Pain Of Salvation (Daniel Gildenlow)

"I know what people think when they hear the term 'prog metal' and it's normally not what I feel"
on Mon, 11/10/2014 - 13:27
Pain Of Salvation

It's been 40 minutes that went down like a single moment. I had a great time, I laughed a lot and I feel I've learnt a few things from the one who's talking with me. Then I remember that this guy is one of my favorite musicians of all time, responsible for many moments of the soundtrack of my like as I grow up. No other interview with any artist is like talking with Daniel Gildenlow for me. Enjoy his unique way of approaching all things and read some news that will probably get you excited for the future of Pain Of Salvation.

First of all, I hope your health is fine. You scared all of us man… Everything else is secondary…

It is bounced back, thankfully. But, yeah, I had a few rough months.

Hope it’s all gone, because we love you being alive and kicking man.

Haha, that’s good to hear. Well, I’m back.

This situation got me thinking that even it’s common for people to get engaged with the music that they listen to, fans of Pain Of Salvation and yours personally seem to be a little more loyal than the average. They seem to relate too much with you if you look at their social media pages and stuff. Do you see it too? Are comfortable with it or does it get scary sometimes?

First of all, I’ve got nothing to compare it to. I mean, I’ve only been me, so I don’t know… (laughs)… how it’s supposed to be or whatever. For the most part I’m comfortable. The only times when it’s getting a bit uncomfortable it’s when people get disappointed with… whatever, like when people have left the band they take it really personally. That’s been the only times, that I sometimes regret that I’m as public as I’ve been.

Well, if you take a look around you’ll see a lot of people having you on their cover pictures of their social media and stuff…

What’s been a bit annoying is that whenever I want to find a new account on an internet service or whatever, my name is always already taken and that’s sort of annoying, cause I’m the only one with that name. It feels a little bit, like they’ve taken my personality a bit, but that’s how it is I guess… I could be named Daniel Andersson and then I would always have that problem… (laughs)

I’ve been thinking that Pain Of Salvation haven’t released new music since 2011 and if someone considers that “Road Salt Two” was written even earlier then it’s quite a bit time of absence for the standards of today’s music business. Then I remembered your lyrics from “Kingdom Of Loss” that “time is a disease”… [editor: Daniel laughs] Was there a need to release something like an acoustic album to fill that gap between studio releases a bit?

Initially, it was never meant to be this project that it turned into. We were offered to do an acoustic show in Germany and that’s always fun and since we were doing the show we thought we might as well record it and have an acoustic album. The first idea was that it would be a good little bridge between whatever album that was coming out – the next studio album, but then the recording failed and in the end we decided to record it in the rehearsing room, bring in the recording equipment and everything. All of a sudden, it turns into this “project” that could have been any studio album. We put the same effort and the same time into this as in any normal studio album that we would make.

That much?

It’s been a while. Of course, there’s been other things that delayed this whole “Falling Home” project, but still the main thing is that it turned into something completely different than that sort of quick little acoustic live album that it was initially supposed to be. I’m really happy it did though, cause I think that this album turned into something that we all really enjoy and love a lot. Something very different…

We’ll come back to the music a bit later, but you mentioned before about hard times changing the lineup of the band. Even though the new lineup of the band is the same for some time, it’s still new in the eyes of your fans, especially for those that haven’t seen you performing live lately, like here in Greece. Is “Falling Home” kind of a recording introduction of the new guys?

We never considered it to be that. For the fans it might be, but the intention was always to make a good album. I mean, any album that we would have been doing at this point would be like an introduction of these members (laughs) I guess.

Well, I’ve been thinking about this, because Ragnar seems to have a big role in the new Pain Of Salvation lineup. You seem to offer to him too much space to sing both on stage, but also on this album [editor: Daniel laughs out loud]. Is he taking the role of a second frontman or what?

It would be insane not to use what he can do. We did that with Johan [editor: Hallgern] too, but Rangar is even more versatile when it comes to vocals. He’s been in many projects as the front man, so he’s got that hold. He knows how to sing… I guess we’re all good singers now. The lineup is stronger than it’s ever been. And I just enjoy being able to use that to whatever extent I can. I’m feeling totally comfortable with that I have to say… (laughs)

You mentioned the importance of vocal parts in the band and what I’ve always thought is that the voice is also an instrument. Do you use it like that in your music?

Yeah, I’ve always done that. Not just as AN instrument, for me it’s the most interesting instrument. I’ve never been a fan of instrumental music, just because of that fact. Cause, I usually feel that something is missing, that they just excluded the most important and interesting instrument of them all. It’s so versatile and it’s so full of emotion, and it’s in direct contact with the emotions in a way that few other instruments are, I think. Of course, there are instrumental songs that I like, but I think it takes a lot to make an instrumental song feel complete in a way.

I think I agree with that, but also human beings resonate with the voice first than with any other sound…

Yeah, it’s very direct and that’s the thing. Anyone who’s not like schooled in music and has no real background in understanding and learning music, they will still connect easily to the voice, cause that’s an intuitive instrument if you want.

Do you think that someone has to be schooled in music, as you said, or experienced in music to fully understand, comprehend and enjoy your music?

That’s a difficult question. On one level yes, I would have to say. It’s like that with everything basically. Whatever painting by a painter you have learned to trade, the iconism and the symbolism of painting will not be fully understood unless you have trained yourself in painting and understanding art. On the other hand – and I’ve felt that since I was a kid, since I started making music very early on – there’s something that’s lost when you learn music. You can look at it as learning a language. Poetry will always be better understood if you know the language that the poetry is written in. It’s just impossible to understand it better if you don’t know the language. You can get a certain magical vibe from hearing language that you don’t understand. You hear the melody, but you don’t understand the content, which is a very interesting and magical feeling in itself. Some of those elements are lost when you learn the language, because you don’t hear it as a melody anymore. All of a sudden, you hear the content and you understand the phrasing, you understand the words and it’s difficult to see through that knowledge, to forget that knowledge. It’s like you’re expanding your universe, but a little bit of that magic flare is worn down in that process. So, yes and no. The music that we write and we play is definitely better understood and you’re expanding the universe if you know music, but it’s definitely offering something to everyone.

Back to the music of “Falling Home”. How did you end up picking the songs that ended up on “Falling Home”?

(laughs) Last week I explained it in this way. Having a back catalogue that diverse and extensive like we do, is a little bit like running a zoo. You’re having all these songs that are animals in your zoo and all of a sudden you have these new habitats and you want to fill it up with animals and there are certain animals that are just natural. You pick them because they’re natural to the new habitat.  They will fit in perfectly. You will put them down and they’ll start eating like nothing happened. Those animals would be for instance “1979” and “To The Shoreline”, songs that are already very well adapted to the formats of the acoustic album. Then you have the second category of songs or animals and these are the predators that would fit to any kind of environment, they would just adapt. “Linoleum” is one of those songs. You just feel that whatever situation you put that song on it’s going to survive, it’s going to thrive. Probably it will start eating a few of the other animals, you know (laughs)… that’s how things go. But, then, you have maybe my favorite choice - because you can’t help yourself, out of curiosity - you can’t help but a picking a few of the animals that are the least adapted to that new environment, to that new habitat. You take those poor little animals and you put them in this context that they’re totally not fit for. That’s “Spitfall” for instance or “Mrs Modern Mother Mary”. These are songs that I think are the least likely to hear on an acoustic album of any sort, so of course I HAD to pick them out and just be like “let’s see what happens, let’s play around and see what comes out of it”.

I think they come in that order too. The most natural ones they just pop up, as soon as you start thinking about an acoustic show or an acoustic album, they’re really natural ones, they come first. Then you have a few ones that will adapt to the new format and then you have that feeling of “let’s find a few odd ones”. I think they arrived in that order pretty much.

You have a few more odd ones to pick from if you wanted I think…

(laughs) Yeah, “Holy Diver” of course is an odd bird. And you have “Stress” for instance which is a very odd choice, especially making it shuffle, which is not the most intuitive process for that song (laughs).

Well, it turned out amazing…

Oh yeah, probably my favorite track off the album.

There are three songs out of “Scarsick” and I can clearly remember that period of the band. You were pissed off and it shows on the album. What do you think now about it? Do you think that these acoustic versions kind of help the melodies show better than they did with the album’s raw production?

That always happens with the acoustic format, I think. The vocals pop out, the melodies pop out in a totally different way than ever possible on an electric album. That’s one thing I’ve always felt from the first album we recorded. The harmonies are there, the vocals are there, but it’s like watching a movie where a lot of things happen at the same time. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into making the details clear, it’s just more than the mind can take when you watch and your attention will only be drawn to a few of the details when you watch it. The acoustic format is, in a way, leaving out a lot of the detail and making it clearer. I’ve always loved that. It turns into a different vibe of course, it turns into a different emotional structure… I don’t know. But, I wouldn’t want to have just one of them; I wouldn’t want to make only electric albums or only acoustic albums. That’s the benefit and the interesting thing about making acoustic versions of electric songs. So many acoustic albums that I’ve heard out there, they just play the songs with acoustic instruments and that’s it. The main interesting thing about making an acoustic song or an acoustic album is to reinvent the song a little bit. Take it out, look at it and make it enjoy its second life.

Pain Of Salvation

I want you to be honest with me… you enjoy every single hate comment of metal fans, against your take on “Holy Diver” don’t you?

I don’t know, I haven’t seen any! I know I had a question about it before it was even released for the press or anything. It might have been someone from the label, I don’t know, but someone said “you know there’s going to be a lot of upset feelings, from the Dio fans”. I guess I expected that, but I never ever enjoy criticism I guess… (laughs). I think very few artists do. I can probably be amused if someone gets really upset and responds in a very non functional way, but it’s still going to be like “Oh Jesus Christ, I never meant to upset anyone”. I am very sure that Ronnie James himself would have loved this version. And I guess that’s what matters in the end. We feel we’ve made a very loving homage to a song we’ve grown up with and that we love a lot. We’re very confident in that and so far I’ve only heard positive things, so I’m hoping that the majority will keep being positive… (laughs)

I did the reverse experiment. I played your version first to someone who hadn’t heard the original and then the original and I can say he enjoyed your approach most… (laughs)

(laughs) I guess that’s gonna be even more confusing than the other way around…(laughs)

Now, it’s your twisted take on this song, then there’s Killswitch Engage hilarious video clip of their cover and also Foo Fighters use the main riff on their new single. What’s going on with this song man?

Well, I had no idea… (laughs)

I didn’t see a Lou Reed cover coming. I think he stands on an opposite musical approach than you do and for example I love your music, but can’t stand his. Are you a fan of his artistic approach?

That was a coincidence. Well, I guess it’s always a coincidence somehow. But, I was asked to sing two songs on my wife’s sister’s wedding and this one of those two songs. I had never heard it before. I guess that this is a song that a lot of people had already heard, but I had never heard it. My first impression was that this is a weird song for a wedding, but as I listened to it a few times I thought that it’s a perfect song for a wedding. I very instantly came to like the song a lot and I think it was fairly reasoned. When we got the offer to play the acoustic show I think it was not long after we had performed this song on the wedding and so it felt a natural thing for the show, you know “let’s throw that in”. We did a version that’s pretty much like the one on the album now, but without drums. I asked Fredrik if he wanted to tie along for the wedding and play piano, so he played the piano/organ and I played the acoustic guitar and that was it. The arrangement was already there, it was just adding a little bit of drums and that was it.

Well, I have to make this question now. Are you in general interesting in playing on weddings? Because, I think there will be a lot of people really interested to have you singing on their wedding… (laughs)

I have played a few weddings, so far I think only for people I know. Also some funerals…

Oh… (laughs)

That’s always a hard thing. I think I’ve played on two funerals and that’s heavy. Especially, when you have to sing it’s really difficult. If you’re playing guitar is one thing, but as you already said the voice is such a direct instrument. You can keep it together, but as soon as you open your mouth you actually start using your vocal chords, it’s like getting in touch with emotions instantly, so it’s really difficult. It’s like the opposite of what I usually try to do. Like on stage you’re always trying to connect 100% with what you’re singing and really get into the emotions of it and the few times that I’ve sung on a funeral it’s the other way around. Trying not to connect with what you’re singing… (laughs). Just trying to fight emotions, which is a really weird feeling. Being a singer my whole lifetime it’s totally reverse from what you should do.

I like singing at weddings, but I’ve noticed that a lot of times they ask for peculiar songs. I think I‘ve been singing “Hallelujah” on 3 or 4 weddings and I mean if you look at the lyrics, it’s not really a lyric fit for a relationship that’s going to last a lifetime. As a song it pretty much states that this is impossibility.

Well, you could do it here in Greece. I think they pay real good money to sing on weddings…

(laughs) So I could be like a Greek wedding singer? And you have great weather over there…

Now, could the title track and the aesthetic of the album be indicative of where you are musically standing right now?

Hmm, I think it’s more significant and representative of what this album is. I always want the title and the cover art – as large of an extent as possible – to be like the bottom line of the album, the essence of the album. It took some time. I have to say that I’ve been looking for a title and a cover art for a very long time for this album and it was not until we took this picture and I started playing around with that and things started to… fall home… (laughs)

The clip for “1979” was a great visualization of the vintage/retro atmosphere of the track, but also of both “Road Salt” albums. Even the colors make it feel a bit nostalgic. Do you want your music to create such feelings and pictures for your audience?

Yeah! I’ve always loved any sort of visual representation, I’ve always been a fan of combining visual with lyrical content and audio, so yeah. As you say I think that it’s pretty much rounding up the “Road Salt” albums. If I recall it right, I think we shot the video for the original version of “1979” from the start, but since there are no shots of me singing on the video it was very easily adapted to the acoustic version. It is definitely a last chapter of the “Road Salt” albums somehow.

Here comes the million dollar question. Have you been working on new material? How could you describe the ideas that you have in your head, regarding new music?

(laughs) I am always working on new material and I have a huge set of drawers in my head with different kinds of music and ideas. Usually what happens is whenever I am getting close to shape an album I am sitting down, looking into these drawers in my head and trying to see what kind of album I want to make, out of all those different ideas.

The music that I’ve been working on a lot for the last year and a half or even two years maybe is going back to the early 00’s in a way. Sounds and ideas that are maybe more in line with “The Perfect Element” and “Remedy Lane”, which I think is natural. Any sort of creation and creative process is sort of going full circles in different levels. I think the “Road Salt” albums were very much about going full circle with the music I grew up with and a lot of the foundation of where I started my musical career and fascination. I feel I can’t say anything for sure, cause I’m driven by inspiration and passion. I have to have that! But, right now I feel I’m going full circle a little bit with the Pain Of Salvation history I guess and going back to that material that I’ve been taking a break I guess for quite a few years. Which is why it felt natural for the first time in more than 10 years to accept an offer of playing the entire “Remedy Lane” album from start to finish, which we’ve never done before.

I’ll come back to “Remedy Lane” later, but right now I have to let you know that I’m bouncing out of joy, in my chair only thinking that you might revisit the sound of the albums in the early 00s, much as I love “Road Salt” albums… (laughs)

(laughs)Still I never want to leave the infancy that can be found in the “Road Salt” albums and the warmth, but I think the sounds that we were trying to create back in 2000 and 2002 was a bit early for that kind of sound. It could have been down more exact like we wanted it today, with having seen the last 10-15 years of the development of sound in the music industry.

Is it important for you to start every new album with a vision in mind?

Yeah. It doesn’t always end up what I envisioned though. It’s very important for me to have a vision and try to fight hard to get to that point that you picture. But, as you start this journey - every album is a journey, every production is a journey – and as you venture upon this journey it’s important to let that role change you as well. It will take you probably to some extend to places you didn’t expect from the start and the process is equally important and very interesting.

Pain Of Salvation - Falling Home

Now, how was it having to revisit the “Remedy Lane” stuff so as to play it in its entirety on ProgPower Fest in Atlanta? Was it “painful” for you, “going” back there?

Yeah, in a way. But, maybe, less so than I feared from the start. It’s a been a while. That’s the key element here. Not only because of the content of the actual album, that is a reason for itself. But, having a band is like having a family, especially if it’s a band you care for. If you play with people you care for, it’s pretty much like a family. Let’s make a parabol. Let’s say you’re in a relationship and it’s been a long relationship for many years, you like each other very much and you’ve been taking this girl to a special restaurant in Rome. For some reason you have to break up, not because you don’t like each other anymore, but because that’s how life plays out. And you get into a new relationship and maybe the first place you’re going to visit is not that restaurant in Rome, you need some time off from certain things. And I think that’s also a reason for me having a break from that kind of music that we made back in early 00’s. It still connects very much to the lineup that we had at that point. I think that’s part of it to and now in retrospect I can see that.

After all, did you enjoy it? Would you consider doing it again since you’ve already rehearsed the material? I can guarantee a sold out show in Greece if you do it here…

(laughs) Well, we know there is a demand and let’s just say we’re thinking about it. Let’s see what’s happening… We’ll see for the next year…

Ok. Did you enjoy playing this album?

Yeah, yeah! It was fun to the point that we want to do it again. For the entire U.S. tour we were throwing songs in from the “Remedy Lane” album, which was fun. As I was saying, the lineup that we have right now is crazy good, so we can do this album and we can master this material in a way that has not been possible before. So, from that perspective it was very nice.

Will there be a DVD out of that performance?

I don’t know… Maybe… (laughs)

Come on, too many maybes… (laughs)

I’ve learnt to live with maybe… (laughs)

Did you like that the two albums we’ve been referring to – “Perfect Element” and “Remedy Lane” were reissued on vinyl? I think they’re absolutely awesome…

I’ve been wanting that to happen for a very long time. Part of why they exist is because I’ve been pushing this for a long time. I wanted to have the albums released on vinyl from the start. From the first album “Entropia” I’ve been thinking about having them released on vinyl and I always got the answer that no one cares about vinyls anymore. But, I guess they do.

Last year we wrote down the absolute guide for Progressive Metal and there were 4 albums of Pain Of Salvation on it and you also gave me some fantastic stories behind those 4 albums.

Oh yeah, that was cool!

A lot of people – me included of course – place Pain Of Salvation along with Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Queensryche regarding how important you’ve been to the evolution of the genre that is called progressive metal.

That’s nice!

Do you feel comfortable with it or do you still want to have no relationship with the prog label and stuff?

When we started sort of putting our first album together, that was back in 1995-1996 when we started to put together the pieces and trying to get a record deal and actually getting an album recorded, at that point to me the prog metal style, the prog metal genre seemed to be so interesting, cause it seemed to be truly progressive. It seemed to be about finding new ways and new combinations and be skilled, but also express something. It was to me a movement and a reaction against power metal and neo-classical that to me felt empty, repetitive and recipe based. This seemed to be like a blank canvas. Invention was right there at your fingertips, which was what I was looking for and tried to create for a very long time. And at that point I felt really comfortable with being called “prog metal”, because it felt that this was something for innovators. But, then, I was very quickly saddened to see how this turned into a recipe style, a recipe genre, just like the others.

I think that’s what happens to any music style, especially when it’s new and fresh. It’s born and matured by innovators and then there’s going to be a second wave of musicians that loved what the innovators were doing and they’re doing exactly the same thing as their idols, that were innovators. They think it’s innovating again, but it’s not. It’s only innovative when you’re doing it the first time (laughs).

If you remember the big Brit pop wave, when lots of bands tried to sound like The Beatles, but they didn’t have the innovation of The Beatles. They had the sound, they had the haircuts, but they didn’t have the musical restlessness and innovative side to it. And then it’s just a hollow show and it turns into… well, I don’t know. I think “hollow show” is a fit description to start with. That’s what I felt prog metal was turning into and that’s what it still is, with some few exceptions. As long as the innovative part and exceptions I’m all for it, but it has definitely become a tag line that I’m very careful with using. Because, I know what people think when they hear the term “prog metal” and it’s normally not what I feel. I don’t feel I represent it by the typical prog metal style and recipe.

The last question is not about Pain Of Salvation, it’s about another favorite band of mine, apart from yours.

Ok…

Isn’t it kind of ironic that when you had your own part on a Transatlantic song you couldn’t join them on tour to sing it? Did you miss touring with them?

It was just that cynical, wasn’t it? I was really aiming at making that tour. After the first surgery, when I came out of anesthesia I immediately started asking about if I could make the tour. And at that point they were like “Well, let’s just take one step at a time and we’ll see”. Four months later, as I am leaving the hospital and I was still was hearing that it was a remarkably fast recovery, I realized how a naïve question I was making and how totally they must have known 3000% that there’s no chance that you can make this tour or the next one, or the next one. “He’ll be happy if he can be up on his feet and be back on track for the fall of this year”… but, they probably chose not to tell me that… (laughs)

Well, at least the t-shirt from the official merch of the tour that I own, has your name on it…

What? Cool! I had no idea! You should hang on to it… (laughs)

Are there any plans to play in Greece or for any tour at all?

Nothing that I know right now, but whenever we’re putting a tour together we always want to go there of course!

Thank you very much for your time. It’s always more than a pleasure to talk to you.

That was nice, yeah. Take care!