Interview by Carcassbomb
2020 has been a great year so far in terms of new releases from legacy bands, and now everyone is very excited about the brand new Katatonia album City Burials. It is released on the 24th of April via Peaceville Records. I had the incredible fortune to speak to Jonas the frontman of the band via Skype which has been transcribed below for your reading pleasure. It also includes a fan Q&A I did with Jonas where he answered YOUR questions. The audio version of this is available on the podcast here. We talked a lot about the album, lyrics, writing process and fans asks a variety of questions from collabs and online concerts to highly specific ones about certain songs. So there’s a lot to enjoy and learn here.
I was very nervous going into this one, Jonas seems like a very serious man but that tension was soon cut by his great sense of humor. It was an incredible experience to be able to interview yet another band that I’ve been listening to since I was a teen many years ago, before I had a teen son myself. This is a lifetime achievement for Noob Heavy.
Hello Jonas, thanks for talking to me a bit about this new Katatonia album, City Burials. Before getting into the questions sourced from social media I just wanted to ask my own questions as a fan.
Yeah no problem
Finding Last Fair Deal Gone Down when I was a teen totally changed my musical identity forever so thank you very much for that firstly.
Thank you (laughs)
Two part question, how would you describe this new album to someone who hasn’t heard Katatonia and how would you describe it to long time fans?
To someone who hasn’t heard us I’d say we play on this album, some kind of rock metal music that’s partly very filmic and dealing a lot with atmospheres and emotional content. For a long time fan I’d say it’s an album we are very proud of, I think it’s representing Katatonia perfectly, where we are today. It’s got bits and pieces of everything in terms of what people would expect so it’s a very varied album but it’s very much Katatonia.
That’s Fantastic, I’m sure the fans will be glad to hear that.
The majority of doom bands tend to pull from elements of nature, ideology and mythology. Based on the two singles Behind The Blood and Lacquer with their respective videos, it’s much more of a modern aesthetic with buildings and interiors, modern attire on the models and some of the lyrics sound like they come from a very real place of modern living and how we process our emotions in these contained environments. What’s the core inspirations and themes for City Burials?
Well, it’s a bit of the stuff you mentioned. We are after all from Stockholm which is the capital of Sweden. We don’t spend too much time out in the woods here so, I try to write about the things that I see and the things that I live through and the surroundings that I’ve grown up with. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the mythology and all of that, it suits a lot of bands. I think it’s a must for certain bands but for us it’s… we don’t exaggerate the lyrics too much. They’re very based on everyday life. It’s basically reflections of the things that we see.
Yeah, with modern living comes a whole new level of misery (laughs)
Yeah definitely, it can be much worse (laughs)
This album from what I’ve heard so far sounds like there’s a stronger level of focus and performance on the vocals than ever, has there been any changes in how you approached the vocals compared to your previous effort on The Fall OF Hearts (2016)?
I don’t know, it’s nothing I’ve been thinking deliberately that I wanted to change but I think it’s a natural progress for me to try and step up my game with every release. I think also with touring comes even more vocal experience. I think it’s been like that for the last few albums, the more you tour the more comfortable you feel singing and finding your own voice and all of that. So I think that’s just how it’s turned out this time. Sometimes the material maybe is more made for a vocal driven performance rather than a lot of instrumental passages.
How does a Katatonia album start? like what’s the first step of the process that gets it going usually?
It’s hard to say because I write music all the time. I think that the writing for this album started already when The Fall Of Hearts was released. It’s just something that I do, when I have enough stuff and ideas I try to put it together into songs. That’s when the real process is starting. Once that thing is ongoing, it’s much more intense and talking to the other guys, bouncing ideas back and forth. It’s a very long and natural process.
I bet it’s a very interesting studio with you guys in there putting together all those things.
Yeah, I love being in the studio. I think that’s where the magic happens and we always say that an album or the music of an album is not fully written until the album is mixed because that’s when you can’t change anything anymore. So we like to change a lot of stuff during the process. In the studio you can use a lot of cool stuff that will eventually change some of the initial ideas that you had. It’s usually for the better, so we always try to keep being creative until we can’t do that anymore. When the album is mixed. That’s why we always try to keep it very open for experimentation.
Do you have any restrictions that you put on yourself when it comes to going into the studio? Any rules that bands could learn from when entering the studio themselves?
When we enter the studio… of course you have to stick to deadlines and stuff, because the studio time is usually pretty costly. You don’t want to waste too much money. As much as possible but still within the time you need to nail what you are doing. It’s about trying to be effective but also keeping the creative nerve.
A balance between effectiveness and creativity sort of thing.
Exactly, yeah. A perfect balance.
Last one from me and we’ll get onto the fan questions. Do you have any favorite Australian bands?
I really like Karnivool, I think is a great band. AC/DC (laughs)… I think the music scene in Australia is very cool because there’s a lot of things happening. Especially now with the prog metal thing, you guys have a lot of those bands which is cool. There’s a little scene going on with that stuff.
Awesome, are you ready for these questions from the fans? They’re very excited.
Here’s a couple just from my writer Mass who lives in Iran and he’s a huge fan of Katatonia. He says:
Hello Jonas, along with Opeth and Anathema, you’re one of the most popular bands in Iran, did you know that? Would you ever like to hold a concert here, or at least somewhere in the middle east when shows come back?
I didn’t know that! But I met quite a few people from Iran that’s come to other places because we’ve never played in Iran. I met people in Turkey, Lebanon and stuff like that. I’d love to play Iran – I’m not sure it’s the safest place to go for a Swedish metal band but you know. I’d love to play anywhere in the world basically (laughs).
Yeah, I think they’re a bit strict on metal performances and such.
I think so, yeah. So maybe people could go abroad to see us, that’s maybe the easiest way.
Yeah, definitely. Quite a few fans asked me this next one. From death doom to gothic to progressive to alternative, what does this constant change mean, is it what you feel or are there other factors that change the mood?
I wouldn’t call it a change really because it’s so ongoing and it’s been going for almost thirty years now. We always just try to entertain ourselves by doing stuff we just get excited from doing. Sometimes it goes in one direction and sometimes it’s another direction and as long as it sounds like Katatonia – which I think it does still – I’m totally for it. It’s keeping us on our toes a little bit, treading some unknown waters is very good for creativity so we’re just going to keep doing that I guess. I don’t want to be too stuck in a formula even though we have a sound we are very comfortable with – it’s good to take some excursions every now and then just to keep yourself on the edge.
Like you said, it’s a very natural writing process.
So it just sort of comes and goes and you what you put down in the studio is what comes out and it’s always you guys. Alway Katatonia.
Yeah exactly, it’s ongoing. We don’t have a strict formula to follow…
Katatonia IS a genre (laughs)
@clayshaper from Twitter says: Katatonia is one of those remarkably good bands that age like fine wine. While a lot of bands lose their edge over the years, Katatonia just keeps getting better. I don’t know how they do it honestly, how do they keep improving their sound?
I think it all comes back to what we just talked about. That we want to keep ourselves on our feet basically. I think also within the band we do listen to a lot of music, we get inspired by so many different genres. Once you start putting that in a big melting pot, you get a lot of ideas and it’s almost for free, you don’t have to sit down and think hard about what’s going to make your next song original because once you have a lot of stuff in your head you get inspired. Some bands maybe lose that but we haven’t done so yet.
@GodAlmightytovh from Toilet Ov Hell on Twitter was very enthusiastic with this one: How much of the band has input on lyrical content and how hard is it to achieve lyrics that are equally cryptic and melancholic at the same time? Also tell them I love them and have Katatonia tattoos on my body and yes I’m crazy.
(Laughs) That’s great to hear. It’s usually me writing most of the lyrics. The other guys don’t really want to interfere with that, I think. Anders sometimes writes lyrics and of course if they want to see the lyrics beforehand, I’ll show it to them but I don’t think they will doubt my ability to put the right words in the right song. Of course sometimes it’s hard to write lyrics because you don’t want to repeat yourself but you of course want, as godalmighty said (laughs) to keep the abstract, the melancholic vibe because it’s what suits our music. Sometimes you have to think a little outside the box and sometimes it works and maybe sometimes it’s not working. But you know, I’m all for trying at least.
Absolutely. I’m sure the other guys are all very busy honing their individual crafts as well (laughs).
Yeah, if they want to write the lyrics they can do that but so far it has not really been the case.
@calin_kim on twitter wonders: Why won’t they play the song A Premonition live?
We have played it a few times but it’s not in our regular kind of live set. It’s a song that doesn’t really have a chorus, it’s a very cool song and I love it but I’m not sure it’s a live “banger” you know (laughs).
Well there you go! Great answer.
Freefolk217 from Reddit says: I’d love to know if Jonas and Bruce Soord are doing another record together?
Yeah we’ve been talking about it, ever since we did the first album together. So far we haven’t really had the time, he’s incredibly busy with his stuff and I’m really busy with what I’m doing. Actually right now, maybe the time is right to give Mr Soord a call because he’s probably just sitting at home like I do at the moment. So I will actually look into that and see what I can do.
That’s great. Another similar one from reddit, user hightechvslowlife asks: any chance of a Jonas solo electronic album? Possibly in the vein of Vakaran.
You know, it’s struck my mind a few times to do that but right now… most of the music that I write is for Katatonia because Katatonia is the main thing but I wouldn’t say no to the possibility of doing one, one day. A solo thing. But it’s not on the horizon at the moment.
With many bands offering online alternatives to concerts during the COVID 19 situation, TheBlackxRanger on reddit asks: Would Katatonia be able to do a video concert?
Yeah we’ve been talking about it. We don’t have a full plan just yet but we will probably try something out. Maybe later this month or next month, I don’t know yet but it’s something we talk about at least.
That’s good to know. This is the last one, @quickalbumreview on IG asks about your band name. What does Katatonia mean?
Katatonia is some kind of mental illness or state of mind I think, it’s a medical thing. You can’t really move, it’s like you’re in a deep kind of apathy. It’s a name that we took back in ’91. I think it’s still suitable, it’s a pretty good name. It’s better than we called something much more death metal like…I think we were calling ourselves Decomposed before Katatonia. I’m pretty glad we changed it (laughs)
Yeah well Katatonia has definitely survived the eras of metal. Thanks so much for answering all of their questions and my own.