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At the end of the summer holidays, Music Waves was able to talk to Daniel Gildenlöw about the promotion of "Panther" which is a major release in this dull year.
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After a catharsis and very personal album for its leader, Pain Of Salvation releases "Panther" a new concept album evoking the theme of normality. We were able to talk to Daniel Gildenlöw for a long and lengthy interview centred around this subject which will highlight the Swede's sensitivity and passion for music, his doubts and certainties and which will deliver a scoop at the very end. Enjoy.

In Passing Light of Day was a shock for many people with this very personal story, almost as a catharsis. I wondering after this story, weren't you afraid to tell yourself after having reached this level of knowing what you say for the following or was this album a liberation for you?

The fourth album we did, “Remedy Lane”, was really personal and exposing in so many ways. I think I've gotten used to that. I've always liked albums and music where I feel that whoever is the sender of that material has dug where they stand or used themselves or in some sort of brave shape have tried to not back away from whatever is intimate and close and used that to make something that becomes more interesting.

That has always attracted me when it comes to music and lyrics. That feels natural even though it is distressing, definitely and you have many times in the process where you doubt whether you should expose your inner feelings to that extent, but I've never allowed myself to back down from that. Even with Panther, although at a surface level, it may appear to be not as intimate as “The Passing Light of Day”, it is actually also being very intimate in that it shares how I've experienced living with, not a neurotypical personality or mentality and having shared that with a lot of other people in the music business. I guess it's taking a stand for lots and lots of people in the world, but I've used myself as the point of departure in that. It's also very nerve-wracking in many ways.

Would you say also that In the Passing Light of Day was a turning point for the band's sound, especially the way of recording the drums which more organic than before?

It is easier in retrospective, looking back at all of the albums, you see different pivoting points and turning points, but when you're in the process, you never really feel that in the same way. Panther is, in many ways, an extension of “Passing Light of Day” and I can see how “Passing Light of Day” feels like a turning point because it comes from the “Road Salt” albums and “Falling Home”, which was sort of a detour in a way, sound-wise.

I think it's like when you have kids. You see them every day and they change, they grow up ever so slowly, and you don't think about it that much because you're with them every day, but then you meet some distant relatives and they only meet you every fourth year or something, and they will go like, "Oh my God, your kids have grown up so much." I think it's the same thing with the press and the fans, they see us every now and then.

It's like whenever we release an album, that is when we come to visit with our kids and everyone goes like, "Oh my God, so much has changed," but we have just been in that slow and organic process and at least when I'm working on the Road Salt albums, I know that I have all of these different tracks, these different music tracks that I will investigate. It's just a matter of which album will come now and then maybe that will be for later. I can see that this is how you've experienced it for sure.

Sometimes I say to myself, "Do you think this is crazy? You should see what's going on in my head musically, how far I could go if I just felt like myself".

“In the Passing Light of Day” was emotional and wild “Panther” is crazier, but so more peaceful. How do you see the evolution of Pain of Salvation music between the two albums ?

The craziness, I think has always been there. Over the years, from the first album, even before the first album, I've always had that, "What the hell? What are you eating and drinking to get so crazy ?" The thing is, I feel I'm dialing myself down when it comes to making music for Pain of Salvation. Sometimes I feel like, "You think this is crazy? You should see what's going on inside my head musically, the extent that I could go to if I just would feel like myself”.

I think when you compare the two albums, I felt that when we were in the middle of making The Passing Light of Day, the sound landscape was starting to fall into place around when we were working on Full Throttle Tribe and I started adding autotune keyboards and I started to run distorted guitars through fuzz guitar, like in stereo fuzz pedals, and then run that like a sidetrack into a noise suppressor, and then use that really heavily so that it would just distort and cut off the signal, almost like a really, really bad cable.

That's when I started thinking this is probably where we want to pull this album into. I think this is the landscape that we should aim for and we really loved working with. It's always been one of my Northern stars, that sort of ugly beauty imperfect perfection or perfect imperfection. This was like a new way of doing that in a way. We started pulling the album into that sound, pretty much. The songs that we already had worked on, we started pulling those as well into that sound landscape that would become “Passing Light Of Day”.

Once we were done with that album, I felt that I was still curious to go down that line even further and see what would happen if you would start at that point. In a way, you could say that if you make an analogy that with songs and albums, you're building buildings and houses, and that turns into a city, I guess that we moved houses into that neighborhood with Passing Light Of Day.

With Panther, I just felt like, "What happens if you just go to that neighborhood and you start building on location?" I used a lot of those thoughts as starting points already when I started writing the music, just to see where I would end up. I really enjoyed that a lot. I think also that through the years, one thing that is very obvious to me is that for every album, I will find a little bit of a new methodology, a new way of approaching how I will go about writing the music and then getting into the album. First and foremost, because I'm curious, I wanted to try something new, a bit of a restless boy, I guess, in that sense.

Which means that when you embark on the composition process, you almost conceive it as a challenge for yourself, an exposure?

Yes. Also an amusement park. I think I still need music to be fun and interesting. I need to continue to build on that relationship. It's like a fail-safe somehow that every album will get a personality of its own a little bit because I'm starting from a different angle or doing something different than before, not with the intention of having to make it sound different or anything, but just out of curiosity and still searching my way and still trying to find new perspectives in music. I love music and I love rekindling that relationship with every new song that I'm writing.


Yes. We feel that, your love of music, we feel

I'm glad to hear that.

Today we have a society that is much narrower in many respects than it has been in the past, much more based on mystical rationality and bureaucratic administration and security.

Let's go into the details of "Panther" and its general theme of normality, which is who defines normality for you. Isn't it something by nature. A philosopher said that "Man is an animal who has no other resources than to create norms in order to fit his environment", do you think this is a good definition?

One of the points of the album is to question what normality is, what rights we have to define it. Obviously there are objective ways that you could, in many contexts, decide what is normal and that would be whatever the majority is. If you have a species of butterflies and 99% of them have a certain color, and then you have 1% of them having a different color, then obviously you can say that, "All right, whatever color the 99% has, that is the normality." That's not how we do it with mankind.

I feel that with mankind, depending on time and the context and the culture, normality is much more of a desired state of behavior. It's much less based on whatever the majority is experiencing or exhibiting in their behavior. That makes it much more complicated to discuss because I do feel that a lot of the things that we're medicating today are the same features that we hold up and we praise when it comes to the history of mankind. We're looking at all of these brilliant scientists and artists and painters and authors, all these brilliant people throughout history that we're being taught about in school. Those same personalities are the ones that are called dysfunctional today and are medicated.

All right, so an analogy again. Let's say it like this. The typically normal, the neurotypical, those are the last people I would want to hold hands with whenever the shit hits the fan. Whenever there's a plane crash or anything, or a zombie apocalypse, when that happens, the neurotypical, they will be the dysfunctional, because they tire easily.

They do have a vaguer sense of moral compass, I would say, and they do have a weaker loyalty, a sense of loyalty, which means that whenever something catastrophic happens, those are the ones that I would feel would be too dysfunctional. I wouldn't dare to trust my life and put my life in their hands. So, function and dysfunction in many ways is just a measure of how well we function within the given context, and that given context is not up to us to decide.

It is more based on whatever trend of society and culture that we have. Right now, we have a society that is very much narrower in many ways than it has been in the past, very much based on mystic rationality and bureaucracy administration and slow safety. In those contexts, the quicker and the restless will fail to meet expectations on a daily basis, I guess, but that does not mean that they're dysfunctional in other contexts.

Normality would be a matter of perception, prism and context... an image that you project. Look for example, in the world of work, the first thing I was told was to be careful with my image, it mattered more than my work in itself because you had to fit into a norm... you ask a different person to change because he or she is not in the norm?

For sure. The concept of normality is definitely projected heavily on us. Anyone who's gone to school, and that's basically everyone, they will know how important it is to fit in. That is a huge part, not only of humans' existence, but I guess of many animals as well. Most animals will also have that importance of standing out just enough but still sitting in which is a difficult line to go.

I guess that's where basically the ones who get diagnosed and medicated, usually, they're the ones who are far enough outside the normality window that they can't really push themselves inside of that window often enough. They will fail and when you fail too many times, people will go like, "That guy is not really normal," but obviously, the truth is, for this album, we have made it almost like a binary thing. There is panther, then you have the dogs.

In real life obviously, this is a gliding scale, and the question I guess, that what we're asking is if there is something that is truly normal, that does not have any typical dysfunctions, I would guess that would be the most boring and generic person that you'd ever meet. The truth is that most people what we call personality is the offset from normality. That is what creates personality and strong personality, regardless of where you place yourself in this diagram or this spectrum of normality and non-normality. It's really down to personality.

Many times when you look at what typically normal people have done, historically, maybe they should be the ones panthers because if it's the panthers, they are a parable or an analogy of passion-driven people, goal-oriented people. When it comes to the ADHD spectrum or the Autism spectrum, they're usually very driven by passion. They can go far, far beyond reason in quest of what they truly believe in.

That also means that they are not as likely to follow trends or to go where you're supposed to go and do what you're supposed to do because basically they're so driven by this idea that they have. They're very idea or structure driven people. The other is the opposite which would be ironically enough what we call normality, is people that have a much less pronounced passion that drives them. They are much less driven by their own compasses of where they should be going. They're more obedient in many ways, less prone on doing drastic, weird shit like going to the North Pole to study the Northern lights for years. They are less likely to do something like that.

On the other hand, you will see them standing and raise their hand in front of Hitler whenever that happens. When that is the big trend, they will follow, a lot of them, not all of them, of course. There is always a function and a dysfunction for both of these or all of these personalities. The irony of it, I think, is that we're medicating the people who would maybe go to the North Pole one day, doing some weird shit that would really do something different, become something different in the end.

It's just telling people that "we love you and we love that you're special and we're going to love to help you despite the fact that you're dysfunctional".

To be more like the people who are just part of the mass, which to me is a really weird thing because we do not celebrate that in any other context, so it's really odd. I was thinking about that a few months back that it's kind of an irony that the very typical neuro-typical people if they exist, they will actually do drugs to become more like the people that are given drugs to be more like the normal people.

In the end, I guess we're seeing two different forces in society right now because I feel that today we live in a world where more than ever, we have come to the point where we are supposed to accept everyone's different personalities and everything should be accepted and tolerated, which I think is a good thing. Whatever sexuality you have, that's your right, whatever personality you have or dreams you have, that's your right. Become whoever you want to be.

The image of mankind is that we're so fucking tolerable and tolerating all of these different ideals, but at the same time, we've never ever been at a point in history before when we've diagnosed so willingly, so many people. I have the feeling that when I grew up, there was not so much talk about diagnoses. You'd have to be pretty far out if you were to be given a diagnose. I would have to become such a huge fucking problem so that someone would be like, "We have put some sort of diagnose on this kid. This kid is off the charts."

Otherwise, apart from that, it was all about personality. There were difficult personalities and then people who were restless and difficult in the classroom and that was it. Now, we have all of these diagnoses very willing given and it's like we think, we flatter ourselves, as a culture, that we're more tolerant now and more helpful. Everyone is supposed to be able to go to school with their own premises, whatever that is. You have problems with attention, but that is not the same as saying that they're normal, it is the other way around.

It's just telling people that, "We love you and we love that you're special and we're going to love to help you despite the fact that you're dysfunctional." I think that kids today are told in a much higher extent than ever before that they're not normal, so we have become more tolerant but also we have narrowed down the concept of normality a lot to fit into what is deemed normal today. In fact, it's just really, really thin slice of behavior that you need to fit. Most people will actually be outside of those norms.

We find it difficult to cultivate the differences and to recognize them, to accept them as a richness, it's a little bit the image of the album which is very rich because it contains very varied and different titles ...

Yes, from my entire childhood, from the start, I think that's what we're told but on the other end, I think that has always been the role of art in any form. I'm not talking about our music right now, but growing up, music, movies, books, all of them are celebrating the different.

We'll also always celebrate the different. The ones who are going where other people are not going, but still, the cultural mechanisms work to be entirely the other way, which is really confusing, I think, growing up. We're told this, but in reality, you're treated in a different way. We treat them as problems, but everywhere else we see them being treated as heroes. It's a very odd combination.


You added a lot of sounds and effects in post-production, especially on your voice. Was it a desire to surprise the listener or a way of challenging you?

I think I'm looking at the voice as a few different things. First of all, of course, it is a communicator of lyrics in emotion. Obviously, just like a human voice is in general, but it is also an instrument. I do appreciate using the voice as an instrument and actually not feeling the need at all points to make it sound like a typical human voice. On this album, again, it's just like an extension of the previous album. From a sound point of view for the regular vocals, I think it's fairly as straightforward as ever. I'm using the very common and pretty cheap microphone.

I was just looking for the kind of vocal sound that I really like. It happened to be that sort of change. That's been a very simple sound change in many ways, but then I've also used the vocoder. I've used several actually. I've used sometimes like an octaver at the bottom just to make things happen. I've recorded many, but most of the stuff that I'm doing is actually changing the voice while I'm singing, actually doing it physically, using the voice in weird ways. That will still always be my go-to solution. I was going to talk about a song that's not on the album. That wouldn't make sense. There are times when I try to sound like a child or try to sound like it was weird. I love experimenting with the voice here.

There will always be beauty in the ugliness and ugly in the beauty. I think that is its strong feature. I think I would always want to have that in music.

You said in an interview for Music Wave in 2007, "Life is regularly hideous and beautiful at the same time." Is that how you conceive your music in general? Would you say the same thing today?

Yes. I would definitely. To me, that is when things become interesting. As I said, ugly beauty or perfect imperfection or imperfect perfection, I can spend so much time, like for this album, for instance, I can spend so much time just moving one noise. Like I have a breakdown of a guitar note or something, I can be moving that milliseconds until I feel like that's what should happen.

When I cut something up, I'm not using plugins that will cut it up rhythmically, I will sit and I will actually physically cut the recorded file and do it manually and find the right spaces in the cut to have that sound of something breaking down. So I will spend lots and lots of time trying to make this ugliness to be as perfectly ugly as possible, which is ironic in many ways.

I think life is beautiful that way that, you will have someone close to you die and the weather will still be fine that day and the sun is shining. Nature life does not pay attention to those human details, which means that your life will always be full of contrast. There will always be beauty in the ugliness and ugly in the beauty. I think that is its strong feature. I think I would always want to have that in music. I'm definitely attracted to that in other people's music as well.

What does the global pandemic we are experiencing inspire you as an ecologist and artist ? How do you see the future of the band ?

We were lucky enough to be right at the end of an album production. I think we're lucky enough to be a band that we're feeling our way as we go. We've always done that, which means for good and bad that our plans do not stretch that far into the future. We had some tours that were canceled, but on the other hand, we also had huge problems trying to make those tours happen because we had people in the band expecting babies, and also, in the crew, the same thing.

We knew that Gustav was going to leave because he needed to take a pause from a lot of the commitments that he had. So we had huge problems trying to see how these tours would happen and along comes this pandemic and all of a sudden, all of the problems that we had, were gone. I'm not going to say that the universe was fixing it for us. That would be the most horrible fix ever, but it did not affect us.

Financially, of course, it affected us in a bad way, but I am always less concerned about that because I've been living with shitty finances since back when I decided to get a career in music. Since then, you never know. For me individually, personally, I've felt that all of a sudden, the rest of the world was basically visiting us in our everyday lifestyle. All of a sudden, they were like, "Yes, you don't have a workplace to go to in the same way. You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, or next week. You don't know how much money you're going to get, and you have to try to work from home whenever you can. You're not going to have that much time to spend with friends and family." All of that is our default mode. When you're a musician that is where you're always at.

As a musician, creative, you are the most free for your activity (apart from live performances), you are your own boss with a lot of sacrifices?

You have to have a certain kind of personality to survive. There's a constant stress about how to make ends meet and what's going to happen. You have to live in a slight chaos all the time, like every day of your life.

I get the sacrifices that you make. You have to be able to see the reward as something not very tangible, like something that is fairly abstract. I guess that goes to show that for everyone that works in any creative part of life, I think will have the same feeling. Like as a musician, you start making sacrifices at such an early age. You start learning an instrument, or several instruments. Like looking at ourselves. I started a band at the age of 11, and then that was it, I was really focused on that.

I'm actually living the life that was decided for me by an 11-year-old, you have to look at the reality of that, it's insane. You're making sacrifices every day, you're sacrificing so much of everything else that you could become, and you're sacrificing so much of the social circles. You're spending so much time and so much money into instruments and rehearsing, and all of that, it's just for a passion, a dream.

Even when the reward comes, if it comes, the reward might still just be standing on a stage in front of people and being able to perform your lyrics and your music, and having that matter to people, and having them actually hopefully feeling that their lives became, at least for this day, a little bit better. I think that you have to be able to view that as the final reward, and any financial rewards that come with it as a bonus. Because if you're looking at getting payback in money, then you will have to quit very quickly because it takes such a long time.

All of that investment is just poured into a black hole that might as well just end up being that black hole and nothing more. You have to be prepared for that. Still, at the age of 47, I have to view it that way. I have to live my life knowing that this is not a stable situation at any point. I don't have a pension plan, I basically live for that passion, and for that very abstract reward.

An artist must above all be generous ....

Sure. Also, I think that is the second thing. You need to find a passion in that. I get something out of it. It's not what in what you're expecting to be wanting out of life because a lot of people will want to have financial rewards. Of course, we want that too because we want our lives to function, but it does give me a lot of satisfaction to work with music. In a way, it's like when you have sex, you don't get paid for it, but do enjoy it, or you're making a jigsaw puzzle, or you're watching a good show on Netflix.

You're not going to get paid for it, but you do enjoy the time you spend anyway. I think that is the most crucial part of it. I would love a world where everyone could actually be working with stuff that they truly enjoy working with. I think the job they're making would be so much better then because it's an extension of yourself and of your passions and then you will do your best.


Time flies and it's time to end this interesting interview, I would have so many more questions to ask you but I leave you the last word for our readers...

Yes, I suppose the most important thing for me is to make them feel that we will come back. It's only a matter of time. The possibility of going on tour has gone up in smoke, it's sad because we love being on those stages and meeting people. Our life is to meet people from all over the world who really get something out of our music. We just hope that they will enjoy this album, and that they will feel that whoever they are, whatever their personality, they are beautiful. They should see themselves as such and always question normality, so that when we meet each other, we can be whoever we want to be, panthers or dogs, and we can perform in a place somewhere, and just celebrate the beauty of life.

I started to make the next album, the sequel to "Panther".

We hope to see you soon, especially in France, in Paris or Toulouse or even anywhere...

We want to. Who knows ? With the Corona virus, I started to make the next album, the sequel to "Panther". Depending on how long the pandemic lasts, maybe when we go back on tour, we will support two albums at the same time, we don't know.

It's a scoop! A direct sequel to "Panther"?

Exactly... but it's still too early to reveal everything.

Thank you Daniel for your time and your interesting answers. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Thank you for your work. Stay safe.

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PAIN OF SALVATION: Panther (2020)

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