After having their first serious creativity blockade while writing material for „Night Is The New Day“ back in 2009, KATATONIA seem to have changed things up a bit. Their latest release „Dethroned & Uncrowned“ is kind of a remix album with focus on the ambient side of the band. We’ve talked with Anders Nyström for our first international story on Gothic-Metal.com about the record and further plans.
Who actually came up first with the idea to release an alternative version of Dead End Kings?
Well, I guess we all know there is a certain potential in stripping things down instead of spicing and decorating to no end, but it really struck us as something real and tangible when we started muting more and more channels during the recordings and the mix. You know, when you have to take a closer look at what’s going on at some part and maybe you want to isolate that segment you have to mute a lot of the other instruments to hear it better. That’s when we realized how different the songs would sound stripped down and void of „metal“. The initial reaction was that the songs sounded like they were someone else’s songs, a both weird and intriguing feeling. This fascinated us and the whole „less is more“ approach which theoretically would have been the easy way out at the start of writing „Dead End Kings“ had now become more of a delicate challenge to pursue. I became the driving force for this to happen, so I had to convince our management and label this would be a beautiful one-off experiment to achieve and here we are with the release date just around the corner. Now, I’ve been asked if this indicating our new sound or if we’ll do this to all our older albums, so let me make myself clear: We’re not putting this into a formula to fabricate every future album we do nor go back and do it to the whole back catalogue. The dead end king can only be dethroned and uncrowned once.
So did you arrange and record the instrumental tracks all by yourself, or did you have any support from other artists / producer?
We did all of it ourselves. Half the job was almost done by just muting the distorted rhythm guitars and drums, the second half was done by re-arranging what was left and re-record new stuff to fill the gaps. We treated each song individually and looked for was needed or not needed. Some songs are quite different from the original, while some are fairly similar. It was easy to fall into the trap of starting to spice more than needed and turn the whole thing too orchestral, so we had to remind ourselves, the challenge was in stripping things, not adding them. Did you use the vocal recordings from the Dead End Kings sessions or have they been re-recorded? The vocals are exactly the same as they appear on the original recording (which is sometimes hard to believe while listening to this album), but we made sure they sneaked up nicely to take on the main spot in the sound picture with the ambience of the keyboards following behind. We spent a lot of time on re-arranging the keyboards, bringing them to a new dimension while constantly adding new and/or removing old for tailormade result. We kept some loops and most percussion to leave a sense of beat or groove when needed. We recorded brand new 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars for almost all songs to replace the absent rhythm guitars. A few leads were re-done and we also recorded new bass tracks to fit the stripped down tempo.
How does it feel for Jonas to have his voice highlighted that much for the first time in his career?
Jonas has a warm soothing sounding voice that people are more than aquainted to nowdays, so it wasn’t a problem to give it even more limelight. It proves that Katatonia can trespass into the „singer/songwriter“ territory and pay that genre a little visit and that there’s so much more flexibility and variety to this band then people might have believed. We’re doing something completely different without losing our intergrity on this one, that’s the whole point. It still sounds like Katatonia. The result of our creativity facing no boundaries. What has been your experience with the whole crowdfunding thing? Is it or good thing that helps you realize creative projects, or could that possibly lead to situations where artists forced by their labels to finance risky projects on their own? Well, we thought an experiment like this, could just as well be funded by another experiment, for a certain level of independency. Our whole pledge campaign was an immediately success and let us achieve our goal faster than we thought. The fans made this possible, so It’s a win-win, the project was realized and the fans will get exactly what they pledged for.
Are there any plans to play some of the songs from „Dethroned & Uncrowned“ live anytime soon?
We intend to take the project out on tour in 2014. We also aim to treat some of our older songs in the same way to create a suitable setlist for a nice little intimate evening and play some different venues than usual. How does it feel to play the Viva Emptiness album as a whole live on the new tour? Were there any songs you’ve never performed before? We’re very much looking forward to that since we’ve just completed remixing the entire album and it sounds like day and night back to back with the original. This is something we’ve been longing to achieve and experience for years. Compare it to have been put in the waiting line for for a heart surgery! Boom! We got pulze! From working so intense and close with the album for the past two months, I’ve personally re-discovered ‚Viva Emptiness‘ and I’m in love with it again. There’s four songs we’ve never touched before, but the others have been played live at some point. Would you agree that Viva Emptiness has been the most important album of your career? I think stylewise, ‚Viva Emptiness‘ is still what the „latest“ phase of Katatonia is built upon. I kinda see these type of stages in Katatonia with 1991-1997 being the first, 1998-2002 being the second and 2003 to 2013 being the third and current stage. ‚Viva‘ was a very important album and interestingly enough scored almost highest in a poll when we asked what album they cherish the most. So this one’s for you! Viva Emptiness, the anti-utopia fullfilled!
Speaking of the old days: As far as I know Paradise Lost have been a huge influence in the early state of your history? So how does it feel to play this upcoming tour with them and how do you get along with each other personally?
Well, these days we’re good friends and have toured many times together and get along great! We’re doing this tour to celebrate them and their anniversary by putting on our own show for ‚Viva Emptiness in its entirety and its 10th anniversary. It’s gonna be a great time and just for the record, we will always reference ‚Gothic‘ as the masterpiece of the ages!
And which side of Katatonia can we expect in the future? Heavy, Ambient, Progressive? What style does feel most comfortable to you at the moment?
I don’t see why I’d have to choose just one, I see a great potential in all those elements incorporated into one format! That direction holds a challenge for Katatonia! It feels exciting, but also familiar enough to be comfortable to enjoy it.