Speaking to a the mastermind behind a band that produces excellent music, such as Pain of Salvation, is always a pleasure, but it is always so much more rewarding when the person you meet is also interesting, sociable and has a good sense of humour. The following is the result of a very enjoyable interview with Daniel Gildenlow, Pain of Salvation's charismatic front man.
Daniel, it's nice to finally see you guys in London - I heard it was a last-minute booking. How come you decided to play the Underworld?
Daniel: We wanted to play the UK, but we only had a small window during which time we could come over here, so it was all a bit last-minute! It is quite a small venue for us, really! First of all we'll put the instruments on stage, then see if we fit in and then see if there is room for anything else!
You guys have released quite a few albums so far - why do you not play here more often?
Daniel: You're always in the hands of organisers and it doesn't matter how big an audience you have, you still need to be invited and some countries are more difficult than others, the UK included! Alongside our home country, Sweden! We basically have to ask to be invited!
You mentioned that this venue is too small for the whole 'BE' set, but have you managed to take that show on stage in any other countries?
Daniel: Well, the whole BE show? What, with the water and everything? No!!! (laughs).
Maybe God on stage?
Daniel: We kind of had problems fitting God on stage - most of the stages are kind of too small!!
How easy was it for you to select specific tracks from your conceptual albums for the show? This must have been quite hard, I would imagine!
Daniel: The big problem is that there are certain songs you know you have to play - certain songs the audience will expect you to play. And when you've made 6 albums, those songs alone will actually fill the whole show. To put some 'surprises' in there you have to take out some songs that people will expect to hear. Actually, we had a really messed up show in Sweden, when all of the technical stuff was constantly breaking down, one of 'those' shows that is statistically impossible, as so many things went wrong! We spent so much time trying to fix things and time was running out-After the show we realised that we hadn't played 'Ashes'-
Don't you dare do that tonight!!!...
Daniel: (laughs) I know, we have to play that song, but that was quite a 'liberating' show, we were like: 'We didn't play 'Ashes'!...And we're still alive!'. Other songs we have to play are '!' from Entropia, 'People Passing By'-maybe we should play a show called 'POS: The most Unwanted' or something like that!!!
We see a natural evolution throughout the POS albums, but how do you feel now that you have to perform some of the older songs live?
Daniel: I love playing 'Entropia' material. I guess that is the good thing: I always try to create music that I really like myself. The music that I want to listen to is not out there-and doing that is a good guarantee that you will probably like your material as time passes by. I have never done a song that I haven't really liked myself, just for the sake of fitting it on the album. It wouldn't give me anything if I didn't like it-so when people say 'how do you think the new album differs from the previous albums?' I have to say 'This is going to be the best album, because I wouldn't make it otherwise'. If I felt I was doing an album that was not as good as the previous releases, what would be the point for me? Whether other people like it or not is a matter of personal opinion, but you can always rely on POS to make the album that we consider to be the best one at this point in our lives and in our musical development.
So I really appreciate playing music from all of the albums. Oddly enough, we always ended up playing a lot of material from 'Entropia' and, if you look at this album compared to the others, it has sold virtually nothing. Everyone seems to know it! We have been in countries where the actual number of people in the crowd for that night is more than the number of sold Entropia copies throughout the whole country. And yet everyone seems to know all the songs-really odd.
The wonders of modern technology!
Daniel: I think so, yes!!!
It might also have something to do with the fact that if you go into central London today, you will not find any of the first three releases in the shops.
Daniel: Yes, I find that if I go into a record store and look for an album that is not there, I never ask for it to be ordered. If I want it, I can find it on the Internet and it is actually easier to download it!
In terms of content, where do you go after a concept, such as 'BE'? You seem to have covered everything there, after something so huge do you go back to the very basics? You can't really go much 'bigger' than that, can you?
Daniel: I don't know what could be bigger, really. I never try to think too much about it. As you have said, looking back over it, you can see a development not only conceptually, but also musically. Trying to find a natural path to tread right now after 'BE' is not going to be possible for us, as we have been too heavily involved in it. I guess we'll just do what we normally do and that is whatever we want to do and then, afterwards, in retrospect, we can say: 'Yes, that was predictable at the time, for us to go in that direction!'.
The 'BE' thing has been so huge in every way for us: first, we did the writing and then the arranging of the whole concept and the music; then we did the live performances for a few weeks. Then we did the studio version, then we did the live mixing, then the DVD, so it has been in our system for such a long time and it has been so big. I think all of us at this point long back for something more 'band-oriented', but I know how it is-every time I want to do something simple, it gets out of hand someway along the line!
Actually, 'Ending Theme', for example, was a parody on the pop scene and was really simple. We played a gig, pretending to be Britpop stars, with turtle-neck shirts and just moving really awkwardly. At that point, that song was called 'Close to You', not 'Ending Theme', and it was in Swedish. Then we did another one called 'Is There No-One That Sees?' or something like that, also in Swedish, about how stupid the pop scene was at the time-very ridiculous!
But then, we decided that that song was pretty cool anyway and we started to change various things and all of a sudden it became a Pain of Salvation song! So much for simple stuff!
Well, I have to tell you that there are quite a few people out there expecting to hear a Perfect Element Part II.
Daniel: Nooo!!! Can't imagine why! (laughs) as soon as you say Part I of something, then people want a second part! That's the problem. No-there is music written for it; not the whole thing-it's one of those things that is on the shelf, you work with it and then put it back on the shelf, basically, because there is always something to do.
Is that what you did with 'BE' also? I had the impression you had started with the concept back in '96.
Daniel: Well, I usually work like that: I stumble across ideas in books, TV, films, or just in my own crazy brain. I keep them in the back of my head and after a while they start turning into other ideas and all of a sudden they're knocking at your door!
When I was dealing with the first ideas back in '96 I didn't know that it was going to be a concept f any sort, it was just ideas at that point and then when we started cooperating with the music institute initially, the idea was first to work on the Perfect Element Part II. But, as I told you, as Sweden is not such a good country for POS, any audience turning up for the Perfect Element Part II would need to be introduced to Part I also, so we needed a different idea. So I introduced the BE concept, thinking it would be a shorter, smaller, 'easy' thing, and then again it went out of hand completely.
It seems that before BE the concepts deal with us empathising with the story of another person, but with BE it was the first time that you made us part of the story, to look at ourselves and to analyse who we are and what we are doing here-
Daniel: Well, 'BE' very much revolves around the idea of fractiles, patterns repeating themselves on different scales, like with a tree, where the tree shape is represented in the branches and in the smaller branches, and ultimately in the veins of the leaves.
With the previous albums, like with 'Entropia', the story is on a large scale, with the war situation and nations and conflict. But what you are really looking at are the relations between the family members; how the 'big' affects the 'small'. So you end up looking at the small perspective through the large perspective, in a way. And then you go step by step gradually until you reach 'Remedy Lane', which is quite the opposite: that is on a very narrow, intimate, personal level. But through that level you can also see how mankind functions. It's actually very much a story about mankind-
With 12:5 I think we musically sum up what we have been dong up until that point and with 'BE', it feels like the end chapter to something, because up until that point, we have been comparing the leaf to the branch or the branch to the trunk of the tree, but with 'BE' we are taking a few steps back and actually looking at the whole tree for the first time. So, I guess 'BE' is the sum of the previous albums in many ways, but it also something much more-
If Sweden is not a good country for your music, what is? Is there, in fact a 'good' country for your music?
Daniel: It has been changing, actually-It actually shifts from album to album, I'm not sure why. It's almost as if for every album, another country will wake up-Something really happened in France, for instance, it was either for 'Perfect Element' or 'Remedy Lane'-The latest countries that have really 'happened' are Poland, Greece, Turkey. We have never been on the top shelf in England, I don't know why.
For this tour, Germany woke up all of a sudden-
Do you think that it is easy for people to become acquainted with your music?
Daniel: If you don't expect a certain type of music, then yes. If you expect 'traditional progressive metal' then I think it might be difficult, but if you are not aware of those labels and tags, then it has a much better chance, I think. In one of our early shows, we did a festival in Sweden and an old lady came up to us and she said: 'I liked that music very much! I don't listen very much to that music, you know, rock and roll, but this was really good!'.
And even my Dad likes the BE album!
So I think it has potential to reach a lot f different people, but the hard part is getting them to hear it in the first place, because there are no real channels for this kind of music.
You seem to be involved with many projects, like The Flower Kings, for example-
Daniel: Yes, I try to be involved in as few as possible, but lots of people ask me to become involved all the time!
Do you see these involvements kind of influencing your music and might this affect the general mentality and direction of Pain of Salvation's music?
Daniel: I don't think so: I have all of those influences inside me already, so the only thing that can make a difference is for me to have an outlet for those inspirations, but I don't think it would affect POS, other than of course demanding time, which may be taken away from the band, which is not good-
On a practical level, how does working with your brother affect your music or the dynamics in the band?
Daniel: Well, it definitely is the most sensitive link in the whole chain. It is easier to be in conflict with a family member than other people that you work with-
But is it not also easier for you to understand each other emotionally?
Daniel: Understand your little brother? How is that possible??? - No, I guess that is true, but actually seeing the same problems in your brother as you see in yourself can actually be pretty annoying, but it's working out: we're not the Gallaghers or anything!
As a finale, I would like to ask where you see the band moving musically in the years to come and what we should expect from you guys.
Daniel: Better and better music, hopefully-It would be nice to have a good following in the UK and the other places where we have hard times at the moment. Our audience grows slowly and surely for each album and I think that the ones who get our music are very loyal in the end and there is not much other music around that can fill its place, I guess.
Thank you very much for the interview, I hope you enjoy the gig tonight.
Interview © 2005
Emily Dgebuadze & John Stefanis