1. As you guys know you have been major figures on We Love Metal for the last year being named to the Top 5 albums of last year and having been in various Top 10s. With the new album “Storms of War” we have again gone on like teenage girls: is it flattering to have such compliments about your music or do you just want people to focus on the sound?
We have read your reviews and your lists and everything and of course it is very flattering. I mean first and foremost we write and play the music that we play because we love it and we love doing this, but it would never be as fun and as rewarding as it is without other people enjoying it and finding something in it that they can relate to and love. So when I read your review for “Storms of War” I just sat beaming at the computer screen. Guys like you and comments like that are what makes all the work that we put into this worthwhile. So thank you!
2. I found in the new album there seemed to be less of an Asian inspired theme to the actual songs. Was this on purpose or just how the writing process went?
We try to never force anything out of us. We have never been and we will never be a “concept band” focusing on Japan, and we are not going to write about that theme if we do not feel like it at the moment. It is a niche that´s always been with us and something we like to come back to from time to time, and we have plenty more ideas so there will definitely be more in the future. That having been said, I think there are more Asian influences on this album than the previous. But I guess that is all about which point of view you see it from. Some songs are all out about Japan or Asia, while others sort of are if you want them to be. That is the beauty of writing lyrics, you can write them so that the reader/listener is told what to make of it, and you can write it so that each and every one may make up their own mind about it. The way I see it “Heads” had 2 Asian themed songs that were obvious, “Blade of Katana” and “Heart of Tokyo”. That´s it. On “Storms”, we have “Kubilai Khan”, “The Samurai Returns” and “No Surrender” that are outspokenly Japanese. So that´s one more than the previous album. But, and that is an important but, those are only the ones that are flat out Japanese. I will not go into detail about the ones that may have a Japanese or Asian theme hidden in them. As I said, that is for the beholder to decide.
3. People tend to call Katana “oldschool” NWOBHM, but in reality for something to be “oldschool” it had to have gone through a time when it wasn’t relevant. Has NWOBHM ever not been relevant to metal?
Good question! I think there are many ways to look at this. NWOBHM laid out some very important ground rules that every metal band since have sort of adhered to. The whole movement paved the way for future generations of metal, whatever the subgenre. So obviously it has always been relevant. And the bands, at least some of the major bands, of that era are still active and touring and releasing albums. And for them to survive while so many others drowned during the dark ages of the 90s tells us something about the importance of classic heavy metal. But at the same time, there has been no new real resurgence of younger bands playing this music for many years, it has always been about the original bands that formed the movement 30+ years ago. So in a way for younger generations I think there was a time when the music wasn´t relevant in itself. And that is something that we hope to change, and it looks like we, together with lots of great band from around the world today, are on the right path!
4. Our stalking of your music is mainly due to the stories you weave into your songs. This must be quite taxing during the writing process to get such intricate lyrics out?
Sometimes, yes! Both me and Johan are big fans of the storytelling aspect of heavy metal music (and music in general for that matter), so we try to do some big epic numbers every once in a while. Sometimes large chunks of lyrics basically write themselves, others we have to work with quite a lot. On more than one occasion we´ll be writing and re-writing literally when Johan is in the song booth recording the actual album. But it´s a lot of fun, it makes the songs come alive that much more!
5. Along those lines, “Quest for Hades” is my favorite track. Can you tell us a little history of that song and how it came about?
Ah, Johans big masterpiece from “Heads” and one of my personal favorites of all the songs we´ve written! I remember there not being any lyrics, or hardly any and those were different from now, when we started rehearsing this song in 2008. So I know the music came first. If I remember correctly Johan set out to write music to some lyrics written by Sus, our base player. But it got bigger and bigger and ultimately the song did not fit those lyrics at all. He completed the music and tried some different ideas for the lyrics, but nothing really worked. So he kind of just listened to what kind of tale the music itself was trying to tell him, and basically out of nowhere this epic tragic story of a girl who tries to save a loved one from beyond death emerged. A stroke of genius if you ask me!
6. On “Storms of War” the song “In the Land of the Sun” follows the same vein of storytelling. Is it important to have these epic songs for you listeners to become engrossed in?
Actually, the funny thing is that it was the other way around. “Land” was actually the first song that I ever wrote for KATANA back in 2005 or 2006, and in a way it was the song that decided it for us that we were going to go for the more classic old school heavy metal approach with the band. The original plan was to have “Land” be the closing track on “Heads”, but when we were rehearsing for that recording Johan wrote “Hades”, and well, we decided to move “Land” to our second album because “Hades” just fit better with the rest of the material, and it was more fun at the time to focus on the newer songs. So “Land” is by far the oldest song on the “Storms” album. What´s even more funny is that it predates the Maiden album “A matter of life and death”, which many reviewers have said “must” be the album that inspired us to write “Land”. But to answer the question, yes I believe that´s just the way we roll. I like writing many kinds of lyrics, but as I said both me and Johan really like the story telling approach, and I don´t think we will be dropping it any time soon.
7. Can you describe a Katana live show to us?
We try to incorporate as much of the classic image as possible in our live shows. We all wear spandex and leather, Johan has a mic stand made out of an actual katana sword, and we have these huge samurai heads on poles with blinking light eyes that spew smoke from their mouths. And of course, it´s a headbanging frenzy fest from start to finish!
8. Is it challenging to sell the story of a song during a live performance in front of people that may have never heard your material?
It depends really, but I don´t think anyone can understand every layer of a song first heard live. We try to do it as much as possible, Johan is one hell of a front man, showman and singer, and he is fantastic when it comes to spellbinding an audience and getting them into the feel of a certain song. But of course our songs are not all about the story, they need to stand out as great heavy metal tunes in so many other ways that are “easier” to convey live.
9. When will we see Katana crossing the ocean and dominating the North American market?
Who knows! We have no plans to tour the states just yet, we are busy trying to play Europe at first. But the album will be available in North America through Listenable Records, and we are definitely hoping to come sometime in the future. Things are starting to look promising and we have so much more to give as a band, so we are not stopping yet! One day, it will be your turn…
10. When a new album comes out, do you look for fan reactions or album sales first?
Definitely fan reactions. Sales are of course important, not for us personally but of course we want the record labels to be happy with us so we can continue to do what we do, and it´s always nice to know people are still buying records and supporting smaller bands. But we are in this for the music and the music only, and positive fan reactions are a big part of what keeps us going. As long as people enjoy the music I am grateful and happy.
11. To finish the interview would you please make a statement about each of the following bands and their possible influence on your music:
Iron Maiden – Possibly the best band in the world, and of course a huge source of inspiration for us. If they had not existed, what would heavy metal, or any kind of metal for that matter, be today?
Slayer – Personally for me, one of few thrash bands which I enjoy. I never really did get thrash, but Slayer are pretty good! If you ask some of the other guys in the band, you will get much more positive reactions!
The Beatles – If Iron Maiden was crucial to heavy metal, I think The Beatles were crucial to all band related music! I think Johan is a pretty big fan. For me, I can appreciate what they did and their music, but it´s a little too soft for my taste.
Ronnie James Dio – The small man with the huge voice. It was a tragic day indeed when we learned of his passing. His music has meant so much to us as a band and both Rainbow, “Heaven and Hell”-sabbath and DIO has been and continue to be a big inspiration for our music. Both “Heads” and “Storms” were released in Europe on May 16th in his honor.
Motley Crue – Four guys dressed as girls who somehow managed to become legends. Actually KATANA was more influenced by their kind of music way back when we started playing almost 10 years ago. And some in the band still like them very much.
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