This interview took place in Milan, when Anders Nystrom and Jonas Renkse were promoting their forthcoming album "Dead End Kings".
Nice to meet you Anders, how long are you staying here?
Anders: Hello. Just a few hours more actually, so it's just in and out, superquick.
Are you touring already?
No, we're just out on a press trip right now, just speaking about the album.
So, first of all, introduce the album to our readers.
Well, the new album, the ninth I believe, is called "Dead End Kings" it's a title we chose pretty much because it sums up where we end up, how long we've come at the end of our journey… We feel, or actually a lot of other people feel that the band should've gotten further, or that we should have gotten more success than we have, but we see that if you call this a dead end, a dead alley, we're all our own kings in this dead end, or dead alley, rather than being poor slaves in the big world. So this is a very fitting title to us, both negative and positive also. We always like to make the title with a twist, we've been doing this since "Viva Emptiness", negative and positive in the same. We continued this tradition on the new album, which is basically just a bunch of new songs, actually. We just tried to make better songs.
I see, and regarding the songwriting, is there something particular this time or is it just the natural evolution of what we heard on "Night Is The New Day"?
Yeah, it's a totally natural follow up to "NITND", for me it still very much represents Katatonia, it is not something we want to move away from yet, we are not done with it yet, we feel very comfortable with the sound, so we get the same kind of production, same kind of sound, and we pushed it a little bit more. Our only goal was to make better songs. We always try to kick in some variation, there is one song which is more of a ballad, but I think this is all coming together as a Katatonia album, it sounds like Katatonia when you hear it, but we pushed things a little bit.
Yes, I heard it and it gave me the same idea. And regarding the band itself, why did you choose not to have new full time members? Over the internet your current line up is still stated as just a three-piece with touring members, so what…
You know, this is going to change, we have not gone public yet, but both of the touring members play on the album, Nicklas [Sandin, ndr] is doing all the bass, and Per [Eriksson] not only plays the guitar, but he also has a song on the album, he wrote one song, "Lethean", which is track number 8 I think.
Yeah, it's in the second part of the album.
Exactly, and this song might even be a single. So it's a big thing for him to come into a band, get a song in the album, but we do not care about who's writing the song as long as it sounds like Katatonia, and this song definitely does.
This is an interesting point, since in the digital promo I received there weren't any credits, so I did not know who wrote what song. Concerning the Norrmans, on the other hand, from what we can read over the internet, they decided to leave Katatonia because of touring problems, but do you plan to work together with them, maybe in some side-project, for example October Tide or Uncanny, since they revived them both?
We haven't thought about it yet, we're still busy with Katatonia, though you never can tell what's going to happen in the next couple of years, lineup changes and everything, but I'm very happy at least to see that Frederik [Norrman] is doing October Tide, because I really would not be happy to see them doing nothing. They were a big part of Katatonia, people have known their faces for ten years, so it's a shame that they left the band, it is a big shame, but at least there is October Tide. I love October Tide. Jonas is obviously not with Frederik now on it, but I think he's writing some lyrics for their new album, so they're collaborating.
Oh, so you're still in a good relathionship with each other.
Yeah, of course, we never split as enemies or something.
That's nice, there are not many bands able to have a stable lineup for all those years.
We have been very lucky.
I'll change the topic… We are a very small webzine, involved in the underground scene. What do you think of this scene, since you are now a "major" band, but you come from the underground…
Sure we do. The underground thing?
Yes, concerning many aspects, meaning bands, labels, events…
I think I lost a lot of track of the underground when the whole internet thing took over. I was deeply involved in the underground when it was back with the tape-trading and letters and going to the concerts… At those times everyone was at the concerts, not just fans, but also band members of every band, everybody was around and you had to partecipate, to find out what's going on, the news. These days, with the internet, it's always very convenient but it's just there for you. Being delivered these kind of news so easily, some of the people are treating it not with enough respect.
What do you mean?
They can just, you know, fleet through the news. You know, if there was the news of a new album, it used to be big news, now it's more like "a new album, ok, what's next?", scrobbling through stuff quickly and maybe they do not pay attention to what is said in every news, and I think that's a shame, in that sense, that it's handled that way. At the same time, I do not want to go back in time and do things differently: we have the internet age now, there's a lot of good things with it, but me personally I'm not so much fond of it anymore.
I understand what you mean because, talking about our webzine, we decided not to have a news section, because we receive maybe 20 emails a day "oh, there is a new album; oh, there is a lineup change, please publish this on your website, thank you", and that's all. There is no involvement, let's call it, and with digital files as well. Obviously there are good things and bad things about digital delivery and digital files, but what lacks is involvement.
That is very true. Personally I would have big problems to even accept it. I am the one that needs to decide where I listen to the album and when I listen to the album. I do not want to depend on a wi-fi connection. You know, all this kind of stuff I want to choose it for myself. I think you can never beat the physical product, it's still what we intend when we make our albums. I don't think "let's make a new album for a download", no, I simply make a new album for a vinyl and a cd.
I tell you, I'll put these words of yours in bold, because we have a personal Manifesto on our webzine, where we say that we will not receive digital copies, because we do not feel the involvement and because it is "too easy". We do accept them just for very limited pressings or self produced works, but regarding main issues we just stick to what you said.
Totally, you can't beat them. Again, the artwork. The artwork is never meant to be seen on a screen, it is meant to be held in your hand, to be smelled.
And reading the lyrics also, for example.
Yes, it is very important to me, this is just what I think.
And we do totally agree with you. Let's now change the subject. What about touring? We've known that later this year you're going to tour a lot.
Yes, and we will have three dates in Italy, at the end of November [the band will play in Rome and Milan at the end of November].
The perfect season for a Katatonia show.
Regarding live exhibitions, I think here in Italy we have a big problem, because it happens that underground bands have to pay their own slot. Meaning that, for example, we have a festival where a big band is going to play and underground bands had to pay cash to have the chance to play that day, because there is that big name on stage. So promotion companies are gaining from big names not having to pay the bands that play but being paid themselves. Do you know of this? Is it common or is it just an italian problem?
I've never heard of that for festivals, that's new to me. I've never ever seen that. It does happen if you want to be on a long tour, because being on tour costs money, so you might have to put your money in a part of it, for example the tour bus or stuff like this. But TO PAY a gig if you have your own equipment, if you drive yourself to the place, no, no, that's… Weird.
Well, I have a couple of question I was asked to ask you: first, is there any particular italian band you like? And what do you think of the italian scene if you know it.
Sure, I followed the italian scene for a long time, though I don't know if they're still around. I met Giuseppe [Orlando], the band Novembre, I've always loved that band, we toured with t hem before, we've been good friends, a long long time ago. I love that band, they have their own sound, a lot to do with Carmelo on the vocals, because he's very personal, you know Carmelo's singing… What else, Lacuna Coil of course, everybody knows that band. I've heard a few songs from theirs, I must say I've never heard many of their latest albums, but I've always felt they're a good band.
Yeah, we have many good bands in Italy, that unluckily have no success in their own country, the situation with music is quite difficult here.
I've been told by another journalist that many live clubs here in Milan closed: Rolling Stone, Transylvania, we played in those places! It was terrible to hear.
In Milan I think we only have a couple of live clubs left, many of them just closed down.
It is, mainly because nowadays bands have no places to play in, they cannot be seen live by anybody. What's the situation in Sweden though? Not only concerning the metal scene, but in general.
[promptly] It's good . It's flourishing. It's everywhere, and it's really good. I think Sweden is really acknowledging that we're exporting music, so the Government is really putting a lot of focus and priority and…
Oh, yeah, they have lots of celebrations and awards for artists that prove themself successful.
Regardless their genre?
Totally regardless genres, they involve from the most extreme metal act to the songwriter or classical composer, everything. The music scene is really important. Which probably answers the question "why do so many metal bands come from Sweden?".
That's an interesting point, in Italy we're just clinching to some old stuff, you might know Sanremo Festival and things like that, and that is crap. Now, I have another question, but this is a more general one, regarding the history and the story of Katatonia. I mean, I came here listening to "Dance Of December Souls" and…
Ouh, that was a long, long time ago… [smiles]
…And a mate of mine was curious about the evolution of the band, an evolution which is still in progress today, after twenty years: how did it start and how did it express through the years?
I think it is a combination of a lot of factors here, you have to consider that we were very very young at the time, and of course if you were a teenager, and then if you're at the end of your thirties, you do evolve as a person, you get more experienced, and this helps you think differently, the way you're looking at life, and also your musical taste, your musical influences, it all changes. Or, better, maybe it does not change, but it becomes wider. So I think a lot of those factors have a lot to do with it. The most important thing is that me as a musician, I would feel cornered and suffocated if I made too much of the same music in a row. I really need that the album that follows another has to be a little bit of an answer to that one. Sometimes it may be more drastic, like when we made the "change" from the "Brave Murder Day" album, it was the biggest transition we've ever done, musically speaking, leaving the growl, going into clean vocals. From "NITND" to the new one, it is not so big, but it is because we are still comfortable with that sound, we feel we're not done with it yet.
So it's mainly a question of growing up as a person…
Exactly. You age, so you change.
And you just mentioned different influences. What do you listen to, apart from metal?
So much. I have a very open mind, also for the reason that I'm a person who can find an influence in something that people might not find very "Katatonia", but I can use it to be "Katatonia". So I listen to a lot of music, even some jazz, singer/songwriters, a lot of soundtracks, alternative bands, and of course a lot of metal. I'm an all-eater. For me it's very important to have this open mind, there's a lot of talent out there.
Some suggestions you would give?
You know what, I'll check on my mp3 player [starts scrobbling his iPhone library]. Well, lately I was really really glad to hear is Martin Lopez new project [former drummer for Opeth, currently working on Soen and Fifth To Infinity projects], I'm happy to see him back; what else… Vallenfyre, from Gregor of Paradise Lost, this is something people don't expect from people in Paradise Lost… Tryptikon, I really like what Tom G. Warrior's always doing…
Various genres in metal as well, then…
So you can work on all these influence with Katatonia.
Sure. I have always thought of Katatonia as a heavy band, we have our roots in extreme metal, and rock, and I think it's nice to be able to use influences from something completely different, maybe Simon & Garfunkel, into the heavy sound. People won't expect that, neither would I. And this create a fresh aspect to the metal scene, to move away from the old, Manowar-heavy metal clichés.
And regardless music, what are the other influences you gather to work on Katatonia material? What can we find in Katatonia stuff, apart from music?
Books, movies, life itself. Every moment in life is somehow an inspiration. Something you see in the street, maybe. Life is a constant inspiration.
And what do you do when you are not involved in Katatonia?
There is no such time.
So Katatonia is a full time occupation…
Even if I don't phisically do something for it, I'm always thinking about it, it never ends.
And after all these years how do you approach the touring part of the band? You have a family, and touring for a long time can be very stressful and difficult.
It is. It doesn't get easier. The longer you are away, the more you miss your family. I'm also quite a homesick, I love Stockholm, I like just walking in Stockholm, and I miss that a lot, but at the same time the touring is a big part of Katatonia. Making the album is fifty percent, touring is the other fifty percent. This is where the interaction with fans happens, and I do enjoy it. But it's so little time of the travel.
One hour or two a day and the other twentytwo you are still away from home.
Exactly! You just sit and wait, I wish we could find some kind of technology.
Yeah! Would be great.
So do you think that live support and touring still is a fundamental part of the promotion of new stuff? I mean, is there something more to live, or is it just promotion?
Maybe these days touring is even more important than making the album. I know that many bands just make the album to be touring again; but I would never see it so black and white, because me, when I die, the album is what I will leave. Though, the concert is a memory for someone who was there. The album, on the other hand, is something more, is a physical product that anybody can pick up. So, in my opinion, the album will always be more important than the live part.
Time was up, so I had to stop this interesting discussion with Anders to give him the chance to answer to another reporter's questions but I did not leave before having all my Katatonia booklets signed.