Katatonia “Our ritual is that one hour before gig everyone except the band has to leave our dressing room”

Ester Segarra

Swedish doom merchants Katatonia are an incredibly humble outfit whose releases are always highly anticipated because quite frankly they’re all rather epic and mini masterpieces screaming to be heard. With the current release ‘The Fall Of Hearts’ having just landed we were grateful to have a catch up with vocalist Jonas Renkse ahead of their extensive European tour to talk about the importance of social media, pre show nerves and regular line-up changes.

Seeing as it’s nearly the end of the year, how do you think it  has been for the band overall?

Great so far! We managed to put out a new album, which was kind of overdue. Just got home from Mexico and South America which was the start of the touring cycle and we’re off again in just a week or so. Plus we did a number of really nice festivals during the summer.

Is there an overarching message or concept to ‘The Fall of Hearts’? 

Not really, I would have a hard time writing a concept album since my lyrics usually are based on fragments of thoughts and feelings rather than a “story”. If there is a message, I have yet to find it. But it deals with the usual Katatonia stuff, perhaps that’s a concept in itself.

And would you say it takes any different steps to your recent albums?

Musically, yes, in bits and pieces. I think it’s our most varied album so far and probably so because of the broader range of inspiration. It’s a little more progressive, but maintaining the dark setting which is the foundation of anything we have ever done.

What have been the most memorable gigs or festivals that you’ve played this year?

The whole trip to Latin America was very rewarding. We have toured there before and it’s such a different vibe, always overwhelming.

Do you think your fans have changed in a similar way to how Katatonia’s sound has changed over the years? Do you know of fans that’ve been there right from the start and whom have never deserted you no matter which direction or path you have chosen?

Yes I think there’s a percentage that’s been with us since day one that still look forward to anything we do, and to me that’s quite an accomplishment. I don’t think we have changed all that much if you take into consideration that we have been a band for 25 years, but still… of course we have lost some people along the way. It’s natural I guess.

How do you find the regular line-up changes? has that helped or hindered the band in your own opinion?

Of course it’s rough when you lose band members, especially the ones that have been in the band for a long time. It takes time to find worthy replacements. But once you find the new people, there’s an energy injection, which the whole band machinery can feed off. Also it brings new and different perspectives which is good.

Which bands or artists do you guys tend to listen to most? And are there any artists or bands that are banned from being played on the Katatonia tour bus?

We do listen to a wide range of music. Personally I listen a lot to Sun Kil Moon, 16 Horsepower, Richard Buckner, Deaf Center, Morbid Angel, Fields of the Nephilim… and loads more. Our guitar player Anders has an obsession with horrible music, so practically nothing can be banned on our tour bus… unfortunately.

What advice would you give to your fans who wanted to start a band in this day and age? 

I would say they should try to keep some mystique… there will be a time when people get tired of seeing musicians on YouTube videos showing riffs off their new album in their bedroom.

We are approaching Halloween – do you guys ever celebrate the holiday or have any significant stories or anecdotes to tell our readers about your Halloween experiences?

Halloween is not that big in Sweden (yet) but I remember playing a gig in the US on Halloween and afterwards we were invited to a huge party next door from the venue and it was one of the most surreal happenings I’ve been part of. They had midgets driving around with small cars serving drinks, among other things…

After all these years do you ever get anything that resembles nerves or stage fright before a show? And if yes – what are your pre show rituals to help conquer that?

Not really. I used to be shit scared but all the years of touring have helped, I guess. Our ritual is that one hour before gig everyone except the band has to leave our dressing room. We put on some good music, have a drink and get dressed for stage. Maybe talk through a thing or two about the set list and just try to focus a little bit.

Social media has become paramount to helping get a bands name out there – do you guys run your own page? And how important is the role of social media to you personally? On the flip side have you ever felt exposed or ever had any issues or had to overcome any problems due to the use of social media?

Yes we do run our own social media pages. I think it has become an important tool, not just for promoting the band but also supplying necessary info to the fans in a fast and reliable way. Personally I’m not very concerned though, I could do without it. Haven’t had any issues except that I think that it does take away a bit of the mystique that I was on about earlier…

Which songs do you currently enjoy playing live the most? Are there any songs that you have chosen to retire from the set list?

We retire songs all the time, but most of them will do a comeback sooner or later. It always depends on how much we have played them, so if we’re tired of them they will have to rest for a while. Right now my favourite is one off the new album that we played for the first time ever on our gig in Mexico the other week, “Last song before the fade”.

If you could play God for a day, who would you make an angel and whom would you send to hell and why?

That’s a hard one to answer… plenty of options for both happenings. Too many, actually!

Do you have a bucket list? What are the top 3 things on it?

I should have… but I don’t think I’m that kind of person, ha-ha. I’m pretty satisfied with all the interesting stuff that comes my way naturally. Being in a band makes you visit loads of places, which I like. Many of them I wouldn’t have gotten to see otherwise.

The final say – please comment here about anything that is on your mind right now to conclude this interview whether its band related or not….

Thanks for the interest! Right now I am getting ready for our extensive Euro tour that starts in about a week. Time to focus!