September 27, 2023 3:32 pm

Anders Fridén: Life and Whiskey His Way

Anders Fridén is the lead singer for the Swedish heavy metal band In Flames. He is joined by Björn Gelotte (guitar), Bryce Paul (bass), Tanner Wayne (drums), and Chris Broderick (rhythm guitar). They are pioneers in the genres of Swedish death metal and melodic death metal. Since their formation in 1990, they have released fourteen studio albums, three EP’s, and two live DVD’s. In addition, they have been recognized for their talent and quality of work through many nominations for music awards around the world. It’s easy to classify them as one of the most elite heavy metal bands working today. 

In late March of 2023, In Flames played a blistering set at a festival in Sydney, Australia. Before the live set begins, the song “The Beginning of All Things That Will End” (which is the intro to their latest studio album Foregone) foreshadows the sonic tempest that is about to begin. The band makes their way onto the stage and erupts into “The Great Deceiver.” It is a heavy track and the first single from the aforementioned new record. Anders takes the stage and unleashes a growling vocal furor; the band is locked-in with him and grows in power as the crowd responds. Björn, Bryce, Tanner, Chris, and Anders deliver a spellbinding set to the adoring crowd. Their reputation as metal legends is cemented in the face of such legendary live performances.

Anders is also a whiskey enthusiast. In fact, he is well experienced in his whiskey journey, and was gracious enough to spend some time with Whiskey Network Magazine’s Staff Writer, Mark Pruett. In this interview, the topics range from bands that influenced him, the flavors of whiskey that he enjoys, and his own whisky with High Coast Distillery.

Read on to learn more!

Can you tell us about your earliest memories of whiskey?

Yes, it was that I didn’t like it. I remember trying stuff that my parents had, and it made me say, “WHOA! I’m never going to be able to drink this!” I think a lot of teenage kids have had the same experience.

Things began to change when I started touring, though. We’d get a bottle of Ballantine’s, bourbon, or Tennessee whiskey (like Jack Daniels). In the mid-1990’s I was an intern at a studio for a couple of years and the owner and I would wind down after work at a local bar on occasion. We would be listening to death metal all day and just needed to chill and talk about stuff that wasn’t music related. 

The bartender gave me some Clan Campbell and it was the first time I became really interested in it because it wasn’t half bad. So, the bartender then gave me a Glenmorangie 10 and I felt like that was on another level. I wanted to dig into it more and more. When it comes to music, I always want to learn everything I can about the instruments and process. With this whisky, that’s how I began to feel. I fell in love with the craftsmanship and everything else about it. I’ve been hooked since. 

Do you primarily enjoy single malts, or have you branched out into other types of whiskey?

I do now, but in the past, I was into many different types. I enjoyed Highlands, bourbon, Sherry Casks, and even heavily peated bottles for a while. For example, I discovered Octomore later on, but was familiar with Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg. Those bottles were important in my whiskey career, so to speak. 

Of course, being in a band that tours is also nice because you get to see many parts of the world and their whiskey. In addition, I’ve even taken personal trips to Scotland to explore and learn more. My friends from Stockholm and I have a whiskey group and we’ve been to many distilleries in Scotland. It’s an experience that has opened my eyes to so much about whiskey and how it goes from grain to glass.

This goes well with my music interests. I started with hard rock and heavy metal when I was 10 years old, and then wanted to get into music that was heavier, harder, and tougher. That’s when I got into death metal, thrash, and grindcore. On the other side, I’ve found myself going back to the roots of where I started in music. Full circle, right?

— Thinking of where you are on your whiskey journey now, what flavors do you enjoy in whiskey?

That’s a great question that is difficult to answer. I’ve tasted so many things, but I can tell you that one of my favorites is Glenugie, which is no longer around. I like bourbon casks from the 1960’s. There is just something about it in the way the spirit and wood interact. It’s not something you can feel, but I can detect it from my sense of smell. Maybe the spirit wasn’t as refined, or maybe they let the casks do a little more of the work in the process. 

It comes across as bolder, instead of super-calculated. Yeah, there are faults in it, but that’s what makes it special. When everything is too well made it comes off as just wanting to maximize profit. If everything sounds brilliant, then there is nothing to challenge my ear. I’d consider a bunch of whiskey as perfect, but I think along the way that minor faults make magic. Those are different and that’s what I like. 

— You have previously collaborated with High Coast Distillery in Sweden. Can you tell us more about that? 

They are a new make distillery in Sweden, and we have collaborated on a few bottlings. They let me go into their warehouse and just pick different casks for blending. It’s amazing and I like the quality of their product. The flavor notes I get from their whiskey is pear, citrus (more of a blood orange), with vanilla and hazelnut. Notes of lemon or bananas are off-putting to me, so I avoid those. 

— Is there another bottling coming soon?

With the release of the new album, Foregone, there has been a lot of time and focus on that. Soon, I will have time to focus on another whiskey. 

— Can you share a story from your time on the road that involves whiskey?

There are tons of stories! Something that sticks with me is that I’ve influenced everyone in my band and in the crew about how they enjoy whiskey. When we’ve been in Scotland and had a day off, we go to distilleries. I can see the education about the spirit paying off and the appreciation of the bottles growing. They start their own journey with the drink and that’s all I want. If you go deep into whiskey, you will be rewarded. We have done that, and it’s been amazing. I’ve seen some do their own bottling and that’s a great memory.

On tour, it’s not a secret that I like whiskey and I end up talking to a lot of people about it. The American artists want to come and do shots with us. I have to explain to them that these are sipping whiskies. Some are very good at listening and others can’t do it. It’s hard to watch them try to shoot a Highland Park 18 or Glenfarclas 21. It just seems like the American way to get shots at the bar. When people give me a shot, it’s just not what I want.

— Let’s talk about music. You’ve mentioned the new record, Forgone. Can you tell me what went into making this record?

It’s difficult not to mention the impact of the pandemic. It was a tough time for a lot of people and that includes my family and friends. No one was seriously hurt, but some people got sick or lost their jobs. As a touring musician, it was tough. That’s what our band does, we record music and then go on tour. We love meeting the fans and sharing the moment. It’s not about ego, we want to hear the fan interpretation of our lyrics and music. It was depressing not to be able to do that.

In mid-2021, Bjorn and I began to discuss our plans. We decided that we should record a new record. So, we started to get into that mode. When we were allowed to travel, we came to Los Angeles to be with our producer Howard Benson. We brought as much recording equipment as we could and rented a house for three weeks. In this time, we put down some demos and began to plan what we’re going to do. We wanted more guitars, drums forward in the mix, and other things like that.

After the holidays, we were back in Los Angeles for two months and finished the record. Our process is organic, we write a few songs and then record them in the studio. Then we go back to the house and write more songs. We’re old school and approach the record track by track. We visualize the A and B side of vinyl. Being back together and going through the process restored our energy. Being a part of something as a group is important and helped us make the record. 

Our idea of making records is not sharing files as individuals. We could have done that, but being together is what made the difference. Feeling that energy, catching that vibe, and connecting to the emotional part of the music. We don’t want to be controlled by machines and we want to invest in the craft of our music. We know our boundaries and when we can push them. It is very important that we are in the same room. 

That’s why the record sounds like it does.

— Please tell us about the bands and music that has influenced you.

Like whiskey, it’s important for me to broaden my horizons in music. The more I learn, the more I can appreciate other styles. When I was about ten years old, my first love was the Scorpions. I remember begging my parents to stay up late to watch a TV show from Germany where Quiet Riot, Krokus, MSG, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Scorpions, and Iron Maiden were shown a lot. I remember the older guys in my neighborhood carrying boomboxes and blasting Iron Maiden. It was scary at first, but it made me super curious

On my metal journey, I went from the Scorpions to Judas Priest, Ozzy, and Iron Maiden, a huge influence. Then came thrash, speed, and death metal. Today, it’s exploded into one big mess with many different sub-genres. To me, it’s all just metal and I can’t follow all the divisions. I listen to what I like no matter what.

At the same time, I heard Depeche Mode. Back then, you weren’t supposed to listen to different styles of music. You were a metal kid or a synth kid, but I liked what I liked. I didn’t care what people were telling me to do or to not do. I do what I want, and I’ll listen to what I want.

Lately, I’ve been into ambient electronic music, jazz, and soundtracks. They make me feel young again in my exploration of something new. There is so much I don’t know, and I want to learn to understand what I’m hearing. I can hear the differences in filters, oscillators, clicks, rhythms, and all of that. I find it to be interesting. I have started a side project called “If Anything, Suspicious” and it’s an ambient/chill vibe. It’s an outlet for me to explore these genres.

It’s our tradition at the Whiskey Network to ask our guests the same final 5 questions, also known as the Mashbill: Whiskey Network Wants to Know Your Recipe

Question 1: What was the last whiskey, bourbon, or scotch in your glass?

Four Roses Single Barrel. I’ve had this in my whiskey room for quite some time and it’s a great sipping bourbon. When I’m in my studio playing the piano, I’ll be sipping bourbon. It’s quite nice.

Question 2: Do you prefer to drink your whiskey from a specific type of glass?

I prefer the glencairn. It’s better for experiencing the nose and is stable. However, I have a friend who introduced me to using small wine glasses and that was a different experience. I’ll be exploring that a bit more.

Question 3: Do you have a Unicorn bottle?

There is a very old Bowmore called “Black Bowmore” that is from 1964. That would be amazing because there is a great balance between the peat and the Sherry cask. Also, the Bunnahabhain 1968 Auld Acquaintance is another amazing bottle that is hard to find. Finally, my favorite is Glenugie Distillery that has been mothballed for quite some time. These are extremely rare and quite expensive.

I have a great story about something that happened regarding some old bottles. There was an auction for a series of rare Swedish bottlings from the 60’s and 70’s. We were on the road, and I was tracking an auction that had all the bottles. It was from 1973, which is my birth year.

Backstage, I was bidding and bidding to stay on top and was in the lead. With about 10 seconds left in the auction, we lost our internet connection. I knew I had lost and was furious because I knew I’ll probably never see that again.

Question 4: I’m looking for a gift for a friend. My budget is around $50 to $75. What would you recommend I buy?

The Glenfarclas 15 year old, there is good bang for your buck there. Their standard and private bottlings are always amazing. I’ve been there and have met the owners. It’s a fantastic distillery.

Question 5: What is your favorite toast?

I don’t have anything special. Being Swedish, we just say skål. My bass player is into bourbon, and we usually look at each

other and say “it’s bourbon time!” I do have a sip of whiskey before I go on stage every night as a celebration. We have a bunch of standard bottlings on our rider, so that makes it easy.

— Anders, on behalf of the Whiskey Network Magazine, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We look forward to new music and seeing you on tour! Cheers!

Thank you.

We are proud and excited to welcome Anders Fridén to the Whiskey Network Family. With the band In Flames, he and his bandmates have earned an amazing reputation in the heavy metal world as a talented and ferocious act. Their longevity on the scene is a testament to their art and dedication to their craft. Anders is also a journeyman whiskey enthusiast. He has explored and sampled whiskey across the spectrum and continues his journey at full speed. In addition, he has put his knowledge and experience to work in his collaboration with the High Coast Distillery for the In Flames whisky. They sell out fast with every offering, be sure to keep an eye out for releases and act fast!

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"Whisky is liquid sunshine."

George Bernard Shaw

“The light music of whiskey falling into a glass – an agreeable interlude.”

James Joyce

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