(Saint-Petersburg-based guest writer Comrade Aleks has delivered to us the following interview with Jani Kekarainen of the seminal Finnish funeral doom band Skepticism.)
Skepticism (Riihimaki, Finland) is one of most ancient funeral doom bands on Earth. The band did appear in far off 1991 and since then have slowly paced into the Hall of Doom Myths and Legends, even though they have only four full-length albums in their stock. The last grand work Alloy was released six years ago, and it seems that Skepticism are now waking from their slumbers and returning to active creative life. We got in touch with Jani Kekarainen (guitars) to learn some details about the forthcoming visit of Skepticism to Moscow and ask a question or two about the new album as well.
First of all I’d like to ask you about one big deal: It’s said that Skepticism started composing music for a new album about a year ago. How does your progress go?
Pretty well, I would say. It’s always a long process for us. We have been creating the new songs and basic structures and 80% of the songs are ready for the new album. Our target is to do the first demo recordings for our internal use during this summer. It will be used for fine-tuning the arrangement of the songs. I hope we will be able to record the new album around the end of 2014.
It would be interesting to know some details about the new stuff, considering that your last album Alloy was released 6 years ago. Will you reveal any secrets?
It’s still the same old Skepticism, but however, we have been trying some new methods and ideas. We have been focusing on the atmospheres of the songs, even more than earlier. Currently we are doing a song where there is less drumming and vocals than usually in our music. I’m pretty curious to see the final result of that particular song. A new “march song” has been written again and most probably there will be a new record label releasing the album.
Has your approach to composing songs changed after all of these years?
Not much. I will bring most of the ideas or riffs to our training. Other members are throwing out their ideas, and the song will become something completely different compared to the picture that I originally had in my mind. That basic process has been always the same. What has changed: I have been using more digi-piano at home and tablet computer for multi-track-experiments when constructing the riffs. We are also doing more recordings at our trainings than earlier, and those are delivered to all members in mp3 format via email. So, the method is the same, but we have little bit modernized our tools.
Same question about the lyrics and whole conception of the band… All of you are not exactly the same persons who stood before Stormcrowfleet years ago, so how did your vision of the band develop through time?
Well, it was 20 years ago, so many things have admittedly changed. More life experiences gained. That can be used as a basis for lyrics or songs and so on. I’m not sure we did have any kind of vision in the beginning. We just wanted to play and train a lot, create extreme music, maybe create something heavier than had been done by anyone else. Nowadays we have learned what is good for us (e.g., not too many concerts per year, reserve time for creating the songs, etc.), but the new albums are always some kind of mysteries that we can’t really foresee in advance. That’s basically a very good thing, we can’t get bored when there are always new journeys to be travelled.
Skepticism will take part in the Moscow Doom Festival in May 2014. What kind of program are you preparing for this show?
We are currently having quite strong playing touch, so I guess we can focus on deep atmosphere on the stage (instead of concentrating on playing). We have selected a versatile set-list covering pretty much all of our albums.
You already played in Moscow a few years ago. What do you remember from that trip and what do you expect now?
I can remember many things. Maybe the strangest thing happened in the train when were travelling from Kiev to Moscow. We didn’t have any food or drinks with us and in the train we realized that there was no restaurant carriage at all, which was quite a terrible situation. Long trip without refreshments…
However, we met a guy in the train who asked the name of our band. After we answered the question, the guy was extremely surprised, and said he was a fan of Skepticism. Later on we told him about our problem and he said do not worry, 30 minutes and everything is organized. Then he travelled through the train and asked for drinks/food from other travellers. After 30 minutes he returned with full bags of food, bear, vodka, and so on. That was extremely nice!
We had a very nice train trip with this gentleman and we also added his name and his girlfriend’s name to our guest list and we also met after the concert. That was really something. Russians are famous (at least in Finland) about their hospitality and that was a real experience about the hospitality! And I can say the same about our hosts in Moscow, we felt very welcome. I also remember it was extremely cold when we visited Red Square with our hosts before the concert.
I hope we can “witness” the Russian hospitality also this time, play a killer concert, meet some nice people, and maybe taste some good vodka with some local friends.
Can you remember the most unusual gig that Skepticism ever played?
There have been so many of them and every one was quite different. Let me think… I remember a disaster in Madrid where we had lots of issues with the equipment; hopefully that will never happen again… I also remember a festival concert in the Czech Republic where we played on the main stage right after Marduk and Immortal. That was quite strange, as we were playing a completely different form of metal music. We have also played a few times in churches and a very nice one happened last year in Estonia where we played in the ruins of a monastery (greeting to Thou Shell of Death who organized the event!).
Skepticism: “The Rising Of The Flame”
How do you feel about why your listeners have still maintained their interest in Skepticism? Do you feel you are a band in demand?
It feels good to have support from the listeners — we wouldn’t be here without them. However, we have always been creating the music mainly for ourselves. Which makes it possible to have a kind of unique touch, I think. We have also learned that we are maybe more a live than a studio band. I really think so, even though we are playing only a couple of concerts per year. The crowd is always a part of the life experience.
I’m not sure about any demands… Luckily we have had the artistic freedom to do pretty much anything we would like to do. That is important to us. I mean, we wouldn’t survive in a situation where a record label would be putting some schedule limits on us or saying what we should do.
Is there other news besides what I’ve asked about? Is the band’s line-up the same as before?
A couple of things: A new album is really coming; we have preliminarily agreed about the recording with the studio and the possible label (the record label might change). The album will be released probably around the end of 2014. The line-up is still the same.
Do some of Skepticism’s members take part in other musical projects?
Our drummer has been playing in a metal band playing faster stuff for longer than in Skepticism. That band is called Thromdarr. I have also visited that band (played guitar on their previous album) along with our vocalist. I have also played in a couple of other groups (not only metal bands), but none of them is active at the moment.
What does Skepticism give you now? Is it your shelter, a kind of secret grove in which to hide from the world?
I can answer this question only from my perspective, I’m not sure about the other guys. For me, Skepticism has always been an important part of my life. It is like another world. It is not like any shelter, etc., it’s more like a method to channel my moods and my “every day experiences”. Skepticism’s training and concert is always like a decent journey to me: In the beginning I can’t be sure what will be coming, in the middle I’m focused and living the emotions, in the end I feel relaxed and even some shade of happiness.
And a last question for you as a musical expert: Do you watch the development of the doom (or funeral doom) metal scene? Do you have any interest still in discovering new bands and visiting their gigs?
Not really; once in a while I will get familiar with a doom band unknown to me when they are playing in the same concert with us. Sometimes there have been extremely good bands, and in such cases I have listened to their music and followed their career after the shared concert. Sometimes my friends suggest new groups to me, but I can’t say I’m following the doom scene nowadays. For example, I have no idea how a doom scene is developing at the moment. I used to be quite active in the metal-underground, but it was long time ago, time before the Internet… I’m also listening to quite many other musical styles, not only metal. I try to visit concerts (in Helsinki) whenever there is an interesting band playing a concert.
Thank you for your time and patience – that’s all for today! See you in Moscow, and good luck!