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Charon - A sin doesn’t have to be something from the Bible

Fans of Melody Metal can hardly ignore the Finns Charon who just released a new album. This extensive STALKER interview reveals where singer Juha-Pekka Leppäluoto finds inspiration, how he defines the concept of sin and what´s the point of sado-maso-merchandise ...

April the 7th, 2006, Friday afternoon I´ve arrived to the town of Nokia, a small-small place near Tampere, 2 hours of train ride from Helsinki. From the 1st sight - not a nice town: grey, smelly and very quiet (spooky)
Although it is April and supposedly spring already, it is still snowing in Finland, on that day also raining, which adds certain melancholic beauty to the set…as Finland is so famous for exactly this kind of metal sound, the soundtrack to your sweetest and most enjoyable depression…

As I´ve arrived early, I´ve had the chance to see the place… Cozy and small enough to make it very personal, yet spacious still to dance, with a small triangular stage in the far corner and a dance floor…

Quite clearly I´m nervous, so I´m glad the band´s late, giving me time to calm down and once again check the questions, organized accurately in logical order…

JP (or as he prefers to be referred to, as Jussi) came when I wasn´t expecting, very friendly and energetic, which immediately put me at rest, as well as did catch me off guard, so that I dropped all my well-organized questions and there went the order…

Please read patiently.

How do you feel now, after the tour was cancelled so suddenly? You´ve missed the southern Europe and also the Netherlands…
Yeah… but we´ll have another chance to go there. We´ve already started to sell new gigs, starting from… is it October?… (counts months)

In autumn?
In autumn we´ve a tour coming up, so we´ll fill in those places. We can´t really do anything about those cancellations, it´s up to the agencies to organize. As for us, we try to do every gig booked. This is actually the first time we´ve to cancel the show; we´ve never done this before. This was very new to us, but because we´ve so many gigs coming up within one year and now… and we´re unhappy of course about the situation, but it was because of the financial things and the transportation also, it was too damn difficult to get from Serbia to Italy, to Sardinia, to the island… 1600km by bus, very crazy! And we couldn´t have any money from anybody else, than the payment from the gigs. So it was like doing gigs in Finland and we had to think about all the expenses and stuff like that… I was working with the tour manager and I totally understand why we had to cancel those…

Were you already on tour when it got cancelled?
No, we cancelled it like 2 weeks before the actual tour, while we were still in Finland.

What was the influence for the new album´s title and the cover picture?
(laughs)… Two of the good questions, which are the hardest to answer… hm, I try :) (looks thoughtfully through the window, grey rainy street outside)…
Songs for the Sinners… how did we end up like that? ... ah, I don´t know, it´s pretty hard to answer… It´s like songs for the people that we feel are similar to the kind of people that we are… I don´t want to set any kind of limits to the word “sinner” or who isn´t, or something like that… cos every people are sinners, it just depends on how you handle the word “sin” in your own mind and… I don´t know, it´s just a title that make people think “Ok this is for me, I feel like a sinner…”

To what extent are you a sinner?
No no, it doesn´t matter! A sin doesn´t have to be something from the Bible! It´s a sin to have bad conscious about yourself or a sin can be something you feel occasionally…

And what about the cover picture?
Ahm… we had a difficult time with it. We were dealing with the cover artist Vesa Ranta and we were imagining what could be the most appropriate picture for the sin itself and we couldn´t find anything. Everything was so corny! Finding out about the sin has always to do with naked women (laughs) We tried to find something else, we didn´t want to romantize the thing too much and I just made one picture with my computer and I sent it to Vesa: “Could we do something like this?” and “Ok!”…

Fallen Angel kind of image…
Yeah, yeah! it´s kind of, it wasn´t my idea at first to put me on the cover, it was just like, ok, lets think something that is “sinner” and something with “angels” and something like that and we end it so: “Ok!” (laughs)

And talking about sins and corny stuff, you´ve a whole new lot of new merchandise: whips, cuffs, dog collars and such ...
Don´t mention about those, we HATE them! (says very passionately!) It is horrible! The worst merchandise we´ve ever made! Our bass player Teemu came up with the idea to make whips and stuff like that… we were “ok, if it sells…” it was our merchandise company who liked it also, so ok, let´s do it… and when we saw it at venues at the merchandise tables, we´re like: “what the fuck?! Nobody is going to buy that!” (laughs)

I totally agree! This doesn´t have to do anything with the band style, with the music…
Yeah, absolutely! And we were like “Let´s sell those and forget it”, because it´s not the way we want to go, it´s more simple what we want to do, it´s all bullshit - whips, handcuffs and the thongs! I don´t even like the fucking leather thongs, I understand it if guys are gonna use it, but …

Oh, don´t go there!
(laughs) No thanks!

Is it selling well actually?
NO! T-shirts and caps are selling ok, but not that shit! I hope that we´ll burn it someday! …does leather burn? (laughs)

Whom would you like to play with? As in support for you, or whom would you like to warm up for?
We´d like to play with Katatonia, it´s a great band! It would be a good package to do a show with them, two different bands…

Is it possible?
(with confidence) I think it´s possible! And of course bands like Kiss, or…

Guns´n´Roses are coming soon… [scheduled for Finland on 5.7-6.7.2006]
Nah, well if somebody sells us to that? ... . But in my imagination it´s much more possible to play with Katatonia or Type O Negative… I don´t know, is Type O even doing gigs anymore?

I haven´t heard for a very long time… weren´t they at Tuska or something a couple of years ago?
Yeah… they´ve kind of disappeared. This is pretty hard to that answer, because there´s no band I really like from the metal genre nowadays…

(surprised) Really?!
Yeah, because I don´t listen metal so much, I like to have something else, something opposite to what I´m doing… well, of course I do, I have to listen metal. I´m listening everyday… (sighs) in some ways, I prefer different kinds of music actually… I try to find influences from different ways… Nick Cave is doing pretty good melancholic stuff in a way, I like Nick Cave. I like Tori Amos, she´s doing melancholic music… and Kent, Swedish band, which is also doing surprisingly, also melancholic stuff (laughs) only because there´re Finnish guys in the band! I try to find the other ways to do this music, I don´t want to copy the metal bands, I try to bring in something else to this music… like we did for example on the songs “Air” or “House of the Silent”… something different…

If you´re into this depressive melancholic sound, does it make you such kind of person?
No, that´s again the opposite. I think I´m a positive person in my personal life, in the way I act, in the way I speak, the way I… ok, anyway, and… it´s just so, just one way to express myself, I don´t know any other way to express myself, of course the deeper feelings, ok… maybe it is not only about the feelings, it´s also the only thing that I know how to do it, like I don´t know the way how to do a positive pop music, or “summer” songs or stuff like that, that´s the only way I can do music, maybe it´s the reason… this is the only reason how I explain myself.

How do you write your songs? Do you first think the melody and then the lyrics, or first the lyrics?
It has been like we´ve done the music first and then I do the lyrics and then I do the vocal melodies. It goes like this: me, or Pasi [guitars] or nowadays Late [guitars], does the chords…

Who´s Late?!
Our new guitar player…

(surprised) You´ve a new one?!
Yes yes, we changed Jasse a few years ago, Latte´s been playing with us like a 3 years!

Ah, you mean Lauri?
Oh yeah, sorry I scared you: “yeah, we´ve changed Late already” (laughs) We call him “Late”. It´s a nickname from Lauri – “Late”. It is usually in Finland if somebody´s called Lauri, it´s Late. Like I´m called Juha-Pekka, it´s Jussi. That´s how my parents call me. Strange… Ok actually if somebody´s called Juha-Pekka, they´re called “JP”, the first two initials, but my mother wanted to call me Jussi! And everybody´s calling me Jussi.

Not JP?
No, not JP! When I was in school and the gymnasium teacher started to call me like JP and then everyone started to call me that and I hated it! I hate it!

Ok, no more JP then!
(laughs) Not anymore because I´m used to it.
…but anyway, so how do we compose the songs: it´s like we first play the guitars and we rehearse the songs without the vocals and then I start doing the melodies and doing the lyrics for the songs, that´s the way it goes… but now what I´ve done, like the 3 new songs, I´ve made it like with acoustic guitar and it was mainly I had the melody in my head and then I started to make the chords… and I tried another way to do the songs, let´s see if it works…. We like the way we´re working now …

So you´re already writing some new material?
Yes, because we´re going to release an EP in autumn…

When the European tour starts again?
Yes. Actually we´re touring the whole time, like for a year starting now. We´re doing a couple of weeks European tour at autumn…

Another question about songwriting: when you do the lyrics, do you do it in Finnish first or English?
English, it´s… I´d like to do in Finnish… ok, actually it´s quite difficult to do it in Finnish first, because the rhythm in a Finnish language is totally different kind to rhythm in English language and it´s so hard to… how do you say it? arrange it in English form, so that the melody would work the same way as in Finnish, because see, with the Finnish language you can do more consonants (does rattling rhythmic noise) the rhythm is… but in English it´s more like (sings ´a´ in a melodic way)… well, I´d like to try it.

What is your best inspiration for writing, when you´re sad and in love, or happy?
oh… I think there´s no such thing as ´inspiration´…

So you just write?
No, I… ok, I can´t just start writing things… well, maybe it is inspiration, because it comes when you don´t expect it, in places where you can´t get anything written down, and… I don´t know… it´s just… I think it´s about the moods, like it´s how we do compose the songs, like when I first hear the song, I get the moods and so it has it should be like this and the subjects and the lyrics should be like this, and I listen to it through and through and through… and… try get something to the paper, usually the final idea comes in the studio, the last album I got everything done before, was an unusual situation for me (laughs)… I don´t know, it just happens… I don´t know, I trust the inspiration and then the situation comes to me, when I have to hurry about things, there´s pressure enough, I need the pressure to get the inspiration, that´s my inspiration.

That way, what would you say is your best song, what are you most proud of?
“House of the Silent”.

Does it have special meaning for you?
Yeah, I like the lyrics, I like the way that I do it, it´s the… I´ve never done a song like that before, I´ve made a chords to the “House of the Silent” and Pasi made the background to the starting part of the “House of the Silent” and… I just I had the rhythm in my mind and I didn´t want to hear the song anymore, I knew the rhythm and then I started to write something to the paper and I got the whole story ready at the first moment and I had the idea to write about the things that happened in Finland couple of years ago, when people were driven to the situation that they have no other way to get up, than ending everything… and I didn´t understand it, how come people being in the situation that it´s the only choice?! There were headlines in the news that the family was killed by the husband and than the husband shot hiMarinaelf afterwards… and I was: “How could things like that happen???” and I started to think about it and couldn´t find the answer and then I came to the conclusion that I´d like to visit at a one such house where it happened. I got this strange idea what if only the walls had the words and then I started put it down to paper and it came out “House of the Silent”…

Did you actually visit such place?
No, no particular house, just imagining…
In 50s in Finland when people were coming back home from the war, the soldiers, most of them became alcoholic, most people were drug addicts and the whole system was messed up, and stuff like that happens, and I just wanted to know about the thing. I was doing a radio interview 5 years ago from a veteran who was fighting in Winter War between Finland and Russia. I was interviewing him for some 15 hours, it was a documentary I did for myself… I didn´t want to hear how many did he kill, whom did he kill… nothing like that, I just wanted to ask him about what did he feel…. It was strange!

What those people have been through…
Yes! I´m getting the shivers even thinking killing somebody and stuff like that inspired me to the “House of the Silent”, what was in people´s heads when something like that happens… Of course war is a different kind of situation, what people do to stay alive, but it´s twisted anyway… but what can we do?!? We´re just small people ...

But if you had the chance to kill one person in all history, from all times, who would that be?
Nobody! Not even Hitler! Because if somebody would´ve killed Hitler, we wouldn´t have learned anything…

But it would´ve saved a lot of people´s lives…
Yes, but…. How do I put it?,,, if it wouldn´t have happened then, it´d happen in our time, it´ll happen anyway.

So you believe in destiny, if something´s meant to be, it´ll happen anyway?
Yes, and I think world is…. ah, this sounds so ridiculous! ... maybe the human kind just has to face the horrible things that happened then. Of course everybody wants to kill Hitler, but something… something else would´ve happened instead of that. Well, if I really had to pick one, I´d kill Hitler. (laughs) but I really don´t want to kill anybody! Even Ismay, who designed Titanic, should´ve lived… it´s a small example of what happened in Holocaust, it´s like when Titanic sinked the whole ship industry went through a huge change, it went much better afterwards…

Obviously, it stimulates further development and research…
Exactly! Like there´s no ship unsinkable, or there´s no nation unkillable, or there´s no planet undestroybale… everything leads to somewhere… we just have to learn, we´re stupid creatures here.

At this point I thank him for the interview and his time, wish good luck for the evening´s show… We go downstairs, where the sound-check is in progress: guys seem to be in a very good mood, joking and fooling around on stage, Pasi doing the heavy-metal impression, headbanging, JP does the sexy dance…

It is really a pleasure to see musicians give out so much passion and soul on stage, so much energy… it´s truly unstoppable! The almost two-hour-concert felt just like one blink of an eye, both for me in the audience and for them on stage… JP/Jussi is a very charismatic and genuine person, who really cares for the quality of his work, and their own personality in the music: if this what underground is, then I hope Charon will never change!

Author: Marina Sidyakina, translation: Klaudia Weber, photos: Vesa Ranta
Date: 2006-05-17

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