Katatonia's Jonas Renkse Checks In From The Studio To Talk New Album, Bloodbath, And More
Band Photo: Katatonia (?)
Getting ready to release more melancholy darkness from Sweden upon the rest of the world, the guys from Katatonia are nearing the end of the recording process for a new album to follow "Night is the New Day" (reviewed here).
With only vocals on two songs left to record, I got in touch with front man Jonas Renkse to find out what fans can expect from the upcoming, as-yet-untitled release. During our chat, Jonas discussed how the new album will be more eclectic than the last few offerings, the expected release date, and working with Travis Smith to make the perfect accompanying artwork.
Read on to also find out what's happening with Bloodbath, how Jonas saw the change of pace in Opeth's latest album "Heritage" coming long in advance, and to discover how Per Eriksson ended up with the nick name "Sodomizer."
xFiruath: Is there more studio time still or is all the recording finished for the new album?
Jonas: It’s not finished up yet. I have a couple of songs to finish with vocals, but other than that it should be ready for mixing any week now.
xFiruath: I’ve talked to a lot of different bands who write and record in different ways, and I’m wondering if you guys tend to wing it in the studio or if you go in with a very solid plan and completely ready to lay down everything as-is.
Jonas: We come kind of prepared, but we keep the creative input alive, even up until the mix. So we are never afraid to elaborate with different stuff than we expected to. It’s the way we’ve always worked.
xFiruath: Are the lyrics all complete and can you share yet what’s going on with the themes on the album?
Jonas: Lyrically, it feels like I’m still in the process so much that it’s hard for me to reflect on the album as a whole. I would say it’s not a big difference from before, maybe keeping it even more simple, that’s how I like to do it these days. But still the dark themes are there and it’s about everyday life darkness. Fragments of life, basically.
xFiruath: It may be difficult to compare at this point since the album isn’t completely finished, but what sort of sound changes are going on and how will this differ from “Night is the New Day?”
Jonas: It’s kind of hard to say, but I think maybe the new album is a little more varied. We always want to make musically varied albums, blending in everything we like, but this one might be more eclectic. It’s still kind of progressive, not for the sake of it, but to make the music interesting. The darkness is there of course. A couple of songs might be more up-tempo from the last album, but there’s also songs that are more dark Katatonia. I need to have the mixed album in my hand and then I can have a better overview, but right now I’m still in the big mess of everything.
xFiruath: Have you settled on a title or figured out a release date with the label yet?
Jonas: The title we’re still elaborating on that a little bit. On the release date, I’m not sure if Peaceville has the official one, but I think it will be the beginning of September. It’s probably the third or the seventh or something like that.
xFiruath: Has anyone started on the artwork yet at this point?
Jonas: We have been working since we entered the studio with Travis Smith, who we worked with on the last five albums or so. He’s probably our favorite artist to work with. It’s like he’s one of the team and almost like he’s in the band. When doing a new album we’re parallel working with him and it’s been good every time, so we wouldn’t want to change that. I think what he’s doing now is really good stuff again.
xFiruath: I’ve been into Katatonia for a long time and I enjoy pretty much all of the albums from your various eras, from the harder earlier stuff up till now. I was talking with some other fans and we discussed about how maybe we’d like to one day hear a bit of growling again, perhaps with a guest vocalist or a song or two. Do you think you’d be open to doing harsh vocals again or bringing on a guest vocalist to throw in some growls?
Jonas: I’m sometimes tempted to do that, because I’m still a fan of death metal and that kind of style of music. We just haven’t decided to take that step just yet. There’s no growls on this record, though there are still two songs to do. I wouldn’t say I’m totally against it. We just need to hear a certain song. If we write the song and we feel “this one definitely needs death metal vocals,” then we’d bring on a guest vocalist to do it, but so far that hasn’t been happening, and we don’t want to do it just for the sake of it you know.
xFiruath: Will there be an EP or a single coming out around the album?
Jonas: Probably, yeah, it’s not something we have discussed because no one besides the guys in the band have heard the music. The record label and the management haven’t heard anything, and they’ll be the ones to pick the song for a single or an EP. I love the limited stuff because if you put out an EP you can attach a couple of B sides and cool stuff for collectors.
xFiruath: Are there are any definitive plans for a music video off this upcoming album?
Jonas: Yeah I would say if we release an EP it will probably have a video for that song. It’s not something that we’ve planned at this point, but that’s usually how it’s done. Hopefully we’ll get a budget to do a cool video.
xFiruath: Reaching back into Katatonia lore, I have to know, how exactly did Per get the nickname “Sodomizer?”
Jonas: I’ve heard a couple of stories. I don’t think any of them are true though. I think he was calling himself “goat sodomizer” in the beginning, it was kind of a black metal thing, and I don’t know if he was serious about it. That was before I knew the guy. It came originally from “goat sodomizer,” and then people just started calling him Sodomizer for the hell of it and it just stuck with him. Even his mother was saying “Sodo.”
xFiruath: Oh no!
Jonas: She’s not saying Sodomizer, but I don’t think she knows what it means. So he’s Sodomizer to a lot of people, which is weird, but also fun.
xFiruath: You have a pretty close relationship with Mikael Akerfeldt with Opeth. What did you think of the new album “Heritage?”
Jonas: I thought it was different, but it was kind of expected for me. I’m good friends with Mike and we try to hang out as much as possible between tours. We always try to listen to music and he’s always playing new albums he’s found from the ‘70s and his tastes are always getting more and more obscure as the years go by. What he’s been showing me the last couple of years since the “Watershed” album, he’s very much into this style, which is pretty much the style that went into the “Heritage” album, so I was seeing it coming. I was a bit shocked, because I was expecting the usual Opeth, and it wasn’t really there. I think the album is fantastic though, it’s experimental and a bold record to do these days. It definitely deserves praise. It’s so different, but very musical and dark and artistic. It’s more difficult to get into I guess.
xFiruath: So Mikael is no longer with Bloodbath at this point. Do you know who the replacement vocalist will be?
Jonas: We haven’t really discussed Bloodbath for some time because Katatonia is really the main priority right now. It’s something we have to focus on for the next year or so. We definitely want to do another Bloodbath album, and we’ll have to do it with another singer. I guess time will tell who is going to sing on the next album. I don’t think that’s the main problem right now though. The main problem is finding time for Bloodbath, because it also needs time to get into the right mood for the death metal thing, and also Martin will be booked up with Opeth for a long time as well. Once we see a little down time for both Opeth and Katatonia we’ll start engineering new songs.
xFiruath: You had mentioned how Katatonia is the main focus right now, but do any of the bands have any side projects coming up?
Jonas: No, Bloodbath is really the only side thing we do. Right now for the time being is more than enough to try to keep the two professional bands going time-wise. I would love to do some solo stuff, but I definitely want to focus on Katatonia now. These days when I write new songs for Katatonia, it could easily be solo stuff for me as well, because I don’t limit myself to one type of music when I do Katatonia stuff anymore. We’re still a metal band, but I don’t feel limited to doing only metal because Katatonia is more than that. It’s all about music. As long as I have Katatonia and Bloodbath that’s pretty much enough for me right now.
xFiruath: Do you have the tour dates hammered out in support of the new album?
Jonas: Not yet. I think we’re looking into touring right now, but nothing’s settled. If the album is out in September hopefully we will be on a U.S. tour in September and a European tour right after that going on towards Christmas time. The new album will take us even more out into the world. I would love to tour Australia again, we did a small festival run last year there.
xFiruath: What are you personally listening to lately and what sort of music do you tend to listen to during the whole recording process?
Jonas: When I’m recording or writing I find myself not listening to other music at all. It becomes too much music all of a sudden. Right now I’m listening through the Katatonia new album songs. I’m hearing them every day, and after that I just want silence. I had been listening to a band called Sun Kil Moon, which is one of my favorite singers and songwriters. That’s Mark Kozelek, who used to have a band called Red House Painters. It’s more acoustic stuff and it’s really good. His last Sun Kil Moon came out last year I think, I’ve been listening to that a lot. And the new Opeth of course has been spinning. But other than that I’m trying to concentrate on Katatonia and not get too much music in my head.
xFiruath: What else would you like to say about the upcoming album?
Jonas: I’m very proud of what we’re doing right now and I hope people will pick it up when it comes out. I can’t wait to get back to North American to do another tour, that’s always fun.
Ty Arthur splits his time between writing dark fiction, spreading the word about underground metal bands, and bringing you the latest gaming news. His sci-fi, grimdark fantasy, and horror novels can be found at Amazon.
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