Dan Swanö – Recollections of the Shadowman Part II

Tuesday, 25th June 2013

The second part of our interview with Swedish producer/multi-instrumentalist Dan Swanö, on the docket for discussion is his work with perennial DR favorites Katatonia, whom Swanö had a close relationship with during the band’s formative years, going as far as to save the day by providing last-minute drums on 1999’s Tonight’s Decision. Also on tap was the Crimson II album, his plans for 2013, and a piece that includes the five albums that Swanö has been a part of that you need to know, which are included on page two of this interview. Go forth…

Dead Rhetoric: You stayed involved with Katatonia on a musical level for several years after the early demos. How included did Anders and Jonas make you feel? Were they open to your ideas?

Swanö: Anders and Jonas are great guys. I had a blast working with these guys. I didn’t really attempt to produce them in any way after that “take that blast beat out, or go home” incident during the first demo! They always had a clear idea what they wanted. I co-wrote and produced the last track on the first album (“Dancing December”), and it serves as a template for the Goth that I would explore further with “Sacrificed” with Edge of Sanity. I also let them use the studio for free to explore that style even more with the “Scarlet Heavens” track. But in the end, they chose to go in a more death/doom direction, which was probably the right thing to do, because there were bands doing the Goth metal thing a lot better at that time, but they were still pretty unique in their “real” sound.

Dead Rhetoric: Your drums on the Tonight’s Decision album were suitably tasteful and interesting. What do you remember about recording that album?

Swanö: Panic! They called me one Friday, I think, and said they their own drummer and none of the other session drummers could play steady to a click-track, and they had like one-minute of drums worth after several days in the studio. Their producer insisted to let one more guy try it during the weekend, and if he didn’t make, I would take the train up to Stockholm and nail the drums in a day or two. Well, we all know what happened, and I arrived at the studio and got straight to work. I had only listened to the songs a little bit on the train but I was used to the hi-tech “seamless punch in/out” of my ADAT machine. I even dedicated Moontower to the inventor of the ADAT Auto-punch! But Sunlight used an analog 24-tracker that couldn’t punch in or out [laughs] without leaving a bit “gap” in the music. So I had to learn the tracks long enough until there was a natural pause in the music, and move on from there.

I remember that the headphone cable was broken, so I had a horrible guitar sound – pedal straight to console, making Bathory’s early guitar sound warm and fat, and a click/cowbell in one ear only, plus the guys screaming to me in the talk-back microphone what to play. Like, “Aaahh…here comes a new riff, make a cool fill like ‘ta ta baaa ta baatta bata’ and then continue with the same beat but on the ride cymbal.” And I think it took me like 14 hours to nail all the tracks. [Producer Tomas] Skogsberg was impressed and I was proud as fuck.

Dead Rhetoric: After the split with Bloodbath, is there still a rift with you and the guys? Or are you friends? 

Swanö: I think we would react just the same to each other’s physical presence now, like we did through-out the years before and during Bloodbath. We were never really friends in the “normal” way.  We just got along famously during the time we worked together, and beyond that, we never hung out just to hang out. They live two hours away. Once I got the studio going I rarely ever hung out with anyone in my spare time. Having metalheads around you 10 hours a day, sometimes 27 days a month was getting the best of me!

Dead Rhetoric: After the Crimson II album, you expressed some disappointment with the mix. Is that something you’d ever like to go back and fix? 

Swanö: Yeah. Pretty much every sound on the album sucks ass. I had to mix it in headphones and I could never seem to get the balance right and in the end it was all limited to death with some crappy plug in and it sounds just like a mess to me, but it seems to be okay for the fans of it, since some of them even believe it to be better than Crimson I, that also sounds kind of strange. All Edge of Sanity albums do, to me…

Dead Rhetoric: You were one of the first in death metal to use both clean and growled vocals. Now that so many bands use it, how does it make you feel? Proud? 

Swanö: Absolutely! I love the idea that we might have opened up a few doors, but there are like two lines of clean vocals on the Left Hand Path album, that was before “Enigma.”  And the vocals on “Enigma” was supposed to be a huge choir, with all members of EOS being overdubbed like 24 times, but we forgot all about it, and we had no time to do anything but use the guide-vocals that I had put down for the guys to hear what they should sing. Happiest accident so far in my career.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on deck for the rest of 2013?

Swanö: Musically, the new Nightingale album. The drums will be recorded in July and the rest of the year will be spent perfecting the rest. I will also work on the Second Sky album. The lyrics will be re-written and the vocals re-recorded, and that will take some time. I will remix the 40 minutes long demo A Collection of Worlds II with re-recorded vocals and hopefully see it released on some format other that Cassette!

I will also go on collection riffs from might end up as the second Dan Swanö album release. A step backwards from Moontower into old-school death metal territories. I plan to write the songs based on the musical DNA of my previous acts like ear 89-92 EOS, early-Bloodbath, later-Infestdead, demo EP-Pan-Thy-Monium. A few songs from each DNA will create a really varied and cool death metal album in my eyes!

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