Katatonia’s Anders Nystrom Talks ‘The Fall of Hearts,’ Lineup Changes, Bloodbath + More
Since their last album, the Swedish band Katatonia have undergone some lineup changes. The core of Anders Nystrom and Jonas Renkse remain along with bassist Niklas Sandin who has been with the band since 2010, but there have been a couple of additions for their latest effort The Fall of Hearts. Guitarist Roger Ojersson and drummer Daniel Moilanen have replaced Per Eriksson and Daniel Liljekvist.
Nystrom and Renkse produced the album, a diverse effort that includes a nod to their earlier, heavier days along with dynamic progressive and melancholy elements. Loudwire spoke with Nystrom about the album, the effect of the lineup changes, their upcoming tour plans, his death metal side project band Bloodbath and other topics.
Over the years Katatonia have had several lineup changes. From a personal level I know that it's always difficult, but from a creative level does it provide the band a boost of energy or some positive effects?
Oh yeah, definitely. Me and Jonas have been the core of the band since the start, and obviously we're able to take care musically of whatever we need, but bringing new members in just injects all this energy, all this new blood and all this talent. We take advantage of that as much as possible. I think especially this time around we haven't been playing with such professional talented musicians ever in our careers, so we're definitely enjoying this right now.
How far into the album writing and recording process for The Fall of Hearts were you when Daniel and Roger came aboard?
Daniel was already actually on board before we started the writing, so we could discuss everything with him. We could bounce back and forth, communicate on everything, making sure that there were no boundaries and no compromises made in the whole drumming department. We asked him if there was something specific we should think about, and he just said, "You know what I have. I have two arms and two legs, so go crazy with it," and that's what we did.
Roger came in really late. He didn't come in until we were done recording the album. We actually had to go back in there and put those little final touches of some fine lead guitar playing just to have his mark on the album.
When you're going in, do you have a musical direction mapped out or do you just write the songs and let the chips fall where they may?
I think it's a little bit of both. We definitely are very serious about the whole writing, demoing and pre-production stage. We do some very very detailed work there, but we don't close any doors just because we entered the studio. We actually open doors, because we say that the album isn't written and completed until we have sent the master to the label so there's a lot of spontaneous decisions actually being made while you're in the studio. There is a certain magic flow in there that we feed into.
Some songs can change. Actually, a lot of the songs do differ from the demo version. Obviously the demo version was never supposed to be official, so people won't have a clue about that, but it's interesting that things do take twists and turns in the studio because of the spontaneity in there.
You produced the album yourselves. What are the pros and the cons of doing it that way?
The cons of it I guess are that it could be dangerous that you are just having tunnel vision with it. Maybe you don't see the bigger, broader aspect or picture of the whole thing. On the other hand, you do achieve your goals and your visions. You don't have to compromise with it at all. I think that is more important, actually, because I would not want to find myself halfway through a recording realizing the producer was not the correct choice.
It would be a financial nightmare to start over again, pretty much not possible. Also, releasing an album that I'm not satisfied with, that's just a lose-lose, so no, that's not the scenario we would like, and this is pretty much why we see to it that we produce it ourselves.
Did you have the album title going in, or did you decide on it somewhere along the way?
It came somewhere along the way. We had a few different working titles. We were just letting them grow for a while to see how they felt in writing, and then speech, and then flavor and everything. It wasn't until Jonas came up with this title that we said, "This is just right on all of those accounts. It just feels, looks and sounds like a Katatonia title." That's the one we went for in the end.
How difficult is it to decide which of the songs are going to appear on the regular album, and then which ones are going to appear as bonus tracks on the deluxe edition that may not have as many people listening to them?
Yeah, it's really hard. You always ask yourself if you have just made your worst mistake, but you have to follow your gut feeling. Obviously we take votes in the band and it's the vote that takes the lead basically, and you just have to roll with that. We have this quite special little history when the B sides end up being the most popular songs for some reason. I learned that maybe it isn't a mistake in the end to use a so-called "wrong track" as a B side because people now expect them to be fabulous.
With the state that the music industry is in these days, is there any way that you can even set expectations for an album?
No, I actually have lowered my whole bar on the outlook of all that. We live life now in such strange times. Nothing is settled. It's very confusing, and I'm just actually keeping my hopes way up there and waiting for everything to just settle in. Hopefully the industry will reinvent itself, the whole wheel behind the music industry and everything, because right now it is a big struggle for everyone involved.
You have some summer festivals on the agenda. Katatonia are very dynamic and have a lot of subtleties. When you're in front of those giant festival crowds, do you have to alter your set list and play different songs than you would in a headlining run?
Oh, yeah, very much so. We actually try to focus on our heavy songs while doing the festival sets. There's no ballads really in there. There's no point, you don't have the time for that. We save those for our headline runs. We just try to make it a short, intense and complete set as possible. The few really heavy numbers we have, we drag them all out.
Are there plans of doing a North American tour at some point in this album cycle?
Oh yeah. We are looking at it right now and it looks to be happening in the first part of 2017.
Earlier this year Katatonia played the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise. How did that compare to your expectations?
I have to be honest about it. I had turned it down I think twice before. I didn't think we were going to go down well. I thought it was kind of bizarre, the whole concept, but this time we said, "Let's just give it a try. We'll see, if it's s--t we'll never be back," but it actually turned out to be the opposite. It was a concept that was very professional and it just worked in every aspect, so I would say to anybody who is doubting this trip that if you can afford it, just go. It's perfect.
This year is the 20th anniversary of your album Brave Murder Day. Any plans to commemorate that in any way?
That's a really good question because we just realized that. We hadn't even thought about it because everyone is talking about the Great Cold Distance ten year anniversary. So we were like, "Oh, there's another one in the back." We didn't think about it because we are busy with other things, but if we would have known earlier we would have probably reached out to the old lineup and asked if they would be interested in just doing a one off or something, but again it's just down to time now.
Do you think you could convince Mikael (Akerfeldt from Opeth, who was the vocalist on Brave Murder Day) to do death metal vocals again?
Well, after a certain amount of beers probably, but before that, a strict bloody no.
Bloodbath are playing at least one festival date this summer. Any plans for another studio album at some point in the future?
We have this little history of doing EPs once in a while between albums. I think if we're going to do anything it's going to be an EP again, about four songs, all new of course. The plan was that this year we would be very selective with shows and keep it pretty low key, but in 2017 we plan on raising the bar again and do a lot more shows.
Have you been surprised by how beloved Bloodbath have become?
Yes and no. I enjoy playing with Bloodbath. It's all good, but sometimes I don't know how it happened. It was always a project. It was never really a priority for any of us. It was just something we just did on the side for fun and all of a sudden we were headlining festivals. I can't grasp it, really.
Thanks to Katatonia's Anders Nystrom for taking the time to speak with us. Pick up the band's new album, The Fall of Hearts, at iTunes.