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Antagonist Zero: Hard work and good Luck

Formed in 2010, Antagonist Zero present now their debut “Doomed”, which has been released a couple of weeks ago. The band hailing from Porvoo describes their music as “Catatonic Metal”. In order to find out more, we talked with mastermind Ben Pakarinen, who is responsible for the guitars and growls, and second guitarist Juho Suokas before their gig at PRKL Club in Helsinki.

Hello, could you please introduce the band? How did everything begin? When was the band found and how did you meet each other?
Juho: Where should we start, what do you wanna know?

Ben: Well, I started and made these songs back in 2010 and I played raw demo versions of the songs to Juho. Juho liked them and he said” Ok, let’s start to jam these songs together!” So we just jammed and had fun and suddenly we had the whole band together.

And that all started in 2010?
Ben: Yeah!
Juho: I think we had descisions about forming a band back in 2009 already.
Ben: Yeah something like that, but Ville joined the band as the last person. He joined in 2011.
Juho: Just before we started gigging and recording the EP!

So were did you guys meet then? And how did the idea came up to form a band?
Ben:As I told you, I have made these songs and I couldn’t use the songs with my other bands Cavus or Coprolith, and when Juho heard them he was like “Ok!...”
Juho: Yeah, at that time we were working at the same place.
Ben: Yeah there we first met, of course!

You describe your music as “Catatonic Metal”, so what does that exactly mean? I kind of disagree after having heard your music. It has nothing to to with the actual meaning of the word.
Juho: Catatonic also includes the element of …how do you say... moments of enthusiasm and of course the thing that catatonic is known for of course, motion- and emotionless. But I think it incoparates pretty well the different kinds of elements of our music.
Ben: I agree!
Juho: Of course if you have seen us live we don’t look catatonic
Ben: No, it is totally different!
Juho: I think catatonic is the way how it looks for the outsider, but I think that more in the head of a catatonic person there might be all these things going on. I think it is a matter of perspective.
Ben: Let’s not go to deep! (laughs)

Today you have your record release party of “Doomed” here in Helsinki, it is your debut Album, what can people expect?
Juho: Really good songs. I guess!
Ben: Like one really big song. In my opinion.

So what makes you as a band unique why should people listen to your music?
Ben: (long pause) Well, in my opinion, we haven’t created something new, but still we have this…
Juho: Own sound!
Ben: Yeah own sound with all our elements, vocals etc.
Juho: Many reviewers pointed out that it is very hard to compare it just to one band, they have been naming all these different bands of different genres.

So how about the response so far? What did the critics say?
Juho: At least the EP got really good reviews, there haven’t been so many for the album yet.
Ben: I think they will start popping up as soon as we have the proper release done.

So the vocal part is shared between Ben and Ville, how do you handle the sharing of the parts? I’ve been in the same situation and we both always wanted to do the same parts. What do you do, go for a fight to sort out who is doing it, or is it less complicated in your band?
Ben: We don’t have that kind of issue. Because Ville does the clean vocals and I do the growls. In fact we don’t have any problems of that kind with the band, we really get along so well together.
Juho: Music-wise we haven’t had any arguments!

So you are basically a group of friends, I guess you have known each other for years then?
Ben: Yes!
Juho: For me I have only met those guys once I joined the band.
Ben: I have seen them a few times before this. (laughs)

When listening to your sound, it is easy to hear that the guitar gets the main attention, so obviously you are both really good guitar players, when did you start playing?
Ben: When I first started playing the guitar? Oh ha…Wait a second, it’s such a long time ago. But I have always teached myself. I never had a teacher.

Ben: Yeah
Juho: It’s the same for me! I just started playing.

Seems you Finnish guys have too much time during your teenage years for that kind of stuff… How do you have the patience for that? Like teaching yourself?
Juho: Well, if you start young enough you have that kind of enthusiasm for it..
Ben: And time..

So do you remember, about what age you’ve got your first guitar?
Ben: I think I was 12 or 13
Juho: I think I was 12, I was really heavily into Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Jimi Hendrix and I was like “Oh, fuck I wanna play guitar!”

Well, do you have other projects next to Antagonist Zero? I know about you, Ben, you mentioned them before, but what about you, Juho?
Juho: Well, for me nothing serious! I do a lot of recording at home, but nothing that is really... I don’t know…
Ben: You should do something, because that is really awesome.
Juho: I live in Joensuu, which is in Eastern Finland, and we have a rehearsal place there which we share with someone, and we just go and jam there, but nothing concrete so far.

So how do you rehearse together, if you live that far away?
Ben& Juho: *Laughter*
Ben: Not at all! That’s the funny thing, we don’t rehearse together so much.
Juho: We used to do that quite a lot and now its mainly just for shows. In the beginning we rehearsed and I’ve been living here for the summer. But now we have a show in Joensuu and you guys (points to Ben) come up there for a visit.
Ben: Yeah I think I have been there as a kid.

So you have a tour going on now?
Juho: Yeah, now we start promoting the album, we have shows in Finland, Baltics, Estonia, Russia in November and we have this British tour coming up in the beginning of next year. We have a few offers for Europe, but noting fixed yet. Let’s see…

You released your record through Violent Journey Records, how did you got that record deal?
Ben: The record deal thing is totally fucked up nowadays! With Violent Journey and especially with Vesa Ruokangas, I have done cooperation with him earlier so many times, so it was easy just to call Vesa and say ”Hey, I have this band.

So you had the contacts from your other bands?
Ben: Yeah.
Juho: And maybe we are just that good!

YES You Are!
Ben& Juho: Thank you (laughter)

You are hailing from Porvoo, which is about 50 km from Helsinki, do you think that Bands outside the capital area or outside of a bigger city in Finland have more problems to get opportunities to play, or is it about the same?
Juho: I’d say it depends how much work you put in it!
Ben: In my opinion it is just hard work and good Luck
Juho: It doesen’t matter much where you are from! Of course touring is difficult if you live far away because of the distances.

What do you think about the connections that are needed just to be able to play in a certain club?
Ben: It helps a lot!

So how do you get those connections when you are outside of the capital city where everybody helpful is situated?
Ben: Well, playing in other bands and write lots of e-mails and have lots of friends. And so on (laughs)

Ok the Metal scene in Porvoo might be not that big but could you tell our readers a few spots they should check out in Porvoo?
Ben& Juho:: Porvoo Heavy Metal Weekend.
Ben: That’s my own festival organized once a year, a two day festival. Usually in October. And this year from 26-27. There are 5 bands per night.

And where is it happening?
Ben: At Bar Soho! At that time it is the only place where you can have live shows in Porvoo, I think. At least Metal Club Scene.

Are there any other bars or clubs for Metal heads?
Juho: Not really, but they just renovated the Art Hall, which is a big venue to organize shows and so on. But I don’t know what going on there. Otherwise only the burning church (laughs) *

What do you think about the messed up contract situation, and do you think nowadays it’s still necessary to have a record deal?
Juho: If you have the time and the energy for it, you can do it yourself.
Ben: Of course you can manage lots of things by yourself, but I think the distribution is the main thing at the moment. We really need to have good channels to distribute the album. You can do the management and maybe the booking by yourself.
Juho:: Of course you can put your stuff online, but it is so hard, because there is so much going on.

What goals do you have as a band, what do you want to reach?
Ben& Juho:: Reach out for the stars!
Ben: To achieve the eternal night. No!! We just wanna make good music and let’s see what happens. Of course we love to do the live shows, it would be nice to do some European tour or something like that.
Juho: But of course time is limited and our resources too.

So the record will be released today. What are the plans for the rest of the year? Is there already a tour planned?
Ben: Promoting the album, do some shows
Juho: I think after that we discussed that we concentrate on new material.

Are you already writing new stuff, or how is it?
Ben: Well, we have Ideas. But not really composed stuff. Maybe there is also something special coming up we were thinking about, but I can’t say anything yet about it!

Ok, do you have some final words for the readers?
Ben& Juho:: Ähm..uhhhh!
Juho: Check out our new album, of course, and come to the shows, and if you are into this melancholic, moody, so beautiful - how do you say it??
Ben: I have no idea what you are talking about... (laughs) You where trying to say if the readers are into this athmospheric..

Great Music!
Ben: Yes! They should check us out!

Ok then! Thanks a lot! And all the best!
Ben& Juho:: Thank you!


* He refers to an incident when some drunk youngsters accidentally set the famous wooden church in Porvoo on fire; it burnt down completely but was recently rebuilt. The ed.
Author: Sandy Mahrer, photos: Band
Date: 2012-11-13

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