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Interview with

Anders Nystrom and Daniel Liljekvist of Katatonia

I recently had the chance to catch up with KATATONIA during their UK Tour at the Hellfire Festival, Birmigham and took the opportunity to ask guitarist Anders and drummer Daniel a few questions about their excellent new album 'Night is the new day' and the band in general.

Reflections of Darkness (RoD): Hi Anders, Daniel, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. The current album has been, I understand, a long time in the making, was that an arduous process or something that flowed?
Anders: Yeah it took about three years to make this one actually; it's probably the longest we've ever taken to make an new album. You know honestly we had some creative crisis and a writer’s block hanging over us and probably it has to do with something like we're still very proud of the last album, it was hard to top that one and that was the only goal we had. We have to top our last album otherwise it's pointless to even go into the studio you know? To make the same album twice, that's boring and it's like we always have to challenge ourselves and go on and it just took three years. Also we haven't just been sitting on our asses we've also been touring!

RoD: Do you always have this level of endeavour and commitment with your albums or was this a particularly difficult one, and if so was it this difficult because it's your best?
Anders: In the past the albums have been writing themselves, pretty much it just flowed, and this one did too but it felt like we needed time to come to the point where we were able to do that. I think it had a lot to do with motivation, to feel that you know that you’re gonna top the last album. And you know we had the studio booked twice and we had to postpone it and cancel it... and that we've never done before, but I don't look at it as a failure, it's taking more responsibility to put out a quality product here and not just doing it for the hell of it. We're constantly being chased by the record label, they want to put out a new album and the fans as well actually, but we have to have a certain standard to it, and if it's under that then let the years pass by, we can sit here for another year. That's how we view it. It has to have the right quality.
Daniel: Perfection takes time!

RoD: Having listened to the album I feel it's stretched the envelope and evolved in brand new directions...
Anders: Yeah! Well that's exactly what we're trying to do. We don't want to be stranded at the same spot, repeating everything over again. We always look to horizons, to where the challenge is, and we feel on this album that we have a lot to explore on the outskirts of genres. We consider ourselves a rock, metal band, this is our sound, but we are very  interested in heading out into other genres, to pick out the best elements of that and bring that back into our sound. On this album we went into a lot of electronic, with all this keyboard stuff going on. No-one in the band is really a keyboard player but we're all fans of that sound, so we thought maybe bring some of that into the album and it will be a lot more atmospheric and broaden up the whole sound. I think we will also stand out from the metal bands. So that was the goal of the whole album to extend our musical borders.

RoD: What are your personal influences and what are you all listening to at the moment?
Anders: I think everybody in the band has really diverse interests and musical styles, we all listen to different types of music. Even Jonas and I, we write most of the music, but his favourite bands are not my favourite bands, but I think the whole spectrum of having such an open mind to musical influence is just healthy for KATATONIA. We know what fits and what does not even though Daniel might have one favourite band; he knows what to bring into KATATONIA and what not to. I listen to a lot of power metal, KATATONIA doesn't sound like power metal, I know what to bring and what to leave. We always had certain influences from the beginning and that went on and we established our own band and from there we know within what borders to play, but we're influenced by everything.
Daniel: (laughs) Everyone in the band listens to metal mostly otherwise something would be wrong!
Anders: But here today are Fields of the Nephilim and they are big influence to our sound.
Daniel: (laughs) But I had never heard them, so it will be my virgin listening!

RoD: The difference in singing styles through the albums, from the original growling through to the cleaner tones of 'Discouraged Ones' it now seems that Jonas has settled into a zone where he's at his most comfortable as a vocalist. Is this the case and is this also now reflected in the lyrics?
Anders: Of course, yes! He has a lot more freedom now to evolve as a singer. In the past he never considered himself a singer anyway, he was a drummer who had to do the growling vocals and once he got to the position as a vocalist he realised that he had a talent and he wanted to take that further. I think you hear that on every album, more and more confidence coming through on each album. He never took lessons or anything, he's just doing it and I think that characterises his vocals.

RoD: The creative process of songwriting is for the most part between you and Jonas; how does that work, do you work individually and then come together to finish things or do you go into the studio and think 'okay we're going to write a song'?
Anders: We usually start privately, when ideas are formed, and from there-on we interact with each other to see where the vibes are going, and to check up on each other's work. I should be honest here; we never really write a song before we enter the studio. Other bands write a couple of songs at the rehearsal place then enter the studio and go and record them. We do the exact opposite of that, we write songs in our private settings, homes and so on and then after that we make pre-production demos, but they are never complete. We're still having them uncompleted 'til we have the master of the album so anyone with ideas in the studio is free to speak his mind, because a lot of things are changed in the studio and that really keeps the process interesting and you have a certain magic in there the whole time and it's not getting stiff or bored or stale. That's important to us because we're not a band that wants to see this as a job, it a very organic thing.
Daniel: It's very spontaneous in the studio too. For myself when I track drums, I listen to the demo tapes of the song, just before I'm going to record that song in the studio, and all of the fill-ins and beats come very spontaneously. I just jam with the song, but that's just me!

RoD: What are differences in musical environments between Sweden and other European countries?
Daniel: You don't see much of us in Sweden!
Anders: We're not visible or seen pretty much anywhere in Sweden. We nearly always go abroad for any gig we do. I mean the scene in Sweden is very good actually, very good for metal, we have radio stations that do play hard metal stuff, but Jonas, hates to perform in Sweden, he thinks it's too close to your privacy, it's like he recognises everyone in the audience and your friends you know, (laughs) so he's very awkward with the whole playing in your home country thing. That can have something to do with it as well. Usually bands play locally a lot, but we never did that, but at the same time we only have to go over to Finland, our neighbour country, to have the best shows you could ever have. It's bizarre in a way. You only have to take the boat over and you have your album in the top five in the charts and in Sweden it's not even entering the list.
Daniel: (laughs) We can also play on the boat! For the old people!

RoD: Is there anything interesting you'd like us to know, what are you up to, future plans etc?
Daniel: (laughs) There's nothing interesting about us!
Anders: I just think it's really cool to be back in England, because it was very long ago since we toured this much and we're now running a couple of headline dates after supporting and it's like wow where have we been the whole time? I didn't realise you could play this many dates in one country, all these big cities have  whole areas, so that's cool, we look forward to coming back to England  and I think we're going to play a lot, lot more in England in the next two years.

RoD: Okay well it'll be really nice to see you! Thank you so much.


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