Prior to IN FLAMES' performance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 25, vocalist Anders Fridén spoke with Pittsburgh Music Magazine. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On why the band recorded new album "I, The Mask" in Los Angeles:
Anders: "[Producer] Howard Benson's there, and we love to work with him. It was an awesome time the first time, so immediately, as soon as me and [guitarist] Björn [Gelotte] were done, we said, 'We want to go back.' His whole team is fantastic. They make the whole thing really smooth [and] very quick. It doesn't take us super-long from an idea to tape, so to speak... We bounce ideas off of him, of course, and it makes it more efficient. He comes in and says, 'Okay, this is unnecessary. You don't have to play this riff. It doesn't help.' Or, 'Think about this. Think about that.' What he most brings to the table — obviously, experience — is he makes us better when it's time to record. He makes us be on top of our game... I work with Howard on the vocals, and he's very good with harmonies. We find a working relationship that's both efficient and good, and I feel I can do my best when I'm with him. I'm very relaxed, and when I'm too relaxed, he tells me, straight-up, 'You sound too weak.'"
On Chris Lord-Alge, who mixed the album:
Anders: "[Mixing] is a big deal. You can ruin a recording, or you can add a lot of things and lift it to another level. The only thing we said about this album in comparison to 'Battles' [was] that we want to bring the guitar a little bit more forward in the mix. He was the right guy to do the job. With his resume, we knew it was going to be good, so we didn't have that many recalls. He nailed it very early on... Him and Howard know each other really well. They've worked on a lot of albums, so he knows what to expect when he gets the sound from Howard. I'm super-pleased with how the album sounds. I am every time, I guess, with every album that we do. I could sit here, 'Oh, this is the best album we've ever made, blah blah blah,' but ultimately, it's not up to me — it's up to the fans. Do they like it? I think it's fucking awesome. I think it represents IN FLAMES perfectly now, how we sound these days. The guys that worked on it have done a tremendous job."
On whether the band considers what fans might want from them:
Anders: "I can't do that, because there's thousands and thousands of people. If I should please everyone, it would be a really confusing album. I mean, I appreciate [our fans] — without the fans, we're nothing. We could not leave Sweden if there were no fans around. I'm so fortunate — I can travel the world and do what I do — but I have to be happy with what we do, and then it's up to other people to say this or that. I can't really take that in consideration."
On whether, after fronting IN FLAMES for 25 years, he considers a point at which he'll retire:
Anders: "I think it about it once in a while — not to retire, but it's more when I lose the feeling that this is the greatest thing in the whole world. Let's say I have a week being on stage and it feels like a drag. That never happened, but if it would, then maybe I'm in the wrong place. When I still feel that I have something to say, when I still feel super-pleased... Imagine releasing an album and you go, 'Eh, it doesn't feel right, but the record company told me I have to.' That's wrong. You've always got to feel, 'This is it,' and have a good time and enjoy it. You have bad days once in a while, but we all do."
On whether the band is given "freedom" by their record labels:
Anders: "One hundred percent. They get the album when it's done. 'Boom — there it is.' They have nothing to say. They trust us. Whatever they do after they got the album, I don't pay that much attention. I let them do their job."
On not having a Facebook account, and only using Instagram sparingly:
Anders: "I'm following three things — my own stuff. I don't see a lot of other things. I would be too stressed to get all that information all the time. I think we as people, we need to step away from showing how great our lives are. It's the mask I'm talking about. Social media could be really good for people as well. It's not all bad — [if] you have social anxiety and you don't like to be around people, that's maybe the only chance you have. But we show a side that's not real for the most part, and that could be very stressful. It's not only social media; it's way more things I'm talking about on this album — the mask that we carry, and how we need to deal with our demons and deal with the darkness and sadness instead of holding a mask in between reality and the dark side. If you don't, you'll miss opportunities; you don't see the future as it's supposed to be. It is a pretty dark world we're living in, and we're heading [in] the wrong direction... People are pointing fingers left and right, and it's very easy to raise your voice on the 'net. It's very easy to be someone that you're not. Some people have an opinion just for the sake of having an opinion, and that destroys the actual argument and the discussions that we can have."
On his thoughts on the American political climate:
Anders: "I can't really say, because I just come here to visit... It's like everywhere. It's not all good; it's not all evil. I don't want to be involved. I can have an opinion, but it's not my place. We're not a political band in that sense. I deal with stuff in my lyrics, but it's more to have people to think. I want you to make your opinion. I don't want to tell you, 'This is the way you should think.' We're here to entertain. We're here to make you forget about the outside world for a little bit... We all need that escape, just [to] breathe a little bit. But I love being here. It's very easy; people are cool. I love touring in America."
On the group's approach to songwriting:
Anders: "We don't write singles — we write albums... In a perfect world, I want you to listen to it from Side A to Side B with no interruption, in a dark room, headphones, maybe a little whiskey. Then, hopefully, you feel like, 'Okay, now I get this album. It's not just one song here and there'... I want people to listen to the whole thing. That's the way we write the music. I don't think it's fair to listen to [only] one song from a band – not just us – and say, 'This band sucks.' Then you miss the whole point."
"I, The Mask" was released on March 1 via Nuclear Blast (worldwide, excluding North America) and Eleven Seven Music (North America).