Interview – Anders Nyström of Katatonia

Interview – Anders Nyström of Katatonia

Katatonia (21)Sweden has been the home of some of heavy metal’s most unique metal bands over the years. With deep roots in black and death metal, darkness and melancholy music is not a foreign topic to the country. Amongst some of the most intriguing bands born from the metal scene in Sweden are Katatonia. Since 1991 the band has helped define and reshape a sub-genre of metal providing great influence for years to follow. Through their dark melodic guitar sound and lyrical despair the band has captivated a dedicated fan base over the years and continue to attract a flourishing following. Transforming themselves from a death/doom metal act early on to the dark melodic metal band they are today, Katatonia are now internationally known sea to sea. Recently we sat down with founding guitarist Anders Nyström for an honest and personal look at the history of Katatonia, defying genre boundaries, and much more.

Crypticrock.com – Katatonia has been together now over 20 years. In that time the band has released 10 full length records and built a strong international following. It wasn’t until 2006 the band had its first North American tour. Why do you think it took Katatonia as long as it did to come to North America?

Anders Nyström – Well basically we were bound to having no proper label over there for the first couple of years. Some of our early albums were just licensed over there by Century Media but we basically had no support. We had no booking agency over there as well. Of course since day 1 we always wanted to come across the pond and play for North America. Unfortunately time just went by fast and we had to start from scratch so many years later. I think things have been picking up since then. These days North America is definitely on our target. We come back there as much as possible these days. In particular for this album will have been there three times.

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Avantgarde Music

Crypticrock.com – Since 2006 the band has toured North America many times and each time you guys come here the venues are bigger, the crowds are larger, and there is more of a buzz each time. So it really has lifted off in the last 7-8 years. How does it feel to have established Katatonia in the North American market?

Anders Nyström – I feel really good about it because it’s such a big continent; big , major, and a key market. It’s important to just go back there and hit it over and over. I actually personally find it pretty easy to tour North America compared to a lot of other places. Sure it’s big and everything but the language barrier isn’t there, there is just one language wherever you go. There is just one currency to use as well. Little stuff like that makes your normal everyday a little bit easier compared to Europe. It’s a lot messier to tour there because the language area changes by traveling a few hours north , west, or wherever. I think hanging out with the crowd in America has been good too, it’s always pleasant to meet fans. I only have good things to say about touring North America, that is why we keep coming back.

Crypticrock.com –  Many fans here in North America appreciate the band’s continued return to touring here. Katatonia has definitely progressed over the past 2 decades. The band’s first two full length records Dance Of December Souls (1993) and Brave Murder Day (1996) were more along the lines of doomish death metal. Then things began to change in 1998 with Discouraged Ones. Tell me what made the band decide to change direction in the sound and style?

Anders Nyström – After all these years I am not 100 % sure why we did it other than Jonas was suffering some obstacles and couldn’t overcome those obstacles with his voice performing growling vocals anymore. Also we were unsure how to maintain our style and which direction we wanted to go and take things further. We felt some kind of resignation in the band but that stylistic change within from Brave Murder Day to Discouraged Ones. It just opened up new doors for the band. I have only good things to say about each chapter in our whole history and discography. In the earlier days they were kind of limiting in a way, you were very boxed in, these days I don’t feel like that at all. I think it was some kind of natural calling, some kind of revolution happening and taking place.

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Crypticrock.com –  It’s a good progression and you don’t want to stand still as an artist, you want to keep moving forward. The newest record Dethroned & Uncrowned, further shows Katatonia’s ability to progress in sound. It’s quite a different record than you’ve done in the past. What was the concept doing these songs in this style?

Anders Nyström – The new album is for sure a new album, but it’s not a new album with 11 new songs. It’s a new take on 11 songs we just released last year on Dead End Kings (2012). The style is so different that it would appear like a new album to a lot of people. The way we came across this change, I view it more like an experiment. It was more of a coincidence or accident happening while we were recording Dead End Kings. We kind of stumbled upon the idea of finding out how the whole album would sound like stripped down, void of all the drums and heavy distorted guitar parts. It just took the songs into a different light that we were really fascinated and intrigued by. We didn’t want to make the change with what we were doing already when recording Dead End Kings. We decided to move on and finish the record and follow our vision through on that and when that’s done we decided to go back and see what we could do with this spontaneous experiment with Dethroned & Uncrowned.

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Peaceville

 

Crypticrock.com –  It is very interesting because they are songs from Dead End Kings but stripped down they almost sound like brand new songs. It’s an excellent atmosphere, refreshing and enjoyable to listen to. As a band do you at all concern yourselves with making a drastically different record then before even with it being different renditions of songs that maybe it’s going to alienate some of your fan base? Because we all know many times fans can be fickle.

Anders Nyström – As I pointed out it’s not a new album in the way that it doesn’t take away anything we already released. It’s not an either or situation here. Dead End Kings is already out there, that’s the main album. People have to understand this album is an afterglow experiment. It’s not our new sound or musical direction, it was just a cool experiment to do. It can co-exist with Dead End Kings for sure and if people are a little open minded about that I don’t think they will have a problem to realize that’s the truth.

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Peaceville

Crypticrock.com –  Of course and it’s extremely important to be open minded. Besides Katatonia you have been involved in a different projects including Bewitched, Bloodbath with Jonas, and your solo project Diabolical Masquerade. Bewitched has been inactive for many years now but can we expect to see some new music from Bloodbath and Diabolical Masquerade in the future?

Anders Nyström – Let’s start with Bloodbath, yes for sure! We’ve been trying to record the new album for a long time and it’s just been a lot of obstacles to overcome. Primarily it has to do with the Opeth guys are constantly out touring and it doesn’t match up with our plans. It looks like we are going to get a hold of Ax this winter for scheduled recording, once that’s done it will be a lot easier to proceed. Once we have drum tracks done we can continue recording anywhere else at any time. It’s going to quicken up a lot once we get that nailed. We are writing Bloodbath songs right now, some have been written, and some material is still to be done, but it will be finished by winter. Then we have to decide how we are going to release the album. We may do a self financed affair with no label involved at all just directly fans or we might license it away, it remains to be seen. Also the line-up has changed of course. Mikael Akerfeldt is not with us anymore, we have a new guy. I have decided to keep his name obscured until we have an audio recording of him performing with us to go along with the announcement. I want that to do the talking.

As far as Diaboical Masquerade goes I made this secret promise to myself if Bloodbath would go down and wouldn’t be around anymore, that would be the time I would probably look at that old corpse and see what I could possibly do with it again.

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Peaceville

 

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Crypticrock.com –  That is very interesting and something to look forward to. Now Katatonia is finishing up a tour here in North America with Tesseract and Introaunt. That is a very diverse mix of bands with progressive style. How excited are you about this tour as continues?

Anders Nyström – Very, as you said the line-up is a very amazing bill. All the bands on the bill have a big drive and are very progressive and ambitious bands. I see it as a total value for the money. I hope a lot of people are going to continue to come out and check the whole package out actually. On our part what we have been doing is swapping out our set list majorly. There are 5-6 songs that we never played live before, that we haven’t even rehearsed actually, so they are new to us as well.

katatonia

Crypticrock.com – It is exciting that you put in 5-6 tracks never played live before. That keeps things interesting for yourselves and the fans. With Katatonia, yourself and Jonas are the only original members of the band. Fredrik had been part of the band for 15 years. Was it difficult for the band when Fredrik and Katatonia parted ways?

Anders Nyström – Yea it’s always a loss in a way because you’ve been with this guy for so many years. You’ve been achieving so much together, you’ve been writing together, you’ve been through touring together, and you’ve been through every day life together. It’s kind of a big loss to see a person go like that because it’s like losing a family member in a way because you’re so close. Fortunately when the Norman bothers left it did not affect the whole musical aspect because they were not contributing in the last couple of years they were still in the band. I say that fortunately it didn’t affect the band in a musical way, but personally yes it was a big blow to have two long term members go.

Crypticrock.com –  I imagine it has to be difficult for that to happen. You spend a lot of time with someone on the road especially, I imagine you build strong friendships.

Anders Nyström – Totally, I just wish them the best. It’s good to see they didn’t quit music entirely. Both of the brothers are still active doing October Tide which I am really happy to see. It’s a killer band and they are putting out awesome albums. I am just happy to see they are doing it on a little bit of a lesser scale which I think they are happy with.

Crypticrock.com –  That is all positive and October Tide is an excellent band. What are some of your musical influences?

Anders Nyström – Musically, influences these days are so vast. In the beginning you could just point down 5 bands on your hand and say these are influences and this is our sound. These days we draw so much from every kind of genre just to make this secret recipe within the metal scene to set out from everyone else. It’s no secret that we draw a lot influence from the song writer kind of music and artists. There are just tons of bands in that field. Some of the biggest artists are Red House Painters, Jeff Buckley, Tori Amos, and tons more. Mixing those kind of influences up with traditional influences from the metal community is what enables Katatonia to sound the way we do. Traditional influences will always be the same, the old heavy metal days from the 80’s. I’m still influenced by Judas Priest. It may not be that apparent when you listen to Katatonia but the reason I even picked up the guitar in the first place was because of the duel in Judas Priest. Glen Tipton and K. K. Downing, all their harmony duel leads was the first tapping into the melodic doom thing for me. Tons of influences, 50% metal and 50% outside of metal.

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Katatonia 9-21-12 Palladium in Worcester, MA

Crypticrock.com –  It’s good to have a good mix of influence outside of metal as well because it makes for interesting music within your own music. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?

Anders Nyström – I’m a big fan of horror movies actually. I try to see them all. I have one on my list to watch called The Conjuring. Everyone else has seem to have seen it and talking very good things about it. I tend to forget so many of them, I watch so many of them (laughs). Well some of the films tend to border but might not be pure horror, but they are kind of listed in the genre anyway. One of my all time favorite movies would be The Shining (1980). That movie is a good example, we even took samples of that movie and put it one of our albums. What I like about that movie is it’s not violent, brutal, and all jammed pack action going on. It’s pretty slow moving and there is some epic drama. That is the kind of twist I seak in horror movies. There are so many movies that start out so fantastic and end up like a joke. I don’t know why but Hollywood always have to destroy the good horror movies at the end. I would want to sit down with all these directors and say you had something fantastic going and you just ruined it, go back do it all over again, do it right, release it again, and you will have all my respect.

Crypticrock.com –  I completely understand what you are saying there. Like you said with The Shining, that film had an atmosphere to it. It had suspense, it built, it let things breath, and it wasn’t too graphic. That is something a lot of new films are lacking in the modern horror genre. They kind of shove things in your face, they may start out well, but they just kill it in the end by shoving all this graphic CGI in your face.

Anders Nyström – I couldn’t agree more. You took the words right out of my mouth. That’s nailed, bulls eye!

Crypticrock.com –  Let’s just hope sometime in the future there is a revolution in Hollywood and they stop remaking films and they start letting stories develop again.

Anders Nyström – That’s true, that’s something I haven’t even thought about. That’s super true. All these remakes… what is up with the creativity of the directors and writers? The films have been put out once, it’s not like they are deleted or anything. Fans that haven’t seen them can always go back and discover them. They don’t need a 2013 remake to just discover the movie. It’s kind of bullshit, I do understand why it’s going on but hey where’s the new movies, where is the new classics?

Crypticrock.com – Unfortunately there are not many. Not to say there are not any new good horror films but not many because many are remakes. Like you said what is going on to go and discover an old classic. There are so many classic horror films from the 70’s and 80’s that have been remade that most people probably never even seen those films and they just watching the remakes and they have no idea what they are missing.

Anders Nyström – Very true. I am kind of disappointed with the kind of generation we have today with they automatically seem to think just because a movie is old, is coming from the 70’s or 80’s, it’s going to suck because it doesn’t have any CGI or anything. It’s kind of a spoiled generation going on. They also need some…. how should I say this politically correct here…. no I am not going to be politically correct… they need some ass whipping.

Crypticrock.com –  (laughs) That is very true. It’s funny because the newer generation thinks an older film is going to suck. An older horror film had lots of dialogue and it did move slow. They were slow moving because there was dialogue, there was atmosphere being built, it wasn’t an action film. It seems that is what people want now because in general many people have short attention spans.

Anders Nyström – Exactly. It’s tragic to see. This whole fast food mentality when you apply it to music or movies it’s disgusting.

Check out Katatonia at www.katatonia.com, facebook, & twitter

Also pick up a copy of the special 10th anniversary edition of Katatonia’s Viva Emptiness here. Fully revamped, remixed & remastered, with bonus track.

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