DATE OF INTERVIEW:
1st November 2013
JONAS RENKSE; NIKLAS SANDIN
METAL DISCOVERY: ‘Dethroned & Uncrowned’ came out a short while ago – was that ultimately a satisfying process in reworking the ‘Dead End Kings’ songs into a stripped down form where you, maybe, discovered new depths and emotions in the songs?
JONAS: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it all started already when we did ‘Dead End Kings’. We just pressed mute on a few channels and it’s like, wow, this whole universe of music just appeared. Something that you have to consider when you’re mixing an album, you have to make sure all the levels… it shouldn’t be too apparent or vice versa. But, now, we could just let everything loose and focus on all the beautiful string arrangements, the samples… everything that’s pretty much buried in the mix in the metal version of it. To let that shine, it’s kind of a relief. It’s like probably having a shower if you’re really dirty!
(Jonas Renkse on reworking 'Dead End Kings' songs into stripped-down versions for 'Dethroned and Uncrowned')
"...we could just let everything loose and focus on all the beautiful string arrangements, the samples… everything that’s pretty much buried in the mix in the metal version of it. To let that shine, it’s kind of a relief. It’s like probably having a shower if you’re really dirty!"
Jonas Renkse and Niklas Sandin backstage at The Ritz, Manchester, UK, 1st November 2013
Photograph copyright © 2013 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Katatonia Official Website:
Thanks to Simon Glacken for arranging the interview
Katatonia Official Facebook:
Dance of December Souls (1993)
Brave Murder Day (1996)
Discouraged Ones (1998)
Tonight's Decision (1999)
Last Fair Deal Gone Down (2001)
Viva Emptiness (2003)
The Great Cold Distance (2006)
Live Consternation (2007)
Katatonia Official Twitter:
Night is the New Day (2009)
Dead End Kings (2012)
Dethroned and Uncrowned (2013)
Viva Emptiness (Reissue) (2013)
MD: Or cleaning a window as you said earlier!
MD: Was that a good experience for you as well?
NIKLAS: Actually, I wasn’t part of that whole process of stripping it down and making that version, but I think it’s awesome because that element is so apparent and so big in this Katatonia world. So it’s cool to hear the songs reworked and get the ambient element shine through more.
MD: I think it’s also testament to how good the songwriting is in the first place if you can adapt a song in a whole different context. So that’s got to be some pretty good songwriting going on there.
JONAS: Exactly, that’s what we felt as well. We were like, “this is actually gonna work.” It’s like, we did write these songs for another musical shape but it still works when we do this and, as you say, it needs a certain quality for us being able to do it. That’s also a good sign! [laughs]
MD: Did you surprise yourself with some of the reworkings where you didn’t realise the songs had a different emotional depth until you changed their context?
JONAS: Yeah, definitely, especially for me. And my favourite reworked version is the song ‘Buildings’ because I was a little bit uncertain beforehand, because I think the song in its original version is very heavy. It’s guitar-driven, depending on riffs and stuff, the drums and everything. But, when Anders presented his version of it to me, I was like, wow, this is like the top song on this album now because it’s so different and it’s so dramatic. Like, chord progressions are very unexpected and it’s very nice.
MD: You launched a Pledge Music campaign for the album where you reached almost 200% of your target – did that massive level of interest take you by surprise?
JONAS: Oh yeah, oh yeah. We’re very grateful for that.
MD: A lot of bands, even some established bands, struggle to hit a hundred percent.
JONAS: We’re lucky to have those kind of fans, I guess. They trust us, musically and artistically, what we’re doing. So that’s a great thing to know and have.
NIKLAS: The level of interest was huge. It only took five or six days to reach the hundred percent goal.
MD: Oh seriously, that quick?
NIKLAS: Yeah. As soon as it was launched, you could see it building up and, “what the hell is happening?!” [laughs] But that was cool so that really showed there was some interest and urge to hear those versions.
MD: Definitely. Was there any kind of emotional attachment to any of the stuff you got rid of for the campaign? Like old backdrops and vintage t-shirts?
JONAS: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, we wanted to make it not selling stuff that you can just print or whatever, like postcards. For the real deal fans, we wanted to bring something with some real value in… just being there as an option, if you want to buy something that is real memorabilia, it should be available.
MD: You played Download Fest for the first time ever, this summer.
MD: Had that always been an ambition of Katatonia, to make it to the hallowed metal grounds of Doninigton?
JONAS: Oh yeah! Totally! I mean, we all watched ‘Monsters of Rock’ on TV when we were younger and Donington has such a magic vibe to it. When we finally got to tread on that sacred ground, it was great.
NIKLAS: It was cool. One of my favourite live videos – at home, I actually have it on video cassette – is Iron Maiden’s ‘Live at Donington’ from 1992 when they toured for ‘Fear of the Dark’. Playing on those grounds on the same day as Iron Maiden too, that was a good experience.
MD: You only had a half hour set so does every festival performance feel like a new challenge, trying to win over a crowd?
JONAS: Yeah, totally. It does, yeah, because you don’t have enough time, maybe, to establish your vibe to people that could easily go away and watch another band on another stage. You have to be very focussed with what you’re doing. Luckily, when we played Download, it was much more people than we expected… because we were playing in the middle of the day, it was raining, and I think Mastodon were playing at the same time, so it was like, it’s bound to be half and half. We were blown away by the audience.
MD: Fantastic. Obviously Paradise Lost are celebrating their 25th anniversary on this tour – and you’re just behind them as it’ll be your 25th year in existence in 2016. Have you started talking about plans for how you might want to mark the occasion in any kind of special way?
JONAS: We haven’t really planned for that yet but it’s a good idea to start thinking about it. We’re not getting younger!
MD: You could have a Katatonia Fest! A lineup purely of your choosing.
JONAS: That’s something we’ve actually been loosely talking about. It’s a cool concept, I think.
MD: I think Sabaton do it; they have their own festival.
JONAS: Yeah. And the band Him, they have their own festival on New Year’s Eve. We played there once, invited by them, and it was really nice. But they do it every New Year’s Eve in kind of a small club in Finland.
MD: So if you had your own festival, what would it be called? Off the top of your head…
NIKLAS: Depressed Fest!
MD: Can you combine those two words?
MD: My final question then, seeing as the ‘Viva Emptiness’ reissue has just come out, as music fans, what album would you like to see revamped, remixed and remastered?
JONAS: Errr… good question, actually. I think most albums that do have a bad sound, you really don’t care after a while. You adapt to it.
MD: Yeah, you come to love it for that.
JONAS: Yeah, exactly, yeah.
MD: My own answer to that would be Sabbat’s ‘Dreamweaver’ because there’s some incredible songwriting on there but the production… it did get reissued as a remastered version but it’d be great to have the whole thing revamped with a modern Andy Sneap production.
JONAS: That’s a great band, actually. Both me an Anders were huge Sabbat fans; the first two albums at least. The lyrics are just so well written.
MD: Yeah, Martin’s a master of that. Do you have a suggestion for an album you’d like to see revamped?
NIKLAS: I can think of one – Decapitated and one of their early albums, ‘Winds of Creation’. That could actually work, you know, maybe just clean up the mix a bit and make all the elements more separated, because there’s a lot of fast guitar work there that needs to work with the bass… so maybe that one.
JONAS: I actually just came up with the natural choice – I would like some bass on ‘…And Justice for All’!
MD: It’s a very drum-oriented album, isn’t it. I know there are all kinds of theories as to why the bass ended up inaudible in the mix.
JONAS: It makes the album suffer. I mean, the album’s great, it’s one of my favourite heavy metal albums of all time, so to hear it with a… it doesn’t have to be a super production, just a proper mix.
MD: Yeah, with bass… with any kind of bass!
JONAS: Yeah, any kind of bass!
MD: That’s a very good answer, I hadn’t thought of that one. Well, thank you so much for your time, very much appreciated.
JONAS & NIKLAS: [Collective thanks]