After re-forming the line up and the sound of the band once again, there was no need to ask why the new album is titled „Rise Of The Phoenix“ (see STALKER review). Yet there were naturally other questions coming up … and once again it was not so easy to get hold of band mastermind Tuomas Saukkonen, in between a dozen of interviews he was busy with that day...
Hey Tuomas, first once again congratulations, you made it a second time to be awarded "Finnish musician of the year". No wonder you thanked your loyal fan base in one teaser video – you have remarkable fans indeed (see drawing below). Do you receive more mail like this? And where did this one come from, the USA? Via e-mail, snail-mail?
Hey and Thanx! :)
I got the fan drawn picture from our European label Nuclear Blast, so not 100% sure about the origin of the picture. I get those kind of fan mails sometimes, but that one was really special :)
Another question raised by a teaser video - you say there that Rise of the Phoenix is going to be "more epic more faster more heavier" and that it makes beards grow really quickly - any complaints from female fans about that yet?
You mean females complaining about getting a beard? I have not received any comment so far, and would actually prefer if our music would focus the growth of the facial hair on men only.
The band had undergone some major changes that were already mentioned in a previous interview , but could you introduce the new members (Pyry Hanski, Bass, Joonas Kauppinen, drums) a bit more in detail this time?
The new members are Joonas Kauppinen on drums, who is actually waiting to have an knee surgery so we have a session drummer on board for the spring / summer. Joonas is an old friend of mine and I have been a fan of his playing for a long time. Bass player Pyry Hanski used to be my drum student and after many turns we ended up playing together in the live line-ups of RoutaSielu and Black Sun Aeon, so it was a very small step to include BTD also into our common "hobbies"
Again there is a very confusing situation for people visiting the website – with you and guitarist Juho Räihä there are 4 members, but only 3 dudes can be seen on the promo pics. Was it because of Joonas knee operation?
It was indeed the knee operation that will keep him out until the fall 2012 and then we check out the situation again with him
Will Joonas be able to return to the band? (Well, at least he didn´t explode – there is indeed a bit of Spinal Tap going on in your band)
He is still waiting to get to the operation, so we don´t know yet.
So how was the tour with Insomnium and MyGrain for you? It was sort-of baptism by fire for the new line-up, right after joining the band right away on a pretty big European tour... any funny or absurd stories you can tell us?
The tour went really well and was the best possible opportunity to test out the new line-up and the new songs. We included 4 songs from the new album on the set list and the awesome reactions from the audience really gave good boost when we came back home to continue the recordings and mixing of the new album. No big stories to tell about the tour. Tight schedules don´t leave much time for any legendary events.
Now to the new album - you mentioned in another interview that you felt trapped with the clean vocals - so how was songwriting this time without them? Easier? Faster? What was the most difficult task this time?
It was really easy and fast and this time there was nothing that I would describe as difficult. Because I was able to work without any limitations or boundaries, it was the easiest writing session so far with BTD. It was not just the clean vocals that was limiting me, but also the drumming and really needed to have faster and more varied drummer to be able to write more varied music.
How was working with the new crew in studio? All to your satisfaction?
No complains! I knew both guys really well as musicians, so there was no surprises waiting when we entered the studio. We also rehearsed well together and did demo recordings and pre-production tapes, so overall we were very well prepared
You´re a bit older than everybody else in the band - so how is the relationship, are you indeed the "Dad" - also on a more personal level, outside band business?
That role sits on my shoulders pretty heavily since I do most of the gig booking and management also, and because of being a straight edge I am the one to look after the others after the gigs :).
Can you describe a "typical day with BTD" (rehearsals, a gig)?
We rehearse very rarely because each member lives in different cities, so there is not much to tell about those. All the bands basically have pretty similar "typical days". Basic gig schedules with travelling, soundcheck, gig etc is always the same, so there is no typical BTD day.
Now to the lyrics - the phoenix topic is pretty obvious, but is there a connecting theme, what do we need to know about it? What are Pitch Black Universe or Throne of Ice about?
All lyrics are pretty personal by nature like they always have been, but there is a certain "victorious" theme because of the all the past difficulties we managed to overcome. PBU and TOC are both pretty direct personal statements which I not prefer to open up more detailed.
You gave a lot of interviews recently, so which question can´t you hear any more and really hate to answer?
Naturally there has been a lot of questions about the big changes in the music and in the line-up, but that is totally understandable and nothing to be hated about. It is part of the business to go thru a certain amount of repetitions during the interview session
What was the reaction from fans and press to the new album so far?
Very good. Of course there is people who were very much into the clean vocals and are now disappointed because of the absence of them, but at the same time there has been a lot of new fans appearing, who didn´t like the old and softer style. Overall the new album has received the best and biggest interest from the fans and the media so far.
Were you a bit worried how the new line-up/sound will be received?
Not at all. Of course I knew that there will be feedback for both good and bad, but that is not what one should think about while making decisions. There will be people who like and dislike what you do, no matter what it is that you are doing. The only thing to be worried about is that are you doing what you really want and are you enjoying it.
Juho You´re always so busy with a lot of projects and tasks - you´re not only a musician, but also producer, stage manager, video director/producer, you take care of merchandise, organize gigs and tours (mainly for your own bands, of course) – and no idea how far your weight lifting hobby goes... and then there´s your occasional gardening project... now putting all money issues aside, is there any "dream job" you would like to do still (your answer can refer to sth unrealistic, like space ship pilot)?
To be able to make a living by being a song writer. But that´s not a very realistic dream in these times.
Which job would you rather give up, if there´s a lack of time/strength/getting paid for it?
Everything else than music writing.
Would you agree writing a hit for Eurovision contest (I mean just WRITING it, not performing)? :D
I write music for myself and don´t see myself competing in Eurovision :). Maybe I could write for a few cool artists in future, but not to take part to any kind of competitions like that.
A propos contest - what is your opinion about all those contests on TV nowadays? Idols, Talent Suomi, now also Voice of Finland and even Show/cover bands compete... is it in your opinion really a tool to discover talent, a career starter, or just show-off for egomaniacs (both competitors and jurors)?
It is a well planned opportunity for the labels to seek "rough diamonds" to make money with. Of course it gives talented artists a good change to get known and have a career, but I admire songwriters who make their own career more than artists who make a living performing songs made by others = entertainers.
You have been in the Jury for newcomer acts in the past - so would you join a jury in competitions mentioned, if you get the chance?
We had talked before about your beginnings (drums+cooking pots) and that your first instrument was a guitar - but when did you first realize you want to be a musician? When and where was your first public appearance as musician – Kindergarten, playing triangle? Or with a school choir? Any funny stories you want to share?
When I started playing guitar in age 8 I right away started to write my own songs. I got my first band 8 years after that, so have always been more into writing music than being in a band or to be on the spotlight. More than anything I just want to play and make music. Could give away all the rest that comes along - gigs, tours etc etc
Final question - so if I´d ask once again, really really nicely+politely, would you reveal then what´s that thing in the center of the BTD band logo?
Hmm... allright... hypnosis? Voodoo? One day I´ll find out, somehow...
Thanks, Tuomas, for the interview, all the best and see you guys on tour!