Katatonia interview (05/2005)

With: Jonas Renkse
Conducted by: Azhidahak
Published: 08.05.2005

Band profile:


Being known as one of the most depressive, melancholic and emotional bands to appear in the metal scene, Katatonia is a band that (hopefully) doesn't need any further presentation. After releasing two compilation packages containing all of their old EP´s and Demos and scheduling several live dates throughout Europe, the band is now working on their new long awaited album.

- We are working on the new songs now in our "home studio", but we haven't entered the real studio yet.

So when have you planned to enter the studio?

- I think it will be sometime near the first of June and we will probably be recording in the studio for about a month or so. So all in all I guess the album will be released sometime during the end of October.

What can we expect from the new album? Will it sound much like Viva Emptiness or different?

- It will sound in the vein of Viva Emptiness, but I feel like the songs on the new album will be a bit darker. The new album will also contain a bit more complex arrangement. But we are not finished yet so its difficult to say.

What I noticed on Viva Emptiness was that although it was a Metal album, it did have that certain "rock" feeling to it. Will the new album sound the same way?

- I understand what you mean, but I think that the new album will be more metal with more heavy riffs.

Will you be releasing any single before the full length?

- We are discussing that at the moment. Our label wants us to do it, so hopefully we will release a single in the end of summer sometime. But nothing is decided yet.

Yeah, because I was thinking of your older albums like Last Fair Deal Gone Down for example when you released Teargas before the full length as the single.

- Yes, but at that time it was us who wanted to release the single and not our label.

What about the cover? Will Travis Smith do the new cover as usual?

- We haven't actually decided that yet, so I'm not really sure who will do the new cover. Travis Smith is the guy who has done most of our stuff, so then perhaps it's about time to try working with someone new. So that's why we are still undecided.

Jonas Renkse

Apart from the awaiting of the new album- gig dates and touring is perhaps what most of the fans are eagerly waiting for so that they can get a chance to catch up with the band after the release of the new album. Katatonia is a band that has played in many European countries, even more often than they play in their home country; Sweden.

- We haven't booked anything yet but we are planning a big European tour. We will try to play in as many countries as possible. It's not possible to play in all countries but we will do our best to play in as many as possible.

What about gigs in Sweden?

- Naaah, I don't really think so. We don't usually play so often in Sweden.

How come?

- The interest and fan base is much bigger in foreign countries. Then you must of course make priorities.

I have noticed that too. I mean, I have seen you live twice in Sweden but when I looked at your live gigs in Barcelona or Poland for example then I realised that your gigs abroad had much more audience to say the least.

- Yes, that's right. We are also very big in Finland. It feels a bit strange to play for 200 people in Stockholm but then go and play for 800 people in Helsinki.

That's a pity.

- Yeah, but it's always fun that we have fans somewhere.

But beside Europe, do you have any plans for a touring in other places such as USA or Asia?

- Well I hope that we will play in USA sometime again, since we have only played there twice. The only problem is that we don't have any label in USA and therefore our records are not released in USA. So we have no one who can pay and support us there. But with the release of the new album we will hopefully get a label to release it in USA as well. Then we can at least play one gig there and see if it works out well or not.

So then I assume that you don't have any plans to visit Asia or the other continents either.

- No, not at the moment. It would be really cool to play in Asia, but at the moment with our current circumstances Europe is our main target and eventually USA.

So what is the worst thing you know about touring?

- I think I must say the same thing as all the others. It's the waiting that is the most tedious thing about touring. Like when you arrive at a new place in the morning and you have to wait until 22:00 midnight before its time to play.

Katatonia is one of those bands that have been evolving steadily and changing their sound with every album. However, unlike most other bands that tend to change their sound completely and change into something that is entirely different - Katatonia have always kept the same dark, melancholic and emotional feeling in their music no matter how much they have changed their style/sound.

- Well that's pretty much the reason we started the band, because we wanted to play this kind of music. Then our capacity has grown throughout the years and we have grown as musicians, but the main idea and concept behind the band is still there. Actually, I think we have been quite successful in keeping alive the emotion that we once started. It is something that we had when we started the band and then it has just been there ever since, and we have never discussed about it either because everyone knows that this is how it's supposed to be.

But you have never thought like: "I want to make some happy and optimistic music" *laughs*

- No fuck no. I can't listen to such music.

Another thing that I have noticed lately is that apparently there seems to be more and more bands that tend to copy your sound. I like to call it "the new wave of Katatonia clones". Is this something that you have noticed yourself?

- Yes, I have noticed this a little bit. I've noticed it most of all from people who come to us and say: "Hey, have you heard this band? They sound exactly like you". I actually think that this is pretty cool. If people like us so much that they have such a similar sound then I think it's completely ok.

I think that this also brings us to another question because I think that most of these bands are especially influenced by your album "Brave Murder Day" which was at the time you were an all out doom metal band.

- Doom Metal, yeah that's true.

So doesn't this also somehow indicate that you have been a very influential band for the modern doom metal scene? Have you ever thought about this yourself?

- Yes, I actually have because I remember that at the time we released that album, not that many people liked it at all. Most of them were expecting to hear a very regular and ordinary melodic doom metal album. What we wanted to play was something different, something that would sound very monotonous with repetitive riffs. At that time it wasn't really a classic album and most people just thought it's a strange and weird album. But now several years later I realise that many bands are doing the thing that we did like 10 years ago. But I think it's cool that it finally gets the respect that it once deserved and I think it was very brave of us to do such thing back at the time when everyone just wanted to hear a super melodic black metal band.

Back in the old days

It's not everyday that you get a chance to interview Jonas, therefore I thought I could use this opportunity to ask him about the side projects that the he and Anders have been involved in.

Why did Anders disband Diabolical Masquerade?

- It took too much of his time and Katatonia needs more and more time. So Anders wanted to concentrate more on Katatonia, therefore he disbanded his other band.

Another question is about October Tide. When I met Anders last year he told me that you disbanded October Tide because you thought it sounds too much like the older stuff from Katatonia and it's not getting enough attention and credit.

- Yes, that's right. Actually, I think the main reason was that we used too many good ideas on the October Tide records (that didn't sell well at all), which we could basically use on Katatonia instead. So we decided to disband October Tide so that instead of dividing all our ideas into 2 bunches we could instead use them all for Katatonia since the style of both bands were very similar anyway.

But now that you have disbanded October Tide, have you ever thought of re-releasing the old albums? Especially Rain Without End because I really find it difficult to get hold of that album.

- Yeah I know, it's a real rarity. Well the thing is that the guy that owned the record label whom we released this album through is not around any more. He released this album in 1000 copies and then he lay down his company and now I have no idea what he is doing. But there have been many other labels that wanted to re-release this album, so we are thinking about it but nothing is for sure yet.

The other question is about your other band Bloodbath. I read that you decided to play at the Wacken Open Air festival as your first and last gig. How come you decided to make it your first and last one?

- Well, we will probably play more gigs in the future but that gig will probably be the only gig this year.

Ok, then I misunderstood it all because I thought you said that it will be your only gig ever and not that it's going to be your only gig this year.

- Well that was just something that we wrote before *laughs*. We thought that maybe we will play this gig and perhaps there won't be any more. But if we release another album then I think we want to play more gigs.

I guess another problem must be when you want to decide a time to meet each other since most of you are playing in several different bands.

- Yes exactly. All of the members from Bloodbath have their other bands and therefore it's very difficult to plan a gig.

So how often do you meet the other members from Katatonia?

- I meet Anders regularly since we both live in Stockholm. And at the moment we are writing and working on the new material. But the other members live in other cities so we meet them mostly at the time we need to practice together etc.

A photo from the Discouraged Ones session

Beside the music, it's always interesting to talk a little about non-music related stuff and since Jonas apparently don't mind, I started by asking him about his friendship with Mikael Åkerfeldt.

- I think we met for the first time during a gig back in 1993. It was one of his gigs with Opeth that I went to. Then we started talking with each other after the gig and then after that we just became friends and it just went on.

I reckon he must be a very nice and social guy.

- Yeah, he sure is.

Apart from that, do you also have a job beside your band?

- I and Anders don't have regular jobs; we only work on Katatonia so that we can focus on our music as much as possible. Fredrik and Mattias on the other hand work on the rail road.

And a little bit connected to music again, what are your favourite metal magazines?

- It's hard to say, but I like to read Close-Up. I think that it's a pretty good magazine and I have been reading it since the very first issue came out.

What about foreign metal magazines, any favourites there?

- Terrorizer is pretty good. It's just that it's so damn expensive here in Sweden, but I like it and I buy it every now and then.

No matter how repetitive and unoriginal these kinds of questions are, I just had to ask Jonas about his favourite styles and bands within the metal genre:

- I used to listen to thrash metal quite a lot when I was a kid. So I still like those bands that I used to listen to before like Slayer, Metallica, Kreator etc. though Slayer is probably not as good as they used to be.

What I notice about thrash is that it's not as popular any more as it once was back at the time Metallica and Megadeth and such bands started the scene.

- Yeah that's true. But I think that is because when thrash metal started it was the most extreme form of music. But later on other styles such as death metal started that were much more extreme. Therefore many people started listening to those new styles instead and thought it's more "cool". I was also one of those people, but I still like the old stuff as well.

But you also listen to black metal and such styles?

- Yes of course. I quite like Darkthrone for example, they are really good. I also like 1349 when it comes to black metal.

What about doom?

- It's the same for doom; I pretty much listen to the same bands I listened to before. Bands such as Paradise Lost and Candlemass. I haven't really followed today's scene that much.

With that being said, I bed farewell to Jonas and mark the end of this interview.

Interview and Translation by: Soheil Zamanian
Thanks to: Jeff and Lisa (Peaceville) for making this interview possible.


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