We had the opportunity to caught up with Niklas Sandin, Swedish Bass player for Katatonia and Guitarist in LIK, to talk about various aspects of life and about his musical career. The vast majority of you know Nille for playing in Katatonia, but that's not the only amazing band that deserves a great listen. LIK's debut album "Mass Funeral Evocation" was released through War Anthem Records on October 2015 (the same month and year in which our brand came alive, should be a good sign, right?). A ultra heavy old-school death metal heavyweight for the fans of Entombed, Dismember, Swedish Crematory and similar. So, if you call yourself a dedicated Swedish Death Metal maniac than LIK will end up with a deadly smile in your ultimate list of favorites!
OBNUBIL: Hey Niklas, how are you doing today? Are you still trying to get those eye bags away after all the touring with Katatonia in the past year for the last album "The Fall of Hearts”?
NIKLAS: I'm doing very fine thank you. Right now i'm trying to get my very big and dark eye bags away from celebrating our previous drummer Daniel Liljekvists birthday. It was one heck of a party and it was good to see him again. After recovering we're gonna prepare for our show with Katatonia at Prog Power in Atlanta next month!
OBNUBIL: Let's start talking a bit about you. How did you start, what was your first introduction to music? Can you remember? We found out that your dad seems to have played a big role, is he a musical inspiration for you? Do you sometimes play together?
NIKLAS: As you mentioned it's absolutely my dad. He's responsible for having music around the house all the time while i was growing up. As a young kid i started out playing the alto saxophone, something i learned as an adult is called the "bitch whistle". We have jammed and played together back in the days, and thinking about it, it's something we should pick up and do often. I later on fell for heavy metal and that led me to be a guitar player. Being more intrigued about the musical relationship between drums and bass, that was the next progression for me. And here i am, playing bass in a band who's music is as jolly as Swedish summer.
OBNUBIL: Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
NIKLAS: I don't have any clear or specific idols. I think i actually admire musicians who's not in the spotlight, who continues to play out of sheer passion of the music year after year in a dark and damp rehearsal room. Where the strive to push forward without big reward is still glowing as strong as when they begun. But it was John Myung from Dream Theater that inspired me to evolve and play more difficult and challenging bass.
OBNUBIL: Looking over your musical career, could you maybe pick a high point and a low point?
NIKLAS: One high point was definitely reached last year when we played in front of an almost sold out Sheperds Bush Empire with Katatonia in London. I think we're talking 10+ tickets between sold out and not sold out. That was a crazy cool one and we played the gig in two pieces. First act playing "The great cold distance" in it's entirety and the other one being a "best of" set. A low point was that the first tour i was heading out on with Siebenbürgen didn't happen because of very weird circumstances. It was super disappointing for a 17 year old boy who thought his dreams was gonna be fulfilled. But as a 31 year old with huge eye bags i can say that it worked out fine in the end.
OBNUBIL: What has been your biggest challenge as a musician? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
NIKLAS: Music wise the biggest challenge was for sure when we prepared for the acoustic tour with Katatonia. There wasn't one song i hadn't played before, but as i had an idea about playing a four stringed acoustic bass i had to re-think my decisions when approaching the new song arrangements. That was also a challenge to keep the old and new arrangements separated. The old was so deeply rooted in the spine that it sometimes was a bit though not to take that route.
OBNUBIL: Everybody knows you from Katatonia, but that's not the only band you are playing at. How do you manage your time being in more than one band?
NIKLAS: It's all about planning and keep an open dialogue with both the band and letting the management know when things are going down in the other camp. When doing that it's quite easy to puzzle both bands. And when shit hits the fan and i'm double booked and can't commit to LIK, it's always Katatonia being put in the first room. Then i have a cool guy, Joakim Antman from Overtorture, in Stockholm who fills in for me.
OBNUBIL: Let's speak about LIK. What was the initial point for you to do a totally Death Metal worshipping “project” again?
NIKLAS: This is actually my first death metal band i play in. Jonas and Anders in Katatonia has Bloodbath as a death metal outlet and i really understand now why it's so rewarding. It's kinda like tasting salt after just having sugar for a couple of years. It's the other side of the scale and sometimes you just want to play something more straight forward. One thing that also makes it a good variation from Katatonia is that i play guitar in LIK. Although i see myself as a bass player, the guitar has always been there and i'm happy doing that in a band again.
OBNUBIL: Do you miss any kind of feeling in today's Death Metal scene? Do you think that the LIK debut “Mass Funeral Evocation” closes a missing link for the current scene?
NIKLAS: All genres evolves and there needs to be a evolution. Nothing can stand still and sound the same forever. That would be really boring and what's the point? I do miss the edgy live feeling in almost all productions today. When we recorded our debut record we did it in a total efficient time of 24 hours. 80% of the guitars is recorded live with the drums. Doing that while being in the same room with the drummer makes all the difference. You get a "live in the rehearsal room" vibe and it feels more alive! Lead guitars were added later and since i also play bass in LIK on the records, we recorded this and vocals on the following day.
OBNUBIL: What’s your favorite song from “Mass Funeral Evocation”? Why?
NIKLAS: They all hold their own on that record so i really can't pick a favourite. That would be too hard and i would probably change my mind as this goes online. So i have to sound diplomatic about this haha.
OBNUBIL: What are the band's influences? Some bands find inspiration in science, mathematics, pagan history, politics... what about you?
NIKLAS: Dismember, Dismember and Dismember! That's the band that inspired the band to exist in the first place. We all have a huge love for that band! Lyric wise it's everything between the sky and hell. As we don't print the lyrics we force the listener to sharpen their ears a little extra. And it works! Last week when we played at PSB in Stockholm, there was plenty of people singing along!
OBNUBIL: What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
NIKLAS: As we all have other bands it's all about when we find time for it. We usually always rehearse before a show for example, but sometimes finding that spot is too hard. But we're getting quite good at this so less and less rehearsing is necessary. We always enjoy it though so it's almost as fun as playing a gig!
OBNUBIL: Can you tell us about the recording of “Mass Funeral Evocation” and your upcoming plans?
NIKLAS: As i mentioned earlier this was a very quick affair going into the studio. We recorded with Lawrence Macrory also known from bands like Darkane & F.K.Ü. He knew exactly what we were looking for and it all went very smoothly. Except a couple of gigs abroad comin' up this fall and one in a few days in Stockholm, we're focusing on the next album. We're hitting the studio at mid September, once again with Lawrence. I believe we have songs that'll blow our fans minds away. It's a natural step to world domination.
OBNUBIL: Nowadays, just a few bands are lucky to be able to consider their band as a full time job. It is getting harder and harder to live from music or any other artistic profession. It is very difficult for artists to basically be working for very little money, all the effort, all the time and all the love and passion that they put into creating music. How do you feel about this? Do you think it is getting worse? If that gets worse it would be quite likely that many bands disappear, at the end of the day you can not survive thanks to air and the love for music…
NIKLAS: I'm not sure if whole bands disappears because of this but you can definitely see members walk away, not because they want to but because they need to. Everybody has different situations at home and with what you get in return for all passion put in today is slim to nothing.
OBNUBIL: Sometimes we have the feeling that there are more and more new death metal bands out there, but maybe it's only because now it is easier to get to know them thanks to the internet and platforms like Spotify. What do you think about all these platforms?
NIKLAS: That's the thing. I'm not sure if there's more bands nowadays out there as it is easier to get your music out there. Before you needed to land that record deal to be seen and heard. There's so many platforms today that i don't know even a tenth of all of them. It's a two sided sword. The musical landscape gets richer but there's less money going in. I rock both a digital platform at home by listening to Spotify, but when i really want to enjoy music i put on a vinyl. That's a very satisfying experience and i'll never stop buying my licorice-pizzas.
OBNUBIL: You’ve been playing music for a long time. You’re always in the public eye, fans are always going to want a little piece of you everywhere you go and also online. Is that difficult to deal with?
NIKLAS: I'm in a band where Jonas and Anders is in the spotlight and being a bass player i get even less focus. Something that i can deal with really nicely since i don't seek that spotlight. I love the fact that i can go out and listen to opening acts without it turning into a meeting with fans. And with that said, i really do like meeting fans as well, but often you want to be able to be private. That fuels your motivation and it makes more sense to be away from home, in tight spaces with the same people for months, when you hear how someone enjoyed the gig!
OBNUBIL: What do you like to do in your spare time besides playing music? Describe what a typical day/week looks like for you.
NIKLAS: I like to hang out with my buddies, crack a cold one and just talk shit. Since i "work" with my passion in life i don't require much more than to be with the people i love.
OBNUBIL: We are curious, what’s the story behind the word "FyFan" that you got tattooed some months ago in Montreal?
NIKLAS: It has the same meaning as "God Damn" without having god in it but the devil instead. It can be used both in a positive and a negative way. For example if you hit your hammer on your thumb by accident you can let your neighborhood hear "FY FAN". And what you've seen is actually our American guitar tech Ben's ink. Him and me got it as a tour tattoo on the last Us-run. It was something being said by all on a daily basis, so it made sense to go with that.
OBNUBIL: What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a music career? What do you consider the typical mistakes people make when trying to pursue being on top?
NIKLAS: I think it all comes down from situation to situation. I think the worst thing you can do is to make music decisions based on what you think will get you most success. In that way you'll only, if you're lucky, gain money. The biggest reward is to go up and play what you love for people that digs it. Otherwise you've just got yourself another dead beat job!
OBNUBIL: Last question... what do you hide in your closet? *evil laugh*
NIKLAS: Being in the metal community, people hide their "guilty pleasures". I think you should embrace musical diversity and flaunt if you like something different. In my case, i'm totally sold on Paramore's self titled album. That's been spinning for weeks. It's a bit different from last years Nightfall with Candlemass which didn't seem to leave the #1 spot.
OBNUBIL: It has been a pleasure getting all this information! Thank you so much for taking your time answering our questions! Is there anything that you would like to say to the readers of The Covenant and to your fans?
NIKLAS: Keep on keepin' on and stay cool in school!
Photo taken by Niklas Sandin.
Which of our t-shirts is he wearing in the picture? Do you like it? It is... THIS ONE
And which hoody? THIS ONE