Counting Hours: The force of creativity

With “The Wishing Tomb”, the Finns Counting Hours have released a very strong album that has been eagerly awaited by many fans and impressively illustrates the band’s continuous development (our review HERE). Reason enough for us to sit down with Counting Hours and talk to those likeable guys, in order to get a closer look at the band’s activities and, above all, the new album. Singer Ilpo, drummer Sameli and guitarist and songwriter Jarno answered our questions …

Counting Hours has been around since 2015, how do you feel about the development process of the band over the years until today?
Ilpo: The band started out as an idea of Jarno and myself, but quite quickly and naturally developed into a full band when Tomi, Sameli and Make joined in. Also just a while ago Pekka Loponen (known for The Chant, Minutian and Aryokal, the ed.) joined in our troops and he’s in charge of the third guitar and backing vocals. For some time CH was a sort of a project in the shadow of the members’ other bands, but at the latest when we started sketching songs to the debut album The Will, we felt Counting Hours had become an own entity. The Wishing Tomb leads that vision even further and I think there is a clear identity in our sound now. The same vulnerability and bleakness are still there, but the output is slightly more focused.

Are your lyrics based on personal experiences and what exactly do you want to express with them?
Ilpo: Yes, the lyrics are personal, more or less. They can be described as an inner dialogue of how to look at life and its perishableness in general. As one gets older, you start to think about the concept of hope among mortals: is it just a dream of the delirious or is death really a transition and you can define your path after it? A mystery unreachable for the living.


How is a Counting Hours song created? Is there a special approach to your songwriting?
Jarno: Well, when you think of a special approach, there actually is. There is that force which gives you that drive to push things out of you in a creative way. Usually it is that certain moment you’re having which is dragging you even deeper into that what you are starting… from wherever that force comes from, it’s always special, since that’s from where that nothingness/emptiness is forming actually something concrete.

You have played in well-known Finnish bands in the past (Impaled Nazarene, Colosseum, Rapture, The Chant, Shape of Despair….) How did Counting Hours come about and what was the deciding factor for the choice of musical genre?
Ilpo: In the beginning there were a couple of Jarno’s old songs he had written for Rapture after their debut Futile in the turn of the millennium, but he parted ways with the band before the songs became anything more than rough demo drafts. Secondly, on the other end was our idea of a more atmospheric musical approach and that combined with the original sound was the starting point of Counting Hours’ style. Our debut The Will is partly based on those older ideas in tracks like „Buried In The White“ and „Saviour“, but „The Wishing Tomb“ is built only on Jarno’s newer compositions, so that’s why there’s a natural but clear progress in sound. All of this is definitely not a choice of genre, it’s more of a musical DNA we all share in the band and basically self-evident.


What influences your songwriting besides your musical favourites?
Jarno: This can be pretty much any moment anywhere from where you can draw influences from. But speaking non musical influences can be specifically hard also… mostly nature, images/drawings/art, different moods are the pretty usual ones.

Are you the Finnish Katatonia ?
Jarno: With respect to Katatonia, no, haha. I think Rapture back in the days were even more ”closer” to that. Not that we would mind being that close musically, but there is after all a huge difference between them and us.

With your debut album “The Will”, you set a big exclamation mark in the death/gothic genre and made a name for yourselves. Now your second stroke of genius followed on 23 February, on which you take another step forward. How do you see it and how was the time in the studio until the completion of “The Wishing Tomb”?
Jarno: Well, we are trying to compose and arrange our music as honestly to ourselves as we just can, except when our producer comes into the picture and twirls things up, hah. But with all respect to Jussi (Hämäläinen, the ed.), he is making very good work with us and gives very good ideas/suggestions as well. We have a pretty different approach on this newer album, compared to our first one, and we can say ourselves that this has been going forward when speaking about the whole area of music we have. The Wishing Tomb album sounds more like ourselves and maybe also a bit more mature, too. We knew pretty much what we should do at the multiple studios/spaces we used and therefore the time went pretty fast, even though there was some time in between the actual recording days. All in all it was quite a relaxed atmosphere… except what I feel when we recorded guitars in one weekend with less food but with some nice drinks to keep things real, but not too foggy.

With “Timeless Ones”, you have already made a song available to your fans in advance. What were the reactions?
Sameli: The reactions were quite positive and encouraging, to say the least. It seems that people have been waiting for new music from us for some time and were eager to hear the new song. We got constructive feedback as well, which is good because usually people keep it to themselves and say the positive things only. We respect everyone’s opinion and like to hear the divergent comments, too. However, the received feedback most probably doesn’t have much effect on what we’re doing in the end, because we’re doing the music from our own perspectives. Still, it’s interesting to hear what people say.


Are there things that you consciously did differently during the recording process compared to the previous album “The Will”?
Sameli: Not much. We followed pretty much the same procedure as then. One change was that we brought producer Jussi Hämäläinen in earlier than with the debut album. This way he had more effect on song structures and we were able to develop the material together already before the recording started. When most of the material was ready, he took part in our rehearsals and shared his ideas. Some of the ideas had an effect and some didn’t. One song where his touch was notable is „Away I Flow“, which is the second single off The Wishing Tomb. The song structure was changed as per his suggestion and when we played the developed version, it was clear that the song kicked ass harder.

Are there song parts that were spontaneously created in the studio, or do you have a strict recording procedure?
Sameli: We aim to have stuff ready before we enter the studio, so most of the music is composed in advance. Of course some ideas might pop up during the recording or in post-production and those quite often lead to actual changes, but no, I can’t recall that anything bigger than that was created during the recording phase this time.

Jarno: Everything was pretty well planned beforehand indeed. I think most changes/ideas came while recorded vocal lines. Final changes and touches before ending the whole mixing process as well.

How important is the time factor for you when working on new song material ? (CD release, touring etc )
Jarno: We are mostly tweaking the songs/album to it’s full form before thinking any of these that much. Music is the most important and rest comes after.
What comes to this 2nd album, we started to have almost too much rush with all the cover material, since we started thinking this way too late.


How’s the promotion for “The Wishing Tomb”, will there be a tour?
Sameli: We try to do as many gigs as possible. So far we have just a few coming for the following months, so there’s plenty of room in the calendar. So, all organizers, be in touch directly with us!

Are you a democratic band ?
Sameli: Most, if not all of the decisions are made together. This is of course good, because it allows all members to be heard and best ideas to be gathered. There are situations when we don’t fully agree on something, but even then we try to find the best solution, and if a compromise is needed, it will be done. The other typical model, one person deciding on mostly everything, would be a faster and somehow more effective approach, but in the long term it would hold down the creativity of the other members. So, no tyrants here – we work together.

You sound dark as usual on “The Wishing Tomb”, but one gets the impression that you never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. What’s that all about ?
Jarno: We have that kind of fixation maybe, to put some twist with darker and lighter matters at the same time. But that light in the tunnel is quite misleading, usually it leads only one way further away from life.

What do you think about musical comparisons or merging genres? The usual pigeonholing so…. Do you like that or is your own definition decisive for you?
Sameli: I do get it. I think people need it when they need to describe the music to other people. I mean, it’s quite hard to describe the music just by words and then the comparisons might come in handy. Our music is not that easy to pigeonhole, I guess. We don’t even know which genre we really are either. Usually we’re put into the Doom or Death Doom holes, but those are a bit misleading in the end, because I like to think there’s a bunch of variety and uniqueness in our repertoire.


Isn’t it more valuable to hold a real CD in your hands and a booklet with lyrics than the possibilities offered by online music services? As a musician, are you worried about not being properly understood because of this more impersonal approach?
Jarno: Totally. I myself love vinyl albums more, but… it is either being old or having that habit/fixation to have music you love physically on your hands with all the proper artwork and all…
Anyhow, physical albums are more personal and more concrete matter to me as a listener. When I’m listening to digital versions, it’s all so easy to jump in and also very easy to skip songs and change the orders of the songs which is, sometimes, a bit misleading when it comes to the artist’s way of putting things together. But of course everything has up and downs but for today’s world, fast and easy might be the answer, without paying much attention to the whole thing itself.

As mentioned in the beginning, you have a new band member: In the future, Counting Hours will play with 3 guitarists. Please tell us more about that.
Jarno: There were, quite a long time, talks with Ilpo mainly about the backing vocals and how that would be perfect for us to have them on live shows as well. There are lots of vocal  harmonies in our songs and would be pity to leave them out live. Ilpo did contact Pekka earlier already but it seemed that we had to push Pekka a bit more to jump on our wagon. Gladly he joined, since while being also a very good guitarist, we now have an even richer sound world when playing live.

When you look into the future, where do you see Counting Hours in a few years?
Sameli: Counting Hours is not a band that plans the future much. We create music and then go forward from there. If you make plans and set targets, there’s a risk that you forget why you’re in a band in the first place, so it’s better to just keep on playing music, sit back and enjoy the ride. In a few years I’d like to see us releasing a new album that we’re again satisfied with. The music needs to develop, but not too much. However, it’s better to keep the feet tightly on the ground and focus on what you have at hand.

So there’s no way around “The Wishing Tomb” and Counting Hours will certainly be able to present their gloomy sounds to a wide audience on Finnish stages and hopefully in the rest of Europe too. The guys certainly deserve it.
Thumbs up for Counting Hours !!!

The band:
Ilpo Paasela – vocals
Jarno Salomaa Petrushevski – electric & acoustic guitars
Tomi Ullgren – electric guitars
Markus Forsström – bass
Sameli Köykkä – drums
Pekka Loponen – third guitar and backing vocals

Label Arduamusic

photos: Counting Hours

Hanzi Herrmann ---- festival / concert reviews, live photos, interviews