Near the end of the North American Khaos Tour that took place during September and October of 2011, I had the chance to chat with Arch Enemy‘s talented drummer Daniel Erlandsson. They are still in the midst of a rigorous touring schedule to support their newest album, “Khaos Legions,” a high-energy record with a revolutionary theme that also features some of the best production value on an Arch Enemy album to date. Currently playing shows through Europe, the band plan to be on the road into January 2012.
~ Natalie Zina Walschots
Your brother is Adrian Erlandsson, the prolific and influential drummer who has worked with the bands Paradise Lost and Brujeria. You have often cited him as an influence, and said if it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t be playing today. How did his work inspire you?
When he got into drumming our dad bought him a kit that was set up in the basement of our house. As a young teenager I got initiated into drumming seeing him playing and joining his first bands, and all that was very inspiring. I was already into metal but drumming was something new. Eventually I picked up the sticks and started drumming myself, and straight away felt like it was something I could get good at. I tried playing guitar too around that time, but it just seemed way too difficult. During those early years, Adrian was kind enough to let me use his kit… it wasn’t like in the movie “Stepbrothers” at all!
You’ve had an extremely prolific career yourself, having worked with In Flames, Eucharist, Liers in Wait, Diabolique, Armageddon, etc. It seems that metal drummers often play in several projects simultaneously, or at least concurrently. Does this have to do with the rarity of high quality musicians, the manic personalities of drummers, or both?
When I started out there wasn’t a whole lot of decent metal drummers around – at least not locally. Generally speaking, the scene was much smaller back then and it was very common for people to play in several bands at a time. That’s probably why I got the chance to play with so many talented musicians and bands. It’s pretty obvious that technically, the bar in metal drumming has been raised over the last 15-20 years. Today it seems there are much more technically prolific drummers around, which is due to the natural progression of the scene, and also because its in the nature of extreme music to get more and more extreme.
What has it like been playing with Carcass? Are you attempting to replicate Ken Owen’s style when you perform with them, or bring something new to the band?
Since I grew up listening to Carcass I had most of the songs and drum parts memorized beforehand. I definitely wanted to keep as much of Ken’s style as possible, so I didn’t change it up a whole lot. Having said that, I think Carcass had a different sound with me on drums just because Ken’s sound is difficult to imitate. He’s one the most underrated drummers in metal, and a really inspiring individual too.
What is your favourite Carcass album?
Really hard to pick one, cause I like them all. But if the gun’s aimed at my head, I would go for “Heartwork”.
What is your favourite Arch Enemy album?
That’s also a hard pick, cause the albums are snapshots of where we were at that time. I like “Wages of sin” for that reason, because it came together as changes within the line-up were happening, and it’s got that spontaneous touch to it. Also it seems like the songs on that album has stood the test of time pretty well. It was the first time we worked with Andy Sneap, and that was a huge step forward from the previous albums.
A close second would be “Doomsday Machine”.
You joined Arch Enemy, at least permanently, during a time where a significant shift was happening in the band’s sound ( moving towards more of a melodic death metal sound) and live performances (when Johan Liiva was replaced by Angela Gossow). What was your role in the transformation of Arch Enemy’s aesthetic?
I think we progressed a lot as a band when Angela joined, not just because she joined, but also due to the fact that we had just come up with a really strong album (Wages of sin) and the approach was becoming more focused. We had more or less finished recording when Angela came up to the studio and tried out some vocal lines, and it was just a perfect match. The way we approached songwriting didn’t really change over this time, and it’s still pretty much the same today. I think the core of the Arch Enemy sound hasn’t changed very much from the Liiva era to the present, of course there’s been slight variations in between albums but the form remains intact.
The North American Khaos 2011 took place earlier this year. How was the tour lineup (Cthonic, Skeletonwitch, Devildriver) assembled?
They’re all killer bands we like and as it turns out they were all available to do this tour!
Your tour schedule will keep you on the road until January. How do you handle such a rigorous schedule, and being away from home for so long?
Well, it’s definitely not a lifestyle that would suit anybody. Personally, I have grown into it, and over the years just accepted that music is what I love doing. Touring comes with along with that, and that’s the way it is. Having said that, we do plan our tours so that we get little breaks every now and then – this does help to recharge the batteries before going at it again.
Also, having your own tour bus really makes it easier too. There are many bands that tour for long periods driving around in little vans – and I have to say they got my full respect!
Over the years, there has been a softening, or mellowing of Arch Enemy’s sound, arguably to increase their popular appeal. Many fans still site the earlier albums as their very favourite efforts. How do you respond to this?
People are free to like whatever they want, that’s alright with me. I prefer the early stuff from some bands too. We just keep doing what we do, which is writing music that we would want to hear ourselves, and there’s never been a conscious effort to mellow out the sound to reach more fans. We do spend much more attention to the details in our productions these days though, if you would compare our newer albums to the older ones.
One trademark of Arch Enemy is the incredibly high production values on the albums, and something that really stood out to me about Khaos Legions is how clean and crisp the sound is, how smooth. What do you think about the level of polish on the record, and how does Arch Enemy keep their sound edgy despite it?
Like I said, it just comes down to us spending more time on the production to make sure nothing is left out. Also we’ve been working with some amazing engineers over the years, like Andy Sneap who really understands the Arch Enemy sound. Live we definitely have more of a raw edge, but even then people often say the mix sounds crystal clear… so all in all I guess it just comes down to the way we play.
Do you prefer touring to recording? What is your favourite part of the creative process?
I enjoy both being a part of the songwriting process and recording. Whenever we get together and jam on new ideas I’m really getting into that, it kind of takes over my world completely. So I would say I enjoy that the most. Touring on the other hand is where we get to meet the fans and get a very direct reaction to the music. That’s definitely the most rewarding part of being in a band.
What is your role in the writing/constructing of albums?
The way we put songs together is we meet up and jam on ideas. Trying out different riffs and grooves and kind of get a feel for which parts fit together and so on. I’m always there during these rehearsals of course, and I’m the one recording our jams so that if there’s a spark of creativity that very day – it won’t get lost! Also I’ve got a guitar, and sometimes bring in a few riffs too…That’s when I’m actually able to play them…