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Spiritus Mortis

Terwijl tal van Finse doom metal bands een redelijke bekendheid genieten – al gaat het hier voornamelijk over doom/death metal bands – opereert de oudste doom band uit het land van de duizend meren nog steeds diep in de underground. Spiritus Mortis heeft met 'The God Behind The God' echter een puik album afgeleverd dat wel wat meer wereldwijde herkenning verdient. Traditionele doom wordt afgewisseld met een aantal lekker vunzige rockers, zodat dit album alle monotonie uitsluit. Tijd om te praten met de gebroeders Teemu en Jussi Maijala die ooit de band oprichtten.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder doom metal

band imageAs the ultimate beginning of Spiritus Mortis goes way back to 1987, the band is hailed as the first doom metal band of Finland. Now your country has an opulence of fine doom-alike bands, but I guess it was not that simple to reach something in the eighties in Finland?
Teemu: No, there was no Internet at the time. And we were so goddamn lazy when it came down to the band, arranging gigs etc.

Jussi: You are right; heavy metal was only something like Iron Maiden for people those days, no-one had heard about doom metal, so people keep wondering "what do those boys play, it sounds strange, they play sooooo slow". The band itself was bit confused too. "Do we play avantgrande/fusionjazz with heavy touch?". Things started to get bit clearer when we heard Celtic Frost and Venom.

Which town/area in Finland are you from, can you tell a bit more about the place you live?
Teemu: Alavus, South-Botnia. The Texas of Finland. Little rural town, nice place to live. Lots of fields, lakes and woods. The bigger cities of the south are so far away.

Jussi; Nice place to grow up and live. Just yesterday (after great gig in Helsinki) I tell new fan facts about Spiritus Mortis; "how long you have played", "22 years", "where do you live" "in Etelä-Pohjanmaa", long wondering and doubting silence after my answers.

You recorded a large numbers of demos between 1990 and 2002. Did you also play live in that period?
Teemu: Yes, but not so much as we wanted. Like I wrote, we were so goddamn lazy. When Vesa Lampi joined at 2000, it was a massive boost so that at least I started to take Spiritus Mortis more seriously.

Jussi; And because in the early days it was truly difficult to communicate and contact right people without e-mail or internet.

First familiar item I meet is that you recorded a debut for Rage Of Achilles. Did it ever come out, since they stopped activities around 2004?
Teemu: Yes it did. Duncan (the head of Rage of Achilles) was and is a great guy but there was something in the air when they signed so many bands. It's easy to say now, but they should have concentrated on a few good bands.

Jussi; Next Autumn will be released double 12" version of our first album with some extra material like pictures about making of this album (selected of course with very bad taste) and with old demo, cover song and live song. And re-mastered! Next Spring Firebox will released deluxe version CD s/t with new album covers and bonus songs.

But I do know the album 'Fallen'. I remember it was released on Black Lotus. What were the feelings in the band around that time?
Teemu: Ok feelings. But Black Lotus Records folded also. Don't know what happened to them but it surely happened fast. Vesa was informed about Tuesday and next Monday the company was down. If I remember correctly they will continue as distributor, not record company anymore.

Jussi: Well, as they said in one not-so-classic-movie "shit happens". This kind of things could happen in "one man companies"

You toured twice with Reverend Bizarre and Minotauri – Friends of Hell part I & II. Can you tell as much as possible about these live experiences and being on the road?
Teemu: Great gigs and great "tours". It was a shame that we got to do so few gigs together but you know, so many members so there were too much to arrange the schedules. I got to mention belly dancing at the Turku gig, proof can be found on YouTube.

Jussi; Only sad thing was that we could do so few gigs. But great gigs! All different, but all great doom metal.

You had a lot of bad luck with labels. I can understand that vocalist Vesa had enough of the music business/struggle… there must have been times of low spirits…
Teemu: Yes. But as I have always said, since my life doesn't depend on making music, these things didn't trouble me too much. I was always confident that we make so great music that someone is willing to pay and release it. Vesa got fed up with music business when Black Lotus Records folded so we let him go.

Jussi; I am an old geezer and I do not give up so easy. Never retreat, never surrender.

Next chapter was a tour with a new singer Tomi Murtomäki, to celebrate your 20 years existence. Was that a fine trip?
Teemu: Great trip! Again, like I have always said, it was kind of therapy to me. New places, excellent gigs and nice people around me. And I almost felt like a rock star when we came to Karjaa and there was food waiting for us. Must have been first time in our career hehe.

Jussi: Little brother says it all! Little things make life so great. Tomi sings great and the band was in good shape. We make also Spiritus Mortis/Witchtiger split live cassette 'Burned Alive' from our Turku gig

Was he just a stand in to enjoy that tour or did something went wrong unexpectedly, since Tomi left quite soon after the tour?
Teemu: Tomi came in with two weeks notice and did a great job! He was in the band before Vesa, in the end on 1990s. At first he was just a stand in but we asked him if he wanted to continue as lead vocalist but he didn't want which is a kind of a shame because he is a great singer.

Jussi; Tomi wanted to make more his kind of music, not so brutal as Spiritus Mortis, more like Whitesnake and Deep Purple style music.

You are used to play the songs instrumentally, due to lack of vocalist. I guess they were recorded long before a vocalist came in sight again? What about this recording process?
Teemu: Bros Maijala and Sepi rehearsed and arranged songs on rehearsal studio, then we recorded a "demonDemo" with me singing shit to those places were we thought that verse or chorus or guitar solos should be. And this demo was then sent to Sami so he could do lyrics. There was some funny things because I didn't remember to mark all the guitar solos. So in 'The Rotting Trophy' there is guitar solo and vocals at the same time but this works just fine! We heard lyrics, vocals and melodies at the first time when Sami sang them on studio. And we were kinda wow!

Jussi; This "instrumentalism" gives band and songs also some experience and training; if you practice songs without vocals, you have to know what you are doing and when, you can not just listen "all right, Sami sings this, so now I have to play this part". Partly this album is kind of "the very best of SM". We "have to" take all those old good riffs and mix them with new ones. Maybe this gives also some extra flavor to our album. Making an album is more difficult and painful every time. Always more things to check, think, worry; what kind of sound in one place, is tuning perfect now. At first we have fear that this album is too short but things and songs went so right and next problem was that album was almost too long. Special in Curved Horizon Sami makes a great job. First I thought "we should drop this one from album", but I have to change my mind after I heard Sami`s vocals.

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Now you are signed at Firebox, the eminent doom label of Finland. But I guess – also in these days of crisis – the expectations of label support are quite low, isn't it? Everybody waits until times get better…
Teemu: Firebox has done a great job so far. As always even more money and adverts are ok but you should always keep financial realities in mind, you know small label and all.

Jussi; Fine gentlemen of the Firebox have done the great job. They are professionals.

You toured with Reverend Bizarre and a few years ago they stopped their activities. Now singer Sami has joined you. Did he help you out with recordings or is he a permanent member of the band now?
Teemu: Hopefully permanent, at least there have been talks about fourth album. Sami did all the lyrics and vocal melodies on 'The God Behind The God" and, by the way, did a great job. I've could have done lyrics but they have all told either WWII Me 323 cargo plane or anal sex hehe.

Jussi; Well… the best doom singer for the best doom band sounds fine (laughs).

There was a kind of mysterious aureole around his entrance in the band. Why?
Teemu: Just advertising trick hehe. We wanted to keep it secret as long as possible.

Jussi; This kind of little mystery fits good for doom.

You will play some gigs in Finland and there are plans for a European tour in autumn 2009. Can you tell a bit more about that?
Teemu: The more gigs the better. Jussi and Vesa Karppinen from Fall Of The Idols are doing great job with arranging the European tour. Tour takes two weeks and hopefully we can get gig for each day that we can afford our tour bus. Really looking forward to see new places! So far France, Germany, Holland and Czech Republic dates are confirmed but more coming soon.

Jussi; Next Autumn in October we and the Fall Of The Idols will play (hopefully) dozen of gigs in Central Europe cities and festivals like Lille, Brno, Hammer of Doom and Flag of Doom etc. I am waiting for those gigs. First major tour in Europe and European doomsters will see famous Finnish SM-show!

The record has groovy, kind of vintage rockers on one side and long doom epics on the other hand. Can you tell the readers why Spiritus Mortis holds on to a vintage approach, more traditional doom with pure heavy metal touch?
Teemu: It's something like we play what we ourselves like to hear. I like my music fast & heavy and slow & heavy so our music must be some kind of mix of those.

Jussi; Easy to explain; I like this kind of music; some faster rocking and some heavy dooming, fine mixture indeed. Your statement about SM "vintage approach, more traditional doom with pure
heavy metal touch" says all about Spiritus Mortis.

Guitar solos are quite old school I would say. Who/what are the influences of guitarists Jussi (founding member) and Kari (newcomer)? Do you complete each other or can we speak of different approaches that form a nice contrast in your view on guitar playing?
Jussi; Personally I do not like those modern "one-thousand-million-notes-in-second"-players and solos. Sometimes less is more. The most important thing is what you say, not how fast you say it. You
can compare it to lovemaking. Kari is more like Hendrix-Blackmore style man and I worship Tony Iommi as guitar god. I make monster riffs and Kari make great melodies. So we can say yes to both of your questions "Do you complete each other or can we speak of different approaches that form a nice contrast in your view on guitar playing?"

What are your feelings now with a kind of doom icon as front man in the band?
Teemu: Just great. Sami is a great singer, great artist and great person. Come to our gigs and see for yourself!

Jussi; As a German musician said after SM show about Sami "He is the “Performer".

I read the lyrics of 'Perpetual Motion'.
I won't stay middle of the road, I will go to extremes, I want to learn what it means to “really live”
Is this a kind of statement?

Jussi; Personally I see this statement of Heavy Metal; life is for living not just waiting for death. Do not understand this wrongly (as people usually do) and think "as much booze and chemicals as soon as possible". No, it is just waste of life, living your short life intoxicated and stupid

What is important in the lyrics of Spiritus Mortis?
Teemu: To me personally, they don't matter much. For me, you can sing about flowers as long as it sounds good. Having said this, I liked Sami's lyrics a lot, for example I like the story behind 'Curved Horizon'.

Jussi; I am happy that now we have more serious lyrics about life, religion etc.
But also I like the attitude of 'Man Of Steel';
"Ultimate in body and soul
Every cell hard as diamond
Every thought crystal clear
Unbending
Unbreakable
Forever going
Never stopping
Never surrendering
Extreme in brilliance and courage”

Why did you first release a 7” as taster for the album?
Teemu: It's old school, something for fans only. We wanted to make a cover of 'Waiting For The Sun' (The Doors) and didn't want it on an album.

Jussi; Always some new tricks.

What are the plans for the near future?
Teemu: More gigs, more albums sold and pussy for Teemu!

Jussi; Teemu makes that statement about "vertical smile" every time hehe. More gigs and funny tricks sounds fine to me.

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