Oranssi Pazuzu interview (04/2016)
|With:||Juho Vanhanen, Ontto|
|Conducted by:||Apothecary (in person)|
Three years of Roadburn Festival have taught me that with the lineup announcements for this quirky annual event in Tilburg, you never quite know what you're going to get. So, naturally, my jaw dropped in disbelief when Walter and company revealed that they'd be going for a "Finnish invasion" by booking the full package of Oranssi Pazuzu, Dark Buddha Rising, and Atomikylä this year, especially in regards to Oranssi Pazuzu, a band whose peculiar blend of black metal and psychedelia has had me hooked pretty damn hard for quite some time now. But merely seeing these guys wasn't enough, and recalling my time with Mories of Gnaw Their Tongues from last year, my mind then jumped to the next step: I wanted an interview. After getting in contact with some guys in the band, and having them generously agree to it, on a cold Roadburn afternoon after seeing Chaos Echs, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Oranssi Pazuzu's very own Jun-His (guitar/vocals) and Ontto (bass/vocals), for what can only be described as a wonderful, friendly conversation with members of what could very well be my favorite band on the block at the moment.
Che: Greetings, Ontto and Jun-His, and thank you again for taking the time out to talk to me today. So, first things first, has it been a good festival for you guys thus far?
Ontto: It's been excellent.
Jun-His: As always, I've been here many years before 2012, when Oranssi Pazuzu played for the first time.
Che: Any favorite bands for you two, festival highlights?
Ontto: Well, I really enjoyed Diamanda Galas and With The Dead especially.
Jun-His: With The Dead for me too, actually. I'm a big fan of Bagshaw and his riffs.
Ontto: And also, without even being biased, I think that Dark Buddha Rising were fucking good. They played some new stuff that I haven't heard before, and it sounded amazing.
Che: Oh yes, unbelievable set, that one. They were the last band I saw last night, so it was a perfect end to the evening. Do they have a new vocalist, by the way? I don't think it's the same person as when they were here with you all back in 2012.
Jun-His: Yeah, they have a new guy, who's a really good friend actually. He even produced our Värähtelijä album.
Che: That's interesting trivia. So as far as your closer relation to the festival, how do you all feel about your Oranssi Pazuzu set from Thursday? How would you compare it to when you all were here in 2012?
Ontto: Well I think it was much better for us, because we have spent some time touring a bit before the show, so we felt much more into the playing because we're already kind of in the routine of things. Last time we kind of just came, we didn't really have that many shows before Roadburn, and we came in and just played.
Jun-His: After the first Roadburn, so since 2012, we've had way more experience with the whole live thing. And I'm still very happy with how the whole Värähtelijä album came out. We arrived only about an hour before that set because of traffic getting out of the airport, so we didn't have much time to think about the show in advance until it was actually time to go! So it felt really great, we really enjoyed the whole thing.
Ontto: And it feels really different to play some of the new stuff, because it's not really as heavy metal, it's more upbeat and bouncy.
Che: Great to hear that you all were feeling much better about it! Ok, so to some basics, how did Oranssi Pazuzu really originate? I think one of you had a background previously in a psychedelic band?
Jun-His: Actually, every one of us had been playing some sort of psychedelic music before. At a certain point, we wanted to kind of push the music towards being even more repetitive and hypnotic than it already was, but we didn't really have a precise plan of how to proceed.
Che: So is that when you began combining that type of music with the black metal?
Jun-His: Yes, we wanted to play black metal. It was natural in a way for us to combine it with something different though, because we are not just only metal guys. We like the psychedelic stuff, but we still wanted to have a really dark atmosphere going on in the whole thing.
Ontto: Right, and that's what black metal was always about to me, the really fucking sinister atmospheres. So you take that mindset but then make it even more hypnotic and psychedelic so that you can dive into it even more so than you could before. Also, psychedelic music plus black metal kind of sounds weird on paper, but I think that they can actually overlap quite a lot, in terms of the cosmic themes, the repetition, the existential, lyrical stuff... there are more similarities there between the black metal and the psychedelic than we might be tempted to think.
Che: So who controls the songwriting, mostly?
Ontto: It tends to be very collective, you know, it's all of us. Me and Jun-His make lots of riffs, but we always spread them through the band filter, and see how it all sounds together.
Jun-His: And that can also have a big influence on the overall structure of the album themes, the vision for each particular album. After we discuss that things go further from there, but it's always very important for us to have the album theme and atmosphere set in stone in early stages, so we know where we're going and how we'll fill in for them with the actual music.
Che: It's interesting that you say that, because I've noticed that at many times Oranssi Pazuzu can indeed get quite jammy, and psychedelic music by nature can tend to be very improvisational. So you guys kind of beat me to it, but I was going to ask: do you all really go into each new period of songwriting with any set plan in mind, or does it kind of all just come together in whichever way it chooses?
Ontto: We kind of think about the atmosphere, what kind of atmosphere we are trying to create, and we pretty much just jam from there and then pick the things we've come up with that we like and that we feel most clearly express the themes and atmospheres that we're trying to work with.
Jun-His: And also, with the new album, for example, we wanted to kind of take the music farther. You know, we have the jammier side, and then it might transform into very precise songwriting as well, so that the listener doesn't really notice. It's jammy, but at the same time it's also very tightly composed, and there are multiple layers to it. And then there might even be elements to the layers, like the drums or some keyboard stuff might be "living" with our bass and guitar work, so that depending on what they do we might change our riffs into new ones depending on the theme they decide to lay out.
Che: Very cool, so everybody kind of weaves around each other, I like that. So guys, when did the decision to do your lyrics in Finnish instead of English really come into play?
Ontto: Well, that was right from the start. When we started the band we were thinking about doing it in Finnish or in English, and it just felt natural to do lyrics in Finnish because that's a more fluent language for us.
Jun-His: And me, for example, I mean my English is OK, but I feel as though I get a deeper meaning from the lyrics when they're in Finnish due to the fact that it's our mother tongue, and that I can push more towards the atmosphere of the music with it. Doing the lyrics in English could work as well, but I also think that it could somehow subtract some of the layers from the atmosphere of our music, and ultimately that's what we're most concerned about.
Che: I see. So for Oranssi Pazuzu, you all come to Roadburn this year once again with your brothers in arms in Dark Buddha Rising, and you're even taking things a step farther with the appearance of your collaborative Atomikylä band later today. It seems as though you guys have all been working together musically as great friends for a while now. Would you like to elaborate on that partnership?
Ontto: We met with Vesa from Dark Buddha Rising about 5 years ago. We were really digging his work, and he was really enjoying ours very much in the same way, and we became good friends. Eventually he invited us to their rehearsal space, the Wastement. And then Atomikylä was basically formed out of some of the jam sessions that we subsequently had together.
Che: Very cool how things can just come together like that! So Wastement, from what I understand, is something of a musical collective based out of Tampere, in Finland. Are there any other bands involved?
Ontto: Yeah, Abyssion... Mr. Peter Hayden, they don't always practice there, but they are considered to be a part of it... sometimes Hexvessel come through... and, well, Dark Buddha Rising, of course.
Jun-His: After forming Atomikylä I think we jammed for about a year before we even really decided that it should be a permanent band. But we finally settled on it, and moved into the same rehearsal space as Dark Buddha Rising, in the Wastement. And what we've been doing over there with Atomikylä has actually had a pretty big influence on how the new Oranssi Pazuzu album sounds, playing with those guys.
Che: Right, I had noticed myself that parts of Värähtelijä do indeed sound a lot like Dark Buddha Rising. So I was kind of thinking to myself "were these guys influenced from their Atomikylä work here?" Very cool to know that that is indeed the case.
Jun-His: And the influence ends up being more profound, I think, because when you're around these people regularly and are deeply involved in album recording and production with them, you come to talk a lot about art and philosophy with them. It gives you greater insight into what they feel they're doing with their music, rather than what another, external source thinks of it. And at the end of the day, getting that insight helps us to better reflect on what we're doing with our own art.
Che: That's great, and I'm sure there's much that you can discuss with them based on the similar cosmic themes of your bands. So, to the name itself, I think Atomikylä means "Atomic Village" in Finnish, right? What "village" does that refer to?
Ontto: Well, in Tampere, the place the Wastement is located, there used to be this barracks. There was a nuclear power plant that had been built in the city a long while ago and the barracks were used for the construction workers. Eventually the barracks were abandoned, and then a bunch of alcoholics and junkies came to live in them over the years, forming their own tiny little village in the suburbs, before the barracks were finally demolished just a few years ago.
Jun-His: It's also something that I think really parallels how our music can be both very heavy at some points but also very loose and free flowing at others, as that village in Tampere had its own history that was both of those things as well.
Che: I really like that a lot, it kind of goes to that idea of being a product of your environment. Like if you study the early history of Black Sabbath, for example, they always talk about what a shithole Birmingham was at the time and how that atmosphere led them all to make their music much darker and more evil sounding.
Jun-His: Exactly, it's essentially the same idea.
Che: I also noticed that you all have done a music video recently, your first one in fact, for "Lahja," from the new album. How did that really come about?
Ontto: Well we were thinking that we had never had a music video before, and we wanted to do one. And we decided to take a track that is kind of visual, sound wise, and then take a director that we could trust and let him do his interpretation of the song. We knew a guy in fact, Janiv Oskar, who has done a lot of documentaries, and we discussed what kind of ideas we had about the song with him, you know the overall theme of that song in particular and the album as a whole, and he just went and ran with it from there. We're very happy with the end result.
Che: Of course, it's an excellent video, and I really love the landscape depicted in it. Absolutely beautiful. Do you think there will be any other videos from the band in the future?
Ontto: Might be! Nothing else is really planned for right now, however.
Che: Very cool either way. Now, to a broader question... I listen to a lot of Finnsh metal, and have really been enjoying what's been coming out of the country a lot lately, especially the darker, more mysterious stuff such as that purveyed by Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising. And it seems to me that there's starting to really be this whole mystical aura around Finnish metal in general. Do you think that Roadburn has really represented that this year with all the Finnish bands on the lineup?
Ontto: Absolutely, and I'm very thankful that Roadburn has given this whole exposure to our little thing that we have going on in Tampere.
Jun-His: And you see that they clearly appreciate all these different scenes and regional developments, whether it's our Wastement stuff, all the Icelandic bands they brought in for Misþyrming's Artist In Residence thing, etc. Again, it goes back to what I was talking about before about ways to communicate these profound ideas between artists so that they can both better understand what everyone else is doing as well as what they're doing themselves. It gives you a very solid understanding of how art develops, and I think it's great that Roadburn appreciates that and makes the effort to share that vision with people. Although, of course, for me it's not just all about the scene. We don't necessarily have things very precisely defined in Tampere. It's very loosely held together, with a lot of things going on there, and we like to remain open minded about whatever influences can come in from whatever we happen to feel connected to at a certain moment in time.
Che: Definitely a very admirable attitude. So, where do you guys really see yourselves as going from here, into the future? Any other side projects or collaborations planned for Oranssi Pazuzu?
Ontto: Well, frankly, the recording of Värähtelijä, making the music, was ridiculously exhausting. We quite literally put everything we had into it, so for now we're probably just going to rest from here, maybe play a few more shows, and just see where things go a little later.
Jun-His: Yes, and I think that with Värähtelijä we kind of went from Valonielu and expanded upon the things that we were doing on that album. So now we've basically gotten to the end of the road that we've been on, and we just have to see what's up next. Time will tell! I feel as though it's a very rewarding set of circumstances though, because I always like new starts.
Che: Well I definitely look forward to that "new start," whatever form it may come in, and I also highly look forward to seeing you guys with Vesa and Jukka in Atomikylä later tonight! Thank you both for a wonderful interview and some truly interesting insight into your artistic process. Any final comments from you all?
Jun-His/Ontto: We'd just like to say thank you to everyone out there that has been enjoying and supporting our music, and a special thank you to all of your friends over at Metal Storm who do so. Cheers!
And a big thanks is most definitely owed to Jun-His and Ontto as well for agreeing to the interview in the first place, and being such kind, friendly guys coming up to me at Roadburn and saying hi over the next day and a half after our interview. Metal Storm wishes them nothing but luck in their further endeavors, and I for one greatly hope to see them again at Roadburn in the future. In the meantime, keep flying high, guys!
||Posted on 28.04.2016 by Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable since 2013.|
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