Exclusive interview – hellfest.fr: PAIN OF SALVATION [Daniel Gildenlöw (vocals & guitar)]
“The weather’s been really different the different times we’ve been at Hellfest and I wouldn’t really mind hot and dry in 2017! It’s my own preference but if you could sort that out I would be really happy. I think we have it on the rider, so…”
Daniel Gildenlöw – Le Divan du Monde, Paris – April 11, 2017
How has the tour been so far?
It’s been a very nice tour: a very good response from the crowd in every country, loads of sold out shows and a very good feedback on all the new material when we play it live too.
Are you satisfied with the various reviews from the press, etc.?
I don’t know as I tend to avoid reviews. I think that, being an artist, you’re always a bit sensitive to feedback on what you’re doing. Most people who are artists will have sort of a need for a confirmation, probably. That also means that you become very… You can get 99 good reviews and 1 bad one. Most people who I know in the business who are working as artists and care a lot about what they do will only remember that band one! (laughter) The good ones, you will remember generically. But the bad ones, you’re going to be able to quote, like every phrase and everything: they just stick…
Even after so many years?
Even after so many years. I mean, intellectually, I can tell myself that it’s silly and stupid. But emotionally, it does matter. Like you paint something in class and your class goes: “It’s a wonderful thing you painted there”. And there’s this one guy who says: “I think it’s crap”. And that’s the one you gonna remember going home, right? It’s a very human thing. With the social media stuff today, lots of people are not aware how heavy their words can be. Maybe they have a bad day and write something stupid and angry, not understanding that someone’s gonna read it on the other end. And that’s gonna be humans who have emotions.
You have a rather beautiful name for the new album: In the Passing Light Of Day. When did that title come out ? During the writing session or it was ready from the early beginning?
Funnily enough, the title of the album was actually taken from a song that was supposed to end up on the album but which never ended up on the album. It was a song I had been working on, on my laptop and I just ended up having that phrase in it and I really got stuck on that phrase, I liked it a lot. So for a long time it was supposed to be in two parts: “In The Passing Light Of Day – part one” and “In The Passing Light Of Day – part two”. So the one that’s on the album was originally supposed to be “part two”. But in the end, what happened is that I was working on the laptop and the laptop crashed… Not the laptop actually but the software crashed. I tried everything and googled like crazy to try to salvage the document but an entire day of… You know, when you get to the point in the process where you’re working on a lot of details and all of that stuff disappears… I was so devastated. I opened the document once just to realise how much I had lost. Then I closed it and I don’t think I have opened it since. I was having so many problems with it and in that one sitting of so many hours I actually solved all those problems by lots and lots of very small things. It was just too hard to even begin doing that again. In no matter how well I did it, maybe I would do it better than the first time but I would still have it in my mind: “It’s probably not as good as the first time!”. Like it becomes like a Holy Grail, you know? So it ended up not being on the album at all and that’s where the title comes from. And I used that throughout the album, not only in the song “In The Passing Light Of Day” but also in “On A Friday”. So it’s a recurring theme so to speak. It can symbolise so many things in life
Pain Of Salvation has a very rich discography already. What’s the added value of the new record?
Oh, that’s hard… First of all, I don’t know if it’s true for everyone but at least for myself, I will never be fully satisfied with an album that I made, which is also a strong motivation to keep you always seeking for that, you know? It’s something you should always strive for but you should never expect it because it’s impossible. Which I think is lucky. And I imagine: “Where would go from there? (laughter) So I guess, for me, it’s nice to get back to the harder material again and I think it’s in many ways a perfect album that combines the different eras that the band has been going through and the different wins in the different eras. I think there are certain things, like people compare it to Remedy Lane for instance but Remedy Lane is much more traditionally metal, I think. I think this album is more rugged and that’s a ruggedness that you can find on the Road Salt albums, I think. But if you’re into that kind of music, you’re not gonna be able to sort of grasp those albums. So it does combine very different eras of the band without even trying. I mean it’s not what we set out to do : it’s just that all the albums were just combinations of what we like.
You said you were a perfectionist and that is mentioned on your Facebook page. And your Facebook page also mentioned that you are “a restless Peter Pan”. What do you mean by that?
I was gonna say that I don’t seem to grow up! (laughter) And you can take it any way you want. I think there’s a certain usefulness that I relate to with Peter Pan. I’m not saying it’s immaturity but I think that to some extent – I work with children as a music teacher too – there is maturity with kids that rubs off as they grow older: they become adult. I think it’s good to grow up but I don’t think it’s necessarily good to become an adult because there are so many things that come with adulthood that are really just crap. Like if I ask my kids in school “What’s a music instrument?”, most of them say “Whatever you can play music on”. When you ask grown-ups, they will probably say: “A guitar is an instrument” or “A piano is an instrument”. I guess it’s the same thing with memory. We have the best memory when we are 9 years old but we use it much better when we grow older so you will be much more able to use your memory. You have the benefits of growing up but also have lots of benefits of being a child.
I was also wondering to which extent Pain Of Salvation was a real band or you with a backing band…
I asked myself that too at some point. I think it depends on what happens within the band. My vision of a band is very tribal, very family oriented. I never saw the benefit of having like a project band. Today, so many bands are project bands. I enjoyed that during the first years- when you’re like 15 and 20 and you can just meet up in the rehearsal room and you can stand there for 12 hour straight and just play. And you play and you play and you take a break and you play and you play and you play… I really appreciate that, especially because no one is questioning the practical value of that. And I think that’s what I really enjoy. After I got out of the hospital (Daniel contracted a life threatening flesh eating bacteria in 2014 and was hospitalised for weeks), I started doing free running and capoeira and going to the gym and the good thing about that – when you go there again, you meet the kind of people who are there every day or at least 2 or 3 times a week and they don’t question “How can I earn from this?” because that’s not the point. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be earning from what they do: of course, they should! And I wanna earn money on what I do too. But I guess I have to be driven by passion because if I’m not driven by passion I don’t see the benefit of it So for me, I have to be driven by passion and to a certain extent… I don’t know, like a blindness or some stupidity because over and over again, year after year, being a musician – unless you’re like on a huge scale – you’ll get back so little compared to what you invest. And that, from any point of view, it doesn’t make sense, other than from a passionate point of view. And somehow not paying too much attention to how the scales are so terribly off-balanced. And I think that’s usually the problem: that’s why the line-ups have changed with time… You get to a certain point in your life when the practical sides will have to balance up more than usual. I mean you can see that with the longest line-up that we had all the way until the Road Salt albums (2010-2011), from the second album (One Hour by the Concrete Lake – 1998). That line-up fell apart when people got kids. And that’s totally understandable. I mean I got kids too and I know how seriously different your life becomes, your energies become, your priorities become. All that changes so much that there is no way you can keep on having the same relation to what you’re doing as a musician. For me, I have not been in the same situation as they were as they could quit music: I can’t. It’s just a difference in how you are, I guess. I know that I could: I could quit the band and I could be home and focus on my family. But all the stuffs that drive me, stuffs that make me – like I said – stupid when it comes to practical things, were still there. Because that’s some sort of passion that runs through me. Like entirely connected to music and words. And that drive would be there still, only making me more absent-minded because I don’t have a band where I could use that as an outlet. So, personally, I would also have needed to take time off when we got kids and things changed so much. But for me, that was never an option and it wouldn’t have helped me the same way. But I have total understanding for the ones who did and needed to make those decisions and sacrifices. Every time I have felt that the family was falling apart – with “the family”, I mean “the band”, “the tribe”… when the tribe is falling apart, I lose motivation and I lose faith in what I’m doing, for sure. Every time people have left the band, I have considered like “Maybe it’s time now to let the band come to rest and give up”. But every time I have somehow powered through mostly because most of the people who have left the band have been nagging at me so much, that I should continue the band… I remember Johan (Langell – drums) when he quitted the band, he was like “You have to continue with the band”. He actually – after he knew he was gonna quit the band – kept playing in the band like for 3 or 4 years, just to make it possible for us to start thinking about something else. He was like “This is a limited time, you know. I will have to go, it’s just a matter of time”. But he also said: “You have to keep doing this. If nothing else, I wanna be able to watch a Pain Of Salvation show because I could never do that being in the band!” (laughter). And Johan (Hallgren – guitar) said the same thing: “It’s still my favourite band and you can’t quit now!”. So that helps to keep going. I guess the answer would be that it’s a very weird combination of feelings somehow at some points very alone in struggling. I mean the band has changed entirely so on some level I feel like a soul survivor. And you lose a lot of roots as you do that too. I guess you’ll have to compare it to other families. It’s like you lose your family and then you get a new family and it’s never gonna be the same. But that’s not the same as not having a family either. You get into something new and you appreciate the new family that you get into.
Pain Of Salvation is about music, obviously. But you make sure that the lyrics are available for everyone to read, the visuals are always very neat, refined and diversified. Do you consider he pain as a whole artistic concept?
Yeah, to me, everything is very connected. For this new album, I had the working title together with the photographer, Lars (Ardarve). And we had these visions that we could maybe pull the entire band in to this hospital environment and, like all the pictures that are in the artwork, we had the idea that we could do it with the entire band. We loved what we did for the Salt Road albums : we had some really detailed ideas but the rest was just off for grabs so we just relied on going up north to my wife’s family because they live in a very special area of Sweden and just basically anything goes. Like “We have 3 days, all ideas that pop up are up for grabs. We’re saying no to nothing. This is just like a 3 day brainstorm and we’ll see what comes up, what we find in the environment”. So we ended up doing all these strange things. Like you had one of our guitar players in a dress, climbing up the celling of an old mill. Or we’re all sitting stark naked in windows of a deserted house. I was also lying down in water that was almost to the freezing point I couldn’t breathe. It made great pictures and we ended the entire thing with a huge bonfire. We just threw furniture and just ideas that came up. We just had a bonfire party to see what happens and just go with it… You know: “Maybe with one bottle and a riffle that could work?“(laughter) So we loved that and we felt we wanted to recreate something like that, meeting for 3 entire days, whatever happens. And not until I tried to figure out dates for that I realised that only Leo (Margarit – drums) sort of understood what I was trying to achieve. Gustaf (Hielm – guitar) and Ragnar (Zolberg – guitar) couldn’t understand why 3 days. “What’s the dress code?” “Just bring loads of clothes!” “That’s not practical! What am I supposed to wear?” “Can’t we make it one day instead?” And it ended up like it was impossible to find time to get everyone together to make this weird creative flow of photographic ideas. In the end, it was just me and Lars doing all that stuff because it felt weird to make it with 3 or 4 members of the band. And then, we took more regular band shots with the entire band. But yes, it’s in the details, for sure.
Fourth time at Hellfest. Any comments?
I dont’ know a lot about the line-up to be honest! Let’s see… I like Hellfest a lot and I’m very glad to come back. It’s gonna be really nice. We played there a few times and it’s always nice. Now, when you’re showing me this, I’m getting curious. Blue Öyster Cult? I wouldn’t mind seeing that. And Deep Purple of course. I’m assuming it’s a farewell tour, right? It’s gonna be interesting. Suicidal Tendencies? I remember they’ve played before too and we played on the same day at one point. Great drummer I seem to remember. It’s gonna be interesting, for sure. Cool! I’m looking forward to it a lot. The weather’s been really different the different times we’ve been there and I wouldn’t really mind hot and dry in 2017! It’s my own preference but if you could sort that out I would be really happy. I think we have it on the rider, so… (laughter)
Many thanks to Julien & Cyril (K Productions) and Marc (Rock N Road)