Swedish institution Katatonia is on the scene for almost thirty years and for decades they serve as a leading capacity within dark progressive atmospheric metal. After many years of a stable growth, they decided to take a break after a release of their tenth album The Fall of Hearts, to determine future direction and to invest their time into another projects. Even though we have a different point of view with the guest of this interview on their tenth album, all of us are happy because of the band’s return and very promising eleventh album City Burials. With the band’s guitarist Anders Nyström we spoke not only about the latest album and his supports within gear, but also his internal demons or ambitions with a supergroup Bloodbath.
Photos credit: Ester Segarra
As this interview will go also to a Czech magazine Muzikus, which is a gear oriented magazine, for the start, I would like to ask you to present to us items from your gear (guitars, amps, effects) collection that you relied on in the studio for the new album.
For rhythms and most leads we used Mayones Regius, Setius and Vidius custom models as well as Schecter Ultra II’s & Ultra III’s. For crunch and cleans we borrowed a PRS 513 from Mr. Åkerfeldt of Opeth, something we’ve done for the last ten years. On the amplification side, we had Diezel, Blackstar, Laboga amps and cabs either individually or mixed and blended together. Fx wise we relied on stuff like Boss GT-10/100, AMT M-Lead, Taurus Tux, Taurus Vechoor, Taurus Zebu, Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone, Black Sheep Flanger, Black Sheep Tremolo, etc. For the vocals we used a Neumann U 87 and a 1176-compressor.
Any cool gear discoveries in the past few years?
Well, we just made the switch over to the Boss GT-1000 multi effect processors earlier this year. I’ve been an extremely loyal user of the Boss GT-series ever since we started off with good ol’ GT-3 back in 1999. For the last two decades, I think we’ve gone through every model all the way up to the GT-100 for countless of tours, rehearsals, demos and albums. Between using the GT-10 and GT-100, we also tried a couple of Line6 Pod’s and a Fractal Axe-FX for a while, but knowing the GT series in and out down to every submenu, I decided to go back to that user-friendly interface I felt most comfortable with to regain the control back for full functionality. Having spent the last month dialing in the GT-1000 for both Katatonia and Bloodbath I just can’t praise it enough right now! The power of the assigns feature is literally like having an automated mix at your feet and only your imagination can put a limit to how far you can go with that. Also, with the true spill over/fx trails and the non-audible latency gaps between preset switching makes this the true boss of multi-effect processors in my opinion.
This situation is complicated for everyone on this planet and I can imagine, you, the band and your close ones were affected as well. Therefore I want to wish you and everyone around you to stay strong. What are you personally doing these days to stay sane?
Well, there’s not much we can do with all the restrictions still in place, so we’re in some kind of stand-by mode, waiting for any kind of opening from this limbo that allows us to get back to business. Anyways, we just tried the “stream” model and aired this intimate set at a local studio playing the top 20 songs that the fans had voted for. Seems like it went down quite well!? It was a weird, but interesting experience that we really enjoyed doing.
We take an extreme amount of inspiration from movies and TV-series and always have.
Personally, I was enjoying your last album City Burials mainly as a background for translating from English into Serbian. I am half Czech, half Yugo and when the culture life is limited in Prague, I fully concentrate on teaching and translating. This time there were texts from a reproduction clinic. Your music kept me sane, during all those descriptions of medical procedures. Thank you. 😉 With what mood did you enter the studio to record the new album?
The mood was pretty relaxed, considering our focus to maintain an effective work ethic. A pretty ideal scenario for a creative process that’s still under pressure, time and money. The objective was to put out a concise album, which perhaps made it a little bit more to the point and definitely shorter than the predecessor. Other than that, it was just another chapter of trying to record and produce the best sounding material we carried in our bag.
If you are ok with that, we can look at some track more closely. Rein – In the second half, there comes a breathtaking bright melancholic ambient section. Next to it, in general, I am always really happy, when a logical follow-up comes.
Yeah, I guess that was me doing what I do best, playing a monotone weeping lead, but in reverse. It’s a very bittersweet part that is dramatically interrupted by that ominous lead, coming in like a dark storm at the horizon, and setting the course for the last chorus.
Vanishers – How did you discover Anni Bernhard? It reminded me of a great duet with Silje, whose voice I love since Octavia Sperati days.
I first discovered her while she was singing in a band called Full of Keys that had just released their debut album. I kept track of the band and when they released their second album, they had definitely made me a real fan! There was something special about Anni’s voice and I was really impressed with her latest work, so when we were discussing potential candidates to make that song justice, I instantly thought of her unique vocal colorization and the result is Vanishers.
With Lachesis listener falls into an ambient fog, which reminded me of some strong movie soundtracks as Interstellar. Was there some strong movie experience for you recently?
Well to make a long story short, we take an extreme amount of inspiration from movies and TV-series and always have. Sometimes it just comes to down a scene that leaves immense impressions that will start a song on its own. It’s a never-ending source to visualize music, just as much as real life itself, I’d say.
Coming towards the end of the album both Neon Epitaph and Untrodden proved number of times for me this album doesn’t have an intention to serve July nor New Night hits. Whole album is a comfortable grey blanket you love and own for years, but you kept it for years under your bed. I read comments from your fans online. It’s a matter of trust. To lie down, no shuffle and just dive in.
While July certainly represents an all-time fan favorite, I must confirm that New Night does not qualify even to sit in the same league. It doesn’t nearly get the same feedback, hype and votes, so what does that prove? Probably that there’s no pattern here other than singled out subjective thoughts. The new album may be a grey blanket that’s been kept under the bed for years or it may the brand-new black lining you’d don’t ever want to change. We only know what it means for us, the rest is up to you, for good or bad.
Solo in Untrodden always woke me up from my concentration while I was deeply in the translations. “Wow, wait, I have to take a note. This one is massive. Oh wait, it’s Untrodden again.” How do you approach a solo? It feels as a total dive in the growing mood of the track; in the middle of the solo – relying on a strong melodic part of the song (essence of the track) and then getting back to the emotional improvising.
That solo has everything in it to become a classic! Whole Roger was becoming one with his guitar, I remember me and Jonas sat in the couch and directed him on where to slow down and where to land before jumping between the valleys and mountaintops to build the tension and release. I have to say that this is really where Roger shines as a guitar player, as he’s diving head first into his musical language of melody and emotion.
With all the respect, I started to pay full attention to you guys with Night Is the New Day album. It’s simply fantastic. It was later followed with also brilliant Dead End Kings and honestly with whatever other thing you released: Live/Acoustic – I was here for everything. But nothing clicked with me with The Fall of Hearts. There were no points to grab on to in a grey fog. I don’t want to harshly say “not enough strong ideas”, but it simply didn’t hit me. What is your feeling about The Fall of Hearts with a certain time distance?
The lapse of time has only made me love it more! To me this album represents a very ambitious period of bold song writing and as a result of that it’s our longest running album ever, almost clocking in beyond what a cd can physically store. I hear a huge variety and dynamics in and between the songs. I hear and know the labor that went into the creative process, where a lot of progressive elements turned out to be prevalent in the structures and song lengths.
How did you spend that time during a Katatonia break next to activities with Bloodbath? Personally, if I need to clear my head or formulate a new vision, I rely heavily on meditation and long challenging trips in the nature.
I guess I can simply say that “life happened” … Between doing an album and playing shows regularly with Bloodbath, there wasn’t really much downtime where I even got the chance to say that I missed Katatonia. The afterglow from The Fall of Hearts was still keeping the ember lit in our subconsciousness.
The more business and (damage) control I have to manage, the less of an artist I become.
Demons, angels and a river of blood
I am very happy that you share/split creative activities with Jonas as you guys do. If I can ask, how do you feel lately within creativity in general? Do you feel you need a longer break from writing and will see about the future? I am asking, as I can see, even if you were not intensively creatively active on the album, there is an overall sense of bigger balance and many strong ideas.
It’s true I wasn’t creative in the first stage, ‘cuz I didn’t write any songs on this album, but at stage two (producing, recording, mixing) I was on the contrary more creative than ever, carefully overlooking what the songs needed in its arrangements, performance and sound. I love doing that and consider myself quite good at it too. Jonas has proven he’s on a roll with writing, so I see that as an asset that can only strengthen the band further. There was a time where he didn’t write any music and I did everything, so it’s interesting how things evolve, but what is best for the band will wave the flag and lead the way onwards. As for the future, I haven’t given up the writing, in fact I already have some stellar ideas for the next album, but I also constantly have to fight my demons and deal with things the other guys in the band never ever have to touch and the writer’s block is usually a consequence of that curse. The more business and (damage) control I have to manage, the less of an artist I become.
Coming back to fan reaction, I guess you heard piano cover of Katatonia by Nikola Cvetković? If you checked the comments, how did you feel? There are many long term fans of the band…
Oh, I love Nikola’s piano interpretations of our songs! To decipher everything by ear while covering both the rhythm guitar, leads and vocal themes and then playing all that back in real time simultaneously, without reading notes, takes an unbelievable talent! Should any opportunities rise and allow, we’ve toyed with the idea of making some kind of collaboration or guest appearance in the future.
This summer you unfortunately won’t make it to Brutal Assault festival, where you should’ve performed both with Katatonia and Bloodbath. Any future plans with Bloodbath, you guys hope to accomplish?
Yeah, we’re getting eager to make another album as well as going back to the live action. We also have a special release coming out at some point covering the essential history of the band featuring interviews with all current and some past members coupled with tons of new, old and unreleased content.