Anders Nyström and Jonas Renkse of Katatonia

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I was recently able to sit down with founding members Anders Nyström and Jonas Renkse of Katatonia on their current and first ever tour of the < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />United States opening for Moonspell and ask them some questions. 



Interview and Live Photos by Shaq


Interview questions by Shaq and Lord of the Wasteland




What originally prompted you guys to move from your older death metal sound to the current style?< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


Anders: We’d been doing the old stuff for a lot of years.  We were young back then, and felt like we needed to move on.  Just a natural progression really, nothing strange about that.   It’s just growing up and finding new ways of expression and developing your band, broadening your horizons.



What do you think of the older material now when you look back on it?


Anders: Sweet times, actually.  Sweet times, good vibes and a good scene, a much better scene actually.  It was a more tight scene, with better vibes back then, probably because everything was also new for us in the scene.  We were damn excited to be part of everything.  I see it as a little bit naïve back then but also it has a certain kind of magic to it and you will never be able to deny that. 







Do you still consider yourselves to be a metal band, even in your new style?


Anders: Oh yeah, I think we’re definitely a metal band.  Maybe not belonging to the usual categories like death metal, thrash metal, doom metal.  We’re just metal.  We’re not afraid to use inspiration and influences from outside metal in metal.




Do you ever touch on any of the old stuff live or do you leave that as memories for right now?


Anders: The difference between old and new is very individual to people.  For me, the old stuff is before Discouraged Ones.




That’s what I meant when I said that.


Anders: Exactly, that’s the change.  We play one song from Brave Murder Day, and now we play two songs from that one.  We usually end our shows with that so it’s a little candy for the old fans.





When you actually went and recorded and released Discouraged Ones were you worried about how your older fans were going to react?


Anders: Actually, at that time we were not, because we were not caring at all what people were thinking.  We were so hungry for ourselves in what we were doing that we didn’t care about anything.  We didn’t care about what the label thought, it was just what we wanted to do.  We didn’t take anyone into consideration at the time.  So it was a big risk, but we didn’t care.




You guys regularly release singles with remixes and alternate versions of your songs.  Is this a decision made by you or does it come down from the record company?


Anders: A little bit of both.  If we release a single, it should not just be the single and that’s it.  That’s boring, and that’s very corporate, manufactured and commercial shit.  We always tend to have an unreleased b-side on it, exclusive to the single so the single has some value.  All our singles are limited editions, so they’re going to end up sooner or later as a collectors’ item, so the juicy stuff on it is good for the collectors.




Some of these tracks are extremely different from the normal Katatonia sound, such as the “Urban Dub” mix of “In the White” from the Deliberation single.  Is this your way of exploring other types of music or is it total experimentation?


Anders: Yeah it’s experimentation.  It’s cool to see what other styles can do with our songs and music.  It’s just interesting for everyone to hear, and for us ourselves too.



So it’s other types of music you already have interest in and want to try writing in that style?


Anders: No, we’re not trying to turn Katatonia into…



No that’s not what I meant.  You just have an interest in a style outside of your own style.


Anders: Personally?  Oh yeah, of course.  We’re music lovers, and there’s so much music outside of the style we play that is still fucking good.  The richer audio life you have, the better for you.




The music videos you have for Deliberation and My Twin are actually eye-catching and disturbing and seemingly artistic.  Do you play a part in the direction and the artistic view of that or is it totally out of your hands?


Anders: We didn’t this time at all.  We gave it totally to the hands of the director.




What did you think of how it came out?


Anders: Cool.  I’m pleased, especially with My Twin because it was our first video ever.  It looks professional to me, and it’s all his interpretation of the song.  We trusted him and I think it worked out good, it looks good.  It’s in the frame of the song and everything.




So you think it properly depicts the message you were trying to get across?


Anders: Yeah I think so.  Who knows what it would have looked like if we directed it, but it’s not our area.  We’re not video directors, so we’re sticking to the music.  It’s better to trust somebody who has the knowledge and is also into our music.





The artwork for the new album, The Great Cold Distance is a bit of a departure from your old style as well.  It’s a lot more simplistic, and you did away with actually using the band logo and just have plain text instead.  Was that your decision, and did that reflect any sort of message you were trying to convey?


Anders: We tried the logo on there, so it’s not like we’re scrapping the logo.  We’re having the logo on the merch and everything, so it’s still there.  We just thought it looked classier with this minimal little font instead of this big logo destroying the atmosphere of the cover.  It’s as simple as that, really.  We wanted this very strict, cold classy vibe on the artwork.  We’re still having the logo, but just not on the album cover.




When I listen to Katatonia, I can hear similarities to bands such as Pink Floyd or Tool.  Are those bands that play any part in influences, and what other bands influence you?


Anders: Basically everything I like influences me.  Maybe you don’t hear so much Bathory in our music anymore but I love the band, and old Paradise Lost was a big influence when we started.  Tool is a favorite band right now, probably showing some influence.  Basically anything good, atmospheric, emotional, dark, that’s what we like and that’s what we channel.




I personally appreciate that because I love the band Tool and a lot of people in the metal scene kind of push them away.


Anders: I don’t know why, man




I don’t understand it because I think they’re incredible.


Anders: They are.




So I find that really cool that you guys pull that in and can appreciate it.  Where else do you pull influences from?  Is it, say, your real-life experiences or current world events?


Anders: It’s just being alive.  It’s enough to be influenced by just waking up every day and facing the problems of the ordinary life and all the obstacles in life, between relationship problems coming and going, life, death, love, hate – everything in a melting pot.  That’s just what Katatonia is about.




Do you have any one album that you are particularly proud of or that stands out in your mind?


Anders: In our own discography?




Yeah, out of the stuff you’ve written.


Anders: Well, it’s the standard answer, but the latest one.  I don’t know about the other guys, but the latest one represents what Katatonia is today. We’re still excited about that album, and it’s what keeps us going on.  It’s hard to have a favorite album, because we’ve done them all and I don’t hate any of them, I love all of them, but it’s hard to have a favorite.  But I think the new album, because it’s the newest album, is the most fresh for us.




As far as I know, this is your first actual tour of the < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />United States.  You previously had a one-off festival show, which I heard stories of it not going so well.


Anders: Yeah we had two of them.  The notorious Milwaukee Metal Festival…




Right, that’s the one I had heard about.


Anders: Oh yeah, we’d rather forget about that one.  [laughs]




Sorry. [laughs]


Anders: And then we were in Cleveland, Ohio two years ago for the Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles festival, we were on that one too.  That’s the only experience we’ve had in North America so far.






So how does it feel now that you’re actually doing an all out tour of the United States?


Anders: It’s exciting.  It’s a bumpy road, and we’re just on the third gig right now.  We’re excited, and we’re going to pull this one through.  The fans are great, and what the fans give us is what we feed on.  Hopefully what we give them back, it’s like a circle.  We’ve been having some problems with the local acts being too many on the bill, way too many.  It affects our playing time on stage which has been cut down, which sucks for everybody, for us and for the fans.  Also the headliners Moonspell, it affects them as well.  People are leaving the shows early, and it’s all because too many local acts are playing.  I hope something’s being done about that, because otherwise it’s going to be a bumpy tour.




As far as I know, that’s not the case tonight in New York.   It’s just you guys with no locals.


Anders: As it should be, really.  This is a good package anyway, with three bands who pretty much share the same kind of audience.  I think that’s what all people need, fuck the local openers!




So the two nights before this, have you had a good crowd reaction and a lot of people coming out?


Anders: It hasn’t been a massive audience or anything but we have really good support from them.  I think, basically they’re just happy to see Katatonia be here.  We’re gonna give our best even though the circumstances are really rough; we’re still gonna try and pull through and do our best.  It’s going to be rough with the situation with the local openers.  We’re doing it, and I just hope we’re pulling through and the audience is leaving pretty happy.




On some of your past albums, Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth has done some guest vocals on them. Has there been any talk of doing any future collaborations with him?


Anders: No we haven’t talked about that at all.  Besides, he’s so busy right now with Opeth, I don’t think he can squeeze anything in.  After touring all the year round, I think he just wants to spend quality time with his family.




Do you still have any kind of contact or friendship with him?


Anders: Oh yeah, Jonas is his best friend so they speak every day.




In the past couple of years they’ve gained a huge amount of success in the States.  Have you ever thought about maybe getting on a tour with them to go around the States?


Anders: It’s always a constant thought we’re always talking about.  We actually toured with Opeth in Europe in 2001.  I think that’s the most common question I’ve ever gotten.  “Why aren’t you touring with Opeth?”  Who knows, it’s just timing.  We probably will again.  I would have nothing against touring with Opeth in the United States, it would be the perfect thing.






What is the current status of Bloodbath.  I know everyone’s leaving, and people are coming in and out.  Are there any plans for doing anything with that?


Anders: We’re just cleaning up the house right now.  There’s a lot of mess to deal with there.  We still haven’t found a singer.  There’s been a handful of singers capable of doing a good job, but filling Peter Tägtgren’s shoes is a hard task so we’re being picky with it.




Have there been auditions?


Anders: There have been a few auditions.  I can’t present you with a new name right now but we’re dealing with it, and there’s definitely going to be a third full length Bloodbath album.




There’s probably no time frame on that, though.


Anders: Next year, definitely.





What about some of your other past side projects like Diabolical Masquerade or Bewitched?


Anders: Bewitched was a long time ago, man.  [laughs]




How about any re-releases of some of those albums or is that all just something in the past?


Anders: I lost track of Bewitched but those guys are still going.  I speak to Marcus occasionally, and they’re recording a new album so they’re still rocking out.  As far as Diabolical Masquerade goes, I’ve started clawing at it again.  I don’t know, we’ll see what happens with that.  I’ve been trying out some rehearsals with a couple of dudes, maybe thinking about extending it to a full lineup and being able to play live.  If I were to resurrect Diabolical Masquerade I want to take it to another level where I can play live.  That’s what I need right now, to play something very very aggressive on stage.  Katatonia is great on stage, but it doesn’t give you that all out insane aggression.




After the U.S. run, what are your plans?  Is there a new album in the works or just more touring?


Anders: Both of them.




Any material written?


Anders: Ideas, ideas are happening, but we’re not really writing until we sit down and do everything at once.  We’re really focused on writing, maybe for a month every night with pre-production.  We’re going to do that in the late winter, and in between now and then just play as much as possible. 




Jonas, is it cool if I ask you a couple questions too?


Jonas: Yeah, yeah.





Now that you’re doing mostly clean vocals, have you done anything such as taking lessons to work on that aspect of your talent or does it just come naturally?


Well, I wouldn’t say naturally, but I had to start singing.  I just wanted to improve all the time and I think playing live is the best lesson you can get because the circumstances are often very rough compared to a studio but I’ve never taken any lessons.  I just try to sing as much as possible. 




Now that you’re not doing drums on the albums do you still play a part in the arrangement of the drums or writing any of the parts when writing the new albums?


Jonas: When I’m doing music I usually make a rhythm to it so I have my ideas but I give Daniel free hands, because he’s a much better drummer than me so it’s very much up to him.  I still love drumming so I have an interest in it.


Anders:  Jonas is actually obsessive with the drums.  He is, really.  He’s being a little considerate and shy right now but if you listen to the demos, they’re programmed like insane, down to the detail level.




You had a past project, October Tide.  Do you have any plans for re-releases or anything?


Jonas: There’s a reissue of the second album. I’m not sure when, but it’s in the works.  We’re not doing any new music at all, it’s dead and buried.



I would like to thank Paula Hogan at Candlelight Records USA and Dave at Earsplit PR for helping to arrange the interview.



Official Katatonia Site