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Viva Remembrance: Past And Future With Katatonia

Thursday, 05 December 2013 Written by Ben Bland

Of late, Katatonia have been feeling nostalgic. During their recent appearance at Damnation Festival, and while on tour in the UK with Paradise Lost, the Swedish metallers played their 2003 classic ‘Viva Emptiness’ in its entirety.

With that in mind, there seemed no finer time to catch up with frontman Jonas Renkse and talk about the band’s celebrated past and plans for the future.

For a lot of people, ‘Viva Emptiness’ was the first Katatonia record they heard. Does that give it a special place in the discography?

Yeah, that seems to be pretty common. I’ve realised that a lot of people got into us via that album, more than any other album perhaps. That makes it doubly special - special for everyone who got into us through that album and special for us because it has helped our fanbase grow.

You’ve just done the ‘Dethroned & Uncrowned’ record, reworking material from ‘Dead End Kings’. Has that altered your perspective on the sound of Katatonia as a band at all?

I think we all knew already what we could do with Katatonia. There are always a lot of different shades to the band. It was just an experiment, and I think it worked out really well, but I don’t think we would do it again, or at least if we did we would not do it like that in quite the same way. I think there’s a chance we could find ourselves influenced by it when writing the next record, but it’s probably too early to say for sure. It was a really rewarding thing for us to do though. It was really interesting for us to see how songs we already had written and recorded could take on an entirely new shape, but still have the right vibe to be Katatonia songs.

That multi-faceted side to the band, in which things could always be going in different directions, definitely seems to have been on the increase on ‘Night is the New Day’ and ‘Dead End Kings’ especially…

Yes, I think that’s always a part of our songs, and it’s because we’re musically open minded people. We like to bring in influences from everything we like, whether it’s folk or ambient or metal or whatever.

Would you ever do a Katatonia record without any metal elements?

I would love to, but not just for the sake of it. It would have to come naturally. Metal is still very important to us because it’s where we come from. I can definitely see us doing something like ‘Dethroned & Uncrowned’ again, but with original songs written for the purpose. It would be a nice side-step to have later in our discography I think.

The other thing with your sound is that nobody else sounds quite like Katatonia. Do you think that is largely to credit for your continued success as a band?

Absolutely. We’ve always done our own thing rather than changing depending on what is flavour of the month at any given time. I mean, effectively this is why we can still do this after 20 years, because we can do our own thing and know that we can rise slowly while doing. The goal has always been pleasing the fans that we have, but we seem to be able to gain fans too without compromising our vision, which is the perfect way to do things for a band like us I think. We’re very fortunate in that regard really.

You played a special 20th anniversary show a couple of years back at London’s Koko, performing the ‘Last Fair Deal Gone Down’ album in full. You intended to bring that out on DVD. Is that still the plan?

Yes, that is still in the works. It’s frustrating in a way that we weren’t able to finish it sooner but we have worked on a new record since then, as well as ‘Dethroned & Uncrowned’, plus there’s been a lot of touring. What has taken a while is the bonus features. We want to make sure the documentary side of things is as good as it can be and that means interviewing a lot of people, not just us, who all have busy schedules so it’s very time consuming. It will definitely come out eventually though.

You and Anders [Nyström, guitar/keyboards] have been in Katatonia since the beginning. How do you feel your creative partnership has changed over the years?

I’m not sure it really has changed very much actually. It’s different from when we were 16 in that we have changed as people, but we still have the same vision and the same musical language. We have always shared a very close musical taste, whilst equally always having quite different writing styles to one another.

It seems appropriate that you’ve been touring with Paradise Lost because they, like you, have introduced a lot of non-metal elements to their sound without losing the essence of what they are as a band. Have they been a big influence on you?

Yes, of course. Firstly I should say that the reason we formed Katatonia in the first place was effectively because of Paradise Lost. We were huge fanboys of that band back in the day. Those first three records they made effectively created the genre that we found ourselves fitting into when we started Katatonia, so they have always been a huge influence. We both have our own sounds of course, but there are a lot of things connecting the two bands, and always will be. We are very thankful for the influence they have had on our career and we are very good friends with them as well.

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