TMF meets Pain Of Salvation

Swedish progressive metal masters Pain Of Salvation have come from supporting their compatriots Opeth to embark on a lengthy European tour by themselves in support of latest opus Road Salt Two. Dominic caught up with mastermind Daniel Gildenlöw to discuss all things new and old.

Welcome back to the UK. Is it good to be doing a headline tour this time around?

It’s really cool, and I really appreciate it. I guess both opening and playing headline gigs have their own advantages; but of course I prefer headlining as you get to extend your artistic visions a bit further.

What are the different approaches to the two?

What you can do for a headline show is bring in songs that are not naturally … To begin at the other end, when you play an opening slot you normally have to have, as a point of departure, songs that come across well for people hearing it for the first time. When you play headline shows you can add stuff that needs time to get under your skin, you can have that luxury of the obscure ones, “if you’re here for the first time you’re not going to get this song, but it is fine because this is what we’re about”, but you’ll still have all those other songs too. When you’re playing only five or eight songs, you need to stay pretty focused.

You seem to be a lot busier with touring of late. Is this by design, or more down to luck?

Pain Of Salvation

is like this engine where one of the pistons has always been out of sync for some reason; first you had Kristoffer my brother moving to Holland and forming his family and everything, you need to wait for that. Then you had Johan [Langell] the drummer who didn’t want to tour really, he wanted to focus on his family and only play a few gigs every once in a while; then the other Johan [Hallgren] interestingly enough started his family. It seems I am the only one in the band who has formed a family and kept on wanting to make this work out. It’s a difficult thing, I totally understand them for having other priorities. But that’s the thing, up until this point there has always been something pulling us back, so we haven’t been able to tour that much.

Is that because Pain Of Salvation is your brainchild, it has that extra meaning for you?

I think it’s pretty much the other way around, it happens to be my brainchild because that is the kind of person I am! I think to a further extant than the other people that have been in the band so far. In Swedish we would say I’m burning brighter, burning more… That’s just how I function, I have tonnes and tonnes of restless energy, and I just want to keep going. I’ve been trying since I was 11 to get everyone as involved as myself, but it’s just very difficult as people are different and you can’t expect others to function in the same way.

I remember when we did One Hour By The Concrete Lake I printed out about 120 pages of facts about the nuclear industry and the relation between different scientific areas; I think Fredrik read parts of it probably, but the other guys were like “fine, yeah, let’s do it”. I feel if I wanted to make a concept about this or that idea I wanted to know what they thought about it because I wanted everyone to feel comfortable expressing what we were as a band. I think if it hadn’t been my brainchild it would have collapsed very early on, someone needs to be the engine of whatever band or artistic venture. I don’t know what other art forms you could compare it with, but I’m sure it’s valid for other art forms as well. Or companies or businesses or whatever - it’s just people function differently.

How easy it has it been bedding in the new musicians? Or in the case of Gustaf Hielm, resettling?

Everything’s been working surprising well, I have to say. I mean, it just felt really natural – same with Ragnar [Zolberg, new guitarist], he’s just very well prepared. All of the guys we auditioned for guitarist were really good, so I guess we had the luxury of looking at the personality and logistics with them. It’s seems like everything has been working really well so far. With new people coming in, you have a blank page as it were; with the “old” members you have your back catalogue pretty much worked out for you as far as playing is concerned, and you can usually pretty comfortably lean back on the material that you’ve played already.

If you suggested bring up older, more complicated songs it was met with reluctance. Now we had to start over again in many ways, and since it was almost impossible before, I brought some songs up that I would never have dared to bring up before, like ‘Enter Rain’ and ‘Sisters’ and ‘Stress’, and they were cool with it, because to them they are as new as the other songs. When Ragnar came in we’d have to ask him about stuff in songs, since he was new he had sat down and really studied the songs whilst we were slightly lazier about it, so would have to ask him to look in his book, a very odd situation.

You find yourself in that turmoil that on one level you are grieving the loss of old members that you’ve played together with for a long time and that you know very well; and at the same time getting new energies from having new blood and new personalities around, a really weird dualistic feeling.

You said before the tour you’ve rehearsing some of the old material again - was it fun to revisit it, and have you altered many of them in any way? Or even changed any of the staples?

We haven’t really adapted the songs in any way. What I think was interesting was during the auditions we used ‘No Way’ as a song as it’s one of those not really … I mean, if you play ‘Handful Of Nothing’ it is very pattern orientated, you play what you’re playing and if you play it right it becomes right. With ‘No Way’ you have to almost by default put more of your personality into your playing as it’s pretty loose. So we used that to get a vibe for how these guitar players were different, how they interpret their playing.

That was interesting to see, which of those five guys from all the applications that came in from around the world and the five different versions of ‘No Way’. They all came out really different, all really good; to hear that song from five different angles and realising at the same time how well preserved the soul of the song would be, even though these five versions were so different.

What we’re trying to do is get it right, and if we can improve something then we do that too of course, but it’s not like we’re trying to do an interpretation of the songs. We had some fun with ‘King Of Loss’, did a totally different version, but I doubt that we are going to do it on this tour as the last time we did it now was about three weeks ago. It’s one of my favourite Pain Of Salvation songs, but it is also one of the songs I want to change most. I listen to bits and think I would do this or that differently today; some of the melodies and structures, some of the ideas of the song are still today really close to me, but there are other passages that I feel are unnecessary.

Having split Road Salt up into two separate releases, did you can go back and change much within the second album as a result?

I didn’t work on it for a long time; I was working on a lot of the material simultaneously, and getting closer and closer to the release of Road Salt One I had to make a distinction about what would become the first album, and then I just left the others just lying around as I focused on part one. We released it and went out and played some shows, it took quite some time before I could get back to those songs. The general sound of Road Salt Two is more satisfying to me that the first one because there a few things after having Road Salt One out that I heard and realised what I wanted to do differently.

For instance I worked more with expanders for the second one to get more attack on the guitar down-strokes. But apart from that some of the songs were pretty much exactly the same, mixing them and be done; some songs though I re-recorded big chunks, like I decided to bring ‘Mortar Grind’ in which I had ruled out at first because from a sound point of view it was so different. So I re-recorded the vocals and the guitars and mixed it, and the bass too I think, redid quite a few things to make it fit in with the Road Salt sound. We started recording it so early and the process took so long I got a bit fed up with it, so I decided to take one week off and record something new, and in the end during that week I wrote ‘1979’, ‘Through The Distance’ and ‘To The Shoreline’; my point of departure was that I would write whatever I wanted and not think of Pain Of Salvation, just write freeform.

And the interesting thing is I turn out with three of, to me, the strongest and most necessary tracks of Road Salt Two; I don’t think I would have come up with those if I had sat down and thought to write three new songs for the album, it was important to untangle myself for a moment from what I considered to be a bit of a mess at that point, get some fresh air and do something else.

Have you already started thinking about the next album or concept?

No, I haven’t. I’m guessing I’ll surprise myself somehow. I have no idea where it’s going to end up, the only clue I’m giving to myself is that the songs that are the latest written, the three mentioned before, are maybe something noteworthy, but I have no real idea.

Road Salt Two is out now via InsideOut Music. Visit for more details.

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