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May-day celebrations in Finland – and the hangovers afterwards - are hardcore in its full meaning! Therefore only the toughest and most devoted listeners came to On The Rocks Helsinki to enjoy the beautiful melancholy of Silentium. For STALKER the two original members Matti Aikio and Sami Boman, explain the history of the band, all the recent changes and the newest album.
Since 1996 the band has gone through major changes, in their lineup and music styles, as well as change of their record company to a smaller one – those Finns from Turku definitely like a challenge! Nonetheless, the spirit and beauty of Silentium remains content, and the band sees only more success ahead of them.
Back in time, when Silentium was just born, what was the basic idea of the new band? Matti: The basic concept was to play some kind of slower My Dying Bride type of music, there were two reasons for that: just to have some fun and have an opportunity to reserve some time from the local rehearsal room, just to get drunk again and to listen to some music and so on, but that went wrong. The first night there and we had already formed the band. That was an accident. The other guitarist Juha came into the band and during the first rehearsals we made two songs that were known already, so we just threw the old concept of cover-band out.
In Latin Silentium translates as ´silence´. Why did you choose such a name to play heavy metal music? Matti: And then the audience would tell us the whole time to shut up. (laughs) My Dying Bride was the one who introduced those Latin names. Well, one reason was my fingers accident (Matti is missing three fingers on his right hand) prior to that, and we needed slower low beat band, so I could learn to play bass guitar again without these fingers (thumb, index and middle fingers). Otherwise, the point was to get some rehearsal time to get drunk and play My Dying Bride covers. (laughs) Sami: The other reason was My Dying Bride´s album “The Angel and the Dark River” (1995) was just released and we were very much into it, and so we wanted to do something very similar…
They had a lot of influence on you, quite obviously… Matti: At that time, yes. The main idea was to have a violin in it and this female vocals came later on.
You can also see in your style that it changed quite noticeably from what you´ve started and what you play now. Sami: Right – we learned to play quicker!
How come you have so many other albums with Latin titles? Matti: Well, the name of the band is in Latin and I´m a history freak myself and Toni, our other guitar player as well. Sami: We didn´t do it on purpose, it just came from somewhere.
But the new album´s title isn´t in Latin, so what does it mean? Matti: It was my idea. It´s kind of an insider joke, every now and then I don´t know how to express myself in English language, I make up my own words, so there was “Sufferion” and now “Seducia”, basically few English words combined together (laughs), bad habit.
Well, this makes sense. Matti: Yes. The first time I´ve heard Riina sing, it was with another band, Paralax, and it sounded like it would be something like seducia, strong, but also sexy, or something, combined together.
What about the art-work for “Seducia”? Matti: The main idea was to have a beautiful woman, angel-like, but the background would be like paradise starting to wither or something…
It looks like Finnish landscape! Matti: Yeah, it´s not in the band who does it, and I actually think this came out better than my original idea. Sami: It was something we discussed with one of the record label guys, Markus, and we tried to think what comes to our minds from the word “Seducia” and it was some kind of seductive woman figure with some kind of twist in it, that something maybe wrong. Matti: I think the guy who made it had to listen to Frostnight a lot, because the main idea of that song, now that I´m thinking about it again, is that this is definitely a good image I had in mind, whilst writing the lyrics, some kind of beautiful woman or a memory of her, something wicked and you are kind of dead from the frost…
“We learned to play quicker!”
And on the whole, are you happy with the new album, how it came out? Both: YEAH!!! Matti: There are some things we´ll definitely do better next time, because it is Riina´s first album with us and she was a little bit shy Sami: She has done some studio work before, but not much. I am myself very satisfied with the album and with her voice, I think it just clicked, you know. Matti: The first time I´ve heard her on ready-made tape singing “Unbroken”, and lyrics of that song are very personal to me. I wrote it for myself to sing, but Sami convinced me, let´s try at least, and the first time I´ve heard her doing the song I almost peed in my pants, I didn´t know if I should cry or take a couple of beers, or probably both.
What other song on the album can you highlight? Matti: Empress Of The Dark… Sami: I think Empress Of The Dark! It´s something we haven´t done before, it´s so much faster than the usual Silentium songs. Matti: It´s much more upbeat and it´s a great gig-song Sami: It´s really dramatic and all those things Silentium is most known for, the strongest things in our music and the power, the passion of the music, I think they came together better than ever in Empress Of The Dark.
How do you compose your music, what inspires you to writing? Matti: My inspiration is history, literature, poetry Sami: This question is asked so often, and every time I´m trying to think about one thing which inspires me… and I couldn´t find any one thing. Mostly it´s all the music I´m listening to at the time, every single beat of music you hear influences you in some way and when you´re writing your own music, everything you´ve ever heard is with your at that moment and then subconsciously you take pieces here and there. Matti: I don´t think any kind of artist would create something totally of their own, they just suck up everything they´ve heard, seen, felt. Sami: And then they bring something of their own to that. Sometimes we get asked “have you tried making this or that kind of music” and I don´t think it´s possible. When an idea comes, it creates itself, you can´t make it something it´s not, it is what it is.
Do you listen to a lot of metal yourself? Sami: Yeah, very much! I´m listening to Opeth, it´s the band for me at the moment, but also Katatonia… the Norwegian bands like Dimmu Borgir or Arcturus, there are so many! Of course the old ones, Metallica is always classic… Matti: I was about 7-8 and my mother, she´s always been this huge metal fan, gave me first DIO solo album and Rainbow´s “Long Live Rock´n´Roll” and that was it for me, I was lost. At the moment I´m also into those Norwegian bands. Sami: Yeah, I´m trying to convert him!
What are Silentium´s lyrics about? Matti: I´m trying to avoid getting stuck in one idea, not very successfully! I´m stuck in three ideas now: one part is truly personal, you can obviously spot them out and one part is really this history that to me is kind of still-shot of something, a picture in my head, like Hangman´s Lullaby. I don´t know where I´ve seen it, a picture of French Revolution, where there is this high aristocratic couple, straight from the party with their masks on and buttoned shirts and so on, lying waiting for their guillotine and that´s the picture that I had in mind.
In “Frostnight” for example you are addressing to a specific girl, do you actually have a person in mind or is it more abstract? Matti: Doesn´t actually matter, it´s what you as a listener think about it who she is or it is.
How did change of the record company influence your work? Sami: It gave a lot of extra energy to the whole band. Matti: It gave a hell of a hangover too. Sami: At first it was a bit scary, Spinefarm is quite big label and we´ve changed to a smaller one, but then what convinced me was the success of Machine Men and that Dynamic Arts really pushed it forward, they took better care of us than Spinefarm did. From the new label we get so much more attention. Matti: The reason is that Spinefarm is sold to a huge foreign company and the people who are working for Spinefarm, they´re working for someone else, whereas at Dynamic Arts they´re working for themselves, around the clock if they need to and this makes a difference for us.
Do you have any videos planned, or have you so far made something already? Sami: There are negotiations about it and when we´ll get the funding, we´ll do it immediately. We´ve decided that if we do a video, it has to be a 100% perfect production… Matti: Or at least 50% (laughs)
You´ve worked with Tuomas from Nightwish, as your producer on the previous album, “Sufferion”. Did he have much influence on your work? Sami: Some, not so much in the compositions… Matti: But he changed some chords every now and then, if you listen to the song “Flame Still Burns”, you can definitely hear the three chords made by Tuomas. He just changed some small details every now and then, not much. Sami: He said that details make the music, so… Matti: And I think in studio his influence was big and I think in what we´ve learned then is still with us now in the new album. We´ve contacted Tuomas to ask if he produces again for us this time, but he´s too busy with his other album and everything, so wasn´t able to.
“What makes us – us?”
Because having such a strong personality working with you, it´s unavoidable to be influenced in a way that later you´ll be compared to his original band… Matti: Not with us, we´re too stubborn!
What is it then in your band, in Silentium, that gives it its own personality and character? Sami: This is a hard question to answer. You know that your music is always somehow unique, but what makes us – us?! Hm… maybe this is better asked of someone who listens to our music for a long time, but hasn´t been in the process where the music is born, when you´re doing it, you´re so close to it, you really can´t see. Matti: Among the Finnish bands it´s something to do with this melancholy, that´s our thing from the early days, from the covers of My Dying Bride. The main difference between Nightwish and Silentium is that we don´t use those happy chords, upbeats and guitar solos, major chords. We use those melancholic minor chords. Sami: The mixture is of many metal styles combined: there´s gothic, progressive, death, many styles.
And lastly, could you introduce the band, what is each member like? Sami: I´m Sami, I play keyboards and in my private life I´m a student of music at the university of Jyväskylä, I´m also the composer. Matti: I´m Matti, I´m… what the hell am I?! I´m the vocalist and the bass player, as well as I write the lyrics and I study history in Turku. My other job is helping handicapped people to keep the bread on the table. Music to be is the only breathing hole. Sami: Then Juha is the guitarist, funny small blonde guy from Tampere, he has his own kind of humor that no one else understands and he´s really talkative, all the time! Matti: When he starts to talk, he doesn´t even know himself how it´ll end Sami: Toni is the other guitarist is also the organizer in the band, takes care of the gigs and so on... Matti: We are not so organized, me and Sami especially, and Toni takes care of the web-pages, of the record company contacts, he´s the brain of the band. Then Jari (drums) and Riina (vocals) are the newest members from Helsinki, although Jari is also one of the founding members, but he had some personal problems, he couldn´t rehearse as much as we would´ve wanted, so we had to kick him out – he was pretty sad about it and very glad when we asked him back. Sami: Jari is a lieutenant in the Finnish army, so his beat is very soldier-like and we´ve to keep up with him! Matti: And Riina, the artist with a huge letter ´A´, she´s done theater and very much music and singing before; when she´s on stage she´s on her element, she´s gonna be a huge star one way or another, with Silentium or not. Sami: Her theatrical training combined with musical skills on stage make her great artist! Matti: She´s the toughest guy of us all.