At The Gates - Anders Björler

At The Gates - Anders Björler

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AT THE GATES released a powerful comeback under the title “At War With Reality” and are gearing up to hit the road very soon. METAL KAOZ got on the phone Anders Björler to learn more about the creation of the album and take a sneak peek of the upcoming AT THE GATES activities. Keep reading...

Hi Anders, it’s a pleasure having you at METAL KAOZ.
Hi Dimitris, thanks for having me.

You released a new AT THE GATES album after 19 years, so I am wondering how did you approach your music-writing this time?
Personally speaking, I wanted to rediscover the more melodic side of AT THE GATES and revisit the early melodies and disharmonics. And this was a starting point for me. When we did the reunion in 2008 and the last show in Greece, we felt overwhelmed by the whole experience and the people’s support. We also realized that it would be impossible to play everywhere because we wanted to play in Australia, Asia and South America as well, so we made the decision to continue in 2011. In the years that followed, we started missing the creative side of being in this band and this was something that we wanted to rediscover. Last year in May when I had finished my solo album, I wanted to write something Metal again and of course I had AT THE GATES at the back of my mind. The first song I wrote was “The Book Of Sand (The Abomination)” and then sent it to Tomas and Jonas to see their response.

Did it take any kind of effort to convince them to get on board on writing new music for AT THE GATES?
No, they were on board right away and, in fact, we had talked about writing something just to keep the reunion shows alive; something like a covers album but I didn’t like this idea, so maybe writing new music was my way of reacting. So, we started working together and after finishing a couple more songs, we realized that we had an album on the making. This inspired me to write even more; I mean, the more I wrote, the more I was getting inspired. And it went on like that but we kept it a secret until January 2014 when the news broke out.

Why did you choose work in secrecy?
We wanted to stay away from all the stress involved in making a new AT THE GATES album and dealing with people’s expectations. And this got us back to the early days before the internet and all that; back in the '90s the band was small and nobody knew about us, so working like this, it almost felt the same way. It reminded us of the old days and inspired us at the same time. I got in touch with Tomas and started working like we did and this brought back lots of memories.

Talking about AT THE GATES as an entity, how do you think it has matured after all these years?
Now we are older and wiser and we all have kids and families, so the band has a more relaxed atmosphere. In the past, we were so involved in the whole concept of Death Metal and it was a bigger part of our lives. Back then, I was just Anders of AT THE GATES and today I have many and different artistic sides; I have different music projects, I work in films, editing/directing, I am a producer and also I have hobbies and of course my family. Today we don’t consider AT THE GATES as our career or even as a job; we keep this in a professional hobby level, you may say. This may sound weird but to us it is very important to keep it that way - keep our priorities straight and do not let AT THE GATES as an entity dictate the economics. You know, we don’t have to take a gig, or play a show to pay the rent. We want to maintain the stability we already have in our lives with our day-jobs and the current situation. Everything will come as a bonus and it will be something to do with no pressure. And this was a really important decision to make.

To me, this is important and has to be said especially to those who like to make comparisons with the past. I mean, it’s not reasonable to compare AT THE GATES with was it was during the '90s. Nothing stays the same, right?
Yeah, you are right and this applies to every artistic expression. I have talked to many journalists like you and everyone has a day-job because it is hard to make a living out of writing books, poems or painting. And this has been like this for hundreds of years, you know.

Yes, I feel what you’re saying. Let’s talk about the album, so how long did it take you to make “At War With Reality”?
We didn’t go very fast with this because we wanted to do everything the right way. Everything was meticulously planned without stress, so I guess the writing of the songs took approximately seven months and then we rehearsed some more and rearranged some of the material. We didn’t work full time on this and everyone had other stuff in parallel with this. But as I said, we carefully planned everything and maintained the deadlines like making the artwork.

And since you mentioned the artwork, is there a concept running behind the album’s title?
Tomas was very much interested in an literary genre called magic realism and it’s a term that was coined to describe the authors of 1950s; south American literature. It was a way of writing very poetic and very metaphoric way to avoid censorship. Tomas was struggling to find a theme for the album and he came with this concept after two or maybe three songs; it’s a way of expressing himself in a very poetic way, so it can be interpreted in any way you want. Still, the foundations of the lyrics have to do with the concept of reality and how it changes through different perspectives.

How this concept is feeding the cover artwork?
We like Constin Chioreanu’s almost cartoon-ish style and since we wanted a very simple and stylish cover, we went with that. When you open up the album’s booklet, you enter another world; like a barren landscape and this artwork fits better the lyrics. So, the cover is more like an entrance or a portal, if you may, to the world that is inside. We put a lot of thought behind every side of this album. And Constin made individual illustration for each song for the artbook edition of the album. He put a lot of work on this.

Is this artwork in the vinyl edition too?
I think there is plenty of it in the vinyl’s booklet.

Do you have any bonus material aside from the songs in “At War With Reality”?
The regular album has 13 songs and there are two bonus tracks on the media-book and the art-book editions, so we wrote 15 in total. Also in the art-book edition we have a demo version of one of the songs and a cover version of SACRIFICE’s “Re-Animation”. And that’s all.

Let’s get back to “At War With Reality”; how did you decide to work with Jens Bogren?
I liked the sound of a KATATONIA album, I don’t remember its title but it was 10-15 years ago, and Jens’ style in incorporating the bass in the mix. In fact, I consider this a problem in most album productions nowadays where the bass is never there or is very low in the mix. Aside from that, we wanted a multi-layered and a ‘true’ sound and I think Jens is a master in achieving this. So, the album sounds aggressive but still it’s friendly on the ears.

Cool, so what are the touring plans for AT THE GATES? You have also announced a live show in South Africa, right?
Yeah, the show in South Africa is basically a favor to an old friend of ours. We did some shows with THE HAUNTED there, so he wanted to bring AT THE GATES there. Regarding the tour, we basically can go anywhere; it doesn’t really matter if it is in Antarctica (laughs) as long as they want us to play there. Still, we will plan everything carefully because, like I said, we still have our day-jobs but we will play as much as it is physically possible.

Have you chosen how many tracks from “At War With Reality” will you be using the upcoming live shows?
Since we have done so many reunion shows, I think we will do at least 5-6 new ones. I mean, it will be also inspirational for us playing new music.

Last year you released “Antikythera”, an instrumental album, so first of all, how did you choose this title? Is there any connection with the Antikythera Mechanism?
I didn’t have a title for the album even after finishing the recordings, so I was watching a documentary about the Antikythera Mechanism and I was really intrigued by this and was inspired for the concept of the album.

Do you have plans for more solo releases?
I always do music and sometimes I have other projects running on the side of AT THE GATES. I have released a new recording in my personal site and this is pretty much in the same style with “Antikythera” and maybe is more Jazzy. I also work on soundtracks for movies, not big movies but small independent productions, and I try to keep myself busy by writing music. Of course, I will work on a follow-up for “Antikythera” but this will happen whenever I have the time. Maybe sometime this year but not in the same style because I want to distance myself from the Metal genre, so it can be even softer than “Antikythera”.

After all, this is your solo work, so you can pretty much do whatever you like…
Exactly, and sometimes in Metal you have to work inside a specific framework keeping in mind what you can and what you cannot do. Of course, “At War With Reality” is the perfect bridge from “Slaughter Of The Soul” but I think we are more free to elaborate more things for the next album. I may be more experimental with AT THE GATES for the next albums - at least this is my hope. Because you have to renew yourself and making it interesting.

Are you still involved in PAGANDOM?
Yeah, this was like an old favorite band of mine and, in fact, they were the best one in the Gothenburg scene at the time playing Thrash Metal. So, we did a reunion last year and we are actually writing some new songs and maybe in 2015 we can release a new album; if I find some time from AT THE GATES that is.

You can still bring PAGANDOM in the US with AT THE GATES…
Yeah, maybe... Seriously now, the problem with PAGANDOM is that it’s a local entity, so if nobody knows about it, it is really hard to promote it from scratch. No matter what we love doing it and just for the sake of playing music. And this is why we decided to continue after the reunion shows and write new music.

Thank you Anders for this nice discussion and we will see you on the stage of Chicago.
Yes, we are really looking forward to playing live in the US; it has been almost seven years, so see you then. Thank you, Dimitris!

EARTHEN GRAVE - RELENTLESS re-edit w/ Studio track