Fresh off the back of the release of their new acoustic album, ‘Falling Home’ and Swedish progressive/alternative metal veterans and this week’s AMPED Artist Of The Week, Pain Of Salvation are already hard at work writing a new, “harder” album and planning for the release of a live acoustic DVD, titled ‘The Great Unravelling,’ both of which are slated for release later this year.
To gain some extra insight into this hard-working, hard-rocking band, we caught up with vocalist/guitarist Daniel Gildenlöw for an in-depth discussion about ‘Falling Home’ and to find out what inspired the band to do it, as well as to get an update on the new album and the band’s plans for 2105. Check it out below.
Your latest album, ‘Falling Home’ was released late last year in Europe and this month in the US, how has the response been so far?
I honestly don’t know – I usually try to stay clear of the public feedback. An album release is an intense moment for me, very close to my heart, and hearing any trash about it is like hearing someone bluntly tell you that your kids are ugly. So I’ll happily miss out on those 95 good reviews just to be sure to avoid 5 bad ones. Really, it doesn’t matter if it’s only one disappointed person in an entire choir of praise, those words will stick forever. I can still recite the first bad review we got – from a small local news paper in a sucky Swedish redneck town back in 1998. That’s how sticky they are. (Incidentally, we got 100/100 for that same album in one of the larger music magazines in Europe.) Also, I never understood how people could expect you to be happy about 7/10 or 8/10 and call that “good reviews”. I guess there is a competitor’s genes somewhere inside me. Even 9/10 makes me sad (“oh, your daughter is almost very pretty!”). Or rather, I would actually be fine with any of our albums getting a 3/10, if it wasn’t for the fact that you’ll find some unintelligent crap album score higher in the column next to it. It’s all about the discrepancy, see?
(Or, correct default answer according to marketing advisors: “Oh, the response has been tremendous!”)
What made you decide to rework your old classics into acoustic form?
Don’t know about “classics” but ok, ha ha… It all derives from a request we got from a German organiser who was interested in us doing an acoustic gig, much like the one we recorded a decade ago and became the album 12:5. It’s in the very marrow of this band to thrive on challenges and variation, so of course we said yes, and figured that we should record it too, again like with 12:5. Fortunately (since the entire Falling Home album, as we now know it, spawned from it) something went horribly wrong with the syncing of the recording units. So, one of the first things we learned after the gig was that half the channels were never recorded. But as the initial frustration (and urge to lie down and weep) slowly subsided, we realised we couldn’t drop the idea of making the album. For us, it started to become real the minute we started picturing it in our heads. Call it a healthy disability to successfully separate the plane of ideas from the plane of the physical. Hard to tell if we would make Plato proud or displeased. But I digress. Anyway, as a lifetime of intimate encounters with it have taught me, Failure is the true mother of invention in this world. Consequently, once we started to record the live show in studio, it started to transform and mutate into the very special album we now see. Falling Home.
How did you go about arranging and recording the songs?
I don’t know about you, but I have never enjoyed it when bands or artists simply play their regular songs as-is with acoustic guitars and call it “unplugged” or “acoustic”. As if the absence of guitar pickups alone makes it worthy of a redefinition. To me, that’s just emulating the typical effect of a mere power shortage or blown fuse. Me, I want to take the opportunity to dress the song up to fit the occasion. I sit down with them pretty much as I would if they were brand new ideas. Trying to find a new way in. And here is the corner stone of new ways in: once you find it, your entire journey follows new routes, and you cannot be entirely sure as to where you will end up. To me, that’s a wonderful feeling after all these years. Like finding a new door in a house you have lived in for a very long time.
Which of the re-imagined tracks from the album do you think turned out the best?
“Stress” is one of my absolute personal favourites, and the one that will survive the longest for me. As for being convincing at a first listen, I have to go with “Linoleum”. This is only counting our own songs – I also love “Holy Diver” and felt so happy that I could finally lay down some vocal tracks in this style and vein, which normally has very little chance to end up on our albums.
What can you tell us about the album’s title track?
Me and Ragnar sat down a few months earlier, writing music together. We had no plan for the songs we worked on, so this song was not initially written for the acoustic show or album. It was sitting on one of my hard drives, mixed and pre-mastered. Meanwhile, we had started to record the acoustic album, which went under the working-title “Clean” back then. Once I started to gather the recorded songs, to find the album in the material, I constantly felt we were one song short – that concluding home-coming track that you will always find towards the end of a Pain of Salvation album. I was also looking for another album title, to go better with what the album was turning into. Then I got the idea to pull this already existing track into the album material, and suddenly the pieces came together. It also provided the perfect album title. Since the “Falling Home” track was already in style with the dogmas of the acoustic album, the only thing I did to it was to dry it up a bit and remove two harmony vocals, to give it that slightly warm and edgy sound that I was creating for the album.
The album also features your reworked versions of, “Holy Diver” by Dio and “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed, what inspired you to cover those particular tracks?
Coincidence? This odd rendition of Holy Diver had been in my system for a few years already, from a performance we did at a local 80s retro metal event. Of course we couldn’t just play retro 80s metal like the rest of the bands and artists, hahaha. We already had a long tradition in the band to play weird shuffled jazz versions of our own songs (just look at Stress on this album – and I recall performing an acoustic shuffled jazz version of the Entropia track “! (Foreword)” when we won the music award in out home town many years ago). A tradition that has its roots in our even older tradition to play songs at extreme speed, preferably with double bass drums. Both these traditions reach way back, and stem from restlessness and the need to blow off steam after 10 or 12 hours of straight rehearsals. “Holy Diver” just seemed the perfect candidate to be run through this creative meat grinder of magic, and I really loved the way it turned out. But the only time we did it was under terrible conditions and in front of an inattentive (and rather inebriated, let’s be honest here) crowd of middle aged men reliving their 80s for one night. I always felt it deserved to be recorded, and appreciated by a larger (and slightly less inebriated?) crowd, and here was finally the perfect chance!
The Lou Reed song I had just performed at my sister-in-law’s wedding a few weeks earlier, at their request, and I instantly fell in love with the song. The arrangement I did for the wedding (then performed together with Fredrik Hermansson) was already titting perfectly for this album, so it was a natural song to bring to the table.
Weird that Dio and Reed were both alive at the time when I made the respective arrangements, and they both died before the release. It seems I have to be very careful when picking cover songs in the future. Or possibly, I could be the perfect hitman, as you can’t dust for covers…?
What was the inspiration behind the video to ‘1979’?
Well, the song is a dual layer story of the loss of innocence as you grow up from a child to an adult, and how society has pretty much seen that same loss between the 70s and now. So of course I wanted to catch that feeling in the video. We simply arranged for the entire band with families to stay a few days in an old fishing camp that my wife Johanna’s family has visited during the summers for generations. Time has stood still here for decades, so it was the perfect place to create our little time bubble. We had a great and creative time, and barbecued at the beach by the ocean, all dressed in whatever old or timeless clothes we could find on short notice. I recall standing in the liquor store googling beer bottles from the 70s on my iPhone, trying to find beers that were as era correct as possible. The liquor store personnel (and one older customer) ended up enthusiastically participating in the analyses – probably eager to get some variation from the more typical “what grape goes with venison?” inquiries that normal customers will present. Stefan Daniels (the man who my sister-in-law Sanna married, and at whose wedding I played the Lou Reed song, as it so happens) filmed the video, and came up with the excellent idea of letting my oldest son Sandrian run and play with a kite on the beach. Everything was shot with one big “real” video camera and two or three iPhones, but in the end, almost all the shots used for the video were the ones from the iPhones. Not all things were better back in the 70s.
Music aside, the album is very visually appealing, who came up with the concept for the artwork?
Thank you very much! I did the artwork. I tried so many different approaches to the front cover, before finally getting the idea of having us carry a sofa (and a chair) through nature. There are so many nice references in there: you have your Six Feet Under vibe, your Abbey Road vibe, your Monty Python vibe, your Ingmar Bergman vibe. And it connected perfectly with the “70s living room” theme we were using for the preceding acoustic tour, during which we actually hoisted lots of 70s furniture and module walls (with real 70s wall paper, mind you) across Europe. The sofa and rotating arm chair seen on the front cover are actually the exact ones that could be seen on all of our shows throughout that tour, incidentally. The same sofa where I would sit and sing “Help Me Make it Through the Night” with Anneke every night.
What are your touring plans for the album? How many tracks will you be playing live?
We were considering going on a tour for this album, but we feel like we did the tour before the album, backwards, so to speak. That tour will be represented by a DVD called “The Great Unravelling” at some point later this year, and in the end we felt that a new studio album would be a better focus for us at this point. But we do have the entire 70s living room stored at our crew’s place, so who knows? One of these days, Europe might once again be able to behold that lovely wall paper…
What is your main goal for 2015?
World peace. World domination. A 1968 Ford Mustang. In any order.
When can we expect the next all-new Pain Of Salvation album to drop?
Me and Ragnar are writing new music together right now, and it’s seeing the band go back to the roots of the earlier albums. Strong, complex, melody driven, conceptual, unique. The plan is to go into Jens Bogren’s studio and record it in August or September – but right now we are ahead of that schedule.