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Here is my interview with Anders Nystrom from Katatonia – featured in Hails And Horns Magazine Issue #27:
Katatonia, the Swedish kings of Doom and Gloom, have made a triumphant return in 2012 with the release of their highly anticipated ninth studio album, ‘Dead End Kings’! Released on August 27, 2012 in Europe and August 28, 2012 in the US, the album has been receiving rave reviews from fans and critics alike. I had a chance to catch up with guitarist, Anders “Blakkheim” Nystrom, during Katatonia’s transit from Europe to America for their latest tour; the Epic Kings and Idols tour with The Devin Townsend Project and Paradise Lost. The Swedish Axe-slinger had plenty to share about the recording process, touring, and all things Katatonia…
>How was the writing process for Dead End Kings? Do you write together as a full band? Do you write while on the road? How does that process work for Katatonia?
Never have been writing as a full band, just not our thing as we never rehearse/jam other than in front of touring anyhow, not even before recordings. All songs are born from individual ideas created on our own because we need a certain state of mind, in a private comfort zone, and needless to say, this doesn’t work very well on the road. There’s nowhere to escape to obtain the peace of mind to write music for Katatonia while touring. But going back to the way it works, I guess it was early January when we finally locked ourselves up in our head quarters and focused solely on getting all the songs completed and arranged and we kept on writing even as we started recording, so the two processes were kinda integrated. We came out of the studio at the end of May. In the more recent years Jonas has become one of our main songwriters, but that doesn’t mean I no longer participate and entirely stopped writing. I just happened to have my worst creative
dropout after ‘The Great Cold Distancecame out, so ‘Night Is The New Daybecame mostly a Jonas effort. I had the songs ‘Forsakerand ‘Idle Bloodgoing, but not much more. However, this time I got to step up as I managed to find my way back to the flow and delivered both on the musical and lyrical fronts and actually had to stop writing because we were getting too many songs going. Now we had Jonas writing songs on his own, me writing songs on my own and we also got to collaborate on a few as well, the perfect scenario for a new Katatonia album to come together. Another related and very important and functional role with myself and Jonas producing the album was that we could allow ourselves to have this big overview and analyze all the songs down to the core regardless who wrote it. We put a lot of time “pimpingall the songs to bring out that little finesse that in the end makes the big difference.
>The response to the new album has been great overall…What can you tell us about the overall mood and/or sound of this latest effort, Dead End Kings?
Everything we do needs to pass a criteria level where we’ve applied our so called “Katatonia filter” and I think that’s why we’re very comfortable producing ourselves. No compromises. Just a clear vision, our vision, leading the way for the songs to become the album; and style wise it continues where the last album left us… but we’ve once again tried to sharpen our sword in terms of performances and sound. The rest is up to our listeners to discover and absorb!
>In the beginning Katatonia’s sound was much darker. Your sound could have only been described as black/doom or death/gloom. How has the overall sound and mood of the band progressed over time?
I wouldn’t go so far as saying it was darker, because what we’re doing now is to me still just as dark, just coming from a another angle with a different delivery, but for sure, back then our sound, attitude and outlook was however more extreme and aggressive and that’s what appealed to us when we started out. We were extreme metal fans trying to form a band, so it was the natural next step to take. With time, you evolve musically and gain experience in how to interpret your ambitions, so we just fine tuned our concept to fit in with where we are in time both as musicians and as people. It’s crucial to us. We’re comfortable with the trademark we represent.
>I find myself listening to the band on a constant basis, especially with my woman… What do you say to people who classify your music as being sexy and/or romantic?
Well, i rather see it’s Katatonia than Fabio delivering the goods! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpqzGhGPCuk (In reference to the sadly out of print compilation CD: Fabio After Dark, which included soliloquies on Fabio’s philosophy of love.)
>A lot of the music that comes from Sweden seems to have an ominous, dark, gloomy tone? Can you explain what might be behind this correlation between where you are from and the sound of your music?
I think it comes subconsciously to us. We have many months of dark and cold weather up here, we don’t get much summer, even in summer it mostly rains. I think melancholia is something rooted deeply within our heritage and it’s brought on genetically by artist to artist through generations. The dark imagery appeals to a lot of people around the world though, I think it’s a global phenomenon for certain kind of people.
>What do you guys do outside of the band? Does anybody have any interesting jobs or hobbies we should know about?
All in the band are currently employed by Katatonia, as our touring and recording schedules conflict with any kind of day time jobs and wouldn’t make it possible persuing both. Before we went full-time self-employed, Jonas and I worked at a local post office, Daniel worked as a bookbinder, Sodo worked as some sort of industrial assembler and Nille was a local postman. In our formative years Jonas played handball and I played badminton, we were also doing graffiti and getting into trouble, but I think our hobbies died a long time ago except one, that turned into our profession.
>Where is the majority of your fan base? Do you get a better response in some countries versus others? How is your response in America?
Finland is one of the places we get the best reception and best places to play! Germany is always great, but I guess that goes for every band and music in general. I can see a slow but steady rise in the UK. We’ve always had a real good following with South European countries and also Latin countries. America is getting a lot better, but we still have a long way to go there as we neglected touring the states more than half of our career.
>Do you enjoy touring or do you feel it’s just something you have to do to keep the band progressing? What is your favorite thing about touring?What is the worst thing about touring?
When you just released a brand new album and you’re off on a tour promoting it with some great bands that all get along and have their space, crew is getting along and have no problem to step it up when needed, the shows are well attended and even packed, the venues have hot showers and a proper backstage, the vehicle you travel in is a real and clean nightliner and not a bumpy and dirty van, the tour is reasonably routed so there’s a constant flow, and last but not least there’s a daily wifi connection – touring is nothing but absolutely wonderful! When you start to take away the things I just mentioned one after another it becomes a drag and potentially even a nightmare and you end up laying in your bunk wondering why you’re doing this over and over again.
>Do you guys have any crazy tour experiences that you will never forget? Anything crazy happen on the road?
Well, a really cool thing that happened going back home from a tour was when we had just boarded a flight. Once airborne, an air hostess came up to us and said “The captain would like to speak to you, can you come up front?”. We all go like “Hmm, okay, well… sure.” Then looking at each other murmuring “Who fucked up now and what did you do?” Once outside the cockpit the air hostess opened the door and the captain and co-pilot turned in their chairs towards us and introduced themselves and then comes the shocker, the captain proved to be a Katatonia fan! The stress turned into relief and then into excitement over the lapse of a second I tell you! He upgraded us to first class and brought us a wine bottle each and chit chatted through the entire flight about metal and the scene and you could never have imagined any of this because the look of a pilot is not something you affiliate with metal by a long shot. It dawned on me he probably wasn’t even much
older than I was, after all. Then when we were supposed to go down for landing he invited Daniel and Sodo to stay inside the cockpit and see it from first row, they were giggling like kids! When we had touched ground the loudspeakers came on and the captain welcomed everybody to Stockholm and also that it has been an absolute honor to fly Katatonia home and insisted everyone to give the band a round of applause and that the rest of the passengers should “rock on” (ha-ha), a confused round of applause was heard, but probably while wondering “kata-what? kata-who?”. The most cool flight I’ve ever boarded and probably ever will.
>Do you have any pre-show rituals? Anything you do right before a show?
Well, things are either pretty causal or busy just up until 60 minutes before a show where you might be still on the bus or down the venue or doing interviews or being out eating or whatever, but 60 minutes to showtime we try to all gather backstage and change to stage clothes, get your in ears wired and enter live mode, enter the zone. Jonas usually starts to sing up a little. Sodo is probably playing a guitar. Daniel might be taking a power nap or he’s going through the songs in silence. Nille is probably pouring himself another beer and telling bad jokes and I’m probably having problems closing my laptop to accept I have to go offline. Just minutes before the show we take a small shot of Jäger together, line up behind the stage and as we hear the intro rolling we do the daps and off we go!
>Can you list some of your influences as a band?
There’s so many elements being and turning into an influence. It’s constant and everywhere. Musically, we have our root influences in many different genres. In metal we formed the band much due to the influence by Metallica, Bathory, Paradise Lost, Candlemass. We also drew influences early on from The Cure, Slowdive, Fields Of The Nephilim, Red House Painters and Tori Amos. Then later Porcupine Tree, Tool and A Perfect Circle and there’s probably been tons more since then, but on top of that there’s all the movies, the books, the scenery, the moods, the emotions caused by life and death… It’s vast and never runs dry!
>Are there any newer styles of music or bands that you have gotten into lately?
I don’t know man, I really try to give everything a chance as I’m really open minded and my motto is that a good song is a good song regardless genre, age, sex, race or anything else that might hold narrowminded people back from digging into it, but when i browse through my iTunes library or Spotify I usually end up going back to the classics I always loved and need in my life, but I’m all ears for recommendations and a good tip from a friend or a fan is still something I value a lot.
>Are you excited about your upcoming tour of the states? What can you tell us about it?
I’m always excited to tour North America. We haven’t had one single bad run there. This time the package is very diverse, but still unified by great music courtesy of Devin Townsend Project and Paradise Lost and us. It was Andy Farrow, our manager who put the package together as all three bands on the bill are actually under the same management. I think the bill is amazing! I know a lot of people who would have killed for this line-up to come to Europe as well, so all you Americans should consider yourselves lucky. I know I do!
>Your albums Night Is The New Day and The Great Cold Distance have recieved widespread acceptance and critical acclaim. Do you feel those are your best albums to date?
I never judge which album is the best one, but when we write we have the focus and goal of making the best stuff we’ve ever done, but I would never talk negatively on our older stuff just so it would cast a positive light on the new songs. I see tons of band who do this all the time as an attempt of hyping their latest shit, but it’s a big shallow fail. When a band goes “oh the new album is our best yet, forget about our old stuff cause the new stuff pisses on it, it’s nothing compared this new album” the first thing that strikes me is to tell ’em “then you better stop playing those songs live as well if they suck so much, just play the new album”. I rather have the freedom of picking the “best” songs instead of the “best” album as it will also make it easier to get a good setlist going.
>The band started around ’91. How does it feel to know that you are still around and relevant and still have a healthy fan base all this time later?
I’m proud of the endurance and hard work that got us here, but also very grateful that we have such a loyal following. It’s been a long time coming and we’ve still not reached our mountain top. Still climbing, wiping the sweat, enjoying the view and loving it!
>What does the future hold for Katatonia?
Ha-ha well you tell me! What I already know and don’t have to predict is that there’s gonna be a lot more touring around the world going back to familiar places, but we’ll also try to cover some new territories, so just that cycle will probably last for up til 3 years ahead from now. We’re also gonna release a quite experimental 5.1 version of the album next year where the focus is targeted to remove it of all the heaviness, drums, distortion, basically all “metal”, so it will be more emphasis on atmosphere and the vocal layers for a more cinematic and singer-songwriter approach. Done in a 5.1 this will give the songs a different light and show that we have no boundaries in songwriting and sound. Then If we’re still kings of the dead end by the end of this album’s cycle remains to see, we might have dug a hole under it and escaped on the other side of the wall.