This interview with Jonas Renkse of Katatonia was done through phone by Sam Chronic in late April 2003.

Katatonia, one of metals most diverse bands has been around for over 13 years now with their melancholic music that could be called anything from prog rock to doom metal. Just releasing their latest work “Viva Emptiness”, Katatonia has embarked on a tour throughout Europe that started Aprils 1st with support from bands Finntroll, Daylight Dies, Pornorphans, Before the Dawn and Dark Days. Taking a few days off in England I was able to catch up to lead singer Jonas Renkse who called me around noon.

How are you today?
Good, how are you?

Good, how is everything going with the tour?
Everything is good. We have a couple days off to relax right now so that is nice.

First off, lets talk about the album “Viva Emptiness”. What was the inspiration for the title and is there a concept for the album?
Not a real concept. The title is very sarcastic with “Viva” and the inspiration is just all the things wrong with the world and the frustration that I have with all the things that go on around us. The lyrics are in the same vain.

To me this is a heavier CD than we have seen in a while-would you agree with that?
Yeah, we wanted to do it. We really wanted to give the album a harder edge and after a listen or two we felt like we really accomplished that.

You guys have been together for over 13 years. What is the secret formula to keeping a band together in a genre where bands are like revolving doors for members?
It has really been difficult. We have had a few member changes in the last couple of years and it is hard but the current line-up we have is the best. It is really difficult to find the right people to fit into a band and I’ve had good luck. You listen to someone and you know instantly whether they are going to work or not.

You also play in Bloodbath with Anders, Mikael Åkerfeldt and Dan Swanö. Do you ever feel like you are backed in a corner with Katatonia and does it help to be involved in a different project?
I have never felt backed into a corner. We are always challenging ourselves in different ways with Katatonia and trying new things so it is never boring. It is fun to do something else with another band but I am always challenged with Katatonia.

Would you ever think about implementing the death metal style vocals and growls back into your music?
Not just for the sake of doing it.

Mikael Åkerfeldt said in an interview once that clean vocals are harder on his voice than growls. Does this go for you too?
No, growling is much harder on my voice. I think I really lost the growling voice and that is one of the reasons that I wanted to use clean vocals all the time.

You have a great voice, have you had any formal training?
No vocal training, (laughs) I probably am doing everything all wrong so it is something that I need to do. I feel like I have found a way to express myself and improve at the same time but I still think I could use training.

What do you do to keep your voice up?
It is hard. Especially right now I have a cold and being on tour you don’t get a break because you are playing every night-it really affects your voice. Also being on tour you want to drink and I can’t drink that much because it really ruins your voice and you wake up with a hangover.

Do the rest of the band party alot?
Yeah, they don’t have to worry about using their voice the next day so it is different. Finntroll drinks a lot so when we were on tour with them we drank almost every night.

What did the name Lord Seth mean?
(Laughs) Back then I was into that sort of stuff…. Seth is this evil figure so I decided to use it-it was cool to me.

I hear some Pink Floyd in your music-are they an influence and what are some of your other influences?
I really did not listen to that much Pink Floyd but they were of the first bands to make that atmospheric music so they are an inspiration to everyone. I really feel like all types of music and not just one genre of music influence us. We pull our sound from a lot of different sounds and don’t narrow the band down to one musical style or anything. Some of the bands that I like are Tool and 16 Horsepower.

Yeah, your albums are never boring and are very diverse. There is not one song that sounds the same as the next one but they all fit in the same theme.
We always try to make each song a standout track and not have just the first song the best song on an album. We spend a lot of time trying to make every song a stand out.

A lot of music in metal ends up being redundant and bands sound the same on each release. Not every band can be Darkthrone and do that sort of thing.
They are Darkthrone; they are the only ones that can do that. You just have to be brave enough to stick out there and do something different.

Because I am American I am sure that I will mess up the pronunciation of names so feel free to laugh at me. You have stuck with Dan Swanö from the beginning since Unisound was Gorysound. Your production is great but what is it that make you stick with one studio?
(Laughs) Actually you pronounced that right. He has been involved since the beginning-we always turn to Dan. We have used him as a producer but we did not use the same studio the whole time. Dan just watches over us and always answers any questions that we have. He also plays guitar and drums on the album.

You played guitar on “Viva Emptiness” correct?
I don’t officially play guitar but I recorded some parts so everyone wanted to put them on the album.

How does your writing process work for an album?
It was different this time. Anders usually works on the music solo but this time we have a home studio and we worked on it together. We worked 9-5 to complete the album and it was nice to have everyone involved.

Do you write your lyrics from a personal level?
They are definitely written on a personal level but to an extent. I always mix personal with fiction to kind of spice it up a little bit.

That brings me to the song “Sweet Nurse”. It is one of my favorite songs and I have always wondered what it was written about.
I get a lot of questions about that song’s meaning. It is fictional and I wrote it after listening to a riff from Anders that had a very “Hospital” and melancholic vibe. I feel that hospitals are always a sad place. There are people there that are dependant of drugs and pain killers-it is always sad.

Is the band looking at coming to the States on tour?
Everyone really wants to come to the States and is very into it. It is just very expensive to tour the US so we will have to see. We have only done 1 show in the US so far.

To kind of wrap things up-If you could be anything besides a musician what would you be?
I would be a writer. Writing is something that I really enjoy doing and I feel that I am good at it.

Definitely-I can see that. Anything you want to say to anyone out there?
Just go and check out the new album.

Thanks to Jonas for taking time on his day off to chat with us and also to Lisa and Peaceville Records for hooking the whole thing up. Check out the new album “Viva Emptiness” as it is a killer album and go to www.katatonia.com for info on the band and tour dates.

Links of interest:

Peaceville Records