Swallow The Sun interview (12/2008)
|With:||Juha Raivio [guitars], Aleksi Munter [keyboards] & Matti Honkonen [bass]|
|Conducted by:||itsjoeymoose (in person)|
Swallow The Sun
With Swallow The Sun touring the UK with Apocalyptica, I caught up with guitarist Juha Raivio, keyboardist Aleksi Munter and bassist Matti Honkonen. Here's the chat with the three Finnish fellows.
- First off, welcome to the UK. I expect you feel more at home with this terrible, cold weather being from Finland? Or is this warm to you guys?
Aleksi- (Laughs) No, it's basically the same in Finland, although there was some snow when we left.
- You don't bring your own personal saunas on tour then?
Juha- (Laughs) No but we bring our own snow machines back stage to make us feel more at home.
- Now you're touring with Apocalyptica, one of the most well known bands not just in Finland, but in the world as well. Tell us how this tour came about, because in some ways it's an unlikely pairing in terms of musical styles.
Juha- Well basically our record label wanted us to do this tour so they did everything, but we're really pleased to tour with a big band like Apocalyptica and tour these big venues.
Aleksi- Yeah our record label has been working on getting us here for a while and we're really happy with this, but I think we're not musically that far away from each other, they just play faster.
Matti- And with cellos…
Juha- (Laughs) And they have good music, that's the difference with us
- So did this tour take a few years to happen then?
Aleksi- No it was only a matter of months.
- This is your 2nd time in England, as you did the Bloodstock festival not long ago, do you think people will know the band better this time?
Aleksi- Yeah I hope many people there who hadn't heard of us will come to check us out now.
Matti- Hopefully they will…
Aleksi- But yeah we haven't been here properly so we don't know what to expect at all.
Juha- Yeah I don't know if our first two albums had a big release in the UK, but it's only really our latest EP "Plague Of Butterflies" and our latest album "Hope" that have been distributed well in England but that's only been for the last few months.
- Speaking of crowd reactions, your music is quite slow and atmospheric most of the time so do you find some people don't have the patience? As metal gigs are normally associated with mosh pits, headbanging etc?
Juha- I have to say for bands like us it's not so easy, cos you can see the parts where people are really into it, with the double kick and faster parts.
Matti- (Laughs) That's all that you need in a song…
Juha- So that's how it is and it can be much harder for us sometimes, but you know it does seem to work pretty good. Of course you'll always have the people that will say it's too slow, but with thirty minutes on stage for this tour, we try to play our faster songs to try to get people interested and maybe next time they'll come to our headline show and get into the slower songs that we play.
- So you find you have to adjust your set list for new crowds?
Aleksi-Yeah cos with that thirty minutes, we would only get in like three or so songs from our normal set list, so we'll play the faster, shorter songs.
Your latest album "Hope" has been reissued in the UK with bonus features, any reason for a sole UK reissue?
Aleksi- Yeah, I dunno, we were just told by the label they were gonna do it again for the UK and we were cool with that.
- So not a US version or Japanese version for instance?
Aleksi- No, just UK.
- Your new EP "Plague Of Butterflies" has one song split into three parts that runs for about thirty minutes, will you play anything from that or exclude it for this tour?
Matti- Yeah yesterday we played the 2nd part of the song, but we're not sure about tonight as we're still discussing the set list.
Juha- But yeah some nights we'll play parts from the EP but other nights we wont.
- "Plague Of Butterflies" was intended to be the soundtrack to a ballet that eventually fell through and never happened, was it exactly the same song that was written for the ballet that appears on the EP?
Juha-Well I was thinking loads about the ballet you know, writing all these passages like hard parts and soft parts so it wont be boring for the dancers or the audience. But yeah we want to make it clear this was made for the ballet so that's why it sounds like this. It's really crap that the commission fell through, but we just thought "fuck it, we'll release an EP" you know.
- So nothing was changed when you released the EP?
Aleksi- No it's exactly the same even when the ballet thing fell apart.
- The EP hit the Finnish charts at no.1, what is it about Finns that they just go nuts for the gloomy music and metal in general?
Matti- Maybe that's something new to Finns, the whole Doom metal thing.
Aleksi- But of course there's been metal in the charts of Finland for a long time so it's nothing completely new. Besides, the singles charts in Finland are completely different to the charts in the UK, but yeah there's lots of metal hitting the charts in Finland, which is great. Our fans buy our albums as soon as they come out, so we get the high spot right away then fall off eventually.
- Has downloading affected you notably?
Matti- Most definitely.
Aleksi- Well it's hard to tell sometimes. Like in Spain for instance, I don't think we have sold shit all but there was more people at our shows than we were expecting, so I guess it has to do with them downloading our music. So yeah it can be a good thing but if someone likes it and doesn't buy it, that's something I don't understand.
Juha- Almost everyone these days puts their whole album on myspace, so I guess bands and labels have given up in a way. It's bullshit and a good thing at the same time.
- Are you not planning to release anything for a while? Just focus on touring and promoting the EP?
Juha- Well we're gonna go to the studio next Fall and get the album out the same year.
Aleksi-Yeah at the end of next year or maybe the start of 2010.
- You're playing with Soilwork in the US in January, how have the fans reacted to the band before?
Aleksi- Last time we were there we did get a good reaction and it was actually quite a surprise. We were touring with another Finnish band called Insomnium and the reception for both of us was really unbelievable in some places, especially in Canada.
-You're playing a show pretty much every day for two months from late January to March, looking forward to that or dreading it?
Juha- (Laughs) Both things!
Matti- Yeah hopefully we wont die there.
Juha- At least now there wont be two bands in one bus as we get our own now! So it's a luxury trip in some ways.
- What about other continents like Asia or South America, how are you received there? Are they places you want to work towards?
Aleksi- We really haven't had any feedback from those places, but of course we'd like to go anywhere. But it's not always up to us.
- I heard the US tour with Enslaved in May was cancelled?
Aleksi- Yeah that sucks, we were really looking forward to that
So there's nothing else to fill the void?
Aleksi- No it's definitely cancelled.
Juha-Well that tour is cancelled but there's another tour scheduled in Fall with other bands. We'll try to tour America as much as possible to promote "Plague Of Butterflies" and still our last album "Hope" as well.
- Where have you most enjoyed as tourists/performers so far?
Aleksi- Our first tour in the US was really fun.
Matti- Hard but fun.
Juha- I think places like Netherlands and Belgium are really good for us. Some places like Germany are a lot harder for us cos I think we are too slow for them or we don't have swords on stage or something.
Aleksi- Our first time here in the UK was great fun and we loved Bloodstock.
Juha- Well we are in the home of Doom metal, even though this kind of music is played all over the world, it still has its roots in the UK.
Matti- Lets see what happens as there's many gigs left.
- Your vocalist Mikko has a wide range of vocal styles, from very guttural death metal, to a black metal scream to just a normal singing voice, how does he or the band choose what to use?
Juha- Well of course he does his own vocal arrangements, but I ask him many times can you do black metal vocals for some softer music parts and we have a fight about that! Cos I like to mix those kind of things, it's never like set in stone about how it's gonna sound but yeah I like to mix the vocals up. We've done that in the past and maybe we'll do that in the future more, I'm not sure yet. But yeah I'm really glad we've got a singer that can do really horrible black metal singing to normal singing.
- I guess if he can sing like a female then you've got the whole package.
All three- (Laughs)
Juha- Yeah that could be interesting!
- You played an acoustic gig in Helsinki recently, was that just something special for the Finnish fans to show your appreciation?
Juha- Yeah we did that when the new EP was out, like in the same week to promote it.
Aleksi- The guy who owns the record store where we played is a friend of ours and asked if we wanted to do something special and we thought the acoustic gig would be perfect. There was about two hundred people there so yeah it was a success.
Matti-Although I wasn't there, just the guitarist, keyboards and vocals.
- Did that take quite a bit of rehearsing?
Aleksi- Just two rehearsals, but we had to arrange it very differently of course, like take out the really heavy bits that you just can't play like that.
- The world is in a bad state in terms of economy at the moment, does that affect the band at all?
Aleksi- Well no, not really cos there's so little money in what we do that it doesn't affect us.
Juha-I haven't really seen any difference. I felt every year we have bigger turnouts to our gigs in Finland and everywhere else. Usually we're the support band when we play in Europe, we haven't done our headline tour in Europe yet.
Matti-Yeah it's hard to know the exact amount of people coming to our shows.
Juha-But yeah maybe we can do a headline tour in Europe soon and we can see how many people like us!
- Lots of people in the UK are losing their jobs. Do musicians worry about that too?
Aleksi- Yeah it's the same in Finland but not as bad, but it's OK for us I think.
- I was wondering if anyone has a job back home or in university?
Aleksi-Yeah I have a job now.
Matti- Last year I didn't but finally now I do.
Aleksi- No one is studying now, although I haven't graduated yet so I might go sometime.
Juha- Everyone is employed now except me and the other guitar player Markus, but I'm trying to survive off the band's income so that's why I don't have a home now!
Matti- I think last year only one of us was working so yeah it depends. Even though I have a job now, if was the choice between that or a gig of course I'd choose the gig because I love the music.
- Is it possible to survive off the band income split between six people?
Aleksi- No not at all, we don't live off this. We have to work when we are not doing anything else and we certainly aren't getting as much money back as we are putting in. It's a hobby in some ways.
Juha-But we are doing work all the time, getting tours to pay for the rent or whatever but it needs work and lots of dedication.
- Some bands can take many years to get a record deal or be part of a major tour while others get lucky and it happens right away. How quick was your ascension? Is there anything you would do differently or is it all part of the learning process?
Juha- Well I started the band in 2000 with Pasi our drummer and it took about 2 ½ years to get the right people for the band and get the demo out, but yeah we got signed right away. So basically that was pretty quick yeah.
Aleksi- Yeah it was quick but once we got the right people it started rolling.
Juha-Yeah the right people, then it was just a case of getting the songs done.
- So that's your tip for success, choose good band members I guess?
Aleksi-Yeah, that's it I guess.
- OK, that's a wrap, thanks a lot for your time guys.
Juha- OK cool, thanks a lot.
Thanks to Lee Heydon for the interview.
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