Interview with Jonas of Peaceville recording artists:
CRITICALTOM: I think the new album is great. I am not just saying this to impress you, I really like it. Have there been any negative comments?
JONAS: Yes. There are always those who complain that we changed our sound. We can’t help that.
CRITICALTOM: It seems to me that you guys have created a “sound” that is unlike your beginnings. Would you say that Tonight’s Decision was the transition album?
JONAS: Yes, but it started with Discouraged Ones. After that we got signed to Peaceville. So we had more money for studio time and worked on Tonight’s Decision. With that album we finalized what we were trying to do previously and were able to move forward from there.
CRITICALTOM: All of the albums since Tonight’s Decision seem to have two elements: a certain atmospheric (creepy) unity, but each has a different feel. It is really pretty hard to describe what makes them different.
JONAS: It is hard to describe the music—and it should be. Each album we record is, in a way, a reaction to the previous one, even when it is difficult to hear the differences. We always try to react to the previous album musically, lyrically, and production wise. Last Fair Deal Going Down was about atmosphere, so Vive Emptiness was more sparse, for example.
CRITICALTOM: Is there one of your “children” (meaning albums) you favor more than the others?
JONAS: I think so, but I hold them all dear. I really like Last Fair Deal Going Down. I also have a soft spot for Tonight’s Decision personally, lyrically …
CRITICALTOM: Despite a certain “trademark sound” developing, you guys manage to make it sound so natural.
JONAS: That is good to hear. When people tell me that, it makes me happy. It is natural for us (the sound) because we have been crafting it for fifteen years now. There is a lot of work behind it.
CRITICALTOM: Is the line-up the same?
JONAS: The line-up is the same as the last three albums.
CRITICALTOM: I assume this consistency has contributed to the quality of the album? The music is super smooth.
JONAS: Yeah, it helps a lot because we know each other so well. We have been touring and gigging together for so long now we have a good feel for each other.
CRITICALTOM: This makes recording easier … ?
JONAS: Yes. This time recording was much easier. We didn’t have a hard time because we know each other so well now.
CRITICALTOM: Do you write all the lyrics?
JONAS: I do pretty much all the lyrics myself. Anders writes some once in a blue moon.
CRITICALTOM: Is there a unifying thread in the lyrics on The Great Cold Distance?
JONAS: Most of them do, but not all of them. I did not realize this until after the album was finished. That is when I came up with the title, The Great Cold Distance. I was listening to the lyrics and realized that there was a common link. It is about the distance people keep between each other. You keep a distance to avoid getting hurt. Again, I realized this after hearing the whole thing. Writing is such an intense process that I am not always aware of these connections.
CRITICALTOM: Which come first, music or lyrics?
JONAS: I tend to write things all the time—small extracts of lyrics. When recording time comes I tell Anders about them and we discuss various themes I have in mind.
CRITICALTOM: Tell me about the song, “My Twin.” What is it about and why was it chosen as the first single?
JONAS: It’s pretty accessible but also definitely Katatonia. So it felt like an obvious choice for a single.
When I wrote the lyrics for this song I wasn’t thinking of a specific thing, but generally about family, friends … just a feeling. When we recorded it we instantly felt like it would do well. “Feeling” is very important.
CRITICALTOM: Yeah, I get that. “Feeling” is a word that I think is appropriate for describing your music. I think one of my favorite songs is “My Sweet Nurse” because it is totally creepy! What was that about?
JONAS: Yeah, it’s creepy. I was trying to imagine what it would be like to be in an institution.
CRITICALTOM: No lyrics about the devil or the apocalypse? (I laugh)
JONAS: Maybe in the beginning or on a demo or something. I try to stick to down-to-earth topics.
CRITICALTOM: There are bands with albums that are impressive to listen to. Then there are bands with albums that you want to listen to again and again. Katatonia is one of those bands I like to hear over and over. What do you think it is about your music that draws people?
JONAS: Maybe because there is some honesty in the lyrics? I think the word “honesty” sums us up pretty well.
CRITICALTOM: Me too. (Really. I cannot think of a more appropriate word.)
CRITICALTOM: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard Katatonia before?
JONAS: It is honest music. You can count on the honesty. It is also dark, but not too dark.
CRITICALTOM: Are you pessimists or optimists?
JONAS: That is hard to say. I can understand how the music may appear to be pessimistic, but it is such a joy to record and be in a band that I cannot feel too pessimistic.
CRITICALTOM: Do you find that doing interviews brings self-understanding to the band?
JONAS: I sometimes learn something about our band from doing interviews. It really depends on the interview.
CRITICALTOM: Are there any down sides to being in a band?
JONAS: It is very time consuming, especially for me and Anders. There isn’t much time for anything else, like a steady job. Money is an issue. We have a lot of expectations to live up to. But I shouldn’t complain. I am willing to make that sacrifice.
CRITICALTOM: Any books you would recommend?
JONAS: My favorite is Catcher in the Rye. I like an author named Paul Auster. He has a series of books called the New York Trilogy. I recommend these especially for fans of Katatonia.
CRITICALTOM: How about CDs?
JONAS: One that has stayed in my CD player the last three months is Nine Horses by David Sylvian, a sort of jazzy mixed with electronics; dark at times.
JONAS: Tool. They are a unique band. Very special.
CRITICALTOM: Favorite up-and-coming bands?
JONAS: Madder Mortem … quality stuff.
CRITICALTOM: Yeah, we really like Madder Mortem in our house.
I am proud to say that Jonas told me this was a very good interview. It was a real pleasure talking with him; not just because I like Katatonia so much, but because he is very friendly and engaging.