Katatonia have always remained, throughout their now ten-year long career, a truly mesmerising band, musically thriving in darkened woe, heart-breaking bleakness and majestic delusion. The CD release of Katatonia's demo, _Jhva Elohim Meth... The Revival_ (1992), followed by the magnificent, enrapturing manifest _Dance of December Souls_ (1993) disclosed them as a doom-laden, melancholic and melodic act ingrained in the growing Scandinavian blackness at that time. Far from the many a time efficient, yet uncannily predictable careers of many acts reveling in the northern scene in the early '90s, Katatonia then followed an evolution which always maintained them ahead of the growling, occult packs with whom they shared the scene.
In the space of two consecutive releases -- the _For Funerals to Come_ MCD (1995) and the hermetic _Brave Murder Day_ (1996) --, Katatonia had already foreshadowed significant changes in the bleakness of their works to come, with the appearance of Opeth's impressive singer Micke Akerfeldt on vocals, and their music following an increasingly gothic, incantatory slant. With the release of the beautifully desolate _Sounds of Decay_ MCD in 1997 [CoC #28], the moody Swedish three-piece already seemed to be writing a sad, frosty end to a chapter of their own history.
Indeed, as the very confidential and limited _Saw You Drown_ MCD was disclosed in the same year, foretelling the release of Katatonia's third full-length, the aptly named _Discouraged Ones_ [CoC #31], the band's following was left bewildered and perplexed. Their music became tangibly more gothic, owing to more mid-paced, linear compositions and, undoubtedly the most unnerving shock at the time, Jonas Renkse's clear vocals replacing all the forms of beautifully grim, literally tantalising death metal rasps featured in Katatonia's earlier works.
As the initial startled reaction to this change dissipated, though, it became obvious that the poignant despair and subdued pain that characterised Katatonia were still there, in a more channeled form which appeared in even more focused ways with the sequel to _Discouraged Ones_, the ambiguous and rather uneasy fourth chapter _Tonight's Decision_ [CoC #42]. Regardless of their quality, both these releases nonetheless bore the stigmata of transition works, and it seems that only now, anno 2001, with the release of the _Teargas_ EP and their fifth album, _Last Fair Deal Gone Down_ [CoC #52], Katatonia have finally succeeded in crafting a sound with which they seem constantly at ease, and have opened an additional insightful breach into their despaired world, writing another beautiful, refined chapter of their evolution.
With this brief history of the band spoken, it is now time to unveil the massive interview with Katatonia's brooding, quiet and enigmatic vocalist Jonas Renkse that no less than three CoC writers have prepared for you.
In a way, the first part of this article is like vintage wine, as it relates David's conversation with Jonas for the release of Katatonia's former album, _Tonight's Decision_. The second part consists of the merging of Pedro's and Adrian's recent interviews with Jonas, both of which took place shortly after the release of his band's latest record, _Last Fair Deal Gone Down_.
Please read on, as Jonas Renkse reveals more about the quintessential sorrow off which Katatonia's majestic evolution feeds...Part 1: FEEDING OFF A DARKNESS COMING
(shortly after the release of _Tonight's Decision_)
by: David RocherCoC:
So, how would you introduce Katatonia's new album [_Tonight's Decision_] to me?
Jonas Renkse: Well, it's... a dark journey, basically. It's quite a personal album, of course, because as you might know, we were doing the "death metal" thing earlier, but we have been going up quite a lot musically over the last couple of years, and here we are now, you know? -- doing the normal vocals, and... it's a new direction, basically.CoC:
Do you actually feel as though there's been a break in Katatonia's history, or do you view your successive albums and MCDs as a natural evolution, like growing up?JR:
Yeah, I think it's about growing up, but I feel that with the previous albums, _Discouraged Ones_, we opened up a new chapter for Katatonia, with us trying the normal vocals.CoC:
You'd already had a try at these on the track "Scarlet Heavens"...JR:
Yeah, we did. But it was just... an attempt, we just wanted to try it on one song, and we never intended to release that one, but it was released later. But I think "Scarlet Heavens" is quite different, it's not what we're doing today -- it was more goth-related, you know? I think what we're doing now really is what we want to do.CoC:
Don't you believe that what you're doing now is goth-related at all?JR:
Yeah... <chuckles> I mean, it's goth-related, but I don't really call it "gothic". I can understand people wanting to put a label on the music, and that's totally okay with me, but I don't know what to call our music... but it's kind of "goth-related", as you say. I mean, that's the closest you can get.CoC:
I guess so. When you first changed vocal styles, what were you trying to create?JR:
I think that we were talking about trying the normal vocals because we felt it would give the music an extra dimension, basically. There's so many more ways now we can vary our music, not being limited by the death metal vocals with no melody in them or anything. So doing the normal vocals, we can put more melody into the music, make it more interesting, basically. And when we started to do the normal vocals, we were forced to strip down the song structures quite a lot -- you know, doing the usual verse-chorus songs, which was kind of hard in the beginning, but very interesting to work with.CoC:
As it went with "experimenting", is _Discouraged Ones_ an album you were satisfied with?JR:
Yeah! Very much -- I think it came out very good at the time, because I'd never been singing "for real" until we did _Discouraged Ones_, so I'm very satisfied with it. I think it's a good first attempt towards this new style that we're doing now.CoC:
I'm a bit puzzled about this: the first time you tried using clear vocals, on the _I Saw You Drown_ MCD, it happened almost secretively -- it was like a "shy" release...JR:
Yeah, it was. First of all, it's a limited edition, but we did want to try releasing something before the album, just to get people to get a picture of what we were going to do on the album -- but we didn't have any hopes that it would be a big seller, so we wanted it as a limited edition, and it's always cool to have an unreleased track on it, you know? It's the "Quiet World" track.CoC:
"Scarlet Heavens" was almost unreleased, too.JR:
Yeah, almost. But it was just a cool thing to do.CoC:
You mentioned sales -- saying that you weren't expecting _Discouraged Ones_ to be a big seller. But were Katatonia ever big sellers?JR:
No, not really. Not as far as I'm concerned. I think _Discouraged Ones_ has sold, all in all, 20 000 copies, which for me is very good. It means many people have bought the album, which makes me proud... but compared to other metal bands, it's not really anything special. I still think that it's very good, because _Discouraged Ones_ was released on Avantgarde Music, which is still kind of a small label, and they've done some very good work to promote it and everything. I hope _Tonight's Decision_ will reach out a little bit more, due to the new label we have.CoC:
How did you sign to Peaceville?JR:
We got this letter from Hammy [Peaceville owner -- David] when we released _Discouraged Ones_. He just wanted to tell us that he liked the music very much; he didn't tell us that he was interested back then, he just wanted to say "hey, it's a hell of a good album". And then we got in touch with him and said that our contract with Avantgarde had expired, and he was like "oh shit, this is good -- I want to sign you guys". It was very cool that he just got in touch to tell us that he liked the music and nothing else, and that he then wanted to sign us when he heard that we didn't have a contract at the time, because we had other labels interested at the time, but they heard that we didn't have a contract and then got in touch. Peaceville seems to be very... <ponders>CoC:
Yeah, very much.CoC:
One of Katatonia's endemic features is the sadness and gloom that appear throughout all your releases, so how do you feel the change in vocal styles reflects this?JR:
I think it's much easier to relate to the lyrics when I'm doing the vocals [as opposed to Akerfledt's death vox -- David]. When you're using a normal voice, it's easier to perform the lyrics in a more sincere way. So I think doing the normal vocals can only take the music further, even in the sad and gloomy style that we have, so I think it can only get worse, basically <chuckles>, with our new vocals. There's so many ways that you can vary the songs with these vocals, so I think it's a very good move.CoC:
Actually, I think one of Katatonia's typical features is that even when you were using the death metal vocals, they were inflected, and very emotional...JR:
Yeah, yeah, I think so too. I did [that kind of] vocals on the first album, _Dance of December Souls_, and people are always telling me how they think the vocals are very desperate-sounding... I think the vocals on that album are still very cool. I don't know how I got that voice, but it felt very natural when we did the album. I'm still proud of that first record, but I think what we're doing now is far more... mature, yeah, exactly.CoC:
What about the releases after that, how do you feel about those?JR:
Well, I'm proud of everything. I think the first record is kind of stressed; we were very young, but I'm still proud that we got to do an album. <chuckles> When I think about it, it would have been better if we had waited like one more year, if we'd practiced a little bit more and had a little more time in the studio, but I think it's still a worthy debut. The rest of the albums, well -- I'm proud of everything we've done, I'm proud that we've released those albums. _Brave Murder Day_ is a special album to me, because we found something new on that one, that we still keep in what we're doing today.CoC:
_Brave Murder Day_ was the most repetitive and "painful" of your albums -- I suppose this was when your gothic influences really started showing through after the death metal sounds on _Dance of December Souls_, so how have your influences changed over the years?JR:
The influences have changed quite a lot, because when we did the first album, we were mainly influenced by Paradise Lost, essentially, and Tiamat as well. On _Brave Murder Day_, I'm not really sure, but I don't think we had many influences when we did that album. It was more like we wanted to try something really new for us, which led to this very repetitive sound, which I think is very dark. But I would say that the influences now come from more alternative music, because I think it's very good to bring in influences from other kinds of music and bring them into our sound. It's very healthy for the band and for the music -- so we listen to more alternative music now, not so much metal music anymore; bands like Jeff Buckley, who we did a cover of [in _Tonight's Decision_], bands like Radiohead and stuff. I think it's a cool thing to indulge in, with our material.CoC:
So although you're proud of your previous albums, am I right in supposing you could never write the same albums again?JR:
I think so. We could never do another _Dance of December Souls_; it would be impossible, because we're such different persons now, if you compare us to what we were back then. Now, we have grown more mature, and our music has as well. I understand what you mean, really. I don't think we will do another _Brave Murder Day_, with the death metal vocals and everything...CoC:
Would you consider mixing death metal vocals with your clear vocals?JR:
No, I don't think it would sound very good. Some bands can do it, but now that we've released two albums with normal vocals only, I wouldn't like to go back to the death metal thing again. I mean, it's not that I don't like death metal, I still love it, but it doesn't fit us any more, because we have regular songs on the new album, with verse, chorus and everything -- putting in death metal vocals would sound a bit awkward, it would sound a bit... funny.CoC:
Although there are no death metal vocals on _Tonight's Decision_, Micke Akerfeldt still produced the vocals...JR:
Yeah. He did it on _Discouraged Ones_ as well. He's very, very talented and very musical, and he has a good ear for vocal melodies, basically, so while we were recording the vocals on the new album, we just invited him to the studio, and he was there with us, recording and producing the vocals, and coming up with a lot of good ideas, good melodies. And also, I think it's very good to have someone who's not in the band and can be there with a fresh mind, because we were in the studio for so long, doing boring things like the drum takes and the guitars and everything, so when someone comes in with a fresh mind and has a lot of good ideas, it's very easy. So it's a very cool thing, and especially with Micke, we're very good friends, so it was a good experience.CoC:
On the drums, you had Dan Swano, with whom you've been working for a really long time now -- how are things going with him?JR:
It's going well, but the thing is that he didn't have anything to do with the album except for the drumming, so he just came down... actually, the album was recorded at Sunlight Studios, here in Stockholm, so we just called up Dan -- we know that he's a very talented drummer, and we're good friends with him, since we've been working so much with him in the past, so we called him up and asked him if he could come down to Stockholm and lay down the drum tracks. I think it was a very good idea.CoC:
What's he up to these days? Not much is heard of him these days...JR:
I think he's doing the new Nightingale album; I think he's mixing it right now. He works in a music store now -- he closed down the Unisound studios, because of his family and everything. But he still has a smaller studio where he records his own stuff and other people's projects, so he's still very much into the sound thing. He also intends to release another album under the name Dan Swano, so that'll be more of a death metal album -- he's still very active.CoC:
Okay, back to Katatonia -- precisely at the time when all these bands were recording at Unisound studios, what do you believe made you stand apart from the masses?JR:
Well, I'm not sure -- it might have been that we had different ideas about our music, that most bands don't have when they go into the studio; they just want to have the same sound as their favourite album, or things like that. But I think that when we went into the studio, we started from scratch, really, and tried to work out the best sound for us. And I think it's good for Dan and for other engineers to have someone who is interested in getting an own identity -- then you can work very well together. And I think we worked very well with Dan, he's very friendly and everything. But the last two albums were recorded at Sunlight Studios [three now, including _Last Fair Deal Gone Down_ -- David], and it's the same thing, really -- if you have the time and the will to do something of your own, you can really do it.CoC:
The title of an album such as _Discouraged Ones_ has me believing that the true meaning of Katatonia has slipped through most people's fingers, even among your early followers, who may not be with you anymore since _Discouraged Ones_ -- how do you feel about this?JR:
Uh... I'm not really sure. The only thing is that I hope what people understand what we're doing today, because we still have the same vibes as always, we still have the same interests as before, and I hope that people can reach a point where they understand what we're doing today, and look upon the old stuff as we do -- it's the old material which has got us here, and that's the most important thing. We would never have sounded like _Discouraged Ones_ when we started the band, that's impossible -- we had to go through all the stages and everything.CoC:
How would you say your visual identity, which has always been an important part of Katatonia, has evolved?JR:
Well, I guess... <hesitates> when we started with _Dance of December Souls_, we were more into having a "black metal" image, but nowadays, for me it's like... the way we picture ourselves to the outside is not important at all, because I think the music is far more important. So we don't have an image, like Marilyn Manson does or whatever. We just wanted to make music that people can relate to, that people can love -- that's the most important thing.CoC:
And how did you land the cover concept for _Tonight's Decision_?JR:
Basically, we just wanted to have something that would fit the title, so we got in touch with this artist called Travis Smith, from the States -- we'd seen some of his work before, and that was very, very cool. We got in touch with him, and told him the title, _Tonight's Decision_, and we said that we wanted this to be done with blue colours, we wanted a railway -- and then he came up with this picture, and we said -- directly -- "this is the one". It's a very cool picture, it's very dark, and fits very well with the music.CoC:
Okay, since we're talking about artwork, what was the cover art to _Sounds of Decay_?JR:
Uh, it's from a film, it was Roberto from Avantgarde who came up with the picture -- you know, he has kind of morbid tastes, and he was like "I've got a perfect picture for you!". It's from a movie called "Begotten", I think, and that picture is God committing suicide, and we thought "Whoa, this is cool", and I think it's very, very dark. It's kind of morbid!CoC:
How did you like Christian Death's artwork on which Jesus Christ was giving himself a fix?JR:
I think that sometimes it's kinda cool. I don't see myself as a religious person at all, so that kind of mockery, you know, Jesus Christ getting a fix is something that's... <pauses> still tasteful. I mean, just picturing Jesus Christ on an inverted cross with knives in his body and things like that doesn't interest me -- it's too obvious and cheap. But that kind of other artwork is cooler -- I don't think it's bad or anything.CoC:
Hm, I actually thought it was a really powerful cover. One question that comes to my mind now is: what about Katatonia live? JR:
Okay, well, we haven't been playing that much at all, really. We did one tour in 1996, for _Brave Murder Day_ -- it was an European tour, a small tour. I think we had something like twenty dates with a Norwegian band called In the Woods... So that's the only tour we've done, and then we've been playing some shows in Sweden, but this was a long way back. We haven't been playing live for a very long time.CoC:
What memories do you have of the tour with In the Woods...?JR:
Even though the conditions were very bad, it was a good experience for us, because we have to play live -- I reckon there is some demand for it. We're going on a Scandinavian tour next week with Paradise Lost, so it's our first appearance since our last show in Sweden for _Brave Murder Day_ -- so we're kind of nervous! We have a new line-up with a new drummer and a new bass player, so we have to try them out.CoC:
Will you be playing material only off the last two albums?JR:
Yeah. Because we're opening for Paradise Lost, we don't have very much time to play, so it's good promotion for the new album, basically. We're going to concentrate on songs from the two last albums, because I want to keep my voice -- I don't want to sing death metal in between and ruin my voice. Maybe if we go on a bigger tour, we can figure something out to play some of the older material, because it would be a very cool thing to do. But right now, I think we'll concentrate on this because we have so little time on stage, and we have to find out how we should solve the vocal problem -- because I lost my ability to [growl], you know?CoC:
Are you looking forward to touring with Paradise Lost? I've heard that they're kind of egotistical guys...JR:
Yeah. <sighs> I don't have any hopes for the tour, but it's still a very good opportunity. I don't expect it to be a treat, I'm just expecting the worst, and we'll see what happens! <chuckles>CoC:
Okay Jonas, I have one last question: how do you think you would have reacted, back in '92, if someone had come up to you and played _Tonight's Decision_?JR:
<chuckles> Yeah, I've been thinking about that a couple of times, recently. I would probably have been shocked, and I think that I would have been thinking "oh shit, we're gonna sell out!" <we both laugh>, because in '91 and '92, I was really into death metal, it was the only thing I would listen to, I hated all other kinds of music. So I would probably think that the music's shit! <chuckles>CoC:
Okay, the last words are yours! Thanks and all the best with your new album!JR:
Oh -- thanks for the interview!Part 2: DEPEND ON DARKNESS
(shortly after the release of _Last Fair Deal Gone Down_)
by: Pedro Azevedo and Adrian Bromley
Katatonia's latest effort _Last Fair Deal Gone Down_ sees the band greatly consolidating the sound they have been developing for the last three full-length albums in this clean vocal era of theirs. The record seems to be meeting critical acclaim virtually everywhere, and Peaceville have even placed a sticker on the package saying it is possibly the best record the label has ever released. Coming from a label that has released albums by such influential bands as My Dying Bride and Anathema (and in other genres At the Gates, Darkthrone and Autopsy), that has to be quite a compliment.
"It feels good, of course", acknowledges Renkse. "We didn't ask Peaceville to do that, though, we only saw it when the album came out. But I am very satisfied with _LFDGD_. Musically it's superior to anything else we've done; we have put down a lot of time giving the material its special edge. It's more diverse and that makes it a little easier to listen to. I think it matches the sound I was looking for and hoping we'd be able to do when we first started working on song demos. _Tonight's Decision_ might have been a little darker, but on the other hand it was more of a test for us, we were trying out different things on that one."
For _LFDGD_ Katatonia have recruited two new band members. Fred Norrman's role in the band has changed from bassist to guitarist, and so his brother Mattias was brought into the fold to replace him on bass duties. Meanwhile, Jonas Renkse now concentrates exclusively on his vocals, leaving the drum kit for new member Daniel Liljekvist.
"They have adapted extremely well to Katatonia", Renkse is pleased to report. "The new bass player is Fred Norrman's younger brother, so we knew him from before. The drummer, Daniel, is very cool, very easy to work with as well. I think they've put their personal touch to whatever they did on the record and that's good for our sound. I also think the fact that we were able to rehearse as a full band made us sound better when we eventually got into the studio."
Speaking of which, Katatonia's work at Sunlight Studios was not without its difficulties this time around. Jonas explains: "It took some time to make and record this album, because we had some financial troubles which didn't allow us to be in the studio all of the time. It was a very troublesome period for us, but in the end I think it may have been good for us. We recorded from April to December last year, in small parts all of the time, and when you are away for a couple of weeks you can come back and sit down, listen to what you have done and decide if it is good or not. If there were some guitar parts we didn't like, we could take the time to think about whether it belonged there and either fix it or omit it from the album. I think we actually gained something from all of this mess, so it is cool. It is getting a lot easier for us to achieve the sound and vibe of what we want in each Katatonia record. I am a big fan of being in the studio, I am happy with our studio experiences." He adds: "We knew that the record was eventually going to come out, it was just a matter of time. We weren't worried about it being delayed, it was just something that came out from our problems with the studio and the finances."
Katatonia's songwriting process is not a linear one either, according to Jonas. "I think it's different in every record. Anders [Nystrom, guitarist] is the band's main songwriter and he can really do a lot when it comes to making music, but it comes in spurts. One day he'll be all over the place writing music and the next he'll be struggling to get a part down. Sometimes it'll be three or four months before we hear new stuff. This album we started to write once the last record _Tonight's Decision_ came out [in 1999], so it was about six or seven months of writing. It was a lot of hard work for us."
_Last Fair Deal Gone Down_ is both a varied record and still strongly Katatonia, and the material contained therein provides vast subject for discussion. Jonas reveals that his favourite tracks from _LFDGD_ are "Clean Today", "Tonight's Music" and "Passing Bird", and explains the story behind the _Teargas_ EP (which came out shortly before _LFDGD_) and its title track. "It wasn't a label decision", states Renkse. "We sort of knew when we wrote the song that if there should be a single from the album, "Teargas" would be excellent. It's short but effective. The decision to release an EP was ours as well: we had a few leftover tracks that wouldn't be on the record, so we wanted to release them as well, and then the idea to put out the _Teargas_ EP came up."
A few of the tracks on _LFDGD_ deviate somewhat from what one might expect from Katatonia in some ways; most notably the electronics on "We Will Bury You". Jonas offers some surprising revelations about that: "Well, we had to use the electronics on "We Must Bury You" since our drummer lives in another town and had already left when Anders came down to the studio saying "I made this new song last night". But I think that's cool, it gives the album more diversity and that's quite important. Also, it's a very short song, so it's not like we've changed our sound completely."
"This is something we have worked really hard to achieve, to make each song a lone chapter or sound", Renkse adds. "Our previous albums, especially _Discouraged Ones_, they are all very much alike. So, we wanted to go away from that and have each song have its own identity, and I think we pretty much succeeded there. A lot of people tell me this is quite the diverse record and I am happy to hear that. That was the plan all along, to have this sound good and be diverse."
Renkse continues: "I think we have a wide range of influences and that doesn't just come from other types of music. A lot of things happen around you and that tends to get into the music and the lyrics. Musically speaking, we have been listening to a lot of different things over the last little while and I think it shows up quite a bit on this record. People say we aren't metal anymore and I don't know how I feel about that. I think we still play heavy music, but it is really hard to shake our death metal roots. We have been listening to a lot of stuff, but not really metal or doom music. I think Tool has been a big influence on us one way or another."
"Looking back, I am not sure what we wanted to do with this sound, but it just seems to have been the way for us to grow as a band and explore new things. When this band started ten years ago, and we were playing death metal, I couldn't have foreseen what we have become and the music we are playing. It is very far from what we started out doing, but as we grow older I think we all want to make music that our parents want to listen to", he quips.
Renkse and his bandmate Fred Norrman have also produced something far less parent-friendly since Katatonia started to develop this new sound of theirs, a sound which is far from the raw emotions of _Dance of December Souls_ and the harshness of _Brave Murder Day_. This project goes by the name October Tide, under which guise Renkse and Norrman released two full-length records [CoC #30 and #41], the second of which with Marten Hanssen (of the now deceased A Canorous Quintet) on vocals. This dark and doomy project has now come to an end, however.
"Basically we did it because we thought it was fun to play guitar together, coming up with cool -- and especially for _Grey Dawn_ -- awkward riffs", Renkse explains. "There was no philosophy behind the band, and thus we couldn't really continue. Inspiration ran dry and we decided to fully concentrate on Katatonia instead. I do especially like _Grey Dawn_, because it's very different, I'd say; we wanted to do something that had not already been done, and I think that we succeeded in that at least. But there will be no more October Tide albums, we are fully occupied with the duties in Katatonia and we'd rather save our ideas for the main band."
None of the October Tide records included lyric sheets, but Jonas does produce plenty of emotional and intensely personal words for Katatonia. "I write all the time", he affirms. "I keep small notes everywhere and when it's time to do a new album I have to collect those small pieces and try to see what I was thinking about at the time -- it's sort of a puzzle to make them fit together. Luckily my lyrics often deal with similar subjects, so it's not that hard after all. Some of the lyrics for this new album I had to make up, though, since I found everything being more or less in the same style. As you say, intensely personal. And after a while I feel that it might be too much to just read about my damn problems... So "Sweet Nurse" and "We Must Bury You" especially are more fiction rather than personal lyrics. The latter coming from an article I read about some people committing an accidental murder and they had to get rid of the body. I tried to see myself in their situation, with all their fear, regret, excitement."
Jonas is not very keen on describing the kind of emotional qualities of his vocals, however. He explains: "It's hard to tell since I don't really try to achieve something special with my vocals, I just try to make them work together with the lyrics. And since the lyrics are so personal, I guess it's just me in the end. I guess there is some desperation in the vocals, if you listen close... and troubles."
As the subject of performing live is brought up, Jonas soon reveals he is not very comfortable with those situations. "I am not really fond of playing live", he admits. "It is like my nightmare, really. I am a bit shy and the stage fright just hits me when I am playing. I get real nervous, because now I am singing for the band and the focus is on me. I used to be the drummer, but now I am leading the band and it puts me in a totally different position. The reason why I make an attempt to get past the nervousness is because I like the vibe and feelings I get when I play live. I like meeting people who have and continue to support my band. I usually drink a beer or something like that before a show to kind of make me relax. Once I get on stage it all changes: I start to hear everything come into place and everyone is playing together as one and I start to feel in control. I tell you, those five minutes before you go on stage are the worst feeling for me. It is terrible, but I am getting used to it. It is all I can do."
Katatonia recently played three dates in England, Belgium and Holland [CoC #52] with all four of the other bands that were signed to Peaceville at the time (Akercocke have also joined the label since then). Despite the stage fright, Jonas reckons it was a positive experience. "It's good to play live, we need to practice our live performance since we haven't been very active on the live front, mostly due to our line-up problems. So it was good, it was good for Peaceville as well, I think, to show that they are still going strong. The gigs could have been better, I guess, but at least two of them were cool."
On a different subject, the artwork has been consistently remarkable on every Katatonia full-length since _Brave Murder Day_, and Jonas comments on that particular record first. "We found the front and back cover pictures in an archive here in Stockholm", he recalls. "They have tons of good -- and bad -- pictures, and we instantly fell for those two as both of them represented what we were doing at the time. The band picture is also cool, we had the photographer shoot our reflections in a pool of oil in an industrial area -- I think that gives the picture a darker shade than if it was just an ordinary photo."
More recently, renowned artist Travis Smith has created some impressive artwork for the last two Katatonia records; Jonas seems to be quite pleased. "This time it was a bit different, because for _Tonight's Decision_ he did most of the work in the computer, I think, but this time he actually had to go out and shoot the right pictures for us. We told him what atmosphere we wanted to be displayed through the layout and he had to get down to those shitty places, like ghettos, to catch that urban decay feeling. The cover is from inside an old shack that he had to break into, and there were beds there, with blood on them and ratty curtains and things like that. And then he found this bathroom and it was excellent to use as a cover. I personally like the picture with a sign saying "closed ahead" because that somehow reminds me of how my life can be at times."
Jonas has little to reveal about the future, but he does give some idea of how the band is feeling. "We haven't been talking about a new album yet. I think it can turn out different, though, we have to develop all the time and now we have made three albums more or less in the same style. I don't think we will get more electronic than we already are, though. The songs are the most important thing for us, a good song is always a good song, and if it sounds good when you're writing it, it can only get better. So I think we will focus on that, the songs. And then think of new ways to surround them."
Renkse ends the interview with some words on what his role in Katatonia does for him. "This just acts as a real cleansing feeling for me. To be able to write music, write lyrics and work on an album is a great feeling. Making things happen and watching them grow into such powerful pieces is just such an awesome feeling. I need to create music to be happy, 'cause if not I'd be so restless I wouldn't know what to do with myself."
Let us hope things stay that way in Katatonia for a long time to come.