Interview with Petronella Nettermalm (vocals) and Ricard Huxflux Nettermalm (drums) by Vera in April 2011On the new studio album ‘Breathing’, Swedish post-progressive art rockers Paatos sound fresh and inspired. They see this album as a rebirth, a time in the band’s existence they can finally breathe freely. When you read this, the band is preparing for a Polish tour with Riverside, but before this we had the chance to ask some questions to female vocalist Petronella and drummer “Hux”. The married couple leads us through their fascinating musical world. Paatos was formed in 2000. Can you tell a bit more about how the band came into being? Please tell us how you got in contact with the guys and joined them…
Petronella: It all started with the Swedish folksinger “Turid” who asked Stefan Dimle to form a band that could back her up for some concerts. Stefan asked Reine Fiske that he already played with in “Landberk” and also Hux Nettermalm and Johan Wallén that he knew from old times. The guys had a great time playing together, so when the concerts were done they continued playing together as an instrumental band. After a while they felt that they needed a singer and asked me to join them. As me and Hux are married we both had some doubts about working together, but after some thinking we decided to give it a try and it worked out just fine.What can we see as main inspirers to make music yourself – in the band’s perspective as well as on your personal perspective?
Petronella: For myself it´s a big inspiration to know that when I write something, the guys will take it further and make it a Paatos-song. I write a little different from the others I think –I never work with the computer or sounds. I just make the melodies at my guitar. And since I am a quite mediocre guitarist, the songs need some work to become what they were meant to be. Apart from that - anything can be inspiration – life in general, movies, nature…I think it was a turning point when Paatos got signed by Inside Out. Can you tell something about the feelings in the band around 2004, when ‘Kallocain’ was created and you met Steven Wilson (at least, he did the mix)…
Hux: We felt that this was it, now we had the chance to really reach out with our music. There was a lot of stress involved in writing the songs in time and we had to get ourselves a new guitar player. Many of the songs on ‘Kallocain’ sprung from embryos of my solo project “Puckspony” and I think that’s why that album has much of an electro-vibe to it. I was really into that at that time. Peter became a Paatos member halfway thru the making of the album and he really bombarded the songs with exiting guitar-soundscapes! Steven is friends with Dimle and actually asked InsideOut if he could get to do the mix.How and when did you actually meet Steven?
Hux: We met Steven several years ago when he came to Stockholm to mix ‘Kallocain’. We got to know him thru Mikael Åkerfelt in Opeth who is an old friend of Stefan Dimle. I think Mikael introduced Steven to our music and one thing led to another and it ended up with Steven helping us mixing the album.Let us focus on your live experiences in the past. You did tours with The Gathering and Porcupine Tree. Any fine memories on that? Any funny stories or things that struck you during these first treks as a band? Any place you’ll always remember?
Petronella: Absolutely – both tours were very memorable! I mostly remember when the kids were ill at the Porcupine Tree-tour. They had fever and puked all over the bus – we had to clean the mattresses in the morning several times – not very glamorous hehe. I also remember our lovely bus-driver, Franz, who invited us to his friend at the countryside for a great barbeque-night at our only night off. It was a fantastic place and fantastic people! It seems you took a break around 2008. How long, what was the reason, what happened in the band?
Hux: We had started working on a new album after our “last” gig in Burg Herzburg, and almost finished it; but disagreements had already begun in the band about how we were going to write our music. Our thoughts on that turned out to be all different, and Johan decided to leave the band. Shortly after that, Dimle left too. At first, we talked about ending it all and just call it quits, but me, Peter and Petronella felt that it would be unfair to just give it up after all we’ve been thru, so we started writing new material and the flow was there for the first time in a long while! Also on this album, Petronella has been a big part in writing both lyrics and music more than on the previous albums, which feels very good for us all. You speak of a kind of rebirth now when ‘Breathing’ hits the shops. Can you go a bit deeper into that statement?
Hux: Yes, after all of that turmoil we went thru we now feel that this is a totally new start for the band. Before, there were lots of hang-ups regarding style and sounds that we don´t have at all anymore… Now it is totally about writing and playing just what comes out right there and then. A newfound love and free feeling. Also our new bass player, Rockis, puts in a new feeling to the material that triggers new ways of playing it! It will be a thrill to start making the next album together and to try out some of the old songs with Rockis.You worked on ‘Breathing’ for one year or longer. That’s a long time. Can you give any more details about the writing process this time?
Hux: Considering that me and Petronella are married with two small children, Peter is living with a hard working opera-singer with whom he´s got two small children, Rockis is divorced and has got a young boy to take care of, plus all that fuzz we had in the band, I don´t agree that it´s been that long of a time… As soon as we started over, the writing was a true smoothie, but we put a lot of effort in arranging and recording it all this time, and those things takes time.
It is a total puzzle getting time together - but man - did we have a good time making this album!What are the themes that inspired you lyrically on ‘Breathing’? Your music is very contemplative; is it reflected in the lyrics?
Petronella: It could be anything – big or small. Sometimes it can be a situation in the world that inspires me and another time it can be something that I experience or a story someone tells me. For example I wrote the song ‘Breathing’ after hearing a story about a woman who lost her baby one night. Her baby died while sleeping and the story really affected me deeply. Our youngest daughter was also still a baby and I used to wake up in the middle of the night and listen to her breathes. I think all mothers have done that! I think our recurring themes are life, death and all injustice and mysteries in between. I can only speak for myself, but writing lyrics is almost like therapy for me – the things I write about have often been bothering me for some time. I have no interest in writing happy party-lyrics – there’s lot of other people who can do that much better.You also play cello, in addition to your amazing vocals. How did you ever get into music, at what age and what kind of music do you like to listen to yourself?
Petronella: I’ve been singing and playing since an early age. I grew up in a home with a lot of music – mostly classic. My father worked as a musician and we played and sang a lot together. At first I played the flute but later on I switched to cello. When I was a teenager I quit everything and didn’t sing or play for many years. So when I joined Paatos I was very untrained – it´s probably not until now that I feel at ease with my vocals. As mentioned before, you have a new bass player, Rockis. Did he contribute in giving ideas on ‘Breathing’ already?
Hux: When Rockis came in it was all recorded, except for the bass tracks. All of the ideas, and lines were there but I don´t think anyone else could´ve done it better! Take ‘Over And Out’ for example: It was a one-take, as were most of the bass recordings. That´s pretty impressive! I believe that if you play and really mean it, it will be obvious and if you don’t, people won´t feel it when listening back to it… Rockis is good at that - making You feel it, and getting the feel for it!Since you call your music cinematic rock, I think it might be a kind of dream to visualize your music, or am I wrong? Interested in visual art as well? What about the photo on the cover artwork?
Hux: Yeah, that is really nice! However, when I go see a band live, I go there primarily for the music and to watch the band play. It is nice with visuals on stage, but there can be too much sometimes! I also like the thought that people can make up their own pictures in their minds when listening to our music, and that´s what I try to reach when writing lyrics as well. I like lyrics that you can choose the meaning/pictures of, looking into Yourself and Your own experiences. The cover art on ‘Breathing’ came out of that we all thought it was time to reveal ourselves this time, since we never really did that before... We simply put a chair in mine and Petronella’s dining room and played around with it.At least you have made a video clip for the track ‘Gone’. Please tell us about the adventure to shoot this video. Where? Who was the director? Funny things?
Petronella: We shot the outside-part of the video in the middle of the winter by the sea outside Stockholm. It was freezing! These things always take time and everyone was really cold – the poor kids that were there to act, froze so much that they cried. The little girl singing in the beginning of the video is mine and Hux´s daughter – Tea (who also has a song named after her at our debut-album). The video was directed by Staffan Kihlbom & Petrus Olsson who got free hands to interpret the song and we are really pleased with the result! The cooperation with Inside Out has come to an end and ‘Breathing’ comes out on Dutch Glassville Records. Well, this is the moment to tell a bit more about the label issues. Why this change and how did you end up at Dutch label Glassville?
Petronella: We all felt that it was time to change direction with this new album. The members of the band changed and we wanted to work in another way, closer to the label and with more control. We had a good cooperation with IO and they helped us a lot to reach out to their listeners but we want to reach out to another audience too. Glassville Records is a small label where we all have to work together – like a family – that suits us perfect. And Rob Palmen (the founder/owner of Glassville) is also both a friend and a booker, so it couldn´t be better.You will soon hit the road and join the anniversary tour of Riverside in Poland. Any prospects on that?
Hux: Riverside are good old friends of ours, so I´m sure we will have a great time touring together with them! It will be exiting to meet the Pineapple Thief guys too!What are the other plans for the near future? (touring or something else you have in mind)
Hux: We will do all we can to tour as much as our private lives will allow. We simply love playing for an audience, and can´t wait to try out the new stuff live!!! We have also begun writing for the next album, and it won´t be such a long wait this time I can assure you, ha ha ha!‘Kallocain’ will be released on vinyl. Are you vinyl freaks yourself or is it just a great thing to have your albums released on vinyl too now that this market seems to expand again?
Hux: Ain´t it something special to play a vinyl!? The smell. The weight. The artwork. The A-side and then the tchkk tchkk thckk…Then the rebirth of the B-side…tchkkk thckkk tchkkk….www.paatos.com