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Wolfheart

Last month we published an interview with Wolfheart’s mastermind Tuomas Saukkonen, done in the tour bus at the start of their EU tour with Insomnium and Barren Earth, where we revealed already any info about the third album of the band ‘Tyhjyys’. Now that we have thoroughly listened to the album and the silver disc will be released on the third of March, we can offer you some further questions and answers about the album. We had a debonair conversation by phone with the man who lodged all this previous projects and bands in the current outfit Wolfheart.

By: Vera | Archive under death metal / grindcore

Hi Tuomas, nice to talk to you again, now that you are back home after the tour. And… how did that tour continue for the rest after our conversation on the third day?
Really, really well. Eleven of the shows were sold out and in every venue there were huge audiences and also a huge crowd for us even though we were the opening act. So it was a really, really good tour for us in general. We saw that at the Biebob and it was the same at all the venues. It was amazing!

Didn’t you feel a kind of void then, when you came home in silence?
(laughs) In a way. You know, we were eighteen days together on tour and in the backstage with the same schedules. When you come home, there is no schedule, no sound-check, there is no stage. It always takes two or three days to get adjusted to normal life. It is quite a big contrast. Just because it was a fine tour. When you are on a bad tour – and believe me, I have been on those tours as well – then it is different. If you hadn’t really fun on the tour, then you are waiting to get home. When you are on a good tour and you are really enjoying yourself, it is like a small crisis when you go back home. You have to sit by your own, complete silence, nobody around you… it feels really weird when you get home.

But I see you can find solace in upcoming shows: there’s quite a few gigs coming in the next months already…
In March we have Finland and Spain, also Norway and Sweden in May with Insomnium again. It is getting really busy, also for the festivals in the Summer. At the moment we are talking with different agencies about a second tour in Europe for September/October/November. It is going to be a really busy year, which is a very good thing. I am happy!

Talking about the album, let us first focus on the title. What means ‘Tyhjyys’? Can you explain that?
Yes, I can. I am getting a lot of questions about that. The problem is that the translation for the word ‘Tyhjyys’ literally does not exist. It was clear from an early stage that I would use the word ‘Tyhjyys’ (pronounce tujuus – Vera) on the album, but I could not find any words in English to describe it well enough, because none of these words do translate it directly. There is an emotional mood throughout the word, like ‘Tyhjyys’ in general means more like a combination of isolation or complete void, or solitude, or emptiness. It means so much more than just one word in English for the Finnish people. So that is why I decided to have the Finnish word and explain it every time to people, rather than having an album title that does not really fit for the meaning.

That makes sense. As you said it is more multilayered, but fortunately not symphonic. Sometimes you hear a soaring keyboard in the back, but not overwhelming and that is what I like…
I was really careful that it should not be orchestral indeed, because I think none of those symphonic things would work for us, but with the guy who did it, Olli Savolainen, I was really clear that I wanted a kind of soundtrack alike mood, but not all the way. I wanted to highlight the mood of the songs, but not too clear or too dominant. The band in which he plays, Shade Empire is much more symphonic than we are. We stayed at his home for one night, playing the songs out there. It was not usual to share my music with someone, but I know the guy. He might be not so famous, but he is very good at that and we get along very well, which is the most important thing for me: that I like the person I am working with. I like that personal connection, not just somebody doing something, but basically working with strangers. That would feel a little bit odd to me.

The first song is called ‘Shores Of The Lake Simpele’. Where is Lake Simpele and what does it mean for you?
It is like the main or the biggest lake of my home village, where I grew up and I moved from the village when I was fifteen. On the shores of that lake, I was born and spending my whole childhood. The cool thing about this same song is: you hear a kind of Viking choir, like men shouting in the background… Those are actually my father and two of his brothers. And one of his brothers is my godfather also. They were born and raised in that village as well. So it was very cool to have them on the record. They had never been in a studio, they don’t listen to metal music, but it was like a family gathering in the studio. It is like our hometown song. This is a very small village, maybe five thousand people living there. It is near the Russian border in the Eastern Finland, surrounded by forests and lakes. As a child it was amazing to grow up there, but when you grow older, there’s not much options. When we were a teenager, it was a good thing that we moved out at that age, but it is a very important place for me. I lived in Kouvola for seven years. After Kouvola I went to Lahti and now I moved to Helsinki. Basically I move around quite much. For my works, it is easier for me to live in that city where most of my work is taking place. I moved around in Finland about eighteen times now. I do not grow roots that easily. This year in Helsinki, next year in another town, is totally okay for me. You should let your life take you to places. Maybe I will stay somewhere when I am older, if I want.

I think you are also a bit influenced by Finnish folk, due to the acoustic parts, maybe thanks to Mika, isn’t it?
Actually Finnish folk music is really cheerful. I don’t listen to that. I do appreciate Finnish folk, but actually it is very positive and cheerful, not that melancholic. Like Korpiklaani, they are taking influences from folk, really up-tempo, drinking songs and violins and stuff. That is closer to Finnish folk music. To me, I do not really see that in our music.

No, I rather meant Amorphis in the beginning…
Ah, yes and influences from other Finnish music I have as well, even from classical music, for instance from the most famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. There is lots of melancholy in his music. Most of the music in Finland has huge melancholy in it and I really want to express that kind of emotion with acoustic guitars and piano.

For me one of the highlights on the album is the title track. It is sung in Finnish and it is really almost doom-like…
It was designed for closing the album. I really wanted to have a slow and heavy song as the final song of the album and it is one of my favourites, not only because of the song, but I was really enjoying writing Finnish lyrics. It is much more challenging than in English. When you are singing in your own mother tongue, you need to mean all the words that you are singing. In English it would be easier to write not meaning-full lyrics, but free to interpretation. With English lyrics, you can put one sentence there that carries the rhythmical thing but does not carry the whole meaning of the song, but when you are writing in Finnish and understand each word when you are doing vocals, at least to my ears, it makes the vocals sound a bit different. They are more focused, a little bit sharper. There is a different attitude when doing vocals in your own language, because it is not just words on a paper. There is much stronger connection with the words.

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I heard that. You know what? I have written down: more passion in the growls…
Yes, exactly. Finnish language is really good when it comes to do growls, the rhythmic of the words is almost like clumsy, a bit pointy, it is not really fluent. We have really strong rhythmics, we have really strong consonance in the language, we have lots of double consonance and the words and the syllables inside the words are really easy to create the rhythmics for the vocals. An ideal language for growling, because you don’t need to highlight the consonance, it is already a really sharp language.

I have that feeling as well when they are doing growls in German instead of in English…
Exactly. I had that same idea in my mind just five seconds ago. The origin of the language is already strongly rhythmical, it will come out differently of course. Finnish language is quite round, especially when you are doing growls, when you don’t carry a melody. The vocals will actually highlight the rhythmical side, not the musical side. The consonance and the patterns with the syllables are basically your only tools. The stronger those are, the easier it is to make the growling vocals stand out and work.

Your music is now promoted as ‘winter metal’. Is winter really your favourite season?
Yes, it is. I do like Summer, but there’s actually two reasons. I like the contrast of winter. In Finland the winter is really beautiful. If you go on the countryside, it can be harsh. Like two days ago it was minus eighteen in Finland. That is really harsh, but it is beautiful. The colder it gets, the more beautiful it actually is outside. The other reason is that I am working, almost for twenty years, as a gardener and it means that I am super busy in Summer. All the Summer I am completely booked with work. When the winter comes, I can stop my work and focus only on the music. So I have this connection with winter and the music, because the winter is the time when I can just focus on being creative and just write music, write lyrics, produce albums, make music videos, whatever…

Ah that makes sense…
And during the summer I concentrate 100% on the gardening… I can divide it.

Well, I think working in nature can also free your mind…
That is completely true. I am not going to say I consider it completely as work, because there is so much about the work that I like. Still. I am not only doing it because I get money. I could do a lot of other things also, but I like working outside. It would almost be impossible for me to think I have to work inside. Like in a factory when I would not see the sun. Of course, when spending the Summer outside, I have a huge connection with nature and that is a big inspiration when I am writing music.

In addition to the winter, another fascination looms up in your works: the connection with wolves. Can you tell something more about that?
Well, I loved dogs since I was born. I was always raised with dogs around me as a kid. The wolf is really fascinating. The vision I have about wolves for Wolfheart is not completely correct, because what I see with Wolfheart is like a really lonely wolf, but they live in hordes. I have not the typical wolf in connection with Wolfheart, but in general it is a really fascinating animal. There are still wolves in Finland, but especially the reindeer farmers in the North, are not happy about the population of wolves.

Congratulations to Mika, because he is playing amazing solos on the album, in the sixth song ‘Call Of The Winter’ even with a slightly progressive touch…
He is my favourite solo guitar player of whole Finland and the solo in ‘The Flood’, the song of the second video, is one of the best solos I have ever heard. He is a really amazing guitar player. His solos make the songs actually bigger than they are.

Recently I heard that Finland wants to be totally smoke free around 2030. Is that true and what do you think about that?
I don’t even actually know about it. I don’t go to bars at all. I don’t go to places where people smoke. I don’t smoke myself. I am really neutral about it. I don’t mind if people are smoking in the same car I am driving, but then again… I am actually pretty neutral on that topic. I don’t know about that rule. The only thing I know was that Finland was one of the first countries to stop the smoking in the bars, but anything else I don’t know about. It sounds like it might be happening, because there is a lot of talk about smoking in public areas, even at the festivals. It sounds pretty accurate actually.

Is there something you want to share with us about you having new tattoos on your body?
(laughs) I haven’t got the time to have new tattoos for two years now, but I booked a lot more appointments for tattoos this Spring , so there’s going to be much more tattoos next Summer. I want much more of them, but I don’t need to rush. When you are young it feels like an urge, but when you get older, you don’t need to rush. Eventually I will run out of skin anyways. I should actually take it a little bit easier, otherwise it is going to be boring when I am passed forty and I don’t have any place for a tattoo anymore.

Some words about the artwork would be nice…
It was a guy from Greece who did it. I don’t know why, but all my graphical artists seem to come from far away. The previous guy I was using for Wolfheart, Black Sun Aeon and even for Before The Dawn, he was from South Africa and this guy is from Greece. I really like to work with people who see winter as a kind of exotic thing. If you hire a Finnish graphic designer, he sees winter every year. When you hire somebody who has never seen snow, the whole mystical image of winter stands out. Then they create a little bit deeper art, at least in my opinion. These are the best covers I ever had on my albums, I really like them. Definitely we are going to work with the same Greek guy in the future.

Let us occlude with your plans for the near future?
Well, we will do the shows in March and May, followed by the festivals, mainly in Germany, but pretty far from the border of Belgium or the Netherlands I have to admit. So the next time we are going to play in the neighbourhood will be in autumn and winter.

In the meantime we can enjoy the idiosyncratic winter metal of the marvelous new album ‘Tyhjyys’!

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