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The Swedish act Katatonia has certainly come a long way. Starting out as a two-piece in 1991, founding members Anders Nystrom and Jonas Renske tried to offer a more melodic approach to their brand of metal in the midst of the big death metal craze of the early 90's. The band had a unique sound which combined driving rhythms and melodic guitars up against the harsh death metal vocals of drummer Jonas Renske. Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt sang on a couple of subsequent albums and then in 1998 they shocked the metal community. 'Discouraged Ones' abandoned the death vocals and introduced the impressive vocal ability of Jonas and also the slight shift in musical style which went hand in hand with the somber vocals. At this time, Katatonia probably lost a good portion of the militant death metal fiends. But, on the other hand, they took the fans willing to expand with them to a higher plain and picked up more than a handful of new fans along the way. Two albums since this change, the band recently released the latest album entitled 'Last Fair Deal Gone Down', which is by far the most mature and advanced album of their career. Now with a solid five-piece lineup, the band hope to bring their style to new fans as well as continue to impress fans of old. The Metal Update had a chat with Anders about the band's history and progression into the musical entity that they are now.

METAL UPDATE: Jonas started out on drums and vocals in the beginning, correct?


MU: How and when was the band formed?

AN: The true Katatonia was formed in early '91.

MU: Who were the original members?

AN: Just me and Jonas.

MU: OK. You guys did everything?

AN: Yeah. We started out as a duo.

MU: What were you looking to accomplish at that time?

AN: We wanted to make something that was very different from the death metal boom that was going on at the time. Death metal was huge at the time in '91, so we wanted to bring a more melodic approach into the metal scene.

MU: What inspired you to recruit Mike of Opeth to sing the vocals on 'Brave Murder Day' and 'Sounds of Decay'?

AN: Mainly the reason was because Jonas lost the ability to sing. . . to growl. He tried to do a couple of songs, but it sounded so awful. . . and I had given a promise that I wouldn't be singing on Katatonia, so we just had Mike's vocals in mind just remembering how powerful they are. We just basically called him and "Can you come down here to Orebro?" (the city) to Unisound Studio which was maybe an hour ride from Stockholm and Mike was just like, "Yeah, cool. Sure. No problem. I'll do it." So it was as easy as that.

MU: Did you ever play any shows with Mike on vocals?


AN: We did one show. We did one playing all the songs from 'Brave Murder Day' and some older songs. And Mike sang on all of them. It was a Swedish gig.

MU: 'Discouraged Ones' was somewhat of a drastic change from the previous albums. What signaled the change to the clean vocals there?

AN: Well basically we just felt that it got stagnating a little bit because we couldn't evolve really with the songwriting anymore. We wanted to challenge ourselves again and the clean vocals just open up a whole new territory for the music and the songs.

MU: What was the initial reaction to that album?

AN: Cruel.

MU: Really? Even I was kind of shocked the first couple times I listened to it, but then the more I listened to it, I was totally convinced. And now I don't even listen to the early albums with the death metal vocals. It was a great change.

AN: Yeah, I've seen the sign of the times where people have been picking up on our style, and now it's not such a strange thing anymore because we have done more albums with the new style than the opposite. People know what we are about now, but I remember just when we did change over it was harsh times. That's why we did it. We really felt strongly about what we did so it wasn't a problem really. We haven't thought about changing back or something.

MU: What were the musical and vocal influences for that sound or was it just a natural progression?

AN: Well personally, we've been listening to a lot of music outside of metal, so it's just a natural influence and inspiration. That got us to realize that we could open the door. We have been longtime fans of old gothic music, old shoegazer pop stuff and alternative music. There's a lot of killer bands outside of the metal community that we were all fans of, so we figured out we could use more inspiration from the albums we listen to personally.

MU: Besides you and Jonas, Fred Norman has been the most consistent member of the band. What is your viewpoint on the lineup situation throughout the history?

AN: We've been a cursed band really. We've been trying hard, but we haven't been lucky enough to get members who really knew what Katatonia was about - the true message of the band. In the beginning we were just recruiting people and they wanted to twist and turn the band into a Morbid Angel copy. So we had to kick members out on a regular basis. Most of all we just wanted to be a tight unit with similar minded people but it was so hard to get at the time. For the new style it was a lot easier. With the new album and for the first time we have a very strong and permanent five-piece in our lineup. So that is great. I'm really tired of using session musicians for every gig that has been coming up.

MU: That's a lot of work.

AN: Yeah it is.

MU: The last three albums have been tagged as really somber sounding. Is that a reflection of how you guys feel at the time or is that a mood that you want to express through the music?

AN: I would say both, actually. What Katatonia is about is us channeling all of the negativity within us into it. That is the only thing the world sees from us. The dark side because that is what Katatonia is about. We are not 24 hours a day manic-depressives. We channel everything out of Katatonia because that is where we connect on a musical level the most.

MU: How have your musical tastes changed from when you started the band vs. now and which non-metal bands would you recommend to Katatonia fans?

AN: I have always been pretty open minded you know because I love music and can't feel that there is something to limit myself. When there is a good song I don't care what genre it belongs to if it is a good song musically. I always keep an open mind. And for people in the metal scene interested in the influential bands that Katatonia listened to over the years would be of course The Cure, Fields of the Nephilim, Slowdive, etc., etc.

MU: Yeah, I have checked them out.

AN: Yeah. There's a lot more bands. Jeff Buckley is good. There could be tons mentioned.

MU: Describe your involvement in Bloodbath. That's your project, right?

AN: Yeah it is. It was something we felt like doing because doing the level of the music that Katatonia is doing right now is so serious. It is really deep and it is so serious all of the time. So it just felt good kicking loose and kicking some ass with doing some music that was around when we started the band. We all keep such good memories from the early death metal boom that got out in the early 90's. It will always be in ourselves because all of the guys in Bloodbath have their roots in that period. So I had the idea of forming Bloodbath for a very long time, but I think we just realized it in some drunken session really. Kicking it together.

MU: Are there any other side projects for you or Jonas?

AN: Well I still have my Diabolical Masquerade project - doing albums occasionally with that one. Jonas has quit all his project bands now but I think he's got something with Mikael of Opeth, some kind of soft mellow stuff.

MU: Is that Sorskogen?

AN: No that's Mike's thing but it's very similar so it might turn out to be Sorskogen or something. It probably will. I know that they are talking about it all the time.

MU: Will there be another October Tide album?

AN: I talked with Jonas just the other night about that and it really depends on how keen the world is to show him that it is demanded. He has no faith in October Tide anymore. He is so tired with the failures of the two albums because they didn't sell anything. They were so extremely poorly promoted. So October Tide has in a way been unintentionally a cult thing now because it is so goddamn underrated.

MU: Definitely. So maybe it will happen at a future point.

AN: Yeah, maybe. It depends, like I said, on the feedback that it gets. If there is a demand in the world for it, I think he could do it because he still has it inside himself.

MU: Speaking for yourself, what would be a dream tour for Katatonia?

AN: A dream tour? Well, we've always wanted to go out and open up for a really huge band so that is kind of a dream. It would be really cool to maybe open up for the Cure or something. That would be an extremely big thing. We're also talking about going out with some band that we are friends with like Anathema or something.

MU: That would work. AN: Exactly. That would work well because all the fans are fans of both bands.

MU: Do you have any tour plans coming up?

AN: We have plans for a European tour. It will be occurring some time in the fall. When we are done that one we will demand that we go over to the States and do one there as well.

MU: Yeah, I think you'll do well here.

AN: Yeah. Just look at Opeth. They are over there right now.

MU: Yes, and the response has been amazing. I've been hearing people saying that this new album is a big jump into new territory for Katatonia. Do you agree with that?


AN: I don't know about a big jump. Of course it is new territory in some ways, but for me it is still connected with the two former albums.

MU: I don't see much of a difference myself. It seems like a natural progression. I can see where people may think that because you have a new drummer on this album and he definitely adds a new perspective to the band.

AN: Oh yeah. There's a lot more dynamics on the new album. It's a lot bigger sounding and there's more stuff happening on it. There's more variety on it and it's more diverse in that sense. But the style is totally similar to the former albums.

MU: I think your current fans probably want you to even go into more melodic territory or a mellower spectrum. So the new drummer is working out well then?

AN: Oh yeah. He is an extremely talented, good young bloke. We are really lucky to have him in the band.

MU: What are your thoughts on the new album. Are you happy with it?

AN: Yeah. Totally happy. Considering the hassle we went through recording it, I am so happy with it. We recorded it over a half of a year, part by part - going in and out all of the time which was such a strange session really. But now when I have perspective on it I can see it as something positive because each time we went back in there we could really have reflections and see what we had done and really decide if we were going to go on or go back and fix something. Whereas the usual process of going in for two months, record and go out, when you come home, that's when you have the first chance to have the perspective - if it is good or bad. And it's too late to go back and change it.

MU: Yeah, so it's kind of nice that you had little gaps in between there. What are your plans or goals for this album?

AN: My expectations are probably that by this album we should have all fans converted that are into the new style. Not bitching and nagging about the old shit anymore. That is yesterday's news now I think.

MU: Do you think this album will be able to reach a non metal audience? Because you have always had a metal background. Do you think this will reach some people that don't even listen to metal?

AN: It has potential to do it, but then it is up to the label - how well they want to push and promote the album. The album? No doubt. No problem there.

MU: I have played it for people that don't really even like metal and they thought it was pretty good. They could tell there was metal overtones in the background more so than I do.

AN: Exactly. But I think the problem is that all the people from other genres and scenes are a little bit hesitant when they always feel stranded in metal. So, that kind of scares them away a little bit. If we could break into another category and stop being always categorized and put in the black / death metal bins, that would open up a new door. So, it's really up to the label. How they want to keep the profile and really promote this one.


review of Katatonia 'Last Fair Deal Gone Down'





Interview: Scott McCooe [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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