Mat Davies was pretty impressed with the new Oddland album, entitled “The Treachery Of The Senses”. Singer/guitarist Sakari Ojanen and guitarist Jussi Poikonen were more than happy to provide their insights on the new album, the Suomi Metal Star Contest, various musical influences and much more.
First off, thanks for taking the time to talk to ThisIsNotAScene and many congratulations on the record- it’s something of a triumph. How pleased are you with how the record has turned out?
Sakari: Hi, Thanks for having us! We were very meticulous in every step of the process of making this record: composing, arranging recording, and mixing. We are all pretty self-critical in terms of playing and sounds, so we kind of feed off each other also.
Samu Oittinen (co-producer) at Fantom studios helped us capture the sounds we wanted and Dan Swanö (mixer) really helped us perfect them, but we had a clear vision of what we wanted to do all along. I can’t really say any corners were cut during the process, so in the end we were all very pleased with the outcome. It was a long road as some of the songs took over two years to find their final shape, but in the end we feel it was worth it.
You first came to prominence after winning the Suomi Metal Star competition in your home country, Finland. Tell us some more about that: how you decided to get involved, what the competition was like, how you felt on winning…
Getting involved was something that we really didn’t put that much thought into: we just spotted a link that featured the competition and signed in, without really expecting anything to come out of it, let alone winning the whole thing. After playing the show at the final we knew there was a chance of winning because of the reaction we had from the panel of judges, but to tell you the truth we were still very surprised Century Media chose us, as we felt we were the unlikely candidate to win all the way to the end.
These are exciting but also the most competitive times for being in the music business. How are you coping with the challenges?
We are not expecting to make a ton of money with this band. We are just hoping that we can get to the point in the future, where we can keep on making records and playing shows without suffering from it financially too much ourselves. To achieve that goal I think we have to work hard in the near future to get our name out there and our music into the ear of the public. But I guess it’s kind of easy also to forget what we are in this for in the end, which is creating music that gets us excited, feeding off each other musically, and going to places we couldn’t venture alone.
What advice would you give to new bands starting out in the business?
I guess, that the most obvious and best advice one can give is to focus on the music. You can have amazing logos, designs, websites, t-shirts, etc. but at the end of the day, you are only as good as the best song you can dish out. We just managed to finally manufacture our first ever official t-shirt, so I guess we may have followed this advice a little too carefully ourselves, hahahaha…
Your work, whilst having a clear vision, is highly collaborative: how does everyone play a part in bringing the vision to life? Can you talk us through the writing and recording process you go through?
We’re running a democracy which means that regardless of who has written a song or a part in it, everybody has an equal say in the process of composing and arranging a song. We aim at making songs that everybody is completely satisfied with. Sometimes it can be a pain in the ass, but in the end it can be rewarding, because you often have too move out of your comfort zone with trying new, unfamiliar things. I don’t think we’ve ever had someone compose a song that ended up was initially intended.
In regards of bringing ideas to the table, Ville and myself (Sakari) are the most active, but everybody definitely pitches in. Before the actual recording of this album we actually pre-recorded the whole thing so going into the studio we pretty much had everything planned. But as everybody who has ever recorded an album or a demo knows, getting that perfect technical performance isn’t always the easiest thing. We are very, very self-critical in the studio.
What bands and artists are influencing what you’re doing?
In general, we value artists that follow their own path regardless of what the public opinion is striving to create something truly fresh and exciting. Within the band, we’ve had discussions about the merits of artists such as Tom Waits, Daniel Gildenlöw, Guthrie Govan, Les Claypool, Allan Holdsworth, Devin Townsend, and Fredrik Thordendal to name a few.
What were the last records you bought/downloaded?
Sakari: I’ve really been digging the new Textures album “Dualism”. The singer has amazing range.
Jussi: Haha, I just bought our own album from the local supermarket. Always wanted to do that… Besides that, the mailman just brought in “Steps Ahead” by Steps Ahead. Next week I’m hoping to get the new Anathema album.
Joni: “Koloss” by Meshuggah & the legendary album “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull. Love them both!
What have been the high points and low points of being in the band so far?
Jussi: Getting to record and release a ‘proper’ album has felt like a distant dream for so long that the whole process of making this record has been one big high in some sense. One of the best moments for me was when I heard the first mixes from Dan Swanö, and knew that everything was coming together as we wanted.
As for the low points, making the record also involved some extremely frustrating moments – often I felt I was losing my mind in trying to perfect some minute detail which probably no one listening to the final album would notice anyway…
Sakari: Being able to record and release a proper record has definitely been high point for all of us. By proper record I mean an album, in which I am very satisfied with in both production and composing. I’m pretty certain we created something, I can look back at it with pride even as the years pass by.
For me the low points have probably been the times when we’ve really been struggling in composing a song and everything you come up with just doesn’t seem to cut it. I’m really glad our band has an open atmosphere in expressing our opinions and democratic process of writing songs, but it can be a bummer when you’re really struggling to see eye to eye.
What’s next on the horizon for the band?
In the immediate future, we’re having a record release party in our home town Turku on 16/5. Also, in the end of June we’ll be playing at the Tuska festival, which is one of the biggest metal events in Finland.
Besides gigs, we’re currently in the process of making our first video, which will be for the song “In the eyes of the mourning”. And of course we’re working on new songs and practising hard…
What are your touring plans for 2012?
We certainly hope to do a tour in Europe – outside Finland, that is – in late Summer or Fall 2012. In practice, this would probably be as a supporting act for some bigger band. We’ve had some discussions towards such a tour, but nothing’s confirmed yet.
When you’re not working on your music or band related matters, how do you relax?
Jussi: I get bummed if I don’t have a good book to read and good music to listen to. If I have those, I’m perfectly happy. Throw in an 80’s splatter film and some Ben&Jerry’s ice cream, and I’m good for a week!
Sakari: Me and Jussi share the love for Ben&Jerry’s, so that’s one thing that really soothes the spirit. We will probably be one of those bloated rockers when we hit 50 or something. Guitar laying on the tummy… For me, one of the most relaxing moments of the week, Is on Saturday/Sunday when you can just sit down, enjoy a nice cup of coffee and take your time in reading the newspaper.
If a ThisIsNotAScene reader only had time to listen to one of your songs, which one would you suggest was most representative of your work, and why?
Probably “Sewers” or “Ire”. They are both rather moody, harmonically and rhythmically complex pieces, which have a lot of dynamics and various musical elements. Although “Sewers” contains also elements which are not really representative of our work as a whole, such as female vocals and growling. We wanted these in this one song for the sake of narrative, to support the story told in the lyrics.
Tell us a secret that you haven’t told another journalist/webzine.
We recorded one bonus track for the album; it’s a really dark and moody acoustic version of “Still the Spirit Stays”. The arrangement is quite minimalistic and thus really different from the album version – we hope you get to hear it some day!