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Interview with Daniel Gildenl÷w, Pain of Salvation PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 17 May 2010

Daniel GildenlöwBy Jill Hughes Kirtland

Hailing from Sweden, Daniel Gildenlöw is best known as the man behind the prog metal band Pain of Salvation. He also has gained notoriety in the prog community for being an official member of the Flower Kings for a year, and traveling as a guest musician with the prog supergroup Transatlantic. He is a man of his convictions, and finally has stepped foot on US ground again (touring with Transatlantic) after boycotting the nation for many years for its administration and its privacy acts.   Now that Pain of Salvation has released a new album, Road Salt One , will they tour the US again?  We shall find out…

USA Progressive Music:  Daniel is here in the States touring with Transatlantic. We don’t get to see you very often in the States. So the burning question is, does this mean Pain of Salvation will be doing a US tour in promotion of the new album Road Salt One now that we have a new president? 

Daniel Gildenlöw:  Yes, that is sort of what we agreed on.  You can passively protest for a certain amount of time and he [Obama] did reach out to the world in a manner that we had not seen from the previous regime. So it is a good point in history politically to change our behavior. We have the green light from the band to go to the States.

USAProgMusic:  Great, so maybe we’ll see you on a tour or ProgPower USA.  Let’s talk about why you are here in the States now, touring with Transatlantic. What is it like touring with some of prog rock’s greatest  [Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt, Neal Morse, and Pete Trewavas]?

Daniel: It feels fairly natural.  Back in 2001, when I was touring in Europe with them [Transatlantic] for the first time, it didn’t really dawn on me until the 2nd day of rehearsal …’wait a second, this is a really odd’. I remember a period of my life when I listened to Clutching at Straws by Marillion when I was in music college and right after that I had a year when Images & Words was an album I listened to a lot.  And here I was rehearsing in a room with two of the guys from those albums. I think that is how it is in general when you age, you have these high goals and expectations and once you reach them you don’t even think about it because you are moving past those goals.  I remember when I was a kid, I wanted to play certain things on the guitar, and to be able to do that would be ‘awesome’ and one day it hits you that you reached that point 10 years ago and you don’t even realize it because you were doing something else… it feels very natural.  It would be very different if I was playing with The Beatles, but then again maybe that would feel natural …

USAProgMusic:  So you set the expectation that you would be doing this someday?

Daniel:  Well that’s not exactly the same thing …

USAProgMusic: So does it take you back a bit that you were able to get to this point?

Daniel:  I guess I am one of those guys who will never be satisfied. I guess not being the most successful artist in the world at the age of 16 is still my goal, and it will be hard to reach that now [laughs]… I am still trying to reach it, any idea of how to achieve that?

USAProgMusic: [laughs] Have you noticed any differences in when you toured with them in 2001 and now?

Daniel: The band seems a bit more soft and subdued. I don’t know if it’s because everybody is 10 years older, it’s more relaxed vibe compared to last time. There are a lot of things to do. There is a lot of stress involved of course, especially for me to learn lots of material really quickly. 

USAProgMusic: Of course now you know what to expect because you did it once before.

Daniel:  Yeah, and of course because you did it one time they expect you to remember. That was 10 years ago and we played like 10 shows. Maybe they thought I could still remember those songs.  Like I’ve been sitting here rehearsing them all these years waiting for another opportunity …

USAProgMusic:  Sometimes the prog rock and the prog metal crowd are different, some listen to both but then you have people who will only listen to one or the other.  Have there been many moments at these Transatlantic shows where people have come to the show just to see you because they are huge Pain of Salvation fans?

Daniel:  Oh yeah, happens almost every night.  In fact, one guy is here tonight who came all the way from India to see me play with Transatlantic…

USAProgMusic:  Wait, from India to the United States to see you play?  Uhh, that’s ridiculously far to travel… 

Daniel:  Yeah, I said to him, man you should probably do something other than just come see the show, you should at least go see something else while you are here…

USAProgMusic:  Seriously. Let’s talk about your band Pain of Salvation and the new album … I read up a bit on this album Road Salt and what is the reason to split them up into two albums [Road Salt One and Road Salt Two]?

Daniel:  It’s been a long journey with this album.  The first idea was to make one album and when I was sitting down to figure out what songs to put on the album, it dawned upon me this is just really one project going on here. They intertwine and they have relationships to one another. We were going to be part of the Progressive Nation tour last year and we made a decision to have the album done before the tour. It was the easiest thing to not make choices and put it all on a double album and be done with it but after that with the tour not happening and the distribution company going down. It was a weird year, 2009. I could spend more time and let the album be out of my head for a while and once I got back to it I could see patterns and themes to make it easier to divide it into two. And since it has a retro vibe going I didn’t want the albums to be too long and dividing them up seemed more in character with the album.

USAProgMusic: What is the underlying theme with this album, at least the first one?

Daniel:  The previous conceptual albums, that would mean all of them, have been either fictional or autobiographical in a way. They have been either looking at small things at a large scale or looking at large things at a small scale, and making that comparison all the time. Like having a big International theme for the concept but really talking about a small individual in that context, or on Remedy Lane focusing on two small individuals but through those two people tell a story about human relations.  For this album, I decided to break down the boundaries between autobiographical or fictional and not think about it. Wherever the story goes tell it… it’s not like a chronological story like the other albums. It’s like several parallel stories and once you look at them together they start vibrating at the same speed or frequency and that’s where you get the story.  I think if you are looking at movies, it be on the same genre of “Short Cuts” or “Magnolia”.  The whole idea is to compare situations or chains of events, compare them to roads and chose what roads you want to take and the roads will lead you to different places.  It has to do with different points and you travel down your life, a relationship, whatever road you are traveling down at different points in the movie they will be keyframes. At that position, you could see things from a different perspective than you normally would.  Many of these songs are these key frames and sort of singularities and special points on the different roads from all these different people doing the different things.  That’s where everything connects.

USAProgMusic:  Is there any particular point or song that you identify with the most?

Daniel:  I’ve tried to be as intimate as possible as I can, not using my own situations from my own life so much. Finding situations and contexts that I can and everyone can relate to. This whole weird year of 2009, a chain of events where I feel like I’ve been focused since I was 10 or 11 and walking whatever direction I believed in and fixed on that goal and not be distracted. And then we had to ask my brother to leave the band because he was moving to Holland and he was not coming to rehearse and you don’t want to go there from a band perspective but also a family perspective.  But was had to.  And then Johan [Langell] the drummer was quitting the band, we knew that from 2002 or 2003  that it would happen and he wanted to focus on family life and stop playing music. He’s been so different from me, that’s why we worked so well together. We knew in 2007 he was doing the last tour, which was difficult because we’ve been playing together since he was 14 and I was 16 and we’re products of each other really. Those things will sort of force you to stop you in your tracks, and that’s the particular singularity point and you’ve walked these lines for so long and something stops you in your tracks and force you to look around and question where you are and where you are heading and whether the choices in life were the correct ones. So that of course I can relate very strongly to that, and I felt like that song came out of all the things we were going through. It was difficult to pick up the pace and something would happen, and we’d pick up the pace again and something else would happen.  There were many situations where it was easy to walk away and give up.  Which is kind of the conclusion of the album and more on the second one, but it is the hardest lesson to learn …the gentle art of giving up.

USAProgMusic:  I understand not letting those bumps in the road get in your way …

Daniel:  Sometimes I wish it were easy to give up…

USAProgMusic:  What is your writing mantra? How do you get in the mood to write?

Daniel:  Inspiration has never been a problem. Everyday you wake up and you have a whole life around you and things happening in your surroundings and other people’s lives. You have television, art, music, books… my problem is trying to get rid of all these inputs.  Some people might have writer’s block. I would love to have one of those once in awhile [laughs].  Usually I will have 3 or 4 full albums in my head, and I have to try to remember all the different instruments and keys, and then all of the sudden I gotta put 3 hours of Transatlantic in there too and hope nothing falls out of the other end. My problem is that I don’t have time to have this music come out at the same pace …

USAProgMusic:  You don’t keep a notebook by your bed?

Daniel:  Ha, no I don’t cause that would probably kill my relationship with my family [laughs].  So 99% of my ideas I have to let go… I will just let them pass through.  When ideas come back for the 20th time then I know there is something there. There is this one melody that keeps coming back since I was 16 so I know I need to do something with that because it keeps knocking on my door…

USAProgMusic:  Did you have to learn anything new or challenge yourself in any way for anything on Road Salt?

Daniel:   I am trying to do that all the time. There are so many things that I try to avoid.  I am sort of a shy person, and I try not to be.  I try to put myself in situations where I feel uncomfortable.  For the photo sessions and the videos we’ve done, I challenged myself in every respect. I’ve done full frontal nudity in a room full of people.  I have climbed rocks in ice-cold water. I’ve lied down in disgusting swamp water.  When we did the video for “Linoleum”, I don’t know how many times I hurt myself very badly because I kept running into things.  For many aspects of Road Salt, I’ve tried to challenge myself in many ways.  And I hope that develops you, it’s gotta right?

USAProgMusic:  Absolutely. I think that’s one of the best things to not be afraid and put yourself out there…so what is your favorite Pain of Salvation song to this point?

Daniel:  It’s gotta be from Road Salt One now… I really like all of them, but “No Way”, “Tell Me You Don’t Know” and “She Likes to Hide”.  For me those are the ones that will last the longest.  For the die hard prog metal fans, those will be the hardest to digest if they aren’t open-minded which is fun because they are the simplest ones…

USAProgMusic:  Are there songs you really love to compose and listen to but don’t like to play live or vice versa?

Daniel:  Well, yea that can happen. I really love to play “Disco Queen” live. I like the song “Scarsick” but I hate playing it live. I feel a strong reluctance to play it.  There are some from Remedy Lane that are just too emotional for me to play. You almost have to take yourself out of the context to play it and I feel like I am committing a crime to the song because I feel like you need to be 100% into the song when playing it.  When I am in the rehearsal room, I don’t want to sing it in front of people but when you play it live you are hopefully doing it front of a lot of people in the audience.

USAProgMusic:  So you are well immersed in the prog scene now. Where do you think prog is heading?

Daniel:  Should I be honest?  I don’t give a crap where prog is heading [laughs]. 

It’s like with pop, the music is one thing and the label is one thing but with prog it is where the music is heading or what the definition of prog is becoming and those are two completely different things.  I think the definition of prog is getting more defined now. It’s no longer about “progressing” … so now if you are prog rock you should have the bass pedals and the moogs, the songs should be long, and there should be harmonies and everything needs to be pompous and big. If you are prog metal, then you should do the unison thing with the guitar and the keyboard and the morse code bass drum patterns, that should sound difficult but be easy to play, that’s the best one everyone is trying for, and the high pitched vocals[‘ahhhh’] and none of those interest me even if they put a gun to my head.  But we are put in the prog scene and we are moving in the direction that is not in any of those definitions, so I am trying to find new ways to break new grounds. I find today most musical ground is being broken in completely different music styles. Maybe if the prog music style is trying to find new ways, it needs to see other music styles doing that as well.  I want to find new ways all the time.

USAProgMusic:   For the most part you probably have some reign to do what you want, but how often are you put in a compromising situation where the label wants you to do one thing and you want to do something different?

Daniel:  We’ve gotten that response from almost every album.  Somebody not telling us but ‘suggesting’ to us to do one thing, but we do something completely different.  But everything from the start of Pain of Salvation, which is difficult to determine when because it was never formed but came out of different band names and band members, I wanted to have a very high ceiling. You try not to limit yourself and make as big of a scene or platform as you can. Even so I felt the last two albums… I am getting worried that Pain of Salvation may have too small of a scene for the music I want to create.  We’ll see what happens with that and how tolerant the fans are.

USAProgMusic:  Using the name of your band, what pain or frustration do you find in life or in the music business and how do you find salvation?

Daniel:  There is lots of frustration, that’s for sure [laughs].  I think it is hard to see how the downloading era has sort of killed the well being of the record industry.  It has caused the record industry to become what lots of the downloaders used as a point against the record industry because their strong argument is that labels are stealing money from the bands, and downloading should somehow solve that by not giving the industry any money at all.  The middle ground disappears.  You will have the huge artists still survive because they have so many other things they can make money from, and the huge labels will survive…the ones that make mainstream music that is sold everywhere.  The smallest guy sitting in their parents’ basement making music can benefit from music being downloaded.  The labels will only pick up bands that sound like something else that is making lots of money right now which of course will kill diversity. Here in the States, alternative things can survive a little bit because it’s a huge nation. In Sweden, there are 8 million of us so we can’t afford that kind of behavior; we will kill it off quickly.

USAProgMusic:  Since you are such a small nation, how well does Pain of Salvation do over there?  I think here in the US we have this sense that Sweden, and Finland and other Scandinavian countries are like the mecca for prog metal.  What is the reality?

Daniel:  There are lots of bands coming from those countries but the reason why you know about those bands is because we have to move the music out to the rest of the world. You never hear that on the radio or read about it in the magazines in Sweden.

USAProgMusic:  So coming from Daniel, we need to change our perspective here in the US. Prog metal is not that big over in Sweden!

Daniel:  Nope, we just have to push it out to other countries.

USAProgMusic:  Ok, well thanks for the clarification.  So to wrap things up… what would you say to young musicians today who are trying to do what you have accomplished: make the music they love,  tour internationally, and work with well-known musicians?

Daniel:  Give up! Get an education, get a job!  [laughs] Actually I think that’s the best piece of advice really … I think that if you get that advice over and over again, and you keep continuing you are doing it for the right purpose. You have the energy to make it happen. You will meet different situations on so many occasions that will tell you to give up and if you can keep going you have what it takes to succeed.  So I say, give up!

USAProgMusic:  So one last question, if you could tour with anyone …dead or alive, who would you want to tour with?

Daniel:  Dead? Well then they would have to be on another tour bus so I don’t have to smell the rotten carcass… [laughs].  I would have liked to be on stage with Elvis or The Beatles.  That’s so not alternative but it’s the truth.  They put out a lot of great music. 

USAProgMusic:  Yes, they sure did. Well, thanks very much for your time.

Daniel:  Thanks. It’s been a pleasure.

And there you have it … words right from the man himself, Pain of Salvation may return to the US in all its glory!

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