Rock Sins were lucky enough to sit down to have a chat with the legend that is Katatonia’s frontman Jonas Renkse just before their headline show at the Garage in Highbury, London last month, here’s what he had to say:
Rocksins: Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us, how has the tour been going so far?
Jonas: Its been perfect. So far on the tour we’ve had like five sold out shows, coming to the UK the audience has been overwhelming, we’re very flattered.
Rocksins: Fantastic, it’s always good to hear that
Rocksins: What made you choose Swallow The Sun to come on the tour? Was that the bands choice, or the record company, or a bit of both?
Jonas: It was partly our choice because we know the guys, we have toured with them before and they’re from Finland so we’ve hung out, I think it’s a good bill, musically we’re not too different but we’re able to give the audience a bit of different styles. Also with the German band (Long Distance Calling), so I think it’s a perfect bill.
Rocksins: Are you looking forward to playing Hammerfest (festival in North Wales) tomorrow? Playing a festival like that is a little bit different (from the rest of the tour).
Jonas: I think it will be fun because we have shorter playing time so it means we can just go up there and do our thing and then watch some other bands, meet up with people we know and just hang out.
Rocksins: Are there any other bands playing in particular that you’re looking forward to catching up with?
Jonas: You know I’m not sure which bands are playing, I haven’t seen the lineup, I’d like to see the guys from Napalm Death, but you know its always good to get the chance to hang out for a bit. It’s different because when we play the headline shows and then we can have a couple of beers and then its time to go to the bus and go to the next place.
Rocksins: This is the second time Katatonia has been to the UK quite recently, how did the Paradise Lost tour go?
Jonas: It was good. It was right when the new album (Night Is The New Day) came out so we didn’t have time to rehearse the new songs for that tour so we just did one new song on that tour and now we’re back and we’re playing five or six songs off the new album, which is of course what we’re here to do (promote the new album). But it was a nice experience, getting to see the Paradise Lost guys again, playing the UK is always good for us!
Rocksins: Do you think the Paradise Lost tour got the band any new fans or do you think because Katatonia and Paradise Lost have been quite closely associated down the years do you think most people already knew who you were?
Jonas: Yeah I think you’re right about that (people already knowing them)..maybe some of them didn’t like us before, hopefully we made a good impression
Rocksins: Once you leave the UK you’re going all round Europe and I know you are going to a few places you’ve not been to before, is there anywhere in particular you are looking forward to playing?
Jonas: Yeah, Bulgaria we have never played so that will be nice, Israel we have never played before, even though I think our first ever fan letter came from Israel…
Jonas: Yeah, back when we’d just done our demo tapes, so at least there will be one person there.
Rocksins: Well hopefully that person is still around and makes it to the show
Jonas: I hope so, also, we’re going back to Russia, we have been there before but just a couple of times, and its very different playing there from the rest of Europe.
Rocksins: There has been quite a lot of talk about you heading to the US at some point over the summer, will that be before the festival season or afterwards?
Jonas: Its gonna be after the festival season because this tour is a long one, and we have already a couple of festivals in April and then we need to rehearse the Bloodbath stuff because we are playing five festivals with Bloodbath. Some of them are both Katatonia and Bloodbath shows on the same festival so we need to keep that in mind.
Rocksins: We can certainly appreciate that, is there any likelyhood of you playing Download or Sonisphere?
Jonas: I don’t think so, at this point we haven’t heard anything about that, but you never know.
Rocksins: Cool, looking at the rest of 2010 do you have any plans for the rest of the year beyond going to the US?
Jonas: I think we are doing the states in maybe September, and after that we will be doing a Scandanavian tour because we’re not playing Scandanavia on this tour, and there have also been talks about doing South America for the first time, that is something that we’ve looked forward to for ages.
Rocksins: Well we hope you get everywhere, it’s always nice to have the hometown shows.
Jonas: Yeah, its a very busy year coming up
Rocksins: This will be your busiest year of touring that you’ve done, I know previously you have said that you aren’t always that keen on touring, do you feel that is still the case or do you think you have gotten more used to it?
Jonas: Yeah, this is definitely our busiest year for sure, I’ve definitely gotten more used to it. I think now that we have some touring under our belts we get along with it much better. For every tour that we do we try to improve, you know for this tour we have two new members which has been…a difficult situation, but we have rehearsed songs that we have never played live before.
Rocksins: Do you think with everything that has happened in the band (guitarist Fredik Norrman and bassist Mathias Norrman both left the band in December 2009 after 15 and 10 years respectively), you would be looking to bring in new members to the band permanently or just keep it with the 3 of you (Jonas, guitarist and fellow founding member Anders Nystrom and drummer Daniel Liljekvist) and then have session guys come in for the tours?
Jonas: I don’t know, it depends what the other guys think of this, how the new guys fit into the band, if we are happy with them and they would like to continue, I wouldn’t see a problem with that. We have asked them to keep time for Katatonia this year, they know the songs, so I wouldn’t mind. (If they don’t stay) you have to keep doing auditions, you have to teach people the songs, thats always a bummer.
Rocksins: Well its good to hear you have found some guys that you are happy with
Jonas: Yeah, we’re totally happy. We knew Sodomiser (Per Eriksson), the guitar player, from before, he has been a friend of the band for ages but also the bass player (Niklas Sandin), he’s a great bass player and a really easy going guy, so yeah I’m very happy.
Rocksins: You mentioned Bloodbath, I know Bloodbath are playing Bloodstock here, is that going to be the only UK show this time round for Bloodbath?
Jonas: Yeah I think so.
Rocksins: One of the things we have done is ask people on our website to write in if they have any questions, one of the questions asked was is there any chance of an Opeth / Bloodbath / Katatonia tour? I know you have said it has nearly happened a couple of times in the past…
Jonas: Yeah it nearly did, I could see it happening if the tour wasn’t that long…
Rocksins: I can imagine if it did happen the tour would be pretty heavy going..
Jonas: Yeah, especially for Martin (Axenrot), the drummer from Opeth and Bloodbath, to do two sets in one night, it would be pretty heavy
Rocksins: Indeed, and he’s one of the best drummers going.
Jonas: He’s a machine, but he’s also human so we would need some rest. I think for a short while, it would be a cool thing to do, maybe like a UK tour, or a German tour, I could see that happening.
Rocksins: Well we know there are an awful lot of people who would like to see it happen so we hope if you can do it it happens here in the UK!
Rocksins: Changing topic slightly, I know that as a band you have said in between doing the last album (The Long Cold Distance) and recording Night Is The New Day it was one of your more difficult recording processes. I know its been quite a while, but with the response to the new album, everyone seems to think its some of your best work, you must be delighted with the reponse.
Jonas: Oh yeah, I couldn’t ask for more you know? It’s been a struggle to get there, one and a half years ago I wouldn’t have pictured myself sitting here doing interviews for the new album or even having a new album because we didn’t have any new songs, we were still doing gigs for the previous album but we felt that something had to happen soon. We tried to write some stuff but we felt it didn’t sound very interesting so in January (2009) I sat down and began to really focus on what would be the new album, from there it just kept growing.
Rocksins: As you’ve mentioned this year is pretty much taken up with solid touring, have you thought about when there might be a new album after all that or will you just tour with Night Is The New Day and see how it goes?
Jonas: I think we will just keep on touring while there is a demand for it, but I would think that we will maybe start looking into new ideas in early 2011.
Rocksins: Do you think the fact that Night Is The New Day has been so popular and so well received, that puts more pressure on you for the next album?
Jonas: Absolutely, especially if people want us to tour as much as possible the management would say stuff like “oh you can write songs on the bus” but for us thats never going to happen, we need to be in a certain place
Rocksins: I guess some people like to write on the road and some people don’t
Jonas: Yeah, we have never done it, we have tried to do some riffs and ideas but I need the privacy of my own home, I need to know I have plenty of time to arrange and rearrange things. Its all about the songs, even if you come up with a cool riff, what do you do then? you have to create something more, something that makes sense to go with it. So its a struggle but its such a relief when its done and you are happy with it, as was the case with this album.
Rocksins: Its really good to know you are happy with it
Jonas: I’m super happy, I think its our best album. Every album has nostalgic value to me and also in terms of musical quality I think we have some peaks on some albums but on this album with production, song writing, performance of every member, its the way we want to sound.
Rocksins: Not that you have always toured extensively in the past, but when you have toured, have you guys got a favourite band that you have toured with? I know you have toured with Paradise Lost a few times for example.
Jonas: I’d like to tour with Opeth again, we toured with them in 2001 which was ages ago, we’re such good friends so that would be just perfect. We could share the bus with them. I know they don’t share their bus with other bands but maybe for us they might make an exception.
Rocksins: A question that we like to ask everyone, apart from your own new album is there anything that maybe you have been listening to yourself recently that you would recommend to anyone reading the interview?
Jonas: You know I always try to come up with something when I get asked this question but sometimes your mind just goes blank you know, the new Muse album I think is good, its a bit ABBA sounding but its very unique, Porcupine Tree are always a killer band, I haven’t had much time to listen to their new album but the last one (Fear of a Blank Planet) was one of the best albums in the last 5 or 6 years.
Rocksins: Awesome, well thats just about it, one last question; Is there anything in particular you would like to achieve for the rest of this year?
Jonas: It comes with the touring you know, meeting people, playing to the people that come out to see us, thats good enough for me. Its such an honour to play for people who want to see you. I’ve been doing this for so many years now but when I see a queue outside a gig that feeling never disappears.
Editors Note: Since this interview, Katatonia have been confirmed to play Sonisphere Knebworth at the end of July, make sure you go and see them, you won’t regret it.