TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This e-mail interview with guitarist Anders NystrŲm of Katatonia was done by Scott Huffard in March 2006.
Katatonia is a band unknown to few within the so-called inner circle of Metal. I donít know any haters of the band, actually. Not surprisingly, they are loved by their rabid fans while others can be largely indifferent if not ignorant. Take that for what you will, but maybe a U.S. tour would open the floodgates for these talented Swedes beyond the confines of Europe.
Scott Huffard took some time away from his studies to craft some questions and founding guitarist Anders was kind enough to answer them. Special thanks go out to Paula Hogan at Candlelight Records USA for the connection. If you liked the bandís old sound, you may be disappointed with some news contained herein. Or maybe not. If youíre anxiously awaiting their Stateside debut, so, too, is the band. Read on, friend.
--Tony Belcher, American Editor
First of all, I would like to say that I have listened to The Great Cold Distance and think it is great. What are your thoughts on the new album and how do you think it compares to your other records?
To me it feels like TGCD is really a continuation [of] where we left off with [Viva Emptiness]. It has some of the most heavy and aggressive material we [have] ever done in our entire career, but it also has some really atmospheric and moody moments, so comparing it to VE I think the main difference is TGCD [has] more dynamics and definitely a heavier and more professional production. I guess everything is just a bit more contemporary, too. This is where we stand today and what we find representing our minds. We feel strongly about it.
What is your favorite song or songs off the new one?
ĎFollowerí is my personal fave song right now. But Iíve different fave songs for different environments. One song that is a given candidate on your stereo might not be the best live song and vice versa. I think itís a good thing to have problems choosing fave songs, it just means all of them are quality contenders.
One of my favorite aspects of The Great Cold Distance is its massive production. What went into your choice of Jens Bogren to mix the album?
You know, Jens mixed our last album too, back at the end of 2002. Then we went back there again in 2004 to record and mix the last Bloodbath album in its entirety and we really got to learn how professional Jens was despite his fairly young age. Also, the studio itself is really one of the nicest weíve been in. One of Swedenís best kept secrets and I guess we were the first bigger metal band to discover it. Once people heard about it, bands like Opeth, Soilwork and Amon Amarth decided to head down there as well, so itís definitely gonna put Jens and his studio on the map.
Regarding the My Twin single/EP, how come Displaced and Dissolving Bonds were left off the album? I thought those two songs were just as good as any on the full length.
Well, that was just the point! They werenít chosen because anyone felt they were worse or unsuitable. They WERE as good as any of the songs on the full-length, but we still had to choose two songs to keep aside for the single. We just ended up voting for it and those songs were decided to be candidates. The way I see it is that if the b-sides are great, itíll just make the single more attractive and special. According to our fans, our b-sides have always been some of their fave songs. I think itís a pretty cool tradition to keep up with.
Related to that, what prompted you to choose My Twin as the first single? Was it sort of the obvious choice?
Yes, as a working title for that song we named it ďthe hitĒ even before it was written, so it was pretty clear what we wanted to do with it. It had to be a little bit shorter and a little bit more traditional. It had to have the hooks and flow. I think we nailed it perfectly in Katatonic tradition.
Further, what was it like making the video for My Twin and are you pleased with how it turned out? Was there something you would have done differently -- or that you will do differently next time?
Considering 'My Twin' [was] our first video and [it was] directed by someone who didn't initially know Katatonia, I think the result was great in terms of our concept and dignity, so I'm definitely happy with the outcome. If this video/single turns out to be successful, we might look at the possibility of doing another video to follow it up with. Itís too early to talk about what to do differently or not. Itís pretty much up to the director.
Where does the band get inspiration to write such dark music? People must think you guys are depressed all the time, hahaha....
Yeah, we heard that one before hahaha! 24/7 depression would have landed us positions in a closed psychiatric department a long time ago. Itís nothing like that. People have to understand that everything we do with Katatonia is about the negativity in our lives ONLY. Katatonia is simply just not the place for anything else. This band is the artistic substitute of expressing solely our negativity in the most honest and creative form. It works as therapy for us, being similar minded people at similar levels in life. It's easy relating to as the connection is with people's daily life. Our music and lyrics are symbolism for the unease in life, the fact that you're not alone in your darkness, but the darkness is out there and itís coming for everyone.... We view life as just a repeated struggle of trying to reach back up to the surface again after falling forever to the bottom. Sure there are moments of pure happiness, but how long do they really last? I believe it always has been in our nature as individuals to always start from the mentally dark side of life, somewhere between pessimism and reality.
I think that most Katatonia fans enjoy both the band's old, Brave Murder Day-era sound as well as the newer sound, though I know not everyone feels this way. Do you still get grief from fans angry over Katatonia's progression to a more rock oriented and less death metal style? If so, how do you respond to this criticism?
Well, all that clash, [the] collision of old and new eras has finally faded out. As a matter of fact, we've now done way more albums in the "new" style than the "old", so everythingís alright. It used to be a big problem with people in the audience screaming for the old stuff and we just wouldn't play it, but now they scream for songs from the new repertoire, of which some are never gonna get played as well, because there's too little time on stage. But before I forget it, we still play a song or two from BMD usually at the very end of our shows and we've been thinking of maybe putting together a medley of the earlier stuff. It could be interesting. Iíll never deny our past; itís just so much more interesting to celebrate the new material, because the time is now and Iím one with it.
Switching gears a bit, what have you been listening to lately and what are your thoughts on the metal scene today?
Itís mixed as usual. I totally loathe the new explosion of metal core and the bands that wanna mix up traditional heavy metal/glam with the mall/punk/goth/college shit.... Thatís one disgusting hybrid right there! I usually listen and stick to what Iíve always liked, you know. I keep an open mind for anything of course, but stuff like The Cure, Fields of the Nephilim, Bel Canto, Jeff Buckley, Red House Painters, Tori Amos, Chris Isaac, Slowdive, Ben Christophers, Kent, Lisa Miskovsky, Ed Alleyne-Johnson, October Project, Tool, A Perfect Circle, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Paradise Lost, Morbid Angel, Entombed, Bathory, Celtic Frost, Emperor, Unanimated, Immortal, W.A.S.P, Whitesnake, Judas Priest, Skid Row, etc., is still whatís on my stereo.
What are your current tour plans? I'm sure your American fans are eagerly anticipating whether you will be coming to the U.S. to tour in support of The Great Cold Distance.
It has become a slight repetitive statement of mine to say this, but since nothingís new, hereís the deal. Everyone in the band is on the same level with our minds made up. We do long to tour the U.S. as we have been waiting to get over there for many years. We simply canít wait to take on that scene and fucking play our asses off. Itís just that we donít have any support to go ahead. The main problem is that our albums arenít being licensed over there and thus thereís not a U.S. label to cover our backs and promote us at the front. Prior, our albums have only been available via direct import which means retail prices have been through the roof and lately the albums have been imported via a distributor called Navarre, but from what I gather [from] talking to lots of fans and people scattered around the States, the distribution hasnít been the best, so consequently all this put together means pretty poor sales figures and thatís what promoters and agents judge you by when it comes to getting on the bills of tour packages. So what Iím saying [is] itís gonna cost us a lot of investment and money to start touring the states, itís gonna be all like starting over again from square one. We wonít make any money, weíll [actually] lose money! But if we canít even have the money to invest the tour support, then thereís a stalemate, you know. Our current label Peaceville, they have their eyes on Europe as their priority only and weíre doing very well over here, but is that enough? As long as that doesnít change who would blame us if we donít wanna stick around for the future? We need to move on in our career. We need to take on what just sits there waiting for us and has done for a long time. We need to focus on America, not neglect America. Itís just frustrating hearing on a daily basis how well we would do over there. How right we are for the market and to see that the people actually discovering the band are amazed why they havenít heard about us before. Well, the answer is right here. The music biz stinks and weíve smelled it a long time. Hopefully a fresh breath of air is somewhere Ďround the corner of this dead end alley.
Many fans fondly remember your prior collaborations with Opeth frontman Mikael Ňkerfeldt. Is there a chance you could or would work with Mikael again -- never say never?
Well, it depends on whatís ahead you know. If youíre thinking getting him onboard to do some death metal vocals again, better think again. If it would be a musical collaboration of some sort? Yes, not impossible, but nothingís planned or even up for thoughts for the future. Apart from being fans of each otherís bands we really share a deeper passion for music and attitude in general. Yes, never say never....
Finally, I know from reading message boards and forums that some fans have downloaded promo copies of The Great Cold Distance before its release date, even with the anti-boot legging measures made with the CD. What are your thoughts on music piracy and how does it affect artists such as yourselves? Do you have to work so-called "regular jobs" when you are away from Katatonia?
The Internet scene has proven it has its own course, it canít be controlled by the labels nor the band, whatís leaked is leaked and it spreads like a wildfire. Labels could stop sending out promo CDís prior to the release, but then they wouldnít get any generalized feedback and hype built up beforehand and that would collapse the whole promotional campaign. When an album is leaked one month prior to release, thatís pretty much what we have to live with, it can even add to the hype, people start talking about it, the buzz is on, but it would be nothing short of devastating for a band if it was already available six months or even up to a year in advance. Thatís 100% unacceptable. When the album has been out for such a long amount of time, itís already old news and will fall flat like a dead fish upon its release date. People [will] have since moved on, being excited about the current leaked releases and have forgotten about the release ďI down[load]ed 6 months agoĒ since itís already back catalogue priority. Personally, I would wanna view Internet (including the p2p tools) as a big radio station with your own freedom of choice to download songs and listen to them and if you like it, then you go buy the album (for the artwork, the real deal format and to show support to a band you love), and once you did that you probably wanna go to shows and buy a t-shirt, too, so itís all intertwined and one thing leads to another. But p2p illegal file sharing shall never ever replace an official final product, and what the final product is, is in the hands of the bands to decide -- be it a digital download or a jewel case CD, etc. As for regular jobs, I and Jonas do Katatonia fulltime now and weíre just on the level of getting by and weíre totally dependent on the support from our fans. The others have their day jobs because theyíre not involved in either the creative or business side of the band that comes 24/7.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Do you have any additional comments or messages for our readers and your fans?
Hope you appreciate our new album/single/video. Keep your faith for Katatoniaís arrival to the States. Cheerz!
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