In the world of Swedish melodic death metal, the slew of names that came out of that scene is just staggering. Groups like At the Gates, In Flames and Opeth are just a few of the biggest names to come from that area of the world. One of the longest running bands out of that scene is Katatonia, who crossed paths with many of the bands, and actually had Opeth lead singer Mikael Akerfeldt in the band for a short stint in the mid-90’s, before Opeth had their breakthrough.
Katatonia has carrying on and performing at the top of their game since the early 90’s and released 8 studio albums, including 2009’s “Night Is the New Day”, on top of other EP’s that the band has released. Now with the band still out on the road in support of that album, the guys in Katatonia are back on tour with their old friends in Opeth as the two bands have spent most of the past month crossing the States for a night full of the best of the Swedish metal scene.
As the band was in Spokane in the thick of the tour, I had a chance to talk with guitarist Anders Nystrom about how they’re bonding with their old friends and an update on the band’s upcoming material, due out sometime in 2012.
Here’s my interview with Anders:
AM: How has the Opeth tour gone so far?
AN: It’s gone really well so far. It’s our first time out with Opeth in 10 years, when we were in Europe doing a tour with them. We’ve been impressed with the different venues we’ve been playing and a lot of the shows have been sold out. For us, it’s like just old friends being out on the road together and it’s a chance to break through to a new audience.
AM: When looking back at “Night Is the New Day”, what were some of the things you liked on it, and things you may have wanted to improve on?
AN: I liked most things about the album, to be honest. It was three years in the making and it was a real struggle to put it together, but it came out very good in the end. As we get older, we always find it tougher to beat the album before that, but that album still feels fresh even almost three years later. It had really great production and sounds quite well even now.
AM: With lineup changes, how has the band taken to writing and recording as a trio?
AN: Obviously, it wasn’t the ideal situation. The ideal situation was to have everyone contribute, but with the lineup changes at the time, we all had to take on different roles. I wouldn’t consider myself a great bass player or piano player, but these are some of the roles I picked up when doing the last album. But I have a responsibility as a composer to make sure it comes out right. I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing those instruments live, so we took our time writing and recording to get it right.
AM: Where is the band on the next album?
AN: We are in the process of writing the next album. We’re taking a break from writing to do this tour and we have to get back into the studio and find some inspiration once we’re home. We hope to be back in the studio in the winter. I think the material is in the same vein as the last album, but definitely like “Night #2”. There’s gonna be a few surprises in there, but those are taking shape as we write.
AM: What do you think makes the Swedish metal bands so unique and seen so many bands excel at this sort of music?
AN: (laughs) I don’t know if I really have an explanation actually. But if I had to take a shot at it, many of us are encouraged very early on by family and in our upbringing to get involved in arts and music. We’re encouraged by our government through funding to perform. In the late 80’s/early 90’s, there were so many bands doing that and it created this great underground music scene. Everybody were friends with everyone and it spread like wildfire. We see the younger guys trying to match that same vibe nowadays as well.
AM: Starting this band 20 years ago, did you ever envision back then that you’d still be in this band all these years later?
AN: (laughs) No, not really. I think I still have the same passion, ambition as I did before. But it’s a privilege and an dream come true to still be doing this. I’m proud of what this band has become.
Katatonia opens for Opeth at Saint Andrew’s Hall on Saturday, October 29th. Tickets are $26.50 and are available at www.livenation.com. Additional tour dates and band info can be found at www.katatonia.com.