Lugburz Jan Yrlund March 1998
Last year, Ancient Rites unleashed one of the best European albums of the year: 'Fatherland'. Keeping the old dedicated fans satisfied and gaining many new souls, they have extended their cult-status with this piece of art. Instead of making a usual Ancient Rites interview, we thought it would be nice and original to have a chat with Jan -Örkki- Yrlund, their guitarplayer. Not only focusing on Ancient Rites and Danse Macabre, but on the entire personality of this interesting musician. With great pride we present you this killer-interview... so take a beer, sit back and enjoy!
Hei Örkki, how're you feeling today? - For starters, we'd like to be unpolite and ask you some more about your background! - I believe your father is Swedish, but you are a Finn, and on top of that you traded the Land of the Thousand Lakes for the Land of the Thousand Windmills, Holland! Why(&when) did you leave Suomi Finland Perkele and choose for Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden?
- Hi Bram, I'm feeling just fine! About my background; you're right that my father is of Swedish origin, but like many others he lived in the Swedish speaking cost of Finland. So he had Finnish nationality. I was raised in a bi-lingual family, because my mother is Finnish. As you may know Finland knows three official languages; Finnish, Swedish and "Saame", from Lapland. To be honest I can't speak Swedish like I probably should, because I grew up in different Finnish speaking cities and also because my parents divorced in 1973. So actually only Swedish thing about me is my name. I moved to Holland in 1991/92. At that time I was living in Zaandam, but soon after I moved to Amsterdam, where I still live. I had many different reason's to move to Holland; first of all my girlfriend, who is half-Dutch, started her studies in the University here. I also wanted to study after working for 5 years on the one and same Radio-station - I got bored -. So I also entered the University Of Amsterdam. As a third reason - and by no means less important - I consider the fact that the record deal of my metal band ended up. I had no interest of starting something new at that point, so I decided to check out the scene in Holland and find a nice band. There are also some other reason's, but I guess this already lightness the issue a bit. The choice for Amsterdam was obvious; I had been here every summer from 1989 and I totally adored the city. I wouldn't ever have chosen for another city in Holland....
What was your first encounter with interesting music (metal/punk/...), as a listener? Is there any band or even a record that really made you think..."damn this is my cup of tea"...?
- I think the first aggressive music I really liked were diverse Finnish HC-punk bands. I still listen to these bands sometimes (like Lama, Appendix, Kaaos etc). Those were bands from early eighties and had pure brutal aggression in their music, that was cool. When I really got into music the first band I admired was Motörhead - I had everything of them! And when I finally started playing music, the band which kicked my ass was Metallica with "Metal Militia". That song probably changed my musical direction. I really liked the band, so I went to every show possible in Finland. I still remember the Summer Festival in the middle of Finland in 1986, where I got a change to quickly salute these guys. It was by the way only couple of days later that Cliff Burton lost his life in Sweden. I was in that way one of the last witnesses of his awesome bass-solo....
There is no doubt that you are a musical talent of immense grandeur!. What was your first music-instrument and when and why did you decided to pick up a guitar and shoot some chords?
- At school everybody had to learn some instruments, like that flute-thing and piano, but I guess guitar was from the very beginning my instrument. I bought my first second hand electric guitar when I was 13 years old. Before that I already played some acoustic under supervision of a local musician. The electric guitar I learned all by myself, just digging some music and trying to play what I heard. A year later I had a school band and we were very serious. We played in every school-party and so on. We also wrote our own music from the beginning. The vocalist/bass-player In that band was a very good friend of mine, whom somebody into speed-metal might still remember; Niko Airaksinen from Tampere - based thrashers Dethrone.
You have quite an impressive résumé when it comes to bands you've been playing' in. Your first band of importance was Prestige right? So mate, crack another beer, light up the campfire and sing us some songs! ...ehrm I mean, tell us all about this band!
- I had indeed already had some bands with demos and stuff before joining Prestige in 1987. I knew the guys from different contexts, mainly from parties and gigs. When I joined the band things really started to roll. We recorded a 4- song demo in that year and early 1988 we got signed by Poko Records, which was at that time quite major in Finland. It was time of "Speed-metal- boom" in Finland - every major label had to have a speed-metal band. We were the third band to get signed and the first in Tampere. The label really invested in us. In that way we got the change to play more gigs and also support bigger foreign names (like Nuclear Assault, Kreator and so on). That was very cool. The first LP (later also on CD) "Attack Against Gnomes" was released in 1988, the second "Selling The Salvation" in 1990 and the third CD "Parasites in Paradise" in 1991. We also released couple of Eps and singles. I guess we were quite popular in Finland being started already so early. Many of the bands who were signed later didn't book much success, with some exceptions. I guess it was time of finding an own scene for many fans and accepting that also Finnish bands could do it. In that way we contributed a lot to the Finnish metal-heads.
At that time (when by the way?) you were also pretty active in the underground-scene, so you told me. You even organized a Darkthrone gig once, right?! (Tell us, for all our female readers, is Fenris really that cute? haha!) How was the scene at those days, and what exactly did you do? What Finnish bands were circulating around back then? Imp.Naz.? Barathrum? Beherit? Amorphis? Tell us all about it!
Yes, I was really much into underground, I guess during the whole time with Prestige. I felt that there were an international "speed-metal- revolution" going on. And in some extent I think it was going on. Speed/thrash - metal was the first revolution after punk, which worked through individual underground contribution. It was like anti-reaction against all those stupid poser bands. There were many underground mags, people organized gigs by themselves, because official clubs didn't accept any speed metal. So the do-it-self feeling was definitely there (unfortunately I had to realize later that my ideology sucked sometimes). That's how I decided to help underground bands by inviting them for gigs and so on. We could do that because we had a lot of gigs. Dark Throne was one of these bands and probably nowadays the most known. I organized four gigs for them in Finland. This was the first time that they ever played outside of Norway. They were cool guys and I really liked their music. Some shows they played as support for Prestige, some we supported them. They also used our gear and stayed at Aku's place (our singer). Most of the gigs were sold out, but I think not because of Dark Throne, but of the total bill. Black Metal wasn't popular in those days in Finland (I guess it was in May 1991). I also organizer small tours for other bands, like the Danish death/thrashers Invocator. That band I also liked a lot. They played some 4 shows in Finland. Invocator invited us twice to Denmark. Second time we played six gigs with them in Denmark. Other bands that I helped out were among others Hysteriah GBC (Swe) and Fallen Angel (Swe). I kept contact with a lot of other bands, trade CDs and demos. Some wished to come over (like Samael, Dead Head, Grave etc.), but it didn't work out. In Finland there were a lot of good bands, but those names you mentioned didn't exist (except Beherit). I.N came also a bit later, like to most of the international names you might know (Sentenced, Amorphis and so on). I still keep contact with the bands of those days, but I have abandon underground as such. I don't have energy for that anymore and I feel that my contribution is done. I will however always support underground in another level and I wouldn't never refuse of an interview or chat - doesn't matter how underground the mag is.
Then after you quit Prestige, what happened then? Was it then that you joined the gothic rockers Two Witches? Or am I mistaken? How was your period with this band?
Actually no-body ever quit Prestige. We decided to have a break. Well, the break took a while as you know. We played our last gig in a major rock-festival in 1992 (with bands like Nirvana). It was our 150th gig and we thought - that's it, now we take a holiday. In fact we all had lost the interest after these five years. We had played in every god forgotten club in Finland and didn't want to do it for the tenth time again. I wanted to discover other music. I already had a punk project with our singer Aku, called "Heppihirviö" (something like "dick-monster" in English) In that band we played everything from HC-punk to sixties pop. Real crossover, man. We did a 16 track MC, which we sold out. I still play a gig with them when I'm on a vacation in Finland. Two Witches I knew already many years, because they were from the same city. That band always had problems finding a steady line up and they had just lost their bass-player and were about to record their debut CD "Vampire's Kiss". So they asked me. I played the bass on the CD and also some small guitar shit. After that we played a couple of gigs. They knew that I was about to move to Holland, so the deal was that I only do these things. I really liked this band and would probably have stayed 'till now if there would have been any other choice. Till today they are one of my dearest friends and we always have a good time when we meet each other. I will always support them anyway I can. The last time they were on a European tour, I returned back to my underground innerself and organized a gig for them here in Amsterdam.
Then, after Two Witches, you popped up in Lacrimosa, If I'm not mistaken...when and how did you ended up in this band? What did you achieve with these goth's? How was that chapter of your musical career...Again this band wasn't that close to your door I presume, how did u managed that?
- This is a long one, huh. Well to start with, Anne played in Two Witches when I was in the band. She joined Lacrimosa later, I think in 1993. So I knew her very good. When Tilo wanted to change his concept for the next Lacrimosa CD, he wanted it to be more heavy and "real". I don't know if you know old Lacrimosa material, but it's with drumcomputer and with "rock" guitar. Well anyway, Anne remembered me and invited me to come over. So I traveled to Basel, where we three listened music, played some and so on. Tilo liked my playing a lot and then we went to the studio. That's how the CD "Inferno" was started. Even though I didn't write the music, I really enjoyed it and I got free hands to arrange all the guitar parts and stuff. So it was totally cool. We became very good friends during those months in the studio. I felt the music in a very emotional way, which was for me a new experience. For me this period meant a lot, because this was the biggest (& most expensive) product I ever had worked for. After the CD we also recorded a single and went on a tour. The tour was for me a true experience, very fine organized, a LOT of fans, big festivals and so on. And the album became very successful. We also released video-clips, played some other festivals later and so on. However you would think that the music is not my cup of tee, I think you're wrong, because I've always been able to adjust myself to challenges I've been facing. I will always keep my "style", but also try to fulfill the needs of the music in a creative way. So I could manage fine...
Why did you leave Lacrimosa, or were you kicked out? (-I hope this question isn't too spicey!-)
- There are many reasons and also many different ways to look at this. I think from my side the music comes first. The reasons why I liked "Inferno" weren't there anymore when we started to record "Stille". I wouldn't say that I didn't like the music, it just didn't touch me on a same level "Inferno" did. So I couldn't find myself in this. And of course that had an effect on my performance, I didn't believe in it. Obviously Tilo didn't like that either. On the other hand Tilo felt a deep pressure after "Inferno" which was so successful. So the next record had to be much better. This time he wrote all the guitar solos and melodies, all the drum parts and so on. As a musician I felt like thrown in a corner, because my creativity wasn't needed anymore, I just had to play 1 to 1 after what he wrote. And maybe I also thought that I still had changes to be creative, but the reality hit me. So all of the time I was pissed off and when I'm pissed off he's pissed off and so on. We are just like little kids with this. I think my fault was that I though we were a band, but Lacrimosa never have been a band. Only this time I felt more than ever as a studio-musician, but also that I was used. That's not what music is for me. That's why we decided together that it's not worth of losing a very beautiful relationship through this kind of bullshit. And I left. He was very sorry and tried still to convince me not to do this, but I couldn't continue like this. However, I promised to help them out if they were in trouble, which I also did by playing a couple of festivals next summer and by recording one more video-clip "Stolzes Hertz" for them in september 1996. So I think it's a bit complicated, but only through different ways of looking at music. I guess we just had different needs and had grown apart after four years together. Anyway, we're still very good friends and an example of this was the A.R. gig in Zwitserland this tour, where Tilo and Anne came to watch our show and have a couple of drinks with us...
Then, in 1997, you joined Ancient Rites, or am I skipping a period and going too fast? (-If so, please inform us!) Same old question here - how did you get in contact with Gunther, Walter & Boefje? Had you heard of Ancient Rites before? How was the first meeting? I bet many alcohol was consumed, haha! Or did you just plug in your guitar and did a solo with a Coca-Cola-bottle, as it goes in the tv-spot, hehe?
- Yes in 1997 I joined Ancient Rites, but there were another band in between. Or actually I already had this band during Lacrimosa years. The band was called "Boobytrap" and we played kind of guitar- orientated Gothic/Industrial. All the time I wasn't doing Lacrimosa I played gigs with this band. We released a 4 song mini- CD "La Cura Della Follia" in 1996. I found this band very nice and I could do whatever I wanted. My work with these guys ended when our singer had problems with his voice and wasn't allowed to sing anymore. I found it a pity, because the guys were very good friends. Well anyway I was forced to look for another band. This time I wanted to go back to my roots; metal. I put an advertisement in a metal-mag. Many bands reacted, but the most interesting was Erik. He also send me the material, which I listened very carefully. One day he came to my place and we jammed the whole evening at my small homestudio downstairs. I didn't know the band before, but I liked the stuff and wanted to give it a go. So I learned to whole set-list and went with Erik to Belgium. The first meeting was very cool, the guys were very direct and honest and what is the best thing; they had a good sense of humor. So after the first rehearsing (& couple of beers) I was a full- member of the band. It all went down very easy and I think we liked each other already from the first sight....
Isn't the relative big distance (since you live in A'dam) a problem? Especially for rehearsals and building up some kind of "band-mate-feeling"? By the way, describe us a rehearse-session of Ancient Rites! Does it involve lots of beer and partying around the clock or just discussing idea's?
- The distance isn't nice, but it's not a problem either. Erik has fortunately a car, so we can go together to the rehearsals. In the car we listen to lot of music, talk and so on, so it's always a pleasure. I hope Erik also feels like this, because he's driving, heh-hee. "Band- feeling" we get through concerts and tours. Also some time guys come to here for a weekend, or sometimes we stay with Erik the whole weekend in Belgium. Of course we don't see each other every night, but it's not needed, we phone almost every day. At the rehearsals we first build up our gear, have a beer and rehearse the live-set two times. Some "problem" songs or parts maybe more often. There is always beer involved, but we never get drunk or anything. We make plans and stuff and discuss about options. What comes to songwriting, that we don't do at the rehearsals. Everybody writes at home and normally Walter puts the bits together.
What is your favorite (except Fatherland) A.R. release (album/song)? Why?
- My favorite song is "Death Messiah" from "The Diabolic Serenades". I like this song because it's quite primitive, but catchy. It also has a killer "machine-gun" double-bass work of Walter. I also like the songs "Total Misanthropia" and "Saefthinge" from "Blasfemia Eternal". Both songs include very nice guitar-riffs and have more parts than other songs.
In my personal (and very humble) opinion, I think/guess you personally have contributed a lot to the Fatherland CD, and to the progression of A.R. (Not that the others didn't contributed on that too, ofcourse) Am I right? Ofcourse, modest as you are, you shall deny this! hehe But for instance, I don't think the bombastic arrangements wouldn't be the same as we know it today... your reaction please?!
- Yes I guess you are right. I was very much involved with the songs and even more in the studio. It's just work that fits me fine and what I really enjoy to do. I always prefer to work on the background and see that the things get done. Walter arranged most of the songs (I only wrote "Cain" & "13th Of October 1307" by myself) with the riffs of Erik and me. So Walter is responsible for that. Because our ex- keyboard player was a total misfailure as a songwriter, I also wrote all the keyboards in the pre-production. In the studio our producer helped me out and also added some cool other stuff. The producer engineered and mixed the CD with us, I mastered it in Hilversum with Peter Brussee. In co-operation with Walter and Gunther we created the visual side of the CD, which I put together with the PC. In this process I was actually responsible for the rest of the lay-out, which of course was checked always by other members. The bombastic approach is something which has become a kind of specialty for me, but also the producer, being very talented keyboard player, had a huge role here. Don't get an idea that I run the thing, everything is always checked by others and if I go too far, they'll hit the breaks (and sometimes gas).
How was the atmosphere in the studio? Did (m)any problems occur while recording or did you ever felt like smashing the producer in a coma haha!?
- We wanted to kill them all after two days, but it was better we didn't, heh. No, it was quite relaxed, because we could stay as long as we were satisfied. So there was no pressure with that. In the beginning we had some communication problems, because they didn't actually understand a thing we were doing. We were the first real metal band in their studio, so our way of getting things done was very strange and new for them. Like we wrote and arranged lot of things in the studio, meanwhile most of the bands do everything before and then just record the stuff in the studio. Because we had time, we wanted to create the last arrangements, some melodies and solos in the studio. That was surprising for them. Like, I don't ever write any melodies before entering the studio. I have some ideas, but the result you hear only after the recordings. Same goes for Gunther, who creates all his singing- parts in the studio. He has the lyrics of course, but when all the songs are recorded, he starts to arrange his singing. This was also very new for these producers. But after a while we could understand each other and we had lot of laughs. The studio itself had a good equipment, but was located in the middle of nowhere, so you were totally isolated. You could think it's very good for working and you're right, but after six weeks it gets boring. You need some relaxation in such a long period of time. I stayed almost the whole time there, Walter was there also very long with Gunther, Erik less because of his work.
Now talking about this subject...seen your immense experience (didn't you used to work in a studio ? tell us 'bout it!) what quick hints/tips could you give new bands, when they are about to enter a studio for the first time?
- Yes I worked five years at a Radio- station and in a commercial advertisement studio. The studio was build for the purpose of radio-advertisement. It was a small (16 track) but very cozy studio. I recorded lot of demo's there, also some bands, made jingles and spots for different radio-stations. I also edited programs and was responsible for technical stuff on the Radio-station. I liked the work and I got a lot of experience about different editing programs, microphone technics and all that stuff. I don't know if I can through this experience give any advises, more through my own recordings with all those bands. New bands have most of the time small budgets, so you really have to be ready! Even a small pre-production helps a lot. Sometimes you can't hear all the things in a rehearsing- room, so even if you make a cheap four- track recording, you'll hear if there are some parts, which aren't 100% okay. It's better to check all this out before you enter a "real" studio. It saves time and money.
I bet you will say that you are satisfied with the endresult of Fatherland, but that there are things that could have been better....(so the story always goes) what exact things would that be ? (if there are any ofcourse , none in my opinion, but I'm just a humble groupie haha!)
- To be honest, I really don't think there are many things I would have done differently. For me it's the best album I ever made. Maybe after an year I find some things not so cool anymore, but at this moment I can't take a distance from the CD and listen to it objectively. Like production-wise some parts could have been mixed otherwise, but this is just a professional look at it and very subjective opinion. I believe that what we created goes far beyond that what we wished for. So in that way I'm very pleased and wouldn't change a thing.
There is no need in asking how the audience & press reactions on the 'Fatherland'-CD were, we've all witnessed that with our very own eyes: becoming CD of the month in big magazines (Terrorizer, Mindview, ...), receiving topscores in most 'zines, teenage girls throwing themselves in front of the AR-tourbus etc hahaa!! But there is only one rather 'bad' review I've seen...and ofcourse this was in Nordic Metal (#12)(Branden zullen ze doen! hehe). Since this magazine is quite known, we'd thought it would only be fair if you could give your reactions on some weird stuff he wrote.... To each his own (tase and taste is two), but this guy really pointed out some weird arguments!.... So,...full force ahead, Jan!
"...I could not avoid focusing on the horrible drumsound. So plastic and tic-tic. ... Oversynthetic."
"...'Fatherland' just feels too passive and in many ways overproduced. It doens't feel honest in my ears, just average and typical."
what can I say. The first comment I can understand somehow, but the guy
obviously doesn't know a thing about how drums were (and are) recorded
nowadays. Those days are over when you put one accordion- microphone in the
toilet and hope that it's sounds really nice and realistic. We triggered the whole
drumkit. This gives you thousands of choices when you wanna create a
"drumkit". You can even change a snare or other drums while mixing.
In this way you have better options to create a "total sound". The
sounds are samples, but they are "real" samples. In this way you can
create an ideal drumkit. To his ears this sounds synthetic, which it can't be,
because the sounds are sounds of a real drumkit. If he means playing itself,
I'm glad that Walter can play so tight.. So to each his own...
About the second comment I can't but laugh; this guy thinks that the CD sounds "typical". Against all those hundreds of other comments, who just like the CD because it's so "original" and not "mainstream (read Norwegian)" his comment sounds weird indeed. Has he listened to the CD? Also I can't find any "passive" in it. Overproduced maybe, but coming from a guy from this mag and area, with bands like Dimmu, Arcturus, Peccatum and so on, I find the word overproduced quite ridiculous. But anyway, to anybody but respect. I've read so many strange reviews in my life, that it doesn't do anything to me. People decide, luckily.
Now for something completely different: you are also involved in Danse Macabre, the gothic project that started out with the god of war, Gunther (AR) together with George (Necromantia, RAISM,....) and Sotiris (Septic Flesh) a few years ago. Two songs for a 7", which are now as bonustracks on the excellent 'Totentanz' album, were recorded with that line up, but everything was put on ice because of the Molon Lave failure, right? Now, how did you came up with the idea of participating in the continuation of this "project". A project now consisting of you and Gunther, filledup up with some session-muscicians for live-situations, right?
- When I joined Ancient Rites, Gunther also told me about this project and that he had a deal for it. When he heard about my Gothic- past he right away asked me to do Danse Macabre with him. I had already many songs ready and he liked them, so here we go. The Molon Love had disappeared and Sotiris and George couldn't continue, so everything was on Gunther and he had free hands with it. We planned everything together and went in the studio in the end of 1997 in Rotterdam. The production was on me and Hans Peeters, our producer. I did the lay-out & artwork. We decided to pay respect to the beginnings of D.M. and that's why we also added those two old songs as a bonus tracks on the CD. Unfortunately there where no master tape available (it had disappeared with Molon Love), so I had to use a C-tape, which we "cleaned up". That's why the sound isn't ideal with these two songs. We've done couple of live-shows and for these I have found some good friends of mine in Amsterdam, who help us out. Live we use a real drummer (Merijn from Boobytrap) and not a drumcomputer. I always prefer "a band" above half- playback. The gigs we do are always special things and we won't be playing in every small cafe just for it. The project is in this way very special for us.
Is it fair to say that you composed most of the new songs? Or did Gunther wrote some music as well? Also, how was the cooperation with Antoinette and Raf Corten (quoting Gunther: "He is the laziest musician I've ever met")? And how did the ex-Greek members react on the album?
- I wrote all the songs, except "Megalomania", which Raf wrote in the first place. The Raf's version wasn't actually a song, but just a riff, so I had to write the whole thing again in the studio. So actually it's my thing, based on Raf's riff. Gunther didn't write any song, but he wrote all the lyrics, which I adore a lot. He's a helluva text-writer to my opinion. Antoinette is a very dear friend of mine and she didn't hesitate a second to do "Decline Of Romanticism". She performs also live with us en does much more, like lot of background vocals and stuff. She's very cool and will certainly appear on the next CD. And Raf...well I agree with Gunther. Raf stayed with us the whole time in the studio but didn't do a thing. Actually he was supposed to be the keyboard player, but again I ended up writing all the keyboards. The last day, when everything was done and we had packed all our stuff he appears in the mixing room with his keyboard and says, "OK now I'm ready, let's start". Me and Gunther were like "what is this guy thinking?". Anyway he did join us and that's why his photo is on the CD. We felt that everybody who has been involved, should be mentioned, he too. It's only fair, we're not mean you know. Now that he's out of A.R, he's also not in D.M. We prefer to do it by ourselves, with a little help of our friends... About the Greek guys, they didn't have anything to do with "Totentanz" or Danse Macabre after the beginning, so they were no members. Anyway they are very good friends of course, and that's why Gunther met them in Athens and gave them the CDs. They were very surprised, but also happy, because they didn't expect those songs ever to be released. I guess they wished Gunther a lot of luck with this....
I know you are working on new songs and a new albums shall be released (on Mascot) this last year of this mortal millennium. Could you enlighten us a bit with some revelations about it? How is it going to be evaluated compared to 'Totentanz'?
- Yes we have now something like 20 songs more or less ready. I don't wanna force it, so we just wait till we have enough great songs. I like the idea of having a lot of stuff to choose from. Gunther has some lyrics ready, but we haven't decided any songtitels yet. We don't know either when we hit the studio, because we are so busy with Ancient Rites now. I guess somewhere end of summer. It depends also from Mascot and their plans. The art-work is quite finished now. The material continues from "Totentanz". I'll keep the same concept in mind; a lot of different songs and different atmosphere's. Somehow I think that the songs "rock" more and there are less metal- influences to be heard. More "folk" I don't know yet, we'll see. Meanwhile we will play couple of concerts and so on...
There used to be vague plans of an Ancient Rites, entirely played with medieval instruments etc,... Do you see these plans ever become reality? Or is it maybe more fitting within the Danse Macabre-concept?
- I can imagine something like this very well! We still think about it, but the problem is when do we have enough time to make it real. With Danse Macabre we could do something like that aswell, no problem. So don't worry, we haven't forgotten this!
I believe you are also involved with a punk-project, just as Gunther is, but in Finlandia right? What about this? What are your favorite punk bands, by the way?
- I think I already answered to this one shortly. Indeed I have a project back in Finland. It's very nice, because we are only three guys and we do everything! Everybody sings (even me!), everybody plays drums, bass and guitar. We play a real crossover, a bit of everything, but our hearts are buried in the HC-punk. The tape we released back in 1992 is already long time ago sold out and one small company (Darklands) from Finland is considering bringing the tape out on CD. The company always tells us how "cult" some songs have become in the SF- punk-underground. I want to believe that, but I'm not there. Anyway, if they wanna release it, be my quest. Every summer we play two or three gigs in Tampere, just for two crates of beer and for fun. I really enjoy it, it's just change for a while and not too serious.
Now you are also back of your latest European tour with Ancient Rites. I suppose you have also toured before with your other bands. So, how do you look upon tour-life? What's the weirdest thing you ever experienced on stage or while being on tour? (except from Gunther showing his green combat-underwear! haha!)
been on many tours with a lot of different bands and of course the first shine
of the tour-life has been faded away a long time ago. Anyway I like being on
tour, even if sometimes it's very exhausting. Actually the strangest things
happen outside the stage. I don't know the weirdest, but I can tell you the
most difficult journey; we were in Denmark with Prestige and we had to head
back home to Finland. Ok, we had to take a ferry from Frederikshaven to
Gothenburg. We had a very strict timetable, because we had to catch a train to
Stockholm. Of course the ferry was late, so
we ordered extra taxis to take us to the railway station in Gothenburg.
Naturally when we arrived in Gothenburg, the customs took us (we were coming
from the drug-country Denmark); clothes off etc. Well, we missed the train.
With the next train we could just catch the ferry to Finland in Stockholm. We
took the train. In the middle of Sweden the train stops and everybody has to go
out; they're fixing the rails, so we have to take a bus. With the bus to the
next city and next train. In Stockholm it was 22.30, the ferry leaves at 23.00,
so we took a taxi to the terminal. The taxidriver drives rounds around the city
and we miss the ferry. Next ferry leaves at 09.00. We have no money, only one
bottle of vodka, which I of course drop. We saw a hotel by the terminal - let's
ask if we can stay in the aula; no way, we were thrown out. Only choice was to
sleep at a construction site nearby - in November. Finally at the ferry we were
so pissed off that we got drunk as hell and ended up in ferry's jail. In
Finland's side Police was waiting for us and we got a huge fine (after the
customs took us again, of course). This asks a bit dedication for the music,
don't you think.
This time with Ancient Rites the weirdest thing was the gig in Katowice, Poland. It was a very small club of 600 people, but they sold 1000 tickets for it! Backstage was of course downstairs, so you had to go on stage through this mass of people. Unbelievable. After the gig, you couldn't get back through the audience, so you had to get on the roof of the building and wait for everybody to leave. And nobody left of course before 1 a.m.
What are your most beautiful live-moments which will never slip your mind again? ("Anecdotes! We want spicey anecdotes!!! hehe")
- There many beautiful things I won't ever forget. With Prestige the last gig in that big festival and the afterparty, where everybody was drunk like hell, with Lacrimosa the last gig in Waregem, where we got champagne on stage and the place was totally sold out. With this tour the greatest moment was the last gig in Paris where the whole audience went mad. Also because it was the last gig, we got special treatment from the stage-manager Big Daddy. He came on stage to do very serious inside jokes. After two songs he started to "steal" Walter's cymbals, so that in the end he only had a hi-hat. He also turned all the toms upside down and all this. In my "beautiful" solo in "Fatherland" he helped me out with my pedals by changing all the programs in the wrong time. When Gunther starts the bass-line alone in "Evil Prevails", Big Daddy came to play that part with very interesting new accords, heh-hee. Also Domingo, our keyboard player, got his share - Big Daddy decided to learn play keys in the quiet intro of "Season's Change". That was cool. Erik gave him a bottle of Jack Daniels for it. Really great end for the tour!!!
Now let's play some stupid game in real Allo-stijl (Allo is a Flemish TV-dick). Choose between these two options, and explain us, as extended as possible, why you choose it.
FINLAND or HOLLAND ?
O- oo. What kind of a question is this? I like both countries and happily I can have the best of both worlds. I really adore Finland's Landscape and nature and I always go back in summertime. In winter it can be beautiful, but also very cold. Sometimes I hate the narrow-minded people down there, but I also have respect for their self-will and pride. In Holland I don't like the Landscape (if there is any), but I like the open-minded people, and in Amsterdam especially I like the culture and the atmosphere, where no-body bothers you. You don't see violence on the streets like in Finland sometimes. No-body cares about how you look like and you can do your own thing. But if I have to choose I would go for Finland, because my roots are there. I can be a metal ambassador of Finland in Holland, but I would never become a metal ambassador of Holland in Finland.
LP'S or CD'S ?
- I go for CDs. I like them because they are easier to handle and cheaper to send around. LPs I also like, because I think you get more for you money, but they are more for the purists among us. With my work with music I also go for the CDs, because I use a lot of samples and with LPs that's more difficult and complicated.
FINNISH VODKA or BELGIAN BEER ?
- I'm a beer-drinker and Belgium is definitely my favorite country when it comes to beer. If I drink spirits, I indeed prefer "Finlandia" vodka above other vodka's, because it's pure and you don't have to blend it. The taste is awesome! But like said, I go for the beer this time. I don't feel like being patriotic on this issue, it's a matter of taste. From Belgian beers I like Palm, Hoegaarden, Duvel and some "Trappisten" beers.
BRUEGHEL (the elder) or RUBENS ?
- Pieter Brueghel The Elder for me please. He was honest and did art not only for money, but also for his passion. I don't like Baroque, and that's why also not Rubens. I like artists, who had their feet on the ground and were closer to people. Brueghel had most of the time a moralistic warning in his village- scenes, but that was part of the art of that time; art had a meaning, usually religious. The allegorical or mythological work of Rubens doesn't say much to me and it's too colorful. Most of all I prefer Dutch 17th century artists, but Brueghel has a place here as a innovator...
ANCIENT RITES or DANSE MACABRE ? (oh! hard one hu!)
Well well. What do you suppose I would say? It's like choosing between your two sons. You don't do that. I feel very strong about both bands, but maybe for different reasons. Danse Macabre is for me a result of songwriting of many years back, maybe even back to the late eighties. In that way it will always be my first. But Ancient Rites is also my passion and I feel very strong about it. I've had probably my best days with this band, not to mention what there is to come. Danse Macabre stays as a very beautiful project, meanwhile Ancient Rites will grow to something bigger. I would not ever let anything to come between Ancient Rites and me and the other guys, not even Danse Macabre. So the choice is impossible, but obvious.
Back to more interesting stuff... For the musicians between our readers, let's discuss your equipment. I've noticed you use a Gibson Les Paul, not that common in extreme metal. Why did you choose that classic? Could you also be so kind to describe your full configuration in live situations (brand/type of the amplifier, effects, ...)?
- I've used Gibsons since 1989. I like the instrument, because it's heavy, you can play it very roughly and it suits to many different styles and places (and I play many different things). It's not the fastest guitar, but it's all-around. It has also a very typical sharp sound which I like very much. And of course it's a very high- quality guitar. It doesn't fail. Before that I played with Charvel model 5, which is one of the earliest (middle of the eighties), USA hardware, Kahler tremolo, but Japan made. I still have it and I use it sometimes for solo's and so on. Before that I had a Japanese Fender strat, but I never liked it. In 1990 we had a deal with Fernandez guitars and I used their flying V. That was heavy metal, man. I also had an American Randy Rhodes Jackson in the studio, which I also liked a lot (for ex. intro. of "Dying in the moment..."). But the best sound I can get out of the Les Paul. Matter of taste I suppose. I have two of them; a wine-red Gibson Les Paul Custom from 1975 and a black Gibson Les Paul Custom from 1993. I use both live. My gear is; Rocktron Pro G.A.P pre-amp, Rocktron Intelliflex - multieffect processor and Marshall 8008 power amp + Marshall cabinet. I control everything through midi- footswitch. For me this configuration works the best. I use to have Marshall JCM 900, but when I got into bands where I had to be able to play distortion, clean, melodies with different effects and other different things, I chose for Rocktron, which is my favorite of the guitar rack- systems. I don't use any extra pedals, except wah-wah sometimes. It's a quite compact and good working gear.
Is there any guitarplayer which has influenced you, or where you just have enormous respect for?
- Not really, of course I could name some great guitar players, but they haven't influenced my guitar playing, more my songwriting. A guy to whom I do have respect is Zakk Wylde, but then again I wouldn't like to do anything he does. He's just cool on stage and can play anything. From the very start of my playing I learned everything by myself and never played after other guitarists. I never read tabulators or that shit of other bands. I just listened to the music, played on the top of it or created my own songs.... Actually I'm not even so interested in that stuff; guitar is for me just a tool to express my feelings, not an specific instrument on it's own right. If I could express myself better with a bass or keys, I would do that...
Let's talk about everyday life now. I believe you are a Drs in Art-History right? This question might be weird, but what would YOU, personally define as "ART"? Where's the limit? Do you see your music as a form of "art"?
- Yes I got my degree of M.A. from the University lately. To my opinion there is no definition to art. What we consider as art now is a vision of this time. We think that art is something, which doesn't have precise function, but is art at his own right. But on the opposite we consider religious works from the 15th century as art, even though for those people it wasn't art but devotional pictures or sculpture. It's a creative process which counts. You can't force a creative process. When you talk about GREAT art, there can be some definitions to that, but how do we measure that. If the meaning of art is to wake emotions in people, it's great art when something like that happens. We can measure the skill of the artist or materials of an artwork, but if it doesn't do anything to us, is it still great art? And what do we take as art, does a piece of work become art when somebody with a great authority says it's great art, or do we consider it great art if it has a great value in money?. It's not easy and I don't think there are absolute answers. If people are touched by an artwork, I think that the purpose of an artwork is fulfilled and this can certainly go for a good piece of music.
What do you do when not making music? I believe you are also involved in the creation of an art-program on Dutch television right? Tell us all about this! And what about the gothic-parties?
- I sleep. No, seriously, I am involved in different projects on the art-field, but I don't have any steady job. I work on a freelance basis. I worked lately for a documentation- film for Dutch television about Rembrandt. My job was to take care of the set, like requisites and objects which were needed for this. I was a kind of "expert" who advised the director and the crew. I also did a small bit of acting on the background. It was very nice job and the film will be also released on a video and it will be sold in some Museums. I also have worked for redaction of an art-historical book about Rembrandt and some other short things like this. The Gothic party which I organize once a month in Amsterdam with some friends is called "The Cave Of Satyr". It's a dance evening with DJs, decoration and so on. No bands (even though I organize on 18.3 a party with two bands in another place and another city under the same name). I though it would be great to have an alternative to other parties in Amsterdam, which are quite big. At our place you can also talk, play pool and so on, but of course also dance. We've had the party now seven times and it's going fine. I think the reason is especially the fact that we have a nice location very close to the center. The other parties are on the industrial- buildings very far from the center.
How do you look upon the whole Internet-happening? - Are you satisfied with the work Lugbúrz has done so far with the AR&DM-NetCave? (Watch your words mr Yrlund hehehe:)
- Yes of course, it's great man!! I totally love internet! It has make my life a lot easier. One example about this direct, fast media we just saw on the tour; we were sitting in an internet cafe in Ljublana (Slovenia) and we checked our homepage out. To our surprise there were already photos from the second gig of the tour on-line! Great! Also there were a lot of comments about the gigs in the questbook etc. I love it. Nowadays I do everything through internet & e-mail; all booklet designs, all correspond etc. You can be very creative with internet, as we have seen from Lugbúrz!! (was this slimy enough??) [you did very well! hehe -B.]
This interview is almost comming to an end (finally), but before we close down... Can you tell us what's going next on the AR and DM agenda? Can we expect a video soon?
- We have lot of gigs with AR, something like 15 I suppose. We go back to Spain for two gigs and to Portugal for one gig. We play of course in Dynamo Open Air, which will be totally great. We will record a video-clip down there aswell. In June we go to check our wings in Columbia for couple of days. July and August we're free and after the summer we'll do a headline tour through Europe. With DM we try to hit the studio as soon as possible to get the CD out before autumn. That's about it, we're very busy as you can see...
Well that's about it, Örkki. Thanks for your immense patience and your effort of answering these dubious questions! haha! Is there anything left you wanna tell our readers, then say it now!
- Thank you Bram for this interview, it was my pleasure. Don't make any megagigathings like this anymore, it's too much (heh). Dubious or not, you at least know what you are talking about, that's cool. I wish all the luck to all the people who read this and special thanx to those who came to see us live & who have enjoyed "Fatherland". Keep The Black Flame Burning.
Interview by BrambioriX on behalf of Lugbúrz - March 1999