Jonas Renkse - Katatonia

February 23, 2006


Photo Credit: www.myspace.com/katatonia

Tell me a little bit about Katatonia.

The band started out in 1991 as a two man band playing a kind of gothic style doom death metal. Our main influence was Paradise Lost. We had moved on from there pretty much with every album. The first album came out in 1993 and this new album is our seventh one so we have just continued to come up with new formulas all the time and wanting to challenge ourselves. Nowadays we play something different. I think we still have the same kind of vibe to the music. It's still pretty dark and some people think it's depressing.

Having checked out your website you don't seem like very depressed guys to me.

No.

You guys started out as just two dudes. Why did you decide to build the band up?

I think in the beginning we didn't have any plans whatsoever to make concerts or anything. We just wanted I think to try out the music that we had been writing at home and just make a demo. As time moved on interest was growing so when we released the first album we recruited a bass player and then we didn't get a stable lineup until 1999 actually when we felt it was urgent to get the band together as a five piece. We had been offered a tour with Paradise Lost so we were three members in the band before and then we called in a couple of friends playing drums and bass. It worked out so well that we just kept on having the lineup and we're really happy with the guys in the band.

You guys had Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth helping out for a while.

Yeah, he was doing vocals for one album. That was the I think one album between before we started doing the clean vocals and I was coming back to the microphone because I was singing on the first album and then I wasn't able to perform the brutal vocals on the second album so we had to call in Mikael because he's a good friend of ours. He was doing the vocals for the second record and then we decided to move on to clean vocals on the third album.

When you guys started out you were sort of a doom sort of band and you progressed to a different sound. Why did you decide to go in a new direction as far as your sound was concerned?

I think starting to write music for every new release that we have done, it's a big challenge and we never want to be or feel stuck in a style because we want to bring in new influences all the time. As I said before this is our seventh album and I think it would be a bit sad if we had been sounding the same as on the first album which was released 13 years ago. With every new record we try to do something different keeping things true to ourselves of course but moving on a little bit. I think that's the main reason and also it's been 13 years since the first album.

You guys have basically matured as songwriters and you like to experiment with different sounds. I think that's pretty cool. It definitely keeps things interesting.

Yeah, absolutely.

You guys have just come out with a record called The Great Cold Distance which was basically my introduction to the band. Tell me a little bit about the new record.

I think we started to write the songs one year ago. We focused real hard on the songwriting for maybe two months and then we rehearsed a little bit. Then we entered the studio in June last year. This album took some time to record. I think we used three months in the studio which is a lot of time for a band like us but I think it shows pretty much in the result. I think the album is sounding better than anything we've done before. I'm really happy with the album. I think it represents Katatonia perfectly as we are now as people and as musicians and it shows pretty much where minds have been working. I'm really proud of this record.

You guys produced it yourselves. Was this the first time you had produced a record yourselves or is that something you've always pretty much done?

I think it's something we've always been doing. The first couple of albums we had to do it because we didn't have the budget to bring in some external producer and we didn't know anybody that could do the job really but I think with every album we have learned things. We've got a lot more confident in the songwriting and also with the production end of it. As it looks right now I think we will continue to produce our own stuff because we haven't really found anyone to work with that would be able to bring out the extra metal in us. So far so good I think.

I think you guys probably understand yourselves a lot better than someone else would.

Exactly, that's what I've seen so I would be a little bit afraid to bring in somebody that doesn't know how this band is working and doesn't know the different roles that we have in the band and stuff like that. Maybe it would just cause a lot of damage to the production of the record and make things suffer.

Do you do most of the lyrical writing or do people pitch in stuff as well?

I write all the lyrics except for maybe a couple of lyrics every second year that's written by Anders the guitarist. Lyrics are something that I've always been interested in and I love reading lyrics from other bands and artists. It's something that I'm usually looking forward to, completing the lyrics to an album. I think it's maybe for me sometimes more important than the music. That's just me as a lyrical writer.

Lyrics are something that I always enjoy reading because they tell these stories. When you write lyrics what kind of stuff inspires you and how do you put together little stories?

For this record at least, I was going to finish the lyrics for every song because I usually correct a lot of ideas that I have. I just write them down and keep them in my drawer. I had nothing really finished when we started recording the album. Then when it's time for the vocals, I have to finalize every lyric and I just tend to start writing a couple of lines and then I usually feel what is the vibe of the song and what is the main idea for the story. I don't think I can say that I write stories like King Diamond maybe but a lot of thoughts that I've had, just small personal notes basically and I try to write them in a way that people can as cliché as it may sound relate to and they can build up their own history or story around it.

That’s not really cliché. I think it’s nice when people do write stuff that you can relate to and it makes you think a little bit about things. You guys did a video for your single “My Twin”. Tell me a little bit about the video and why you picked that particular song.

I think first of all when we were writing what was eventually going to be “My Twin”, we all felt that this song had more potential maybe than the rest of the songs to become a single. We haven’t really released singles before in terms of something that we want to release and getting airplay and stuff like that because we haven’t really been aiming at that market before. With this song we felt it could actually work as a separate single from the record and then we just presented a song to the record label and they really liked it. They told us that they wanted us to make a video for it so we contacted a director from Sweden and started to work. We had never done a video before so I think it was interesting to see how it’s actually done. Like behind the camera stuff. It was really interesting and I think it’s a good video.

I’ve seen some of the DVDs that have the making of certain videos and I think all the stuff they do is neat and how that turns into a really cool completed project. Stuff that looks kind of complicated actually turns out not to be. Have you guys been doing any touring lately and where all have you been?

We haven’t been playing much live lately because we have concentrated so much on the new record but I think we’re lining up some touring at least in Europe. After the release of the record hopefully a lot of summer festivals and stuff like that. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we will eventually make it to the U.S. for a tour because we’ve only been over twice and we just played one off gigs. We really want to tour the U.S. It’s a big decision for the label to make but I really hope to make it.

I realize that touring the U.S. is a pretty expensive proposition but I think there are also a lot of people here who would love to see you guys.

Yeah, I think so. As you say it’s really expensive and we don’t have a label in the U.S. to market the album and help us with tour support. It’s pretty much up to people at our label if they are willing to give us the money to actually tour the U.S. I think we would have to start on the very basic levels. Maybe going with a bigger band and driving in a small van. I would like to try it for once and see what would happen because we get a lot of requests from people in the U.S. who want us to come over and play. It’s a big market and it’s a big country. It’s probably difficult to do something like that but I really hope that we will.

Not only that but you also have Canada and Mexico and South America as well. I think it would definitely be worth the while. Any other thoughts or comments?

Thank you very much for doing this and I really hope that we will be able to come over to the U.S.

Katatonia