Interview with Lauri Eerola (bass)
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 11, 2012
Finnish 'Horror Metallers', Domination Black have experienced a lot, both in good and bad, but nothing seems to stop them. The band has gone through a concrete wall and come back from the same hole stronger than ever.
Domination Black lost their longtime vocalist Kapa Killgast at the end of 2009 when he told his band mates he was retiring from Domination Black and forming his own band Kreyskull. After that the band seemed to disappear from the limelights for quite a long while, searching for a replacement to fill in the big boots Kapa left behind him in the band – plus of course working silently yet determinedly on new material, hoping to win some labels' interest. The latter one never happened but at least they found Matias Palm who had previously done some vocals for such Finnish Heavy metal troopers as Heavy Metal Perse and Merging Flare.
Domination Black's third full-length studio album carries the title "Dimension: Death" and this is one of the things I talked about in the following interview with the band's bassist Lauri Eerola.
Luxi: It's been 4 years since Domination Black released their last studio recording, which was a 5-track EP titled "Haunting", and it's been even a longer time - 6 years precisely, since the band's 2nd full-length studio album, "Dark Legacy", was released. After the "Haunting" EP, the band parted ways with ex-vocalist Kapa Killgast and since then it hasn't been easy for the band to find a replacement to fill Kapa's boots. Would you kindly enlighten us about all those unfortunate setbacks Domination Black was forced to face after Kapa's departure?
Lauri: Kapa may not have had the same motivation towards the band as he used to, which reflected in his interest to tour as much anymore or make new songs. Domination Black has, regardless, always been a very tight group and all about equality and discussing the parting of Kapa was not an easy thing to do and we might not have been able to cover the right subjects the way we might have wanted to. Kind of like a family that's about to go through a divorce without actually fighting over anything. Things weren't all that great to begin with and neither party, the band or Kapa were happy with how things were going after the release of "Haunting". On occasions we did have discussions about Kapa's future ambitions and overall plans regarding the band but things just weren't going down the alley we wanted them to go. After spending almost two years dealing with problems as such, Kapa himself asked us, the rest of the band that would it be an acceptable resolution that he left Domination Black, which in a way was something of a relief seeing as it brought clarity to the big question at hand. Other bands might have handled the situation with less discretion and in a way that would've led to some bad blood or grit between the members but us being the Domination Black family, we came to a resolution that eventually pleased everyone and there were no hard feelings whatsoever and everybody is still in good terms and good friends.
Luxi: Did you ever – at least at some point during these past 3-4 years or so – lose hope regarding this band because so much water had gone under the bridge before the band finally found Matias Palm to handle the vocals in Domination Black. I suppose you found the right man for this job though, right?
Lauri: After Kapa finally had officially resigned it actually didn't take too long for Matias to step in as the new vocalist. We did look for a new singer through our website and a few forums for a while which just wasn't working out at all, and I believe it was our drummer Juha who originally threw in the idea of asking Matias if he would be interested in the job, and he was! And only after a few rehearsals and tryouts we all had the feeling that he was the right man for the job and in addition had a lot to offer and bring to the table without altering the or downgrading the band in any way. A win-win situation if you will.
Luxi: Matias has a completely different vocal approach compared to your previous vocalist Kapa. While Kapa used to remind me of from Rob Halford to King Diamond vocally, Matias has probably a teeny-weeny more sort of traditional Power Metal voice that could fit with bands from Firewind to Helloween, for example. How do you think the Domination Black fans can handle this when they get to hear "Dimension: Death"?
Lauri: Not only is Matias an awesome singer, he is also a talented guitar player (and a swell drummer to say the least) – and is thus able to contribute that extra twist and ideas when it comes to making new songs. Dimension: Death actually has quite a bit of melodies that are Matias's handwriting. Comparing vocalists is always hard and eventually boils down to personal preferences. Kapa's performance in Domination Black was no less than excellent but I think it wasn't until Kapa's new band Kreyskull (which is awesome by the way! Check it out!) - that he reached his full potential. After Kapa left we were intentionally looking for a vocalist that didn't sound too much like Kapa and we hope that like us, people would steer away from the whole 'comparing two vocalists' subject. It's just pointless. So yeah, after Matias joined, the songs have taken a turn to a more melodic direction and the lyrics themselves have a different tone as well. One could say there's more message to the new songs than there was before. To the fans (if there ever were any) the change of a vocalist can be a breath of fresh air and a welcome surprise, but people need to realize that the songs made with Kapa are still there and will always be, and that Kapa's departure, in a way, means that what there was to give with that lineup we had already given and it's highly likely that there was nothing more to add to that chapter of the band. The fans should appreciate the fact that the band still exists. No use throwing in the ands, iffs or butts.
Luxi: So, I take it you didn't have any major troubles whatsoever in getting Matias' vocal lines to fit into these new Domination Black songs and got this process successfully accomplished after all?
Lauri: I'd say there was no trouble at all to be honest. Domination Black has been writing new material even soon after "Haunting" and a lot of the new songs already had a template and a frame to work with long before "Dimension:Death" and quite a few even before Matias joined the band. These ideas and slates were just put to the anvil and thus begun the forging of the new style and direction of Domination Black. There were no special plans or strategies, things just pretty much took a natural flow to them.
Luxi: I am curious to know is Matias committed to stay as your permanent vocalist, being aware of the fact he does also sing in other bands, and not only in Domination Black?
Lauri: And he also has quite a bit of hobbies, a job, a girlfriend and has to sleep and eat and watch television and surf the net. To cope, Domination Black is planning on adding more hours to the cycle, more days to the week, more weeks to the month etc. etc. And make time for everything. We have still to figure out how we're going to pull all this off but in the end I do believe we'll have plenty of time for everything.
Luxi: Talking about this 'vocalist search' for one more question that you had going on for a while, I was just wondering whether you had some other candidates that you were also considering for your new vocalist?
Lauri: For a while we were getting pretty desperate. Even Heiskanen and Eerola tried filling in for the spot (smiley face). But honestly we had a few guys who were interested and in addition to that a few familiar names we thought about, but as mentioned above it was pretty much a hands down deal finding Matias and him finding us.
Luxi: The news is that Domination Black has now a new record out, titled "Dimension: Death", including 9 cuts in total. You were working a long period of time for this record - and now when the album has finally been released, it goes without saying, but you must feel very happy, satisfied and in a way relieved as well because this record took much effort for you guys to make. So, what I would like to know, could you tell how it was different making your 3rd album compared to your two previous albums, "Fearbringer" and "Dark Legacy"?
Lauri: Sure, making '"Dimension: Death" was a lot different than the two prior to it, but at the same time I think it had much in common with making the debut album. Kinda like with the new album, the songs on "Fearbringer" had already been made for a while and been played live. Like now, we've been playing the songs from the new album here and there in a form or another and we were pretty well prepared when we finally went into the studio. "Fearbringer" was our first album and back then we didn't have that big of an idea about how to behave in the studio and what an album should sound like. One can't claim that we haven't learned anything since 2005 but the same faint feeling of 'at loss' was there, regardless I do feel that the experience gained through the years has refined this blissful ignorance to a point where we were finally able to find that sound and style we really wanted to go for. On the other hand a big difference to the older albums has been the bands ability to influence with the details regarding all the recording schedules and whatnots in a whole different way than for example on "Fearbringer" or "Legacy", and the band has had much more control over stuff related to the release and overall to how stuff gets done. This might have slowed the overall process down a bit (seeing as we originally planned to release "Dimension: Death" in 2011) - but we do feel that the marketing and promoting of the new album has been handled more thoroughly than before.
"Dimension: Death" is the first release through Kanki Records and one of the owners of K.R. is our bass player, Lauri and thus possibilities to influence the making of the album are completely different than before, when the release was handled by a third party.
Another thing different compared to the two prior albums is the whole concept in which selling the records is handled than it was 5 years ago. Even though they didn't sell back then like they used to 15-20 years ago, we're still kinda at the bottom of the wave which makes us a bit nervous. Our worst fear is that people just aren't that interested in bands releasing albums anymore. Fortunately for example the digital release of material is bringing new life to record sales and might that be the new format in which bands sell records in the future? An LP release of "Dimension: Death" might be out of the question for now, but hopefully the demand for one would be high enough in the future for us to release albums in the LP format.
Luxi: Would you give some sort of rundown on each song on your new record "Dimension: Death", telling briefly something about these 9 new songs?
Lauri: 01. Legacy of Fears: It's been somewhat of a dream to make a song over 10 minutes in length - and this was it. Another dream was to make it into a fitting single (3-4min), because I think it's probably the best song we've made so far.
02. Passage of the Dead: Originally 'a joke around the office' as that Testament song. But after Matias honed the vocals and topped it off with some melodies, 'Passage of the Dead' turned into an interesting 'power-thrash' extravaganza. An easy choice as the first online sneak-peak.
03. Porter at the Gates of Hell: This song saw first light in 2009 live shows when Killgast was still on vocals. Afterwards it saw some refining and alterations lyric and melody wise.
04. The Final Sigh: Kinda hard to merit one song over the other, seeing as they're all so good but this one for sure is one in the top runner ups in deciding 'the best song on the album. Definitely a permanent weapon in our live arsenal! A nice change for the old DB style with a little Rock/Punk on the side.
05. Dimension: Death: As it says on the tin, the title song and an intro to the next one. Probably caused the most trouble recording even though it's only about a minute long!
06. Cold Touch: A guaranteed hit, one the youngest in the family are sure to like too! Also another demo-stage sneak-peek that was available for free streaming in Myspace back in 2010. We originally meant to do the single video of this song, but that idea is on hiatus as of now. We'll check back with that a little later. Kinda like with 'The Final Sigh', a definite 'poll favorite' within the band when choosing the best song. Also somewhat of a dated song that wasn't meddled with in pre-production. Also the lyrics are of Killgast's handwriting.
07. Angel Dark: Our synth player Elminen's long line project and a breathtakingly ballsy piece.
08. Evilizer: The song we eventually decided to make the single/video out of. This time we ditched the whole ' scary boogie man' -theme and decided to go with horror of a little different sort. No point explaining the plot too much, gotta leave something for the viewer to chew down on as well.
09. The Hellbound: A story about the generations preceding us. We do have some subjects covering war in our songs, even though Domination Black isn't much of a stance taking band, and this song isn't about making a statement on who did right or wrong. We hope no such wrongs will be committed anymore and that our songs could be all about events far in the past. We thought about making a video in which people fight a snowball fight. Could be fun!
Luxi: "Dimension: Death" was recorded as well as mixed by a guy named Teemu Aalto, and mastered by Dan Swänö in Sweden at his own studio. What made you to choose these two fellows to work with you guys for this record?
Lauri: Teemu was already our recorder on "Fearbringer" and just someone we all knew from before and is a well-known acquaintance from the local music scene. Teemu has done lots of records in the past few years and is a real pro and he has a great vision on how our record should sound like. At one time we did think about having Juuso Elminen, our keyboard player do the recording, after all he recorded 'The Haunting' mcd:s and can handle himself well behind the mixing table but it was Juuso's wish that we got someone outside the band to handle it. Seeing as we've been playing the songs so much, a new pair of ears can do the trick and bring more perspective and ideas to the process. Working with Teemu was just a breeze and he treated everyone in a very fatherly-manner. As for Dan 'Swänson', he also was a familiar name already, having done the mastering on f.ex. the Merging Flare album and a few other records by familiar bands. As a matter of fact, right at the last minute before submitting the record to be pressed we had to make a new copy of the master tape, almost put us in a hurry.
Luxi: The record came out on a small independent label called Kanki Records, and it's the very first release on that particular label. I gotta ask is this some label owned by the members of the band, or owned by somebody else? What's the first run of the record; 1000-2000 copies perhaps?
Lauri: As mentioned before, one of the owners of Kanki Records is our bass player Lauri Eerola, through his company Kotkan Kanki Ltd. Other owners of Kanki Records are f.ex. Jussi Serengil who sings backing vocals on the track 'Cold Touch', and who is also the vocalist of the band Wolftrap – who, by the way have a new album coming out later this year. Wolftrap is the band risen from the ashes of Manitou – and features Markus Vanhala on lead guitar, and he is also the technical and artistic advisor of Kanki Records - also referred to as a record mogul. Vanhala's other bands alongside Wolftrap are Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum – who have connections to Dan Swänso and Vanhala is also a good friend of Teemu Aalto. Being the gentlemen we are, Matias is performing backing vocals on Wolftrap's new album and that's pretty much how we do things 'round here. Helping each other out and just being there for each other. As for the first run, Kanki Records has made a significant investment financial-wise towards the new record, even in these times when record sales aren't that big to begin with. The amount of physical copies on the first run is a rather small one seeing as we're marketing it first in Finland and the rest of Scandinavia and the Baltic. As stated above the amount of digital sales has started to play a bigger role in terms of record sales and thus the amount and demand for physical copies isn't that big. Unlike the physical copy, the digital release of the album will be available worldwide right away. Of course it is important to the fans as well as the band itself to get a hold of an actual record, and if we do run out we will print more right away and hopefully sell enough records to be able to make an LP-release.
Luxi: Are there already some distribution deals in the works to get the album outside of the borders of Finland for sale as well?
Lauri: The distribution of the physical record will be handled by Playground Music – and as said will first cover Finland, Scandinavia and the Baltic. Digitally worldwide. We are also negotiating worldwide distribution of the physical record with Playground Music and hopefully we'll work out a good deal. A big factor is of course the reception of the album here in Finland and the amount of interest it generates around it. If someone really wants the record, they can order it through web stores to pretty much any corner of the world of course. They way these things work these days brings not only new challenges but opportunities as well.
Luxi: I remember there were also some talks that you guys were negotiating with some labels to get Domination Black signed for a label that could bring the band on the next level of getting known more largely. One of the labels - as far I can recall, was Sony Music Finland. What happened to that one? Did something go wrong with them, or why on earth did their interest fade away towards Domination Black so quickly?
Lauri: Record companies these days, understandably enough, are pretty cautious and often invest in the bands they already have signed with. Also in terms of license selling they seem to be overly cautious. Record companies - as a concept and as a business are going through transitions and in its current dated form don't appear to be that good business anymore. Sometimes it just feels that they want to milk the artists as much and as quick as possible and this would seem to render Domination Black a not so tempting of an investment. Especially seeing as Heavy Metal bands and music often don't appeal to big crowds right away and gain their fans and fortune through a career of hard work and touring. It often feels as if even the 'big bands' get to play on big stadiums only after reaching a point in their carreer in which their first few albums are but a memory of something past and people with kids, families come up to see the show as it just so happens to be both dads' and their sons' favorite band. Doesn't fit the mindset of a record company to start investing in a band that would bring profit only after 20 years or so... On the other hand record companies gladly take all the rights to the band and function as somewhat of a manager for the band, which I guess can also be a good thing. Bands get professional support and things start getting done in pursuit of a mutual benefit for the band and the record company. Perhaps before it was more a case of bands blaming the companies for lousy conducts and the companies not being happy with the band. All in all it's all about mutual interests and we all should be tugging the same end of the rope, if you will.
Luxi: I guess once the album has found its way to the record shops around Finland, Domination Black will obviously do some gigging to support the album's sales, plus also bring back the band's name on people's lips since it's been quite a while since the band actually did an extensive amount of gigs on your home ground, Finland?
Lauri: At the moment we do have a few gigs booked already, but honestly it's a little too early to say anything conclusive seeing as a lot of details are still to be sorted. Best thing to do is go to http://www.dominationblack.com -> gigs and check out where we'll be heading next and when. Can't say it's too much right now but hey, quality over quantity!
Luxi: How much have you seriously talked inside the band about getting gigs booked abroad as well? I mean, if you don't have a proper gig promoter to sell the band to possible interested parties, then I can fully understand how damn hard it may be to get the band on tour on a larger scale. I suppose that's how it is: Domination Black still lacks a professional guy who could possible book some gigs for you, both for Finland and outside of Finland, correct?
Lauri: While this is true, it's a bit the same as with big record companies; it often feels that if you lay it all to be handled by some alleged pro, things might start to look up and we'd get more bookings etc, but at the same time if this mentioned Mr. Pro isn't in on it from the heart and for the band, it could turn out to be a huge let down. Sure there's been negotiations related, but we just haven't found the right one yet. I wish it were that simple. Sometimes I feel like sparking up a huge beacon to signal the promoters "over here! We're available!". Wouldn't you be interested if you saw that beacon? ;)
Luxi: Getting a support slot for some better known and established name would definitely help in getting Domination Black's name way better for people's awareness, I believe...
Lauri: ...is what we believe as well.
Luxi: What kinds of hopes and/or goals do you have for 2012 regarding the band, and what you might achieve this year?
Lauri: Hopefully this new album of ours would get some visibility and attention which by itself would help the band to keep our gears grindin'. Also we plan on playing some good shows and just having a good time altogether
Luxi: That was it - for now at least. I wanna thank you guys for answering these questions and wish you all the best for 2012. If there's something you still would like to add to this interview, then go ahead...
Lauri: Thank you for the interview. It was no less than interesting and it was a real pleasure answering all these questions after such a long time. Lots of bands say that without the audience and the fans, there would be no band, and this is so true. These days bands come and go and it would seem that for some bands getting started is too much of a chore and they just can't muster up the energy to keep going. Go to shows! Buy records and keep diggin' the music and the bands! That's how we'll keep this thing alive! Thank you.
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