In just over a week Katatonia are set to release the greatest album of their career. Already hailed as a masterpiece by journalists and rock fans alike (Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt is a particular fan) it’s taken four long years since their last crushing document, “The Great Cold Distance” with only a live album (“Live Consternation”) to sate fans’ appetites. However, the wait has been worth it; “Night is the new day” is a bold, artistic, twisted journey that takes the band’s level of musicianship to the next level.
We were lucky enough to speak to guitarist Anders Nyström about the album, their inspiration and the forthcoming tour and his answers provide a fascinating insight into a band who have released consistently amazing records for the best part of fifteen years.
SA – It took a long time for you to write and record a follow up to ‘The great cold distance’, why the wait?
AN – Well, we were supposed to enter the studio at different occasions already two years ago, but we ended up postponing each session since we didn’t manage to get enough songs finished and the ones that came about weren’t strong enough. We had to start over each time since we would never go ahead with something that is half-assed. Apart from those obstacles we also did the obvious touring in support of the last album with two tours in north america, one in europe and plenty of one-off’s, festivals and we also did two releases with our side-project Bloodbath, so we weren’t locked up and hiding the whole time. Time went fast man, I cant believe the last album was recorded 4 years ago – it’s like no way! But eventually we realized we’d come up with material that would meet our expectations and decided to hit the studio back in may earlier this year.
SA – Was the new album difficult for you to record?
AN – Well, we were very focused during the whole time and only had one thing in our mind: to complete the album as fast as possible but without compromising on the aspects of performance and sound, so even though we ended up taking almost 3 months recording, it was worth it in the end.
SA – What was good / bad about the process for you?
AN – Good: Achieving the best production yet, being able to stay in Stockholm.
Bad: Wasting an entire summer. The studio was a nasty ugly place to hang around.
SA – You’re still a very ‘heavy’ band, but there’s a whole host of influences in your music – What influences and inspires you as musicians?
AN – Everything between life and death, coincidence and faith.
SA – You’ve always had very enigmatic cover art – would you say that album art is an important aspect of presenting your music to the world?
AN – Indeed. In our eyes, the cover artwork should represent what the music and lyrics are about. From looking at the cover (and the rest of the) artwork you should get a feeling what you’re in for. I think it’s easy to see that our designs make justice for what’s inside. It’s there to glue everything together visually.
SA – Are you instrumental in the creation of that art-work, or do you prefer to leave others to interpret your work as they see fit?
AN – We always very early on have a vibe and a vision for what colors should be used and always a direction of the art, especially the cover. When we got that down, we pretty much leave Travis Smith to interpret the rest to fit. He comes up with tons of ideas as well and we’re just tossing stuff back and forth, it’s a very creative collaboration.
SA – How would you describe your music to the uninitiated?
AN – It’s dark, atmospheric and heavy.
SA – Are there any pieces of literature or film that inspire you lyrically or are the topics taken directly from your own experiences?
AN – The majority of all and any inspiration comes from ourselves, but it’s doesn’t have to be self-lived experiences 100% of the time, it’s enough if you simply have an opinion or a thought about the topic to get something going as fiction, you know. There’s definitely a couple of authors that had a big impact. Salinger, Holmström, made a couple of novels that we could sat we related closely with. Of course there are many great movies that you can’t help being influenced by. I think it’s actually easier to get inspired to write music after you watched an overwhelming movie rather than listening to music in general.
SA- You’ve already received an incredibly enthusiastic response to your new album – was that something you expected or were you surprised?
AN – Definitely didn’t dare to expect it, so we’re both proud and surprised. At the same time, we wouldn’t have sent the master tapes to the label if we weren’t 100% convinced this album represent the very best effort musically and performance wise possible by Katatonia in 2009.
SA – You’re out on tour with Paradise lost, here in the UK, and Porcupine Tree in Europe – will there be a headline tour anytime soon?
AN – Yeah, it looks like our own headline tour will go off next year in spring and that will not the be one and only.
SA- You’re playing Hellfire festival in November along with Anathema and My dying Bride – are you looking forward to it, and what can we expect from the show?
AN – Just our take on rock n’ roll! Is it indoors? Then that’s a good start. If it’s outdoors we depend on darkness and the sun is our enemy.
SA – How would you say you have developed as musicians since you started? Have there been any other artists or friends instrumental in that development?
AN – Of course. We’re still and constantly developing as musicians and you progress by each release and the more the clock ticks. When we started out we were jamming on cookie cans and a guitar without distortion, those were the baby steps of the band and we’ve come a long way since.
SA – Do you have any firm plans for the future?
AN – Just tour our asses off before the writing starts for the next album. We hope to go to many territories we haven’t visited yet and also come back several times to the same places.
SA – Thank you for taking the time to look at and answer our questions. It is greatly appreciated, and we are looking forward to seeing you out on tour.
AN – Thanks a lot! Cheerz!
Katatonia Release “Night is the new day” through Peaceville Records on Nov 2nd 2009.