Gildenlöw, Daniel (Pain Of Salvation) (April 2002)

Beginnings: From Entropia To Remedy: An Interview With Daniel Gildenlöw

Daniel Gildenlow (© Pain Of Salvation)According to Daniel Gildenlöw, Pain Of Salvation is a name that represents the balance in life and the need for sacrifice when one wishes to accomplish something. Thus the "pain" in the "salvation." The Swedish band, however, is more than just a profound name of three words, having immersed each of its four albums in conceptual waters of the highest quality and garnering good reviews all over the planet (except for in a little town in Sweden) in the process. With the group's latest, Remedy Lane, having coming out just recently, the band back from its opening slot on Dream Theater's European tour, and Gildenlöw participating in a new version of his favorite musical Jesus Christ Superstar, I just couldn't pass up on the opportunity to interview him and lay down a couple of good old questions his way...

Marcel Silveyra: It would probably be wise to start off with the band's origins. Back when Pain Of Salvation was called Reality and you were a lot younger, you were writing more "commercial" music and even got recognized for it back home in Sweden. If Reality had at one point become really big, what do you think would have happened with the growth process that brought you to Pain Of Salvation's musical style? Would there have been a Pain Of Salvation?

Daniel Gildenlöw: I think that it probably wouldn't have been the same thing. I often think that if we'd had great success with Reality when we were young, the development in the band would probably have stagnated a bit; first of all, because the members of Reality were not that musically skilled or talented, and that just wouldn't have worked. I actually think it was all for the better that it came to a time when it split up. Actually, after Reality ... Reality came to a certain point in which I could see a period of three or four years where I couldn't see anything happening officially; we were just making new material and just not focusing very much on getting an audience, and I think that was a very interesting and very useful period in the history of the band. Probably because it wasn't until '96 when I actually felt that we had a demo that I thought I could send out. It was time to try to get a record deal; but we had a period before that for a few years where we actually just kind of played for ourselves.

MS: I guess the demo you just mentioned was the Hereafter demo. Once you recorded that, what were your hopes regarding the band's future? What did you think you were going to achieve?

DG: Well, I thought we had some kind of originality and I hoped, basically something like what actually happened, that a company would appreciate what we heard and that we'd record an album and start to make albums and have some kind of commercial career for the band. What I didn't expect was the difficulties of the industry; originally we were contacted by many who wanted to change us into being something easier to label. I mean, we had people who promised us very good deals if we would skip the heaviness of the lyrics, if we would change the band name - because they felt it could have religious connotations - and play more of the technical parts, basically sound more like Dream Theater or something like that. And I think if we had started to compromise that much with our band and our music, Pain Of Salvation would have never become what we are today.

Pain Of Salvation - Entropia (1998)MS: What must have been really weird is to have your first album, Entropia, released only in Asia at first, and then have it released in Europe only after your second album, One Hour By The Concrete Lake. After reading some interviews from back then, I could tell that the situation caused a bit of confusion at the time...

DG: It did [laughs]. It was very odd during interviews after the release of Entropia in Europe, and there were repeated times where they would ask me about the new album, and I just didn't know if they meant the newly recorded album or the newly released album. So it was all very tricky about which was the new album until everything was sorted out with the release of The Perfect Element, Pt.1, the album where we got active [laughs] and said, "ok, this is the new album, this is Pain Of Salvation today and this is what it's all about." I think that was our turning point. I feel the problem is that Entropia. and One Hour By The Concrete Lake ... I put that together in a way, and I put the two new albums together in a way, and there is kind of a line between One Hour and The Perfect Element, even though I see that every album is different from each other. But something is differing the Perfect Element from the albums that were released before that. I felt it was the album where we found ourselves, in a way.

MS: Now that you mention that, talking about Entropia, that album was wilder and more unpredictable in comparison to your last three. I remember listening to "Stress" and really liking the contrast in the main riff, which goes as well for the funky tracks on the album in contrast with the very heavy riff-laden approach of, say, "!" If I'm not mistaken, there was more than a hint of death metal influences in there, for instance... [PF Ed. note: curious, as former bassist Gustav Hielm later moved on to form part of Meshuggah]

DG: Well, we never really listened to death metal, but I guess we've taken a few hints from that genre and tried to turn it into a concept that we like.

MS: ...And back then, with Entropia, did you ever feel like you were branching out too far?

DG: Not at the time, but when I look at it now, it is clear to me that that's really the problem with the first album, because with the first album you never know if it will be the only album or if it will be the first in a series of albums. And I think you could see a bit of panic when it comes to the selection of songs; the material of the album is gathered from probably more than three or four years, from different periods. So it's basically a selection of songs that we wanted to record and we felt, "ok, if we don't record the song now we'll probably never record it, 'cause next album it will be older," so we took a few of the songs that we really liked and had and recorded them, so the result is that it was a bit too divergent. But that's one of the things that I love from that album; that it was really natural, not as new as the other ones, but very natural and honest in a way.

Pain Of Salvation - One Hour By The Concrete Lake (1999)MS: Now, moving on to One Hour By The Concrete Lake, one of the things that was the most interesting about that album was the ideas behind it, especially regarding the radioactivity of Lake Karachay in the former Soviet Union, as I had never heard about it. Chernobyl, for instance, is obvious; everyone knows about that, but learning that a lake covered in concrete had such high levels of radioactivity that it could still kill someone after only an hour of standing near it was pretty shocking...

DG: Yeah, those were my feelings as well when I read about it, "What!? What is this? It's going on?" [laughs] "Why doesn't anybody tell me? Why isn't it on the news?" That's the kind of feeling you get, actually.

MS: ...And how did it feel to know that you could get this information out to some people? That some people would learn of this kind of thing through your album?

DG: What happened with Concrete Lake is that it was the first album where we really realized ... where we really had the evidence of the possibility of changing things through music. I wrote this concept during some International Relations and Nuclear Physics studies that I did, and during those studies I also wrote a paper about the influence of musical lyrics on a social level, and the album itself kind of turned out as an experiment; not making the album, but releasing it. I had just waited to see, "ok, let's see the reaction and let's see how much will happen," and we actually had people giving us feedback saying that they had changed their lives completely after hearing the album. And it's very flattering in a way; I could feel that the potential of actually spreading good messages with music is very high, but it's also frightening to know how much influence you actually have, because you start thinking about all those bands that have very negative messages and will influence people just as much.

MS: Now that you just mentioned lyrics and their importance, there's something about yours that is to be found on every single album; namely a sense of responsibility. More than just responsibility, however; the themes seem to focus on the consequences of what one does and what one can learn from such consequences, which is mostly obvious on One Hour By The Concrete Lake. Do you feel that people tend to escape from their responsibilities, whether it is regarding the media, society, the environment, or other areas?

DG: Definitely. I think there is a social trend in individualism, and it has a down side, and that is when individualism goes so far that you have no responsibility to other people - that you have responsibility for yourself only and forget about the responsibility that you should have with other people. And I think that in this way there's a problem, and something like that that's very common today, especially in the media, is always "well, whose responsibility is this? It's not my problem anyway." I think that people have responsibility over their careers, and of having fun, and that their own kids will have a good education. And there's like a nationalist spirit that goes even further to the country, and in a way there is this local nationalism of the family and close ones, but people tend to forget that this is actually a global world that we live in. And it doesn't really matter if my family will have every privilege in the world if that means that the world will end in two hundred years. We have to have responsibility regarding larger things as well.

Pain Of Salvation - The Perfect Element, Part I (2000)MS: You previously mentioned that The Perfect Element, Pt.1 is where the band truly found itself. A curious point about the album is that the story behind the lyrics turned very human and was on a much more personal level than the ones on the previous albums, although most of the things you wrote about were experiences that others had gone through. It seems that, with each passing album, your lyrics are getting closer to the core of real-life human beings, as opposed to "external" issues. Is this the way things are going to work for Pain Of Salvation on the next couple of albums?

DG: I don't know ... I just know that I feel like that. When making Remedy Lane, I kind of realized that there is a clear development, a clear line between the first album and Remedy Lane, 'cause I feel that in Entropia we were using the global world in a social level as the context, and within that context we looked at some individuals, but it's really looking at the whole thing. And then it was a constant development through the albums until Remedy Lane, which is the other way around. I mean, we have the human mind and the human soul as the context, and through that context we look at social patterns and things that happen on a social level. But it's like going from two mainly small things in the large picture to seeing the large picture in the small thing on a very close human nature level. I think that Entropia had a very wide spectrum, we especially have that one main character, we get a little bit closer to that character in a way. And in The Perfect Element we still have that social level clearly involved, but we really focused on the human mind and the human nature, and through that we can look at the bigger picture.

MS: Another interesting thing is that if there's a band that has to be recognized for concept albums, it has to be Pain Of Salvation. After all, you have four albums out already and they are all conceptual. What strikes me as curious is that other bands that make a concept album get so exhausted that they rest from the conceptual stuff for a while, whereas you guys have recorded four concept albums in a row already? Doesn't it get tiring?

DG: Tell me about it! [laughs] Well, it's the only way to do it ... it's like when you're writing books, if you have many problems writing a book you'll probably have to rest for a while and write stuff that's considered easier, but I consider myself to be a writer that writes as a book and right after that is already on the next book, although it keeps wearing you down and is a long process ... because it is a long process, there a lot of things happening, situations and other things enter that equation. It's just big work. It's not exactly like laying a puzzle, but if you're interested in laying puzzles you will do it even if you think it's very difficult, because the difficulty is part of it. I think that is the main reason to write a concept; that it's just like the difference between a novel and short stories. You can still have the individual lyrics within a concept and focus on different things in the concept; you can have subtopics like we had on One Hour that clearly were different from some two or three other subtopics, but if you look at the relationship between them we can't just do that with one song; we have to have four other concepts to do that. I really love that, because, like I heard somebody say at one time, "it's like having several things add up and becoming something more than the actual sum of the different parts." You have fifteen songs, but in the end of the album you don't count fifteen songs, because something happened along the way and the relationship between the songs will make the album be bigger than the sum of the parts.

Pain Of SalvationMS: One thing, considering the fact that you write the band's lyrics and most of its music, which makes you the virtual director of Pain of Salvation you explain the concepts to the other band members before recording the songs?

DG: No, they wouldn't understand it anyway! [laughs] Yeah, I do. For One Hour, I think that it was the most interactive concept, because I really wanted everybody to take part in all the material before the actual writing of the lyrics. I was putting a lot of material together, something like six hundred pages of material, and using that I explained to them my idea for the concept and was wondering what they thought about it. At first they were kind of confused, "What? How can you make that into a concept?" [laughs] So it was the facts and the social things that were kind of difficult to turn into a concept, and that was part of working on the album. I just gave them the material and was like "read this" [laughs] "I want everybody to read this," and they gave me feedback and reacted to it. The last thing I want to do, you know, because I'm a vegetarian, the last thing I would like to do is make an album saying something like "you're a fucking asshole, 'cause you're not a vegetarian!" I mean; parts of the band are not vegetarian! [laughs] So you feel like [you] want to make something that all the guys in the band can get into themselves and agree with. I usually read them the ideas before we put them together; I need to get out my ideas and visions, and I actually think it's probably something that I need as well ... not only to think about it, but to visualize that for myself, so it's a good thing to do.

MS: When looking at the influences that each member of the band cites, one can immediately notice that the other members, apart from your brother, tend to cite very "heavy metal" influences (Mötley Crüe, Iron Maiden, etc.) amidst sources of inspiration, while you tend to go the other way around with stuff like Jesus Christ Superstar and The Beatles. Now on Remedy Lane, there are a few really sweet ballads that one would have been unlikely to find in your previous albums. Are your influences showing through a bit more?

DG: Not really. Usually with all the previous albums, the hardest and the heaviest parts were usually my parts as well. It's really natural development, but I feel like I have no real control over it, 'cause I tend to follow the music and just feel like doing different stuff; it just happens naturally. Entropia is a very raw album in a way, for example, and a lot of material came from when I was twenty years old, around '93 or '94 ... it's just a different relation to music probably, and it definitely has to do with the concept and the flow you will have with the album. It depends one hundred percent on what you're doing and what the plans for the albums are like. I think we have quite a few different musical flavors, and you can appreciate that everybody in the band likes the same bands pretty much, although we all have our favorites.

Pain Of Salvaton - Remedy LaneMS: A short question: did you notice that there is a vocal line on "Beyond The Pale" that is exactly like one on Faith No More's "The Real Thing?"

DG: Well ... the rhythmical thing, I heard that, yes. The thing is, it's the same rhythm that's actually in "Chain Sling," and that's why it's got that rhythm [begins to sing the related melody of "Chain Sling"]. So the fact that it actually turned out Faith No More-ish was kind of a coincidence, because I used that exact same rhythmical pattern, I took out the melody, and it kind of turned out that way. After it came out though, I thought that it sounded like "The Real Thing," and with Faith No More being one of my favorite bands, I considered it some kind of a homage. But there wasn't really an initiative to make it sound alike; it's just that when it came out that way I decided, "well, that's a little homage to Faith No More."

MS: One of the most curious aspects of early Pain Of Salvation interviews was the fact that people would always interpret the music however they wanted to. A lot of people, for instance, would ask if Peter Gabriel from Genesis had influenced your vocal style, which you always said no to. Isn't it ever frustrating to have people hear what they want to hear in your music despite what you are trying to do?

DG: It can be frustrating that they need those references, but on the other hand I understand that, because the music ... it's not a conscious thing, it just happens when you hear something that you will react, "oh, wait a minute, this sounds like..." and whatever it sounds like in your world. I know that the human mind works kind of in the same way as vector graphics in the sense that it stores just a few elements, and every time you remember the thing, it will paint the rest of it, making the rest of it up in a way, and I guess maybe with the musical mind it works that way as well because different people have different references to the same music. Just as when you look at somebody's face, one guy will focus and memorize the eyes, the nose, the cheeks, or whatever. We'll really have clearly different ideas about the look of that person, and I think it's basically the same different attitudes with music. For one guy the music of Pain Of Salvation is stored into a different patch than another guy; they have different things that they compare to every band. I think it's very interesting for me. One of the first things I remember, probably back in '95 or '96, before the first album, we were playing at this show and afterwards a guy came up and said, "Well, obviously you have a lot of influences in there, but I can mention two for sure. I don't know about the other ones, but two are 100% sure." And we're like "Oh yeah, what?" "Kansas and Styx," and we were like "What!?" [laughs] I hadn't heard any of them ... I'd heard of Kansas, but I'd never heard the songs, and Styx I'd never even heard the name before. It's kind of interesting to see the references that people make, because every time we will think "Oh, I wonder how come? So he must be thinking about the way we structure the guitar with the bass or whatever." It's just really always interesting to see how people look at our music and make their own interpretation of it!

Entropia (1998)
One Hour By The Concrete Lake (1999)
The Perfect Element (2000)
Remedy Lane (2002)
12:5 (2004) Be (2004)
Scarsick (2007)
Linoleum (EP) (2009)
Ending Themes (On The Two Deaths Of Pain Of Salvation) (2009)
Road Salt One (2010)
Road Salt Two (2010)
Falling Home (2014)

Be - Live DVD (DVD) (2005)
Ending Themes (On The Two Deaths Of Pain Of Salvation) (DVD) (2009)

Added: April 21st 2002
Interviewer: Marcelo Silveyra

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