Jonas Renske of Katatonia
Before their recent performance in Worcester, singer and songwriter Jonas Renske spoke with us about the band’s new record, Katatonia’s bleak sound, and more.
Interviewed by: Brian Cross
Dead End Kings just saw worldwide release about a month ago. How does it feel?
It feels great to finally have it out. It’s what you’re always aiming for when you do a new album, to have it released to the world. It feels great to have it out and start a new touring cycle! Everybody’s really happy.
What was the songwriting process for Dead End Kings? Did it start shortly after Night is the New Day‘s release?
I actually started right away, but not very focused. Just trying to come up with a few ideas. We did a lot of touring for Night is the New Day, and when it was time to start the real writing, I had a lot of material lying around. Then we just gathered up and collected ideas together, me and Anders (Nyström, guitarist). It was really smooth this time; it was a really creative process.
Was there anything specific you were aiming for with the new record?
I think we only want to – these days – finetune the songwriting as much as possible. Just write even better songs for the next record. So the big inspiration is to go ahead and write great songs!
What’s the meaning behind the title?
Yeah, I think there are plenty of meanings, but for us personally I think it’s a little bit about the band. We’ve been going for such a long time, and it’s not always a really successful journey, but we still feel like we’re kings of what we’re doing. We never really had to compromise with our sound; we always went for our own creative approach with everything. Even if we’re in a dead end, we’re still the kings.
Are there any tracks on the record that you’re particularly proud of?
It actually differs from time to time. When the album was done, I had my favorites, but now that we’ve started playing songs live, it changes a little bit because you’ve got another perspective on them. For me, I like “Hypnone.” I like all of the songs, of course! And “The One You Are Looking for is Not Here” came out really beautiful with the guest vocals by Silje (Wergeland, from The Gathering).
Katatonia’s music has often been described as “bleak.” Do you agree with this assessment? How else would you describe your own music?
I do think it’s bleak. That’s the kind of music that we like, ourselves! And that’s the kind of music that we want to do. It represents our personalities. It’s definitely not the wrong thing to say; the music is bleak, but I like to think of it as also beautiful. Sometimes those two feelings go hand in hand.
What are some of your biggest influences outside of the metal scene?
We have a lot! Even since the beginning of the band, we listened to a lot of non-metal music like the Cure and Fields of Nephilim. These days, I’m really into an American songwriter called Mark Kozelek. He used to have a band called Red House Painters. Now he’s got a band called Sun Kil Moon which I think is probably one of my favorite artists of all time. It’s just genius. And it’s still that kind of melancholic music, but not metal music. I think what we’re doing by taking in influences from non-metal music makes our sound more broad.
Where do you see Katatonia’s music evolving in the future?
It’s hard to say because right now, I think we’re very comfortable with the style that we’re doing. I think we have a great mix of heavy stuff and mellow, atmospheric stuff that we still love to do. The next album might be very different, or it could be the same kind of foundation and then just trying to top everything that we’ve done before. It’s really hard to say, but it will be bleak.
Do you have an opinion on the shift towards digital delivery methods for music, rather than CDs or vinyl?
I think it’s not something that you can stop. People are getting more and more comfortable with buying stuff online; files instead of CDs. I think it’s a bit tragic, because when I grew up, I loved going to record shops. And today, there aren’t any record shops anymore; you can buy CDs from a gas station! The young generation will never get that feeling. Maybe they get it from browsing on iTunes, but for me, it’s totally not the same thing. Of course, you can’t stop technology.
Do you have a preferred medium?
I still try to buy [physical] records. But as I said, it’s hard to find them.
Do you get them on vinyl?
[Usually] not vinyl, because I don’t have a record player. I like the format, though, so I sometimes buy vinyl just to have it, because it looks good! [I buy] CDs, still, but I also use streaming, like Spotify. I think it’s great for finding new stuff that you hadn’t heard before. It’s easy to stroll around and find related artists, and that’s fine…but I really like the physical product.
Any last words for your fans?
As always, thanks for the support; it’s the most important thing. And I’m really happy to be back here in North America!
Check out our review of the Katatonia show at The Palladium in Worcester, MA here