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Katatonia

Twee november roep ik uit als algemene dag der melancholie. Daar is een goede reden voor. In mijn verbeelding zie ik dan namelijk al die Katatonia fans, waar ook ter wereld, naar de winkel hollen om 'Night Is The New Day' aan te schaffen en de nieuwsgierigheid laven met een eerste luisterbeurt. En neen, ik wil dit romantische beeld niet tenietdoen door te denken aan al die mensen die hem al gedownload hebben, want zo zullen er ook wel zijn natuurlijk. De feiten: Katatonia heeft een opvolger gemaakt voor 'The Great Cold Distance' en van de kille afstandelijkheid belanden we in de knusse omhelzing van de nacht. 'Night Is The New Day' is namelijk een gevoelig meesterwerk dat aangrijpt en beklijft. Na drie jaar praat ik ook terug met de vriendelijke frontman van de band Jonas Renkse.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder doom metal

After our introduction to each other and brief remembrance of our previous conversations, I start with giving my sincere congratulations to Jonas for the excellent new album 'Night Is The New Day' and kick off with a few personal thoughts about it:

band imageBut it is not so harsh and guitar rocking as the previous ones…
That's true. I even think that's nothing something we have talked about. It was a natural progression for the band to do things a little bit different. Katatonia is about evolving and trying new things. So this album is a little bit different but it still represents Katatonia for 100%.

But you really took the time to reflect on things before starting to write this time. What was the reason for that?
I think there were several reasons. We did more touring than we ever did before after the 'Great Cold Distance' and that took some time. Me and Anders, the guitar player, did some Bloodbath releases as well, one MCD and one full length album and that is also something that takes a lot of time, writing and recording an album. So we have been busy, but not too busy with writing new songs for Katatonia. But eventually we had start doing that when we finally came to the point where we understood that it was high time to work and to start writing, the ball just kept rolling. The whole situation was really creative, so I am really happy with the result as well.

And it shows a fresh approach by contacting Frank Default for synthesizer layers and string arrangements and things like that, isn't it?
Yes. I think that was something we wanted to work on as well, because in the past it has been Anders who was doing keyboards, but he is not a keyboard player. We just have been experimenting a little bit to see what works and what does not work. This time we decided to contact our friend Frank. We have been working on a few songs with him in the past, like on 'Unfurl' for the MCD 'July'. So we knew what he could actually do with the music and take it another level in terms of atmosphere and depth. I think that also something that increased the creativity for this album.

Yes, he has a Rhodes piano and things like that…
Exactly, we wanted to mix the modern sounds with some seventies keyboards and stuff like that.

Isn't there Mellotron too?
Indeed.

As you said, you toured more intensively and that was quite new. What were your experiences for example during the European tour with Novembre?
I think that was a great tour. Most of the gigs were well attended by people. We played at the right sized clubs for the band. We cannot play the huge places, but that makes it so much more interesting to play a small place with a lot of place. That was perfect on that tour. And then we also did two North American tours which we had never done before. A new continent. I think we did two gigs over there before, which is nothing since it is such a huge country. Doing a couple of tours was very needed for us and also fun for us to see that there is big interest in the band in North America too.

So it was a positive experience, a windfall…
Absolutely.

And what about the travelling, wasn't it exhausting?
Well, it is something that you get used to. We have done a number of tours; we know what to expect. It is a lot of travelling, but you just deal with it because you know that at the end of the day you are going to reach another destination and play your gig and that's what you are there for.

And it was with Moonspell I think?
Yes, the first tour was with Moonspell. We were supporting them. And then we actually got the chance to go over again a year after and do our own headline tour. We had another Swedish band, Scar Symmetry as support then.

Are there plans to go back or maybe some other tour plans?
Yes, we are looking at tour possibilities right now. I think we are going to do a European tour first of all and then probably a US tour right after that. What we are going to do first now is supporting Porcupine Tree in Scandinavia next week.

I saw some gig announcements with Paradise Lost as well I think…
Yes. After the Porcupine Tree tour we go almost straight out again to the UK with Paradise Lost from 15th October till 9th November. I am looking forward to it. We are going to play one new song on that tour and add a second one during the tour, when the CD is out on November 2nd.

But I do not see upcoming gigs in Belgium or the Netherlands right now…
No, not right now, but during the upcoming tour that we are planning now. A lot of planning ahead.

What about the lyrical themes? Of course I know they are full of melancholy and dark…
Well, I would say it is pretty much the same kind of style that I have been using the last couple of albums, just trying to find new ways to repeat myself (chuckles). I just try to write things that go hand in hand with the music and since the music is kind of dark, the lyrics have to be in the same style. I am doing my best to come up with something different, at least for every album, since melancholy is a very wide subject.

I read that they also deal with the decline of western civilization. Does it mean that the lyrics are not only personal, but also show a reflection of the current state of the world?
Yeah you could say that. Of course it is my own, personal reflection on it, but I think it is something that does not feel unfamiliar to people, because it feels like the whole world is moving to a darker era and it affects me of course, because I am part of the world. It makes me see things and I incorporate a little bit of those things in the lyrics as well.

Funny was to find out that you use working titles for new songs in the beginning. 'Nephilim' was called Centan in the beginning and that seems to be the Central Station of Stockholm?
Yes. This working title is referring to when you are there at night. It is full of homeless people, drug dealers and stuff like that.

Wow, even in Scandinavia?
Absolutely.

I thought it was a typical problem from Central Europe, the continent…
Yeah I can imagine it is even worse in Central Europe, but we have a fraction of it I guess.

Anyway, in Scandinavia you still have much more nature than in our small countries Belgium or the Netherlands…
Oh yeah. Sweden is a huge country. It is not so wide, but very long. When I was flying to the north of Sweden, it took me one and a half hour and I could see only forests. But when I was flying to Holland to sing on the Ayreon album last year, I have seen only houses. It is so densely populated, only towns and fields everywhere.

band imageI read all kinds of creepy things about the environment of the Ghost Ward studio where you recorded…
It is located in a very rough neighbourhood, it is like an industrial area. But the house with the studio is like a shelter of homeless people or something like that with weird humans, we were working in the basement of that house. It was weird but it is also fun in a way. It is at least very different.

The drums were recorded at Studio Mega. Producer was David Castillo. Rest of the recordings took place at Ghost Ward Studios.

It was also different on another level. I remember your eternal connection with the Fascination Street Studio and Jens Bogren, but this time it is only mastered there by him…
Yes, we wanted to work in Stockholm, because that's where we live. At least me and Anders, both involved in the whole recording. Fascination Street is in another town, about three hours away from Stockholm. When you have a family and stuff you want to go home at night.

How long did the recording take?
In mid June we started with the drums. The album was finished in early September: the whole summer in a basement…

Except for a gig at Summer Breeze. It was the third time that the band played at that festival, in 2006 they even recorded a DVD there.

What about the guest vocals in the last song 'Departer'? Krister Linder, that's someone I do not know…
Yes, it is a Swedish singer. He has been one of my favourite singers for fifteen years or more. I finally got to know this guy a couple of years ago and we became friends. He was very impressed with 'The Great Cold Distance'. It was actually him who said he wanted to sing on the new album and for me it was huge honour. Writing the music for this album, I was always thinking: “Where can he fit in?” and when I started writing the last song I realized it was the perfect song for his kind of vocals. He has a beautiful voice with so much feeling. He has been doing a lot of different styles. He was in a band called Dive in the nineties, which was a kind of electronic music. Then he released one album under his own name. But he also has a very interesting metal band called Enter The Hunt. They have one album out and now they are working on the next one I think. You should really check them out. The music is kind of resembling Meshuggah, but with his kind of vocals on it instead of screaming. Really different stuff.

In the meantime you have done guest vocals on a few records as well. Maybe we can talk a little bit about that now. For instance: Swallow The Sun. How did you meet them?
I have been friends with Mikko, the vocalist for some years. He used to work in a place in Finland where we played many times, like a venue. So we were always talking and he gave me the albums. So, when they were working on the previous album, ('Hope' – 2007), I think they are having a new one coming out, he just called me up and asked me to do some guest vocals. For me it was fun, because I really like the guys, the band and the music. They were one of the supporting acts on the US tour in 2007. It was not difficult to find something that would suit, both my voice and their music. It is sort of the same kind of music.

A surprise was your guest vocals for Long Distance Calling, a mainly instrumental band…
Jan, the bass player of the band is working for Century Media Records. I have been working with them when Bloodbath was on the label. So I met him a few times, having a few beers and he asked me, when they were working at the first album if I wanted to be part of it, but I did not have the time. So I promised to do it on the next album. When they were working at the second album, I could not say no (smiles). But it was fun, I think their music is very nice.

What about the cooperation with Ayreon?
It was on the last Ayreon album. I just got an email from Arjen, telling me he really loves my voice on the Katatonia albums, especially on 'The Great Cold Distance', and he wanted me to sing on the album. For me, that was kind of unexpected, because that kind of music, progressive metal, is not really what I listen to. But it was very, very rewarding to do that. Arjen is such a phenomenal guy and easygoing which is good when you are working together in a studio. I have only good memories on that.

Did I miss any of your guest appearances, are there others you want to mention?
Yes I did some guest vocals on a record – quite unexpected – from a Norwegian black metal band, they are called Pantheon I. I have been friends with Andre, the guitar player, for some years and we always talked about doing something together. When they worked at 'Worlds I Create', they asked me to sing on a part of it. And I think it came out well. I do not have the harsh vocals, you know, it is very soft, but still on a very fast part with blastbeats and stuff. It really sounds interesting. It is called 'Ascending'. It is really a quality album.

I think they will be a single coming out?
Yes, it is going to be 'Day And Then The Shade'. We have not really started working on the video yet, so I have no idea what it will look like.

Aha that's still a surprise, even for you. And is there a kind of director booked?
No, that's the problem. We had this person, Charlie, that we have been working with before and we wanted to work with him again but he was busy this time. So we have to look for another one. That's why it took some time and hasn't started working yet on a video.

You have a new management since July 2009. Are there expectations? Is this important?
I think it has become important. It hasn't been important before, but as the band has been growing, also the business side has become more important, especially more time consuming for us as a band. Especially Anders, the guitar player has been taking care of the business side. He has grown really tired of it, because all he wants to do is play the guitar and be in the band instead of being this suit 'n' tie guy. I felt it was about time for us to leave the whole business side to someone who actually knows it and also is working with it on a daily basis. And knows what decisions to take or not take.

Is Frank Default (keyboarder) going on tour with you in the future?
Yeah we are talking about that. We hopefully can get him on the headline tour in the spring. He is not going to do that now, because we only play one new song. We'll see about that.

On the limited edition and the vinyl version there is a bonus track 'Ashen'. The band is now ten years at Peaceville Records. They are ready to embark on tour with an amazing new album to present. When I write this, the new website is on line and please check out the “small site about the album” as long as it is still on line and not swallowed by the usual one www.nightisthenewday.com

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