What can you do all day when you live in the North of Finland where the nights are lonely and the swamps are muggy? Exactly right, hunting and writing songs and at least the latter recently led to the release of Kalmah´s already 6th album. On 12 Gauge the band once again managed to give the listener a better understanding of what swamp metal really is about. Guitarist and band mastermind Antti Kokko tells you a bit more about the brumous background to the whole story.
Your new album “12 Gauge” has just been released, what´s your gut feeling about the reception?
So far the feedback has been very positive so I believe we will get new fans this time as well. We all in the band really like the album so I believe there will be others who like it as well.
What does the album title actually refer to? I googled some pics of a gun???
It refers to 12 caliber shotgun. I and Pekka hunt a lot, so there is a connection. In addition if you read the lyrics You´ll find a real life tragedy that ended up with a 12 gauge.
Tell us a bit about the cover art!
I`m pretty full of all those Photoshop covers that mean absolutely nothing. I`ve always wanted a drawing like that for a cover art. This time we were searching for a certain type of drawing style and we got it. In the cover You´ll find good old Swamplord fighting against the material world monster created by globalism, human stupidity and environmental issues etc. Luckily we will get an LP. Cover art does not get the respect it needs in CD format.
Back to the main thing, the songs, which one took the longest to write/record? Which one was the easiest?
The easiest is always the first one. This time it was Rust Never Sleeps. And the hardest was 12 Gauge. I had to work with it pretty long. The structure gave me a headache until I got all pieces together properly. The end result is probably the best song we`ve ever made. It reminds me of Bitter Metallic Side. We pushed really hard to get it right few years ago.
Which one´s the most challenging to play, which one are you looking forward most to play live? Or not?
We have already played live most of the songs. We had 6 in our first 3 gigs. Really fun to play live the new songs. This time the songs are more live-driven I guess because we really enjoy playing them. Next show will also include Swampwar. I`m really looking forward to it. The solo is one of the best I`ve managed to pull out.
What was your main intention/idea when you were planning/writing the album, any concepts?
We have never had any concepts. When it comes to writing process I totally trust and rely on my inspiration. When it stops giving me riffs and melodies it is time to lay guitar on a rest but now it seems that the pen is working pretty well. When it comes to lyrics Pekka writes them all. There is political, religious, personal demons, hunting, fishing, forest industry etc. So there is no concept except to write good stuff of course.
The songs are a melting pot of many different genres from death, melodic, thrash, power metal, folk – if you had to leave one element out, which one would it be?
I hope that we will never sound “artificial-hard” like many bands nowadays. They have clean vocals and then come those ridiculous harsh vocals that have no balls. I would say from those genres I`d drop out power metal. I do like some power metal albums like old Helloween but in general it is not as heavy as I want.
Watching your video studio report, it looked like you had a blast recording the songs. Was it all really fun and games?
Well no games if you mean video games..:) We really had fun that is true and that is the way it should be. You can play aggressively and give 100 percent even with your mouth in a grin. It brings certain trust and confident feeling that this is really working.
Where does the fascination for swamps come from?
As a fact the area we live here in the northern Finland is half covered by swamps – Finnish swamps. The atmosphere of the swamp scenery is breath taking. If you sit on the shore of a swamp in fall shotgun in your hand and hear the wild geese coming towards you in the twilight and fog it makes you sense the real nature. On the other hand no-one has ever pulled out something about swamps..:) In word Suomi which means Finland there is a word Suo which means Swamp in Finnish. I don`t know where the Suomi word comes but maybe there is a connection to Finnish people who literally dig all fields to the barren swamp scenery when they started living here.
What makes a perfect swamp metal song?
A: Good melodies, killer riffs, speed and vocals that come from the bottom of your arse!
There was a video shoot for “12 Gauge” recently, according to the news entry on the band´s homepage it took place at -37°C. Tell us a bit about the shoot and how many fingers you lost to the frost.
It was pretty cold..:) At least my fingers were in frost couple of times. At first when I touched the pipe of the shotgun with bare hands in the very moment I realized that it was a mistake..:D Luckily we had good fire so we warmed ourselves up in between. We had problems with the camera in the morning but during the day the temperature got lower. It was about -25. Then the camera started working properly. But we had fun as always and all in all for a low budget video it turned out pretty well.
If there would be a movie based on your new album, what would the story line be?
Hmm, I believe it would follow the lyrics of 12 Gauge.
What are your next plans?
We started doing gigs to promote the new album and we will continue on that path for the next half a year – year. Then I probably start waking up my inspiration for the new material.
Photos: Vesa Ranta