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Swallow The Sun interview (10/2005)

With: Juha Raivio [Guitars] & Aleksi Munter [Keyboards]
Conducted by: KwonVerge
Published: 11.10.2005

Band profile:

Swallow The Sun

- First of all I'd like to congratulate you for your brand new album "Ghosts Of Loss" and thank you as well for the chance of interviewing you.

Juha: Thank you.

Aleksi: Thanks!

- Would you mind telling us a few words concerning the history of Swallow The Sun for the music fans that don't know of you yet?

Juha: I had a band called Plutonium Orange that played stoner/metalrock back in the year 2000. I had few songs that didn't fit the style of PO, so I asked our drummer Pasi - who also played in PO - to try them out with me. Those songs sounded so good that we started to get more people to join the band, so we could record a demo. It took a couple of years to get the right people to play in this band. After we found the right boys we recorded "Out of This Gloomy Light" and got signed with Firebox Records right away. We released our first album "The Morning never came" at the end of the year 2003.

- Swallow The Sun; Devour the sun and let it drown in the abyss of your soul leaving no light behind. What does the name of the band mean to you? It harmonizes beautifully with the overall idea of "The Morning Never Came" and your music generally!

Juha: The name Swallow the Sun comes from our long black winter time. When winter comes here, it really feels like something swallows the light from the sky beacause we won't see it for ages after that. This name gives a good example what to wait from our music too.

Aleksi: As Juha said, the name describes our music quite accurately - even though it's dark, there's always shimmer of light in there. It also sets a good mood for listening. It's also a name you can connect to various mythologies.

- "The Morning Never Came" was one of those albums with a bittersweet claustrophobic and esoteric feeling, giving you the impression as if "the morning never came" for real, a great debut album. Well, 2 years after, the time came for your second album, "Ghosts Of Loss", an album showing that "The Morning Never Came" proved to be prophetic since you kept on sounding wonderful. How do you feel about "Ghosts Of Loss"?

Juha: Thank you, I really love both albums and I couldn't be happier about how the "Ghosts of Loss" turned out to be. We managed to stretch the both ends of our sound in this album, and it's even darker and more beautiful than The Morning Never Came, but the first album is always a special one, too. I tried to write songs that would be slightly different from the first album, but still sound like Swallow the Sun should sound like. Our goal is to make songs that are like little movies, so if you buy our album you are going to have 8 movies in one album! It's much cheaper than to go and buy 8 tickets for the cinemas, hah!

Aleksi: As Juha pointed out, the new album is more diverse. It has some peaceful and serene parts, but during some parts all the hell breaks loose even heavier than on the first album. And I couldn't be happier about the fact that we managed to get the song order right, as the album has now a good structure and is rather easy to listen from the beginning to the end.

- The production for one more time is very good and helps the gloomy and surrounding atmosphere you have as a band float in a more vivid and drowning way. How much time did you spend in the studio? This time you worked more in the production sector, I guess.

Juha: We spent almost a month in studio and produced the album ourselves once again. Sami Kokko, who owned the studio, knows how to put the right sound to our album, so you can thank him for all the gloom, beauty and despair that you can hear from our crushing sound. We spent lots of time rehearsing the new songs and trying to get the perfect mood for each song.

Aleksi: The studio took only those four weeks, but the "pre-production" stage was much longer than with the first album. Or if it wasn't longer, it certainly felt that it was, because it was much more intense. We rehearsed so fucking much during the months preceding the studio sessions trying to perfect the songs.

- In the cover of "Ghosts Of Loss" as well as in the cover of the first single of the album, "Forgive Her?", two beautiful and artistic covers, lies a female figure surrounded by a fading gloomy atmosphere. What I like is the fact that the two covers seem to have a connection. At the cover of "Forgive Her?" the girl lies at the gates of the misty forest and it's daytime, yet, at the cover of "Ghosts Of Loss" it's nighttime and the girl is getting lost amidst the trees, embraced by the murky forest. What's your opinion on this?

Juha: In the cover of "Ghosts of Loss" this beautiful woman is drowning herself in a river, haunted down by her ghosts of loss. I think that this cover is just perfect for this album, because it really looks like what you will hear. We always have had this "ghost" theme in our songs, so we just had to have some gloom in our album covers too.

Aleksi: The covers are connected in a good way. The cover of the album is more dramatic, but the single hints of what's coming.

- Concerning the sound of "Ghosts Of Loss", it's quite obvious that this special feeling making a song a Swallow The Sun one is always present adorning your compositions, but what is really noticeable is the fact that "Ghosts Of Loss" sounds more doomy in its overall atmosphere and guitar sound. Did you want to dive deeper into doom or it just came out this way?

Juha: Yeah, I would really want us to sound even doomier and darker than this album, but we have to see that what happens with the third album. For me the first album was little bit too fast and we wanted to fix that. I think that Ghosts of Loss could be even slower, if you ask me, hah! The other boys in the band aren't so much in to really slow music, so I don't think that we are ever gonna make a funeral doom album, but who knows? But it's good to have faster songs too, it makes playing live more fun for the band and the audience too and I think we have a good combination in that case.

Aleksi: We went through lots and lots of variations in the tempos for the songs when we were finishing the songs. We weren't happy on the tempos of the first album, so we wanted to perfect them this time, and I think that we got it right. There's good balance between speed and slowness on the album, and it really helps the live set if you have a few faster songs. And yeah, the rest of us are not into funeral doom, or at least not into playing it.

- The vocals for one more time are utterly expressive and interpret in the most appropriate way the poetic and doleful lyrics, harmonizing wonderfully with the overall sound of Swallow The Sun for they are a strong part of the band's atmosphere. In this album the clean vocals are being used a bit more than in your debut album. Should we expect more clean vocal passages from Swallow The Sun in the future?

Juha: The growling vocals are very important in our songs. Because we have lots of beautiful melodies in our music the growling gives it a good edge. There can be more clean vocals in the future, but the growling is the main thing in Swallow the Sun's music. There are too many bands in this world that use only clean vocals because they are afraid that the growling would take away the listeners - fuck that shit, I want to make music that can be scary, ugly and at the same time beautiful.

Aleksi: There's more clean vocals on Ghosts of Loss than there was on the first album, but we wouldn't like to use them too much in future. The growls and the clean vocals have quite a good balance, and they both accent each other. If there would be only growling throughout the album it would get boring, and now the clean vocal parts get emphasised when they are used.

- I think that the ideal words to describe your music and "Ghosts Of Loss" have been said already by you at the title of one of your songs, "Gloom, Beauty and Despair". I personally find this title the most appropriate description for your music because it is gloomy, beautiful in its own melancholic way and it is filled with deep despair.

Juha. Yes. I even wanted to call this album "Gloom, Beauty and Despair" at first, but the boys thought that it would sound too much like a Cradle of Filth album... Well maybe it would have, but I really think that that song and the song name is everything that this band is all about.

Aleksi: The song title describes our music well and is perfect for that song, but as an album title it would have been too obvious and too descriptive. Ghosts of Loss hints more, explains less.

- Which bands would you consider as your main influences? I would personally name Katatonia as one of your influences, generally speaking. As a band, Swallow The Sun have their influences, as every band does, yet, they do not copy, they harmonize their influences with their personal ways of expression, having this something named Swallow The Sun atmosphere. What's your point of view?

Juha: I have had lots of inspiration from bands like Rush, Iron Maiden, Type O Negative, Marillion and Duran Duran to name few. Everyone can hear that we like bands like My dying bride, Katatonia and Type O Negative, but we try to bring something new to our sound too and maybe you can start calling it Swallow the Sun sound now after two albums, it's there.

Aleksi: We have succeeded to blend our influences quite well without sounding exactly like any of them. And our biggest influences are probably not the ones you'd expect for a band playing this kind of music so maybe that gives us a fresh sound when compared to other bands of the same genre.

- What is your opinion about the Finnish doom metal scene? Many great and influencial bands have risen from the land of the thousand lakes, bands like Dolorian, Shape Of Despair, Thergothon, Skepticism etc, what do you think of them?

Juha: To be honest I don't listen that much doom bands and I don't follow the scene so that I could give you a good answer. Shape of despair is great band anyway, I like their sound. But if you are talking about Finnish true doom-metal then of course Reverend Bizzare and Minotauri are the leading names here.

Aleksi: Reverend Bizarre is awesome, but I have to admit that that's about as far as my Finnish doom metal -knowledge reaches.

- Finland has given birth to many depressive bands evoking an intense grieving feeling, Swallow The Sun is one of those bands. Where does this melancholy come from? Is it the darkness and melancholy of the cold Finnish landscapes?

Juha: Darkness, winter, melancholy and the landscapes are all such great clichés, but there is some truth in those words too. When you live in this Finnish gloom for almost all your life, then it will have some effect on your life. If I would be a surfer boy and lived on a sunny beach I wouldn't be writing this music.

Aleksi: Certainly the nature here in Finland affects us somehow, the musical tradition is melancholic, and usually it's so damn miserable here that we have to get it out of our systems.

- On "Forgive Her?"you did a cover version on a Candlemass renowned hymn, "Solitude", a great cover song and one of the best covers I have heard for 2005, probably the best. How did you choose it? In this cover you chose, in my opinion, to pay tribute to Candlemass sounding more doomy than your general sound with a monolithic sound in the guitars, trying not too much to make it sound as if it was one of your songs. Also, Albert Witchfinder, being a great singer from a great traditional doom band coming from Finland, interprets the vocals on this song, how did you work together?

Juha: To record Solitude was a tribute to the greatest doom band of all time. Candlemass made me play this kind of music and I wanted to thank them, and suggested to the other boys if we would cover that song for the single. Our singer got the idea to ask Albert to do the clean vocals for the song while Mikko does the growling. We didn't want to make huge changes to that classic song, and this is how it turned out to be. There is also another version of the song where Mikko does all the singing and growling. You can find that version from the U.S. album version of "The Morning Never Came" as a bonus track.

Aleksi: Albert is a great singer, his voice is incredible. Working with him was awesome.

- What should someone expect from Swallow The Sun on stage? A show drowned in gloom and melancholy probably?

Juha: Yeah, we have heard that seeing us live is almost like a hypnotic experience. For me playing live is the best part of Swallow the Sun, even though I'm so deep in the mood of the songs that it's almost frightening. But at the end our music is purifying and so are our gig's too.

Aleksi: We've heard good things about our live shows. Our sound has been described being better than on the albums, so I think we have done something right. And there's also lots of headbanging - after all, we are a fucking metal band!

- Thanks a lot once again for your time, end the interview in any way you like including a Swallow The Sun lyric of your preference?

Juha: Thank you. Morning never came but the end of this interview came here!

Posted on 11.10.2005 by "It is myself I have never met, whose face is pasted on the underside of my mind."

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