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Mors Principium Est

Already from the debut album ‘Inhumanity’ (2003) on, Finnish Mors Principium Est leaped to the eye with an inventive interpretation of melodic death metal in true Gothenburg style. Since 2007 the band has gone through some strenuous days from time to time when several members left, but since they have recruited the English guitarist Andy Gillion in 2011, the future looked bright again. That constant advance in popularity will surely continue, now that the new album ’Dawn Of The 5th Era’ appears to be such a stunner. We let founder member/vocalist Ville Viljanen and ‘saviour in need’ guitarist Andy Gillion do the talking about the most recent developments.

By: Vera | Archive under death metal / grindcore

Hello guys! As sequel to the interview we did two years ago, we like to publish this update interview now that the excellent fifth era is dawning. Let us start with something current: early December you will go to Japan. I hope I do not disturb the preparations… it is not the first time you will be playing there. So please come up with your Japanese adventures and what are the expectations now?
Andy: I sadly had to miss the last Japan shows because my best friend was getting married and for some reason he wanted me to be at the wedding! When this new tour was announced I was really excited to be able to do it and meet all our crazy Japanese fans. From what I hear we have quite an amazing fan-base out there so I can’t wait for an awesome tour.

Ville: Yeah, the first time we toured Japan was just awesome. We did not even know how strong our fan base really is in Japan. So, of course our expectations are quite high this time, especially this is our headliner tour.

That is a fine example of the upgrade of things after the release of ‘…And Death Said Live’ I think. Mors Principium Est was always missing on tours, but now you did more gigs, isn’t it? What can we see as reasons for this positive evolution?
Andy: I guess Ville can give you more info for the time before I joined the band. I think the release of ‘...ADSL’ really spawned a new opportunity for the band. This time around I think everyone was more prepared to tour and we were lucky to get such a great European tour with The Agonist and Threat Signal in 2013. It was a great experience and got the ball rolling again for MPE and I hope we can build on that exposure with the new album too. Not enough people know who we are and we need to change that. I think our music is really strong and unique, but that’s not enough in this music industry. It’s so difficult to be heard above the rest, no matter how good you are. In some ways I think we have been quite unlucky in that respect.

Ville: Well the honest and short answer to why we did not tour earlier is, all the tour offers we got during the first three albums, the label we were signed at the time did give us any tour support. One time the reason was that the tour was too expensive and then one time the reason was that the headlining band was not good enough. Oh yeah and one tour we missed out because we had five guys in the band and some one was looking for a band which would have four guys. Hah hah haa
So yeah, I would say we just had some bad luck and maybe the wrong people working on our gigs.
I really hope this time things would be different and we could tour our asses off.

2013 included some other exotic places to play, like Korea. How the hell can a band arrange gigs over there? What was this experience like for you? And the Summer was filled with the best festivals, that must have been ace as well…
Andy: Ah...Korea. That was special for me. They treated us like kings, it’s nothing like we deserve! We were asked by a promoter out there to play and they offered to pay for flights and hotel... so why wouldn’t you do it? If the offer is good enough, we will play anywhere. They really looked after us and I would love to go back – fond memories. Tonnes of beer, food and good company. I remember one kid came up to us and wanted us all to sign his iPhone. I was like... “dude, are you serious? We will ruin it!” But he was so happy he was in tears. That moment is one that I won’t forget. You start to almost believe you’re in a “real”, “famous” band and your music really means something to people.

Ville: I think we are supposed to be treated like kings, god damn it!! Hah hah But yeah, Korea was cool. First time I was in Korea, so that made it even more special. And yes, playing at Brutal Assault and Summerbreeze was just amazing.

Was there a European tour as well (I think so, with The Agonist). How do you look back at this adventure to be out on the road with other bands for a longer time?
Andy: It was a big thing for the band and we were really happy to do it. We made some good friends and gained a lot of experience from the tour. I look back at the tour and remember those good times, but also the bad. I had diarrhoea for seven days in a row (and I mean... literally shitting non-stop) and ended up leaving the venue and walking on my own for miles until I found a hospital in your fine country of Holland in fact! The worst thing was that the doctor did not really understand what I was trying to tell her, so I had to make hand movements and actions to show her what was wrong with me. Luckily I got some magic pills that sorted me out completely. Also, I have to add, that most of that tour was in countries that don’t have toilet seats! I think I’m going off topic a bit now.

Ville: Yeah, we were actually planning to buy our own toilet seat in Italy and carry it with us where ever we go, but then we realized that maybe that would not look so cool. Hah hah The Agonist tour was really cool. Met new cool people, made some new friends and played some awesome shows in some awesome countries. I love touring.

After replacing the guitar tandem for ‘…And Death Said Live’, unfortunately the New Zealand guy, Andhe Chandler has gone now. What happened?
Ville: Well, to make it short. It was time for Andhe to go back to New Zealand and he quit the band.

The French guy Kevin Verlay took his place. How did you get to know him and can you tell about his background?
Andy: Kevin filled in for me on the first Japan tour when I could not make it. He’s the brother of the promoter of that tour, so that’s how we came to know him. He did a great job, so when Andhe left he was the obvious choice.

Ville: And Kevin also filled in for Teemu on The Agonist tour.

No offence, but it is once again someone from far away, while Finland seems to us the epicentre of eager, motivated musicians hehe. Maybe I got that wrong, but how come you always end up with outlandish guitarists?
Andy: I guess Ville can answer this one. I was a fan of the band already and when Ville advertised that they would need new guitar players, I wrote a song and sent it to him as an audition. I never could have imagined that I would end up writing the next two albums for one of my favourite bands. I think for MPE it is more important to get the right players regardless of where they come from. So I guess the right players in Finland just did not show up and they had to put up with me.

Ville: Andy was the right person for the band. I don’t give a fuck where the player comes from, if he is a cool guy and writes music the way we need and plays the guitar like the devil himself.

You are from Pori, at the west coast in Finland on a large river estuary. Yet tell us a bit about the place where you reside. Does it have a metal scène? Any special features in general? Or is it quite rural?
Ville: Umm in Pori you have about 85 000 people living in. It is a weird town. I mean, the people who live in Pori are weird. The REAL Pori person does not speak to strangers, does not help anybody, do not look in the eyes, keeps his/hers distance, do not laugh or smile that much, especially when there’s someone around he/she does not know. So, to put it short, Pori is a great place to live in. hah hah About the metal scene: I really do not even know what is a metal scene. I mean, what does it mean? Of course there are people who listen to metal, but does that make it a “metal scene”? There is one bar where the “metal” people go, or at least used to go to. I don’t know, I really don’t hang out that much. I have a wife and two kids and I have a job, so…

Let us focus now on the writing process of the new album. Who are the main composers of the music and can you tell a bit more about that?
Andy: I write the music, Ville writes the lyrics. Sometimes I write some lyrics and sometimes Ville rearranges the music. It starts with me writing demos from my “studio” at home in England and I email them to Ville. He tells me what he likes and what he does not like, we argue for a while about how things should be and after about a year of hundreds of demos, we finally agree on something and an album is born! It’s not an ideal way to do things, but it works. It’s tough to do it like this and it takes a lot of time, but so far we have done two albums this way and although I want to kill myself throughout the process, we have always been happy with the end result. I’d love to get in a room and write music with the rest of the band, but when you’re living in separate countries it’s impossible to do so.

Who has written the lyrics and can you go deeper into some of the songs subject-wise?
Andy: Ville writes most of the lyrics but I helped out on this album. I’ll let him explain his process but I guess I can explain a couple of songs I wrote lyrics for. ’Monster In Me’ is about a man who is haunted by the people he has killed at war. He’s plagued by the thought of what he has done and struggles to come to terms with what he has become. ’God Has Fallen’ is about angels destroying the earth to avenge the death of God. All pretty standard stuff really.

Ville: I really do not want to explain my lyrics. I want people to understand them the way they do.
If they think some song is Satanic, that is cool. If they think some song is Christian/Jesus song, well that is cool too, but then they are wrong. Hah hah.

Teemu Heinola is not only co-writer and bassist, but also a master in recordings. Please tell us about the recording process this time?
Andy: Well, Teemu engineered the drums and vocals in his studio in Pori for the last two albums. He was not really involved in the writing process for either album though and due to time constraints I had to record the bass for the new album. Ville and Mikko smashed out their recordings in a matter of days in Teemu’s studio and I think it took about six weeks to record all the guitars and bass in my studio at home. We then took all our recordings to Sweden to be mixed and mastered by the legend that is Plec!

Ville: Yeah, Teemu has never written anything for MPE.

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But at a certain point the famous Thomas ‘Plec’ Johansson joins the creation and then it gets a Swedish touch. When does he join, what does he do and please tell about working with him?
Andy: He is the love of my life. Ville, Mikko and I flew to Plec’s studio after we had recorded our parts and then the fun begins. All the raw files are done by that point and there is no more recording necessary – we just work on getting the best guitar tones and drum sounds and get to work on the overall mix. Plec is an amazing guy to work with and we’re really happy with the results from the new album. The guy just knows what he’s doing and makes every effort to try and achieve what we want, no matter how stupid our ideas are.

Ville: What!!?? I thought he is the love of MY life! And you are the only one who flew. I and Mikko drove and took the ferry from Finland to Sweden and drove again. heh

I truly applaud that you keep the Gothenburg death metal tradition of the nineties alive! No bullshit with –core elements or stuff like that! What are you favourite albums from Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates and In Flames and why?
Andy: Personally I still love ‘Clayman’ and that was the album that really made an impact on me from In Flames. (Slaughter Of The Soul’ is of course an absolute classic too. As for “core” elements etc, I really try to avoid labelling or worrying about what style I am writing. I just write from the heart and make sure it sounds like MPE should sound. I’m sure there are a bunch of people out there that will hear a certain riff and say they don’t like just because it’s “too metalcore”, or “too whatever else”. I don’t care. If it moves you and you feel passionate about it, it’s usually a good piece of music regardless of genre.

Ville: Without a doubt ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’ from At The Gates!! From In Flames, I do not know.
I used to love ‘Jesters Race’, but maybe now it does not sound that good anymore. From Dark Tranquillity, well all the albums from ‘The Gallery’ to ‘Projector’.

And what do you think about the recent albums of these three bands? (so we are talking about ‘Construct’ (DT), ‘Siren Charms’ (IF) and ‘At War With Reality’ (ATG)
Andy: I personally did not like the direction In Flames took things with their latest few albums, but that’s just me. At The Gates returning is awesome. They seem to have carried on where they left off. As for Dark Tranquility, I will have to give that new album a listen and let you know!

Ville: I do not like the new In Flames. I lost interest in In Flames like almost ten years ago. I have not listened to ‘Construct’ or ‘At War With Reality’. At the moment I LOVE Ghost and the album ‘Infestissumam’!

Recently you finally had the opportunity to shoot your first video, namely for the song ‘Monster In Me’. When doing research for this interview, I found out you went to London for it. So I am thrilled to hear about this adventure…
Andy: You can ask my girlfriend all about it if you like! She had to get up at 3am, pick up the rest of the band from Heathrow Airport and then drive to a farm in the middle of nowhere for the shoot. It was the hottest day of the year, nothing to do there, not even a toilet, so she just had to sit in her car in the heat and wait all day until about 11pm when we finished shooting. It was one of the worst days of my life if I remember rightly. I drove a van with all the equipment from my home in Bristol to the location, which was about seven hours away. When we got to the farm there were thousands of these little lice dropping from the ceiling of the warehouse we filmed in and they were crawling everywhere. I just remember having to play the same song over and over again for about twelve hours. At the end of the day it was another seven hour drive home, but my girlfriend had to drop the guys back at Heathrow again, so she didn’t get back until about 4am. It wasn’t the nicest of experiences but we have a video to show for it now and it’s definitely something the band needed!

Ville: What Andy said. Hah hah

Previous album included some guest appearances. Are there guests with a special solo or another thing on this album?
Andy: Per Nilsson from Scar Symmetry was supposed to do a guest guitar solo on ‘Innocence Lost’ and I was so excited about working with him. Unfortunately he ran out of time to do it, so I had to quickly think up a solo for that song last minute – and it actually became one of my favourites on the album because I wanted to rival something that Per would have recorded himself had he been able to. It was a real shame he could not do it in the end but that’s life.

The artwork is done by a new guy for you, but a pretty well known one, so please, can you tell a bit more about Alexander and the artwork itself?
Andy: Ville chose him so I think he should talk about this.

Ville: Andy is not a fan of this artwork, but I don’t care. Hah hah I do not know Alexander personally, I only know him by the emails I have sent with him. He seems to be a cool guy and I really like his work, so that is the reason why I asked him to do the cover. I really like the cover he did, even though Andy maybe does not like it that much. Well, the cover has the same “death prophet” we had on the previous album cover. That is the only thing I told Alexander when he asked what we want, the rest is just something Alex did for one reason or another.

Teemu is also part of Depressed Mode. Aha I reviewed the two albums in the past! Do they still exist? Will they make another album?
Ville: To be totally honest, I really do not know and I really do not care. Hah hah. That is something only Teemu could answer, or maybe even he does not know the answer.

To occlude it would be nice to tell a bit more about my two favourite songs: the epic long final track ‘The Forsaken’ and the ultimate catchy ‘We Are The Sleep’, not coincidentally also a long track…
Andy: ‘The Forsaken’ is probably my favourite on the album and it took me the longest to write. I composed the piano section back in September 2012 (not long after we just returned from Plec’s studio having just mixed ...’ADSL’!) It took another year before I completed writing the track and it was the last song to be finished for ‘Dawn Of The 5th Era’. I knew it would always be a special track but I remember at one point thinking I would never be able to finish it because I couldn’t work out a way to go from that intro into a verse riff. I’m really happy with the way it turned out and I think it’s a great way to close the new album. ‘We Are The Sleep’ was never intended to be a “stand-out” song. I still am surprised when people say it’s their favourite. Sometimes that just happens when you write music and you’re never really sure how a song will be received. I based the intro guitar riff on the rhythm of the breakdown riff from ‘Pressure’ (from ‘The Unborn’ album). It had a really cool groove to it but instead of just chugging the E note over and over I gave it a melody and it became the basis for the song. The lead tapping section in this song is also one of my favourite moments on the album – one of those magical moments that just comes out of nowhere. I have no recollection of writing that lick. It just appeared one morning after a long night of maniacal concoctions!

What are the plans on touring or playing gigs? And what are the plans for the near future in general?
Andy: We hope to get out there and play to the people who’ve bought the new album for sure. Hopefully we can get a decent tour, but at the moment we don’t have anything confirmed to announce other than the Japan tour next week. I’m sure we will be on the road very soon to promote the new album and say thank you to the fans.

If you want to add something I did not cover, feel free to do it here…
Andy: I would just like to say thanks to anyone reading this who is supporting MPE. We’re doing our best to keep putting out albums and touring to keep this band alive and it is not possible without people buying our albums or coming to our shows. Also a big thank you to yourself, Vera, and Lords of Metal for representing us! It means a lot.

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