Viola and I had a chance to attend the Katatonia concert in Chicago at Reggies Rock Club (you can see our concert review here). But earlier during the day, we had a rare opportunity to chat with Daniel Liljekvist, the drummer of Katatonia.
We met Daniel in the stifling heat of Reggies’ green room (although the only green thing about it was a sickly fluorescent lightbulb flickering overhead). The rest of the band was relaxing on nearby couches. One of the guys had music playing on his laptop, and we were pleasantly surprised to hear a Norah Jones song later in the interview. With a fan blowing in our faces to cool the oven-like temperature, we got down to business.
Contrapuntist: We always find we get interesting responses when ask this, so to start us off can tell us what kind of music was played in your home as a child and what compelled you to go into music?
Daniel Liljekvist (DL): Well, my house [it] was a lot of ABBA. No rock and roll music or heavy metal music at all. Like 80s hit music and ABBA most of the time. My grandparents listened to 40s and 50s music like jazzy, bluesy stuff.
Contra: What was it that got you into heavy metal? What was your first experience with heavy metal?
DL: You know, I really didn’t listen to heavy metal or rock and roll at all until Rage Against The Machine came out with their first album. And then I was like, whoa.
Contra: And that was your introduction to rock and roll and heavy metal?
DL: Yeah before that it was Nirvana and Pearl Jam and the whole grunge scene. But Rage Against the Machine just blew my mind. After that it was Korn, Deftones and those kinds of bands. Now, I am beginning to head back to the old school stuff like Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin.
Viola Da Voce: For people who are not familiar with Katatonia, how would you best describe your music to new listeners?
DL: Dark, mellow metallish, rock and roll, Swedish, depressive, fall music; like fall as in autumn. We want it to be cold and dark when you listen to it.
VV: What was the first album you listened to from Katatonia before joining the band?
DL: I never heard them before I joined them. My first album was Tonight’s Decision and that was when I joined the band and started touring.
Contra: What were you doing before Katatonia and how did you end up joining the band?
DL: I had loads and loads of demo bands, [garage] bands. I had a band together with the brothers Norman, the two guys who just left Katatonia. We had a band together. At that time I didn’t know that Fredrik was playing in Katatonia. It was September 1999 and they had a tour coming up with Paradise Lost in Scandinavia, but they weren’t a band. It was only Janos, Anders and Fredrik and they obviously needed a bass player and a drummer. So Fredrik said, “Let’s try Daniel for the tour.” So I tried for drums and Mattias tried for bass and from there it just kept on going.
Contra: So how has your relationship evolved in the band? Do you participate in some of the song writing?
DL: I wouldn’t say participating. I come up with ideas. I leave the song writing to these two because they are fucking geniuses when it comes to making music. [DL points to Jonas and Anders sitting in the middle of the room]. I contribute with cool drum beats and arrangement ideas, but I can’t make up any leads or riffs.
VV: It has been about a year since the Night is the New Day was released. Has the reception towards the new album from critics and fans been what you expected?
DL: It’s been better than expected, it’s been overwhelming actually. The Euro tour in the spring, almost every show was sold out. This is gonna sound kind of stupid, I haven’t read a bad review of the album. The summer festivals have been overwhelmingly well. I speak for everyone in the band, everything has been overwhelmingly great. Everything.
Contra: Night is the New Day is very atmospheric. Where did the inspiration come from to create the atmosphere?
DL: Just everyday life, I think. It’s how we live.
Contra: So there wasn’t a particular movie or something you listened to?
DL: Anders and Jonas write most of the music, but I heard them answering this question before and it’s like movies. Like Anders, in particular, can come up with a song idea when he is watching a movie. Everything you take in comes out through the instruments and the music. And living up there in Sweden it’s like 6 to 7 months of winter and 3 months of summer, so it is pretty dark and cold up there. It explains a whole lot about the music too.
Contra: So it is the natural landscape and climate that plays a role in how your music comes out?
DL: Oh yeah.
VV: There is a lot of debate in the metal world about clean vocals versus growling vocals. And I know Jonas started out as a growling singer, suffered an injury and moved towards clean vocals. And there are a lot of metal fans that think clean vocals are not strong enough or are too old school for current metal music. How would you address fans who feel that way?
DL: I would say, get you own band. And do what you feel like doing. If you want clean vocals, fine. If you want growling vocals, fine. We are doing what we want to do and I think all the bands out there are doing what they want to do. I don’t know what to say. Just get your own band and do what you want to do.
Contra: How do fan reactions to Katatonia’s performances differ around the world?
DL: Yes, there are a lot of differences. In Europe, you have a lot of listeners and dreamers in the audience. Some places are really crazy. Like Poland, they go nuts. Spain and Italy, they go nuts when we play. Like over here, people are very relaxed and like screaming in between songs, and in the middle of songs like cheering and everything. We played in Mexico three years ago, and that was crazy. Yeah, that was really crazy. I think we are heading back to South America sometime this year. I heard some crazy shit going on down there.
Contra: So I know you just started the US tour, but how has the US audience response been so far?
DL: Yeah, it’s been all positive so far. No, booing so far. [We all laugh] So yeah, it’s been good.
VV: I read in a previous interview that the band likes to watch movies while on tour to pass the time. What have you seen lately?
DL: I saw a pretty stupid James Bond movie yesterday on the bus. I don’t know which one it was, but it was pretty bad. I love Swedish movies. How to do you say in English, an all eater?
Contra: Do you mean, all-you-can-eat?
DL: Yeah, I like all kinds of movies, really.
Contra: Is there a particular Swedish film maker that really gets to you more than some of the others?
DL: Yes, but what it his name though? His name is Fares Fares. [Daniel has a brief discussion in Swedish with Anders.] Yeah, the director is Fares Fares. He is really good, but you can’t see his movies anywhere else but in Sweden.
Contra: And that is why I was wondering because every culture has a particular fascination with movie directors and actors. Aside of Fares Fares, is there another director that an American culture might be interested in?
DL: No. [We all laugh.] No, actually, I don’t think so. That is too hard of [a] question.
VV: What else do you like to do to pass the time during your down time?
DL: Play video games, just hang out. Actually, when we go to Texas, we are going to the gun range. [In the background, other members of Katatonia chime in by saying, “for sure.”] I mean, there isn’t much to do. I mean you wake up and you are at the venue. You dress. You go down to the green room. You sound check. You eat. You hang out and do interviews.
Contra: Do you jam?
DL: We can’t jam. We don’t have time. There is so much to do, like interviews all day. Meet and Greets. And then you have to eat and greet. Sleep. Drink beer. It’s hard to be a rock star. [We all laugh.]
Contra: But you wouldn’t take any of it back would you?
DL: No. [We all laugh some more.] I can’t wait for the days off so we can watch more movies.
Contra: In a video interview you discussed bands and specific albums that have served as a major source of influence, what bands and albums have you heard recently that have made impression upon you that could influence upcoming Katatonia albums?
DL: Lately [it] has been MUSE actually; MUSE and Bad Religion and some Alice in Chains. There is this Norwegian band, Röyksopp. It’s electronic music and I’m a huge fan of their music. And there is also this Swedish girl, Robyn, who is also electronic.
Contra: What would surprise Katatonia fans the most that you listen to?
DL: Hmmm… It would probably be electronic music, like Robyn and Röyksopp. Yeah, Röyksopp.
Contra: Do you listen to any music outside of popular music like jazz, world music, or even classical music?
DL: No, not really. I mean, I if I hear it, I listen to it.
VV: Katatonia set high expectations to “out do” what the band had previously did with Night is the New Day. So where do you hope to go musically for the next album?
DL: Ask Anders. What do you have up your sleeve for the next album?
Anders Nyström: Up the sleeve? Dare I say another masterpiece? No really, the next album we haven’t started writing for it yet, but we are planning the concepts. I am not saying it is a conceptual record, we are just planning the concepts early on now. But we are so busy touring that we haven’t written anything yet. One thing is for sure and this is a promise, if it isn’t better than Night is the New Day, it will never come out. So there you go.
Contra: So what lies ahead for Katatonia? What can fans expect?
DL: Touring, touring, touring, touring.
Contra: You mentioned a possible South American Tour?
DL: Maybe. And we are going to Australia, New Zealand, there is a Scandinavian tour coming up. I don’t know what happens next year, but probably… [deep sigh]… more touring.
Contra: Do you think it will be another year before you head back into the studio to record a new album?
DL: I think there is going to be at least one more American tour and one more Euro tour. I hope we can go with a bigger band as a support act to make some new fans.
Contra: What would be a dream band for Katatonia to support?
DL: To support? For me personally, I think the Deftones and Katatonia would make a really good tour. Because I think we could share a lot of fans. The music is not that different, to me. I hear some Katatonia stuff in Deftones, and I am a huge fan of Deftones. I get inspired by listening to them, so yeah. I would love it.
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