When it comes down to dark and atmospheric heavy music few do it better than Sweden-based Katatonia. In the old days they started out as a traditional doom/death ensemble, but as time went by the band branched out to unfamiliar pastures. This resulted into genuine gems as Last Fair Deal Gone Down (2001), Viva Emptiness (2003) and The Great Cold Distance (2006). Katatonia’s latest album, Night Is The New Day (2010), is another worthy addition to the band’s ongoing back catalogue. That’s enough reason to have a friendly chat with vocalist Jonas Renkse about the past and future of Katatonia, some reflection on Night Is The New Day, some side projects and the band’s dedication to their fand and art…
Hi there and thank you for doing this interview. Katatonia recently completed its first South American tour. How was it like and how would you like to sum up the whole experience?
It was mind blowing. We’ve wanted to go there for so many years and to finally be able to do it was an important thing for the band.
What does twenty years of evolution mean for you and the Katatonia fan base?
First and foremost I’m proud of what we have achieved. To bring a band from a starting point where we couldn’t play our instruments to a position where we can tour the world is such a huge thing. This is of course also thanks to our fan base, their support is invaluable.
Before the recording sessions of Night Is The New Day one of the band members suffered from writer’s block and it almost seemed that you guys were at the point of calling it a day. How are things going nowadays
We weren’t really thinking of giving up, but we had problems, yes. Luckily enough we managed to get ourselves together and actually focus on the important things.
Your latest album, Night Is The New Day, is out for more than a year now. In my opinion it’s one of your strongest and most consistent album to date. Are you still happy with the record? Are there some things you’d rather have done differently in hindsight and if so what would that be?
I’m really happy with it, still. I can’t think of anything important that I would like to change. The album have a very consistent atmosphere and it represents todays Katatonia in a perfect way I think.
Since Viva Emptiness the band seems to get a bit heavier again. Is this a course the band will continue on future releases?
Who knows? It’s not something we do deliberately, we keep on writing music and sometimes it takes different turns, it’s what makes it interesting!
Katatonia is still one of the few bands left that actually releases EP’s, including killer artwork and unreleased material. In these digital days what’s the added value if I may ask?
We like the format, and it’s also something we want to offer to the fans. I love to collect things like this myself so we always think about it when we have finished the recording of an album. Sometimes we have even recorded songs exclusively to end up as b-sides on an ep. I think it’s a good way of showing people who digital downloads isn’t as “fun” as to get the real deal.
Some band members are active in Bloodbath and Diabolical Masquerade. What’s the status of these bands/projects?
Right now Katatonia is taking up most of our time. Bloodbath will release a new DVD on Peaceville in April. It’s called Bloodbath over Bloodstock and it destroys!
Bloodbath and Diabolical Masquerade are on a totally different level of intensity than Katatonia. Which of those bands brings you the most joy and satisfaction?
Katatonia brings me the most joy, long-term. Bloodbath is super fun for the moment but Katatonia is such a serious thing, it’s what makes me the person I am.
Many bands in the atmospheric and melancholic sector are influenced by your music. How does that feel and what/who are your own influences?
It’s very flattering, it’s all I can say really. I mean, back when we started we wanted to sound like Paradise Lost, everybody has got to have their influences in the beginning, and then start to carve out their own sound. It’s the way it works. So it’s a big thing, I am happy to be influential on people. My own influences change, but one of my favourites is Mark Kozelek from Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon.
What are the releases for this year you’re really looking forward to?
The new Morbid Angel album!
Time for the final question. What’s the biggest Spinal Tap moment in your career with Katatonia?
We’ve had a few. But more recently, our premier gig on the NITND US-tour, kicks off in Baltimore, everybody is really fuelled up. Intro goes on, we enter the stage and when we start to play the first song the guitars are out of tune and the bass guitar isn’t even connected to the amp…
Written by Raymond Westland