Pain Of Salvation

Interview date

23 Septembre 2011




Interview Daniel Gildenlöw (by phone)

Hello Daniel, thanks for this interview for the French webzine, we appreciate you taking the time

No problem.

Let's go back to early summer, to get started. How did it go for you at the Hellfest? Did you guys, like the atmosphere? The crowd? The beer?

Hellfest is always nice. I guess we are not really hardrock in the alcohol sense, so beer is fine I guess [laughs]. But every time we come back we have a bigger crowd. And that is very nice to see that development.

It's a rather eclectic festival, with and eclectic selection of artists, and with an eclectic crowd...

Yes and that suits us well, because we are pretty eclectic ourselves.

I personally loved your show, but I'm biased. Do you think you managed to capture some new fans of the PoS sound there ?

It's hard to say. From the stage all you see is a huge amount of people standing and singing along and jumping. So it's very difficult to know if you are bringing new people in. But we can see that the crowd is getting bigger every time we play there, so I guess things are changing.

I noticed you guys handled your sound check yourselves, is that because you like doing it or because you have no money left to pay a sound engineer ?

[laughs] It depends on the kind of gig we play. Hellfest is a nice festival, but maybe not the best paying one. So we flew there with the smallest crew possible. We are pretty picky when it comes to setup our gear, which means it's almost impossible to put it in the hands of someone else. On a tour we bring our sound engineers and they know exactly what to do. On top of that, our guitar technician moved to the States, studying at the MIT, or Berkeley I cannot remember, to become a sound engineer, so we have to train someone new.

I was next to you in the crowd during the Judas Priest set, and we spoke a little after the set and I took a nice picture of the band, it was really nice to see you there, it means you are still fans of other bands? And you are not scared of mixing up with the crowd? You guys are really cool, didn't see many artists in the crowd...

When there is a big crowd, anyone would pass pretty unknown. I remember very clearly listening to Defenders Of The Faith, and I figured this is going to be the last chance to see Judas Priest anyway so why not? Most of the other bands were drinking anyway so we might as well go watching Judas. It was cool but I wanted a little more of Defenders Of The Faith, of course, I was hoping for Night Comes Down, as it's one of my absolute favorite songs. I also watched half of Ozzy Osbourne set, also the unbearable guitar solo part [laughs]

I was in London last year for business and saw you opening for Apocalyptica. I wondered why they didn't open for you instead? What happened? Something was really broken?

That was an odd combination [laughs]. What happened was that we were signing on for a new management. They were asking us to come to the UK for a meeting. But we didn't have any UK date, so we said no. So they said: we could sign you up to be opening up a few nights for Apocalyptica, would you like to do that? And I thought that it would give us an opportunity to play in the UK, because it's a difficult territory and also a good way to show the management guys what we could do. So it was a fun thing to do. The best thing for me was to see their hardcore fans, you know the dressed in black, young girls, looking really depressed, having multicolored hair and doing their best to look really bored. And I thought I'd get to them, and I think we managed to do that, song by song, we could see them get interested. That was a big reward. It was the most unlikely fanbase ever to have for Pain Of Salvation, so that was a big challenge [laughs]. It was usually with Kingdom Of Loss, that you could really get through, with the talking part and all. It was good that it was the UK, so everyone understood the lyrics, and we finally broke through even the most resistant ones [laughs]. 

I read that you will be headlining some shows too, in the coming tour. So the bad days are over ?

[laughs] The bad days? You mean the opening days? We gonna be opening for Opeth later that year so...  I don't know. When you are on the road you have to see both sides. When you are headlining, you can do exactly the show you want. And you can really trample your audience. But you are playing for people that have already seen you basically. That's the good thing with touring with other bands, is that you will be mixing your fanbase, and have a chance to play in front of new people. So we thought: yeah why not? Everyone was always saying that Opeth and Pain Of Salvation would ba a good package so...

Yes I agree with that. Are you opening for them or are you sharing the time on stage this time?

No, we are opening, that's the downside I guess but you know... whatever...

You seem to be touring not so conventional rock countries like Turkey, India systematically, do you enjoy concerts there?

Yes I love that. I love discovering new countries. We seem to go down very well there. When we played in India in January, we had 8000 people coming to the show. So that's a big difference. We had more people coming to see us than Opeth did [laughs]. So that's good. So I told Michael: when we'll play in India, you will be opening for us [laughs]. Just kidding of course. Anyway, yes it's always a nice thing to do. And you never know what to expect. With some countries you know exactly what to expect, but with some of those it's a blank page, you have no idea what's going to happen, how many people are gonna come to the show. In South America we sold out all the gigs we did.

Let's talk a bit about Road Salt now. Is this road you are following very autobiographic?

I think that anything you do is partly autobiographic, since everything you create is derived from your own experiences and the way you are emotionally structured. I decided with Road Salt, very early on, that I would break all the barriers between the autobiographic and the fictional, and just go wherever the song needed to go. So part of it is autobiographical definitively, but every song is sort of a mix.

Marillion, which I happen to also like very much had an album called Happiness is the Road. Is this the same road?

Hum, I wouldn't say happiness is the road... I think that a lot of the problems that comes in the way of living, this whole idea of looking at life as a linear process, which is a pretty new invention in the history of Men, that life is a road to some sort of goal, and of course we all know what's at the end of the road [laughs]. As soon as you are looking at life linearly, it becomes a bit difficult, because you are looking at where you want to go and where you are coming from, an that prevents you from enjoying life I think.

Are you happy about the commercial succes of Road Salt Part 1? Technically?

I wouldn't know. I tried to isolate myself from too much input. Because I know I could have ninety-nine tremendous reviews and one bad one and that's the one I'm gonna remember so I'm trying to stay away from it. I don't know commercialy either [laughs]. I try not to bother. Technically, yes, although I have found a few ways to improve the sound I was looking for on Road Salt 2. I think I'm happier with the production. But yes I'm happy with both of the albums, production wise and how they turned out.

Would you agree to say that part 1 was a first step of a shift in your sound, and part 2 a revelation of that new sound?

Yes, maybe. It could be true. I'm hope that when you listen to Road Salt 2 when it comes out, it will shed some new light on Road Salt 1, and you will actually perceive it in a different way. I mean that Road Salt 1 will grow into something else when it has the companion or the sibling Road Salt 2, side by side. I will see if that happens or not.

We saw on YouTube you participated, with the song  Road Salt, in a musical contest Melodifestivalen 2010 on Swedish TV. How did this come up? Did you like it and did you learn anything from that experience?

The Melodifestivalen is the biggest TV event on public TV in Sweden. That's how we elect our contribution to the Eurovision song contest. It's been there since I was a kid. It's every year, you watch it and you hate it, and it's always the wrong song winning but you always have a very strong relation to it. Usually it's impossible to bypass this event, the entire Swedish population revolves around it for a few weeks. I was called up by a former manager who knew the big guy of the festival, and the guy was looking for material for the festival, and almost by accident, he heard a live recording of Undertow from Turkey, that we did. And he was all fired up because he loved the vocals and the honesty, and said this was real, these guys should really send something in. So this guy calls me and I was at the local zoo with my family that day, and he told me about the conversation, and if we could send some songs in. At that time we had all the songs from Road Salt 1 ready but our distribution company had gone bankrupt so, everything had come to a halt, the album should have been released already. So I said yes I can do that. I sent Sisters, initially, it was my first choice, I made a 3 minutes cut of Sisters, and thought if any song should be in it it's got to be this one. And then I thought No Way should be pretty cool too, more like a rocker kind of song, so I made a shorter cut of it too. And then I thought I also had Road Salt, the Melodifestivalen is very soft, so I removed a section so the song was 3 minutes and thought yeah why not, and sent that in as a bonus. When I received that phone call that so many musicians in Sweden are waiting their entire life for, when they called and said: hello Daniel I'm blablabla from the Melodifestivalen 2010, and I just wanted to say that your song Road Salt has entered the contest this year. And they would have expected something like: yeaaaaaaaahhh, but I said: What? That song? He was confused: I don't know what other song you have sent in, sir. It was great fun. We all had a good time. It was like a music vacation for us doing that. It's a 3 minute gig every night, and it's a whole week of production. It's wonderful to be part of this huge machinery with people taking care of everything, it's like being royalty for a week. It was quite nice. Lots of the other artists though the schedule was very hectic and they were really stressed up. But to us, having been on many tours, we were like: Seriously? Come on! We made it to the second round, it was a surprise.

With Part 2, you continue with the 70s sound, the raw production, and indeed in songs like Conditioned, or Eleven we can definitely hear the sound of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix or Cream, is this what you were looking for?

What I tried to do is think about the 70s as a point of departure, and then imagine that the 80s, 90 and 00s had taken a different course. That after the 70s, instead of having the 80s, and that sort of production that developed as a crime toward production. I tried to imagine if the production had been kept in the tangent, kept in the direction that it was heading in the 60s, then the 70s and continue in that direction, imagine what the sound would be like today. Sort of a modern take on the 70s, with the fictive assumption that the 80s, 90s and 00s would have looked different. This would have been the end result I think.

So you don't like the over production that we hear today? Isn't that the same as in the film industry, releasing a black and white movie when the technology allows for 3D movies?

No it's not the same thing. What I don't like today is the, I don't want to say cheating but that's really what it is: autotuners, sample all the drums: I mean 90% of the artists you hear today sample all their drums. They play the real drums and then they just exchange all the sounds. They put tons and tons of layers of guitars, and tons of effects on top of it. That's the plastic part of it. I like the possibilities that it would give you but I'm really gone pretty old school when it comes to the whole process. As much as possible we've played it at the same time, and not replacing any sound at all. Just using the real sounds and not dubbing the guitars unless it's crucial for a certain vibe, like getting a typical dubbed effect like on a Queen guitar for example. Try to create a good movie with real people instead of having artificial animated people.

From what you described it should be easier to get that sound on stage?

You would assume that, but it's not actually [laughs]. It's much more difficult to create a sound like that and make it work out, than create a impressive wall of sound which to me is a lot easier.

Do you know which song will be played live?

We are in the process of deciding this right now. We decided, I think: To the Shoreline, 1979, Softly She Cried, possibly Mortal Grind, we have to try and see. Which one would you like?

I think that The Deeper Cut would be great live...

Yes, that one of my absolute favorite written song, I have to take that up to the others... Leo is going to be really happy, when I tell him this because there is so much playing in that song, he is going to come home really fit and trained.

There is no bass player listed on the album, you played the bass, why not officially take Per, from the tour into the band, do you keep the slot for your brother one day?

[laughs] No, we simply got a little bit burnt when we had Simon in the band for a while and we decided to bring him to the band and it was a big mistake. I think it's like going into a very bad relationship, after that, you say no for a while before you form a new relationship. I mean we have Per, who has played lots and lots of bass, but he is very occupied by his family life, and he has a job in a school in Stockholm which means he is never going to move to Eskilstuna, he is gonna be in Stockholm. There are lots of bands today that work at a distance. But I want to keep Pain Of Salvation, with that sort of intimacy, at least for now. If you want to be a true part of Pain Of Salvation you have to commit to the same level as everyone else. I think that's very important.

You are the main composer for Pain Of Salvation, when you decide to shift the sound like you did for Road Salt, do the guys always follow you?

Well it seems like they think I have good ideas.[laughs] I bring that up all the time, I explained my vision and it's up to anyone to say: wait a minute... I think the only one that is sort of a little bit resistant with the idea of Road Salt is Leo who is new in the band and came from having been a fan of the band for a long time, and he knew all the tricky old material. And of course he had this extremely nice and very expensive drum kit, with lots of sustain, and I've just spent two days make that drumkit into the opposite of what it used to be. At some point he was like: what the hell have I signed up for? [laughs] But he ended up really liking it so I think that's cool.

At the end of the song The Physical Gridlock you sing in French. What was the reason for this?

I tried to find my way into the lyrics for this specific section of the song. And I just found it very difficult. I knew what I wanted to say, I knew what I wanted to express lyrically, and I tried different ways, and I couldn't until one day I was sitting in my car, that's what I usually do, I have the song without vocals in my car and I will sit there and try to find the right lyrical element. I just started to speak fake French and I just thought: ha, there it is! It locked into position. And I spend a fair amount of time writing in French which I don't master at all, I don't know French. I was constructing crosswords many years ago, so it felt like constructing crosswords again. I tried to find how to say this in French, because I wrote it in English, and I had it as a point of departure, trying to find a way of making that work out, and also finding the rhymes. Several times I thought I nailed it, I used a translator application on the iPhone and I noted that, damned, the noun comes before the adjectives, in this sentence, so the rhyme is just fucked and I have to start over again. It was an interesting thing to go through. Many times I thought I would fail. But in the end I sent it over to Léo after I was done, and I was expecting him to laugh but he was very surprised and said: How did you do this? It's correct. That was my little reward after this really stupid exercise. 

How did you like the Transatlantic tour? Saw you in Milan, you put a hell of a show there, was it fun?

Yeah. It's pretty fun to do those things. At the end of one of those tours I always long to get deep down with Pain Of Salvation again. Pain Of Salvation is more of a challenge, music wise. Which makes it interesting but also more frustrating. So it's nice to do Transatlantic or the Flowerkings for a while. It's a physical challenge because at some point I'm playing 3 or 4 instruments at the same time, and they're long concerts. After a while you want the musical challenge of Pain Of Salvation back again.

What did you think of Mike Portnoy quitting DT? It's a bit like Daniel quitting Pain Of Salvation no?

It was really odd. From a band point of view it's pretty much the same thing because he was the engine, the motor of the band. From a listening point of view it would be worst if I quit because a lot of people actually refer to a band very much to the vocals. Rightfully or not, I don't know. But on stage he was the show element and kept the show running. I got in touch with him since then a couple of times.

Any other side project from you or other members?

No not really. I have had many requests but I just don't have the time for it. If I get more time I will try that sleeping thing, it sounds like a good thing [laughs].

I will catch you in Montpellier, any last words for our readers?

Yes, be there, and watch our show, we will kick your ass as usual. We are longing to get back.

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