IN FLAMES BASSIST PETER IWERS: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
Axl and Vince recently had the opportunity to sit down with In Flames bassist Peter Iwers hours before the second of two Gigantour shows at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom (also featuring Megadeth, Children of Bodom, High on Fire, and Job For a Cowboy). Peter shared his thoughts about In Flames’ new album A Sense of Purpose, its success in America, the band’s writing and recording process, and the band’s mysterious guitar-tech/personal assistant Biffin (the truth is shocking!). Read the entire chat transcript after the fold.
How was the show last night?
It was good, the show was good. It’s always great to play New York. A lot of friends here, a lot of familiar faces in the crowd. It was awesome. We’re psyched to play tonight as well so we can mix up the setlist a little more.
How long have you been on the road for this tour so far? Any highlights?
About two weeks. New York is one. Not really, not anywhere specific that’s better than anywhere else. They’re pretty even, and it’s always pretty good.
What’s it like opening up for a group you guys probably all grew up listening to [Megadeth]?
It’s cool. It’s an honor when they asked us to be part of this tour. Getting to play before them is awesome – just a quick shower, then we can go back and watch the show. We have a good time. It’s a good vibe on this tour. Everybody, you know, everybody’s friendly with each other. It’s not one of those tours where the headliner is off somewhere. Everybody is just hanging out together. So we’re having a great time.
You talked about changing up the setlist. You guys obviously have a very large discography at this point. How do you go about choosing a setlist if you’ve only got 45 minutes?
Well there’s songs that we kind of have to play. You know, that we know that people wanna hear. Then there’s the other ones that we just throw around. We’ve actually been very good on this tour, and we try and change the sets each night. Or there’s been two or three spots where we switch out each night. Usually we say that we will but we’re too lazy to do it, but this time we actually have. So if the song that I want doesn’t get played tonight, we will do it the next day, and that way everyone is happy. But it’s hard, because if we were to play one song from each record, that’s nine songs… and we get 50 minutes, so there you go. But we can’t really do that. We try to focus on the later parts and throw in some old hits here and there.
Let’s talk about the new album a little bit. First of all it just had a really big debut here in America, so congratulations. How does it feel with each album getting progressively bigger and bigger?
Well, it’s nice, it’s a little bit of a relief, I’d say. When we make the music and we record it, we don’t really feel any pressure from anybody but ourselves. But at least me, when it’s done and when it’s out there, you can’t do anything more. You just hope that people will embrace it and hopefully like it. And this time interest was bigger than the last album, and that’s amazing. Especially in these download days, when people actually go and buy it. ‘Cause I always try and make a point of buying a record; it’s way better than downloading it because you get the actual physical CD in your hand with the booklet, and you can study the cover and the lyrics, and it’s great.
Well, first of all, we went from Nuclear Blast because they were good and all to us, and they were really good in Europe, but over here they don’t have the same kind of distribution that they do in Europe, as other American labels do. So that was the main priority, we wanted to have the record available to anybody who wants to get it. And then Ferret were great, they were treating us really well and the record was out there, but it was a one-record deal and this time it was in the band’s best interest the way Koch came up. They presented the best way of putting the record out there.
Do you value success in your home country of Sweden, or in Europe, more than in America?
I don’t think in [terms of] territories at all. We just play music, and I’m happy that people come to the shows and buy records, you know? ‘Cause like I said before, we don’t have any pressure when we’re writing music or anything like that. We just consider ourselves the only people who will decide what kind of music we will make, and when it’s done, it’s done. I’m just happy that people get into it wherever.
Arguably your band’s sound has evolved a lot. Is that something you guys have approached consciously, like you want to try something different, or does it naturally happen?
I think yeah, it is natural, but it is also a conscious decision that we don’t want to repeat ourselves. We try to add more ingredients to the In Flames recipe each time, to make it more interesting for ourselves because we’re gonna play these songs so many times. If you keep on doing the exact same thing each time it’s eventually gonna get boring. We need to challenge ourselves and try and play more and do more each time.
What’s the songwriting process like?
Jester and Bjorn, they come up with all the riffs, and then they show it to the rest of us and then we arrange most of it together. Then me and Dan will come up with our own stuff. And Anders does –- when the music’s done, he does all his lyrics and vocal lines on top of that. And then we sit down — this time we did the pre-production in our own studio. And then we listen to the songs, and we may swap around, like the verse could be a chorus, because it’s just so good, we swap around the arrangement. Rather than before when everyone rehearsed and tried different ideas. We record the ideas, listen to it, swap around, and then record it again.
That’s also interesting because Come Clarity was recorded at three different studios, and this time you were all back together. Do you feel like there was some tension that was getting ironed out?
No, no tension, it just happened that way because both Anders and Daniel were very comfortable with Daniel Bergstrand, who recorded the previous records, but we decided we wanted to do it in Gothenburg just because we wanted to be home. We didn’t want to travel because we’re always away so much anyway. And then we mixed it all in a third studio just to get an outside point of view, somebody that wasn’t there. So this time we bought this place that used to be called Studio Fredman, and we redecorated it and got in a new floor and everything, and since it is in Gothenburg it’s easier for us to be there. We brought in two producers; Daniel who did Anders, and another called Roberto [Laghi] who is in Gothenburg and did a lot of Swedish acts. He’s an amazing guy. It was very comfortable. Everyone was there the whole time.
Yeah, you know, like I said it was very comfortable! (laughs)
Speaking of Gothenburg, obviously you guys have ended up being one of the most influential bands of the past 10 or 15 years. What are your feelings about all these American bands running around sounding like they wish they were from Gothenburg? Do you get sick of it?
No, I mean some of it is really good and some of it is not. It’s an inspiration, like when we grew up, and we still do have all of these bands that influenced us. So, it’s such a big honor. Like a band like Killswitch Engage that’s huge these days. I think it’s cool.
We have kind of a weird question for you. We wanted to ask you about your guitar tech, we think he is. His name is Biffin, is that correct?
He’s like a reality TV star in Sweden? Can you tell us a little about that? We have kind of an odd obsession with him, because we’ve seen him at a lot of your shows with guitars and barking orders at the rest of the crew and we always thought he was kind of an interesting character.
Yeah. Well, he’s a good friend from a long, long time ago. He starred on a couple of shows. One where they move to a house, a bunch of guys, you know, the normal one I guess. Another where they went to India and just… they hung out, and ran a bar or something. Yeah, he’s pretty famous! He’s one of the coolest guys, though.
So he’s your guitar tech?
No, he used to be, now he’s the band’s assistant.
Movin up in the world! Cool, so what’s next for you guys, are you gonna go back to Europe, do some festivals?
Yeah, after this it’s another five weeks on this run, and then we do festivals. Then we’re probably gonna do Japan and Australia and a headline run of Europe, and then come back here for another headline run. We’ll be on tour for about another 18 months.
Wow, it’s a crazy life.
Yeah, I like it!
Thanks a lot.