This extensive 8-part interview consists of various Katatonia features, written by Paul Kearns, Frank Bøkseth, Sauli Vuoti and Roy Kristensen. Enjoy!
On Friday February 20th, 2004 Katatonia played here in Frank's hometown of Trondheim, Norway. So in that had a little chat with the Swedes. He sat down backstage with Jonas & Anders after the soundcheck.
What’s happened since the release of “Viva Emptiness”?
Jonas: We did a European tour when the album came out, and it lasted for seven weeks…
Anders: But we didn’t come here though, unfortunately. We did Oslo, but…
Jonas: After that we we’ve taken it easy…aah…We haven’t done much after that, have we?
Anders: Noo… But we’ve started up again now…more gigs and stuff.
You’re also working on a DVD…When is it due to be released?
Anders: As soon as possible… When we’ve finished it, it is finished. We don’t have a release schedule on that one. The contents will be a gig that we recorded in Poland, that’s the main feature, and also some bonus clips from other concerts, interviews with all the bandmembers, the usual stuff… We’ll finish it as soon as possible, so it’ll come this spring sometime. There’s a compilation on the way too, on Avantgarde, with all our old songs, release date February 23, double CD. All the old singles, “For Funerals…”, “Jhva..”, all those. One unreleased song…eh..
Anders: Yes, that’s its name, you knew that one.
I found out one thing, just now recently, in fact. Though “Viva…” wasn’t my favourite Katatonia album when first released, I leaned more towards the two preview ones, but I found out when I should pick out my favourites, to my surprise there were more strong songs from “Viva…” than any other album. Some of my greatest favourites may still be on “Tonight’s Decision” and “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”, but “Viva Emptiness” probably got the best average. I confronted the guys with this…
Jonas: We really thought this would be an album people in fact would use some time to get into, but as it seems, when we’re touring, people really wanted to hear those songs. Earlier on, people have wanted to hear very much from the old stuff. It seems like it’s become the favorite for many and that’s cool.
You’ve changed your musical style and expression a bit between each album, do you know where you’re heading next, or is it perhaps too early to say?
Jonas: Well, I think we’ll try to develop…
Anders: It’s too early too say.
Jonas: Yeah, maybe.
Anders: ...but you’re always trying to do what you do better.
You’re touring with Amaran on this “In the Ghost of the Sun” tour, any special reason for that?
Anders: Well, they’re a cool band, and they’re friends of ours, so… We know we get along with them.
You released two singles from “Last Fair Deal..” but none from “Viva..” (except for the “Ghost of the Sun” promo, but that one don’t count)
Anders: That’s because the record company isn’t really that interested in singles, at least not in the way singles are supposed to be regarded... Peaceville is a company that relates to albums. It was in fact we that wanted to do those singles from “Last Fair Deal..”, because we like to release stuff that’s limited and maybe hard to get, and those singles were quite limited. Also we get to throw in a couple of B-sides.
While we’re in the “Limited/B-sides”-corner…. There’s one thing that has annoyed me a bit… “No Devotion” & “Fractured” were only released on the 2nd edition of “Tonight’s Decision”, when Snapper took over for Music for Nations. Why didn’t you throw those songs onto, let’s say the “Teargas” (to make it a “real” EP), so that the ones that bought the “Tonight’s…”-album when it first came out wouldn’t have to buy another copy just to get hold of those two songs. Irritating.
Anders: That’s totally Peaceville’s decision. (I suspected that much – FB) We would rather have those songs unreleased than on that reissue, to have them for a future compilation or something. But those who didn’t buy it straight away are happy with them being there, I guess.
When you’re doing “Murder” and stuff like that live, is it you, Jonas, doing the growling then?
Jonas: Yeah, we’re doing that one sometimes, and then I just have to scream for what I'm worth, haha.
Anders: Jonas still got it in him; we’re doing “Murder” on almost every gig…
Jonas: It works if I only do one song…
Anders: And it’s got to be the last one too.
Jonas: Or else… <shik> (Both doing cutthroat movement) Hahaha… I don’t think I could do “Brave” live, it’s so long and there’s too much singing in it, too…
Jonas: We were thinking about doing it, but..
Anders: The main reason we’re not doing “Brave” is that it’s too lengthy, if it’s been shorter we could’ve done it.
It’s not too lengthy…
Jonas: But anyway, my voice couldn’t cope with that much growling, I really don’t think so…
You were supposed to play in Trondheim 6 years ago or so, but hat tour was cancelled due to lack of drummer…
Anders: Yeah. We had no drummer back then. We were supposed to do that tour with Opeth’s old drummer, Anders Nordin. He rehearsed with us, but then the day before the tour started he called me and said that he couldn’t do it. I don’t know why, really…
He was moving to Brazil in that period, wasn’t he?
Anders: He was supposed to do so, but he still hasn’t… He’s….a bit of a strange person.
Jonas: We had rehearsed it all in and were ready to hit the road, but…
Anyway, you’re here now… How long did it take before you got a drummer then, really?
Jonas: Oh, when was that…’97? We used Dan Swanö on “Tonight’s Decision”. Daniel (Liljekvist - FB) joined in ’99, just after “Tonight’s...” were done, so about 2 years, then..
There weren’t many gigs in that period, I guess..
Both: No…. None at all.
Anders: We did one Scandinavian tour in connection with “Tonight’s..” with Daniel, when we toured with Paradise Lost, we did Oslo then.
Is “For Funerals to Come” done with drum computer, or is the sound meant to be like that?
Anders: It’s D-drums. Pads.
Jonas: The cymbals are “real”, everything else are…
Anders: It is like everything is trigged, almost like a drum computer, only that one actually plays it on the drums.
Jonas: We had in mind to record that EP in one day, so instead of using most of that day adjusting the sound of each drum, we decided to do it the easy way… It doesn’t sound all that cool, maybe, but…
I think “Funeral Wedding”’ became quite cool that way…
Anders: We thought it was pretty cool back then, hehe…
One other thing… Katatonia was disbanded for a period some 10 years ago, in that same period…
Anders: We took a break then, and we started doing other stuff. I got involved in Bewitched, and it was also in that period I started up Diabolical Masquerade and Jonas also did his stuff. It was good doing something different, because at that time we wanted to do so much… So instead of ruining Katatonia with thrashriffs and so on…I think all fans are happy we didn’t do so… Because Katatonia were our no. 1 priority. So when we started up Katatonia again I quit Bewitched. And so we did “Brave Murder Day”.
And that’s where they found their style. Katatonia found the formula one can still hear in their present works. Do you have any contact with Guillaume Le Huche ? (“Israphel", bass player on “Dance of December Souls”, the “For Funerals…” EP and the Unisound-session with “Scarlet Heavens” & the WAR compilation tracks (“Love of the Swan” & “Black Erotica” (the latter later known as “12” from “Brave Murder Day”)
Jonas: He’s a samurai now.
Anders: Yeah, he’s a samurai. He’s a pretty funny guy…
He’s French, or what, hence the name?
Jonas: He’s French, right. When we were doing “Brave Murder Day” he had quitted upon music. He was more into magic and that sort of stuff.
Anders: Magic was more important than music…
Jonas: But now he’s become a samurai…he’s strange.
You also had to record the “Sounds of Decay” EP twice… Mikael (Åkerfeldt, from Opeth - FB) told me you thought the first recording became too heavy, or….?
Anders: The thing was, we had been out drinking the night before and we were in a pretty shabby condition all of us… We played untight, out of tune, the production…well…
Jonas: The guitars became way too Dismember-ish, I tell you… But that song, “Untrue”, is from that 1st session.
So you won’t release the rest of those 1st recordings?
Jonas: No, I don’t think so. It doesn’t sound that good…
Anders: The reason we haven’t released it is because we don’t want anyone to hear it…
Heh, Mikael thinks that it’s tough as hell.
Anders: Yeah, yeah, I know! He thinks it’s better!
…but he also told me that you thought it suck…
Anders: Hush… (starts to whistle)
How about Diabolical Masquerade (hereon only referred to as DM), any news?
Anders: Yeah, I’m about to do a new record now, it’ll be a very insane record, the DM way. It’ll be more the regular tunes this time, but they’ll be hard as hell, fucking hard. I’m trying to make things as hard and insane as I can. I mean, everything that I can’t use in Katatonia will be canalized through DM. And that can be everything from a little showband-tune to blastbeats… That works fine. But we’re having a break in the recordings right now, because I’m on the road with Katatonia. We’re recording it in several sessions, but it’ll be ready later this year.
How about October Tide (Jonas’ and Fredrik Norrman’s “Brave Murder Day “-style project/band, released two albums), is it dead and buried now?
By now Fred’s come into the room a little while ago, and he just shakes his head and says the word “Gone.”
What about Bloodbath?
Anders: Bloodbath is not gone.
Anders: No, we’re still having plans. We just have to fit it into the schedule of everyone, synchronize it, so that we all have a bit of spare time for it at the same time… On the last album we had some problems with everyone not being available at the same time, so that’s the problem. So we’re trying to find time for it now, in our schedule. By the way, Mike (that same Åkerfeldt - FB) ain’t in anymore. He won’t be available for some time now, so…we kicked him out. (laughs a bit)
Will Dan be taking the vocal duties now then, since Mike’s vocals on “Resurrection Through Carnage” were pretty Edge of Sanity’ish anyway?
Anders: Noo… It would work fine recording-wise though, …but then we wouldn’t be able to do it live then…
So you’re going to play live with Bloodbath then?
Jonas: We DO want to play live. With that in mind…
Anders: So it would be smarter to take in some other guy to do the vocals.
OK. So what about Heinz??
Anders: Hmm..? What’s that?
Well, it’s a “band” too…
Anders: ….Aaaaah… (slaps his head)
Jonas: The “farting” band….
Anders: Shit. Mike, or what?
Jonas: It’s buried, haha.
Anders: Oh my God. He talks too much. He and Dan.
(Here my weird sense of humour came in and did it’s thing…Gotta have a bit of it in an interview now and zen. Heinz was one of Jonas’ & Mikael’s many “projects” some years ago, when they had nothing better to do…. And Heinz was, as said, the “plött” (farting) band. They would sit down, eat loads of beans and record the outcome to tape… ‘nuff said.)
OK. Let’s get a bit serious again, then… It seems to me that Mr. Liljekvist has, in addition to his hard-hitting style, his strength in, well, sort of percussive drumming. His style of drumming has added another dimension to Katatonia, it ain’t just the “straight” drumming anymore, he’s making the full use of the space in between the “obligatory” beats to come with all kinds of fill-ins, or whatever you call it….You know where I’m heading here…? ‘coz I kinda dropped out a bit, hehe…took off.
Anders: Sure. He’s contributing all the time, we couldn’t have done these songs unless we knew that he would be capable of playing them.
A bit funny, really, since he is/was sort of a hardcore/nu-metal-drummer, in the starting point at least…
Anders: He was more of a punk-drummer to begin with, but he has evolved as hell the last years.
Jonas: He’s been playing marches and in the school band for several years earlier on and he also played percussion in a grand symphony orchestra.
Then it’s not so odd anyway… So what’s happening next…?
Anders: We’re doing lots of gigs this summer. Many, in fact more gigs than we’ve ever had before. And then we’ll try to focus on the new album… Jonas has several hours of new stuff, so I don’t think that making the new album will be any problem at all.
KATATONIA gig review
Trondheim, Norway, February 20th, 2004.
Setlist written by memory, the songs are not placed 100% in the correct order, but all the songs played are here at least J
1. Ghost of the Sun 2. Criminals 3. Chrome 4. Stalemate 5. Wealth 6. Complicity 7. Teargas 8. The Future of Speech 9. Sleeper 10. For My Demons 11. Sweet Nurse 12. Evidence 13. Tonight’s Music 14. Deadhouse 15. Murder
Surely a night to remember for those who were there, this was a concert filled with everything Katatonia has to offer. But it started with Atrox, a Trondheim-based band with four records under the belt, the last one (aptly named “Orgasm”) released through the Italian label Code666. The weird thing about this was that Monika Edvardsen, who’d been the vocalist on all four albums, quit right after the album was done. And also several other new recruitments had been done (bass & keyboards). The new singer (whom I don’t know the name of in this very moment) did his stuff really well, he have a good powerful voice. He used two microphones, one of them with a terrible “space”-effect on it. If you want to use this “effect” of varying the vocals, tune it down. Could be exiting forward, tough. Surely a different experience after hearing this band numerous times with the female avant-garde-vocals of Ms. Edvardsen.
Next out were Amaran, and quite frankly, this ain’t the best band in the “metal with chick on vocals” category, even though they did an somewhat OK performance and have some fairly good songs. Did get the crowd going at some places, but I was waiting for tonight’s main attraction, and boy, did they deliver.
I’ve been a fan of these guys since “Dance of December Souls”, so this was better than Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day altogether! From the crushing start with “Ghost of the Sun”, they showed why they are, and always have been the leading of the “depressive & melancholic joy”-bands. I can babble about this for ages, but I think I’ll try to keep it fairly short (partly because it’s late and I’m pretty tired, heh.). Jonas sings with true desperate emotion, and the other guys accompany him in his misery. Surely, one could always complain a bit of the songs chosen to play. For instance “Wealth” have never been a favourite of mine, I’d rather have liked to hear for instance “Walking by a Wire”, I think it would seriously kick ass live. Also “Tonight’s Decision” was only represented with one song while “Discouraged Ones” got two, and then not the two best songs from that album, namely “I Break” and “Relention”, but what the heck, I’m satisfied anyway, nothing could ruin this night, I was probably looking mentally deranged the one and a half hour or so the gig lasted (too short), but I don’t care... I really don’t care. Wonderful. (PS: Guys, if you read this, next time, (if..) try to give me “Brave”!!
Black & white live photos by Trine Lindh Justad!
Composed by Frank Bøkseth