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Before The Dawn / Black Sun Aeon: Slave to the Rhythm

Crime scene: Nosturi, backstage.
People involved: a stressed, nervous and because of jumbled soundcheck timetables slightly grumpy band mastermind Tuomas Saukkonen, confronted with my hangover-ish, flue-ish and therefore equally grumpy self.
The result - a bloodbath???
Weeeell, read on and youīll find out...

Itīs not that easy to get hold of Tuomas, as heīs too busy with various bands - hence this "double feature" of both his best known (Before The Dawn) and his newest upcoming project (Black Sun Aeon - debut CD out end of March). By the way, the meeting took place when he stopped by in Helsinki with yet another of his bands, The Final Harvest, during their support tour with Napalm Death.

First, you still owe me the story how you and Lars (Eikind, BTD Bass player and clean vocalist, from Norway, the ed.) met...
Actually we met via Juho (Räihä, BTD guitarist and producer of last 3 albums, the ed.). The reason Lars moved to Finland was Jenni, his girlfriend at that time, not any more, sadly. And she played keyboards in the same band with Juho, and we recorded some demos in the same place, and Juho actually had the idea with Lars, I didnīt know Lars then, neither as a musician nor as a person.

So was it "love at first sight"?
Weeeell - not at first sight, I always need some time to really get to know somebody. So it didnīt go that fast. But we grew to be real good friends.

Youīve been playing at the Helsinki Metal Meeting (with Before The Dawn, the ed.) just recently, and you actually received a nomination for the "musician of the year" award, being on 4th place - was that a surprise for you?
Yeah, that was a real big surprise, I didnīt see it coming at all. I needed to check out from a couple of my friends if it was really me or Tuomo Saikkonen, the guitar player of Mokoma, our names sound quite similar... and thatīs so cool because itīs an award where FANS are giving their votes, itīs not about record sales, and I really didnīt expect to get so many votes by people.

Because of your clinic at HMM I know a bit more about Death Metal songwriting now - but how do you create the vocal lines for Before The Dawn? You play it with guitar first or...
Well, for my own vocal lines (= growls, the ed.) I do the rhythmic thing and then write the lyrics for it, and for Lars... I always do the rhythms for the vocals, for me itīs impossible to write anything down without the rhythm...

So Lars did his own stuff?
Yeah ...well... yes, under my supervision. I give him the basic ideas and the rhythm how his line should be sung, the rhythm of the vocals, the words, and then we go through with the melodies, and Iīm like this "I donīt like that yet, that is better, no, not that, go higher, go lower" - itīs like finding something. If I wrote all melodies just by myself I would just be repeating my own melody scale in there. So he is providing the pieces where we actually put the stuff together, and then itīs always something new what he is giving for that song and not just me doing the same thing that the guitars are already doing.

Was Lars more involved this time with "Soundscape Of Silence", in comparison with the previous album "Deadlight"?
No, actually not. For the previous three albums I had written all the lyrics at the studio, when the recordings are going, so... This time all the songs were done, with the composition input from the others - basically as weīve always done it... this is just the way we have...

As your SOS lyrics are so very dark again - do you always write in a bad mood?
Nnn-oooo ... but the fact is that I donīt write lyrics when Iīm in a good mood. Thereīs no point to write. For me itīs like "getting bad stuff out" - so why should I get bad stuff out when Iīm feeling good? That doesnīt make any sense. But I usually write music when Iīm happy, thatīs my thing with music, I cannot write when Iīm feeling bad... itīs just so crappy feeling bad, Iīm not excited about anything then, and then itīs hard to be excited about the music. Then again, for the lyrics... I donīt need to be in a bad mood, but I need to be in a certain mood. And then it comes really fast, I need one or two days for all the lyrics...

So how about the album title, itīs sort of a paradox - "Soundscape Of Silence"?
No itīs not a paradox, because itīs, the sound... (pause) Okay, perhaps there is a little paradox, as you mention it... but for me itīs so simple - I know what it means to me but I cannot explain it to anybody (pause) but then itīs like (even longer pause) HMMM...(pause, during which the journalist cannot help giggling) ...gimme a second... pretty funny, for me itīs now going back in time as we did the Black Sun Aeon album in between, so SOS is now an old album for me... (pause) OK letīs skip that (declarative:) ITīS A PARADOX, and I am probably the only one who knows the true meaning.

Another thing I was astonished about - to find out that your first instrument was a guitar, as because of this photo document I had expected you played drums first... So how many cooking pots did you destroy?
It was actually only this one time... I remember even still the moment when I was putting those drums together - and I donīt know why, it was the only incident of me playing drums... and then came the guitar, then I was like 15 or 16 when I had the first chance to try out drumming, and then I really got excited...

Quite funny to see something on Finnish TV, a quite similar photo of Timo Kotipelto as a kid, who also built a drum kit out of cooking pots... (laughter)
Yeah thatīs a pretty cool thing to do when youīre a kid, especially when youīre a boy

Apropos drums - the drummer situation with Before The Dawn is pretty much like Spinal Tap...

..so whoīs the new guy, whatīs the situation now?
The current drummer is Atte Palokangas from the band Agonizer, and that show at Danteīs (STALKER reported about it, the ed.) was his first gig with us. And then again, that is the thing - honestly Iīm not a better drummer than the previous one, but I DEMAND some kind of discipline and stuff, and maybe people think Iīm like a Nazi with our drummers - but it was always like... For example with the last one, who played 5 gigs with us, after that the band told me, and even the sound guy, "we are not going to continue with this one, sorry" and then I got announced that we need to find a new drummer, and then I announced to the drummer... The band needs a good drummer, especially with our kind of music, it has to be really grooving, otherwise everything sounds pretty ... baaad...

So the situation is that Atte is most likely to stay?

Ooooo-kay... one more thing about the "Dying Sun" video, I met this Blacksmith guy who can be seen there (Seppä Tervarauta, check out our Helsinki Metal Meeting report, the ed.).
Yeah, he is cool!

Whoīs idea was it actually?
It was the director, Nadi Hammouda. I wasnīt so happy with the result, though, but the idea was really cool.

Well, I think it looks pretty cool and something different to "the band in the rehearsal room"...
Yeah, but it should have been better, itīs still second grade. And basically, looking back now, I would have been much happier if we havenīt done this video. After "Deadsong" we should have upgraded ourselves, visually also, and now we downgraded ourselves. The idea is different but the result is something that is OK for Finnish TV but not OK at all for anywhere else. And we donīt have use for any of that stuff, we just lost money and time with that one...

Before I forget to ask - is it true you gave up gardening (see the previous STALKER interview, the ed.)?
No, Iīm actually planning to continue this summer. Things didnīt go too well with music, so I pretty much have no choice. I actually need now to cut the music down and get some "real job"... and that is not... nice, Iīm not too happy about that.

Now about your new project. Black Sun Aeon and the CD "Darkness Walks Beside Me": Listening to it I found it pretty close to Black Metal, but still - not really. So what would be your definition?
For me itīs also quite Black-Metal-ish, what I hear in the music. But then again I wanted to create a bit more, a bigger sound, have more "in-your-face" kind of thing, not like the typical Black Metal sound, something bigger, more massive, and then again some doomy things ...

Yeah, which makes it - AGAIN - pretty difficult to put a label on it; but thatīs not a bad thing, at least you cannot be accused of copying stuff....
Yeah, thatīs what I thought myself, also, that would have been the biggest risk, repeating myself in different bands...

So how about the different voices there (Mikko Heikkilä / Sinamore, Clean vocals; Dark vocals: Tomi Koivusaari / Amorphis, Ville Sorvali / Moonsorrow, Mynni Luukkainen / Sotajumala, the ed.), are they also different characters, different roles or something like that...
Nnnooo.... it does not actually carry any kind of story line, I just wanted to have different voices, because one guy is usually really good in one thing, but then again, here I had the luxury of putting different guys together doing their specialty.

You picked people - or when you wrote it, you had already particular people in mind?
No. It worked like - I recorded the songs, and then I started to think who to pick. You donīt know the result until you actually hear how it actually comes out, and then I started to think about the parts, who is doing what. I had a lot of choices, but I also wanted to have guys I respect and like, and enjoy their company, so it would not be ... like... this....

Yup I understand...
They had to be good guys also, that was another big issue....

... and lots of tattoos, piercings, no hair...
NO no no - actually Mikko has no piercings, no beard, long hair, same with Ville from Moonsorrow or Tomi from Amorphis - actually Mynni is the only one looking like that...

OK so how many people did you have to invite to get the job done?
Everybody said yes when I asked them, it was pretty easy.

How are you planning to put it live on stage - what would be your role?
I would be the drummer, and do some of the vocals, I already have a live line-up. Mynni is doing the dark vocals and maybe also some of the clean ones... there will be three vocalists, and two of them who can also play guitar, Mikko and Mynni, and me on drums. Both Mikko and Mynni can do growls and clean vocals, so I donīt think we have any problems with the variety of the vocals on the album and the gigs, we have three different growling and two different clean voices, so...

So are you going to use corpse-paint also?
No, itīs not THAT Black Metal. I wanted to have a kind of evil sound, but itīs not aimed at Black Metal... there are influences of Satyricon and Dissection, what I hear, but then again, Iīm not into that thing... or the Satan stuff...

But just imagining it, that would be sooo funny...
I actually had something in mind, something special... but nothing like corpse-paint anyway...

OK final question as I know youīre in a hurry... I wondered, what this thing of yours like "10 CDs before Iīm 30 years old" (see previous STALKER interview, the ed.) is about, WHY, do you have a bet going on or something?
No, nothing like that, and thatīs not going to happen, thatīs already clear. And Iīm not just doing albums, in order to get 10 CDs out. It just would have been a cool thing to do, but then again, also a 10-year anniversary album for Before The Dawn would have been a cool thing ... But if something is cool it doesnīt mean it has to be done...

Afterwards - bloodbath war & gore indeed took place,
luckily just on stage, in lyrical topics of Death Metal legends Napalm Death, special guest Misery Index and the Finnish Death Newcomers The Final Harvest (with Tuomas on drums). The best way for bloodbaths to happen anyway, I guess...


Author: Klaudia Weber, photos: Before The Dawn; BSA: Mike Sirén
Date: 2009-03-23

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