(Comrade Aleks returns to our site with this interview of Jarno Salomaa, guitarist and keyboardist for the Finnish band Shape of Despair.)
Shape of Despair is an example of solid, quiet, perfect funeral doom. They have a sense of taste and a sense of proportion, but the band’s last full-length release saw the light of day ten years ago. It’s true – since 2004, Shape Of Despair have only one EP and a split-EP, but now the time has come and they’re ready to return and crush our spirit with a new dirge.
As for me… there’s one more reason to do this interview, for the band will play in Moscow in January 2015, and that’s why we got in touch with Jarno Salomaa (guitars, keyboards). He’s here to tell us about the future release of Shape Of Despair, his international all-star doom-project Clouds, and a few more things.
Hi Jarno! We have a good occasion for this interview, for there’s news about Shape Of Despair’s gig in Moscow on January 23, 2015. When and where did you play your last gig?
Hello. Yes that’s true, finally there is an opportunity for us to visit Russia with Shape of Despair. I’m especially looking forward to this very much as we have the chance to play together with re-united Comatose Vigil.
We played our last gig at Doom Over Kiev in 2013.
You readily play in post-USSR countries. Why do you think our listeners get your music so intimately? And can you say in which countries you also have received such good feedback?
Yes, it was very interesting to visit Ukraine. Sadly, Doom Over Kiev didn’t work out this year prior to some events. I hope the best for the next year.
I’m not sure about the feedback actually. I’m sure it’s not restricted to certain geographical areas. One thing may be distribution and licensing in the early years to certain countries, and where our albums have been available. We licensed some of our albums to Russia, France, and the States at least.
The band consists of 6 members, and it seems that there could be difficulties in rehearsing regularly with such a large line-up. How do you solve this problem?
Sometimes it’s very hard. All of us have other bands as well and it is sometimes a pain in the ass to gather everyone under the same roof. But I guess we have to play with the situation we have. Fortunately, our rhythm section is quite well present when needed.
I’m afraid that it’s my duty to ask you a few questions which our readers would expect to be answered. So I don’t know where to start… Okay, let’s try to start with Pasi Koskinen leaving the band in 2010. It was the year of your last official release. Did his leaving play a role in Shape of Despair’s creative hiatus?
No, absolutely not. I’ve mostly done all the music and lyrics in the past so this was not a problem. And after all, it wasn’t a problem to find a new vocalist after our mutual agreement with Pasi.
When we released our split EP with Before the Rain in 2011, we concentrated on rehearsing our songs with our new vocalist Henri and slowly started to work on new songs for the coming full-length. All in all, things started to roll after Henri joined us, with live shows and a new album on its way.
Do you have a statistic about how many people in Finland are involved in doom bands? I think that England and Finland have the strongest doom-scenes in the world. Hah, it’s a bit scary…
Hah, not really… I have no idea honestly, even though Finland is a very small country. There are good bands from the UK and they have the longest history in doom metal at least. But it’s just not restricted to these two countries; there are lots of bands out there, maybe with more UG-status but with a lot to offer.
How do you manage to share your duties in the band? And how do the other band members participate in the process of composing the songs?
It’s very easy. Everyone of us is doing their own thing and doing it well. Me and Tomi both play guitars and the only discussion is which part one of us wants to play. I’ve played with Tomi for more than 20 years so it’s very easy to communicate with him.
At the beginning I made all the songs and, for some of the albums, the lyrics too. For this new album and later ones, I hope for everyone else’s input, too, to get some variations and their visions as well… It went really well, and especially those two songs Tomi wrote for the new album, sounds damn great.
Shape of Despair has only three releases for about 10 last years: A compilation (2005), Written In My Scars (2010), and the split-album with Before The Rain (2011). After that, the band has not been forgotten, and your listeners patiently wait for new songs…
Yes, we recently signed with Season of Mist and we are pleased to have them release our new album. They have very good distribution both in Europe and over in the States. I hope our new album will be released early next year, 2015.
We are very fortunate to have fans such as we have, very loyal ones. I hope this wait will be worth it for all of them.
Finland is famous for its pure, severe, and cold beauty; what place does nature play in your inspiration?
Quite huge. It’s from where this all started, it’s part of the ”sanctuary” so to speak. Good for a getaway from the people and technology, etc. I wouldn’t say the same for our architecture, since it’s vanishing and being replaced by more modern style.
Jarno, you and Nathalie have played in the band since 1998. Is there an original vision of Shape Of Despair that is still a reality for you? Can we suppose that old Shape Of Despair fans couldn’t recognize the band when it records new stuff?
Well, actually I think every release of ours is something new and not sticking to the same formula as the earlier ones. I’m sure people who listen to us are growing the same as we do. Some things stay in the past, and it’s usually good that way.
Is there any chance we will hear new tunes during your gig in Moscow in January 2015?
I hope people will attend the show and hear for themselves.
Do you ever visit Russia, and what do you expect from your forthcoming gig? Your colleagues Skepticism were greeted damn well here. Hah, it would be absolutely cool to see you both on one stage. Has that ever happened?
Unfortunately not yet. We had a chat with (Eero?) years back about a possible show together, but I think it was forgotten by both of us. Would be great though.
I think all of us but me have visited Russia before, so I’m very eager to see Moscow and the people there.
You will share a stage with the Moscow funeral band Comatose Vigil. I know that it was your idea to play with them, how did you find them?
Actually I did mention this to Sepulture Union’s organizer, but I’m not sure from where the ball got rolling so that they would re-form and have a chance to attend. I’m sure they’ve thought about this themselves for long time now… about re-uniting.
Thanks to Alexander for sending their Fuimus non sumus album!
Shape of Despair’s Illusion’s Play should be re-released in a vinyl edition this autumn. What are the main features of this edition? Who was the author of this idea?
We’ve always wanted to have our own albums on vinyl. Sadly, Spikefarm never intended releasing vinyl, so we had to find someone ourselves. Instead of doing so, Aftermath Music from Norway got in touch and we planned this out together. These editions are strictly limited editions with new cover artwork solely done for these. The Illusion’s Play album will be released through Aftermath as well on gatefold vinyl and will continue the same way as earlier ones. I’m sure everyone who gets a hold of these will have unique versions for themselves, as there are only 250 copies around.
What are your criteria for doom music? What are the necessary elements of Shape Of Despair?
Hard question. I’ve never tried to reason our music in any certain way. Its key element of course is the atmosphere. I think we try to keep the tone in the music the way it would keep the listener inside, and even more important is to keep ourselves satisfied with the so-called journey through the song… Nothing is more beautiful than having the feel of that last moment of life, that hopelessness in the form of music.
Jarno, you also play in the international project Clouds. What is the story of this band?
Yes, I was asked by the band’s mastermind Daniel (Eye Of Solitude, Colosus, etc.) to collaborate and share some ideas for melodies mainly. I didn’t have to think twice after hearing what kind of songs he’d done. I’ve always liked this kind of music, very monotonic and a lot space to dwell in. I’m glad that this worked out since the album Doliu is very good. If the readers just have a chance to check it out, they should. Daniel wrote this album more as a tribute to one of his close departed relatives.
There are few other people involved in this — there is Pim from Officium Triste, Jón from Hamferd, Kostas from Pantheist, Déhà from millions of other bands, for example Deos.
You’re from Finland, Jón (vocals) is from the Faroe Islands, Kostas (keyboards) lives in London as does Daniel, and Officium Triste vocalist Pim Blankenstein is from The Netherlands… How do you collaborate with each other living in so many different countries? It seems more difficult chemistry even than you have in Shape of Despair!
Tell me about it. Nowadays it’s easy to create music even if you live wherever, you just have a place to record something and internet to send the files over. But of course, as you are not physically playing these songs together, it’s harder to complete the work as it changes after each person’s input. Though I have to admit that Clouds made it’s album before we did with Shape, even though we all live here in Finland.
How did you work on the first record of Clouds, Doliu? And what are your future plans?
It was easy. Daniel used to work on the songs himself and I would make my additions on those later on. I’m not sure if the ”chain” went forward then to everyone else to concentrate on adding their things. But yes, it was quite refreshing and interesting to collaborate on this project, as you’d hear later on what kind of additions others had done afterwards.
Future plans are quite open I think. I’ve heard one unfinished song from Daniel, so I guess he’s already planning something new. And it sounds very good once again.
Do you have other active projects besides Shape of Despair and Clouds? How do you keep your form as a guitarist when you’re not working with one of these bands?
I have a few others, but those projects have been along with me forever. There is one project where I’ll use some of my older ”left-overs” from the Rapture period and it will contain some kind of ”fusion” from The Mist and the Morning Dew as well. Maybe some that are easier to approach.
I could play more guitar as I’m playing now, I’m using it as a tool more than playing it all the time nowadays.
Okay, thank you for time, patience, and answers! See you in Moscow! Do you have a few more words for our readers?
Keep it slow. Come over to the show and share some ”good” vibes with us, there aren’t many nights like these to come. Cheers!