(In this week’s edition of Andy Synn‘s series of interviews focused on lyrics in metal, he poses the questions to Jukka Pelkonen, vocalist of a favorite band we never lose interest in — Omnium Gatherum.)
If you’re one of those strange, yet oddly wonderful, people who’ve been reading this site for a while then you’ll probably be aware that the entire NCS crew has been “ride or die” (that’s right, I’m hip) for Omnium Gatherum since at least 2007, meaning that our collective love for the band actually predates the site’s very existence!
So, for the last edition of Waxing Lyrical for 2018, I caught up with OG’s long-serving vocalist Jukka Pelkonen to get the skinny on the in’s and out’s of his lyrics and his writing style over the years.
Words, sentences, speech and written language have always interested me. Especially when they are combined with music. This combination is something special. I can recall from early childhood so many times when I would remember the lyrics from this song or that. And even though I only understood Finnish, still foreign songs would get stuck in my head.
So my fondness for lyrics is part of a lifelong desire to understand the world itself.
I started to write lyrics at a rather young age, for imaginary bands I would come up with regularly. When I was about fifteen my friends and I formed a group that made its own music, and the responsibility for the lyrics was eagerly taken by me. The group eventually evolved into a “real” band and ended up releasing two full-length albums where I did all the lyrics. It was really important to me to maintain the continuity of the “message” within the music. To this day it still is.
When I joined Omnium Gatherum back in 2006 I made it clear that I would be responsible also for the lyrics of the forthcoming albums I would be on. OG had previously had a brilliant writer of lyrics before me and that also gave me an inspiration to go beyond the ego and contribute lyrically as to the full extent that I possibly could.
A great legacy needs an even greater future.
Inspiration is everywhere. This is the crucial observation when it comes to my writing process. There are, of course, different degrees of how or when someone or something inspires one. Inspiration can strike with a surprise or it can wait, loom and hover here and there, growing silently until it emerges in an unexpected way. These forms are also intertwined. How could they not be? That kind of circular evolution, the merging of different inspirational roots, is something magical. This is also the reason why inspiration and its sources can’t always be defined.
I will give no explanation as to why these lyrics particularly touch my emotions. They do, and that is enough.
Dave Matthews Band, “Spoon” (from the album Before These Crowded Streets):
From time to time
Minutes and hours
Some move ahead while
Some lag behind
It’s like the balloon that
Rise and then vanish
This drop of hope
That falls from his eyes
Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows” (from the album I’m Your Man):
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Everything changes whether one wants it or not. Through age and experience. Through pain and ecstasy. Through the dullest and the most exciting. Change is constant yet it carries in itself the memories of past victories and failures. And the way this process changes the writer is as important as is how the writing itself evolves. It is a symbiosis which lives its own existence, and both parties (the writer and the work) are merely bystanders watching the thing unfold ceaselessly.
The development of the writer happens with the amount of hours and years spent with(in) this relationship. Usually the writer becomes more at peace and develops a deeper understanding of the work. One starts a new cycle whenever the work intensifies – it has no rules except when done within a deadline. And then the only rule is time.
I still write whenever I feel like. I have detached myself almost completely from the emotional whirlwind writing can arouse within. Then the territory is pressure-free and new ways of dynamic approach can be achieved. When creating new lyrics I write to complete the music. When not writing lyrics music does not play a major part in my work. As an inspiration from time to time yes, but it does not compel me to write like when writing lyrics.
The process is ongoing and I don’t think the fundamental principles for me will ever change drastically. Still, if they do, the change is welcome.
Lyrically The Redshift is one of the more shamanistic, thematically speaking. There’s an almost animistic approach to emerging reality inside the story that to me comes out in themes of ever-continuing spontaneous action, akin to instinct, and the song “Shapes on Shades” is one which really draws the line between the day and the night side of the album.
There is no real chance I´d ever run out of bombs
And I can behave as wished, when I wish
This phrase from the lyrics speaks loudly about just that. Reality itself takes animal (instinctive power) like forms by not submitting to one’s will, and at the same time, paradoxically, does just that. This is the shaman’s road, so to speak.
A reality that cannot be understood in any rational means must be seen and understood as a mystery which fulfills and is fulfilled by the enigma of conscious existence. This dialogue between the great unknown and the “fearless warrior” is ever-circling as a form, and the relationship is also seen as merciful because of the necessity participation by both parties.
Not here to harm you, not here to worship you
Not here to break you, not here to submit unto you
Here to love you, until- and over the end
This is the promise both participants make to each other. Hence the whole existence makes itself possible, and shamanistic “trips” become a reality.
At the time “Shapes on Shades” was written I really wanted to explore the back-alleys of the conscious and the subconscious. All the lyrics on the album reflect this.
“Rejuvenate!” is a song from Grey Heavens, whose lyrics are an interesting mix-up of the thought patterns which arise when one contemplates the nature of reality and the possibility of divinity within it.
It combines the thought of total emptiness of substance within reality with the idea of divine mental awareness which can be felt through intuition. And you can see that the themes, in both old and new material, however wide and varying within the spectrum, ultimately circle around similar subjects.
“Rejuvenate!” tries to question the importance of awareness and its necessity for reality. And this question, this particular story, is in the end about certainty of the self and healing after the struggle of understanding.
Expressed feelings to save the day
Reasonably still knowing inside out
For it matters not, who is set to be known
For it matters not why things are shown
The very title itself is self-evident. The change which happened to me as an artist/lyricist/writer in the years betweenThe Redshift and Grey Heavens has been fruitful, in the sense that the writing process is deeper and reaches new heights because of the inevitability of maturation.
By this I mean I have kept the flame alive by continuing the work, the effort, and not succumbed into the abyss of boredom. I have tried to embrace the cruel fact that I cannot avoid change. So I have to harness it and merge myself with it to have access to new levels of understanding.
Have a great day you all!