Few death metal bands of the 1990s started out as two-piece acts. Even fewer played fast-paced, melodic metal with cookie monster vocals so adeptly, and then eased into progressive rock with clean vocals and undertones of electronica. Today, after almost two decades of self-exploration, collaborations, and the addition of three members, Katatonia still doesn’t know what to call its sound. “I’m not interested in tagging music. We’re still just Katatonia,” says vocalist Jonas Renkse.
Having recently concluded their Europe tour, the now five-piece band is scheduled to perform in Mumbai on December 21 as part of IIT Mumbai’s cultural festival, Mood Indigo. This will be their first India tour, and the band is upbeat about playing from their latest album, Night Is The New Day. a hit among critics. However, Renkse wants to be just as fair to fans that stood by Katatonia when they played death / doom metal. “We will also play a lot of fan favourites. Those always range from the usual stuff to those from the first album,” Renkse says.
Song requests are expected to be wide-ranging considering the varied styles of music they’ve dabbled in over the years. However, they assert that their influences have always been the same. “Even back when we had our death/ black metal sound, we were listening to alternative bands such as Fields Of The Nephilim and The Cure. It’s tough to say if our next album will sound like our previous ones. In any case, I don’t see the band regressing to its early days,” Renkse adds.
Although the band’s inspirations are drawn from all genres and cultures, Renkse admits to not having heard much Indian metal. However, he’s keen to collaborate with local musicians after the tour. “I’m sure there are cool metal bands in India, and we’d love to hear them. It isn’t on our immediate agenda, but we’re always up for collaborations,” he says.
Katatonia is a 1991 Swedish metal band formed in Stockholm by Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström. The band has now put behind its doom metal phase and progressed to achieve a much cleaner sound.
Jonas Renkse in conversation:
Quite a lot of Scandinavian death metal is bluesy guitar riffs and melodic chords followed by harsh growls and the speed guitar. Where have you derived this mix?
Some of the melancholy in our general music comes from Swedish folk music, which is very melancholic. It's not something I listen to but I think it might be there in the back of our minds.
How was it to collaborate with Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth? Being Swedish, didn’t you ever think of composing death metal in Swedish?
We are good friends so we just asked him to sing when I lost the capability to perform growls. Death metal in Swedish is not something I'd want to try out... it would sound weird.
Your shift from death vocals to clean vocals was perhaps the most defining moment of your career. What brought that along?
It was just that when our music expanded, we figured the clean vocals could really bring even more dimensions to the sound.
Which non-metal bands are you a fan of?
My favourite artist is Mark Kozelek from Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon. Other than that, I listen to Nick Drake, Talk Talk, Jeff Buckley, Ben Christophers... the list goes on.
How was it playing at Hammerfest this year? How did your Europe tour go? Did you get to see Napalm Death play live? Hammerfest was nice, but I didn’t catch Napalm Death. The Euro tour was a great success for us. Many people came out to see us and we felt very welcome!
Do you think Katatonia would have had a different history had the reach of the Internet been just as wide when you started?
Hard to say. Back when we started you had to trade tapes (with other musicians) to become “known”. These days, you only need a bit of hype on a forum. But I'm happy that we have been part of both ways, old and new. It makes us even stronger!
Katatonia will perform ‘live’ at the IIT Mumbai campus on December 21. Log on to www.moodi.org/katatonia for passes. The first 500 requests will be be charged Rs 399 per pass.