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Swallow The Sun: Pulling the strings

Using the word "cheerful" in combination with Swallow The Sun seems a major contradiction, yet the guys from Jyväskylä have all reason to smile: A successful new album (”Hope”), a completed Europe-tour with Moonsorrow, many festival shows and a tour overseas coming up. So STALKER had to be quick catching STS guitarist and mastermind Juha Raivio right before the show at Nosturi, to talk about hopes - and underwear design...



Lot of things changed since last time we met, e.g. a new record company (Spinefarm), what else is new for you?
Well, a new album (laughs)...

Yeah, even two, because last time we met it was before the ”Ghosts Of Loss” release...
Really? I don´t know... new album, new label... lots of gigs and promotion, good reviews (laughs) - so basically nothing has changed (laughs even more)

You´re definitely much more busy now... What´s really funny is that, thinking about your lyrics and your image, the CD title ”Hope” rather refers to something being absent, but now it seems a lot of your hopes had been fulfilled with this album...
Yeah, that´s a good point... well, there is not much hope in that album (laughter) because the name for the album is our black humour again. You know, the whole thing started as a project, so there were no expectations, we have not been hoping anything. So everything that has come with the band is an extra, a plus, so it is better not to raise any hope, so then you don´t drop from so high...

So are your superstitious about that?
No, it´s the Finnish mentality that it´s better not to hope anything, then you won´t drop down.

Yeah, but i remember some time ago you were hoping to get a tour outside of Finland, and this became real – so how was it?
It was fantastic! Great! We toured with Moonsorrow and Debauchery from Germany. It was really well organised, the venues were big, in some places were lots of people, in other places not so many, but we didn´t have to play to empty halls. It was really great, great bus, great driver, great crew.

How did the chemistry work out between the bands, was there too much party going on?
No, no. It was pretty wild, but it was much easier than I thought, it was our first longer tour, we had a European mini-tour about a year ago, and that was much, much harder than this one, maybe the boys learned something from that (laughs). It was 19 gigs and one day off, so you had to concentrate on playing the gigs.

How was the audience, in Germany and Austria?
It was great, it was totally Moonsorrow´s headlining tour, and so the audience was mostly, like 80 %, this Pagan Viking people, and of course we are not the best band, playing Death-Doom to them... But we got lots of people on our side, people really liked our band. And at a few gigs there was like ”our” audience...



So there were people who knew your records...
Yeah, there always were people with Swallow The Sun T-Shirts, people knowing the lyrics and this kind of thing, so I think it was good that finally we got some chance to play... we have our third album out, and this was our first real tour, so at this point I think we should have done at least ten of these. Then we could talk about something (laughs). But, you know, we were with such a small label, that was the basic problem. There was not any money for having a tour, but now we have some money.

Yeah, and I just found out you will be on a US tour soon, so are you excited about that?
I don´t say anything. Let´s not raise our hopes because anything can happen... But that´s a really good start, too, with Katatonia, Scar Symmetry and Insomnium, so it´s a great line-up, too. Really a great thing.

Back to the Europe-tour and the audiences, did you notice any major differences in mentality or something?
I don´t know... it was basically Moonsorrow´s audience so they were a little bit like checking us out, I don´t know if they expected some sort of Folk-Viking thing from us, too. But there were differences in different countries... in Italy it was really bad (laughs). They would not care less about us. But hey, I think, in Italy there are real Vikings, just like in Finland (laughs). And then in Netherlands we played three gigs, it was a really great place, and also Germany... Well, it was like checking us out during the first three songs and then headbanging after that.

Well, in Germany there is much more of this typical Goth audience, which is mainly very young girls... I assume that was not quite the case with Moonsorrow?
I think there were more girls during our set (laughter) and then more ugly guys during Moonsorrow´s... that´s a good thing (even more laughter)

That means you sold a lot of your merchandise (laughs)?
Yes, those strings, like 10.000 of those and no shirts at all... NOOO! Well, we really sold some...



Never really got the point of this kind of merchandise... I mean, wearing a T-shirt or something is making promotion for your favorite band, but, I mean, underwear...?
It´s private promotion (laughs)

Very very private (laughter)
I think if you get a chance to take the jeans off ... (laughter) I am talking now as a man (laughter) and then you can see... (laughter) the LOGO, and what lies behind that (laughter)... I think this is the best promotion... I am not so sure about the boxers, though. (more laughter)

Yeah, have to check those out...
First thing, when we were designing those, I said ”we have to have really big SWALLOW in front of the boxer shorts and then in little letters THE SUN”, and for the strings I wanted ”Finnish Pussy Doom” (laughter). But the boys were like ”no, no we cannot do that, let´s not joke about that”, but I was ”What the fuck, it is a joke already, why can´t we put Finnish Pussy Doom and SWALLOW...”
I think people who listen to this kind of music have even more sense of humour than more those pop-oriented ones... I think girls would really want to have Swallow The Sun Pussy Doom strings... at least I would like to see one of those (laughs). I also made a suggestion to put each band member´s face - and then we see which one is the best seller (extreme laughter)...

Yes, nice idea, why don´t we have a STALKER readers´ poll to find out who of you would be the most popular... But maybe back to music. Mikko and Aleksi have contributed lyrics and songs already, so are other bandmembers now more involved in the songwriting process?
Well, there was one song from Aleksi, on the last album, too, and it is not so much about the songwriting but the lyrics... there were three lyrics from Mikko, four from me and one from Aleksi... but this time for this album I did all the demos at Jämsen`s (STS guitarist Markus Jämsen, the ed.) home with his computer, so the songs were already written, then I just brought them to rehearsals. For the first and second album I came with the songs to the rehearsal room and we started from the beginning, this time the boys heard all the songs before we went to rehearsals, it was much easier that way. So I think it was less writing together but more with the lyrics.



Do you plan to continue it that way, or did you maybe have time on tour for jamming?
We cannot jam in this band, it is impossible (laughs) we are too lazy to jam, I don´t know if we could do it. Everybody is playing at the same time, so ... I think it is going to be like this. There are already plans for the next album, it is not going to be the average STS album with 8 songs, 6 to 8 minutes, it is going to be a bit different, but I cannot say more at the moment...

Well, in my impression ”Ghosts of Loss” is by far your darkest album, would you agree?
Yes, it is definitely the most ”black” album, this is why I like it best. Many people think it is too grey and too slow, but that´s the thing why I like it so much. You know, there was more personal stuff on that one, so...

Yes, I noticed that note about your mother...
Yeah, yeah, there are lyrics about that also... I think it is the most emotional album, and really dark, this is why I like it. The new album is more audience-oriented, maybe (laughs)... there is one of our darkest songs on the new album, too, but basically ... well, the first album was much easier for the people to listen, and the new one is even more... what the fuck, I just say it - mainstream (laughter).

Well, I don´t really think ”mainstream” is the right definition...
We are mainstream in Death-Doom!

Oh nooo...
(laughs) Just kidding... but there is a little bit of truth here, I wanted on the new album – because it is much nicer to play – some a little bit faster songs. It is good to have a couple of slower songs in the set, because people like it, and it is fun to play. I think if you play really slow songs all the time, although if you really get into it, you fall into this really dark feeling in there, it gets boring pretty soon...

But good for the drummer ... he doesn´t have to play much... (laughter)
Yeah! Basically it is really hard for the drummer, to keep all tempi and rhythm, it´s really hard... thank god I am not the drummer.

Now I have the impression that Mikko feels more comfortable with singing clean parts, I remember that he was so shy... is he going to develop that a bit more?
He´s getting so much better with the clean vocals, so I really cannot tell about the future, if it is going to be only growls or ... I don´t think it will ever be just clean vocals, there might be more of it in the future, but the main thing will be growling... this is one of the good things about us (laughs).

About your video ”Don´t Fall Asleep”, filmed in Hotel Linna (in central Helsinki, it looks like a middle-age castle, the ed.), how did it work out, who had the idea?
The new album has this hotel theme that was the basic idea, and the movie ”Shining”. It was this company that did the video that came up with the idea, and we just came there and did our parts. It is a really strange video. But the good thing that nobody expected that kind of video from us.



Yes, I saw it on Finnish TV, oh, and I saw you with Timo Kotipelto, at Finnish MTV´s ”Headbanger´s Ball”!
(laughs) Oh yeah, that was funny, that was like a dream came true, I was a kid when I watched the old Headbanger´s Ball with this Vanessa, I had never thought of being at Headbanger´s Ball some day, even though it is only the Finnish one, but still... it was fun, still this old logo...

How was it like being in front of a camera? You seemed to feel a bit uncomfortable...
No, not at all, we did this other Finnish Metal Show ”Rautaryhmä” before that, me and Mikko were there, and it was live... and I got a fart cushion, and a little keyboard that makes animal noises, then we put a Mortiis nose on the interviewer... so I am not that camera-shy but maybe I looked like (laughs)

Well, this summer you are pretty busy, I guess there is hardly any festival you don´t play...
I am counting on a summer with like two or three weekends that are free, so talking about festivals... but hey, I am not complaining! The only thing I am complaining about is, that I also have to work my day-job in summer, too...

Ok, so I won´t steal more of precious your leisure time... last question, you have a story about your best or your worst gig, or something really absurd that happened to you, perhaps on this tour?
I don´t know, there are so many real bad stories from this tour (laughs), but the best gigs... the Tuska-shows have always been great, and Provinssi-Rock... I like more the big stages, most people think that our music is better to be played in a club, that´s true, too. Maybe I like the bigger stages because I have more space, not to move, but because there are so many people on stage (laughs). I have to think... it was not on this tour, because we had a real good bus, so there was not so much about pissing or throwing up inside the bus, but let´s put it like that, on our Finnish tour there was a lot of this kind of behaviour...

I am not sure if I really want to know the details...
On the Europe tour fun started when I found those string-bombs, those with two strings to pull, the bomb in the middle... the second I found them in a shop hell broke loose. They were everywhere, I had like 300 bombs there, it was in the guitars, in the personal stuff, everywhere, and explosions everywhere. We left the last one for the driver in the bus, on his refrigerator... so greetings to our German bus driver. I guess he really likes to find a bomb in his night liner (laughs) suprise, surprise!

Perhaps you better don´t do those bomb jokes in the States...
Yeah, yeah, no bomb jokes in the States, I can guarantee that, I don´t want to sit the next 30 years in some jail!

Thank you for the interview!



Author: Klaudia Weber, photos: Klaudia Weber, Swallow The Sun
Date: 2007-06-11

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