Recent Music Reviews
PAIN OF SALVATION (Daniel Gildenlow) INTERVIEW
The ability to embrace change is an important quality for any Prog-orientated band to have, especially so if that band happens to be as brave and musically diverse as the Swedish powerhouse Pain Of Salvation. When I arranged to do an interview with founding member and mastermind Daniel Gildenlow, I did so not knowing how much more relevant this key word was to become for the future of the band as I found out that two integral members have decided to leave the fold, following the end of this tour which sees the band supporting their fellow countrymen Opeth. Is this going to be the end of one of the most innovative and influential Metal bands of the 90s? Read this interview and find out!
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis
• Hi Daniel! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, especially in light of all the troubles you’ve had recently with busses not working and all.
Daniel: No problem at all.
• Yesterday’s show in Birmingham was really good apart from the fact that your sound during the first three songs was playing up a bit. It was, however, a very beautiful experience as it always seems to be when you have Pain Of Salvation on stage.
Daniel: That is very cool – thanks!
• How do you find the whole experience of touring with a band like Opeth? Obviously being both Swedish means that there will be a fair amount of things that you will have in common but the crowds that you will attract will undoubtedly be quite diverse, right? Are you enjoying yourself?
Daniel: Yeah, it’s very nice. The thing is that…I think that one of the things with Pain Of Salvation is that the music that we make means that we can play in front of many different kinds of audiences and we can still sort of connect with them. It’s always nice to play in front of new people I think, but we are also very thankful to have some of our oldest fans coming in too. It’s always nice to find new people and to play in front of people that normally maybe wouldn’t listen to us. We played the UK last year I think, opening for Apocalyptica for three gigs and I mean that is really like a weird crowd for us – very Goth! During these shows you could really see, when you started the first few shows, you could see that some of the people they decided not to like it from the start! They were, like, doing their best not to care about what we were doing on stage, but they couldn’t in the end. Normally I see people in the crowd and I think “that guy here - he is doing all he can to not to be either moved or touched by what we are doing, but by the end of the gig I am going to make him feel different”. So far things are going well. The good thing is that our music is really wide - it really has the potential to reach a lot of different people from different music styles and so it’s just a matter of getting out and playing in front of different people.
• You also have the added bonus that you, let’s say, found Opeth at that stage in their career where they felt ready to make the extra step and become more diverse as a band, kicking out those extreme Metal elements that they became known for in the process. I believe that, based on that fact, you will have more chances of infiltrating their fan base easier.
Daniel: Maybe. I wouldn’t know about that (laughs) but if you say so, I really will.
• Well, I did witness it first-hand yesterday. There were quite a few people wearing Opeth t-shirts that were enjoying your show yesterday- not as many as I would like to be the case, but you have to start from somewhere right?
Daniel: People in Scotland, they were brutal, they were like screaming and shouting and everything and they were not even our crowd which is the fun part of it and that is why we were really getting into it. You can see from the stage, you can actually see the facial expressions of the entire audience, which is good because you can see that even on some of the…if I wanted to be generalising a bit here I would say that the ‘Prog-ier’ and more intellectual an audience is, the more silent and still-standing it will be. I think that yesterday it was one of the more Prog-appreciating audiences. I mean, you could really see that; this is either the fifth or the sixth show that we have now done with Opeth and the audiences have been different in each given gig – they are sort of approaching the music from all sorts of different angles. Some audiences have been more Prog Rock, others more Prog Metal-ish while others simply more Metal and that is a nice combination. Still I think that if you compare it to a typical Pain Of Salvation crowd, you will see that this is much more of a homogenic crowd than the one that we usually have these days. It’s kind of interesting to see that, directly from the first song, you will see that thirty people will be singing along and they are like the only thirty girls in the crowd (laughs), so I think that this is a quite a fun thing to see.
• When I prepared this questionnaire for you, I did so not knowing that Johan (Hallgren: guitars) was leaving the band, something that came to me as quite a shock. Obviously there have been other members leaving the band before, most notably your own brother Kristoffer, but even at that time I always felt that Pain Of Salvation as an entity was always stronger and more important than each of its individual members – perhaps with the exception of you as this outfit cannot really exist if you were to leave tomorrow.
Daniel: It is a very funny thing that you say this now as me and Leo (Margarit: drums) had this conversation quite recently. Of course we also see this as being a sort of disaster too and it is not only Johan that is leaving but Fredrik (Hermansson: keyboards) too!
• Fredrik is also leaving the band?
Daniel: Yes, so all of a sudden Leo is (laughs)…one of the oldest members in the band! He said to me “hey Daniel, if you are leaving too, can I have the band name” (laughs)?
• You know what; I am officially depressed now! I cannot use this questionnaire anymore! Ok, I might have to use that after all but you need to be slightly patient with me as I am totally freaked out here.
Daniel: I am sorry – Jesus!
• With regards the albums “Road Salt One” and “Road Salt Two”; both come across as far more ‘stripped down’ when compared with “Remedy Lane” or “The Perfect Element, Part I” but this is fairly deceptive as things seem to happen on a more subconscious level. Every time I listen to them I discover something new and I love that! Now, when I heard that Johan was leaving the band, the first thing that came to mind is that maybe these songs were more of your ‘baby’ after all.
Daniel: We have actually been talking about that thinking that “oh, there’s going to be so much speculation about the other guys not liking the music or not liking me or whatever” but there is nothing really that we can do with things – that is simply not the case. Anyway, there’s going to be speculations either way. I think that everyone in the band, we are all really enjoying the latest material and you saw the gig yesterday – I think that the new songs are the ones that we are really all getting into performing and we are enjoying ourselves while doing that.
• And new material consisted of 90% of your set anyway, right?
Daniel: It is difficult to do otherwise. I mean, playing only for forty minutes is I think way below what we would normally be doing. Actually, for one of the gigs we had to cut down to thirty minutes and I think that was the world record for the shortest set that Pain Of Salvation ever performed (laughs). So, it’s really difficult but none of us wants to kick the new songs out! For me, I really appreciate “1979” and “"To The Shoreline" and “Linoleum” is always great – it always works and that’s the funny thing. There are always going to be some die-hard Prog Metal fans of Pain Of Salvation who will go like “oh, I don’t like the new stuff as it is not complex enough” or whatever maybe because they cannot see the complexity of the material happening on a subconscious level as you can but that doesn’t matter. Once they are on location and we are on stage, “Linoleum” is the song that they will get into the groove most by and they can try as much as they want not to do that, if so they wish (laughs).
• When my wife and I were listening to the two “Road Salt…” albums, we both felt that “Road Salt One” ended up containing the most experimental material whereas “Road Salt Two” comes across as the most emotional of the two – the one featuring the more ‘straight-to-the-heart’ material. I am aware that the material for both albums was prepared pretty much at the same time and so I was always wondering about what the thought process was which led to them being separated the way that they were.
Daniel: It was difficult but I think that…this is going to be like from my perspective and how I analyse things. What I feel is that when you try to build a sort of a chain of events or whatever you choose to call it…let’s say that “Road Salt One” and “Road Salt Two” are an entire movie or whatever, you want to sort of use the awkward elements in the beginning. Like, if you are building a movie, it is towards the end that you try to tie things in together; you want to steer the listener into a certain direction and so I think that this is one of the main reasons why. Also, the thing is that I did the exact same thing with “Scarsick” (2007). The safe bet with…there are certain songs on “Scarsick” that could annoy the typical Pain Of Salvation listener, so I just felt that instead of just trying to hide that, I should just aim at giving it straight to their faces – the first three songs! There, take this! I believe that we did the exact same thing with “Road Salt One” where a lot of the sort of…I wouldn’t want to call them ‘bluesy’ but more classic Rock or whatever, which are still based on the Blues, but somehow the word ‘bluesy’ sounds wrong to use, I don’t know.
• Don’t worry – point taken!
Daniel: I guess you could say the more Beatles sounding stuff. I just chose to put that first, just like in a ‘get it out of the way’ thinking that if you can’t make your way through this then you might as well just give up now (laughs). So I think that this is also one of the reasons why “Road Salt One” comes across as more of sort of going into different directions, because basically I think that when you are listening to an album, you judge it very much by the first three songs and also by the very last one. The three first and the very last are going to sort of create your image of the album pretty much. Another reason is of course that “Road Salt One” is the ‘white’ one and “Road Salt Two” is the ‘dark’ one. I always had a feeling that when making “Road Salt Two”, we were making the darker of the two but in the end I am not so sure that it actually went out the way it was planned because one of the really heavy songs that I had in mind for “Road Salt Two” ended up not being recorded and instead we have “1979”, “To The Shoreline” and…which was the third one that came up pretty late…on, anyway – one of the heavy songs was left out and in the end I am not so sure that it worked. People still seem to think that “Road Salt Two” is heavier.
• What really surprised me from what you just said is people’s reaction to the new material. I always thought that if there was to be one crowd that I would expect to be really open-minded that would be the Pain Of Salvation crowd, and that simply judging by the way the band’s career has evolved over the years. The fact that you feel that you still need to convince people of your intentions comes as a real surprise to me.
Daniel: Well, the thing is that…the thing is that open-minded people, people who call themselves open-minded…it’s dangerous…
• Probably end up being the most close-minded of all, right (I laugh)?
Daniel: (laughs) The thing with the Prog Metal scene for instance… I remember back in 1996, we called Pain Of Salvation a ‘Prog Metal’ band and I thought that this was a good thing, that it was about diversity, about courage and trying new things and that’s what we are, that is good! Finally there was a sort of very obvious tag for it, and I saw on the Internet that had all these Prog Metal forums and stuff and they were all calling themselves open-minded and coming up with quotes like “fu*k the mainstream because they are so narrow-minded”, but I just realised very quickly that the Prog Metal open-mindedness was just like the mainstream but just positioned one block away, basically. They all had the same recipes for music, they all had the same dress codes and they all had the same everything! It wasn’t mainstream but it was just as uniform and so I think that in the music style that we are placed I think that we have the most open minded crowd, but it’s still a long way to go until they would accept…I just remember being in…I was doing interviews in the States back in 2007 or something…what year did…
• You are not going to ask me what year a Pain Of Salvation album was released now, right (I laugh)?!
Daniel: No, no (laughs). Not one of ours, but the “Chocolate Starfish…” from Limp Bizkit!
• I have absolutely no clue whatsoever!
Daniel: Alright! Well, I was doing interviews in the States roughly at the time that this album was released (note: the year in question was 2000), like half a year or a few months earlier on and one interviewer asked me the question “so, what are you listening to right now” to which I replied “well, I am listening to the latest Limp Bizkit album” and he went “no, you cannot say that – you need to say something else” (laughs). It was terrible to him the fact that I said something like that because the band was a mainstream act. Now, to me, that is not very open minded, I think (laughs).
• We should never underestimate the innate need that human beings have both to belong somewhere and also to protect what they love, even if that means that they end up suffocating it.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly, but we’re…I think that Pain Of Salvation is so much about the uncomfortable zone. I mean, like getting out of the comfortable zone and of course we are constantly pushing our fans out of the comfortable zone too and half of them will just like be thrilled by it and the other half will go like “really - is that really necessary” (laughs)? “We were fine the way we were, you know”.
• I think that they day that you will opt for the easy option will be the day that you are going to lose me as a fan!
Daniel: Yeah, and that is the day that I will not have to do this anymore!
• Actually I am really looking forward to listening to the next Pain Of Salvation album exactly because I think to myself “I don’t know what this guy is going to play next”! You know what I mean?
Daniel: Yeah, and that is what I like! I mean, I surprise myself just as much as I surprise anyone else!
• Daniel, there isn’t a single song on the two “Road Salt…” albums that I don’t like so what I am going to do now does not make much sense, however, I feel the need to ask you to describe the process behind bringing to life two of them which are truly dear to me and these are “Sisters” and the other…well, you know as I was shouting at you to play it in Birmingham!
Daniel: Yeah, I know – “Healing Now”, right? These are probably two of my absolute all-time favourite Pain Of Salvation songs, so this proves that you have very good taste!
• Why, thank you very much! Can you tell us a few things about them, especially as these are the kind of songs to which each and every one of us can attribute a totally different meaning?
Daniel: I think that both songs are very fundamental in a way. “Sisters” is basically about…the thing is, do you have like a girlfriend or wife?
• (note: Pointing towards my wife who was patiently sitting next to me) This lovely woman over here is my wife.
Daniel: Alright! Does she have a sister?
Emily (my wife): Thankfully not, having read the lyrics!
Daniel: Ok, so that is basically the idea!
• However, if my interpretation of the meaning of the song is at all accurate, it is also about restraint in light of personal circumstances.
Daniel: You are right. The thing is, I mean, you take things and you tweak them out of proportion really, just like you would if you were making a movie I guess or if you were writing a book. I decided very early on with the “Road Salt…” albums that I was not going to…I was not going to stick with the fictional or the auto-biographical – I would allow myself to do whatever I wanted lyrically, to ‘go’ anywhere I wanted to go without asking myself or anyone else for permission and I think that this was the right way to go. So, you can take small seeds or ideas and then you sort of put them in the ground and you let them grow, and I think that the…the main…I mean, I wanted to paint this sort of picture of an actual situation where you can feel that sort of tension and whose source is so forbidden. You know, you are dealing with yourself; who you are and, you know, I really wanted to use those emotions and try to put them in a song, which is not that easy all the time. I mean, in many ways it would be easier to put it in just writing!
(note: a short pause is made to talk with the tour manager about things that need to be done – the tour manager who has been patiently sitting for three or so minutes next to me, waiting to talk to Daniel).
Daniel: Alright. So, but the interesting thing as well for me is, first of all, you don’t know where this ends! That’s what I have been trying to create for all of the different songs that you can actually, you have to put yourself into the situation and you have to sort of relate that to your own moral code and your life, as it is all about decisions in the end – both of the albums are about decisions, making your choices through life and how as a species and as a culture we are making our way through life.
• I really love the honesty of that song! This is the kind of thing that, maybe not in that specific scenario, all of us may face at some point in our lives and we are so afraid to admit even to our own selves.
Daniel: Yes, exactly… Also, what I felt was interesting and which I found quite difficult to sort of get that into the lyrics but one thing that I find very interesting is that if you have a partner, whether it is a husband or a wife or whatever, their siblings are sort of similar. I mean, they share a lot of different …hmm…characteristics but they are also very different. So, if you are attracted to a sibling of the one that you are living with, is it that you are attracted to the sibling because of the similarities, or that you are attracted to what’s not similar between them? I mean, it’s strange because siblings can be very close sometimes. I just figured that this is an interesting ‘place’ to go and I think that the people are…I had the melodies and I felt that was a nice topic for these melodies, that is sort of in a way like moving on towards something that is beautiful but scary at the same time – something inevitable that is somewhat catching.
• (Emily) On the melody… was that a completely new melody? We spent our honeymoon in Peru last year and we sat in a café somewhere and suddenly heard this tune and we both froze!
Daniel: This was the Eurovision song, right?
• (Emily) No, it has an oriental feel to it and it was so similar to that of ”Sisters”!
Daniel: I think that probably what you heard is the Norwegian Eurovision entry that is many years old, because that is…I cannot remember the melody now but one of the melodies was the same.
• We both freaked out as you understand (I laugh).
Daniel: I didn’t know! I must have heard it at one point but the funny thing is that, I remember this vividly - I was on an aeroplane and I had this melody, this idea for one of the main melodies and I felt that I recognised it from somewhere, so I changed it – I changed it in three different places to sort of make it different and it ended up like that (laughs). That’s the thing - I changed it into being similar to that other song and apparently Leo, he sort of realised that but he decided “we are not telling him” because I would then have scrapped the entire song as this is what I do in such cases! If I do something that I feel is similar to something else, I will scrap it!
• Now, that would have been a true crime if you had done that, so many thanks to Leo!
Daniel: Yeah, I know and I am really happy that he didn’t tell me, however a part of me is pretty frustrated by the fact that this melody was already out there! I really hate that but, you know, anyway – it is too late now.
• Ok, I understand that I need to wrap this one up soon as I see a fellow journalist waiting to talk to you. Well, both albums are absolutely sensational, so I hope that the remainder of the tour whose purpose is to promote them is equally successful and that you won’t have to face any more transportation issues!
Daniel: Well, the thing is, you would think that…I want to be able to say that by now we would have passed the worst part, but one girl in our management team…because we had four bus break stops during the Eastern European trek that we did in three weeks. We had problems with the wheel, the electricity, the gearbox and they were all at the same time – two different incidents at the same time. So based on all that, it cannot get any worse in comparison with our last tour however I still say to myself “shush, don’t say that – you cannot say that” as we’ve had five different incidents already in six days! I always expected something extraordinary to happen on the date 11/11/11 because it is an odd date and so extraordinary things can happen and initially I figured that nothing extraordinary happened but then I realised that this was the only date of the tour that the bus didn’t break down! Now, that was extraordinary! (laughs) It shouldn’t be extraordinary but it is!
• Last but very important question. With the vast majority of the members leaving the band what does the future hold for Pain Of Salvation?
Daniel: (laughs) The thing is that, to us, what is happening is not quite as new as it is to you. We have been living with this idea for quite a few months already. Every time somebody is leaving the band it feels like there is no point in continuing, you know? I felt that a long time before our first album came out (note: “Entropia” ) as this was happening for a long time, even before that first album came out. You cannot make decisions for other people! Johan wants to focus on family and that is usually…I mean, I remember the first guitar player we had left because he wanted to play soccer instead – that was the hardest blow I think because it felt like joining the enemy camp (laughs). But apart from that, it’s just…I think maybe I am the only one insane enough to just keep going on and on, year after year after year and I cannot really ask other people to be insane in the same respect! This is just how it is right now. We have a nice time on stage; we enjoy playing together; it kinds of feel really awkward knowing that we will soon not be playing together anymore but I have been through this a few times now. We already have booked tour dates for next year; we already have pretty much a line-up that is kind of got together – we need to find a replacement for Johan and that is going to be difficult, but…I thought that it would be impossible to find a new drummer! I thought that everyone, everyone that’s been replaced over the years I thought was going to be impossible! It’s like I said… there was a guy who wrote something on our website – he was extremely disappointed saying that “Pain Of Salvation doesn’t exist anymore” and “the original line-up is all gone” to which I answered that “if we had given up when the original line-up ceased to be, that would have been long before the first album that released”. I was the only original member in the band when the first album “Entropia” was released! If we had given up at that point in time, all those albums that he now loves so much would not have come into existence! So, it’s just a matter of a painful but necessary change! I am not really looking forward to it but we have now got used to the idea. I mean, there was a point in 1998 when Johan came into the band and I thought that, I didn’t know if this new guy would fit into the band or what he would contribute to it and now we all know what an unforgettable character he is! In a way it is very interesting to see what happens next, even for me – to see what is going to happen.
• Ok Daniel – thank you very much!
Daniel: Thank you.