Swedish dark metallers KATATONIA have had a very hectic year. The band has been on the tour for a very long time and in the hectic touring schedule, the band has managed to release “Dethroned & Uncrowned”, which is the stripped version of the previous record “Dead End Kings” (2012) . Furthermore, the band has also been celebrating the 10th year of “Viva Emptiness” (2003), which has been reissued.
Recently, Katatonia has been on the road with PARADISE LOST and LACUNA COIL to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of “Viva Emptiness”. I had the honour to interview the guitarist Anders ‘Blakkheim’ Nyström and the vocalist Jonas Renkse before the band’s show in Cologne on 4th November about the new albums, the band’s sound and the future plans.
© Mathias Blom
How are you guys doing? How is the tour going so far? This is a special kind of tour since it is the 10th anniversary of Viva Emptiness and also 25th anniversary of Paradise Lost.
Anders : It’s going really smooth. We are good friends with Paradise Lost; we enjoy touring together. We also have a similarity in our fanbase. Everyone’s nice, chilled and hanging out. I had some trouble in my voice. It’s back now but for a few days, I couldn’t get out a good sound so I haven’t been singing in the shows and it’s a turn-off for me. Tonight I’m gonna try singing again.
Jonas : The tour is going really smooth and easy-going.
Anders : It’s really fun to play “Viva Emptiness”!
You have been on the road for a very long time. Does this tour feel somehow special for you? You are only playing the entire set of “Viva Emptiness” and not like a mixed setlist.
Anders : Yes. It’s very special!
Do you see really hardcore fans or is it a mixed fanbase in the shows?
Anders : They are so far away that we don’t see them! *laughs*. Well, we are the opening band so we have only 1 hour so instead of doing a ‘best-of’; it’s a much cooler concept to do an album that fits within that hour. So the people who have this album as their favorite can expect a pretty cool show.
Jonas: The problem is, if someone does not like this album, then it’s pretty shit [to come to the show].
Speaking of “Viva Emptiness”, it was released 10 years ago and it was reissued recently. In the cover, we see that the girl is also ten years older now. When you think about the title, what did it mean to you 10 years ago and what does it mean to you now regarding the character of the band?
Jonas: Since it’s been 10 years, it’s quite a long time. Things have happened in the band. We have the new bandmembers. But in the musical sense, it still makes perfect sense because we are still the same songwriters with the same visions and ideas. If we did the album today from the scratch, it would probably sound different; we have grown up as musicians and songwriters but when we went back to listen to the album and rehearse it now, we were all like “There are so many good songs in this album!” . We haven’t really thought about it because we haven’t played some of the songs live before so once we started jamming ,we were like “Wow, that’s good stuff°”. So generally, we have made small changes.
Anders: I think we have been able to bring new life to this album.Personally, I have rediscovered the album and I fell in love with it again. I have forgotten about the album before but it’s very exciting now. It is what it is, it’s been 10 years but it’s very refreshing to perform it live. That’s the important thing right now. We also finally got a peace of mind with the reissue because we finally got to do the adjustments to the mix this time and we are happy with the production as well. All the small things like the keyboard sounds and additional vocals [in the last song] made the whole album very exciting again.
You have also released the “Dethroned & Uncrowned” album on September. I personally loved it but it also caught my attention that some fans were not pleased with it. Did you expect this reaction?
Anders: Yeah, we expected this. It’s such a drastic turn; basically, if you were into the last album because of the heaviness or the whole metal vibe, that’s taken away now.
But I think the essence is still there, right?
Anders: Yeah, totally! We are open-minded people so we see beyond the genres of our limitation. We just look at what’s good musically. The songs are more beautiful than ever but if you don’t have the open-mindedness to see that, you will think like “Oh, this sucks! What’s this pop shit?!”. Those people can think whatever they want and the world probably also needs those people too because it creates contrast. Everyone can’t think the same.
How did you come up with the idea for “Dethroned & Uncrowned” ? Did it happen while composing “Dead End Kings”?
Jonas : It happened actually when we did “Dead End Kings” already and we realized that so much of the stuff that’s gonna be in the background sounded really good. We listened to more ambient stuff and there was so much music that was gonna be buried in the mix. So we started joking about the idea and then it became reality. The record label was into it but we didn’t have the financial budget so we started the PledgeCampaign and we’re gonna also take this album on tour next year.
That was what I was wondering about as well! Are you gonna tour just for “Dethroned & Uncrowned”?
Anders : No, there’s gonna be everything included in the setlist.
Jonas : We’re gonna work more on some old songs as well.
Anders : We’re gonna make it so different. We have booked churches and stuff like that. It will be really atmospheric with the church candles so we are gonna make it really moody and calm this time. It’s gonna have a different vibe from normal rock/metal shows.
Jonas: Some of the venues are even seated.
You started as a very different band and your sound has changed throughout the years. How do you manage to keep the essence of the band? I see some really good bands changing their sound but losing their essence as well.
Anders: I think the secret is to not listen to anyone else and make the music for yourself. You have to make it for yourself, you cannot lie to yourself. You have to love what you do and have to be motivated and have the drive, keep pushing yourself and raise the bar. Every album we do is a new challenge and it becomes a part of the integrity. It’s loving art and people can see whether you do it from the heart or not. We do it from the heart. It’s quite a journey to come there but it’s not hard; it’s very natural. The keyword is natural.
Jonas: It’s also because of what kind-of people we are from the beginning. We started this band many years ago and we have a vision and we still keep it because we do not want an overnight success or fame or money. We still have the same goal as we started; we wanna make dark music and that’s it.
Anders : The albums are like the the clothes that we change; it’s the same message and vision but the appearance changes as you grow. You don’t wear the same clothes that you did when you were 10 years old; everything changes but the mentality is the same. Our darkness has been wider now.
A lot of fans are wondering about the upcoming DVD. Is there any news about it?
Anders: It’s such a strange and frustrating experiment. There are so many factors that are out of our control. We have the show but the frustrating part is that the show is coming older and older; it’s been 2 years now and that’s frustrating. That’s completed but the other parts are not and that’s what people want; the whole documentary and the bonus footage and that’s taking forever. I always said we shouldn’t stress and rush either because nobody’s gonna be happy with the final result.
Jonas: We have been trying to reach out to people that has been involved with Katatonia one way or the other. It’s not just interviews with us.
Anders: We need key people in the history.
Jonas: They are busy or away.
But is it gonna be released or cancelled? Because it’s been 2 years already.
Anders: I had the same question in my mind. It’s not gonna be cancelled. It might turn into another DVD. Something’s gonna come out but we don’t know what’s gonna be the ‘main’ thing. The anniversary in London was the key footage there but maybe that’s gonna end up as a bonus footage of another show.
Jonas: The main thing is that it has to be a really good release.
Anders: I think we are halfway there somehow because we have so much footage. It has to be gotten together and we don’t have the time since we are on the road.
Jonas: The new album was released on the way as well.
You have had a very hectic year. What can you say about the highlight of the year for Katatonia?
Jonas: In the beginning of the year, we did a tour with Opeth in Australia. For me, that was a really good experience. We had great shows and the tour with Opeth is always fun. Seeing Australia like that was the highlight for me.
Anders: It’s hard to pinpoint one highlight because as you said, the whole year for me was a big highlight. We managed to do all the tours worldwide and come up with two albums. 2013 has been a massive year for us. It’s almost like we spoiled our fans.
Jonas: At least for me and for us, “Dead End Kings” is still a fresh album.
Anders: We still call it the ‘new album’ and the “Dethroned & Uncrowned” album was released a bit too early as well. It was already out there but we are touring for “Viva Emptiness” right now so it’s a bit reversed since the “Dethroned & Uncrowned” tour is gonna be next year.
© Independent Music Promotions
If Katatonia would release a unique and special merchandise item that would represent the character of the band, what would it be?
Jonas: Dead birds! *smiles*. We have been thinking about this and the whole wine/beer thing is getting too common these days. Some of the guys in the band love gin-tonic so we wanted to do a gin-tonic drink and call it ‘Katatonic’.
Anders: It’s pretty cheesy because gin also has a flavor of pine trees in it and there are pine trees in the layout of “Dead End Kings”. This drink in Finland is really popular since they sell it as a long-drink (Lonkero) so we could also call it ‘the longest drink’ [tribute to the Katatonia song “The Longest Year”]. We’re just having fun with those ideas; it’s not really a priority for us. We actually had a really weird item in the “Viva Emptiness 2003″tour; we sold fucking thongs. I don’t know who came up with that idea and we never ever had it since. It was just there one time.
Jonas: It was this merchandise company that just decided to do it.
Anders: But why?!
Jonas: Yeah, that’s really weird.
What is in the future of the band? Do you have ideas for another new album or are you gonna give a break?
Anders: There’s never a break. The break is actually writing a new album.
How do you actually manage this then? You must be getting homesick and tired, you have families and everything.
Anders: We do get tired but then we come back again to the part that we are doing what we love and as soon as you remind yourself of that , who you are and the journey you had to come this far, you cannot throw away all of it. It’s a lot of hardwork but the reward is to see that it pays off. That’s the fuel for the vehicle.
Jonas: You could be so bored during the day but then you go on stage and after that, we feel like this is what we wanna do.
Anders: That never gets old. I never had those thoughts on stage.
Special thanks to : Katatonia management & promotion, Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström and Jonas Renkse.