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Sinds begin 2013 kanaliseert Tuomas Saukkonen al zijn inspiratie in Wolfheart als enige band, terwijl de sympathieke muzikant ervoor tal van bands had (Before The Dawn, Black Sun Aeon, Dawn Of Solace…). Wolfheart is nu toe aan het vierde studioalbum ‘Constellation Of The Black Light’ en heeft inmiddels enkele belangrijke stappen voorwaarts gezet op het pad naar meer succes. Onze uitgebreide conversatie bij het uitkomen van elk nieuw album kunnen we stilaan traditie noemen, zo denkt ook Tuomas er over.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

Amazing to talk to you again, now that the new album ‘Constellation Of The Black Light’ is about to come out!
Yeah that is tradition (chuckles).

This one comes pretty fast after ‘Tyhjyys’, only one year ago it was released. How come?
I am very inspired. We got a new label, new management, new booking agency and things really started to move ahead and that gives a lot of motivation. Of course this brings less stress for me. They all took a part of the work out of my hands, so I could focus on the music. And the more you focus on the music, the more you write music. It has given an exciting big motivation boost, now that we have a lot of partners to work with and so much help. That is the main reason.

What are your reflections on the tour cycle for former album ‘Tyhjyys’? I think you toured a lot, we met on the tour with Insomnium for instance…
It was really good. During that tour cycle, we actually managed to get a new booking agency, the same booking agency Imsomnium has. They were watching us on tour, how things work and how we sell the merchandising and stuff, and supposed a contract. So, that tour cycle was actually the reason why things are moving forward and now it seems that busier times lie ahead of us. We are really happy about that.

Yeah! Finally! After all your bands!
(laughs) Exactly!

Are you still writing all the songs or are others involved in the meantime, since it is quite a stable line-up now?
On this album we have ideas from all of the guys, but I still ended up in doing 90% of the material. That was mainly because Mika had some time issues. He has to focus a little bit more on the family, which is of course natural and the way you should do it. We always supported him. But there is more cooperation between me and Lauri (Silvonen – bass – Vera) and even a song from our drummer Joonas is included on the album. The first riff of ‘Defender’ actually came from Joonas. So the other guys start to come up with ideas and that is always a benefit for the band. When everybody is giving their ideas, it will keep the music fresh. What I always like is that the guys come up with a kind of rough idea and I get to start from there. It is really easy to get used to these certain music patterns you always do. When you start from a complete different riff and mix and mood than when you would base yourself on your own ideas, it opens other perspectives. It is always a bit different, when the idea is not coming from you. I think it is really a good thing that there are coming more ideas from the other guys.

Yet you have the proper Wolfheart sound, we cannot deny that…
Yes, I think it would be impossible for me to sound different. It does not mean that I don’t try to develop myself. In the past I did that with Blask Sun Aeon for instance, now that I have found the sound of Wolfheart, I just try to polish it. I try to do it all within the realm of Wolfheart. But there is a certain sound that I really want my band to sound like.

You start the album with ‘Everlasting Fall’, a track with a length of more than ten minutes. I really love it, is there a certain reason you did it? Can you tell me about the birth of that song and why you chose it to open the album?
When I started to write the song, it already had the intro part. I had the acoustic guitars in my mind and then came the rest of the song. Initially it was the plan to divide that as two separate tracks. On the previous album we had this ‘Shores Of The Lake Simpele’ track, a short intro without vocals and then came ‘Boneyard’. The original way was to make it the same way, so we should have an intro song and the second song continues directly from there. But the more I was listening to it during the recordings and the mix and mastering, the more it started to sound like one whole piece of music. I just wanted them combined as a whole. The label and the management - what I really like about them, is that they gave me artistic freedom – but they said a bit worried to me that the ideal song on digital platforms, like iTunes and especially Spotify, should be a four or five minutes song. Then it is easy and catchy for the listeners and then there is me with my ten minutes song. But finally they understood it when I explained the album and fortunately in the end they were open to my ideas. If you listen to the album from the beginning till the end, I think it sounds really logical to have that song in the beginning. The songwriter and the band are always focused on the music and the art, while others are always thinking about making money with the music. If they don’t get the money, then I won’t have the money to make the videos. Well, it is a business and every business needs a certain amount of money to run. I understand their point of view, but when talking about artistic level, I think they should make a compromise in my direction and I should have the freedom to choose.

Then they should present ‘Valkyrie’ as single, that is rather catchy…
Yes, but the whole album is on Spotify. A good example of business is Swedish band Amaranthe. All their songs begin with a chorus, so you instantly know what the song is about. That’s the thing with Spotify, people don’t sit down and listen to music, they skip after one or two minutes to the next song. If they don’t like the first minutes, they go to another band. Yet I also think that in metal, there are different rules. Take the last Insomnium album as example: it was only one song. I used that album as example with the label when they were a little bit troubled about those digital platforms with my ten minutes track. Moonsorrow also released an EP with one song that was half an hour. So, metal fans listen differently.

I think you increased the symphonic layers a bit on this album?
Yes, that is true. We gave more freedom to that keyboard player who is in Shade Empire, Olli Savolainen. He did the orchestration on ‘Tyhjyys’ too and this cooperation worked really well, so I wanted to give him more freedom. The previous album was like testing how it would go and I learned a lot how he does things. For this new album, when I was writing the music, I was already thinking about his contribution, so I let some space for him in certain parts. I actually planned the writing process in a way that I knew he was going to be part of the songs in the end. The recordings went pretty much the same as the previous album. We used the same studio, same sound engineers. The only difference was that everything was super easy last time and everything was super difficult this time. Not the actual recordings or the playing, but we had so much problems with the schedules. It seemed as if every member of the band had a bad karma at the same time.

band image

Our drummer had to go to emergency back surgery, almost straight from the studio. There was a severe situation with the nerves. With another band member there was a sudden loss in the family, which led to severe rescheduling. But then again, that is completely understandable. Everybody had their own problems at the same time, when we were actually recording the album. We were constantly rescheduling, but luckily we were still able to make it in time. We already had a plan B with the management. They told me that if there was doubt in my mind, I would need to make a compromise with the music, just to hold the deadline for the label. Then they just are going to postpone the album, because they don’t want a bad product just because I was in a hurry. In the end we have made it in time and I do not have any doubt in my mind now.

Fortunately you don’t hear it on the album that you were under pressure!
I think it worked in our favour that we had so much troubles. Once you face so much troubles and you start to get a bit stressed with deadlines and schedules, then you just want to make sure that everything is done correctly. The more you start doing things twice or even three times, the more everything is done the best way possible. If everything goes super easy, then something might probably go on tape that you could do better. We had so much troubles that we actually were very cautious and critical about what we should put on tape. It was hard work, but when I look back at it now, I feel really, really good about it and I am really happy with the result

You are also very busy with the visual aspect now. We have already videos for ‘The Saw’ and ‘Breakwater’. Can you tell a bit more about that?
The first video we made for the song ‘Breakwater’ was going to be the main video for the album. Like the preproduction done for the song in the first place, it was early in the writing process, so I actually had plenty of time to start planning the video also. We already did a music video in Finnish Lapland and then we did one music video in northern Norway. So now I wanted to make an upgrade for both of those. Iceland seemed the best option to me. I really like that kind of ‘end of the world’ scenery. It looks really beautiful and unique with the black beaches and stuff like that. Me and my camera man who is doing videos with me since my first video for Before The Dawn, we spent four days in Iceland. We rented a car and we just drove back and forth all over the island. We saw a lot of cool locations and shot a lot of material in all the places. That was really cool. Of course we had a plan. We made a background checking, but then again, there was a lot of freedom. We left the hotel at five in the morning and came back late in the evening. Whenever we saw something cool, we stopped the car and went there, did some shooting, did some planning. It was also very spontaneous and we tried to see as much as possible of places in Iceland at the same time. For the other video I wanted a contrast with those beautiful sceneries. A contradiction on just one location. Here we have just one guy behind the table. First video is me gathering the parts from my weapon and the second video is my opponent building his own weapons. We are both getting ready for this kind of battle like thing. I did it in a bit epic way, he in a lot more violent way. There is going to be a third video as well. It is going to be like the grand finale, but I don’t want to spoil it by saying anything about it for now.

And you dive into that cold water!
That was horrible. It was only 2°! And I had to dive six times. The first time I was too fast for the camera man, then too slow. When you dive with your clothes on, it gets heavy and wet. What I noticed: when you dive near the waterfall, there is quite a strong current. The first time when I got up, I got a bit scary, because the clothes got super heavy. I had to do some actual swimming while I was diving to get there. The first time was really tricky and later it was freezing cold when I had to wait on the stones for the camera man, because he was checking the takes to give me some new instructions. Horrible! Fortunately it looks good in the video.

Soon you will be out on the road for touring again…
We have quite a heavy schedule for touring coming up, more than I was hoping for to be honest. We have the US tour and right after that in October and November the European tour. We have a small Finnish tour in December. Then we are going to have another tour already in January, at the moment, between interviews I am mailing about the tours for March and April which probably are going to happen, which is a really, really good thing. But it makes the schedules even more difficult when it comes to video productions. I cannot make videos if I am on the tour, so…

What can you tell us about the artwork?
The artwork is really heavily connected with the album title. It causes a lot of questions, because it is not obvious. It is quite cryptic, the whole album title, but ‘The Constellation Of The Black Light’, what it means to me is… it is like the inner darkness. You see your surrounding world in black light, you see the darkness where others see light. Same reality, but you see the darker dimension of it. That’s why we have the wolf skull with the deer antlers on the cover. It is almost like a demon of forests, but I don’t believe in demons. Well, not like a monster, but a ruler of forests and then there is the moon and the night sky. If you put Lapland in Google, then you find a lot of those postcard images of Finland with a lot of snow in the trees and you see the Northern light and winter skies and everything looks like Christmas winter landscapes. ‘Constellation Of The Black Light’ is the darker dimension of that. You are in the forest, but there is no snow. The trees are dead. In this really bleak and barren landscape. There is the moon and stars above, but there is no Northern light. It is the cold, black and dead dimension of this.

I am so glad that you will tour with Omnium Gatherum!
Yeah, that is going to be cool! I have known the guys for so many years! I was just talking to Markus, not so long ago, about the fact that Omnium Gatherum and Before The Dawn were releasing the first demos pretty much the same time. I actually organized myself the first Omnium Gatherum show that was out of their hometown. At least like seventeen years ago. Also, I think one of the first shows of Before The Dawn outside my hometown, was with Omnium Gatherum in their hometown. So our companion history goes back to a long time ago. So it is amazing, after all these years and all these albums that Markus and me have been doing, that we will tour together in Europe.

But first the American adventure. I wish you a very nice trip!
I am pretty sure that it will be cool. We did this two week tour in Canada in June. We went to North America, but not to the US, because the visa issues are really difficult. Now it has been easier, the label and the management have been helping. I will be really excited, because I never played any shows in the US before.

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