Once again a double feature, because Tuomas Saukkonen, one of the hardest workers in Finnish Metal producing industry, is kept busy with his various duties all over his home country. And he will be travelling a lot more soon: Before The Dawn – in a new line up – joins Insomnium and MyGrain on their Europe Tour, starting November 14. Black Sun Aeon just released their new CD “Blacklight Deliverance”. Luckily Tuomas found time to answer some STALKER questions via e-mail, literally “on the road”…
Part 1: Black Sun Aeon
Hey Tuomas, hope you are fine – can you fill us in what have you´ve been doing recently, where and with whom = which of your own bands? And which other bands did you work with (e.g. as producer)?
Pretty basic and normal chaos :). The total saldo for 2011 so far is Before The Dawn + RoutaSielu albums released in early spring, Austrian Nonexistence album production/session bass/drums, getting the 3rd Black Sun Aeon album done and released yesterday, recordings of the 7th Before The Dawn album almost complete and pre-production for the 2nd RoutaSielu album and 2nd Rain Of Acid album… (a newcomer band he produces, the ed.) and of course a big bunch of gigs done and still coming.
What are you doing at the moment (and please don´t write “answering interview questions…” )
Sitting in a train on my way to Helsinki to do few radio interviews for Black Sun Aeon.
The most recent achievement – the new Black Sun Aeon album “Blacklight Deliverance” that just came out. What´s new – what´s old, from your perspective? I got the impression that it continues the “white” album (Talviaamu) of the previous double CD “Routa”, not so much “black” one Talviyö; it rather reminds me of Dawn of Solace, your old band project. Would you agree or am I totally wrong?
Actually it is a mixture of both sides on the previous “Routa” double album. Definitely the most varied album I have done so far. Also indeed it has some Dawn Of Solace feeling in a few songs. Each song is totally different from the others, but is still vital to complete the album.
Is BSA still featuring the “usual suspects” Mynni Luukkainen (growls) and Mikko Heikkilä (clean vocals), or did major changes happen in this band, too?
Mikko had pretty much similar role on the new album and Mynni gave some vocal brutality to a few songs also, but there has been a big change in the vocals when it comes to the female voice. Janica (Lönn) did her BSA debut on the “Routa” album on one song, but on the new album her voice can be heard in 5 songs.
How did you meet Janica Lönn and get her into BSA line-up, and is she going to be much more involved in the future, e.g. live on stage?
I met Janica in one BTD video shoot, and after that I found out that she sings in a band. Went and checked a few videos and instantly became a fan of her voice. Surely she will be a part of the live band from now on because of the big role on the new album.
When you wrote the songs (e.g. Solitude, video below), did you have her voice in mind already?
Yes. It was great to be able to write lyrics for 2 different voices. Not just my growling monologue in each song :). There is a lot of lines in the lyrics I wanted to say and love to hear sung by Mikko or Janica but would not have wanted to sing myself.
Or how did you compose those songs – did they just “pop up” or was it like “sitting down 3-4h every day and working on it”?
They just pop up each time I touch guitar or piano. I am not that much into playing itself… I like to constantly create with each instrument, so always when I get an instrument in my hands, I start to work with something new.
Does it ever happen that the words come first and you look for a tune to accompany them?
Never. I always need to have a song first. I might have phrases or a few lines in my head but would not start to write a song for them. Would rather wait to have a full song and then see if they fit.
What´s better for working off aggression – a work out or writing a song?
Work out. It is impossible for me create when I angry, frustrated etc etc. I need a calm mind and clear head. Need to stand outside of the box to be able to write about things buried in there 🙂
What are the lyrics about, is it again a mix of English and Finnish language?
100% English this time. The only reason for the Finnish lyrics in one song on the “Routa” album was the limited amount of words in the theme of winter in English language. “Routa” was a theme album about winter and Finnish language has so many ways to describe that season, so I decided to write one song in my native language.
Is it easier for you to express yourself in Finnish? What is the difference (writing in English or Finnish) for you?
Finnish is more pointy and rhythmical language, so it fits very well for growling. Both are pretty easy for me, since I always know in my head very clearly what I want to say. Of course Finnish is a more “exotic” language to write for me, since I have just started to use it after about 120 songs written in English
Apropos languages and interpretations: What do you mean with the CD title – is it deliverance FROM darkness or BY darkness (= blacklight as the agent of deliverance) – and is it a passage into the light, or into something even darker?
It is a passage into darkness. A deliverance by darkness.
What is “deliverance” for you personally – all your dreams coming true, “peace” “no more pain” “nirvana”, or what?
An inner peace.
What is your favourite time of the year – one could assume it´s winter, especially a real grim dark cold one?
I love all the 4 seasons in Finland. I like my winter cold and dark, but do similarly enjoy the sun in the summer, gloomy of fall and the rebirth of the nature in spring. Because of my love towards Finnish nature and cycle of seasons I could not imagine living anywhere else than in Finland.
Which kind of gardening work did you do recently? Do you still sort-of enjoy it and do something for your family, your own pleasure? If it was your own house + garden, what would you do there – Japanese Zen – or just bulldoze the yard, pave over and use some plastic flowers – no more gardening work necessary 😀
I just finished a big project in Joutseno in eastern Finland. Took about 1 month and I was the boss for the landscaping and building and also did the actual planting of 200 trees, 1500 bushes and 2400 baby trees. I do the work both for the money and because I enjoy it. Don´t have a house with a yard yet, but I would love to have a big yard and a small forest also. There would surely be nothing but green and living stuff.
How about BSA gigs in Finland – are there more to come, maybe also abroad?
We will play totally 6 gigs in Finland after the release and 2012 we´ll come also to Europe for festivals. All gig infos will be updated on the band website www.blacksunaeon.com
Thinking of early BSA gigs, it was “strictly program” – no speeches, no encores, no room for applause in between – in general no audience contact (which was a bit confusing for some people, admittedly). And I know that one of the reasons might be a technical one – but what will it be like now, is this performance style going to be continued?
The live gigs will follow the same path. There will be some background tapes, but that is not the reason for the “silence” on the stage. Due to the dark and personal content of the music I do not want any of the guys to be doing speeches etc. I don´t want to break the mood of the gig with talking and want to keep a small “wall” between the audience and the band. Then again with BSA as an artist I am the most exposed to the audience thru the music and lyrics and also feel a very strong connection with the audience. It is not because I am arrogant etc. Those are just the conditions I demand to feel comfortable playing with BSA.
What I noticed in the BSA teaser video (and when seeing you live) – is there any particular reason why you play barefoot?
Tried it once and liked so never put socks or shoes back after that.
You´ve been doing lotsa video stuff recently (camera person, director, editor – e.g. for above mentioned band Rain of Acid) – when it comes to band videos, do you also write the script and do “set + lights design”? What do you enjoy most about doing videos, and what sucks (let me guess the latter – those looooong editing hours…)?
For all videos I have either shot, directed or edited, I have done the pre-production and script also. I do also the lights if I do the shooting, but otherwise I will leave that to the camera men. I enjoy the whole process, and if you do pre-production and script well, the editing goes also pretty fast. What kills me is the lack of money to do cool explosions etc 🙂
… and btw, I´d have another idea what to do with drumsticks – “drumstick-darts”, using band colleagues as targets – also instant punishment when they make a mistake. 😀
I am too gentle dictator for that kind of stuff 🙂
Part 2: Before The Dawn
There have been massive changes recently, for once it seems like again “back to square 1” when it comes to the line-up issue. (Clean vocalist and Bassist Lars Eikind and drummer Atte Palokangas left the band in summer, the ed.). How do you feel about it – once again like “setback – being chained down” or “purification”, like a painful but perhaps necessary change brought by major crisis?
Definitely a new beginning instead of a setback. Of course a lot of work follows now when we kind of start again with a fresh line up and music style, but this is something that had to take place for the band to survive.
I heard rumours that also Juho (Räihä, git) will leave – if it´s true, who will replace him?
Just a rumour :). There have been many of those lately
How is your relationship with Lars and Atte now? Are you going to miss them both? Are you still in contact and good friends?
There was not a single drop of bad blood shed when we parted ways. Musically this had to happen, but of course on a personal level I will miss them. Then again, on the professional side there are a few things I will not miss and I am very happy to be able to continue now with Jonttu and Pyry and be able to upgrade both the musical and the professional level of the band.
Who are the new guys, how did you meet them – can you introduce the new band members (Pyri Hanski, bass, Joonas Kauppinen, drums) a little bit?
I have known both for years, so to me they are not new guys at all. As for now I will let both of them to do the introduction on the stage and on their work on the new album. In time there will be more info of them as individuals.
As mentioned in the Tuska Jatkoklubi gig review, I was totally surprised by YOU speaking to the audience, for the first time ever with BTD :D. So how was it for you – were you anxious before it – how did it feel afterwards?
Well I used to do all speaking on the stage in the early years, have been working as an announcer for example at Sauna Open Air for thousands of people, I hosted songwriting workshops in front of live audiences 3 years in a row at FME and I have done dozens of TV and Radio interviews, so I am totally cool with doing the speeches for BTD from now on. I just got a bit lazy and let the others do it for me for a “few years” 🙂
BTD reborn – as mentioned in the live review, using keyboard samples is a nice way to ”replace” clean vocals. Are more songs going to be transformed that way for the tour, and if yes, which ones?
We will play brand new songs on the tour and also some older songs that have been too fast for previous drummers, so the whole set list is pretty much brand new. There will be keyboards from background tapes from now on, but I´m not planning to modify the clean vocal songs, but rather to skip them all together.
What was the feedback to BTD reborn so far? A friend (not familiar with BTD) said she did not “miss” anything, yet I heard BTD fans saying “too bad I cannot hear Dying Sun live ever again” and stuff…
Of course it is sad for me also not to able to play certain old songs, but with the new album material we have over 80 songs to choose from, so naturally there would be a lot of songs we could not fit to the set list. The new material sounds 100% complete without clean vocals and I would be surprised that after hearing it, somebody would miss clean vocal parts on them.
How did you get on this tour with Insomnium and MyGrain?
We were asked by the booking agency that booked the tour.
How many new songs do you have already, does the “slow song” you introduced live have a title now? How many new songs you´ll play on tour?
We have recorded already 90% of the new album tracks. There will be 10 of those, and we will play 4 of them on the tour. All the songs have titles and lyrics, but those will be revealed later.
How much are the new band members involved in the songwriting / text writing process (e.g. Lars had contributed stuff)?
Very little, as usual. Of course there is a big input from Jonttu with the drums, but more in the drum patterns and fills than in actual arrangements of the songs. I have always wrote all the music and lyrics for BTD. Well 99,9% to be exact :). We worked together with Lars with clean parts, but otherwise the other guys have just played their parts on the ready arranged and written songs.
You often play gigs with 2 different bands on the same night, and you´ll play full sets with both BSA and BTD in most upcoming Finnish shows – how to you deal with extra work, pressure, stress?
Easily. There would be the same amount of work, organizing etc if there would be only BTD or BSA playing. Now with 1 set of hazzle and work, I get 2 gigs. Saves a lot of time and energy from me. Also BSA and BTD has a lot of the same guys and girls in the fan base, so they fit together really well.
I have been wondering for a long time (and I know I´m not alone) – what´s in the center of the BTD logo? A helmet? A letter – e.g. like Greek Pi? A symbol – for what?
Well keep on wondering 🙂
((AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGHHH!! the author))
And finally – another thing bothering me – when you received this award for best musician of the year and (despite your straight-edge lifestyle) drank a beer – was it a Karhu III? And how did such victory beer taste – did you feel dizzy/drunk? 😀
It took 45mins for me to drink it, so even though it was Karhu III, I didn´t feel any effect from it 🙂