A force in doom for 25 years, Sweden’s Katatonia have been globetrotting and releasing classic albums since their inception. They have endured line-up changes and setbacks (like most bands), but they are still going strong. Bassist Niklas Sandin talks about the album, their history, working with Peaceville Records and their upcoming shows.
Jack: Hi, thanks for taking the time to speak to me. How are you doing?
Niklas Sandin: No worries and I’m good thanks. Still can feel the aftermaths from this weekend’s gig at Norway’s Karmoygeddon festival though. I’m definitely not in my early 20s any more [Laughs].
Jack: You’re about to release your 10th album The Fall of Hearts, do you get nervous before a release, excited or a mixture of these feelings?
Niklas: I get, of course, excited when releasing something that’s been worked on for so long and that you’ve been a part of. I don’t get nervous before a release in that way that I’m afraid people won’t like it. There’ll always, no matter what album you put out, people that won’t like it. It’s just a matter of taste, and everyone has their own. Stressing about that makes no sense.
Jack: Is there a concept to the album?
Niklas: There’s no particular concept to this album. The lyrics is still about life in the dark way. Life is a journey with lots of ups and downs and Katatonia is not focusing on the happy days, so to speak.
Jack: What does the artwork represent?
Niklas: That’s totally in the eye of the beholder. It’s up to each and everyone to read into the artwork what it represents to themselves.
Jack: Anders Nyström & Jonas Renkse produced the album, what is it like working with your bandmates as producers?
Niklas: It’s really great and I think it works perfectly in this band that the two leading and songwriting members also produce the music. I don’t consider myself as a tool though, even though I have my moments not being too smart [Laughs]. Since they give us others some room to come with own ideas and put our own flavour to the music. It’s not a situation where you get slapped on your fingers with a ruler if you’re not playing as it is on the pre-productions.
Jack: How would you say the album is different to Dead End Kings?
Niklas: In my opinion this album is different from Dead End Kings in the way that it has more elements from earlier albums. It has less of an own identity and it mixes stuff in from a larger part of Katatonia’s past discography. Not saying that there’s nothing new. It still sounds fresh and as a new album, but I think more of the Katatonia sound in large is presented here.
Jack: It seems like you’ve been with Peaceville forever, what is the appeal of working with this largely respected label?
Niklas: I play bass, which I just learned in Finnish is called basso, so I don’t deal too much with the record label. Joke aside, I can only say that since it has worked in the past and that the relationship between the band and the label has been this lengthy just makes things work in a satisfactory manner.
Jack: Even though you’ve not been in the band for all this time, is it strange to believe Katatonia is 25 years old?
Niklas: Sometimes it can be, since I’m merely 29 years old. So I’m almost at the same age as the band I’m playing in. But I don’t reflect over that too much, or at all to be honest. I don’t feel that much younger than my bandmates and I think they have quite young minds. Maybe it’s just me having an old soul?
Jack: Did you feel pressure joining the band because of its legacy and influence?
Niklas: Some pressure was present, but that was coming from myself because I wanted to do the songs justice and do my very best when performing on stage. I was still doing full time at my day job back when preparing myself for the first tour back in 2010. Long evenings and lack of sleep rehearsing at home and keeping weekend rehearsals with a full band made this possible. I still feel that pressure today, but not because of playing in this band, but the motivation of always giving a 100% performance in both a live situation and in the studio. This goes of course as well for my death metal band LIK, where I play the guitar to get a fresh breeze of variation.
Jack: Were you fans before joining the band?
Niklas: I don’t stretch it as far as I was a fan of the band. I really liked the music before I started to play in the band and The Great Cold Distance was one of the CDs that got many spins at home. I still consider that as my favourite album, if I’d need to choose one.
Jack: On Thursday 22nd September you will be performing an exclusive show in the magnificent Roman Theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. For this you’ll be joining by the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra. What inspired this decision?
Niklas: I don’t know what inspired the decision to go down there and perform one very unique Katatonia show with the Plovdid Orchestra. But I know that it’s good to not play it too safe and do the normal touring cycle every time. Like we did with the acoustic tour, it’s fun and important to put yourself out from your own comfort zone every once in a while.
Jack: How was it working with composer Levon Manukyan?
Niklas: It’s still an ongoing project and we haven’t been on stage, performing this yet. So that’s for the future to reveal. I’m confident though that we’ll make something that [we and the audience will] remember as a truly unique experience.
Jack: In an interview, former member Daniel Liljekvist said the band barely have time to sleep on the road. Is this still the case?
Niklas: I think this is still the case for many bands out there. There’s a lack of sleep and especially when going to South America to play. That’s a real “no sleep till…” experience. I think I collected as many hours of sleep during the 1.5 weeks we were there 5 years ago as I do in a couple of nights back home. It’s the early flights combined with waiting for sound check at venues that keeps you away from the bed. It all makes sense when you hit the stage. That’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else!
Jack: Do you prefer playing live or writing the songs?
Niklas: Since I don’t write any songs in this band I can’t really answer that question fairly. But I’ll always be a person that finds the most pleasure in playing music for people, and it doesn’t matter how many ears [are] present.
Jack: Do you have day jobs outside of Katatonia or is this your full time job?
Niklas: In 2016, musicians don’t make money as back in the days and I have a job where I work part time. It’s a really flexible arrangement and it fits me perfectly as it’s working as a sound guy for the Stockholm International Fairs. With learning by doing there, almost every day makes it fun as well!
Jack: Finally I met you guys at Damnation Festival in 2013, how important are meet and greet type events with the fans?
Niklas: Cool! I remember that festival and how blown away I was with the Carcass gig! I think it’s important to meet with the fans to connect with them from time to time and these meetings is no exception. I’ve met lots of warm, kind and awesome [people] this way.