By Yiannis (John) Stefanis
• Daniel, if you told me last time we spoke back in November 2011 that I was going to see the band live so soon again, especially after all these line-up changes, I would not have believed you. Having you here tonight, apart from being a great pleasure, is also a great surprise! So – welcome back!
Daniel: Thank you very much!
• Well, thank you for coming again! Daniel, quite a few exciting things have been happening in the Pain Of Salvation camp recently – care to elaborate?
Daniel: Yes! It’s been…I mean…it’s really a situation that throws you over in many ways. I mean…on one level, of course, going through that whole process of losing band members that you’ve been playing with for a very long time is a very heart-breaking process. And then you have that sort of intertwine with that interesting feeling of playing together with new people and seeing what you can do with having new blood in the band. So it is a very dualistic feeling, definitely, and then in the middle of that you are going out having a tour (laughs). Like you said, I probably have…I definitely have the same feeling that I could not see how it would be physically and logistically…how it would be possible at all to make it happen! I mean, we were scouring the face of the earth for interesting possible guitar players during that tour and when we met we hadn’t even started to go through any applications yet. And here we are now, actually only a matter of weeks later with two new guys (laughs) and Daniel (Karlsson) having switched from being a bass player to being a keyboard player which he likes a lot as he’s been a keyboard player from the start. So, I think that it’s impossible, almost impossible to be in Pain Of Salvation without being a multi-instrumentalist. You need to know your music from a lot of different angles (laughs). So, it’s an honour, it’s a pleasure and it’s a very…it’s turmoil in many ways – both positive and negative of course!
• I remember you saying last time round that these dates were booked prior to the change of band members during a time when you were still touring with Opeth. So you had the pressure of having to do one of the most high profile tours of the band’s career thus far, being given the opportunity to play in front of huge audiences and finally get the exposure that you have been craving for, knowing full well that two members were leaving the band. Then you had all those people positing their thoughts on the band’s website, doubting your ability to move on and how do you respond to all that? You come back only a few weeks later with a brand new line up, two new members, and take on the scheduled tour! And, you also get to perform and play new material such as “Sisters” – one of my favourite Pain Of Salvation tracks of all time! I don’t really know what to say here…
Daniel: (laughs) The thing is that when Johan (note: Hallgren/guitars) said that he was going to leave the band we had already booked the Eastern Europe tour, we had booked the Opeth tour and we had just confirmed basically this tour. So he said that he was leaving the band, which was not the first time he did that…when something else comes along he gets very devoured and sucked up into whatever is around him at that moment – that’s just the kind of guy that he is. He did say to us “I am doing the tour of course” and we were all like “oh, that’s good, the tours you mean” to which he replied “no, the Eastern Europe tour” so… (laughs) we were like “aha, but we have the Opeth tour which is booked and confirmed and we cannot drop that now”. So, he agreed to do that in the end which was a very, very good thing (laughs) because otherwise us playing would have been totally impossible of course. I think that, at that point, I was thinking things like “oh this is impossible, this spring tour I cannot see happening” and then Fredrik (note: Hermansson/keyboards) was like “yeah, you know, I think that I am going to quit too” (laughs). And normally people at that point would have said “Ok, that’s it”, but that is when, when it becomes totally impossible, and it went from highly unlikely to totally impossible; that is when I somehow kick in and my wife is the same way – we are very funny that way! It’s like we are pulling the carpet from underneath our feet all by ourselves sometimes! We have been having a really harsh year: we had our third son born with Down syndrome and, you know, everything just turned upside down. Then half the band is…I mean, you have to consider that the band is in a way…the band is always in a way the worst enemy of a relationship for anyone. It is maybe not the enemy but the competition! There’s always going to be competition between going away, doing tours, focusing on music, having all these things. Then you have your relationship on the other hand and everything you do with one will undoubtedly take something from the other in a way. It is a very heart-breaking situation in many ways. I think that both of us had already been going through the…this is insane, with three tours ahead of us, we have a new-born with Down syndrome, we have a completely new life sort of laid down for us and then all of a sudden the outer…how do you call that…you know, like something external was actually giving us pretty much the ‘go’ signal to just withdraw from it all and say “OK, you know, we cannot do it”. But instead, we kicked into action! We went “no, it’s got to be possible” (laughs)! So actually, I think that it was the fact that both of them actually left. I think that from Fredrik’s point of view, I think he thought that “it’s better doing it now than waiting another year and then I quit too”, because both of them are…all of us are growing older I guess, so…
• You all seem to pretty much respect the idea behind Pain Of Salvation and what this band has offered to the people through the years. To give half your heart to it is not something that any of you would be happy with right?
Daniel: Yeah, exactly.
• And we as fans really appreciate that! We appreciate any band member leaving when their time is up rather than staying so that we can ‘enjoy’ the classic line up or whatever.
Daniel: Yeah, and also the thing is that doing what we are doing or what every band is doing I guess is a huge sacrifice! You really have to invest a lot of your own self, your time and of your life. I mean, it is a huge sacrifice year after year after year and I totally understand that it comes to the point when you feel that “it’s not worth it for me anymore”. I think that this is the feeling, especially for Johan having, you know, new kids on the way and a family to care for. That is the problem all the time, you know, because music is not providing to the level where you can have a band being financially supported by the music, so you need to make that work together with so many other things. You have your family life, you have some sort of job situation maybe or other bands and other projects or whatever and that makes things very, very difficult.
• So what is it that makes you say to yourself “you know what, I am going to continue doing this”? I mean, it’s obvious that you really love music, everyone who has heard even one Pain Of Salvation album knows that, but here you are describing something very tough. In my case, even if I were an artist I would most likely not have chosen to do what you do – it would drive me nuts having to face so many problems! What keep you going?
Daniel: I don’t…you know what, it’s…the original lyric for the song “Deeper Cut” was entirely based on the idea that I have learned everything, I know so much, every year of my life I am learning new things but the only thing that’s left to learn is the art of giving up! I don’t know, I just don’t have it in me! Especially if you…if I am faced with a challenge it’s like I can’t resist trying it – I don’t know! It’s nothing that I choose! I don’t choose to…probably I am choosing several times a year to quit this but I just never go through with it because it is just too important to me! I think that may be just the difference, the fact that I feel that I do not have choice! It’s like a fever (laughs).
• So what is the status of the members that are participating in this tour? I have read a few things on the Internet but I believe that it is important for their status to be clarified. It is obvious that they are deemed important enough to help with the tour but are we to expect any of them to continue being in the band after this tour is over?
Daniel: They might very likely be but the thing is…we have been through the process of changing band members a few times and being a bit too rushed in deciding that they are going to be becoming full time members or not. I think only time can really tell whether… it’s like a constructive family situation and that’s really odd because normally families sort of grow out of natural, you know, situations or developments but when you are losing family members in the band, the kind of business that we are in, be it the music industry or whatever, the band-oriented family is not given the luxury of waiting, of getting over and coming to a closure before getting new people in. It’s always a very odd situation having new people coming in because it’s pretty much like, and this is going to be an exaggeration of course, but it’s like you are losing your granddad, you are at the funeral and then straight after that is over you go and meet your new granddad! It’s an odd situation, isn’t it? I think that I am becoming better at handling that just because we’ve done it a few times (laughs). But still, especially now at such short notice where we can really count the kind of times that we have played together, I don’t think that we would ever want to say that “ so and so is becoming a full band member” before knowing how things are going to be in the long term, you know? So far, everything has been working really nicely. Daniel on the keyboards, though, he has been promoted to a full time member because he’s been around for quite a while and we know that he is a really nice guy. He’s really, really competent, he knows a lot of instruments, a lot of music – he’s very versatile and very positive and, you know, all those things really matter in the end!
• When you stated preparing for this tour and working on the material you will be performing for us tonight did you find that you had to adapt certain songs according to the capabilities of this line-up? Did you find that with new people, new ideas and new ways of performing, certain songs ended up acquiring a Jekyll & Hyde personality split?
Daniel: No, not so much. The funny thing is, I mean, we played stuff from all the applications that came in from around the world, we chose five people who we thought were quite interesting to try out for an audition and what really struck me was that, because we were playing “No Way” as one of the test songs, it was funny how all of the five versions of “No Way” were different! We chose that song just because it is not very strict compared to “Handful Of Nothing” where you basically have to play what you play and that’s it, you know, everything is pattern-oriented, but “No Way” is very much play-oriented and you almost naturally have to put a lot of your personality into what you are playing. You have the rhythmical theme where you know where things are and how they work and so it was very interesting to see how many different versions we got and all of them were good. I mean, all of them were interesting and had high musical qualities and that was the fun thing to see. I didn’t think that we had to adapt at all but the song turned a little bit into something else at the same time as you can be equally impressed by the fact that the songs were made exactly the same – the soul of the song was intact through all those different versions! So that was pretty cool, and no, when it comes to playing with new people one thing that is actually really nice is that now we can make five-piece harmony vocals because Fredrik refused to sing all the time (laughs). He did sing during the “Scarsick” tour but that was the only time because Simon (note: Andersson/bass) was not a very experiences singer, so Fredrik actually, in the end, he stepped up and sang (laughs). It’s just really amazing I think.
• Fredrik always came across to me as a pretty shy and reserved person. Anyhow, during our last interview together I asked you whether songs like “Sisters” and “Healing Now” were to be performed to which your answer was “no”. I actually remember you saying that “Healing Now” had so many layers of mandolin that it is impossible to play live and now I understand that the song somewhat miraculously made it on the band’s set list? Is that right?
Daniel: Yeah but you will be a bit disappointed because we are not doing it tonight!
• Oh no, you’ve got to be kidding me! Are you serious?
Daniel: I am sorry, I am sorry but yeah, it is a technical problem. We’ve had half of our gear left in Germany because they unloaded too much stuff with the bus company but “Sisters” we are doing.
• Ok, well, you cannot have it all in life I guess!
Daniel: Yeah, next time though! I am sorry – I would have really liked that too but we will be playing it again as soon as we will make it to mainland Europe and we get all our gear back. Now I think that this was one of the amazing things with getting new people in the band. To them all of the songs were equally new at least to some respect so all of a sudden it was like we had a blank page – at least that’s what it felt to me. Normally you will have people who know a certain amount of songs and it is very convenient to fall back on those songs. Now with these guys they… to them this song is as new as any other song, so I almost…again, of course, because it is so unlikely and impossible for us to get any songs together, so what do I do? I choose “Enter Rain”, “Sisters”, “Stress” – songs that we have never played before, just to make this even more impossible. There is just something in my head that just refuses to abide by rules.
• Daniel, that is exactly what we love about you! I have been lucky enough to see Pain Of Salvation live a decent number of times and I do not remember ever saying to myself “tonight’s set lost was just like the one on the previous tour”. I mean granted, there are songs like “Ashes” that you are somewhat expected to play every time but overall you always pleasantly surprise us.
Daniel: Yes, I think that I like putting myself out of my comfort zone every now and then.
• You were pretty impressed by people’s reaction throughout the UK during your support slot for Opeth, and especially Glasgow. Have fans been equally kind to you so far during the few dates that have been performed on UK soil?
Daniel: Yeah. In Glasgow we played in from of a smaller crowd this time round but yeah, Scottish people seem to be a good audience for us I think. The English are a bit more…you know, a bit more ‘prog-y’ I think.
• Daniel, you almost made the word ‘prog’ sound like an insult there (I laugh).
Daniel: I thought that I could make that sound like an insult without people knowing but… (laughs). It’s like, they are really appreciative and they are giving a lot of feedback between the songs but they are not really engaging – they are not a physically engaging audience. We had a few girls in the front row that were really rocking it out yesterday but, apart from that, there is a lot of really appreciative and impressed nods going on in the audience.
• The few times that I have seen you in Greece the vibe was better as we are a nation that does like to manifest its feelings clearly – we do that.
Daniel: Yeah, you guys are great!
• There was a point in time that I was somewhat worried as to whether Britain would provide a welcoming environment for Pain Of Salvation but I see that you are gradually picking up momentum recently.
Daniel: The thing with Pain Of Salvation is that the music normally…it seems to be attractive to a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds musically. I mean, you can look at what we have as our core fan base but you can also see that the music has the potential of reaching a lot of different people, a much wider audience. I think that it’s a matter of actually having people exposed to it in the first place and then, you know, getting your foot in the door, so I think that having been able to play in front of the UK audience will almost naturally make us some sort of…I don’t want to repeat myself but put our foot in the door (laughs)? I am happy to be doing headline shows here.
• Well Daniel, I have been given the nod to wrap things up here. Thank you for your time, I hope that you will feel better soon with regards your bad cold, I hope that you will enjoy tonight’s show here in London if that is possible under the circumstances and hope to see you again soon.
Daniel: Thanks, I will try to do my best tonight. Thank you.
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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