Gildenlöw, Daniel (Pain Of Salvation) (March 2001)

The Perfect Elements Of Pain Of Salvation

Pain Of Salvation (© POS)Jeffery Kent spoke over the phone with the singer, guitarist and brain behind Pain of Salvation Daniel Gildenlöw this past January for Promethean Crusade and shared that interview with us. As many know, Pain Of Salvation played to more than 300 faithful fans at the ProgPowerUSA festival in February, treating the crowd to a two-hour set. This on the heels of the release of their latest studio album The Perfect Element.

Promethean Crusade: I sat down yesterday to write down a bunch of questions for you and just ended up with a bunch of comments about how great the new album is. Sorry, feel free to comment?

Daniel Gildenlöw: OK, you can tell me that, I can live with that.

PC: Your album's great.

DG: I agree [laughs].

PC: Seriously though, I haven't stopped listening to it for the last month. I've been telling anyone who has ears on the side of their head to check you guys out. Everybody across the board, including non "Metal" fans seems to like it.

DG: I think it's kind of wide; it helps that we can reach a wider audience because the music deserves it in a way, I think.

PC: In looking across your list of influences, you can hear each one of those elements in it and yet when people ask me what it sounds like I find myself saying, "they sound like?Pain of Salvation, they really don't sound like anybody else."

DG: That's good. Several times when we've played out at gigs and shows people come up to us afterwards and say that they heard a lot of influences in our music and that they can name two for sure. When we hear the bands' names more often than not they're bands we've never heard of, so we surely haven't listened to them. I think people are actually able to hear their favorite bands or musicians in us even though we haven't listened to them, so that must be something good I hope.

PC: Are they usually different bands, or do you hear the same names come up a lot?

DG: They're always completely different bands; those that we've heard several times, people mention FNM [Faith No More], if they've heard FNM because I sing kind of in a different way; I use my voice in different moods. People who don't listen to Progressive Metal say that it sounds like DT [Dream Theater, naturally] because we have some tight passages, but people who listen to DT don't actually think that. It differs very much from person to person.

PC: I'd say it has its DT moments, but they're brief. The FNM reference is definitely more obvious, like you said, with the range of vocal styles.

DG: It was really good to hear FNM for the first time. When I attended music college I had a friend who was completely into FNM and at that point I had only heard "Epic." So I had this vision of kind of Southern American country influenced strange guys with cowboy hats because that song sounds a bit peculiar in a way when you're not used to that. When I got into FNM I was really thrilled about hearing someone who wanted to use his voice more like an instrument than having one single way of singing and the same thing with Dalbello. It's great to hear because it makes you feel comfort to know that you're on the right track because I wanted to use my voice in very different ways and when you don't hear that you're not really sure if it's a good idea. When I heard those bands I was like yeah I knew it, I knew it could be really good.

PC: Too many bands out there today have vocals that seemed tacked on at the end; not so much with the Progressive bands, but some of the Swedish Death Metal bands. I can't understand why they'd ruin such beautiful melodies and guitar harmonies with vocals like that

DG: Yeah it is really strange. I think also the Prog Metal genre is also having the fixed position in a way with the high pitched vocals constantly being up there and doing the same stuff all the time. For me it's like having a guitarist that only plays one single way of playing, just one range of the guitar. Everybody would react if a guitarist would play that way like always using the high sixth string and playing very high up on the neck always with the same kind of stuff. That would be irritating.

PC: Were you a guitarist before you were a vocalist?

DG: I think I would have to say that I started doing both at the same time. I probably wasn't aware that I was a singer perhaps because I started playing when I was eight or nine years old and at that point you don't have the same perspective in a sense. The guitar is an instrument and the voice is not considered an instrument in the same way, so I think that I saw a difference between instruments and vocals. So I did the vocals, but I wasn't really aware that it was an instrument just like the guitar or the drums. I started doing both at the same time so I have a lot of practice doing them both at the same time.

PC: I think that's great that you started early, you figured it out early so you're able to move on from there. A lot of singers don't figure it out until it's too late. It still amazes me when I realize how young your whole band is. I mean you're young NOW and you're already on your third record.

Pain of Salvation - EntropiaDG: For Entropia Kristoffer [Gildenl?w, bass, Daniel's younger brother] was nineteen and he was sixteen when he joined the band ... [laughs] ... interesting age. So yeah, we're getting older every day so we'll be up there pretty soon. You know that I wasn't aware of this, but our KB player [Frederik Hermansson] had gone through some figures or something and found that Queensrÿche were in their thirties when they recorded Operation: Mindcrime. He gave me a lot of numbers for the ages of people who'd made their first really famous album. You never think of that, you think that they were really young, but they weren't.

PC: In the progression of these three albums I hear you continually evolving. I know it sounds stupid, but with The Perfect Element I hear an equal balance between the first two albums.

Pain Of Salvation - One Hour By The Concrete LakeDG: Yeah, I think that's a good point actually because, as I see it, and I'm very subjective, Entropia is very fresh in a way, raw in a way. So I like that part of Entropia and it has more groove and soul in a way than I think Concrete Lake has, which is a bit more stiff. On the other hand CL is more focused and more mature. I hope that we were able to catch that grooviness and a bit of naiveté from Entropia, but with a focus and maturity molded into something good with some new elements of course. I pray that we managed to do that.

PC: I'd say it has, you can hear the change. Not a lot of people over here in America even know who you are, so as soon as they discover the band there are three albums waiting for you that you can go and listen to. It allows you to listen with a little more clarity than just hearing one album or a few singles.

DG: That was kind of how I got into FNM. They had just released Angel Dust and we were going to play a gig at a festival with my band that I had in Music College on the bill with FNM. I hardly knew who they were so my friend lent me the first two albums and I think actually "Zombie Eaters" and "R.V." were the first songs that I could really get into deeply. We sat there in the car before the FNM evening listening to the albums because I wanted to know the songs when I heard them live. That's the only time I ever saw them, I wished that I had the chance to listen to their albums more beforehand, but it was a nice experience.

PC: Every time I saw FNM and they played "Epic" I was kind of disappointed. I was hoping they wouldn't play it just to piss people off.

DG: Before they kicked Jim Martin out of the band you could really feel a lot of tension. He was late to the stage that night and Mike Patton really harassed him onstage in front of the audience to the point where you didn't know if it was real or a joke or what.

PC: Yet out of that creative tension came some great music with Jim struggling to keep it Metal and everybody else struggling against him. Speaking of which, did you write most of the music on the new album?

Pain Of Salvation - The Perfect ElementDG: Yeah, almost the complete album. Our keyboard player, Frederick, and I wrote "Her Voices" together, or more or less he wrote the first half of the song and I wrote some of the melodies for that and then the second half of the song. Then Johan [Langell], the drummer, actually came up with some harmonies for a short passage of "The Perfect Element" which is really passing by very briefly, but it was interesting that he was taking part in it. Apart from that I did everything else on the album [embarrassed laughter]. I like it in a way because you really have the ability to have a complete set of emotions from beginning to end you have a complete overview of the musical image.

PC: You're not worried about interpreting someone else's lyrics during the fifth track that would throw you off.

DG: Exactly, you can work with music as a complete entity; you know that this is the whole thing so that you know it will all work well together. Not like if one person wrote six songs and someone else wrote four songs and then you had to come up with a good mix so that the overall impression will be focused in a way. Also it's a bit annoying because you almost feel embarrassed because you feel like a dictator, "I wrote everything and I did the artwork and the multimedia?" and people ask, so what did the rest of the guys do? It just happened that way because for a year and a half we all lived in different cities, so we didn't have that much time to meet and rehearse which made me complete my music before presenting it.

PC: Most of your fans seem to realize now that each of your albums has one underlying concept. What is your concept for the album? I know that you talk about it a bit in the liner notes, but if you could distill it into one brief statement, what do you want people to get from it?

DG: Ohhhh God, one statement?

PC: Well, not one, but without telling the whole story.

DG: There are a lot of people that are on the backside of society in a way and I realize that I've been writing about them since the first album with "People Passing By." I think I want to emphasize that society, which sees those people as a danger to society in fact have created those people. The way we're living and the progress of especially the Western society is forming broken individuals and then we have to blame everything on something else because we don't want to see that we're actually having a part of the responsibility for this. First we construct a society, which breaks a few individuals down and when those individuals lose it we act surprised and say oh we have to deal with those really strange people. The best way of dealing with them is to not see them and avoid looking at them or else we just put them in jail or in the worst case we terminate them completely. I think that is the relation behind this whole concept even though we followed two individuals so it's their story as well. The relation between the individual and society and the way society forms the individual is what's behind it.

PC: The albums are so complex that for the first few weeks I didn't even listen to the lyrics and it's not until just recently that I printed them all out and began following the story. What I came away with from listening to TPE was that you have to take responsibility for your own actions and if you're going mess something up don't go looking to find someone else to blame, because if you do, you're going to find out that it was actually you. It's a pretty mature and deep concept.

DG: I spent quite a lot of time with it so it will be interesting in dealing with part two because I just have the storyboard in my head and some loose structures. It will be very interesting to see where it all ends up because I'm not really sure yet. The plan is that the story will be taken up to more of a social level. These people are considered to be sick in a way, looking at the outcasts, you see that they have some kind of disease, not a physical disease, but it's kind of a mental disease even though it doesn't have a name in that sense. Then society has a way of bringing up solutions or cures for this, and it's very interesting if you look at the symptomology. In this case we have the male and the female for part one. He is very much into violence and communicating through violence and she has been abused and it's very self-destructive. They're both looking for something that they lack, they've lost something along the way and they seek different ways of trying to attain what they've been missing all through the years. Both of them are really closing their eyes for everything in the past, doing everything they can to not see what they've done or what has been done to them. I really don't like speaking about society like some kind of third party because it's the sum of all the individuals living in it. But still I think today we can see almost like a Social Will or a society that has a will of its own that is not the same as the sum of the individual. We can see that society may share a lot of the symptoms that the individuals share and if that is so then would society itself be willing to submit itself to the same kind of treatments or cures that it recommends for these individuals? That is kind of the contemplation of the problems that I will be facing and the listeners will be facing in part two.

PC: What prompted you to put that disclaimer in the liner notes?

DG: Most of the things that are happening to these individuals or have happened to them are pretty dark and gloomy and I wouldn't want people to think that we're actually talking about our own childhoods here. Of course everybody can recognize themselves in that kind of school situation where everything is a constant war, especially if you're a boy I think that every day you're aware of the signals you're receiving and the signals you're giving. Because you know that if you prove yourself weak then you will have a problem; that's a really tough situation that's really bad. I wish that all children could go through school feeling a comfort in knowing that I am who I am and I don't have to prove this and that. I can just be myself and people will not dislike me for not being like everyone else should be or not wearing the same piece of clothing that everybody has to wear at this point in time. I think everybody is getting used to the world in school.

PC: When I first heard Entropia about a year ago I had just become a father for the first time, so it was interesting to listen to the father ? son relationship that's going on there. I have the new baby and he's only a month old and I'm thinking about how my life has changed. Almost every song had a part that leapt out at me that I recognized as myself. I don't know, do you have kids yet?

DG: Umm no, unfortunately. I would really love having kids, but not for now.

PC: That makes it even more interesting to know that you can capture that relationship when you don't have kids of your own. It makes me wonder what you'll write like when you do have them. As much as you think you know what it might be like, you really can't know until you see your newborn baby for the first time. It's not something you can learn by reading about, you have to be there and live it.

DG: I've heard from people that have been through the situations that we deal with on the new album, like the drugs and violence situation or the sexual abuse and I've heard people say this really describes the situation so well. It was amazing that I could write this without having been through it because I know that many people who have been through this think that I have, too. It's a bit hard to say ?

PC: I guess it's good and bad. "Thank you for telling me I'm a great writer," but then you feel bad because you feel like you have to apologize for having not gone through it like they had.

DG: I think that's always a problem when you speak for those who have problems, but can't speak for themselves. I've known several people who have been through the sexual abuse thing and I know that none of them have reported it to the police or have even spoken about it that much. In a way they're kind of mute because of what they've been through. On the other hand it's always a problem speaking for them when you're not speaking for yourself. People will say that's easy for you to say because you haven't been through it, so what do you know. But I felt I had to take the risk. That was a huge problem in during the writing process. I wanted to find a balance because like in "Ashes" I wanted it to have the aspects of filth and dirt, but still not too much. It mustn't be a goal in itself that it's to be filthy and dirty. There has to be a reason for it to be that way.

PC: I read in another interview you did where you were talking about what songs were hard to play live and you said that it wasn't the technical ones so much as the emotional ones. It's easy to plug in a guitar and set it to make a certain sound. It's much harder to tap into the right emotions at the right time.

DG: Especially if four of you are singing, all four of you have to get that right emotion.

PC: You can get it right a little easier than everyone else because you've written it. Theoretically at least, you know how to achieve it.

DG: That is the biggest problem, I still think so. When people heard "Handful of Nothing" from the Concrete Lake album they were like "oh that's top of the line" and I said "yeah I think it's a good song," but it's just an advanced rhythm and I've been dealing with that since way back. So for me that is normal, I don't even think of it as being advanced in a way.

PC: When I played Entropia for the first time, I wasn't overly impressed with the first minute or so and then later when I had listened to it all the way through I beat myself up for almost missing out on it entirely. I had a similar experience with the new album. That moment when it switches from the harsh verse to the a cappella chorus is simply gorgeous. Everyone I play that for says the same thing, no one yet has seen it coming.

DG: It's always interesting in a live situation because we haven't become huge and most of the people in the audience hasn't heard our stuff yet. During "Used" for instance and you can see their faces and you know what will happen when you go into the chorus. You look around and you see all the eyebrows go up and they look really, really confused?and then they smile. I guess it's even more surprising in a live situation. We've really worked hard on having those sections where the choruses come in completely right on the first note.

PC: There's nothing worse to hear live than a horribly botched vocal harmony.

DG: You hear bands hesitate when they get to sections like that. It's better walk in there with 110% percent on the first note.

PC: Yeah, for bands that can pull it off, it's usually one of the highlights of the performance. Bands like King's X or Galactic Cowboys can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. When you started playing at eight or nine years old, did you ever imagine that you'd be in a band with your brother?

DG: No, at that point definitely not. No I never thought that because he was always around digging us in a way. He was more of a sports guy in the beginning so he played football and basketball and all those things that I never did. He didn't seem to have much of an interest in music at all. We had two bass players and both are really nice guys and I think that he really looked up to both of them. I think that was of the reasons for him starting to play the bass because he started a bit with the drums then the piano and he didn't really get into it at all. When he joined the band I think he had been playing the bass for one year or something and he had really a tough place to fill because the guy before him was so good. He had a hard time at the beginning to make it work.

PC: Did you grow up in a musical household?

DG: It was pretty much a musical surrounding. Both Mom and Dad played a lot of music and Dad played in a band when he was young though I never saw him when he was playing the drums, I just heard about it. That helped a lot actually. Mom had a guitar, so I could try the guitar. They always supported us in our musical struggles.

PC: Did you ever get interested in the traditional Swedish folk music?

DG: Not when I grew up much, but when I became older I really appreciated folk music, especially when it had that kind of sad connotation. I guess it's like the American country in that you have at least two different variations of it. In the beginning country was one of the musical styles that I really hated. You don't hear it much in Sweden, but it's played once in a while. Then I've heard some country that's really, really good because it's so sad. It's the same with the Swedish folk music. We have something called polska which is kind of a third beat, but it's with the emphasis on the third, so it's not like a waltz with the emphasis on two and three. Some of the greatest folk music that uses that kind of beat is when they have the melody going against that so it sounds really rhythmical and groovy. I really like that when you have three or four violins and some other instruments.

PC: About three or four years ago I stumbled across all the roots revival bands coming out of Sweden, Hedningarna and bands like that.

DG: They kind of mix the old folk music with the modern sound. They have all the drums and guitars.

PC: They grew up listening to the traditional folk music and Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.

DG: Yeah, yeah. Have you heard Hoven Droven?

PC: Yes, absolutely.

DG: They do some great stuff as well.

PC: Is the Prog Power Festival going to be your first time playing in the US?

DG: Yeah actually. We're really looking forward to it. We've had a good response; ever since releasing Entropia in Japan we've been getting American fans writing to us who had imported the album from Japan. It will be great getting over there, it's not a minute too late.

PC: Is InsideOut giving you a lot of support in the US?

DG: Yeah. It's still kind of new, so I don't really know where it will lead to, but it seems really good.

PC: It's pretty impressive for a label to produce a double CD Limited Edition for a band that's not that well known. Who's idea was it in the first place?

DG: The original thought was that we should have the video for "Ashes" as the bonus track for the European release. But when we were done with the album it wouldn't fit, not as an mpeg file or any kind of file. So then we were discussing not doing anything at all, then our management in Sweden came up with the idea to add a second disc with the "Ashes" video and a few other videos and maybe some bonus tracks. They presented this idea to InsideOut in Europe and they thought it was good idea. It was really great because for a minute there we thought that the video wasn't going to be seen at all. That was nice.

PC: Video is a difficult medium when there aren't any outlets for it. It's nice if you can get it directly into the hands of the people it was meant for by putting it on a bonus disc or making it available to download at a website.

DG: Yeah I think fast connections are being more and more common, so people can actually download an complete video which would have been impossible just a few years ago.

PC: Do you always have all the music written before you go into the studio?

DG: It should be [laughs], but it's never been like that. It's always the initial plan and then you get there and there are a lot of things that you haven't taken care of. I remember for the first album, Entropia, I didn't have all the lyrics done and at some point you only have a few songs left to record, so you're saying shit I have to finish these lyrics because tomorrow we have to record the songs. You don't want to bother the management or the studio by saying this, so you sit up all night and you go to sleep at 5:00 and you get up at 9:00 again singing, which is really terrible. Of course we had the same problem with this album, so when we get down to the studio to start the recording everyone is afraid to ask if all the lyrics are done. I say, you don't want to know?

PC: ?because if I tell you no, you're going to pressure me and I can't handle that.

DG: Exactly, and they will have stomach ulcers, so don't ask. I had more of a discipline this time. We had two weeks off at two different times during the recording so we had a few days to do things that weren't ready. Also I could delegate more than I had done in the past because we had gone through everything; Fredrik could do his keyboard parts without me watching over him and everything was really done. He knows what he has to do, so I could spend time writing lyrics when the other guys were in the studio. That's the first time that has happened. In that sense I am a bit of a dictator, I don't want to be, but it's because I am the only one who knows how it's all supposed to sound.

PC: Is it more or less difficult to get the right emotional balance in the studio as opposed to playing live?

DG: It differs from song to song. It doesn't have to be the first take because I'll try out ideas and different attitudes before I'm satisfied. For ballads I want to have at least one take from beginning to end so I've let some things pass in order to get a whole take down. For some of the other songs I'm working with it and trying different ideas. Sometimes you get really stuck on just one small passage and you just can't get it right. It's not that it's wrong in any sense?

PC:?it's just not what you hear in your head.

DG: Exactly. It's something that you can't put your finger on so you either leave it behind and get back to it later or you keep trying it with different attitudes and approaches. Finally it just clicks and you know what to do. For this album we never did any pre-production demos or anything and that was the first time we'd done that. With the first two albums we had recorded almost all of the songs beforehand as demo tracks so I had done the vocals once and knew what it was supposed to sound like. For this recording I had nothing to rely on but my visions.

PC: So this way it's more like creation and less like work.

DG: Yeah, exactly.

PC: Does the rest of the band get annoyed when you're trying to figure out how something will work and they just have to wait because you're the only one who can solve it?

DG: It's different from each individual. Fredrik is never annoyed with those kinds of things he seems to like it. Perhaps Kristoffer is the only one who can get most annoyed if something is not really right as a passage for the bass or something.

PC: Yeah, but he's your younger brother, so you can just smack him and tell him to shut up.

DG: [laughs] yeah, that relationship is what causes the problem. We've grown up together and we know each other so well that it's easier for us to get frustrated with each other in our communication.

PC: How long did this album take to record?

DG: Eleven weeks, but it felt like months. After eleven weeks we feel like we've been there for two years. We hate this place and we just want to go home, because it's so far from our home, it's 600Km from home and we have girlfriends and lives. It's annoying because we have to make a living somehow, and it's not through music, not yet anyway. It's not easy to go away from something for eleven weeks. This was our longest recording. Entropia took five weeks for everything including mastering and Concrete Lake took eight weeks for everything.

PC: So you must not be looking forward to the next record?

DG: No [laughs] we've actually talked about that. What will happen when we reach our sixth or seventh album; we'll have to just move to the studio or make our own studio.

PC: A lot of bands have their own recording studios now.

DG: Yeah that actually is a good idea, not recording your album in the rehearsal studio, but at least recording some of it. Almost every time we rehearse we start off with a jam session for one or two hours mixing all kinds of music. It's really creative and we never record it; I'm afraid we're losing like one album of ideas for every two weeks of rehearsal.

Thanks to Jeffery and [now defunct] Promethean Crusade for sharing this interview.

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: March 6th 2001
Interviewer: Jeffery Kent

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Language: english

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