Pain Of Salvation – progressive metal with a deeper meaning
The interview with Daniel Gildenlöw vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist of Pain Of Salvation is one I will never forget. When their masterpiece ‘BE‘ was released a friend of mine ‘forced’ me too see them on the European tour. I had no idea what to expect and it was a real eye-opener.
Not only the music, but also the lyrics are challenging the listener in a way I thought was impossible. Enchanted by their excellent show, they were on my list to ‘ discover’ and curiosity is grown since that first contact.
I was waiting for this since I started listening to metal back in the early ’90. Something to make it complete. And when I finally met them on the promotion tour of ‘ Scarsick’ in 2007 it was a nice introduction. I am still curious and I have no idea where it brings me, but I like the road..SD
,, Every album has it hells: ‘Scarsick’ was the hardest one to produce.”
Pain of Salvation a band that doesn’t fit in any part of the metal scene. With their new album ‘Scarsick’ the band showed again that they want to discover their borders and push themselves to the limit. They are totally unpredictable and that makes them so attractive. Daniel Gildenlöw is the spiritual father: he is not only the vocalist, frontman or guitarist (since this new album also the bass player). He is the one who can give a better image about the sound, and most of all: the story behind the music.
Daniel chooses a corner of the bar where it is silent, sitting in a big leather chair with the background a faux-heart. He looks different from the last time I saw him in his ‘Be‘ period: he has a beard, still the long curly hair; and he’s wearing his glasses today. When I ask him about the new record, he starts to smile.
What comes into my mind when you say “Scarsick”?
Frustration! First of all, because it is a frustrated album: it’s about frustration. Also, because it’s been a pretty long process. We recorded the drums in April, so the songs were already completed in April which is almost a year ago. Then so many things happened: I was moving the studio, so I had to change everything and start all over again. You have to get used to listening again. Then I had a baby in the summer and that takes time. It is not only a frustrated album, it’s been a frustrated journey too! In many ways also a frustrated year.
He bends forward, silent for a second, than he continues: You have those visions about the exact kind of album you want to make.. And then…you’re struggling every day because you feel that it’s not working out or that it’s not what I mean – you know…?
You try to get the perfection?
Exactly. I am mixing, recording: well doing everything, the whole production. Sometimes I’m sitting there feeling like this is not what I supposed to do. I am a musician.
Now Daniel sounds a bit indignant.
I spent days behind the computer, that is not where I signed up for.
It is a part of it, otherwise you can’t get the record you want?
Exactly, so I just did it!
When I admit that I was bit scared to hear the new album Daniel shows his sense of humour: “Really, throwing back maybe?”
The previous dvd concept ‘Be‘ was a complete artwork: sound and images were bound together. Now it felt like a step back to hear only the sound.
Yeah I can imagine it like that. With the ‘Be‘ album I guess we have gained some progrock fans. That maybe came into the…haha…
(the trumpet from the jazz song interrupts him: ‘Someone is really over-communicating.’)
Daniel continues: I guess that the kind of fans that came in with ‘Be’ and only have that as a reference – and then we come out with ‘Scarsick’: they just fall off their chairs and say ‘owww damn.’ Haha. It probably takes some time. The thing is also that the negative side of being on the reviewers – media end, is that you only get the cd. I think that especially with Pain of Salvation the artwork gives that extra dimension: you have the lyrics and the images.
It felt like I missed a part of the puzzle.
Yes, exactly. It is part of the puzzle: I think the artwork is adding a lot, definitly. Emotionally, because it adds other emotions. You will see images..mankind as a whole is very visual, so that helps a lot. Than he comes up with a joke: So we have to stress now with every interview: ‘Ahh you have the promo version. You should have the real one.’ Hopefully they buy it after hearing that.
Soon enough it became serious again. Recording ‘Scarsick‘ was not an easy process you’ve told me before. I had the idea that you never choose an easy way.
We never take the easy way, that is definitly true. It’s kind of a cliché as I said before, but serious. Every album has it’s ‘hells’ and those can be different from album to album. With ’12:5′ it was the first acoustic album we did as well as the first album I produced and mixed entirely by myself. It was difficult from that point of view, in that it took more time, because I was learning so much.
And then with ‘BE‘ that was just a huge project from start to finish and we started making the light plan. When it comes to making an album, you can push the deadline if you have to. When there is a live performance that’s sceduled and people bought tickets to already…you have to make your product ready at the first day. So that was very hectic. First I had to compose the material and arrange it for an orchestra: which was the very time consuming and stressful part. Then we did the live shows, the dvd, and the tour.
The hardest part of the ‘Scarsick‘ album is, the whole year of the process of the album has been interrupted by other things. Like becoming a father, moving the studio, computer breakdowns – always happens somewhere in the process – so you have all those interruptions and you have start over again. You get out of the mood in a way and have to get back into it. Also having a clear vision of what you want to do. I think this is the album of all albums that was the hardest to produce.
Daniel looks down to his jeans, looks up and continues his own analyse:
The sound in many ways simpler, but it is very hard to get that simple sound. It has to be more clear and you have to work with compressors and expanders. That was the hardest part to work with. I thought it was easier with an album like ‘Be’, although it was a huge project. Mixing it with the number of channels was ridiculous. We recorded the orchestra live, and they had fourty chanels and the ‘Be’ show together. We had 120 channels just from the shows and every track was 1.5 hours long. It was huge in that aspect. On the other hand, you had the orchestra and it sounds good instinctly: for that album we wanted to have the dynamic pretty much untouched. You don’t want to press it too far and make it too modern. You want the dynamic to remain.
A typical classical sound?
Yes. It sounds more complex, but it is easier to mix that sort of music, I think, than the last record’s music. That was harder, because more things could go wrong. Everything is pushed much more towards the limit.
Daniel Gildenlöw is talking so much now that I really need to focus to follow his story. Sometimes he moves his hands. Rubbing over the whole of his jeans on his knee, a sign that is he concentrated.
I had my moments sitting behind the computer and cursing away, because the things weren’t the way I wanted them to be. It’s been a difficult, frustrating process – and of course a rewarding one also. You’re probably not going to agree with me at this point, because you had difficulties..
That was not meant in a bad way.
Then it is good. For me it is so far the best album we’ve ever done. I always feel when we make a new album that it is better then the previous one. Otherwise, why would I want to make an album that’s worse than the previous ones? The difference between this album and the one before is never been bigger with this album. I feel more than ever that it is so much better, which makes us as a band more valuable. I remember instinctly a few times in the production… The thing is, when they don’t like this I just have nothing to give them. To me this is the best there is!
Every review that’s less than 10 out of 10 will make me angry basically. I know you gave me that, but Aardschok gave me less: 9.5 – they didn’t understand it: I was pissed off. You know they have a list with their top ten albums and I was like: what nine albums better than ‘Scarsick’? Come on.. Honestly I know that it is completely unobjective, but well, it is a matter of taste.
It is not an easy record to understand. There are many elements from the previous albums in it, but also a totally new unexpected side.
It is not. I kind of expected that people would be like ‘huh’ when they hear the new album for the first time. The guys who run the American fanclub:well I make fun of them because they are American and they make fun of Sweden, but we have nice conversations. The first time they heard ‘Scarsick‘ was on their way to work, in the car. They reached their work, stopped the car and were like’ok’ and they were puzzled. After two weeks listening to it, they were like; this is the best album ever.
That is the kind of reaction I expect, which is good in a way.
From a musical point of view it is good, because then you allow the album to be able to grow. It makes your music horrible from a marketing point of view: reviewers don’t have the time to sit down and really listen. When you are lucky they listen once through the whole album. I don’t know how common it is, but several times we had re-reviews from the same reviewer one year later. Saying: I didn’t get it when I wrote the review and now I feel I have to make a new review. I never have seen that with other bands. I found it very funny, when people make a review from a year old album, because they feel they were wrong the first time. I think that fits Pain of Salvation very well.
Maybe the most important question is, you are sitting there writing that music, how you create that special sound, is that something what happens in your mind?
I have no idea. I write music in my head and than usually that fits with how it sounds when I devide the parts: when I say, play this and that. And it sounds basicly like in my head. Than it is a mather of twisting, turning… uhmmm I never gave up: when I have the idea how I want it to be, I keep on struggeling till I reached the level that I am statisfied. That I can live with it, that’s the point. I never been completely statisfied.
That must be frustrated in a way that you hear it different in your head and get it..
Yes it is. It’s the same with this album: there are always parts I want to change. I want to go back and change it, but at some point you have to let it go.
When do you know that you reached that point?
It’s about two or three months after deadline haha. People think that I don’t like deadlines, but that is not true. I love the wishing sound they make when they go by… Musically it is when I feel statisfied enough that I can say: this I can stand for, this is better than anything I know.
This is for me the benchmark what music today should be according to me. It is performed in away that all of us are satisfied, That we as a band feel: this is a benchmark what musicians today should be.I guess that’s the point. For this album I actually struggled to avoid perfection. Usually – I’ve always done that – when I choose from different takes from whatever it is, I don’t end up with the one who’s perfectly played. I end up with the one that express something. The best vocals I have ever done is probably ‘America’ on this album. I love it, I am out of pitch..more than on the previous albums together. But it is just perfect.
He is silent, takes some water and than says: ,,I am always searching for the correct expression, to express the kind of emotions that you want to express.”
There are always a lot of emotions involved in your records: energy, melancholy..
That is what I like. I think we have more female fans than most progmetal bands have normally. I think that is has to deal with that.
I don’t want to discribe you guys as a progmetal band.
,,That’s good, thank you very much. Extra points to you! Haha. But seriously.. That are exactly my words, seriously? No joking.”
It is not metal, or prog, or whatever: just Pain of Salvation.
“Yes I think that also, exactly!”
But how shall I discribe your sound in my review?
No idea. That is my problem. Ever since the first album I feel like: couldn’t we try to get away from the progmetal label? I never been confortable with that, basicly I don’t like progmetal. I mean there are good bands, but there are assocations with things I don’t want to be. When you say ‘progmetal’ people will think about a specific kind of music. I think Pain of Salvation isn’t about that. Pain of Salvation is about expression and most of the bands are not.
The record label is always asking: please how would you discribe your music. I don’t know. The last thing I want to do is being one of those bands saying ‘we invented our own music style and it’s called..’ and when you listen it than it’s just pop, come on. I see peoples need of having labels. Ok when you want a tag on our music to make it easier to discuss, ok. That is why I excepted to be progmetal. That is also when I am happy when you say ‘you are not progmetal’Thank you! When you come up with a good discription please let me know.”
Ok well let’s find a way maybe. My father -who knows more about music than me – said after seeing the dvd ‘Be’ that there are some Wagner influences.
An interesting comparesing. I guess I have to check that out. Like in movies when you have nazi’s you always hear Wagner. That is why I have a negative feeling about it, but I guess they shouldn’t play Wagner. I remember someone who said: Pain of Salvation is Faith No More meets Albert Einstein. That is kind of fun. The emotional expressing weirdness of Faith No More together with the intelect of whatever. It is still no music style, but interesting idea!
I think Pain of Salvation is on the same level like Tool: they have their own label.
I guess so. There are so many bands who have their own time signatures. They have distorbed guitars, singing in various styles and somehow not be labeled as progressive metal. I always wonder: how did that happend? Why did they escape? When people ask it to me, I most of the time say: alternative metal.
There will be a tour in march: is there something special we can expect in Paradiso, besides the DVD recording?
We played there once, it is a wonderfull place. It is very nice to get back now. We will make a mix from all the albums. I never appriciated it when bands only play their new album. You have a sort of magic too when you play from all the albums. You can make these album who are so far apart timewise – ‘Enthropia’ is from 1997 and ‘Scarsick’ from 2007 – in a livesituation you can make them meet and be friends for a night. I love the combinations: it can be strong because of all their elements.
Than there is an intterupt: last question, other interviews are planned. Of course I can’t find the last question.
,,It is hard when you don’t have the question based stragedy for interviews. It went went very well don’t worry. No hurry, he said one question left, so you can ask it in 30 minuts right?”
Ok just make the circle round: I discoverd a bit more about what’s behind the new record, any last words left?
The advise would be as with all the albums we made: give it time! This is not temperal, this is ment to be a friend for live. Someone you take your time with. I would strongly suggest.. I know it is online allready..I wouldn’t do that. The artwork is really adding so much. We have some suprises in the artwork I think that’ll shed an other light over the whole concept. I would love to be able to be presented this album that way, like it was the first time. It is impossible for me, because I was in the process, but I envy the listeners. They actually can go by the album: ripp off the plastic, open the booklet and press play. I would love to do that with this album, because it I am so involved I can’t have that. To me it would be magical. So my advise is: to it like that.
thankword to Pain Of Salvation, Inside Out and Frank van Liempd.