Following the release of their new album, “The Fall of Hearts,” KATATONIA has been on the road playing some summer festivals to help get the word out. They stopped by Tuska Open Air for the first time since 2011, and before the show we were given a few moments to talk to Niklas Sandin [bass] and Daniel Moilanen [drums] about the new album and their time at the festival!
How is everything with Roger [Öjersson, guitar] and the band chemistry now that you’ve all played a few gigs together?
Niklas: I think it’s really good. He’s a perfect fit and a wonderful guitar player and he has wonderful weird humor as well, which fits with the rest of the gang. It was a perfect fit from the start.
A lot has been said about the progressive direction of “The Fall of Hearts,” but it’s also more guitar-driven as well. Was this intentional, or did it turn out that way naturally?
Daniel: I think it turned out that way, since they felt more free to create whatever they wanted. With Roger in the band, obviously there’s a lot more room for solos and leads. It’s more guitar-driven, but not intentionally.
Niklas: I think maybe in the past we would not have had a song beginning with guitar solo. I think that was quite shocking even for me. “Fucking hell, that’s a pretty long guitar solo opening a song. This is new!”
The bonus track “Vakaren” was sung in Swedish – what inspired you guys to have a song in your native language?
Daniel: I think that’s a question for Jonas. Also, I think he felt that with this album he could do it. I think he’s been [fiddling] with some stuff like that in the past, but I think he felt that this KATATONIA album was a perfect fit for that song.
Niklas: Yeah, and it’s not the first time that there’s been an electronic song on an album and I think also it’s just one of those songs that fits more to have in Swedish than in English. The words transpire better. Like for the Finnish bands. There are so many bands just singing in Finnish because it works better that way. It makes more sense.
What are your personal favorite songs off the new album?
Niklas: I’m sticking with “Last Song Before the Fade.” I think that’s really, really nice and strong, and also one of the first that I heard in pre-production mode.
Daniel: For me it’s “Residual.” I think that was the first I heard. Also “Last Song.” It’s a strong track with good drumming.
Niklas: And of course the cover! [laughter]
Daniel: Yeah, the cover is great!
Niklas: JUDAS PRIEST!
“Pale Flag” would be a really cool acoustic song to hear live – do you guys have any plans to do another acoustic tour in the future?
Daniel: Not plans, but we are not excluding it. We’re not turning it down.
Niklas: Yeah, exactly. I think there were already a few plans for doing something like that straight after the last one we did, where we recorded that “Sanctitude” live DVD, but after that I haven’t heard any concrete plans. Just a little bit of talking about it and of course it would be a cool idea to do it.
Some of your albums have been released quite a few years apart from each other. Is this a coincidence or do you think there is some magic in working over a great deal of time?
Niklas: I don’t know… I think all KATATONIA albums are magic! [laughter]
Daniel: So do I.
Niklas: Even the bad ones. No, I’m just joking. Well, I think it’s just that this band is more about letting the music come to you than trying to push something out just to go on tour and keep the band rolling. It has to be faithful and true to the music, and not something you just write in order to get on the road. I know a couple of bands doing that. They are just like, “Okay, now we are going to write a record and it needs to be in this time.” Then they just do it and then they go on tour and then there’s three good songs on the album. KATATONIA is always about delivering a whole record that’s true and that fans like.
I think it shows. At least what I can tell from your music, your albums are quite consistently good throughout. It’s not hard to listen to the whole thing. The album quality is consistent.
Niklas: [laughs] Yeah, I don’t think there are too many fillers.
A lot of bands are playing full albums at festivals lately. Did you guys at all consider doing “The Great Cold Distance” or was it just too soon after “The Fall of Hearts” came out to bother with it?
Niklas: I think that you should promote the new album more and now there’s the anniversary for “The Great Cold Distance” and of course you have to celebrate that as well and it’s a really good album and it makes sense to play it from front-to-back, but you can’t promote that while you’re promoting a new album. It makes it confusing and if we would go out and do live festivals just playing that, it would be a little bit weird for people that might want to hear some new stuff as well.
It might be a little bit early to ask this, but what can we expect in the sets from the upcoming club shows? Are you going to be playing mostly new stuff, a balance of everything, or just a couple favorite new tracks? Or do you have any idea at this point?
Daniel: We are not exactly sure what we are playing from the new album yet. We’re still trying stuff out. I think with ten albums there’s going to be a lot of old stuff as well. A good mixture, of course, but there’s going to be a lot of old surprises.
Niklas: We’re going to keep the setlist – like the roster of songs – bigger this time, so we can pick and choose a little bit from concert to concert. We’ve been a little bit lazy regarding that in the past, having two setlists that we have been balancing back and forth [between] while being on quite a long tour, but now we’re aiming to be more flexible and that makes it more fun for us to play live as well, because two setlists gets boring after 2 weeks and if you have another 5 weeks… well, that says it all. We want to keep it fresh for ourselves and for the fans. I think it’s more interesting that way.
That’s good – if people come to more than one show, they get something special every time.
Niklas: Exactly. It’s not going to be like seeing the same Friends rerun on TV for 5 weeks. That’s not too cool.
Daniel: But [the shows are] still fun!
Niklas: Still fun, yeah! It’s the amount of alcohol that decides. [laughter]
This is the oldschool question, so I’m not sure if either of you will know the answer to this because it’s from before your time, but in song 12 from “Brave Murder Day,” there’s a bird chirping in the last clean guitar part just over 6 minutes into the song. Do either of you know how that ended up in there?
Daniel: That’s some hardcore detailing! But… no. I could lie, but I’d prefer not to.
Niklas: We can make up some story about them recording in some really nice meadow with birds chirping. An early summer morning.
Daniel: Early summer. May.
Niklas: Let’s stick to that.
Is everyone in the band still finding enough time to work on their side projects and things like that?
Niklas: Well, there is some time to work on side projects. For example, I have LIK, which is a death metal project, just as the other boys have their slightly bigger BLOODBATH band [laughter] on their hands, which they also find time for beside KATATONIA. Of course, that’s a little bit more time consuming and has to fit with Martin Axenrot from OPETH, for example, and nowadays Nick Holmes from PARADISE LOST. There is some time, but now it’s going to be focusing on KATATONIA, promoting the new album, and playing as many shows as possible.
As we’re getting close to the end then, how do you guys like Tuska as a festival? How does it compare to the other places you’ve played?
Niklas: I think it’s great. It’s nice to see how it’s evolving into this bigger and better organization. Now actually I’ve walked around because I’ve been here since Friday, marinating myself before today’s gig. I walked around and checked out the whole festival area. There’s actually some pieces of grass where you can sit! Otherwise here in Suvilahti it’s all about concrete and nowhere to escape if it rains or if there’s a really burning sun. So now the second stage, the Helsinki stage, is quite a cool addition. I really like it. There’s nice people, and of course, I love the Finns!
Daniel: I haven’t played Tuska before, so this is my first time. This far I’m loving it!
Niklas: And 5 years since last time; it raised enough hunger to come back.
That’s all of my questions then – do you have any final comments to any readers?
Daniel: Buy the album, support the scene! [laughter]
Niklas: Yes, and nyt vasta alkaa maistumaan! [laughter]
[translation: “only now is it starting to taste good” though he means that he’s finally feeling like he wants to drink]
Thanks then, and have a great gig!
Interview by Bear Wiseman