I like every album to be a reaction to the previous album…
Swedish progressive rock/metal outfit Pain Of Salvation like to do things on their own terms. From causing a stir by entering the Eurovision Songfestival to completely overhauling a very successful musical format and alienating a part of their fanbase in the process, they’ve done it all. After several years of lineup changes the band surrounding guitarist/singer/main composer Daniel Gildenlow is in much calmer waters now. MR’s Raymond Westland caught up with Daniel in order to discuss the band’s latest musical endeavour Falling Home and taking stock of the turbulent Road Salt years…
Earlier this year you were hospitalised due to a very serious bacterial infection. How’s your health nowadays?
I’m fine now, thanks for asking. I was hospitalised for four months and I had to be anesthetized three times a day. It was a very stressful and difficult period, also for my wife and my three kids. She has a full time job and my kids are still quite young. When I got home I could hardly walk five passes before falling over or passing out. However, after one day I got home I started working on the mixes for Falling Home. I really wanted to finish that project (laughs).
What inspired the recording of a semi acoustic album that is Falling Home?
Back in 2012 we were approached by a German booker to play an acoustic show in a more intimate setting. Since I really like a challenge and I’m always on the lookout to keep things interesting for Pain Of Salvation I agreed on doing the gig. It also asked for a lot rearranging of our songs, because not all our material is suited for an acoustic treatment. The show in Germany would also be recorded for a possible DVD release, so it was a big thing for us as a band. It was a bitter pill to swallow to learn that the DVD recordings didn’t worked out as we would have planned, yet we liked the concept of re-arranging our songs to a different format. So we decided to play those songs live in our rehearsal space and record them, like we did with our 12:5 album. Of course, things got way more complicated than just recording a live album and put it out as a gesture to our fans…(laughs)
The recording of Falling Home turned into quite a challenge. What happened?
We had a lot of problem finding the right sound at our rehearsal space. Sometimes it was too dry and we had some technical issues to contend with. We were also pressed for time, because we don’t live near each other. Gustaf, our bassist, lives in Stockholm, other members live in and around Gothenburg and I live in Eskilstuna. It’s quite a logistical operation to get us all in the same room, especially for a longer period of time. We wanted to capture those songs in a single session to retain that live feel and we recorded as many takes of said songs, so we could choose the best versions. Originally I wasn’t up for editing and mixing the album and our regular sound guy would take care of that. He wasn’t able to do it, so a friend of his would take care of it. That didn’t materialise either, so I was forced to handle the editing and mixing duties myself. Especially the editing took a lot of time in order to stitch it all together. In hindsight it was almost like recording a new album in terms of the energy and time it cost putting it all together (laughs).
A lot of the songs are re-arranged. How much did you change to fit the acoustic format? Can you give any particular examples?
I really like the idea to do something different with the songs from our back catalogue. Rearranging them almost breathes new life in them somehow. Songs like ‘To The Shore’ and ‘1979’ were pretty much written for a different setting and ‘Linoleum’ is a type of songs that always works each time, no matter how different we perform it. The challenging bit was to rework material that was never meant for an acoustic format, like ‘Spitfall’ and ‘Mrs. Modern Mother Mary’. We made it work and that was the most gratifying thing about the whole project. They turned to be my favourite tracks on the album.
The album also contains two cover versions of ‘Holy Diver’ by Dio and ‘A Perfect Day’ by Lou Reed. What makes you choose those songs? Lou Reed passed away earlier this year, so seen in that light can it be seen as a musical tribute?
Lou Reed was actually still alive when we recorded ‘A Perfect Day’. As for ‘Holy Diver’ there’s quite a story attached to that. Back in our early days we always rehearsed a lot in order to hone our craft and become better musicians. One our methods was either to play our songs really fast, but still trying to play those songs as tight and accurate as possible. The other one was to play our favourite metal songs in a more jazzy type shuffle. Over time that grew into a sort of tradition. A couple of years ago there was this 80’s metal party in my hometown of Eskilstuna and we were asked if we could perform an 80’s metal classic for people to relive their 80’s nostalgia trip. We decided to play a cover of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ and deliver it in a more jazzy/lounge type version. I’m not sure whether people actually heard us playing, but it was a lot of fun to do.
The story behind ‘A Perfect Day’ is more straightforward one. I was asked by my wife’s sister to sing that song at her marriage. It seemed like an off-beat choice to me, because it’s not exactly your average love song, let alone to perform it during a marriage. However, after studying the lyrics the whole thing grew on me. I really appreciate the honesty and sweet irony of “you just keep me hanging on” (laughs).
‘Falling Home’ is a new song. Does it hold any clues as to how a possible new P.o.S. album will turn out?
Well, ‘Falling Home’ was never intended to be used for Pain Of Salvation. It was just a song written by Ragnar (Solberg) and myself without any specific goal in mind. We played it as the opening song during our last accoustic tour. I was looking for a title track for our latest musical venture, something that really encompasses the feel and the music of the whole album, a sort of musical summery, if you will. ‘Falling Home’ was just perfect in that regard. The lyrical themes and the atmosphere were just perfect. The song is more of a standalone thing, because for the new Pain Of Salvation album I’m more interested in making something that echoes the aggression and complexity of The Perfect Element and Remedy Lane. We actually wanted to write and record the album a long time ago, but we just kept on getting great gig offers. However, we’re going to work on new material really soon and book some studio time. Hopefully we’ll have something to present in late 2015 or early 2016 (laughs).
P.o.S. had to contend with several member changes the last couple of years. How did this change the creative dynamic within the band?
Our current lineup has been stable for a couple of years now. Our keyboard player Daniel helped the band out on a couple of occasions in a variety of roles over the years, so he’s been part of the family for ages, so the speak. Gustaf, our bassist, was a member of the band in our formative years and Ragnar pretty grew up on our music. He’s an amazing talented musician. Each member wanted to be a full time musician from their early childhood, so they understand the sacrifices one has to make in order to be a musician. Many of our former members made it clear that they would leave the band if family or careers would come in the way, yet they wanted to see Pain Of Salvation to blossom and go on after they left the band. With the current line-up there’s a creative hunger lingering in this band, which I haven’t felt for years. With this in mind I can’t wait to start working on new material.
Road Salt One and Two are a very deliberate break from the older P.o.S. albums, both in terms of sound and tuning down the progressive elements. How do you look back on the period when those albums were conceived? Any regrets?
I like every Pain Of Salvation album to be a reaction to the previous album. At the time I was really burned out on the idea of putting out another album that would sound like the previous records. The Road Salt albums are very much a trip to my own musical roots. I was aiming to recapture that Seventies sound, but giving my own spin on things. Not everyone within our fanbase was happy with this new musical direction, whilst many others applauded us for taking this risk and they really embraced both Road Salt albums. The simple truth is that you cannot please everyone. They’re still my favourite Pain Of Salvation albums. Having that said, with the new album I’m more interested in recapturing the aggression and darkness of our early and mid-2000’s material.
Finally, would you ever consider a releasing a singer/songwriter type of album?
Oh man, I really love the whole singer/songwriter type of format! Doing something like that has been in the back of my mind for forever. However, every time something gets in the way. Besides Pain Of Salvation, doing a singer/songwriter type of thing is my second priority (laughs)…