DATE OF INTERVIEW:
10th March 2010
Katatonia are one band of which it can indubitably be said have gone from strength to strength with each new studio album. And the latest opus in their innovatively progressive musical evolution is the rather brilliant and breathtakingly sublime 'Night is the New Day', an album that has been said to bring Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt to tears. A few dates into their lengthy European tour that started at the beginning of March and lasts until mid-April with few off-days in between shows, I scheduled some time with the band to discuss, among other things, recent lineup changes and, of course, the stunning new album and whether it really did make the Opeth frontman weep with joy. Katatonia's vocalist Jonas Renkse answers my questions in the band's dressing room backstage at Rock City as Swallow the Sun play in the venue upstairs...
METAL DISCOVERY: Obviously you’re a few dates into the tour now, how have the shows been so far? I think I read the first five dates were sold out.
JONAS RENKSE: Yeah, so that’s perfect for the beginning of the tour. We played the first UK show last night in Manchester and that was also a very good show. So everything is perfect.
(Jonas Renkse on latest album 'Night is the New Day')
“...every record holds a certain memory for me and they have some nostalgic value to them but, in terms of music and performance and production and lyrics, this is the album I would choose to be my favourite album.”
Jonas Renkse in his dressing room, backstage at Rock City, Nottingham, UK, 10th March 2010
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Tonight's Music EP (2001)
Albums & EPs
Official Katatonia Website:
Official Katatonia MySpace:
Viva Emptiness (2003)
Brave Yester Days (2004)
The Black Sessions (2005)
The Great Cold Distance (2006)
Deliberation EP (2006)
July EP (2006)
Live Consternation (2007)
Thanks to Jon at Duff Press for arranging the interview
Photograph copyright © 2010 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
My Twin EP (2006)
Night is the New Day (2009)
Discouraged Ones (1998)
Saw You Drown EP (1997)
Tonight's Decision (1999)
Teargas EP (2001)
Last Fair Deal Gone Down (2001)
Jhva Elohim Meth (The Revival) EP (1993)
Dance of December Souls (1993)
For Funerals to Come EP (1995)
Brave Murder Day (1996)
Sounds of Decay EP (1997)
MD: Cool. Was that quite unexpected in selling out the first five shows, or did you expect that kind of interest?
JR: No, not really. We don’t take it for granted; absolutely not. It’s just very fun to see it happen, you know.
MD: Of course, definitely. It’s quite a lengthy, intense tour because it’s until mid-April, and I noticed there are sixteen or seventeen dates in a row without an off-day. Does the band have any input in booking the tour, or is it always your booking agent and then them saying “here you go, here’s your schedule”?
JR: Yeah, but we have said that we can do a lot of shows without a day off because everybody in the band thinks it’s quite boring and, also, you lose some of the momentum you have with gigs every night. I mean, of course, we had to take some travelling days but we don’t just want to stop the bus somewhere and have a free day; that’s just boring!
MD: Last time I saw your band was at one of the Paradise Lost shows last November in Newcastle. How were those dates…was it quite nostalgic again playing with that band because I think Aaron said to me you were all chatting the night before and you’d said your first tour was with them when they had the ‘Host’ album out?
MD: Was that quite a nostalgic experience?
JR: Yeah, it was in a way. That was in Scandinavia and this time it was the UK but it was great seeing them again. They have been an important band for us in Katatonia so, yeah, it was all good.
MD: Has the general vibe of the band changed in any way since Fredrik and Mattias decided to leave at the end of last year?
JR: I don’t know, it’s too early to say. I mean, me, Daniel and Anders still get along as good as we always did and the new guys are getting a part of it now. We’ve only done five shows with them…six shows maybe…but everybody’s happy.
MD: Per and Niklas is it, the two new members?
MD: They’ve kind of been touted as live members, but has there been any talks on whether they’ll become permanent, or do you have any plans yet to recruit permanent replacements?
JR: I think it depends on how this year is shaping up because we said we’d go with them for the whole year, because we have a lot of shows. If everything is working out we will probably ask them to become permanent members, so then we will not have to go through the hassle of finding new ones and rehearse…auditions and whatever. But it’s up to them as well and if we’re happy, and they would be happy to do it, then it’s probably a deal.
MD: So this tour is like a long job interview for them then?!
JR: Yeah, yeah, it’s a long job interview!
MD: I think it was on Blabbermouth that I read you have pre-release mutual listening sessions of new Katatonia/Opeth albums with Mikael from Opeth - how are those sessions because I think he was quoted as saying that you listen to the albums twice through and you’re not allowed to talk at all, otherwise it’s the “death penalty”?!
JR: Yeah, that’s how we do it, you know. We just gather up with a few friends and buy a lot of drinks, then we just listen through the new albums and, as you said, twice, and then you’re supposed to talk, and say “oh, that song was great” or “that part was great”, and then we just drink and have a good time!
MD: And Mikael’s been quoted as saying the new album’s “the greatest ‘heavy’ record” he’s heard in the last ten years, and he had tears in his eyes when he listened to it…was there tears?
JR: Yeah, yeah, he was very moved.
MD: A great compliment then.
MD: Did he actually say what the last greatest heavy record was that he heard? Was it one of yours?!
JR: No, I don’t think so. I’ll have to ask him that. I want to know!
MD: Obviously in saying that, he’s also saying that it’s better than anything Katatonia have released during the last ten years at least - would you personally say ‘Night is the New Day’ is your best record for at least the last ten years?
JR: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, every record holds a certain memory for me and they have some nostalgic value to them but, in terms of music and performance and production and lyrics, this is the album I would choose to be my favourite album.
MD: What’s the last greatest heavy album that you’ve heard? You could return the compliment and say ‘Watershed’!
JR: Yeah, ‘Watershed’ is magnificent. I would probably say that…[laughs]
MD: You average two or three year gaps between new studio albums - do you usually write material on and off during that time, or do you have more concentrated periods of writing leading up to recording a new album?
JR: It’s been different from time to time really with the last few albums. This time, the gap was this big because we were doing more touring for the previous album than we’ve done before. Also, we had some trouble to get into the shape of writing music again because we had some pressure from ourselves and also from, probably, everybody else to do something extraordinary….which I think we did at the end of the day. It’s a long road to get there when you have released albums that, in my opinion, were getting better with every album. The last one, ‘The Great Cold Distance’, I think it was a perfect album for the time, and now we had to top it. I wasn’t afraid that we were not going to do it but I knew it would take some time, so we put a lot of time and effort in writing the songs and the arrangements.
MD: Fantastic results in the end. In the song writing, you always seem to strike a good balance between the progressive elements and accessibility as well - do you consciously try to make the music not too progressive or “out there” to keep it accessible, or is that more natural in the song writing?
JR: I think it’s natural because, if I talk for myself, I’m not a huge fan of the too difficult stuff…I just like to add some twists and turns, just to make the music more interesting, and not more than that. It’s progressive to a certain extent, I think. Beyond that, it’s all about the song so it’s not like a showcase of instrumentalists…Katatonia’s not that kind of band.
MD: Definitely, and that’s what’s good about you. Kind of a random question, but you seem to have abandoned the old Katatonia logo - not the old, old one, but the one from ‘Discouraged Ones’ onwards, like the classic one as it’s regarded - for a more minimalist logo. Do you think you’ll ever go back to using…?
JR: Well we still use it on some of the merchandise so it’s not abandoned completely. I just think that the new one looks better on the albums. That’s all. So we’ll still keep the other one.
MD: It’s the coolest band logo ever, so you should never abandon that!
JR: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: Bloodbath…you’re doing some summer festival dates this year.
MD: Are you worried there would ever be any scheduling conflicts with those and Katatonia’s festival appearances, or are there any festivals where both bands are playing?
JR: Yeah, there are a few, I think two or three that we’re going to play with both Katatonia and Bloodbath. I think it will work out, you know. It’s gonna be rough, but it’s also fun. I think we can handle it though as, after all, it’s just a couple of hours.
MD: Finally, I gather it will be your twentieth anniversary next year since you originally formed - do you have any special plans to mark the occasion?
JR: We have been talking loosely about it but we haven’t really decided anything. The label’s also interested in doing something. Like, for instance, Opeth is doing some…because they’re also celebrating twenty years this year, so they’re doing some celebration shows. But we still have a year to think about it.
MD: Maybe an Opeth, Katatonia, and Bloodbath tour?!
JR: Oh yeah, that would be…
MD: …that would be pretty good!
JR: [laughs] Yeah!
MD: Okay, thank you very much for your time.
JR: Thank you, no problem.