As this Finnish band has impressed STALKER many times with their intense performances – like for example recently on the Babel-tour – it was high time to investigate this act a bit further. Luckily singer Wille found time in his busy live schedule not only to tell us more about the band…. the story that unravels includes disease, depression, moral hangovers, regrets, pink fur coats – and Wille also has a good explanation why you just have to suck sometimes.
First question is natural: How was the tour?
This tour has been such a great opportunity for us to live, to learn and to actualize the experience of the dream we can call a rock band. We were talking in a car one day on the road that these bands on Babel-tour, every one of them at their own scene, can be and are probably the next big thing, you know. This tour was historical.
How is the chemistry between the bands, as travelling can be a bit straining sometimes… how do you travel (one big bus or many individual cars)? What is the most annoying thing about touring, what the most fun (besides being on stage)?
Magnificent people as well as the bands. The chemistry was like a spring you know… flowers starts to bloom after such a long dark night. Travelling at this point weren’t even near straining or stressful. I must say that for us it was nothing else than a huge opportunity to live and to learn from these people.
Basically each band travelled alone as a team on the road and then we grouped in a place where whenever our next performance were about to take place. Load in, sound check, waiting to get on the stage, gig, pack your gears, remember to party at some point, wake up next morning, late breakfast and on the road again… When there are as many as four bands on a tour at the same time there needs to be some sort of order in a chaos. There is such huge load of different kind of gear, short timing to go to the stage, small places that there is a must to be flexible. I truly can say that it doesn´t happen very often that everything goes so smoothly. I´m truly proud of everyone who took part of this tour.
Reactions to the new album so far (the press, the fans) – did it meet your expectations, are you satisfied?
Hallelujah has gathered lots of different type of a feedback. Where one man come and praise as a classic, some people come to us just to say that the Hallelujah-CD is so depressing, paints anxiety with such violent and intensive ways that for them it´s almost impossible or totally impossible to listen it. Even they think that it is a classic, as well as a supreme. But it´s something which you can´t spend time with. You need to be careful with it.
There are people who just don´t understand what is all the fuzz or hype about Iiwanajulma. They think that the whole concept is nothing else than a one big overrated joke and it should have never been done. I accept that. To be honest, I am glad to hear this kind of a feedback. Throughout this as fine artists, we know that we have done good job.
Let´s make clear that Hallelujah is The Black album of Iiwanajulma. Nothing more – nothing less. It was not meant to be as a romantic trip with the new love. We did not flirt with this album. To a listener, Hallelujah was meant to be as a trip where one can safely investigate a certain type of suicidal tendecies and the desperate state of mind, so that one might truly say no more of this shit, to release these harmful thoughts and get out to live life as a full and as a enjoyable one. Simply as that. I think we succeeded just perfectly with these goals.
Actually I don´t know much about the history of Iiwanajulma, how and why the band formed and how you all met – and I think most of STALKER readers have that problem, too. Could you fill us in?
Iiwanajulma was formed in the year 2000. All of the members of Iiwanajulma come from a small town called Juva. 6660 people living there at the present time. We were a group youngsters with an old spirit. We lusted for live. Lusted for love. But we all shared this same dream. The dream was to unite as a one in music, in artistic expression and playing your own music live to people. The goal was to unite with the people throughout live performances and experience this all over again. The goal was and it still is to succeed in this life with music.
We moved in Helsinki in 2000-2004 just to be closer to each other to do this thing. Sometimes we did not succeeded very highly in these goals. To be honest many years we did everything else but the music. And all of those times we felt kinda sick. So I think by myself that for us to experience life as a full one, it is important to do this task of ours.
In the years 2000-2004 we released three EP´s. From these we gathered songs to release our first album “Sitä ei ole mitä en näe” at 2006. Immediately we started to compose new music and we released our second album “Tuhottu Tila” at 2008. I went very sick during that process. I broke my back and they needed to operate me couple of times. I ate 20-pills per day, walked with a stick and as one can say that he has met his demons, this time was pure hell for me. For me it took six years to recover from that and I´m still in this process of recovering. We still composed music. I wrote a diary, poetry and we came to this idea of a Black Album. The subject was easy. Medicalization and self-destruct. We picked songs which back up the concept and like this we went to the studio. We had clear mind what to do and hunger to squeeze this pimple. Teemu leaded us through the recording process and the result was Hallelujah.
Could you introduce all the band members a bit (other former or parallel bandprojects etc)? And I assume nobody of you can really live on “doing music”, so what are your “real jobs”?
Wille Hartonen – Vocals
I study to be as an arts teacher in elementary school. Formerly in Anything You Say, Velcra. Besides Iiwanajulma in Kilt., Human Dead Heart and one project which at this point is still forming.
Timo Hänninen – Guitar.
Works as a paramedic. So be cool. You may some day need a help of this man… Formerly played in Anything You Say, Velcra. Plays also in a group who calls themselves as a Loner Fin. Teemu Ruokonen – Drums
Works in a studio as an assistant with Mikko Herranen. He is a Frontman of Kilt. and plays drums in a Mikko Herranen band. He also compose music to Corpo and Fauna.
Matias Aaltonen – Bass
Studies something which has something to do with electicity. Besides Iiwanajulma Kilt. and Corpo.
Janne Hartonen – Guitar
In a work…Very Important Person. Formerly Thanks For Nothing, Anything You Say.
Besides all this we are happy and supportive husbands, fathers, fiancés, lovers, singles, brothers, friends, proletarians, poets, students…
Was there a certain philosophy you wanted to follow through right from the start, or how did the whole thing develop?
Compose own music, perform it on live and succeed in life with this.
The band has always been there. It’s the mind set and the way of living. It’s a dream and goal is to live in that dream. It´s been secure, comfort, total friendship, support, brotherhood, but it has been as well hatred, anxiety, depression, frustration. So when you are together almost 20 years, you naturally go through a certain type of changes. It´s not like dancing on rose leafs. Sometimes it´s total fuk up – like Die Antwoord says. Nothing moves forward and you are trapped somewhere in the basement alone. No gigs, no rehersals, no composing, ignorance… But still at the end of the day you want just to see the next day and what that may bring. We think that when you play in a band, you need to think it as a marriage. Iiwanajulma is a marriage with five persons.
How did you develop your style? I only know your most recent album, and the material you played live (starting with findustry on ice january 2013 ) When looking at this video Tilkkutäkki it seems you started with more glamrock influences… I am glad u lost those pink fur jackets… Actually the video looks somehow familiar, I might have seen it back then at the Oulu Music Video Festival…
Well… I don´t even remember the year 2002… I guess “Tilkkutäkki” was then. Judges on that Oulu´s Music Video Festival liked the video and we got some sort of honorary award on that. But Hey! It was and it is still a good Rock´n Roll video. No matter what. As a matter of fact it was directed by our former drummer Tommi Karvinen. Such a great visionary…
What comes to music and changes, it is natural that things change during the time. Its related on growing and tastes. With Iiwanajulma we have played 14 years so we have had several shifts, moods or periods during that time. At the beginning there was this hint of glam and hard rock influences in the music. We were kind of searching ourselves and a musical method or way to achieve collective state satisfaction what to call as a style.
Basically nowadays we compose and produce albums. Albums represent time and those main theses or tastes which are on the tongue at that time. We try to be as honest as possible in these processes and try to manage to do as intense music as possible. Developing our own sound and growing in the sound has happened slowly during the time. I truly hope that every Iiwanajulma album will be different compared to the previous one. That is the blessing of being independent.
Now to the new album Hallelujah – your third – what is different to the previous albums? Can you tell us a bit about the lyrics, or the story behind the lyrics? Is there a common theme, a particular story connecting the songs or a particular philosophy, if yes, which one?
Every process is unique and you can´t ever tell before how its going to be in the final. Every self-respectable band has a white and black albums. Hallaleujah is our black album. It is lurid. It doesn´t ask for apologies. It is vicious. It is violent. It is torrential. Thematics deal with self destruction, medicalization and ICD-10 disease cassification. Hallelujah is cry for help which no one hears or no one cares. The stories are based on my diary markings during the years 2006-2012. I was very sick during that time. I walked with walking stick, ate 20 pills per day and I can say that I personally investigated what happen when you loose faith in life, joy, beauty, good relations or happiness in any life area. I personally investigated how our healthcare system operates as well as what happen when you loose your value as a human. Human value is its capital. Energy. Work. If you cannot work, society will reject and ignore you. I know it’s a thin red line between living and a living dead. It´s not that we are the most depressed people. No, no, no… We are actually loaded with lots of a positive and optimistic outlook. But life and experiences in it were once real. That was not a joke.
Live on stage the delivery of your songs / lyrics always appear like a very personal thing, a “confession”, sharing the deepest thoughts and feelings with the audience, not “just telling a story” – which contributes to the intensity of the show. I also tried to describe it as “preaching” – so how far is this impression accurate?
About your accuracy… you as anyone else are right, you know. That impression of yours is an experience of what you have seen. Me, or no one else cannot deny it. It is real. But me is no preacher man. Me is a human, me is a poet, writing about life and experiences about it. Me is a Rock´n Roll singer and me is a wonderer flowing through life in a dream…
How is music composed, in teamwork? or maybe you can tell the whole journey of a song, how it was conceived, composed and then recorded, then lyrics added – or are lyrics coming first?
Basically everyone can bring their songs on the table. When we have enough music, we start this ego-painful selection of songs. Those songs which endure this process, which pulsate or radiatestogether, they will be collected to the next album. But as I have said before, every album in its entirety is unique.
The recording process – how did you organize it, all in the same studio at the same time, or not? How long did it take, with mix & mastering?
Well we had four or five separate three days recording sessions. First we recorded drums in Magnusborg, Porvoo. Second we rent studio where Mikko Herranen worked during that time and then we had few separate sessions in one cottage in Juva. There were lots of editing, which Teemu did by himself and when we had finished the recording and editing, we handled the package to Mikko Herranen to mix it. Mikko operates immaculately with Svante Forsbäck from Chartmakers. The professional ability of these two man is so highly ranked in our eyes and ears, that it´s an honor to do this with them.
What is the most difficult thing to wait for, as a musician – until the mix/mastering is done, or until the actual CD arrives and u can touch it?
To be absolutely honest… In this process I did not even await anything. I felt nothing. I don´t know why. In my head It was just “do it and go ahead”. “It’s a must thing to do.” And “Do it all black.” I had such a comfort feeling all the way through.
CD vs downloads – could you imagine to have “everything digital only”, or are you also enjoying the fact of the vinyl renaissance?
As long as people can have the music to listen to and as long as we can get the reasonable benefit of artistic work I think that anything goes. I´m not up to the dogmas…
Anything particular that happened you would like to share? Was the delay of the CD delivery the only mishap so far?
I don’t know. It was pure magic. Everything just rolled like on a soft trails. Exept on one session everything went like shit. We couldn’t record anything at all. Not even a one single tune. When we changed the files between computers – we lost them. (Luckily we managed to find them afterwards.) Computers did not operate. Actually now when I remember it everything was total fuk up. Cameras went broken, everyone was very tense on each other. We argued a lot and during those arguments we insulted each other like never before. It was desperate. Like something dark were against us. One moment we were in the kitchen with Teemu talking about packing everything up, for this was going to be an absolute disaster. We were pissed like never before. There were empty tins all over. I was standing at the front of the stove. I took zip from the afternoon beer and turned to Teemu when suddenly like someone invisible was throwing me with these empty tins… There were no one there but still I got this pour of empty beer cans on me. Teemu was there. He saw it… But like I said… Me is not a preacher. Me is a poet wondering through life.
Getting back to pink fur jackets – is there anything in your musical past you cannot help feeling amused / regretful about? Major fashion faux-pas or the like?
But of course there are. For example I cannot even listen our first album. Ears all red… But actually when albums are done you just don’t listen them anymore. It’s the nature of the album making process. You simply reach the saturation point.
What else… We watched Iiwanajulma home videos from the summer 2004. It was pure torture. Christ… I´m glad that we didn´t succeeded then. It would have been a nightmare. I almost went to the toilet to mutilate myself… But then on the other hand when you hear your voice recorded or you see yourself on a video its always amusing or embaressing. We tend to perceive ourselves slightly differently in our own minds than reality shows…
Faux pas… I still feel ashamed when I remember how my personal judgement skills faded somehow so low that I just took Timo Rautiainen band´s beers from the backstage. I didn´t meant to… I just thought that they were on the road and there were no one there, but there were… The moral hangover… I still feel it.
You simply need to suck at some point. It’s the nature of growing…
Where are your musical roots, how did you end up as a musician? Was it a gradual “natural” process or something like an “overnight inspiration” when listening to a particular song?
Our musical roots are in grunge, Industrial and metal music. There are bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Nirvana, NIN, Korn, Meshuggah, Deftones, Tool… etc.
Why we choose music and playing in the band everyone has a different story, but we have grown in to this. For me it was when I saw my big brother playing in a band. His guitar were there. I tried it. I sucked. But there was a strange magic in it… I saw these strange visions which felt so warm, strong and like my spirit were guided to do this. It hooked me straight away.
Finally: A weird tour story (something absurd that happened to you, either with this band or another you played in)?
Weird… have you ever heard this W.O.I.T.A game? Weird Object In The Ass… To be honest I never took part of it. Just saw and heard… So it goes like this. Someone screams WOITA. Then you have about 15 seconds to put something weird up in to your ass…
So it goes. Again we hear WOITA! People starts to run around searching for something to please the audience as well as each other. Someone finds a lighter, someone pen, but these two anonym guys… They had a twist in their look. They weren’t in a hurry. They were calculating. So when everyone has their objects finally up in their what ever, this other guy puts a tour buss up in his ass and smiles. Like a victory, you know (In Finnish we have a word VOITA. It means “you have to win”) . No one can beat this… And then this other guy. He walks a bit, goes on front of this guy who has a tour bus up in his ass and then he puts him up in to his ass…