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Shade Empire: (Ski)jump to the forefront

When Kuopio is mentioned, one association seems inevitable: this Ski jumping arena... But it´s not just sportsmen from this Finnish city who can raise attention. Shade Empire managed to do that with their new album “Zero Nexus”, entering the charts right in the top ranks. No wonder they were booked right away to appear this summer at Nummirock and Tuska festival. And it was Jalometalli-Winterfestival when STALKER met the band before their show, chatting not only about the Zero Nexus but also - right - Ski jumping...

Please introduce yourselves and the band members, what are your funny or annoying characteristics?
Juha:I´m Juha, the guitar player
Eero:I´m the bass player Eero
Juha:I think we are all quite funny guys, in a certain way, you know
Eero:In a certain aspect
Juha:And there are also some lazy bastards (laughs) Our singer likes to imitate a lot of different persons
Eero:He is very talented and should make a TV program with that

Would be interesting for the next band video (laughter)
Juha:That´s a good idea, actually

So who had the idea for the last video, “9 In 1”?
Juha:That idea came from Ari Reinikainen, who directed the video, and we also gave some pice to it, what kind of things could be done; in that way we developed it. We were shooting two videos in the same area, the next video will come out soon.
Eero:We are very happy with the result.

Your new CD entered the charts on place 15 right after release – was that a big surprise for you?
Eero:It wasn´t a surprise that it hit the charts, of course we hoped that it will be better than the last one, which was on place 25
Juha:We would have been satisfied if it had been just better than 25, and it was 10 better than the previous album Intoxicate O.S.
Eero:Of course we are very satisfied with that place



It seems that the style mix you have is very appealing to Finnish Metal fans. You call it “Hybrid Metal”, for me it´s very close to Black Metal, and also the vocals remind me of Dimmu Borgir´s Shagrath. Is this correct from your point of view?
Juha:Well, we heard that a lot, especially for the first album
Eero:We were compared to Dimmu Borgir
Juha:and the Hybrid Metal thing is what reporters called us, but I think it´s pretty close to express our music. It´s a mixture of a very large area of music, not only Metal music

Why did it happen, where does it come from?
Juha:It comes totally naturally, if a reporter has compared us to Dimmu Borgir we didn´t sit down and start thinking “we have to do something different than Dimmu”...
Eero:It totally just developed
Juha:Yeah
Eero:We´re getting, I think, further and further away from Black Metal.

So are your roots in Black Metal?
Juha:I don´t know, it´s like, if we had a different kind of singer, for example, it would not be such a Black Metal thing. We have never pout any boundaries to our music, we are like open minded to everything. When it sounds cool, we have to do it. That´s the main thing.

So this is the reason why you have this saxophone... (laughter)
Juha:It´s not that we have watched too many porno movies, that wasn´t the reason why we used the sax. It was just because of the cool sound. The idea was so perverted already, when we started to think about it, so we had to use it on the album also
Eero:The main point to our music, be it Hybrid Metal or whatever style, we are open minded for every crazy idea, just like this saxophone. If someone comes up with such an idea, it´s just worth trying
Juha:Yeah, and basically most of us still like Jazz or different kinds of music, you know. We don´t just listen to Metal. Actually that´s probably the least important thing what we listen to, I think

I understand that you ave a wide range of tastes, so do you all also have a different background, like other band projects? And as you´re Finns, how many side projects does every band member have?
Juha:Well, our drummer has another band, and our singer is in Ajattara (bass and backing vocals, the ed.)
Eero: For all the other guys Shade Empire is the only band

And you all are from Kuopio?
Juha and Eero:Yes

So what is it like? (laughs)
Juha:So you haven´t visited Kuopio yet? For fucks sake, such a long time in Finland and not visiting Kuopio???
Eero:The best place in Finland, and you haven´t visited it – WHY???
(laughter)

Weeeeell – I saw the ski jumping arena on TV, and perhaps I can learn some more from this new TV program “Paskareissu”... (transl. “shit-journey”, the host mocks TV travel programs, showing the weirdest, ugliest and most boring places in Finland, the ed.)
Juha:In Kuopio there´s a wide range of Metal bands, Turmion Kätilöt, Deathchain, and all those are quite well known in Finland already
Eero:I think there´s a pretty good spirit between us bands, we are all friends



In comparison to the scene in Helsinki, how is Kuopio? Are there many Metal bars, live clubs?
Juha:I know the scene in Helsinki only from what I read and what I heard, so I don´t know what to say... Henry´s Pub is quite a good place to perform in Kuopio
Eero:There should be more organizers in Kuopio, that´s the main reason why it´s not such a big gig place, like Tavastia or something
Juha:That scene thing, in fact, if we were in Helsinki it would be much easier to make contacts. You just start drinking with some guy in a bar, and that might be the owner of Spinefarm, BMG or something, and you become friends – that´s not a normal thing in Kuopio at all (laughter)

So you never felt tempted to do skijumping as kids?
Eero:I was doing skijumping practise as a kid, not jumping actually from the skijumping hill, but I joined a training session
Juha:The are where we are coming from, there is also a smaller hill, I have done some jumps there as a kid. Do you know Ari-Pekka Nikkola?

Yeah, a famous Finnish ski jumper... (he quit competing 10 years ago, the ed.)
Juha:He´s the Slovene head coach now, he´s actually my father´s working mate (laughter) I´ve met him many times...

How about Matti Nykänen (another former Finnish ski-jumping hero, nowadays a rather notorious media persona with a “career” including jail time, a porno movie and his own band project, the ed.)?
Eero:Matti won the World Championship of (skijumping) veterans this year!
Juha:Just saw this documentary about him on TV, it was like “Matti´s new rise”. It´s totally a shame... poor guy...
Eero:Nowadays... but he was a great ski jumper
Juha:Probably the best ski jumper ever, but still... you know

Just recently we discussed among friends that there´s nothing like a big celebrity fuzz going on in Finland, and we had to think really hard about a Finnish media celebrity, and the only person we came up with was...
(all together): ....Matti Nykänen (laughter)
Juha:I think the same thing
Eero:every week he is on some magazine cover
Juha:And the people who go to see Matti at gigs, they only go to see if Matti is drunk, if he sings badly...
Eero:usually he does playback
Juha:that ting still captures people´s interest
Eero:and his gigs are always full...
Juha:Yeah, it´s amazing – he sings so badly, not in tune
Eero:the music is crap
Juha:and still sold out places all the time... it´s amazing. That will happen only in Finland. Or in Germany (laughter)

Actually I´d know some examples from Austria, too.. I don´t want to talk about that now (laughter) I think every country has a similar phenomenon... just think of the Eurovision Song Contest...
Eero: Matti has not been at Eurovision...

Not YET!!! (laughter)
Juha:Yes, that would get him lots of fans in middle Europe. Would be better than Teräsbetoni
Eero:Or Lordi (laughter)
Juha:Just imagine MATTI being as successful as Lordi, winning the contest, touring all over the world...

OH NOOO! But apropos Eurovision contest – would YOU play there?
Juha& Eero:Nooooo!!!
Eero:It´s not for this kind of music...
Juha:But if somebody asked us – why not? We would definitely do it!



Perhaps back to the Zero Nexus album – which concept is behind it, what are the lyrics about, and who writes the lyrics?
Eero:Harju, our vocalist, writes the lyrics.
Juha:The main thing about the Zero Nexus is, there are nine people...
Eero:and they are doing their own tasks, without knowing each other and their stories are brought together in the Zero Nexus song, the final track, and the Zero Nexus opens.
Juha:Those nine people have the same goal, it´s like...
Eero:the end of the world
Juha:and open the Zero Nexus. But they don´t know that they are working on the same task, and they don´t know each other...

From the video you get the idea that it has to do something with the planets, there´s a planet chart or something....
Juha:Yeah, and the story will continue in the next video, and will open up more of the story and will be more... like... stylish than the first one.

So there´s a concept, and the songs tell a continuing story?
Eero:I think it´s not like that you could not listen to songs individually, each song tells a story, but in the last song they come together
Juha:Yeah, song 8 “Ecstasy Of Black Light” is the climax, the opening of the Zero Nexus, and the last one brings all together, like in flashbacks

What was the main reason to switch the label, from Italian Avantgarde to the Finnish Dynamic Arts?
Juha:Well, Dynamic Arts were already interested in our demo before we signed to Avantgarde, for the first album, and Avantgarde handled that very good, putting the album out – and basically that was it.
Eero:It is very hard to communicate, just by e-mail, waiting until they answer
Juha:Then Dynamic Arts were interested, they are more active in the underground. So the labels just discussed it, switched the papers – that was it.



Your plans in the near future?
Juha:We play at some festivals in Finland
Eero:A European tour would be great, too, I hope we can arrange that. We still don´t know the CD release date outside of Finland yet, that´s still negotiated

Finally, a crazy tour story, the worst gig that ever happened?
Eero:Tricky one
Juha:Actually we have not experienced such bad gigs yet – we are under a lucky star, let´s knock on wood (laughs)

You played at the PopKomm in Germany last year, something happening there, a culture clash?
Eero:Yeah, we got on the wrong bus, driving around like 3 hours, “where the hell are we?”
Juha:It was like a London Bus, and we were going in circles for hours (laughs)
Eero:We jumped on it at some station, we were trying to find our hotel
Juha:Our label manager was the one who caused all that
Eero:”I know where we are, I´ve been here before” (laughter)
Juha:Great words, yeah. “I know where we are going” (laughs), and we were also totally drunk, that was probably one of the reasons we got so lost... but the PopKomm was still a very good thing to experience, because it was funny for us. We are not such a big band yet, and then hearing that some guy from another part from Germany drove 600 km to see us, standing in the front row and singing along all the lyrics – that was a good thing to see.

Thank you for the interview!
Author: Klaudia Weber, transl. K. Gransalke, photos: Maria K., Shade Empire
Date: 2008-04-24

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