At present Finnish epic gloom metallers Swallow The Sun are touring central Europe (with Wolfheart and Adimiron) in order to promote their impressive triple “Songs From the North” album, therefore we are glad that “the new guy” in the line-up, drummer Juuso Raatikainen, found some time to reply to our questions…
How is the tour so far, is everything running smoothly? How many people are part of the package, how many busses / vans?
Tour has been great so far! Quite good response from audiences. Last night we played a gig in Lisbon while having a bit of fever, but other than that doing great! Lisbon’s RCA Club for example was quite a great venue. My first time in many of these places, so it’s all good and interesting. In our bus are 13 people + driver(s).
How is the cooperation between Finns and Italians Adimiron so far, what do you have in common, what is totally different?
(laughter) Well often I find myself thinking if I seem rude to those guys. Not always the guy talking a lot or giving high-5s. Anyway to me Adimiron guys (and a girl) are great people. Doing their job like real professionals.
In your experience, is one big bus for all or several busses (one for each band) the better solution?
I think this two bands in one bus is just enough. You got a little more space and it keeps people not getting too pissed off at each other. Wolfheart guys are also very easy to get along with.
Describe a typical day on tour:
Wake up at 12. Usually the bus is already at the venue. You got about 3 hours to get around the city if the venue is located in the center. Get coffee and a beer of course. 3 pm load-in, 4.30 soundcheck, 6 dinner. Then from 7-9 pm maybe meet friends, do interviews or go check a local pub. 9 pm warm-up/get dressed. 10-11.30 pm play your ass off like it’s the last time you get to play a show! After show get a shower, meet fans, get slightly drunk. Bus call 1 am.
How did you choose the setlist, via lottery? 😉 Too many songs to choose from – and why was New Moon missing completely (as well as the Butterfly album, but I can guess the reason for that*)?
Wasn’t that hard I think. About 50/50 with new and old stuff. We tried to get a set that has all sorts of songs, make it diverse and stuff we haven’t played that much recently. Also some “hits” included. Just no space for New Moon songs this time.
Do you change the setlist at different venues or is it always the same?
Well, last night we had to skip a couple of songs ‘cause I was feeling quite horrible ‘cause of fever. Other than that we have couple of options with the new songs which we like to change around. Mainly the set is the same the whole tour.
Playing in Paris – are recent events an issue, are u discussing it, does it give an extra “thrill” to touring, are you glancing at people with backpacks at the venue and such?
Thrilling somebody in the audience or in the band might get shot? Think again dude. There’s nothing thrilling about it. I think it’s just a product of human stupidity. Fear is what those kind of actions are meant to cause. We can’t submit to that. We’re gonna play all the shows and do our thing.
Your thoughts about having ”Average Joe” events like rock concerts as targets for terror attacks (rather than celebrity red carpet / “important” events)?
Doesn’t matter where the attack is targeted. It’s all senseless violence. Who would approve that in the civilized world. No further comments.
Now to the new album, do audience and critics’ reactions meet your expectations?
Yeah, pretty good response. We beat Justin Bieber on Finnish charts on opening week (laughter).
After Kai Hahto went to Nightwish, how did you end up in this band, Juuso, and were there any other contestants for the job?
Basically Juha saw a Youtube-video of me playing some jazzier stuff. Maybe he was looking for a versatile drummer. I also knew some of the guys before and I’m from the same area as the other guys originally. I bet there was a couple of drummers who would have been happy about the job.
How do you as the new guy fit in so far?
I fit in like a fist in the eye.
STS drummers at least don’t explode, but they were the only 2 changes in long band history. So is the band like a family, and when it comes to family feud, what is it usually about?
The guys totally are like a family with all of the aspects included. There are the usual fights about which songs work and which don’t, fights about important decisions.. But after 15 years of touring they know each other so well that you can’t act anything else than you really are. Under all the madness there is a huge respect for one another.
As recently reported, the In Flames drummer quit touring after 17 years, how is touring for you all once again – lotsa fun or rather a burden for people on the wrong side of twenty?
For me it’s all new and exciting of course (as long as you stay healthy). But I think for people who have done it a longer time it’s mainly about your own attitude. You can make it hellish for yourself or then you can enjoy it as a break from the normal life. The bottom line is that no one is forcing you to do it. You can always quit. No one has a need for any whining assholes in the bus.
How do you prepare for gigs / tour now that the band members are shattered all over Europe / Finland?
Just have to do your homework well. We managed to get two days of rehearsing with everyone present before the first gig with new songs. This will usually mean that a couple of first gigs on tour will have some missed notes there.
Why this triple album? Was it difficult to convince the new company Century Media to do such a release?
I think one of the conditions was that Century Media will release the triple as one package. They understood the idea of this artistic statement. For once people thinking more about the music than money. Bringing back the value to album entities.
What is the inspiration for the lyrics, especially for the new album?
There is a lot of natural symbolism and lyrical themes that evolve through-out the whole triple. It’s stuff from Juha’s deepest core and he is not that keen on explaining that stuff to anybody. The listener can find one’s own meaning in there.
I noticed Mikko’s amazing vocal development – because of other projects (Barren Earth, Kuolemanlaakso) or vocal coaching?
I think it’s just his own interest towards clean vocals. Growling is always the same basically so I can imagine how boring it gets. We also had a vocal producer for the triple called Jaani Peuhu. He did amazing job with Mikko.
At some point he even sounds like Johnny Cash – would you agree, and what has Mikko done to achieve that?
Sure! Smoke a pack of cigarettes per day (laughter).
The new video – why this song (Rooms & Shadows), where was it filmed, and why Mikko as the only band member on screen?
Rooms and Shadows is a classic StS style song with a catchy chorus. Why not make a video out of it. It was filmed in Muhos, northern Finland. The video was directed by Vesa Ranta (ex-Sentenced, The Man-Eating Tree). Well Mikko is the front man and this time no need for other members in the script.
Message of your adult self to your teenage self:
Always a teen.
The technical device or innovation still missing in your life and not existing yet, which one and why?
A machine that makes pizza out of air. Pizza is always good.
Anything weird or funny happening on this tour already? I know you have so many tour stories to tell, maybe u can share one with us…
Mikko ate something, usually he only drinks.
Thanks for the interview – and good luck on tour! (Which will continue in Finland in early 2016, so check out the band website)
* The ”Plague of Butterflies” album basically contains only one song, which is about 35min long, plus bonus material …
Band photos by Jussi Ratilainen Photography
Live photos by Klaudia Weber