so many layers of sound with precise keyboard/electronic patterns, everything would just collapse if it wasn't 100% exact. Laethora is the complete opposite; the music needs to sound wild and untamed, and the vibe and feeling is more important than precision. Also, the musicial language is pretty different, with D.T. being very melodic and harmonic and Laethora having a lot of dissonance and weird riffing. I have to add, though, that I'm not the main songwriter of Laethora. The band is often percieved as my own solo project, but that's not the case at all. I'm one out of five members, and everyone contributes.

Moe: I'm personally a huge fan of your cover art and graphics. I remember when a up and coming U.S. band from Maryland called Samadhi were about to release their debut record. Once they announced that the cover art would be handled by you. I was automatically psyched about the album. Can you tell us a bit about your sources of inspiration when designing cover art? How do you handle clients that ask for abstract designs? Do you ever get an occasional request that is simply ludicrous?

Niklas: Thanks! As for inspiration sources, it's the same thing as with music: They're very hard to define and pinpoint down, and I'm not sure that it's necessary either. I'm interested in a lot of different styles and currents of art and design - high and low - and I guess that they all converge to help me create things that hopefully are of good quality and has some kind of unique character. The actual process for album artwork can differ a lot. Some bands have a detailed concept already figured out, whereas in some cases it's the complete opposite without even an album title to go after. Both situations have their own challenges. I can't think of any absolutely weird requests so far, but if I feel that I'm not the right person for the job I have no problems saying no. I guess it's a bit like being a tattoo artist; sometimes people would come to you with ideas that you know won't work out very well, and then you can either refer them to someone else or say that you want to make some changes to improve it.

Mohab: Onto a couple of light questions to wrap this up. What's your take on Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber?

Niklas: I'm sure I've heard their music at some point, and Lady Gaga seems like an interesting and eccentric character from the little I've picked up, but I really don't have much of an opinion since I don't follow popular culture very much. I don't have a TV set and don't pay much attention to things that I'm not interested in. I have absolutely nothing against commercial music/artists or mainstream culture, just that I'm not very familiar with most it.

: Knowing that you have a very eclectic taste in music. What's the most surprising "un-metal" record might a fan find on your iPod?

Niklas: Good question...Most of it is very un-metal; it's no secret that the members in D.T. have broad musicial tastes. Robyn's new albums are on constant rotation on my iPod; maybe that would surprise people expecting to find 100% metal there. Or Madonna's fantastic "Ray of light" album. Then again, I do have extreme stuff like Anaal nathrakh, Portal and Aborym there too.

Mohab:Do you have a funny drunken tour story you can share with us? Did you ever drunk wrestle Martin?

Niklas: Nah, I'd completely lose if I'd wrestle any of the Martins - they're big guys! Lots of insane things happen on tour of course, but the most bizarre stories are always those that can't be shared with the public or only would be funny if you were there in that particular situation and being a part of the madness. I can't really think of anything that would translate to an entertaining story when written down like this, so I'll skip on this question.

Mohab: Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this. Would you like to add anything for all our readers across the middle east and abroad?

Niklas: Thanks for the interview - unusually good questions! To our fans in the middle east and beyond: Thanks for your support throughout the years! We certainly hope to be able to come and play for you as soon as possible

If you haven't already picked up your copy of "We Are The Void" do so, by clicking here! DARK TRANQUILLITY will be heading out on tour in May, click here for dates. Also click here to visit Laethora on Myspace, then go and pick up their latest record "The Light in Which We All Burn."

And make sure you visit Niklas Sundin's graphics studio Cabin Fever Media to check out his latest stunning artwork!

1 comment:

  1. Yeaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh \m/ Tunisia is waiting for you again , i can feel tHE PULSE IN MY bRAIN WHEN I THING ABOUT IT ! Dark Traquility bring your misery down and Put fire on Carthage Empire :D