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vrijdag 07 mei 2010
IKUINEN KAAMOS: The Beauty of Eternal Polar Nights

Interview with guitarist Juhani Mikkonen and vocalist Risto Herranen of Ikuinen Kaamos by Vera in April 2010

Finnish Ikuinen Kaamos is an absolute must for dark harsh metal with a progressive touch. Their debut ‘The Forlorn’ in 2006 put their existence on the metal map. Since 2007 they worked on a sophomore album, but many things happened before ‘Fall Of Icons’ finally hit the stores in March 2010. You can read about this particular story in the next interview with guitarist Juhani Mikkonen and vocalist Risto Herranen. Their music is a charming blend of shivering death/black and melancholic introvert passages full of beauty. Check it out!

You are from Joensuu. Where exactly is it situated in Finland and can you tell a bit more about the place you grew up and live?
Juhani: ‘Joensuu is located in eastern Finland, in the centre of a region called North Karelia. None of the members of this band have grown up here, though, everyone’s originally from a different place. This is a “student city”, and as a matter of fact all the guys who are in this band nowadays have originally come here to study something. Currently three of us are studying and the rest are planning to start new studies.’

Ikuinen Kaamos was founded in 1997. I follow you since debut album ‘The Forlorn’, but can you tell us about the time before that? In other words: the foundation and development of the band before its first record.
Juhani: ‘Our second guitarist Jarno founded the band together with his friend in Kuopio in’97. They made a few demos but after that they split-up and there was a long time when nothing really happened, until Jarno moved to Joensuu. During 2003 he found new musicians to work with here - I included - and used the name Ikuinen Kaamos again, so actually it wasn’t even about the same band. In 2004 we recorded a three song promo CD called ‘The Lands of the Plague’ with Antti Huttula in vocals and Arttu Romo in drums. That helped us get a deal with a then-active label called Descent Productions. After that, we went on doing ‘The Forlorn’ and then on the band saw numerous changes in the line-up again.

Your name, eternal polar night is intriguing, but nowadays it has a very real feeling for the people in Iceland, living under the cloud of ash from the volcano… very strange, isn’t it?
Risto: ‘Yes. All the best for the people in Iceland. I have heard that a volcano eruption big enough could block the sun completely. Real eternal polar night would be good promotion for us! Or maybe dying isn’t that good of a promotion…

And now that I look at the beautiful cover of ‘Fall Of Icons’, it also fits into the current nearly apocalyptic happenings in the world…
Risto: ‘Haven’t thought about it that way before, but I guess you’re right! Well I guess dark stuff of the world inspired to write the dark lyrics and music that inspired the dark artwork.

Who did that beautiful artwork and can you tell about the link with its contents?
Risto: ‘Artwork is done by my childhood friend Jonne Suikkanen. He also did the cover art for ‘Epilogue’. Though it wasn’t released, we liked his work so much that we wanted him to do the artwork for the new album as well. I sent him the lyrics, told him the name of the album and then we gave him free hands to make whatever he wanted. You can see his other works at Personally I really like that broken moon in the cover. It portraits the lyrical theme of the album perfectly, ending of all things good.

Did you manage to play some gigs after the release of ‘The Forlorn’?
Juhani: ‘No we didn’t because when “The Forlorn” came out, we didn’t have a stable line-up which would have made it possible. We still haven’t played a single gig, but we’re planning to do something about it.’

Your music is a melancholic yet vigorous blend of death, doom and progressive metal. What can we see as your main influences?
Juhani: ‘We suck up influences from everything we listen to and from all kinds of music, so it’s hard to say what the main influences are. I guess I could say, though, that those influences come mostly from kind of sad, dark and emotional music. The main thing in our work has been to make music that comes naturally, and the outcome has been what you’ve heard.

I love the emotive guitar soloing, it has the same beauty as leads from Saturnus, Riverside or Anathema, do you agree on that?
Juhani: ‘Thanks for the kind words. Yeah I guess you could say that it reminds a bit of something like that. I’ve been trying to make solos that have a kind of sense of emotion and which support the atmosphere of the songs, not just base them on techniques or speed. It’s often the case that less is more when it comes to the amount of notes. The solos or leads in our songs are often based on simple melodies which you are able to sing and they almost work like a vocal melody. That way they compensate the not-so-melodious growling vocals. When I work on a solo, I divide the part into smaller sections in recording software. I put the first section in a loop play and, based on improvisation, I start playing something on top of it. When I get an idea, I start working on that, repeating it and refining it. When it’s done, I move on to the next section and continue on that but keeping in mind what was the main idea. In that way the solo begins to take shape.’

The second album was recorded, but then you went through strenuous days. It was delayed and finally did not come out. What happened exactly?
Risto: ‘Basically the record company just ran out of money. The release day of the record was postponed time after time until we decided that we weren’t waiting any longer. About the same time the owner of Descent said that he couldn’t release the album. It was frustrating and sad at the time, but later on we have talked about how it was probably a good thing that ‘Epilogue’ wasn’t released. In the end we weren’t that satisfied how that album sounded.’

It was a loyal gesture to put three songs on line for free (I immediately went looking and reviewed them as well). But what happened with the rest of the material for that sophomore album, initially called ‘Epilogue’?
Risto: ‘We thought it would be nice to release something when the album was cancelled. So the fans’ wait had not been completely futile. About the songs we did release, we re-recorded ‘Statues’ for ‘Fall of Icons’. Though we rearranged it a bit and I did some changes to the lyrics. We have been discussing that we might start working on ‘The Art of Letting Go’ again. ‘For I Fell’ on the other hand is a song that we are going to abandon completely. It was an ok song, but nothing that special that it should be recorded again.

Along the way a few members of the band called it quits. What happened on the line-up front since ‘The Forlorn’?
Juhani: ‘We had Henri Villberg do the vocals for ‘The Forlorn’ and he was asked to do it as a session thing, so he was never assigned as a long time member. Then there was also a decision made to seek for a different kind of a drummer. We placed an ad to the internet to seek for musicians to the band and at that time the band consisted of only me and Jarno. We got contacted by drummer Niko Hyttinen and bassist Lauri Saari. Meeting Risto was a coincidence one night - he can tell more about that event. Niko parted ways with us after he played the drums for the should-have-been the next album in 2008. Three songs from those recordings ended up on the online EP ‘Closure’. Then, a new ad was placed which was answered by our current drummer J-P Räisänen.’

You, new vocalist Risto introduced (very nice) clean vocals as well. It seems as if you have three singers now. You surely did a great job. How did you meet each other and got finally in the band?
Risto: ‘Thanks for the compliments! I met Jarno at a bar. I was singing karaoke and Jarno liked my singing. By coincidence I sat in the same table as he did and then he asked if I would like to join his band. Next day he sent me some demos and I was blown away. Next week we had kind of an audition. I had written the first version of lyrics for ‘Closure’ and a few very bad melodies and I was nervous as hell. But it all went well and here I am now.’

‘The Forlorn’ included a story about an old man, regretting the things he had done. What can you tell about the lyrical themes on ‘Fall Of Icons’?
Risto: ‘The lyrical theme is stated in the album’s name. ‘Icons’ in this album are things that we love, respect or think that we can’t live without. Every song tells a story about a downfall of one of these icons. These icons can be a relationship, religion or a dying friend, for example.

Who are the main composers of the band?
Juhani: ‘The main composers have been Jarno and I, at least for now. We exchange ideas and demos which we have done by ourselves at our homes and some of them end up to the rehearsals and recordings. It has been great how the songs mix together nicely, because the making of the songs hasn’t been a co-work wholly. As we now finally have a functional line-up, the other members may contribute to the song making more in the future maybe, we’ll see.

In May 2009 the recordings for ‘Fall Of Icons’ started. Can you tell something more about this process and what was different comparing to earlier recordings?
Juhani: ‘Everything was different. The songs that we had were more complicated and more ambitious than on the ‘Closure’ EP for example, so it was not that easy to play them. Besides that, this time we didn’t go to a studio. We decided to do everything by ourselves and purchased the necessary sound equipment to make a record. Our goal was to do the recordings with time and care, and to have an outcome that we would be happy with. The result was that this project became an experiment which had its ups and downs, and which taught us how not to do certain things, at least technically. Anyway, we hope that we’re able to do the next album in a good studio.’

After the bad luck with Descent Productions, it is nice to see you have found another label Maddening Media. They have good bands and now you’re one of them. Are you happy with the results so far?
Risto: ‘Yeah, actually releasing the album is a huge plus! But really, things have been going really smoothly. No problems whatsoever.’

Are there plans to tour or play gigs to support ‘Fall Of Icons’?
Risto: ‘Yes, we are planning to do some gigs as soon as possible. Works, studies and families of course set their limits to the touring but I would like to do as much gigs as possible. It would also be nice to go touring in countries outside Finland. All in good time I hope!

Is any of you involved in other bands or projects?
Juhani: ‘Lauri and J-P are both currently studying music so they have many kinds of projects that derive from their schools. Lauri is oriented to folk music and J-P to jazz. J-P also plays in a group called Space Meditation, which plays progressive rock kind of thing.

What is the music you like to listen to yourself?
Juhani: ‘I like many things from many genres. Some things come and go and some things you go back to occasionally. From the metal world today I admire the works of Katatonia, Opeth and Ihsahn. Currently I’m also curious of the next albums from Anathema and Slumber. I don’t tend to follow what’s happening in a certain scene though.

Risto: ‘I listen to all kinds of music. A good song is a good song no matter what the genre is. But mostly I listen to Finnish rock and Swedish metal. Sydän sydän, YUP, At the Gates, Opeth and Soilwork to name a few.

Thursday 15/04 was a very strange day: eruption volcano and the news spread of the death of Type O’Negative front man Peter Steele. Did it affect you in a way or didn’t you like his music?
Juhani: ‘I’m a bit of a Type O fan so I did like his music, especially the albums ‘Bloody Kisses’ and ‘October Rust’. The world lost a unique voice. Luckily I got to see them perform live once, a few years ago, at Tuska Festival in Helsinki.

What are the plans for the near future?
Risto: ‘We’ll keep rehearsing our gig set and hopefully start playing gigs as soon as possible. Then eventually start working on new material. It will be interesting to see how our music keeps developing.

Would you ever consider editing a song to make a video for it? Is there still a reason to make clips these days?
Juhani: ‘I wouldn’t be very excited to make an edit from any of our songs because the song would definitely lose something valuable from it. So a thorough consideration would take place if we would ever bump into such an offer, or maybe we would have to compose a short song! Anyway, I think that music videos are still a good way to promote music, because they have a huge potential audience in the internet world, not only TV. They can also be enjoyable if they’re made with good taste.’

If there is any news I forgot to cover: feel free to add it here…
Juhani: ‘We now have fine looking new T-Shirts available for purchase! Google Maddening Media Shop!

Geplaatst door Vera op vrijdag 07 mei 2010 - 00:04:47
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