[interview] Anders from Katatonia: “We wanted to challenge the listener with something different rather than just serving something safe and predictable”

Jorge Fretes from Spain chats with Anders Nyström about Katatonia´s new album “City Burials”, how it was made and why is different from other Katatonia albums. Anders also explains change in sound during the whole Katatonia career, playing a streaming show without audience, first tours and focusing more on the production side of the albums these days.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW IN SPANISH HERE

– Hi Anders! Thanks for taking the time to do this with us. You did a live stream concert a few weeks back (which was amazing) and it will probably one of the only shows for the next few months. Of course, there is no crowd – only you guys and the sound guys.

Yes, we felt we needed to do “something” to honor the album release and make up for all the cancelled gigs. This streaming live concept is new territory for all of us and feels a bit weird while certainly not being used to it, but apparently the technology is there to make it work and based on the feedback people around the world seemed to love it, so I guess that’s the verdict we can all put our faith in right there. Who knows, we might even (have to) do it again!?

– In Katatonia’s case, how big of an effect does the connection with the crowd and the fans on a live show have on the final output when doing a show? Did it feel a bit strange in that sense?

That was the weirdest part, not seeing any people, no cheering, no applauds, no noise, just total silence between every song! We couldn’t even see the chat that was going on at the same time, so we had no idea how this went down while we were streaming, we just tried to focus on the moment and enjoy the performance and hoping it sounded good out there. If we could figure out how to do it in a more interactive way also on our part, to connect with the fans, it would help eliminate a bit of the strange vibe, but with that said, don’t we all just really long to go back to a real show down town? I know we do!

– Recently, it was the 22nd anniversary of the “Discouraged Ones” album. That album is sometimes mentioned as the one where the musical direction changed somewhat for Katatonia and included some of the most depressing songs ever written by the band. Do you agree?

Yeah, ‘Discouraged Ones’ is an essential album for how our sound evolved onto the trail where we are today. If we wouldn’t have made that transition of incorporating clean vocals back then, who knows where we’d be today? Or whether we’d even be still around? The album is very rough and insecure, but it thrives on dead honest emotion and we can make those songs sound so much better today. It’s baffling realizing this album is over two decades old already. I guess the anniversaries of the older albums are forgotten in the shadows of the albums released a decade later.

– “Lacquer” and “Behind The Blood” were the first singles from the new album, and they were also two of the the most different songs from “City Burials”. Was this intentional to maybe get people talking a little bit?

Yeah, with ‘Lacquer’ being the first taste, we wanted to challenge the listener with something different rather than just serving something safe and predictable. In my eyes, this song is absolutely beautiful and a reason alone to let it unfurl, but it doesn’t mean that it has to represent the whole album! The case was the same with the second single ‘Behind The Blood’, we just continued to fuel the confusion while taking a 180 degree turn and did something most of our fans have probably never heard us do before – a classic hard rock song! A very unconventional style for Katatonia to showcase, but interestingly as we made it our own, it worked! So, people were then struggling to figure out which of these two songs were actually representing the identity of the full album… This confusion built the hype! When we finally put out the third single, ‘The Winter Of Our Passing’, which was more reminiscent of that familiar traditional Katatonia sound, people got the message. The first two singles were delivered as our wildcards and when the album hit the streets, the combined result mapped out a vast playground where no corner looked the same.

– There have been some line-up changes and a short hiatus. You have, of course, been in the band since day one. How do you think the line-up changes have affected Katatonia’s sound? Or have things always continued on as normal?

Me and Jonas started this band as two captains onboard and we’ve been sailing that same ship that set out ever since, so as long as one of us got control of the steering wheel, things will go on, with old or new crew. Pretty much all bands go through line-up changes, it’s inevitable in the long run.

– This coronavirus pandemic is affecting everybody in the music industry and there is a lot of uncertainty. Do you view the downtime as an opportunity to really think through your tour plans as well as your stage show so you can come back stronger for the tours and live performances?

We’ve been rehearsing a lot during this downtime. Learning new songs and also spicing up old ones. We’ve picked up a few songs we’ve never played before and we are constantly adding more songs into our “pool”, so the alternatives for future setlists are expanding.

– Niklas said that “City Burials” is a more direct album with fewer ups and downs than The Fall Of Hearts. Do you think so as well?

It’s always hard from the perspective of being so creatively involved, to point out all the differences or similarities between our own albums. What I know for a fact, is that we wanted to put out a concise album, which perhaps made it a little bit more to the point and shorter. Other than that, it was just another chapter of trying to write, record and produce the best sounding material possible. We always keep that as a goal.

– In your opinion, is “City Burials” an album that can be listened to in singles, or is it something only understood when listening to the whole package?

I’d say you should enjoy it in any way you want, but personally having grown up with the album concept, that’s what I’d like to see as the root. I like the feeling of a package, a specific chapter in time where a journey has a start and an end. But I respect the choice and possibility to just release stand-alone songs in any shape or form these days. If you make a playlist on Spotify featuring independent songs, or religiously play a whole vinyl front to back, it’s irrelevant to me as long as it fits your cranking needs!

– “City Burials” is the first official release with Roger Öjersson in the band. Did having him fully onboard this time around on this album have any changes in the final product?

Roger’s contribution to this album was playing most of the guitars. I actually encouraged him to play more guitar on the album than me, as I’m more comfortable in the producer role these days. I only care about what will benefit the song in the best way possible. I love to focus on intricate details, while never losing the grip of seeing the bigger perspective, to achieve the best result for the band.

– If you personally, or with Katatonia, could have any musician as guest for an album, who would you choose?

Robert Smith from The Cure.

– Just to finish the interview, let´s go back to the first Katatonia tours – which was the worst place you have slept while on tour? Which is the worst or more exotic thing you’ve ever eaten on tour?

Oh, I think that might have been back in the early 90’s when we had to “sleep” at central outdoors bus stop in Karlstad, Sweden. I remember we were freezing our asses off, trying to get into any building to seek shelter from the cold, but nothing was open. The area was dead. We were even contemplating a break and entering just to warm up. Absolute misery! I remember we counted the hours for the dawn to come with the sunrise just so we could stand in the spot where the rays would hit the street ha-ha! I guess that’s what happens you book oblivious teenagers to come play your city. All we made sure in advance was that we had beer and backline and when the gig was over, we were on our own, back on the streets without any lodging or money. We didn’t even bother asking for a fee plus we had to take the train from Stockholm as we were too young to drive ha-ha. It’s actually quite funny thinking about it right now, good lord we’ve come a long way since then…

Worst food…? Well that would probably be one of the dreadful “punk stews” served through the years in the small eastern euro in-house venues. Crunchy bites of “unknown cuisine” with a slight taste of death while chewing away! The most exotic thing I had was crocodile, when I was in Texas once.