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Swallow The Sun

Nadat in 2015 het imposante drieluik `Songs From The North I, II & III` uitkwam is er veel gebeurd in het leven van de muzikanten van de Finse doom/death metal band Swallow The Sun. Natuurlijk had het verlies van Juha Raivio`s geliefde Aleah Stanbridge ook een langdurige invloed op de activiteiten van de band. Toch is er nu opeens nieuw werk in de vorm van maar liefst twee releases: eind december kwam de EP `Lumina Aurea` uit, onlangs gevolgd door het full length album `When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light`. Het is goed te begrijpen dat Juha niet, zoals steeds, de interviews doet en dus ondernamen we een poging met zanger Mikko Kotamaki, al kennen we hem als een man van weinig woorden. Wel, de muziek zegt meer dan woorden in dit geval.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder doom metal

Hi Mikko, how are you doing?
Well, it is Monday. Recovering from the weekend a bit (chuckles).

I am glad that we finally have a new album of Swallow The Sun, but this time it is sad as well, since the album happens to be a catharsis of the things Juha went through, isn`t it?
Yes, that`s right.

Wasn`t it difficult to do the vocals and replace yourself in his state of mind?
No, not really. It has been two and a half years since that shit happened. You have to get used to it. It was actually quite therapeutic, this album. It was finally fun to do it.

It was strange to look back at `Songs From The North I, II & III` since it was all about old forests and now we have a human theme, with Juha returning to Jyvaskyla.
Juha is still living in Sweden, not in Jyvaskyla. I think the info sheet is wrong.

Are you still in close contact with Juha then?
Well, we are all Finnish, so we don`t talk a lot. Emails here and there (chuckles).

I was already afraid that I had to talk to you, because I know you as a friendly, yet introvert person, so please be a bit talkative!
Now I kind of have to.

What is your personal interpretation of the title `When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light`?
I think the title tells the story in itself. That`s how it is.

I found out that the songs were written in a three weeks period, pretty fast.
Yeah, it did not take long.

When were you involved into the process of making this album?
I wrote one lyric for the album, it is the sixth song `Clouds On Your Side`. When I talked to Juha, he asked me to write something. He said: `don`t write something suicidal, or things like that.` Well, I wrote it for him actually.

It must have been hard to see him in such pain and struggle.
Yes of course. We have known each other for almost twenty years. A very strong bond.

Why did keyboardist Aleksi Munter leave the band?
It is not always easy. Some people want to move forward in their lives. It is not always easy being in a band and being on tour.

Indeed, I remember that he was there with you on gigs and some gigs not, always, because he was doing other musician things as well, isn`t it?
No, he has a hectic job in what he is doing for a living and he was always working when we did tours as well.

And Marco, the guitar player left as well. What happened to him?
Yes. Basically the same thing. He did not want to do it anymore and he had some problems with his ears. Continuing might even destroy his hearing. So he quit. He is not very young anymore, 45 years old. Juha is the oldest now.

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You have a new guitarist now, Juho Raiha. Wasn`t he your manager in the past?
No, after `Songs From The North` came out and we did all the tours, he was actually replacing Juha.
So he had already played with us for almost two years. When Markus left, it was pretty obvious that he would be the replacement.

The new keyboard player Jaani Peuhu seems to have a different approach. I hear a lot of Mellotron for instance.
Yes, he has no metal background, so there are many new elements in his playing. It is all about the legacy we have from the sixties and seventies. Things were better then.

Indeed, I totally agree. But you still like to live in Finland?
Not really. It is kind of shit here. Sometimes it is too fucking cold, simple as that.

Are there places you instantly loved when coming over there with the band?
Yes, I traveled quite a lot and liked some places. Hong Kong and Japan are on the top of my list.

Any places on your wish list to come in the near future?
Maybe Australia, I would like to go there, we have never been there with Swallow The Sun.

There is also a huge contrast on the record. You sing more than ever with clean vocals, but the harsh vocals are really going to the bone.
Yeah, there is a lot more contrast this time.

Weren`t you afraid to give such personal, delicate material in the hands of an extern producer, Jens Bogren, for mix and mastering?
No, he is very professional, so we trusted him. Juha is pretty close to him, they live close to each other. It is a cooperation from our company, they have the power and money to do so.

In addition to the album release, there is also an EP `Lumina Aurea` coming out late December. What can you tell about that?
Well, it is pretty heavy. It is too much for me. I haven`t listened to it once after the recordings. It features guest appearances of Einar Selvik of Wardruna and Marco from The Foreshadowing. It does not fit the album, because it is so different.

You also did guest vocals on the new album of The Eternal. Amazing!
Yes, they are old friends. First time I met the guys was maybe 2004.

What do you think of Pink Floyd?
Actually, never been a big fan, to be honest.

What are your favorite bands then?
My favorite bands are Genesis, Queen, Type O`Negative. Old Black Sabbath. The Doors. There is nothing better.

What was your first concert?
Pff, I even don`t remember.

Then it must not have been impressive.
Well, gigs happen every day in a week, after that I went to work in the venue, so there were so many gigs that I even don`t remember anymore. Yes, but this was before I moved to Helsinki. I was born in Jyvaskyla..

The artwork is done by two different persons, can you tell a bit more about it?
It was Juha`s vision and I can`t tell so much about it.

What are the plans for the near future and tour plans?
Everything starts in February. First we go to Finland and it is not announced yet, but then we go to North America and Europe and then the Summer festivals.

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