This extensive 8-part interview consists of various Katatonia features, written by Paul Kearns, Frank Bøkseth, Sauli Vuoti and Roy Kristensen. Enjoy!
Sauli Vuoti did another chat with Jonas, heading up on things from the former part.
Your album will very soon come out. What do you think about it now afterwards? Are you satisfied with it?
"Yes, absolutely. It completely represents the sound that we were thinking about while we were making all the songs. So yes, we are very satisfied with it."
I must say that again after a few listening I was just stunned by this album! I think it’s probably the best album that I have ever heard so far, counting every music style.
"It’s very cool to hear opinions like that."
The first thing that I noticed was that the whole sound-wall was way more intense than on the previous two albums. I think the intense drumming and the better production are the ones that I noticed first.
"Yes, I think so. We went for a bigger sound, and we worked very hard with all the instruments. We made them sound exactly the way that we wanted. So I think the result speaks for itself. We have this new drummer, who has been a spark for the whole band during the recordings. He knows all kinds of cool tricks."
Did you do something differently production-wise than on the previous one?
"Not really, we just made sure that everything would sound excellent. We were a lot more picky with all the sounds and everything, but everything else was done like a standard procedure. The actual recordings took two months of time all in all."
The second thing that I noticed was that the guitar sound was even stronger and I think more precisely played. I think that the whole sound-wall actually seems so massive because every instrument does its job extremely well.
"We had more time to concentrate on everything, and the guitarists used full-chords instead of three finger chords. It has helped us to get a bigger guitar sound."
But what I soon realised was that you had improved your vocals massively, and almost like because of that Katatonia had used even more vocal melodies than on the previous album. Where did you grab those vocal melodies? Did you practise a lot more than for the previous album?
"I felt a lot more comfortable doing the vocals this time. I am satisfied with the vocals on the last album, but I still wanted to improve them more. I focused more, that’s basically it. Me and Anders spent several nights at the studio making the vocals, because we didn’t have everything written when we went to the studio. We just had to sit down and come up with stuff that we felt would be the best for certain parts. I practically didn’t practise at all before the studio because we don’t have a rehearsal place at the moment. We just practised with all the other instruments, and that was mainly because we didn’t have all vocal lines ready as I mentioned. I just had to sing a bit at home and warm the voice, and then give everything at the studio."
Singing in the shower…
"Yes, exactly! (laughs) We have to borrow rehearsal places all the time because three of our members live like 200 kilometres away so it’s always a strain to gather up for rehearsals."
That’s funny because I have always though that your band’s sound is so solid that you have to practise a lot together!
"It’s probably because we know that we have to give everything in the studio and concentrate."
I noticed that you had got a new drummer and a new bassist. What kind of influence have they brought into the band?
"Positive I think. The new bassist, Martin, is the little brother of Frederik. He’s originally a guitarist and he’s really good, so we knew that he could play everything easily. He also plays in a band called Dellamorte, which is some kind of rock/metal/hardcore. We really needed a full line-up for the Scandinavian tour, and it went very well so we invited them to record the album too. The drummer used to play in a hardcore band and he didn’t care much about metal, so he has tried a more aggressive approach into the music. He hits very hard and his playing style is very energetic. It’s very good to have a complete band."
Have they had any part in the material of the album?
"No, me and Anders and Frederik have made all the material. Martin just plays the bass and Daniel plays the drums although he has brought some energy into the music like I just mentioned."
Does your band's chemistry work ok now that you are a five-piece? Do you spend a lot of time together besides the obvious practise?
"Yes, very well. It’s cool to hang out with the guys. We always have a good time together. Anders and me see each other almost every day, but the others live in another town so we don’t have a chance to meet as often."
It seems like the last album was more guitar oriented, but now it seems like the vocals make up 60% of the lead melodies and the guitars take care of the rest.
"Yes, I agree. We hadn’t decided that in advance, but after we heard the songs without the vocals we decided to include as much vocals as we did. We think that the vocals should be the main thing now when we use clean ones."
Did you make a lot of changes during the long studio sessions?
"We actually didn’t have much vocals written before we went to the studio, so we had to write the rest there. It’s the best way for us."
The vocals melodies are very catchy.
"That was our intention, obviously."
I think that you had somewhat relaxed touch in your music on the previous album, but now it has changed to something, simply described as intense.
"It’s probably because of our new drummer. His way of playing is so energetic that it has probably pushed us into a new level. We are very satisfied with the style of the album."
One could think it like that if your last album’s relaxed sorrow did some damage, this intense melancholy really hurts.
"That is a good comparison. I think we have managed to still hold the calmness in some songs at least."
How is it possible to come up with such strong sad, melancholic melodies?
"I have no idea. It’s a natural thing for us, because we really wanted to play this kind of music. We always try to make the next song even better than the last one, improve everything all in all. Of course we do have this dark style as well, and I think we’ll hold on to that one as well. But I have no idea where it really comes from."
If we compare songs like "Teargas", "Tonight’s Music" and "Sweet Nurse" for example, they are all very very emotional, but in a different way I think. "Teargas" is a very desperate song, whereas in "Tonight’s Music" you sort of a long for something and "Sweet Nurse" is all about plain old sorrow.
"I think you are right. "Teargas"is also very catchy besides the desperation. We have been able to bring new dimensions to our music by using special tuning instead of the normal one on this album as well."
Would you still like to belong to a metal or a rock category after this album? Or do you want to be left out of the usual categorisations? They are needless anyway.
"No, we don’t want to belong to any certain category. I think that different audiences will like our new album, metal people definitely because we have our roots in metal. We aren’t going to deny that because we still have a heavy sound. But it’s also for people that like more normal music, because nowadays even my parents like it. I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing!"(Laughs)
"The Last Fair Deal Gone Down" is an interesting choice for an album title. Why did you choose a name like that?
"I like the title very much. It’s not my own title, I borrowed it from a blues-singer called Robert Johnson. He played blues in the ‘30’s. He is like a legend, people thought that he sold his soul to the devil to be able to play the guitar the way he did. So he was very obsessed with the devil, and I found that phrase from his lyrics. I think it fits the musical and lyrical content of the album very well."
I wonder if that guy was the forefather of black metal?
"Probably! (Laughs) He was living like a creature of some kind, and he was poisoned to death in the end. His story is a very cool one."
Now let’s talk about the songs; the album starts off with the song "Dispossession". I think this song is quite different from the rest of the songs on this album because it is so energetic. It’s also a great song to start an album with. Where is that energy coming from? Could you shortly describe what this song is all about?
"Anders just came up with the song one day, and we instantly thought that it could be a good opening song for the album. That’s partly why we wanted to make it sound so intense and we put a lot of energy into it. The song tells about that when you start to give up some hope you might quickly find yourself giving up on everything. And then everything just seems to fail."
Then there’s "Chrome". You have this interesting metaphor "things can keep going like a dead man’s clock". What is the deal behind this song?
"The whole lyric is just like reflecting boredom. When you waste your time doing nothing you might soon realise that things have been going on behind your back. Time passes on whether you realise it or not. So it’s basically about boredom and isolation. I think Frederik wrote most of the song that Anders then supplemented."
Next you have "We must bury you". This song is interesting because you have used computer percussion instead of real drums. Otherwise the message is pretty clear. Is this song about regret?
"We had a reason for using computerised percussion. It was the last one that we recorded, and the drummer had gone back to his hometown after all the drums had been recorded and finished. When I was recording the vocals in the studio Anders suddenly came up and said that he had written this song last night. Then we just recorded it. I think the song fits the album very well. I had to write the lyric on the last minute of course, and I had just seen an article about a murder where they buried the victim. It ended up like that, telling about regret."
It could also be quite critical towards the society because brutal stuff like this happens all the time.
"Yes, stuff like that happens too often. It’s a bit different lyrically I think, but I like it."
Then you have the single track "Teargas". It is a very desperate song… Does it tell about lost love?
"Yes, sort of. It’s about being dumped, it has all the thoughts that follow after that."
Were you dumped when you wrote the lyric?
"No, but I had previous experience, just like we all do."
Yes, at least Finnish guys!
"And Swedish! (Laughs)"
Why did you choose this song to be your single track?
"Mainly because it’s short and suitable for radio play and it represents the album in a good way. And of course it’s catchy. Also we just wanted to make an EP because we hadn’t done that previously. We think that this album might have a chance to be a bit more popular than the previous one. Not that we expect to become stars…"
But you’d certainly deserve to be famous. Your style is totally original and unexplored and you make hell of tracks with all the necessary elements that make music timeless and damn catchy.
"Thank you. Anders mainly made "Teargas", but we worked out the vocal harmonies together. He usually hums all the melodies when he is doing demo tapes of our songs. But we always have to work things out together because I have opinions and ideas as well."
About the single, if I’m right it had two tracks that aren’t on the album. I haven’t heard them so could you tell me something about them?
"They are pretty much in the same style as the songs on the album. We didn’t have a certain reason to include these tracks on the EP. We wanted just eleven tracks on the album, and we thought that the ones that we had chosen represented Katatonia best. The two tracks are very cool, especially the one called "March 13th". Very dark stuff, made by Anders with a little help from Frederik I think. "
"I Transpire". Who are you afraid on this song?
"I wanted to write a ghost song for this album. It’s mainly being afraid of things that are happening inside your mind. I think night can play mind games with anyone. It was also to make some variation to the lyrical content. All songs can’t be just about sorrow and negative stuff, we wanted some change for a while. The music is also about the same theme, it’s a bit different than the other songs. Anders made the whole song."
Then the brilliant "Tonight’s music". I guess this one has its share of the idea "If I only could live my life again". And it could be interpreted as a love song also.
"Well it has some of the same ideology. The song is about hoping, and basically wandering what the fuck is up. A pretty simple lyric, actually. The song has some ideas about not having love, but I wouldn’t call it a love song."
Maybe love with your right hand?
"Clean today". The song is obviously about shame, isn’t it?
"It’s more like about desperation, although it is a little bit about shame too. It is one of the strangest lyrics I have written, I just had those kinds of feelings and I put them on paper. It’s also about trying to be someone else than you really are."
This song is quite direct, and I guess it’s the most traditional song on your album.
"Yes it is, a pretty straightforward traditional song with its own weird feeling into it."
"The future of speech". What is the story of this song? I think the song is quite relaxed, but it’s very emotional and sombre also.
"It’s definitely more relaxed than the others. We chose between this song and "March 13th", and we decided to take this one. The song is about having problems with your social abilities, like talking about something without sense just because you have to. Like when you have to talk to someone that you aren’t interested about."
"Passing bird"… Who is she? The opening riff on this song describes a passing bird very well…
"It’s basically no one. This song is just about people that you meet, and which you don’t care about at all. People that just pass you by… But this song kind of a tells about girls in general, very bad and pretentious girls that have trouble and try to put that trouble into you. This song is the only one that I have made myself, with a little help from Anders of course. I don’t know where I got the riff, but I do agree with you. It definitely sounds different than Anders’ songs. It kind of a reminds me of country music! (Laughs)"
"Sweet Nurse". I think this one is the best song on this album, the vocal lead melody and the background guitars are just fantastic. I think the song is so sad that it gives me the cold shivers.
"I have never been to the hospital for a longer period, but I felt that this song had some hospital vibes. I mean like not darkness or depression, just plain old sorrow. That’s why I had to write something about hospital, about the loneliness and isolation. In the lyrics the nurse gives some tranquillisers to the patient just to make him/her to forget life. This one also came from Anders’ head."
Then you finish the album with "Don’t Tell A Soul". You say that "If you have no one, no one can hurt you". Is this your ideology?
"It’s from one my favourite artists’ songs. It fits our concept perfectly, and the line itself has a point. The lyrics tell about a person who has problems to fit in and wants to disappear."
I think the ten first songs are all somewhat different from each other, and all damn good, and you give the listener a cascade of different emotions with them. The last track is kind of an outro, it’s hard to describe it but it has feelings that kind of a make you let go and accept that the album is ending.
"We immediately heard that the track was a good one to end the album with while we were making demos for ourselves. The feeling is very dark, Anders and Frederik made one hell of a job."
By the way, a while ago Peaceville released a re-issue of "Tonight’s Decision". It had two bonus tracks. Why didn’t you include them into the album in the first place?
"We wanted eleven tracks on that album as well, and we had three left from the studio session. Peaceville then asked if we had any bonuses for the re-issue and we did."
Could you tell me something about the two tracks, "Fractured" and "No Devotion". I think they are very good songs.
"We recorded those in the album session of course. "No Devotion" is quite a dark song as well and I like it very much. It tells about not having devotion to do anything, lack of ambition I would say. "Fractured" is more melodic, quite unique to be our song. It just tells about being afraid of almost everything."
Have you got any live gigs or tours planned?
"We have a few gigs in the middle Europe, but otherwise we haven’t talked about a tour. We would like to go on tour, probably supporting some bigger act. We are not big enough to do a headline tour, and that way we could promote ourselves to a wider audience. And of course giving our fans good gigs. We hope to do a European tour after the release of the album. We have been thinking about a proper set that would include songs from the three newest albums. Anders is already forgetting some riffs but Frederik will teach him because he never forgets anything. There are some songs that couldn’t be performed live like "We Must Bury You."
What do you expect or hope to achieve with this particular album?
"We hope we could gather up a wider audience. It’s not that we would want to get rich but we think that our music has the potential to grab even more attention. I guess that’s the most important thing. So far the response has been excellent. We have again progressed a bit, but we have to move on and develop."
I guess it’s too early, but I’m still going to ask: When will Katatonia start to make material for a new album?
"We haven’t thought about that yet because we have worked so much with this one. We will probably start to compose during the summer I think, and discuss what it will be like and what kind of a sound we want. No hurry. Anders usually comes up with good ideas sooner or later…"
I think that this album has the potential to sell like hell. I think all friends of melancholic music will just love the album, but I wonder if the sound wall has too much stuff to listen to for a simpler person?
"I think the music wouldn’t work well in a disco. Well, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder…"
Would you have anything against becoming rock-stars one day? What about getting women like hell? Although your music is way too intelligent for groupies and teens I think…
"I wouldn’t want to be someone that is constantly in the magazines, because I don’t like to be on focus. I would like to see as many people as possible being charmed with the music. I wouldn’t mind living off the band because it takes most of our time. We’re almost loosing money on it…(Just like on Imhotep! - SauliED) Women are not things that automatically follow after success, and it’s hard to find true love… We are not showing off on stage or anything, we just are boring guys. It’s more fun to just to look at the girls…"
"Seriously, if a girl comes up to us she’s probably just a fan of the music and not after something else. Musicians have to respect women and not to think that they might get laid or something. Musicians have to treat fans just like all their friends and family. But it just might be gay-men coming up to us one day!"
You have to avoid Germany in that occasion!
"Yes, you never know! (Laughs)"
I must again thank you for this interview. I hope people will understand the album and get as much out of it as I did. You are a band who deserves to get on the top; years of work and three magnificent albums in a row. I wish you the best of luck! Hope to see you in Finland some time soon!
"I hope Finland and Norway will love the album, it’s definitely worth checking out."
"And visit our homepage for news etc. Thank you for this interview!"
Thank you Jonas!
Black & white live photos by Trine Lindh Justad!
Composed by Sauli Vuoti