Basically, you could say that we get better at songwriting. These days for us it’s all about the songs and that’s where we want to be. And listening to other artists and bands, you can easily hear when something is being done so right. That is a spark, to hear that someone is doing something that matches in every part of the song. That’s where you want to be and that’s what you have to work for. Doing this album—I can say we’ve been working very hard on the songs to make them flow, adding stuff and taking away stuff all the time until the mixing of the album. We like to do spontaneous stuff in the studio, and also, there might be parts I was working on for a song that I might be super-happy with when I was working at home that just don’t work out in the studio. You can hear this part is not necessary anymore. Then you have to take it away. I think at some point you have to stop and say the song is finished, it’s not going to be any better in our hands. Then you move onto the next one and eventually you end up with an album. Then it’s up to the people to say if it’s good or not. I think what we have created with this album is at the height of our songwriting at the moment. I’m really happy with the result.
I was fortunate enough to see you guys in New York when you last came around. In listening to this album, it seems like any of these songs would work live. Is that something you think about when you’re putting the record together?
Not really. Some of the songs you can easily hear when you start working on it that this part is great for live, but not all of it. First of all, it has to work in the studio, then you have to be able to reproduce it live in some way. What you just said, that’s something I’ve been thinking about now that the album’s finished and I listen through it, that actually every song on the album has some kind of live quality to it, if it’s done right. It’s difficult to play live as well, but if we were to rehearse every song on this album, I think it would be playable in the live situation, because every song has certain qualities that I think would come through live in a good way.
At this point, you have a back catalog that you know you can’t play everything. Is it difficult for you choosing which of the newer material you want to have represent the album live?
Yeah. I think that’s a bit of a struggle that we always go through, because everybody in the band has their own certain favorites on the album. Then you’re seeing the response from the people when the album is released, which songs they are expecting us to play live and which are their favorite songs in general. And you have to take everything into picture when you eventually have to choose four or five songs from this album. It’s a very strange situation, to nail it down to just four or five, but of course you can rehearse most of them and replace the songs, but I think it’s a mix between what do we think will work best in the live situation and what do people expect us to play, because of course we want people to be happy after a Katatonia gig, that we played the songs they wanted to hear the most.
You personally and the band, are you aware of fan expectations? Is there pressure to live up to the last record?
Yeah, I think that’s something we felt before the writing process started. Rightfully, people have high expectations, because I think The Great Cold Distance was a great album for Katatonia. We put some pressure on ourselves, of course, but seeing what other people expect is healthy in a way, because it makes you have to really concentrate and do your best. Of course, that’s something you want to do all the time, but I think it’s even better to have the pressure from outside as well. I think if we felt we wouldn’t be able to top the last album, we would still be writing these songs. But when we eventually started writing for this album, I think we immediately felt we had something going that would be on par with The Great Cold Distance, or even better. Now when I listen back to the new album, I think it’s better than The Great Cold Distance, but I have to say that is a favorite album for me. I think that’s a great Katatonia record.
Do you have plans for touring yet? Are you coming back to the U.S.?
We’re planning a headlining tour of Europe in early spring, and as it looks now—this is not definite—I think we’re going to North America straight after the Europe tour, in April or something like that. Right now we’re going to support Porcupine Tree on a Scandinavian tour, then we’re going to England to support Paradise Lost on their UK leg of their European tour. It will be a lot of rehearsals for us and try to find songs we haven’t played from the back catalog, then early spring we will be ready to do both Europe and North America. It’s busy times ahead, which I really like.