Katatonia Guitarist Anders Nystrom Discusses "Night Is The New Day"
Band Photo: Katatonia (?)
Long running Swedish metallers Katatonia will release their new full-length album "Night is the New Day" in the U.S. on November 10th through Peaceville Records. Katatonia is a staple of the Swedish metal scene, having started out as straight forward death metal and evolving into a more rock oriented band with heavy doom influences. Katatonia's guitarist Anders "Blakkheim" Nyström, who is also involved with Bloodbath and Diabolical Masquerade, spoke with me about the band's upcoming album and their plans to hit the ground running on full headlining tours.
xFiruath: First off just let me say I’ve been a big fan of both Katatonia and Diabolical Masquerade for many years now, so thanks for all the music you’ve given to the world! How did you personally get started in music and what originally drew you to metal in particular?
Anders: That would go back to the early 80's. My first album I ever bought was "Love Gun" with Kiss and then the first two albums with Mötley Crue. Immediately Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, Accept, and Wasp followed and there was no return from heavy metal. The first spark in me as for starting playing myself ignited in the mid 80's when all I had was a 30 watt Gorilla amplifier that had a sticker on it which read "It will knock your socks off!" and a Gibson Les Paul clone called Fresher. Back then it was Judas Priest's duo Downing and Tipton with all their harmonic leads that set my love for guitar tone, licks, and melodies. Soon after also Wolf Hoffman from Accept got all my attention. Together they were responsible for me even picking up the guitar and wanting to become a guitar player. I think the tone that Hoffman had was extremely modern for its time. What a sustain, and such a brutal tone for heavy metal that early. His guitar leads were spiced with the perfect amount of delay, he had such a great core in his tone and I even ended up emailing him many, many, many years later and to my surprise I even got a reply with a full explanation on what he used and how he achieved it, how cool is that? Later on I took a lot of inspiration from Fields of The Nephilim in how they incorporated their ping pong delays and blending in half clean/dirty sounds which was very refreshing for us as a metal band, but I guess it was Greg Mackintosh from Paradise Lost that really made the biggest impression on me. That's a guy that has his trademark tone in his fingers. His vibrato is synonymous with sorrowful guitar leads. Oh and I must mention Quorthon of Bathory for giving me the most all-round influence as well.
xFiruath: You work with two major bands in the metal world, Katatonia and Bloodbath, and have been involved with other metal projects as well. How do you balance your time between the two groups and is it difficult to keep both going?
Anders: No I don't find it difficult as I tend to look at both of them feeding of each other. Once I'm done with a Katatonia album, the motivation and hunger to make a Bloodbath album is a lot stronger and vice versa. It's because you really empty your system and do a full clean out on one end and then you have the other end sitting and waiting for you with the opposite musical material to sink your teeth into.
xFiruath: Is Diabolical Masquerade done for good or is there hope that we might hear some more from that project in the future?
Anders: I wouldn't like to say it will never ever be touched again, but at the moment there's not enough time for it. That was not the main reason why I put it to rest though, it was more an honest conclusion due to the fact I'd lost all passion and excitement to make another album, so I didn't want to put out what could have been the weakest album and end the career with that. I still think the last two albums are really good and if I'd pick up the axe for the masquerade again I'd probably see myself venture back in right between those two albums.
xFiruath: Reading through the studio blogs on the Katatonia MySpace page it seems like you guys had a pretty interesting time recording “Night is the New Day.” Can you give me a run down of the recording process for anyone who didn’t catch your recording blogs?
Anders: All the blogs are posted on the "Night Is The New Day" website. I recommend heading over there to read it all since it covers the whole recording process better than I would be able to do here.
xFiruath: Did you do any backing vocals on this record or were you solely on guitar?
Anders: Jonas is doing all the vocals on the album, but I'm doing the backing vocal harmonies live.
xFiruath: Who did you work with for production, mixing, etc?
Anders: David Castillo mixed and co-produced it at Ghost Ward and Jens Bogren mastered it at Fascination Street.
xFiruath: Do you have a particular favorite song on the album or any segment that you are particularly proud of?
Anders: There's definitely highlights in a couple of segments on there, but I think the importance and whole impact can be found in the full album as one piece. At least that's how I intended it to be. I'm proud of the album, how it sounds, how it came out and that it actually came out. It took some time to make it for sure.
xFiruath: Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth had some very positive words about the new album and so far all early press has been good. What is different about “Night is the New Day” from your previous albums?
Anders: Well, we definitely aimed to tear down a few walls on what people or even ourselves thought couldn't be done. Musically, I still think the direction takes off from where we left with “The Great Cold Distance,” but emphasizes on a lot more depth and atmosphere as cornerstones. The sound picture is therefore bigger and there's a lot more stuff going on the background. The album feels more dynamic and ranges from brutally heavy to swirling soft, not only between parts in one and the same song, but also from song to song. It feels like a more progressive album as we're definitely not stranded at the same spot. We have a couple of songs that are a bit different like “Idle Blood” that takes on a more 70's approach with acoustic guitars, Fender Rhodes and mellotrone etc. and we have “Nephilim,” which can be seen as a heavy doom metal tune. There's a few songs that reach fully into the electronic sound picture of our “Unfurl” sound that people came to love and there's last but not least a few tracks which are heavier than ever bearing the Katatonia trademark. This album holds a lot of more variation, but within the walls of what is to be considered Katatonia of course.
xFiruath: What are Katatonia’s upcoming tour plans?
Anders: We just came off a tour with Porcupine Tree and we're currently in the UK supporting Paradise Lost for a week and will round it off with a couple of small headline shows. After that, we're looking at doing some one offs in territories like Israel, Greece, etc. and then in spring we'll embark on a full European headline tour followed up a North American headline tour, so keep your eyes open for the billing on those. When they're done it's already the summer festival season and we're getting booked on a heavy load of them already, so it's gonna get busy!
xFiruath: Outside of Katatonia what bands and albums are you personally listening to most often?
Anders: Right now I have Behemoth's new album “Evangelion” in my headphones and I love what I hear, death metal elite! I also picked up the new Alice In Chains record recently, but in general I pretty much stick to the old gems. All the timeless classic albums I still consider influences. They never bore me.
xFiruath: You’ve been involved with music since the early days of extreme metal and have been a part of a band that started as death metal and has since evolved into something else entirely. What do you think about the state of rock and metal today as compared to where it was 15 or 20 years ago?
Anders: Metal and rock is still strong and the scene is alive, but it's full of trends that come and go and bastard crossover genres are established every new year, guess it's just the sign of the times. For nostalgic reasons I might romanticize the scene back then a little bit more, but there was also something more genuine in people's attitudes. This was way before the Internet was around and people were, I don't know, less spoiled and lazy. People used to appreciate things more and took more time and put more love and effort into supporting the scene. The unavoidable big download issue is now affecting everything. I mean, technology really took off and the music industry couldn't follow its progress creating a miserable place for bands and labels and an anarchy for customers as there are no obvious tempting valuable smooth options to the tormenting. Of course you have Itunes as a legal way of buying and downloading albums and you got some pretty cool mail-orders for the physical CD/lp, but most local shops have disappeared and if the price is ridiculously high, then no wonder people download instead if that's that easy and convenient.
Anders: Where are the alternatives? The music industry acts like conservative dinosaurs, going after the people with a gun, but end up shooting themselves in the foot. I don't understand why they aren't more focused on working together with the people of technology, being one step ahead instead of one step behind desperate for damage control. Truth is, bands don't earn shit anymore on records sales, but it still costs a lot to invest in and record an album and you have to recoup that as you're in debt to the label, so I know a lot of bands are forced seek other ways of earning money, such as constant intense touring which also results in a pretty heavy competition on the calendars and fewer ticket sales. As an artist, 20 years ago was a lot better place to be, but maybe in 20 years from now that will be the ideal place. I think this phase right now is really the twilight zone of the whole music industry, but we're all in the same boat I guess.
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