Interview: Niklas Sandin of KATATONIA
Words/Interview by Andrew Denning
Katatonia are a massive name in the world of melancholy, heralds of modern dark metal music. I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to chat to me Niklas. We are so very close now to the release of City Burials. Do you have, personally speaking, a message for the fans as to what they can expect from this album?
They can expect a classic Katatonia album where all the elements that are usually in Katatonia’s music are there, such as the melancholy. It’s a fairly bleak record, but it is a little bit different I think as it’s more direct and song driven and maybe not as experimental as we pursued on The Fall of Hearts. It’s more straight in your face songs, in my opinion for this release.
Excellent to hear that. I’m sure fans are keen to see what the band has come up with this time. The response so far to the singles you guys have released, ‘Lacquer’ and ‘Behind The Blood’ have been extremely positive, almost universally so. Do you guys feel at ease with the change in sound for City Burials now that there has been such strong reception to these new singles?
Oh yeah! Of course! It’s something that has always driven us in Katatonia. We want to be super 100% pleased with our music and stand by it, and then when the fans also understand and appreciate what we have done, of course that’s a real bonus and is very relieving. We don’t just make music for ourselves but for the fans also.
Makes it a little easier going forward for you guys. It sounds like the newer members of the band, Daniel and Roger, have found their place in the band now. Has the shift in sound between Fall of Hearts and City Burials been in part of this fresh blood?
Well, it’s actually Roger that is new per say in that sense whereas Daniel was there for The Fall of Hearts and that recording session. But yeah, of course that can have an impact as well. And I think that, you write songs with the musicians in mind and what they can excel at doing. So of course it opens up new landscapes and possibilities with fresh blood as well. It’s been very good, both Daniel and Roger are super talented so it leaves almost nothing to what the band can’t do now in terms of musical boundaries.
Now, the band took a hiatus back in 2018. I was curious if this hiatus helped with the creative energies when you all returned to the studio to record City Burials?
Oh yeah definitely, and I think it impacted Jonas and Anders the most because they’ve been doing it for so long so they really needed a bit of a break there. They’ve been doing this for 27 or 28 years already when they decided to take a break. I think doing something constantly for such a long time, it’s bound to happen at some point. And then it is better to take a break and come back with fresh motivations and feelings for it than to drive it too far and then maybe something more permanent might happen. So it’s better to just take a break to relax and then return, and we have never been as motivated since coming back.
Glad you have all stuck around. Talking of the writing this time around, I know in the past it was usually Jonas and Anders that did a lot of the initial writing before they would present ideas to the band in the past. Was it more of a band centered writing process this time or did it follow this same pattern?
It followed the same pattern and it has proven to work very well because they are the initial songwriters of the band, they know what works and they have a quirky way of creating songs that doesn’t come natural to just anyone. It’s kind of like, if you dissect a Katatonia song, each part can be a little bit funny as you’re not sure how it’s going to fit but as you get all the pieces in the same song and start to add it all layer by layer it comes together really well. I don't think I could write in that way as well as they do, so I’m happy to add my spice and bass lines as they are applicable later on.
That’s a fair approach, if it works why change it? When you were writing your parts for the album, did you have anything influencing your writing? A certain album in the car or something?
I can’t remember, but I listen to so many different genres of music from Cannibal Corpse to funky Vulfpeck. I’m just trying to learn the song as it has been written in terms of bass lines and then I can just let it mature and see where I can make changes and add other elements. Though it’s not like I have any specific bass player in mind when I write some new bass lines. But maybe some Joe Dart stuff from Vulfpeck could influence me on the next album.
Oh really? Some funky Katatonia?
Oh no, I’m just kidding. No need for slap bass here.
I was excited to see that Anders Erikson is returning after his absence on The Fall of Hearts, being a big fan of his work on Dead End Kings. Do you think he brought back that special layer with him this time around?
I think when he is involved, it always brings a very good and special layer as he is the man extraordinaire for making those ambient backgrounds. So I’m very happy that Frank Default as he is known is back on this album and it worked out great. I’m really happy with it. It’s crazy sometimes how many layers he puts into creating the sound we all love and remember from past records. So definitely very happy to have him with us on this release.
I can agree, very happy to see his name reading over the press release. Now, unfortunately right as the world is in lockdown right as the release date approaches, does the band have any alternative plans to promote the album? Live Streams or anything like that?
Not really. I think we have discussed a few things which aren’t official yet, so it’s just become a matter of waiting for all of this to blow over as it is all out of our control. We haven’t really set out on any alternative road yet, but of course we can’t go out touring which is a bummer as it is the most enjoyable and rewarding part of being a band. Playing both new and old music to the fans.
Hopefully when all is normal again, you guys will be able to take City Burials to stages around the globe and really show it off. Have you got a favourite moment from previous tours you’d like to share?
Oh that’s a good question. I think one that really stands out was doing the acoustic Sanctitude tour across Europe. It was really challenging and fun in terms of playing songs I already knew but arranged differently. I used a 4 string E standard bass instead of a down-tuned 5 string so it was challenging in so many ways. And of course sitting down for a whole gig so you can’t move or if a group of people are watching you, you can’t really do anything about it.
Nowhere for you to hide?
Yeah and especially because it’s more laid back and root note driven, it’s really important that you play the right stuff because it’s going to ring for eternity in those churches. It’s kind of like hitting the wrong note with a hard delay, you’re going to hear it 8 times over.
Well once all these lockdowns start lifting, I think I speak for Australia when I say we are very keen to have the band back here, it’s been almost 4 years now since your last visit.
That’s true and I think we have it in our plans already. That’s crazy to think that it’s been so long since we’ve been down there as it feels like much less time on my end.
Katatonia’s latest opus ‘City Burials’ releases on April 24th through Peaceville Records.