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Interviews : Katatonia (Jonas Renkse) – 20/11/2009

By on November 20, 2009


Katatonia – Jonas Renkse

With the release of ‘Night is the New Day’ upon us, the enigma that is Katatonia have only further cemented their place within the metal community. Following the release of their critically acclaimed album ‘The Great Cold Distance’ the band have once again drawn influence from an array of musical styles to produce this latest offering. Whilst touring in the UK front man Jonas Renkse took the time to talk to Metal Obsession about the new album, the possibilities of an Australian tour and the overall evolution of the band.


Jonas_Renkse-13756Metal Obsession:
November 2nd 2009 saw the release of Katatonia’s new album Night is the New Day, can you tell us a little bit about the album and the significance of the title?

Jonas Renkse:
I think the title represents pretty much what we think the world is like today, in a bigger picture you know, the world is kind of deteriorating and peoples mentalities are this and that you know and it’s becoming a more and more dark place to live in so that’s the title.
Musically I have to say this album is more atmospheric than anything we have done before which is something that we worked pretty hard on and yeah it’s the new Katatonia album and I am very happy with it.

MO: There was an interesting video posted on the website discussing the various musical influences on the band over the years including The Cure and Jeff Buckley. As a band predominantly situated within the metal genre how do you go about discovering different styles of music?
I think it’s something that we have been doing for many years, I mean we grew up with metal music and it’s something that we still listen to a lot but I am very interested in other kinds of music but still sort of have the same kind of feeling that I like in metal , like the more dark sounds and everything so I am always on the look-out for new music to dig into, a lot of varied stuff coming from my speakers at home.

MO: So do you just use the internet or discover new music by talking to other people etc?
Yeah basically talking to people that I know have the same kind of musical tastes that I do, reading you know magazines and reviews and stuff, I find that interesting as well.

MO: One long running theme throughout the bands career has been the dark, oppressive and melancholy atmosphere evoked through the music itself and the lyrics. Musical influences aside what else do you draw influence from in terms of continuing this underlying theme? Literature, movies etc?
Oh yeah, lyrics are probably much more inspired by things outside of music. I read a lot so my ideas come from books and stuff but most of its from my own feelings you know, what I see and the kind of things I encounter in my daily life, stuff like that. So that’s not always from music but rather from my everyday life.

MO: Katatonia has explored various facets of metal over the years, so the band must leave you feeling fairly musically accomplished and satisfied, are there any other genres or styles of music you hope to branch out to in the future?
I think Katatonia’s such a varied band that we could bring in……

MO: You can already explore so many different styles of music within the one band?
Yeah, because we already have our own style and when we take influence from other musical styles we always make them sound Katatonian in a way and also me and Anders, the other guitar player, are also involved in the death metal band Bloodbath, which is the style that wouldn’t suite Katatonia very well today, but luckily enough we can do it in Bloodbath instead so I am very happy with what we are doing at the moment, that the more mellow kind of music and styles can always branch into what we are doing with Katatonia and the more brutal stuff that we still want to do we can do with Bloodbath.

MO: Do you think Bloodbath will ever make it down to Australia or is it just too hard because most of the members have other bands so it’s hard to find the time to tour in general?
Yeah I mean that’s the main problem that we have cause everyone in Bloodbath is….I mean we do like to play live with the band and we want to play live more but everybody has conflicting schedules with our main band so it is very hard to find the time to do something like that.

MO: You worked on the seventh Ayreon studio album, what was that experience like?
It was good, I was a bit surprise to be approached by Ayreon because I wasn’t very familiar with his music, I only knew Ayreon the name and I heard a couple of songs here and there but when I started talking to him I got really intrigued and interested and when I finally got over to Holland to do it, it was a great time. I mean he’s such a friendly person and easy going and we had a lot of fun together in the studio and we kind of liked the same music as well even though Ayreon and Katatonia are kind of different bands but we had a lot of things in common so over all a very good experience for me.katatonia2_12031354

MO: It was also stated that the track ‘Nephilim’ from the new album (which is titled as a tribute to the Elzium album by Fields of Nephilim) revisits the earlier years of Katatonia as a gothic/doom/death metal act, how do you feel about the progression of the band in its entirety? Has it been a natural evolution or a series of conscientious decisions?
I would have to say I am very happy with how we have progressed as a band because the influences that we had 20 years ago are bands that I still love and listen to and I have discovered so much music along the way and I have a big kind of treasure of music that I can dig from whenever I am doing something related to Katatonia, like writing songs, lyrics. I feel I am very happy with the kind of music that we always listen to when we were thinking about Katatonia and when we started the band up until now, it’s such a rewarding journey to have a band and take in influences from all the great music that you actually can find in the world.

MO: Anders described the aptly named Ghost Ward Studios (aka the rathole) as providing ‘a dose of inspiration from the darker corners of life’, would you say the recording environment has a significant impact on the final product?
Yeah in some ways I have to say, because Katatonia has always been about the dark side of life both musically and lyrically and the studio is located (laughs) in a place that is actually, it’s all about the dark side of life, it’s in a very torn down industrial area, the studio is located in a house where like the government is keeping people that don’t have anywhere to live, it’s like a shelter for homeless people and all kinds of weird characters at night near the studio, so in some ways that kind of atmosphere…I think we kind of brought some of that atmosphere to the album.

MO: Katatonia cover art has always been a favourite of mine and again you employed the efforts of Travis Smith for the design of ‘Night is the New Day’. Do you take much of an active role in the design or just give a brief outline of what you are looking for and let the artist go to work?
It’s been different from time to time, actually for this album we had a quite strong idea on what we wanted for the cover and all the colours and everything so we sent him some sketches to work after and its always a pleasure to work with Travis because we’ve worked with him for 10 years and we know what to expect from him and he knows what to do to make us happy. But for instance the previous album The Great Cold Distance, we were just starting to talk about the layout of the new album and he sent us some pictures that he had recently worked with and one of them was the picture that ended up as the album cover cause we just liked it so much from the beginning so we didn’t have to worry so much on that one.

MO: You are currently touring throughout the UK at the moment, taking a break at Christmas and ending at the Rock Hard Festival in Germany on May 21st 2010, have you been playing much of the new album and if so are you receiving a positive response to the new material?
Yeah we haven’t played so much from the new album, not yet because it requires so much rehearsing and stuff, it’s a lot of new material to learn how to play in a live situation opposed to working in the studio ten times until it sounds good so we just played one song, which is the opening track Forsaker.

katatoniaMO: And you have been getting a good crowed response for that track?
Oh yeah (laughs) people seem to love it so we feel we didn’t really do it justice. But once we get to rehearse for the whole new album I think things will fall into place and present a much better version of that song as well as the other songs, so that’s what we’re planning right now to go into the rehearsal room and just lock us up in that place and just play (laughs).

MO: Will you finally be discussing the possibility of an Australian tour?
Well it’s a priority for us now because it’s been overlooked for so long, it’s a long way to go there and we have heard so many good things about it, especially from the Opeth guys, they love to play Australia. So we have to do it with this album, there;s no denying (laughs).

MO: Have you been approached by anybody to tour down here and you weren’t able to?
I think we were supposed to play a festival in Australia some 4 or 5 years back but it didn’t happen, I don’t know the reason why, maybe the festival went bankrupt or something but that was as close as we ever got, I think now is the right time to do it, to do an Australian tour would be wonderful to actually do.

MO: Being a band that has played both small/intimate venues as well as large scale festivals which do you prefer?
I prefer smaller venues I have to say, because it gets more intimate, the crowed is closer and I like that, and also the sound on stage usually isn’t poor, what I don’t like is huge festivals when the stage is so big you can’t hear anything on stage, and the crowed is really loud.

MO: Smaller venues are probably better for the style of music anyway.
Yeah I think so, much more suitable.

MO: Well I best wrap this up, are there any last words for your Australian fans? Hopefully in the form of ‘see you soon’?
I just want to say that we can’t wait to come there and yeah thanks for the interview as well.

Band: Katatonia
Date: 20/11/09
Origin: Sweden

Interviewer: Holly McBride
Interviewee: Jonas Renkse (Vocals)