DPRP’s Dave Baird talks with
Paatos band member Petronella Nettermalm
about their latest release “Breathing”
and their tour with Riverside
DAVE: Good evening Petronella, so you’ve been rehearsing for the gigs coming up in Poland with Riverside?
PETRONELLA: Yeah exactly and and we’re having a release gig here in Stockholm too before, we are just starting rehearsing and it feels really good actually
DAVE: It has been quite some time “Silence of Another Kind” (2006) and “Sensors” (2008)?
PETRONELLA: We had quite a long break because there was a lot of stuff going on in the band, lots of discussions on how to make songs and how to continue our work together and it ended up with two member leaving the band.
DAVE: On the website it talks about quite some turmoil, what was this all about, “artistic differences”?
PETRONELLA: I think that we just grew apart. We always though it was a good thing that we were five strong people with different music tastes and this worked for quite some time, but for those last few years, I don’t know, we couldn’t join together any more in the creative process. We had different opinions about how to write music, I think that was the main problem.
DAVE: What, finding the right direction between jamming and writing music?
PETRONELLA: Something like that, some wanted to be more in the rehearsal studio and do everything together while some wrote faster than others and came with more ideas that were more like existing songs. So we just worked in a different tempo and with different musical direction. I mean there are no hard feelings about it, it just didn’t work, too much discussion, too much talk, not a lot of writing together, just talking about how to do it, and nothing came out of it. We actually had a whole album’s worth of material that we did, but we didn’t release it because there was so much negative feeling in it. Nobody was satisfied with it and about how it was created. When Johan (Wallén) and Stefan (Dimle) decided to leave the band we decided to put this material to one side and start all over again.
DAVE: Well considering how melancholy Paatos’ music is, maybe it would have enhanced it
DAVE: Now you’re down to four members, with Ulf (Ivarsson) coming in with a very distinct style of bass playing on “Breathing”, other than that it still sounds very much like Paatos, you don’t appear to have lost anything as a result.
PETRONELLA: Yeah, I think so too. It has been no problem in the making of the record because both Peter and Ricard play keyboard and piano. This is more of an issue for when we play live though and we have to work out how to solve it. We wrote all the songs though before Ulf joined us, just Peter, Ricard and myself, and it was just really easy to work with just three people, so when we started to write it went very smoothly.
DAVE: Did Ulf have the freedom to write his own bass parts?
PETRONELLA: Well the songs were already there, but he was able to add his own special style to it. He was able to change some things and his special sound did a lot to the songs.
DAVE: Well he fits in well with the band, there’s no sudden shock “Oh my god, there’s a new bass player”, but really as I said, it’s a very distinctive style
PETRONELLA: Yes, I think so too. I loved his playing for years and Ricard played with him a lot, so we were so happy when he said he wanted to join. He’s one of Swedens best bass players.
DAVE: Oh, there are many good bass players in Sweden! Of course the bass opens the album with “Gone” and it’s really prominent throughout.
PETRONELLA: Yes, it is
DAVE: And you yourself are playing some cello on the album, plus there’s some violin and another cello on the album, this is going to be interesting to reproduce live, especially the track “Precious”
PETRONELLA: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we have to solve it. At this moment we are playing with a computer on stage and then we’ll see, maybe we’ll take in a fifth member on keyboards, I don’t know, in the future… Right now it feels really good to just be four persons, we are getting together to know each other and getting right.
DAVE: How does it work out being in the same band as your husband?
PETRONELLA: Weeeellll, it works fine I think. It’s a good thing to have something that we both love to do, to do together. I’m very happy to have a husband who is so talented, so I love to play with him actually. As husband and wife we have our moments…
DAVE: Not sure I’d like that myself!
PETRONELLA: …of course the hard part is when we go away on tour together or something then we have to work something out with the kids. In the past, with both The Gathering and Porcupine Tree, when it was a long tour we brought the kids with us. But now they are getting bigger and you can’t take them from school so. We solve it now with grandmothers and friends, and we take them when we can. They love to come along, so that’s no problem.
DAVE: But do they like the music, that’s the question?
IPETRONELLA: don’t know…
DAVE: How old are they?
PETRONELLA: Two girls, the eldest is ten, the youngest five…
DAVE: Probably they prefer Hannah Montana then
PETRONELLA: Yeah, probably
DAVE: To be fair though, my eldest daughter, Summer, she loves Paatos. I’ve been playing you guys in the car on repeat recently and she says “I love this music, Far”
PETRONELLA: Oh, I’m flattered, you should tell her, we need some younger listeners!
DAVE: Well to be fair I don’t think your music is inaccessible. OK, it’s a bit weird or it wouldn’t be so interesting, but it’s not so difficult and it has strong melodies. On top of that you have a sweet and dreamy voice and kids can actually relate to this very easily I think…
PETRONELLA: Oh I think so too, and I think there’s nothing strange about this record. There are strong melodies and it’s not really progressive in that meaning, it’s just music.
DAVE: And here you are talking to a progressive rock fanzine!
PETRONELLA: Yeah, of course our first album was more progressive, more instrumental and that sort of direction…
DAVE: …ambient and experimental…
PETRONELLA: Yes. I think we have a few listeners left from that time, but I think it’s plain music, so I agree with you.
DAVE: Not too much Mellotron this time…
PETRONELLA: Ooooh, just a little bit!
DAVE: It’s probably your most commercial album to date, but going back to say Kallocain, well I wouldn’t call it pop, that would be unfair, but you know the tune after one time through the verse and chorus
PETRONELLA: Well Kallocain is quite different, it’s minimalistic. I like it very much, it was a lot of fun making it
DAVE: What is it with melancholy music that’s so fun?
PETRONELLA: I hate happy music!
DAVE: Back to “Breathing”, you’ve done a video for the opening, title track, it’s quite strange, OK I have no idea what it’s all about… Plus there are some striking visuals – we see a child, who looks like you and, well you, I think, then an old woman, who looks like you too. Is thus digital processing or what?
PETRONELLA: Actually the child is my oldest daughter and then it’s me, with a lot of make-up…
DAVE: It’s not totally flattering towards the end…
PETRONELLA: It was kind of a scary experiment to get a hint of how I may look when I get really old, but it was really fun to do. It was a friend of Peter who is a film maker who liked the song and wanted to do it. He just did it his way and we were very happy with the outcome, I think it’s very beautiful.
DAVE: Sure, it is, and very interesting too, but like most arty films, very difficult to work out what’s going on…
PETRONELLA: Yeah, you can decide what you want it to be about! Well Peter wrote the lyrics and when he wrote it it was actually about Berlusconi. So when he wrote it, it was a different story from Staffan and Petrus who made the video, they had his thoughts and we didn’t tell them anything about the lyrics, they just got a free hand.
DAVE: I never would have guessed that song was about Berlusconi!
PETRONELLA: (Big laughs) It’s not very obvious. When I hear those lyrics I think of someone who is going to pass away, so you can do anything you want with the lyrics, but it’s fun to know that when he wrote it he was thinking of Berlusconi
DAVE: Probably wishing he was gone? It’s a really interesting song though, the way the picked guitar goes in a different direction from the vocals for instance
PETRONELLA: I like it a lot. It’s a good opening song. I love the way the bass starts up the whole thing and reprises in the middle.
DAVE: The title track, “Breathing” also hits deep and a literal interpretation would be about a lover found dead?
PETRONELLA: It’s actually about a small baby that dies, that’s the way I heard that really. It got me really deep in the heart. You know, you’re a father yourself, when you go up in the night and listen to you baby, and you can’t hear her, she’s not breathing, you know that feeling when you’re listening. So it was after hearing a really sad story that someone told me when I wrote those lyrics.
DAVE: Sure, as a parent you’re paranoid these days because of the internet, you’re convinced all these things you read about will happen to your kids…
PETRONELLA: …and you’re so worried when they are really small, you know, you check them all the time, listening…
DAVE: …yeah, the second one is easier in that respect. This track is perhaps a bit more typical dreamy Paatos style, but “No More Roller-coaster” is quite up-tempo and jazzy
PETRONELLA: Yes it is. It’s one of those typical Ricard Hux Flux songs that you hate when you record them. It’s so weird, the drums are everywhere and I don’t know what he means and then when you get to know the song you love it. So it takes some time to get in to it, but it’s a wonderful song and one of my favorites of the album actually, I love it.
DAVE: So the guys some in with some music, then you write the lyrics together?
PETRONELLA: Actually for this album the three of us wrote the lyrics and the music too. If someone had an idea for a chorus or a verse then they would send it to the next person, “can you do some lyrics to this song”, almost every song all three of us had our little finger in it.
DAVE: It’s an unusual approach…
PETRONELLA: There were some songs done from the beginning just by one person, but most are where someone started, then another took over, or all three of us
DAVE: Do you also write some of the music?
PETRONELLA: On some songs, I don’t play a good instrument for writing songs – it’s difficult to write songs on the cello and I play not so good guitar, so I need a lot of help. So I often do a lot of melodies and the guys help me produce-up the songs. So I do need some help from them and I’m mostly doing melodies and lyrics.
DAVE: The song precious has quite a retro-60’s feel to it and you’ve never really done anything like that before
PETRONELLA: No, not really like that, but yeah, you’re right, it’s kind of retro. We always called it the Björk song before it got its present form. Before we had any lyrics and we were working at the melodies, we thought it was like Björk style, but then in the end it was NOTHING like Blörk, it was more Paatos, so I don’t know. I think that song was something that Ricard wrote for his own solo project and I liked it so much that I was on to him all the time: “Oh can’t we do it with Paatos, I love it”, and then it got to be a Paatos song.
DAVE: Yeah, it works really nicely, and that’s one of the strengths of the album, you do have quite a wide range of styles, but still quite cohesive
PETRONELLA: Hmmm, I think all songs have a Paatos flavour to them, but all our albums go in quite some different directions with the songs some dreamy songs, some harder, some with Swedish lyrics, we just write and the songs we like we take on the album.
DAVE: If you look at the development of your voice within the band, you seem to be singing with more clarity now, less breathy
PETRONELLA: I think yeah, I am more involved with the music creating now and that makes me feel safer when I sing and I know the songs from the beginning. The melodies I can so as I suit. I mean on the first alb I just walked in and sang songs that the guys did. I didn’t know the songs when I got into the studio and our oldest daughter was one month when we recorded, I had her hanging at my shoulder and I didn’t know anything actually. With every record I have been more and more phased with the band, more involved, and so…
DAVE: Where do you see things developing from here? How has the reaction been to the album so far?
PETRONELLA: Yeah, so far we’ve had some really nice reviews. We haven’t played live yet so we sill see about that, but I think it’ going to be great, the sound’s really good already and we just started up. We hope to be able to play a lot more live than we did before, we really want to go hard to reach out to people this time and work hard.
DAVE: If the grand-parents are available that is…
PETRONELLA: Exactly. But everyone in the band has the same problem, we are getting in that age and we can’t do tours for half a year or something. It has to be short tours, but we are talking about going out to play a lot and we think it’s necessary to do that.
DAVE: I guess like most musicians you also have day-jobs to balance things?
PETRONELLA: For me that’s the case, but the guys are working full time, but of course they work for other people, it’s not just for Paatos, they freelance with other artists, but I’m the one who has an ordinary job.
DAVE: I daren’t ask, it would spoil the glamour!
PETRONELLA: There’s nothing glamorous about it I can sure you
DAVE: Some there might chance to see see you doing some more gigs in the near future?
PETRONELLA: Yes, we hope this fall that we are going to play around in Europe so. We have been quiet and silent for so long that we really want to come out to play.
DAVE: I’m living in Belgium so that would mean Spirit of 66 in Verviers, but that’s a strange place, sometime you get 200 – 300 people, other times just ten people
PETRONELLA: Yeah, we’ve played there a few time with a full-house, on another occasion it was almost empty. But it’s a pleasure to play there anyway, it’s a nice place.
DAVE: How did the tour with Riverside come about?
PETRONELLA: We met Riverside in 2005 before they signed to Inside-out and they invited us to play at a club in Poland. We had a great time there and then we met again in Istanbul when we both played at a festival. They are really nice guys so when they asked us to join at this tour we didn’t even think about it, we were very happy to join!
DAVE: OK Petronella, thanks very much for your time, it was great to speak to you. Good luck with “Breathing” and hope to see you out on tour very soon, here’s hoping your kids don’t wake you up tonight
PETRONELLA: I hope to see you in Belgium, It was really nice to speak to you too!
Interview for DPRP by Dave Baird