Pain Of Salvation

author AP date 03/04/07

After weeks of excitement, sweaty palms and sleepless nights I am finally sitting here in front of him. Daniel Gildenlöw. The mastermind behind one of the most visionary progressive metal bands, Pain of Salvation – so visionary that they take the term progressive so far beyond the genre, where putting them in the same box with bands like Dream Theater would be a shame. After a few seconds of recovering from the hypnosis I recall the tour manager telling me how sick Daniel was and the fact of me being two hours late for the interview (blame the tour manager!), meaning I had to shorten my interview heavily, cutting out all the unnecessary [read: fun] questions. Besides the scarf around the neck there are no other signs of Daniel being ill. He seems to be interested and in the mood. Fredrik (keyboards) joins us shortly. No time to waste!

Marina: So… On the new album: 26 times fuck, 5 times shit and 40 times sick. You have been quite frustrated while writing the new album?
Daniel: We try to make it in a harmonic, nice kind of way [laughs].

Marina: Is "Scarsick" a very angry album?
Daniel: Yeah, it is. It's a frustrated album. It's kind of social-political and since it's the second part of "The Perfect Element part I" [referred to as TPE part I throughout the interview], we have the male main character being kind of the filter through which we see society. And he is not in a state of mind where he would be subtle about things. So it would just feel awkward to try to soften things up. We actually had the advice, I wouldn’t say from whom, but it was someone involved in around the band, when it came to "America" that maybe we could change the lyrics, at least just the "sick of America part", maybe to "I LOVE America", but in a cynical way… Well, yeah, no, I don't think so [laughs].

Marina: But wasn't it quite risky to write a song about America?
Daniel: I don't know, I mean, looking at it from a marketing point of view, it's probably not the best thing to do. But then again, you're always pissing someone off as soon as you're saying something that you care about, as soon as you're saying something that is not kind of medium and in the middle. You're always going to make someone angry or someone will misunderstand you or whatever. And if you try to work around that every time, then you'll end up with very bland, meaningless products, I think. So, it's better to be head-on and then you'll have to explain what you mean to all those people that think you're an asshole [laughs]. And from the percentage point of view we should have the majority of the American people with us on this, right? [laughs]

Marina: Yeah, sure… For and against… [laughs]

Daniel: With a small margin, but still…

Marina: Can you please shortly sketch up the main links between "TPE part I" and "Scarsick"?
Daniel: Well…[laughs]

Marina: Once again, yeah.

Daniel: Yeah, sure, very briefly. Well, "The Perfect Element part I" is dealing with the symptomology of the individual and "Scarsick" is dealing with the symptomology of a society. So, on the first part we're looking at two main characters, who are kind of broken inside and trying to kind of damage, trying to fill holes with outside stimuli, trying to become whole by finding other things that will fit into the holes that they have, which is the main point of the whole concept of "The Perfect Element", where I kind of use the element as a metaphor for the things that you… If you're using the elements as a metaphor, you could say that in order to be a full human being you need to have all the four elements, when you're formed as a human being. If you don't get that, like in the case with these two individuals, they have a deficiency of the element of fire for love, so they will go through their lives constantly burning themselves on things, trying to fill that with other types of elements of fire, which would be like the drugs, the sex and the drug abuse, whatever. So, we're looking at the first half of "TPE part I" and we have several themes of abuse on an individual kind of level. And if you're looking at "Scarsick" you see the first half of that album having themes of abuse kind of referring to that first part of "TPE part I", but on a social level. So you're looking at themes of abuse on a much more social-political level. And this is done by, since on "TPE part I" we're following the male main character, as he is kind of caught up by the truths about himself and his past and he reaches kind of a mental decline to a point of no return and falling point at the end of the album, and we leave him lying on the floor with all these different emotions, having more or less a breakdown. And this is where we pick up on "Scarsick" with the male main character still lying on that floor. And in that same room you have a TV being on. So you see the outside world or the contemporary society (Daniel: I love that phrase) being displayed through television, which in itself is a kind of an interesting filter, and then again you have the main character also as a sort of filter. And after having seen these different themes of abuse through television, in which America is one of the parts, you get to follow his physical point of no return and his physical falling point. And he serves, in many ways, as a warning sign of, I guess, showing that society in itself is sharing the same symptomology as those individuals. It's a kind of a broken and empty, kind of damaged society that has formed these individuals very naturally and is also trying to find outside stimuli to fill the voids, in many ways. And it's also at risk of being caught up by the truths about itself and by its own past. And if we're not changing our ways, we will go the same way as these individuals are going in "TPE part I".[laughs]

Marina: Change the society – change the people.

Daniel: Yeah, and then the individuals formed by that society will in their turn change society. So it's kind of a symbiosis that needs to be a positive spiral or else it will go, you know… kind of… bad.

Marina: You should have been a politician.

Daniel: I am! [laughs] Not a party politician, but I guess everything is politics in many ways.

Marina: So, one of these questions that you’re probably sick of hearing: Will there be a "The Perfect Element III"?
Daniel: [laughs] I'm not sick of hearing that… Yeah, there is going to be a Part III.

Marina: You cannot reveal what it is going to be about yet? [Daniel hesitates] Maybe a tiny hint?

Daniel: Well, we're going to see more of her again – the female main character. And trying to kind of sum things up, I guess.

Marina: So you've got a part of the concept in your head right now?

Daniel: Yeah, and part of the music too. It's going to be… interesting.

It was a lot more difficult to make Daniel spill out about the upcoming album than I thought, so I found myself giving up on the idea quite quickly. Using force might not have been a very popular move either, so I made a decision to move on to more innocent subjects.

Marina: Do you use a special formula when making an album? How do you go about making one, does it just flow naturally?
Daniel: It just flows naturally. It depends on the album. I usually say that as long as you're making music and you're using yourself, like, as long as you're putting yourself into your music, the music will change as long as you're changing. And another way of constantly redefining your relationship to music, I think, is also to change the procedure in which the music is being created. And that happened definitely for the last albums, since we have had so different premises for every different album. But one thing that is always the same, I think… I mean, I can only speak for myself as a composer, but when music comes to me, I live with it for a while, I twist and turn it and sometimes it survives into something that will actually be on an album or at some sort being continued and being finished at some point. Most of it is just passing by. After that it's all up to your own filter. I try to find the perfect form for the music. Somewhere, maybe that's wrong, but somewhere I just have the feeling that every song, every idea, every embryo of a song has a perfect place, a perfect form. And I think that the higher your musical ceiling is, the bigger is the chance that that specific song will reach its ultimate form. I think that every time you fail in finding the ultimate form for musical idea, you have abused the song idea. You have done something to it that was not intended to be. And I think that's what, in my opinion, makes some of the great bands and artists so great. Like every time I listen to The Beatles I can hear so many songs that found their ultimate form. And sometimes when you listen to other music, you can just feel that this was not the soul of the song, it ended up in a wrong way, because someone was trying to reshape it into something that would fit themselves or fit their own form as a band or as an artist. And I try to avoid that as much as possible.

Fearing that Fredrik, who throughout these 10 minutes was keeping quiet (disturbingly quiet), meanwhile has fallen asleep in front of the table, I direct the next question at him.

Marina: How much do you others have to say in a song-making process?
Fredrik: [Very cautiously, exchanging looks with Mr. Gildenlöw] Not much… err… in the song-writing process – Daniel writes almost everything, but I'd like to think that we have something to say or add when we rehearse. I think it's inevitable to bring something to the music.

Marina: So you never say: "I'm not playing that shit, Daniel."?

Daniel [breaking into the conversation]: We had an interesting thing, when I and Johan [guitar] did a promotion tour. We came up with this parable about – because someone asked him about if it wasn't annoying to just play someone else's music or something like that. And he was kind of irritated, so we were having a discussion later on that night that he was so annoyed with that question. [Daniel gets enthusiastic] It's just like [coming to the parable now] Pirates of the Caribbean… No one would ask Johnny Depp: "So, isn't it annoying? You didn't write the script, you didn't write your own lines, you didn't produce the movie; you didn't even make your own clothes. I mean, isn't it annoying? What did you contribute to?" It's about doing what you're good at, I guess. Everyone is equally important for the final product.

Marina: You’ve been accused of being too intellectual about your song-making and concepts etc. Don't you fear that you'll lose some listeners along the way or your message won't be delivered fully? Someone suggested to me that one almost must have a Ph.D in theology to fully grasp the meaning of BE.
Daniel: No, you have to have a functioning brain, that's all. Ph.D is nothing, it's just a paper. So no I don't care about that [laughs]. I see what you mean, but no, it's nothing that bothers me. For every album you make there are always people that thought, you know, "you should have done this or that", or "hey, why didn't you make another One Hour By The Concrete Lake" or whatever their own favourite album is. And if you start thinking like that, I think that's when you're on dangerous territory, when it comes to creative process. I think you should always, I said this too, but fear is very good. Fear is something that is really important if you're hunted down by a wolf or a pack of bandits. But fear is not the best creative force, fear doesn't make a good songwriter and fear does not make a good producer or anything, so I try to leave Mr. Fear out of basically everything that has to do with anything creative. And I'll try to call him, when I need him [both laughing].

Marina: Your music has such a great influence on so many people. Are you aware of that you can change people's lives with your music? Are you aware of such power?
Daniel: Yeah, it's kind of scary [laughs]. Again with knowing the fact that you're always going to be misunderstood by someone, it makes it even scarier when you create stuff to know that if you're that influential you can be just as influential in a destructive kind of way. And that's kind of scary. But again yeah, with that Mr. Fear…

Marina [Being the megalomaniac that I am]: You can use this power, you know…

Daniel: That's what we're trying to do… [laughs]

Marina: Thank you for the interview, it was a great pleasure.
Daniel: Thank YOU.

Conducted by guest writer Marina Hesselberg.

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