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DARK TRANQUILLITY's Mikael Stanne: "The pandemic has reinforced my feelings towards the band and this time around we are going to tour more than we ever have just because of that."

Interview with Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquillity
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 28 February 2022, 12:29 PM

On February 2, 2002 in Louisville, Kentucky at the Zanzabar, Metal Temple writer Justin Wittenmeier witnessed DARK TRANQUILLITY, KATAKLYSM, and NAILED TO OBSCURITY rip of the stage.  Before the show, he had the honor of speaking with the front man of DARK TRANQUILLITY, Mikael Stanne.

The tour going great so far?

Mikael:  Yeah!  I mean, there were some problems…we couldn’t get to Canada, unfortunately, so we had to substitute some shows.

That’s why I’m here tonight, this was one of the shows added because of that situation.

Mikael: Yeah it has been amazing so far still…we are getting back into the tour mode and all the bands are fantastic. It has been three years since our last tour!

Yeah that is crazy!  Is it very emotional being on stage in a way now?

Mikael: Yes…it feels great but weird (laughs).

You always seem like such a positive guy and I find DT’s music music to be positive but was there ever a time in the last few years where you thought this might not ever happen again?  That you might not get to do what you love to do?

Mikael:  Well…it has been tough of course but it wasn’t like we decided we were going to give up.  It actually has been the opposite.  The pandemic has reinforced my feelings towards the band and this time around we are going to tour more than we ever have just because of that.  I’ve already recorded more songs than I ever have at one time.


Mikael: Yep and it has been crazy but I love it!  It has kept me creative and has been interesting yet challenging.  So it has been super cool but, of course, there were moments where it has been one disappointment after another. At this point, we are happy for the tour but we expect nothing just in case this all ends tomorrow.

“Moment” was the album that I, and no doubt all the other fans, needed to hear during the pandemic.  I found it to be uplifting but yet it captured a lot of the frustrations and uncertainty that was going on during the height of covid. But the band started writing the album before covid hit so hard…but it did influence the course of the album, correct?

Mikael: Oh for sure!  We started in Feb and March before the world shut down.  But it gave us more time to do the album. The label let us do whatever we needed to but we weren’t sure what everything was going to be like, you know, three or five months down the road so we delayed the release of the album a little.  Of course we talked about if we should release something when we cannot tour. But as a fan I was looking forward to so many albums that got delayed, you know, six months from now or something so I’m like fuck, I don’t want to do that to our own album. So it was weird in a way to release but we did…then had that live stream for it then went home.  It was crazy.

I guess if there is a “good” thing about covid is that at least bands are putting out some awesome albums!

Mikael: Yeah! I think we when look back on 2020 and 2021, it will be some of the most creative periods for many bands!

But now that America is opening up, I suspect a lot of bands will trade recording for touring and won’t put out anything for a while.

Mikael:  No doubt.  For us it will be a lot of touring, we want to try and do at least two years.

Overseas it seems like a lot of countries aren’t opening up quite as fast or as much.  Does DARK TRANQUILLITY have plans for European tours?

Mikael:  Yeah, we start a European tour after North America for seven weeks. We will see but it looks like every where we are going to be is opening up but, you know, that could change tomorrow. A lot of the tours I see being canceled started in January or February but ours isn’t happening until April.  Hopefully things will be different by then.

You love talking to your fans and being out on the road.  Were you going crazy for those experiences for the last three years?

Mikael:  Oh man…just to be out of tour and hanging out with our crew.  The screaming, sweating on stage…I’ve missed it all    so much.  Not only the fans as well but also meeting and hanging out with other musicians. A lot of people I know I haven’t seen in forever, it feels.  And I love festivals, a chance to meet a lot of people!

At all these festivals, do you get out into the crowd and watch the bands you like?

Mikael:  Yep, as much as I can of course but I do like to get down with the crowd and experience it.

When that happens, do a lot of fans recognize you? I would be afraid of not being able to enjoy the show fully because of that.

Mikael: Well that does happen of course but it is fine!  I love being down there with the fans and all of us watching these other bands together!

This is the first tour for “Moment,” so you don’t know which songs will work the best live but the first two tracks on the album are the first two songs you’ve been playing on this tour.  Was that on purpose, because those two tracks feel like a great representation of the album as a whole?

Mikael: Yep, that was the feeling we had as well.  It feels really good and it works so great to open up the show with those two songs.  But, like you said, we don’t really know which songs on “Moment” will work the best with the fans live just yet but we have long set list, 17 or 18 songs, so we can change it up if we have to.

As a band with such a large discography, is it hard to nowhere to begin with making a set list?

Mikael:  Yes, that is us (laughs) but we are playing some songs we haven’t done before, some stuff from “Projector” and some old stuff that we haven’t played since 2006 or 2008!

“Punish My Heaven” is a nice addition.  With the passing of former guitarist Fredrik Johansson , that is a nice way to honor him.

Mikael:  Yep, that was the idea, to play some of the songs he was involved in.

I didn’t realize that even after he left the band, he still remained such a huge proponent of the band.  I read he was buying tickets for your “Moment” live stream for fans who couldn’t afford it?

Mikael: Yes he did.  He was such a nice guy and he never stopped supporting us, he would come out to our shows every chance he got.

For this tour, fans are being introduced to a couple of new guys…

Mikael: Yeah from Sweden we have Joakim Strandberg-Nilsson on drums.  He is super fucking fantastic so hopefully we can keep him for a long time.  He is such a pro, on everything, he plays everything so perfectly he is ridiculous (laughs) and on bass we have Mike Bear.   We were using Christian Jansson for bass duties but he had a some medical issues and his doctor said he shouldn’t tour this time around.  We had problems with getting another visa for a Swedish player.  As a band, getting a visa to get into America is one of the most complicated things to have to go through so we had to choose an American bassist. We know a lot of bass players and we got together trying to figure who could do this with very little time to rehearse.  Our touring manger said he knew a guy named Mike Bear who filled in for Niilo for INSOMNIUM on a tour one time.  This guy played bass and vocals for the entire INSOMNIUM tour!  He fronted the band and they had never met him before and he never rehearsed..he just kicked ass from day one!  So we said yeah that is the kind of guy we need!  So we sent him a list of the 26 possible songs we are doing on this tour and he just ran with it!

So you’re the only original member now, with the departure of drummer Anders Jivarp.  When he left was it a shock thinking “Holy shit, I’m the only original guy left now” or was it just “Well I’m the only one left from the old days.  But I’m going to move forward.”

Mikael:  It was the latter but obviously it was a little bit weird…I do miss the guys but we are still friends.  The pandemic made us all think about what we want to do.  You start working again or doing other things and it makes you question what you do or do not want to do.  I totally get it and respect their decisions.  So it may be weird a little to be the last original members but I’m also really happy that I get to keep doing this and we know so many amazing musicians that can help us out.  I try to always look at the positive side of things.

After both the Anders left, did you have to set back and question anything involving the band?

Mikael: Not for myself, in terms of if I want to do this still but in terms of “ok, how do we do this now?  What can we do to move forward with the band and keep this going?  How do we think of things from here?”  We have been through so many things as a band over the years but we always find  a way to come through and deliver.  I mean, of course, you miss these people but at the same time you just have to power through.

During the past few years of no touring, what was going on in the life of Mikael?  Did you have a job you went to?

Mikael: I actually was able to quit my job three years ago!  My plan was was to go back after the recording of “Moment” but the nature of my job…involves helping at risk people so I couldn’t go back.  So I just keep writing more and more!

GRAND CADAVER was kind of born out from the pandemic, then?

Mikael: Definitely.  We were all stuck at home and were like, “Hey, let’s just start a band!”  The Halo Effect was already in plan before the pandemic actually but we didn’t get a chance to actually record until we all got stuck at home.    I’ve just been really busy, in the studio writing and recording.  I’ve learned a lot, how to take on more responsibility.  I’ve learned so much, it has been great.

Since you guys usually have three to five years in between album releases, I guess the pandemic didn’t really put a hold on that, per say?

Mikael:  Yeah, we usually just build up so much material that we have to set down for a while anyway and record.  We have some now and might go back to the studio after the summer.

Are there any plans to tour with THE HALO EFFECT and GRAND CADAVER?

Mikael: I did one small tour with GRAND CADAVER but as for future shows, we will have to see. THE HALO EFFECT will definitely tour but nothing has been really committed, there are no details its still in the early early planning stages.

“Atoma” seemed to be moody and melancholic while “Moment” has a more open and expansive sound.  Was it a conscious decision to do something totally different?

Mikael: Yeah and “Moment” had Johan and Chris come in on so they brought something different to it as well. The foundation was already there but they definitely influenced it.  It was almost a relaxed recording.  There wasn’t as much pressure and we had a lot of time.  There wasn’t anything else to do so we just thought “Let’s do this right.”  Of course, we didn’t want to make the same album twice and we knew we wanted it to be different.

With Johan and Chris coming into the band during “Moment,” were there any ideas that either of them may have written or brought up that just wouldn’t work for DT’s sound or for the ideas of “Moment?”

Mikael: Yeah, of course! But it is difficult for anyone to come into a band that has been going for thirty years.  Especially our dynamic with the way we speak and the way we write.  It was interesting but of course it was a worry in the beginning…like how do you bring in two new guys into all this?  But after a while we all got it and got into the work environment.

Over the years, the songwriters have changed as members come and go.  Once Anders left, did you did you guys set down and say “Ok who wants to try their hand at writing” or was it a more natural flow of ideas just coming together?

Mikael: Yeah it will be very interesting.  Martin (keys) writes a lot and Johan has tons things he wants to try.  We have been been talking about and seeing if Niklas Sundin (founding member and former guitarist) wants to write a things because he is frustrated and we are like “Fuck yes, lets do it!” (laughs) Even Fredrik wrote a lot for us over the years when we got sick and had told us we can use whatever we like.  I’m excited!


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