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Catamenia: Cavalcade of Nordic metal songs

Interview with guitarist Riku Hopeakoski of Catamenia by Danny & Vera in March 2010

Recently we were charmed by ‘Cavalcade’ of Finnish melodic death/black metal band Catamenia. In Central Europe their name isn’t so huge yet, but they have made no less than nine albums. High time to put them in the spotlights in our magazine! We had a nice chat with founding member, composer and guitarist Riku Hopeakoski.

Vera: I saw you during the Heidenfest tour with Finntroll, Primordial and Eluveitie. I think this was an ultimate chance for Catamenia. How do you look back at this tour?
Riku: It was really a great tour and we got lot of new fans during that tour, and of course we made good friends with bands there like Finntroll and Equilibrium. Only problem with that tour was the time schedule that did not match up totally with ours and the time period was really bad in a history of Catamenia because it was really close that I would have quitted in the band. Anyways, we had absolutely great time there and everything went well and fine, except my wrist got really badly infected during that tour, and that lead to that we could not play full setlist but only in couple of first shows. But we managed to go thru the whole tour though guys were almost ready to cancel the tour behalf of my sake because they saw how much playing guitar was hurting my arm. Total respect to the guys!

Vera: Can you tell about the most remarkable things that happen during that tour or things you’ll always keep in mind?
Riku: Well, I think I already answered on that one, that the guys were totally ready to cancel the tour for me and for my wrist. That really made a huge impact on me! They could not see me struggling every single night with my wrist because it was really hurting really much … glad it’s over now and my wrist is healed completely. Also many funny things occurred and happened during that tour, but I really cannot remember even a single one of them, heheh.

Vera: When did you start writing the new material and who are the main composers of ‘Cavalcade’?
Riku: I have always been the main composer of Catamenia and have composed almost every single song in our whole career and history. On this new album, ‘Cavalcade’, I started to compose the songs quite immediately after the Heidenfest Tour was over and after my wrist healed a little bit. As I told you earlier, we had really bad time at that time after recording of ‘VIII’ and I was really close to call everything off, but the guys said that I should compose new songs for the new album and give it a new try. Well, I composed the first new song ‘Blood Trails’ and sent the song to the guys. I knew it was a different and I was totally thrilled about it, but I did not know how the guys would react on it. Couple of hours passed by and the guys started to call me and praising the song with most awesome words they could find, hehe. Then I knew that the songs are going into the right direction and decided to compose more songs. Now the atmosphere in the band is great and we enjoy playing again.

Danny: Your relation with Massacre Records seems perfect, now you have signed your third contract? That’s remarkable and great in those hard times…
Riku: We feel like we’re a part of this big happy family and the feeling is mutual. There was a time when we were asking from our A&R of Massacre that maybe we should seek for a new label if there would be a case that they would not be interested to continue with us anymore. The answer back was something like that it would be the same when you would order a pizza without toppings, hehe. Like every single relationship, they all have ups and downs and so we have had as well, but last years after ‘Eskhata’ has been just awesome, nothing to complain. We have our artistic freedom and they have a trust on us, even though we’re not the biggest and the most famous band in the world.

Danny: The band has survived and even became stronger after several line-up changes. Or did it slow up things after all?
Riku: Yeah, there have been quite many changes in the band during these years and those events are always sad and wish them to none. But no, I think they have never slowed things down in Catamenia, but only in a form of seeking a new one, hehe. But line-up changes has never slowed things in musical progression or making new songs for the new albums.

Danny: Why did you leave the keyboards out? How do you solve this problem in a live situation?
Riku: As said all the line-up changes are always sad, but on this issue, there’s also some unintended humour in it, hehe. You see, our former keyboardist, Tero, fell in love with our tour manager when were touring in Russia in 2006 or something, cannot remember it now for a fact. It was part of this longer European Tour and when it was time to continue to Central Europe after the Russian part, Tero decided to inform us at the train station of St. Petersburg that he will continue to Moscow with our Russian tour manager and will not continue and follow us to Europe. We were like what the hell you are talking about, jump on the freaking bus, our flight is leaving from Helsinki-Vantaa airport in couple of hours - but he refused even after we tried to force him into the bus, but he’s a grown-up guy, so he makes his own decisions though his Visa was also expiring. After that sad, but at the same time funny event, we made a decision that we’ll continue without keys and will manage with guitars, and it works perfectly.

Danny: Your sound has changed and became quieter? A lot of bands seem to head in that direction (Amorphis, Katatonia,…) Any reason for that? Or is the change in your music a natural evolution?
Riku: I really, really would not say that our music has become quieter or softer, I would say it’s slower these days. It’s still really powerful with full of aggression, but nowadays it’s more combined with more clever lyrics than before. These steps what we have taken and gone through these years have been natural steps for us. Every single event during our history has modified and made our sound what it is nowadays. Even the line-up changes have affected the songs itself, but not directly. Maybe it’s more on the mental side than in a form of physical sound. So, I would not say that there’s a direct reason or one reason for this change, but everything we have experienced during recordings and during our touring has made Catamenia what it is nowadays, and all these changes in our music are not planned, not what so ever.

Danny: The band seems to work fine with Ville Laihiala. Is there any future in that cooperation? Because ‘Blood Trails’ sounds perfect…
Riku: We already had the idea in our minds to use Ville’s vocals on our previous album ‘VIII – The Time Unchained’, but everything went wrong and bad during those recording from the start, so we decided not to invite him into middle of this chaos and negativity and decided to postpone his visit to later on. This time with ‘Cavalcade’ everything went really fine and great from the very beginning and no problems occurred what so ever, so we decided to make a call to him and ask him to join into one song. Actually, he was really sceptic about it first because he really did not have a clue on our musical direction change and though we would still play this fast, black metal that he’s not so fond of, hehe. When he came to the studio, he listened to the songs before his part was recorded and said that he absolutely loves all the songs and the whole album, and said it was totally his honour to have a visit on our album. Ville’s voice fits perfect on this song and there were no hesitations at all in which song we should use his vocals on. Nowadays we’re good friends and of course there’s a possibility that we’ll invite him to join the next album as well, maybe to sing a whole song, you never know … actually not a bad idea at all, heheh.

Danny: Can or will Olli ever come back? How is he doing now?
Riku: We’re good friends with Olli these days and I think he has recovered from his bad infection on his throat and he’s doing quite well. I do not know about his musical things these days, but I really wish that he could join some band again, but at the moment I do not see Olli back in Catamenia – and why would I because if I am totally honest, you can’t barely say the difference between Olli and Ari on this new album, now can you? I think not, they are really similar to each others, heheh. Anyways, I have had the idea to have him as a guest vocalist on our next album because it’s kind of an anniversary album for us – maybe we could have also Mika on one of the songs, you never know and you never know what happens. And regarding the situation of Olli, I have learnt that never say never, because you really cannot foresee the future.

Danny: Is ‘Cavalcade’ a concept? And can you tell a bit more about the meaning of the story?
Riku: The word ‘cavalcade’ originally means a parade for celebrity or celebration. We have turned this idea totally upside down in our album. It is truly melancholic aspect of the ones, who are forced into take a part of this conqueror’s Cavalcade when everyone around is devastated and dominated to be slaves and forced to obey the rules of the conqueror. So, besides thinking Cavalcade as a happy thought and a celebrated thing, on our album it’s presented as this sad and melancholic event. Like in title song’s lyrics go: ‘Broken heroes on the wings of history, watching another sorrow’s Cavalcade’. That song tells about big conquerors like crusaders and how they wiped away entire peaceful nations and in the name of a holy cross. Actual meaning was just to loot the treasures, lands and spread their kingdom. This all is to remember that all this is written in the books by their own historians as examples of bravery and how good deeds they made for the whole world. Somehow history doesn’t often show the other side, the aspect of demolished and vanished cultures.

Vera: Who’s in charge for the lyrics?
Riku: Usually lyrics are written by everyone of us and usually we finish them into their final form in the studio. I have always loved the lyrics that Ari has written, so on this new album I gave him more responsibility in a form of writing lyrics. He has this really great vision for mysterious lyrics with full of thoughts from different aspects and points of view. But in general we all make the lyrics together, but usual the idea comes from one member and on that idea we all start to work on.

Vera: Can you tell a bit more about the recording process and if there were any differences you experienced this time, please tell us?
Riku: As said before, everything went really fine this time and maybe the difference to our previous sessions was this fact: There were no problems what so ever and everything went really smoothly from scratch to end. Usually we have faced problems with equipment, schedules, members, etc. You just name it and we can tell you a problem about that which has occurred to us during the sessions, heheh. I do not know about you, but I can clearly hear the difference on the album.

Danny: Why did you cover that particular Megadeth track? Fans of the band?
Riku: I have always wanted to make a cover song from one of the Megadeth’s songs and especially this one, but somehow I have always felt that time was not mature or right. I have always admired Dave Mustaine and you could easily say that he’s my idol. This time all seemed to click perfectly together in the band and everyone loves the song, in the studio everything went great and I thought it was the time to make this come true. I really wanted to respect the original one and decided to make only small changes into the song, like making the chorus to float a bit more by giving it more air with harmonic chords. Also the tempo was increased a click or two, heheh. I am really happy about the result and would love to hear Mr. Mustaine’s comment on this version.

Vera: Which music do you like to listen to yourself these days?
Riku: I listen to so wide variety of music from classical to black metal that it would take several pages to list them down here. But to give you couple of examples, I would say bands like Sparzanza, Megadeth, Crematory, Rotting Christ, Poisonblack, Satyricon, Hypocrisy, Billy Talent, etc. That gives you some idea that my musical taste is quite wide. But to be honest, I have never understood people with narrow-mind and view with music. Of course everyone have their own taste of music and who I am to tell anything about what everyone should listen to, but still, it’s really funny when someone actually likes the music, but if it’s not the correct category, it cannot be good and suddenly sucks, hehehe, it’s ridiculous. I really could not care a less which category it belongs as it’s good and I happen to like it.

Vera: What are the plans for touring to support the new album? Is there a chance to come over to the Netherlands or Belgium?
Riku: We’re planning couple of European tours to take place this year and hopefully they’ll include Belgium and the Netherlands as well. There are also some plans to make tours in Russia, Australia and in the States, so we’re really crossing our fingers everything will go as planned. But as you mentioned, we’re living quite hard times financially all over the world now, so lots of luck is needed also these days.

Vera: I am also familiar with and like bands like Kalmah, Eternal Tears of Sorrow and (good old days) Dawn Of Relic. Can you tell about the connection between those bands and Catamenia?
Riku: Well, as you may know, Timo from Kalmah is our ex-bassist and a really good friend of ours. Also we’re good friends with the guys from EtoS and DoR. Dawn Of Relic is also connected to us by our ex-vocalist Mika because Mika also sang in this band as well years ago.

Vera: Do you have some bands in mind that would suit to form a tour package to do a trek through Europe?
Riku: We’re really easy going guys and we get along with anyone and any bands, so that’s not the case at all. Musically it’s really difficult to put us on a certain group, but I would really want to form a package with example Poisonblack and Amorphis. I think nowadays our music is more into that direction and would fit that package well. Previously our music was way too fast and too harsh for that kind of a tour package I think. But we’ll see and as said, we do not mind with whom we’re travelling and touring with.

Vera: What are the plans for the near future?
Riku: Now we’re focusing on promoting our new album and waiting for some confirmations for the tours to take place this year. Until then we’re just living our daily routines here in Finland and taking day by day, hehehe.

Geplaatst door Vera op donderdag 01 april 2010 - 23:44:41
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