Swedish multi-instrumentalist and singer Daniel Gildenlöw formed Pain of Salvation, back then under a name Reality, when he was eleven years old. During his career he faced many challenges, but thirty years later he faced probably the biggest one. In the early 2014 he ended up in a hospital because of streptococci infection, which meant significant limitation of his artistic activities and long convalescence. We spoke together with Daniel not only about these challenges but also about the latest album In The Passing Light Of Day and last years reedition of legendary Remedy Lane album from 2002. In addition, if it was not an April joke, Czech fans can expect to see Pain of Salvation back in Prague on the first of April.
First of all, speaking on behalf of your fans not only in Czech Republic and Slovakia, but around the whole world, I would like to say, we are happy for the fact you managed to fight your health problems and released an album, where we probably don’t have to ask about a concept.
Thank you very much! It was a crucial life experience, which got naturally reflected on the new album. First of all, I didn’t have an option when this topic came to me. Believe me, in hospital I was really convinced there is not a concept in this. My experience seemed very unexotic. But, when I started sitting down and writing, this was what came to me. I always believed in doing what comes natural, as it would be better and stronger than anything else.
It must have been very difficult for somebody as hardworking as you, not being able to be creative. Were you at least spending this time reading?
I tried in the beginning (laugh), but right after the first surgery my body was so tired. I had books taken to my hospital room, but it was impossible to read, as I would read a sentence and then I would fall asleep. Later, I tried to find the spot, where I stopped, but after another sentence I would fall asleep again. I couldn’t focus on anything that took a long time. (Laugh) It was same with a guitar. I had a scheduled tour with Transatlantic, so I asked my dad to bring me a guitar to a hospital room and I thought I can probably learn the songs for the tour. I still thought that I would be able to go on that tour. Same it was with Prog Nation At Sea cruise. (Laugh) When I woke up from the first surgery, I was actually asking the doctors: “If you had this vacuum pump placed in my wound and if I cover that with plastic, do you think, it would be possible for me to go on that boat, to play metal on stage?” They were like: “Let’s just take it one day at a time!” (Laugh) In retrospective, of course they must have known there is no chance at all, because four months later, I would be slowly limping out from the hospital, basically unable to walk simple set of stairs and they still call it miraculous progress. They must have known back than it was totally idiotic question, but it was impossible for me to play the guitar or do basically anything. But I think my creative side found a way eventually. Let say, at one point I tried to pick the guitar up, but it didn’t work, so I putted it down on the bed. Later, I was up doing something, when I looked down and saw the guitar lying there on a bed as a patient. It was really funny. So, I took my phone, put the glasses on the guitar and then I took a picture of the guitar being in a hospital. This joke started a whole set of pictures I placed on Instagram, where the guitar would be dressed up and be the patient of the hospital. I even made some of the personnel at the hospital participate in some of these pictures. I even managed, towards the end of my stay to get the guitar dressed up with me all the way to a surgery room, where personnel would be pretending to make surgery on the guitar. That’s what happens when I don’t get my creativeness out in other ways. It needs to find a way somehow. That was great fun!
It was impossible for me to play the guitar or do basically anything
Was this the breaking point, where it all started to get better and you even started working out? I’m not trying to compare it, but I remember my bad days, after a tough brake-up with my “third love”, where I had no sleep, couldn’t eat, significantly losing weight and I couldn’t leave a bed. At one point however, I jumped from the bed around 6am, went for a run, had a cold shower and really healthy breakfast. From that point everything progressed. Was this the moment for you when you found enough energy to work on yourself?
I guess not, because I was still in a hospital and I did that, because I didn’t have energy. I got into the hospital in early January and it was the middle of April, when I got out. I was in a pretty poor shape at that point and I had to start with physical therapy to start from a scratch. I think that was the turning point. In general, I am very stubborn and in this case it actually helped. I would press myself way beyond comfort. (Laugh) I knew I had a show coming up. It was Sweden Rock festival in early June and I was determined, I will not miss this one! I had one and a half months from barely being able to walk until I would be standing on stage. I think most of the people would cancel that gig but not me. (Laugh) That’s why I started with physical therapy and I had a program of low weight exercises, really basic, old people’s gym session. (Laugh) But I noticed body would bounce back very quickly and I would press myself by adding weights sooner than they told me to. I think, that was the turning point, when I realized how fast the body could recover from something, which usually takes much longer. Especially, as I am not twenty five anymore. Body is just waiting for you to use it. Once I was pretty much back in my regular shape, I would just continue further, keep the pace and I started doing parkour, free running and capoeira. I was hungry for coming back on top when it came to my health, my music and everything which was standing back for such a long time in a hospital. On the other hand, once I was getting back to my typical working procedures, it got much harder to maintain this system. At that point I couldn’t sit at the computer. There were so many things I couldn’t do. Sitting was surprisingly the most difficult thing because my back would be getting into a position, where it would hurt a lot. I think in a way that was good, as I never felt this healthy, as when I was never sitting at the computer and almost never driving a car. I came to a conclusion, sitting is among the worst things you can do. I think that was the turning point, those few weeks when I got out and seeing the progress of the body. In the end, I made it to Sweden Rock festival. I was so nervous, as I had no idea how I would hold up and I promised myself: “Don’t jump around now! Just walk on stage, do the songs, stand still and once in your life, just go up there and do it, not more than you have to do,” because I am always committing way more than I have to. But it didn’t matter, as in the middle of the second song, I found myself jump around like an idiot anyway. (Laugh) Part of my mind was looking at me from outside saying: “You are such an idiot! What the hell are you doing?! Just stop that and stand still!” (Laugh) To be honest, that little voice gets rarely heard. Afterwards, I was in a lot of pain, but very happy!
Body is just waiting for you to use it
How are you managing to maintain your healthy lifestyle after the progress was achieved?
The thing is, I still want to and I don’t feel lazy in any way. But, as soon you get into the daily groove of things, it gets very difficult from the logistic point of view. Back then, when I was doing the most I could, I would go to gym three times a week, I would go to capoeira and parkour two times a week. I guess that’s something you can do for a limited period of time. As soon as you start working on the album, you need to commit a lot of time to that. Also, when you have been away for such a long time, there are so many things falling way behind, like taxes. (Laugh) Then there is a family. I am a father of three kids and it’s very difficult to keep everything cool, if you have been away for such a long time. Next to that I even started to teach music at my kids’ school. So there were moments, where I found myself several times driving into town, for an half an hour, into the city at nine o’clock in the evening, when everybody’s already asleep. I would go to gym, because I know it closes at eleven. (Laugh) Then I get home, eat and fall asleep at two o’clock but I have to get up at 5:30 again. Something has to be forsaken all the time. Therefore, whenever I try to maintain working out, I lose lots and lots of sleep instead. It’s a difficult calculation, but I’m really happy to be who I am. You have to take opportunities when they come.
Did you also need to go undertake some special voice trainings or was it very natural?
Once I got out from the hospital I realized, I have lost more than an octave of my vocal range. I had no idea if that would come back. In general, I was never one of those guys who would train or warm up their voice a lot. That’s why I am concerned about our band practices. Don’t get me wrong. Current line-up is simply wonderful, but we are too spread out around the world. So we don’t have those regular rehearsals that I would really need for my voice. That’s basically my warm up. (Laugh) So I will try to make sure, once we get closer to shows and touring, we will have those production rehearsal weeks, which I think are still very important to get my voice in shape. Especially now, being a music teacher for four days a week, I need really loud voice. There are twenty kinds and they make noise! (Laugh) That’s actually the worst you can do with your voice.
Once I got out from the hospital I realized, I have lost more than an octave of my vocal range
I am glad you are mentioning new line-up, as I was amazed by Ragnar’s performance on the new album and especially on Remedy Lane live album. Next to that, he also stepped in to cover for you at Progressive Nation At Sea in 2014. He can be very useful in higher notes, but please tell us, how did you discover him?
We did it the old school way, though an audition. He was one of the guys who sent the material and were interested for audition. He was part of the five of six people who actually qualified for coming to Sweden. Not surprisingly, most of the people, who ended up being good enough, were usually main characters in their respective bands: main vocalists and songwriters. I think you have a different approach to music, when you are a songwriter and a lead vocalist. Even as an instrumentalist, you will gain a lot, with your playing, by being a vocalist. You don’t even have to be actively singing. It’s enough if you think as a vocalist. You will be simply more… “expressionate”? …Sounds weird! (Laugh) You just need to focus on your expression with your instrument as well. I mean, I noticed that with my guitar playing that some guitar players won’t be as expressive, when it comes to playing. I guess being a vocalist, you connect to phrasing much stronger and to getting emotions across. There is a different approach to drama somehow, the way you portray something. I think that can be heard, in whatever instrument you play.
Daniel talking with Daniel about Daniel
Big role on the album also played a producer Daniel Bergstrand. Have you cooperated with him in the past?
No, but it was always in my peripheral view. I heard many albums that I really liked and he always struck me with his work commitment. He seemed to have that combination of old school thinking, together with a desire to find new ways and then to reinvent. I recognize myself very much in that, so I was looking forward to work him. He was actually really happy to hear, we are interested in working with him. I think this album ended up perfect. It seemed as a combination that has been there and just waited to happen. When it happened it felt very right.
How would you compare him to Jens Bogren, with whom you were determined to cooperate on Remedy Lane reissue?
First of all, they are a different generation and I think you can sense that. Secondly, Jens’ sound ideal is a bit controlled, but I think both are really good in what they are doing. However Daniel’s way of thinking has more of an edge, which I think was necessary for this album. It is a same thing, as if you paint. There is symmetry & beauty and then there is also balanced asymmetry, which I always loved. That aspect I think is Daniel’s strong point, because if you hear old Meshuggah albums, they struck me as a young listener, how brave they are.
If we can stay with Remedy Lane album, I can imagine that time in the hospital gave you a space to think about your past. How do you look at this crucial piece of your discography with a time distance of fifteen years?
When I got a question, if we could do it, it sounded like it was time! It has been waiting there for quite some time. It’s also a very intimate album, just like the new one. It needs from you to be in a certain place to get into it and perform it. I was hungry to make something more heavy and it seemed as a good time to be revisiting it. Very nice thing was that, in order to get into it, with this new line-up and for myself as well, since it was such a long time since we recorded it, we needed to listen to it closely and see what the hell was going on. (Laugh) So, I actually dug out the old back-up from my drawers. We managed to open the old project and we sat in the back of our garden, in the middle of summer, getting a tan (laugh), drinking cold beverages, trying to figure out what was being played and who would do what harmony. I think it was a wonderful way of making it ours again. It was very rewarding to make that new contact with the album and being able to listen to all the different parts of it and noticing a lot of the details that I have forgotten about. The idea was born at that point. It was obvious that it would be so easy to have someone remix it. Because it was exactly what we were doing: Sitting there and thinking to turn this up and to turn that down. It was a simple choice of making a remix, as it seemed worth and a good combination for a live recording we knew we are going to do. It was also a very simple choice contacting Jens, as he contacted us right after he heard the Remedy Lane for the first time and really wanted to work with us back then. He claims that it was one of his most favorite albums. I’ve been wondering many times how the album would sound like in his head and this was the perfect opportunity to try that and he was happy to do it too.
I imagine you must have remembered many details regarding lyrics of the album, as they are very personal. Personally, I see it, next to the strong and enriching topic of relationship; it is also about understanding yourself and what you want in life. I can honestly say this album was very important to me and made me realize so many things, which I either forget or had to learn. Thank you!
Well, it’s my pleasure. I am happily going to take those feelings with me for the rest of the day, because it’s really warming to hear that.
Plans for 2017
Looking at your tour schedule, there are some interesting plans, but mainly Cruise to the Edge in February, which can be a proper replacement for Progressive Nation at Sea.
I’m gonna be on this boat. That’s the most important! (Laugh)
I would really love to go to Hellfest this summer. Tell me, how is it there?
It’s going to be our either forth of fifth time playing there this summer. It’s always nice, but slightly weird festival. I appreciate that a lot.
As your European tour is coming soon, could you please comment on the differences regarding EU touring and elsewhere in the world?
There are major differences even among certain parts of Europe. (Laugh) You want to say people are the same everywhere and on the human level, we are, but you can definitely notice there are differences in social climate and the way the people respond. It’s really different from country to country within Europe. To me, that’s one of the joys. I prefer that rather than seeing same things everywhere I go. But going to the States, it’s so much difficult, mainly because of the distances. The last time I went to States, we were trying to cover both coasts. People always want to go east, but I really wanted to play on the west coast. Not only because of the fan emails saying: “Why do you always play east coast?!” (Laugh) The answer is simple and of course they know it. It’s hell of a long way between the coasts and there is not a lot of stuff happening in between. It’s really difficult to make any sort of routing that makes sense and not losing too much money. Every day on a tour bus costs a lot of money. From that perspective it’s so much easier in Europe of course. You can cross two or three countries in a day, where you need two or three days to cross one country, if you are in States.
Now, I would like to ask you, if you could comment on gear, which you have used for each album and possibly some interesting gear discoveries?
When we did the remix of Remedy Lane, I went back to basically the same equipment that I used to have in early 2000. I dug out my old Parker Fly guitar and 4×12 Alligator from Laboga. I was pretty much getting back to the same sound, which was very interesting. When we started recording the new album, I played basically everything on my seven string Mayones, prototype from the Road Salt days. It never went to a fabrication, basically because… well, it just never happened, but it’s a great guitar which I used exclusively for a recording of In the Passing Light of Day. I played through number of brands but Laboga combo, was the best for the soft sounds. Then I used a little bit of Fender and little bit of Vox. (Laugh) Naturally I still can’t live without my 4×12 Marshall cabinet, which I got as a birthday present when I was ten or eleven. It’s with me for a very long time and it sounds awesome as it has very organic sound. Next to that we use a lot of fuzz effects. Next to the main guitar, there is also a fuzz guitar which makes the sound very special. I was using a lot three pedals from Zvex, which I usually pair with a noise gate pedal.
Coming from a reader I received a question, if you might have read something from Bert Hellinger? Otherwise please mention some inspirational books you have read recently. For me, it was a No More Mr. Nice Guy from Robert A. Glover.
Oh right. (Laugh) I’m not sure right now, as I might recognize it by the book title. (Laugh) I did read number of Douglas Coupland books, but I really can’t remember the names, but I do appreciate his work a lot. It’s always a recommendation. But I have to admit, as a father of three, I noticed when I am at home, I read very few books. Normally I read three or four books at the same time, but these days they are just waiting for me a lot. As I said, I go to bed around midnight and I wake up around 5:30. Therefore the reading time… is not there! (Laugh) I read a lot, when I am on tour or off gigs in airplanes and hotels. For a recommendation, I would always go for A Short History Of Nearly Everything from Bill Bryson. This is one of the books everybody should read at least once. It is also a source of getting crucial and interesting information, but also a lot of a laughing. This piece is just beautifully written.
That’s why I was wondering if your inspiration for lyrics comes from real life or if a literature plays a crucial role too?
I think the answer always has to be both, I guess. Let say, for the Road Salt albums, I would start with an idea or a feeling and then freely expand it, and building a story around it, not necessarily limiting myself with a truth. But I always use myself as a point of departure, because I think that’s something you have to do in a way. I think you have to invest as much of yourself as you can, in anything you do. Because, only by that you can run into, what is true, convincing and real. The more you can dare to expose yourself, for others to dive into it, I think the results will come. It might come in a higher cost for yourself, but that cost will always mean, what you do is better and if you are like me, that is what you will care about.
Thank you for being so honest. If we can take this discussion further, how do you think a proper man should act in a relationship?
Trying, listening and ready to make sacrifices, without sacrificing who you are. In general, it is great to have so many interesting sources from everywhere today. I have been watching one show lately, where they said: “Every time you compromise who you are, you will lose little bit of your humanity.”
The best of version of Hallelujah out there…