Pain Of Salvation

Interview date

14 Novembre 2014




Interview Daniel Gildenlöw

Hello Daniel, thank you so much for this call so late in the day, I'm very please to have you online, we are, a French webzine, and we will make this interview available in English and in French

My pleasure.

First let's talk a little bit about yourself. We followed on FaceBook the problems you had early this year with your health. How do you feel? Is this now behind you for good?

Yes. I feel really good. The lower part of my back, where they had to surgicaly remove the infection, will never be the same again but I'm now in a very good shape, a better shape that I have ever been. I had to regain muscles tissues after four months spent in hospital. Because when I left hospital I would walk five steps in the staircase and I had to stop to catch my breath. I was in bed for four months, this is a long time.

What was the problem exactly?

It was a flesh eating bacteria. The bacteria has to be stopped very quickly otherwise it would kill you in just a few days. But when they stop it, and you are out of danger, the healing process is very long. You have to heal from the inside. I had this hole in my back you could literally see my spine through the hole.

Were you scared for you life at some point?

Only for a few hours. The thing is that this bacteria itself is very common, it's a throat infection bacteria. But when it gets inside your body, and it survives, which normally doesn't happen, then it starts devoring and breaking down your tissues. And when this happens, it starts spreading very quickly. I had an immense pain and I thought that they would, in the worst case, just open and remove some sort of absces. But instead they started treating me with all this different kinds of very strong antiobics, to try to kill the infection and avoid surgery. But none of this antibiotics made a difference. And I guess we have to blame ourselves for that, having misused antibiotics since the seventies. Anyways, at that point it was spreading very quickly and the pain was ... I had never felt anything close to that before. I was starting to see the doctors very concerned and realised I could be dead tomorrow if they can't stop this. But I was in so much pain at that point, that it was even difficult to be afraid. It's weird because we felt like making our way up in the hierarchy of the hospital. First you see nurses, then doctors, then at some point we met this weird doctor, which obviously was very high in the food chain, because he was so bad at social interaction [laughs] ... anyways he said that after trying a broad spectrum of antibiotics, they had found the "good bottle" [laughs]. This is the top chef, and he said, it's the antibiotic equivalent of the A Bomb! That's what he said [laughs]. We looked at each other with my wife Johanna, and we thought: it's going to be alright now, they're bringing out the A Bomb now. It was the first time we actually felt that. Because we felt they had understood the severeness now. She went home and was still in the hospital, and I started drifting away more and more. Obviously it didn't work, and the pain was still... insane, and it kept spreading. And in the middle of the night, a female surgeon, came and picked my values, and she said, ok we can't have this, we are taking you to surgery. And I'm thinking, tomorrow morning probably, but she said, no, now, we have a table waiting for you, you need to go now! That felt very weird. Going from being healthy to having an emergency surgery for a disease that could kill me, that felt really weird. As I said in another interview, it's the difference between a movie and life. In a movie the soundtrack would have sort of lead to the conclusion that this was a dangerous thing happening. But in real life, you are all the sudden in hospital, lying on possibly your death bed, and you are thinking: I didn't even say goodbye to my kids! After that I was not scared for my life anymore. Once surgery was done the healing process had started. it was hard enough but at least I lived.

You mentionned your wife and your kids, was it important for your recovery to get support from them?

Yes, definitely. I think it was not really that I needed them to support. It was just to have them being alive and being there. This was the big motivation. Many times at hospital, I was telling myself: damn I cannot do anything for them, I'm just lying here. You know when you are a kid, time is so different. A few days can feel like a lifetime, and I was gone for months. It was like the longest tour I've done aways from them. It was the suckiest one too [laughs]

Did you also manage to keep contact with the band during this period, or was it mostly your family?

No that was a very nice thing actually. As I said I was taken to surgery in the middle of the night, and the last thing I did was to send a text to my wife to warn her. So when I woke up in the morning, she called me and then she came and my parents came, and the entire band came as well to see me at the hospital. So I felt very loved and I felt that people were very concerned and cared for me, which is very very nice.

You said you were 100% recovered, do you have to do anything special now, be careful for anything?

No, the one thing that disturbs me a little bit, is that I love taking hot baths, and my all life I have sled down in my bath a certain way and I cannot do this anymore because my back has a slightly different shape [laughs] and it feels a little painful still in my lower back. Apart from that, nothing else.

Thank you for sharing some of those painful moments of this year, let's move on and talk about the band. We saw that it stabilised a bit over the last months, after a fair amount of departures, do you think it's stable now?

Yes. I think so. Once the original lineup, or what people usually refer to the original lineup, which is not true, but anyway, once that lineup started to fall apart, already from when Johan, the drummer, left the band, and this is something that we knew from some time was going to happen as soon as his wife got pregnant, as he wanted to take care of his family and find a regular everyday job and stop going on tour.... So we knew from many years that this would happen at some time. So from that point we have been going through a number of unstable states just waiting for that point where everything clicks. And I felt that this has finally happened, which is very nice. For the first time in... forever, we now consist of five band members who started to focus on music very early, who have been in the music industry since we were kids, we are not blue-eyed, we know the difficulties of the music industry and we know the sacrifices you have to make. All of us have this urge to be playing music and do this for a living, and this has never been the case before.

We noticed for example that Gustav is back on bass, what motivated him for this comeback?

We have stayed in touch, ever since we played together back then. He had quit the band back then because he had problem with one of his hands. And I think that at that time, he wanted to play other kinds of music. He played punk for a while, he played pop, and as everyone probably knows he played in Meshuggah for a few years. Which is fun, as I remember exactly the first time he heard Meshuggah. I had bought the album after I heard them in a festival, and I picked him up on the way to a rehearsal, and I said: you have to listen to this band, you're gonna love this. And I played it, and later realised that without this maybe he would not have heard about them and ever played with them. So when we were recording the Road Salt albums, we had no full bass player and I was going to play the bass. But then I told myself that I knew a bass player, Gustav, that I would have liked to hear on certain songs. So I asked him if he would like to do it and that's how we started playing together again. And at one point we were sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea, and he said maybe we should start playing again and see how it feels. That's what happened.

Daniel also moved from bass to keyboard. Can he play everything or was he a keyboard player in the first place?

Keyboard is actually his main instrument. But all of us in the band are multi instrumentalists and we could shift intruments in many different variations.

Did you keep in touch with former members such as Johan, Johan and Fredrik?

Yes. Me, my wife and Fredrik, we play Diablo III every Monday [laughs]. And both Johan visited me at the hospital, that was nice. We keep in touch, and we had a very big party last year, because my wife and were turning fourty and everyone was there, and we played and improvised a lot of music on a stage that was setup. That was fun.

After your health problems, you came back on stage at the Sweden Rock Festival this summer, how was this?

I cannot remember being so nervous before a gig. Even if you have been playing gigs your entire life, there is always a point just before a gig, and this is the same when you do sports or when you go out and you need to deliver in front of people, where you feel your energy is going inside and you are focusing in a different way. This usually happens one or two hours before the gig. This time it happened three days before the gig. Because I didn't know how my body would react to it, how I would react, how my voice would react as it had been suffering during these months. So I was really nervous before the gig. But once I was on stage, and although I promised myself not to jump around, after the first song, I was jumping around [laughs]. It was great to be there, it was like coming home in a way.

It was also good to play with the band, I guess, as you didn't play that much with this lineup, beside the acoustic tour last year, right?

Well that's another weird thing that happened, but when I was in hospital, we had planned this ProgNation cruise festival, in the Caribbeans. I would have loved to go, but we talked about it and decided that they should do it without me. I was confident that with this lineup they could pull this off. Both Ragnar and Leo have amazing vocal ranges and Ragnar is a very natural front man, he has been a front guy in many bands. We also had Clay Withrow, from the band Vangough, who had been joining prior to our US tour as a guitar tech, and he had learnt a lot of the guitar work. So we had a full band. I felt thrilled about that. The only sad thing was that I could not be there to watch it. 

Has this been recorded?

Not to my knowledge.

I also read that you did the US ProgFest and played there the entire "Remedy Lane" album, how was that?

It was also very nice. You know, while I was laying in hospital for four months I had plenty of time to think about my priorities. I wanted to get back and played with the band and it felt natural to stand on stage and play those old songs, and realise how well they sounded with this band. That album was never meant to be played on stage from start to finish. It was not composed with that in mind. It's a pretty hard thing to do from a vocal and energy point of view. When we had the first rehearsal for this it was an eye opener to what we could achieve with this band. Vocal hamonies were perfect, people knew their material. I'm used, especially from the early years, to be the one who had to remember everything, as they would forget and we would start all over again everytime we were rehearsing. From that respect it was great. And Ragnar having been a fan of the band, he knew a lot of the guitar work that I was playing which was great, because when we recorded I improvised a lot of the guitar parts and we had not played them since. And this is twelve years ago. Luckily I found the raw recordings of the album, so I was also able to pull out the different parts and study what the hell I was doing.

So you were covering your own band?

Yes and doing that also gave me an opportunity to rediscover what I liked in this album. I rediscovered playing it. We played a lot of this songs in the US tour, and we played the entire album at this two festivals. It felt after making a full circle with the "Road Salt" sound where I expressed where I came from musically, playing "Remedy Lane" live felt like doing a full circle with the original Pain Of Salvation sound and the beginning of the recordings.

Let's talk about this new album, "Falling Home", for a bit. The press kit we received was all about a followup to "12:5", but I didn't feel it was, what do you think?

I would agree that it's not. I think that at some point when we talked about it we might have said something like that. Because back then we were supposed to play an acoustic live show and we were supposed to record that. That would have been closer to "12:5". But from a sound and rearrangements point of view, I never wanted it to be close close to that. I wanted it to be something that felt more fleshy, something warm, punchy and in your face. And "12:5" was not that. It's a lot of things but not that.

For me it seemed to be a more logical follow-up to the "Road Salt" albums or to the acoustic tour you did last year that I had the chance catch in Milan. Don't you think?

I totally agree with that.

How did you make the selection of the tracks that were reworked?

I want to explain this with a metaphor. When you need to pull out songs from your back catalog to make some sort or recreation of them, it feels like running a zoo. With that songs being different animals living in different habitats and suddenly you have this new environment and you need to populate it with animals from your zoo. So the first thing that comes to mind is to take the animals that seem the most suited for this new habitat. So you can take one or two of these and everything is good. This would be for example "1979" and "To The Shoreline", basically songs already written for this format, and easy to transfer. The next thing you want to do is to take adaptable animals. Animals that are not made for this territory, but that you know will adapt to anything. Predators if you will. There you will find "Linoleum" for instance. So you take some of those, knowing that it might eat up some of the others, but it's fine. And then, and this is the favourite part for me, then out of curiosity, you cannot help but picking a few animals that are totally unfit for this new environment [laughs]. Just to see what would happen. And in most case they would transform into something else, and in any case something very interesting. That's were you find "Stress", "Spitfall", two songs that you had the least chances to hear on an acoustic album. But for me these are the finest moments. Both creatively, and also the ones that would last the longest. And by the way this is also were you find "Holy Diver".

Let's talk about the two covers for a bit. How was this decided?

We had this tradition in the band, long before the first album, that whenever we got bored or restless, we would play a Pain Of Salvation song at extreme speed. Sometimes that lead to insane speeds [laughs]. Through the years the tradition changed a bit and we would play a Pain Of Salvation song, in a clean, shuffle, jazzy version. It got very tricky at times too. So we had this tradition, and a few years ago we got invited to this party, where they had this live contest, with a theme every year, and that year was 80's metal. You got assigned the album "Holy Diver" from Dio and we had to pick three songs from there and play them. So I suggested doing the song "Holy Diver" in a shuffle way, because it was a 80's metal evening and we were a metal band, so I thought we could propose something very unusual. We had to work on it a little, then walk up on stage and play it with whatever instruments were there, in front of a fairly drunk audience. I always thought we should be doing it again in real, good condition so more people would get a chance to hear it. It would not go on any album, but on this acoustic one, it made sense. For "Perfect Day", the story is different. I was asked to play two songs at my wife's sister wedding and this was one of those two songs. And I came to just love it. We played it at the wedding, with Fredrik, at that time, on piano and myself on acoustic guitar and singing. It was still in my mind when we discussed the acoustic album so I picked it up.

In "Spitfall", the singing you do is quite impressive, even more rap style that on the original. It sounds very much like an artist like Eminem. Do you hate me for saying this?

You know even in the original song, that was already the intent. His style of doing rythmic and the way he is arranging his rhyme patterns I think is genius. Most of the true metal, or true prog guys will hate me for saying this but when it comes to rythm, linguistic and rhymes, he is a genius.

So all the member were also in the mood for this jazzy parts?

Well, Ragnar is probably the guy in the band with the least connection to that jazzy part. He is not really into jokes in music, to start with [laughs]. Leo comes from a latin, jazz background, Gustav has been playing a lot of jazz, so the rest of us have been playing all kinds of music.

Speaking about Leo, this album also shows his talent, he really has a subtil play, on these shuffle tracks.

He is a great drummer. That's one of the reasons we went with Leo, intead of the many other drummers that sent their applications and the few that we tried out. He was coming from this groovy and very jazzy, latin background and had ventured into metal, and prog metal afterwards. The combination was very nice, so yes this album was a good way to show the fans what an excellent and versatile drummer he is.

I was impressed by how you managed to carry so much emotions in some of the songs such as "1979", "To The Shoreline" and "Spitfall", which were already supercharged with emotions in their original forms.

Thank you, it makes me really happy to hear that. It's kind of the goal when you rearrange a song, to come up with something even more interesting. Otherwise there is no point.

I was a bit shocked when I first heard the album, and I didn't like it so much. But after a few tries, I have to admit that today, I prefer some of these songs to the original versions, this is crazy.

Yes, I understand because putting "Stress" as the first song of the album was a very difficult decision. Any other song would have been a more secure decision. But in the end, after trying different combinations for so many weeks, "Stress" was the best choice. It's like in a movie that start off with this insane scene, and you don't understand what's happening, and you have to keep watching hoping that things will start to get clearer as you proceed. "Stress" sounded right for this. You know in the prog rock and prog metal genres, there are many musicians and fans who care a lot about the technical side of things, how it's played, the skills and so on. But some of these techniques can be also prominent in other types of music. And let me tell you that in the end, this version of "Stress" is far more complicated to play than the original one.

What is your favourite track on the album?

I would have to pick "Stress". It has been a rolling jokes in the band for so many years, and it was a challenge to do it right. It's also the freshest song on the album I find. It's further away from what we normally do, and for me there are particular vocal moments in that song that I consider to be some of the nicest sings we've ever done through the years. I felt we hit something magical when we played it. I really like the end result of that song.

So after the two "Road Salt" albums, and this one, I was talking in my reviews about an "organic" era for Pain Of Salvation. Do you think that you have turned the page on the first era of the band?

No I think that it's even the other way around. Most of the material we are working on right now is more in the veins of the earlier albums. I just think you go full circle with things. That's the way it is. I want to go where my passion goes, I don't think it's so much a clear direction. Anything that you are creating will be a product of what you are going away from, I guess. The "Road Salt" was a reaction to the fact that music production after 2005 or so, was growing impressive, but dead. It didn't move me anymore. I thought that maybe I turned immuned to musical emotions. It's the same when you watch horror movies. At the first one you are scared, but after a while you get bored. I realised it was all about the production. It was big and pompous, sterile. Nothing was allowed to stick out, and grab you. There were tons of high end, tons of low end, tons of everything. Everything was symmetrical and nothing was dangerous. Again it's like a movie with a scene with two great actors, playing in an empty room. The content and the playing stand out, it's at the center of everything. Now place this same scene in a fantastic, 3D animated, high resolution Lord Of The Ring battle scene, then it's impossible to be moved by that. It's different, it becomes impressive entertainment... Which is fine, but I don't want music to become only that.

So do you have a solution for the next albums?

We will be making the album with the guy we have been working with before. I like a lot the recent stuff he has produced. He is a great mixing engineer and producer. We will try to take the same approach we had back in 2000, 2002 and place this in a modern combination: an analog punchy vibe, together with a grand scale impressive production. So we will try to make those actors shine in this Lord Of The Ring scene, for a change [laughs].

What in the plans for you guys? Acoustic tour, electric tour? Anything else?

We are coming up with a very interesting combination of this, but nothing is set yet so I cannot really tell. If it happens it's going to be a very special concept. Trust me. Me and Ragnar are working on new material, and during next year we are going to start recording that. It's going to be really interesting as I think we will make, hopefully, all the different fan bases very happy. That's it.

Thanks to you, it's now very late so I'll leave you with your family, and I hope to see you on the road sometimes next year.

Thank you and good night.

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