Interview with guitarist Pekka Räihä and drummer Jori Sara-aho
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 15, 2014
Crippler, formed in 2011, may be a newcomer to the Finnish Death Metal scene but the members of this trio have already earned spurs in other Finnish extreme Metal acts such as Scent of Flesh, Funeral Feast, Death Toll 80k and so on.
The troops in Crippler have recorded two well-received demos thus far; the band's debut 3-track demo, Threshing Sledge, was recorded at the end of May 2013, while the follow-up, To Crawl Among the Gods, was released in June 2014. They seem to be at home playing strongly US-styled Death Metal, with influences from bands like Nile, Suffocation and Deicide as well as a few other names that may spring to mind when listening to the band's violent, brutal and heavy sound.
The Metal Crypt wanted to know more about this new and promising Finnish band and if they will offer more than just "meat and potatoes" Death Metal. Guitarist Pekka and drummer Jori used this opportunity to tell us more about Crippler's evil and nasty plans for the world domination...
Luxi: "You cannot lose playing Death Metal." Is this the thought that crossed your mind when you started putting a new band together in the summer of 2011? Obviously, your previous connections with Scent of Flesh had something to do with you staying on this path...
Pekka: Well, kind of, yeah. I really could not seriously imagine myself playing anything other than Death Metal live. The birth of Crippler was pretty traditional. When Scent of Flesh went on hiatus, we started to jam our favorite covers with Jori; Morbid Angel, Cryptopsy, Cannibal Corpse, etc. Then we started to make our own riffs and so it started.
Luxi: Did you have a clear vision, from the beginning, of what you wanted Crippler to sound like as the band started taking shape?
Pekka: Yes, I/we did. Actually, we didn't decide that our new, unnamed at this point, band would necessarily be Death Metal, we just wanted it to be as heavy/violent/tough as possible. We also knew, almost from the beginning, I guess, that we wanted it to sound like early 90's US-Death Metal, like Suffocation and Cryptopsy.
Jori: For me, personally, it was very important to stand out from the rest of the Finnish Death Metal scene. I had dabbled with very old school, Hellhammer/Slaughter-type Death Metal before and now I wanted do something completely different.
Luxi: You have two demos under your belts, Threshing Sledge, from 2013, and To Crawl Among the Gods, from June 2014. The latter seems to drive through the thickest concrete walls with its three, equally strong Death metal compositions. Is this the musical direction that Crippler will follow going forward?
Pekka: Definitely, yes. I try to write songs like "Exiled from the Throne of Dominance" and "To Crawl Among the Gods," but you never know what kind of riff I will create. If it's good, and I like it, it's Crippler. Tough, pontificating songs seem to be the way.
Luxi: How different was it to write and record the songs for your second demo compared to the first? Naturally, you tried to build on the experience of the first one when putting the second one together, correct?
Pekka: Difficult question, haha! I'm not very productive though my aim is always very high so, if I manage to compose three songs in a year, its quite good. I think Jori made two songs in one day for the new demo. We didn't have a lot of songs to choose from and we just recorded the ones we had. I spent months with "To Crawl..." and also with "Exiled..." but both of those songs came out pretty awesome, I think.
Recording was much more professional (on the Crippler scale, at least!) with To Crawl... than with Threshing... and I think we managed to avoid repeating the biggest mistakes. I recorded all guitars at home and we re-amped them at our rehearsal basement afterward. Oh boy, was it a project getting all the riffs in. That tells you how lame a guitarist I am, haha! Anyway, if playing the music isn't tough, the Death Metal won't be, either. That's just the way it is.
Jori: At first, we worked with the music on our own and exchanged ideas through email. I came up with the ideas for "Vicious Internment" and "Flaming Wreckage" very quickly, but honing them to perfection took some time. It took a lot more time for me to write lyrics for all the songs than it did to write the riffs, since I wanted high-quality lyrics (or at least as good as I can, haha!). The recording itself was much more enjoyable, as we didn't tape everything at our rehearsal place this time. Still, recording our songs is always super-hard, since the songs are physically and mentally demanding. This has always been my philosophy with metal music; if you're not swearing and sweating, you're not trying hard enough. "To Crawl Among the Gods" was a song I wasn't sure I would ever be able to play, so it was very rewarding to hear the finished version.
Pekka: We had this joke from the very beginning that every part of every song would be hard for at least one member to play. If Jori hasn't got a grimace on his face while blasting a fast and long part or I don't struggle with some seriously difficult riffs, Janne will have a hard time getting through some complex mixture of bass playing and growling, hah!
Luxi: Your work ethic and motivation are obviously very high, correct?
Pekka: We are doing this as a serious hobby and, at least for me, this is my only band at the moment. I will do my best to make Crippler THE Death Metal band in Finland.
Luxi: Can negative energy be turned into positive energy when you are composing new material for Crippler? Can that help you give birth to a new Crippler song?
Pekka: Well, to me, the whole idea is strange. I don't play guitar when I'm in a bad mood so I don't turn any of my feelings into music. I just hear new riffs in my head or find something cool while playing just for fun and start making a song out of it. My cell phone is full of really stupid sounding whistles that I have recorded at work or some place other than home. Better to be safe than sorry because the best riff ideas come always then when you can't play, hah!
Jori: The world around me inspires all the music I make. With the lyrics there is some negative energy involved, since they deal with topics like oppression, megalomania and power. Those are topics that make me very angry, but I don't want the lyrics to sound like ranting.
Luxi: Not to name drop but I was wondering if certain artists/bands have been strong influences on your music?
Pekka: Well there MIGHT be some Nile in my riffs, haha! You can also hear Suffocation, Hate Eternal, Cryptopsy, etc. Maybe my songs are the "best of collection" of my favorite bands...
Jori: Deicide, Gorguts, Cryptopsy, Morbid Angel, early Hate Eternal and Suffocation must be the most important influences to my songwriting. They all involve very intricate and detailed compositions, but the end result is very catchy and powerful. This something I aim to achieve myself.
Luxi: Do you believe that, if it weren't for your experience playing in Scent of Flesh, it would be unlikely that Crippler would exist in this particular form?
Pekka: I met Jori for the first time at Scent of Flesh rehearsals in 2008. The shame is that if Scent of Flesh was still active, Crippler would not have been born. We have not played on any Scent of Flesh record or composed anything for that band so I think it can be forgotten when talking about why Crippler sounds the way it does. I really enjoyed playing live in Scent of Flesh and really hope that it can return some day, but now it's time for Crippler.
Jori: Pekka and I have not been involved with the songwriting for Scent of Flesh, since it's handled by Matti (guitar player and singer for Scent of Flesh). Crippler was simply born out of all the spare ideas we had for Scent of Flesh that weren't used. Concerning the topic of learning to build up a band, Scent of Flesh wasn't anything new to me, since I had already played in tons of bands before it and still do (right now Speedtrap and Death Toll 80k, back then Hooded Menace, etc.)
Luxi: Now, the To Crawl Among the Gods demo has been out a couple of months. How pleased have you been with the response so far? Has it exceeded your even wildest expectations?
Pekka: Haha! Well, if we forget all reviews, not very pleased. Threshing... received much more feedback and response than I assumed so I thought To Crawl... would break the bank. It certainly didn't but IMO the main reason is that, in Finland, if Death Metal is not old school, no one cares. Except a few maniacs from Turku (a city located in the southern part of Finland - Luxi), haha!
Jori: Right now, there isn't any kind of a ready-made "market" for this kind of Death Metal. People are very, very skeptical when you mention US-style Death Metal and many associate it with a very one-dimensional, ultra-br00tal approach and think it isn't "real" Death Metal. We should remember that there is a lot of diversity in US-styled Death Metal; from the 80's and 90's classics to all the modern stuff. European and Scandinavian old-school Death Metal is much sexier right now and no one else is really playing this kind of music in Finland except us. We are fighting an uphill battle but I see it as an advantage for us, since we stand out quite clearly from the current mass of bands.
Luxi: I noticed that you have taken a full advantage of social media by promoting your demos on the Internet. Do you find the internet the best option to promote your band or do you still prefer sending out physical copies and playing live as much as possible, the old school way?
Pekka: We printed 100 copies of Threshing Sledge and I still have four copies on my desk. 3€ anyone? :D So we decided with To Crawl... to print physical copies only if there is huge demand. Anyway the Internet is a good channel to promote the band and I don't think many people want to buy physical demos anymore. Playing gigs is definitely the best way to promote the band but we can only be on the road rarely, for a number of reasons, so the Internet it is for now.
Luxi: What kind of restrictions are there to taking Crippler on the road for a longer time; studies, work, families, etc.?
Pekka: Everyone has some. We are aiming for a few good warm-up gigs in the near future.
Jori: I am very involved with Speedtrap right now and I also have work and family duties to handle. Right now it's not really possible to tour extensively, but it's not really the right time, either. All in good time.
Luxi: When can people expect to see Crippler onstage next and what kind of plans do you have for the end of the year or the beginning of 2015?
Pekka: We will try to perform at least one gig this year but for some private reasons we can't book lots of gigs right now. Stay tuned; we will release more info in a month or two.
Luxi: As you have probably noticed, there seems to be a good Death Metal movement going on in Finland these days. This second wave of Finnish Death Metal has produced many great names, such as Maveth, Krypts, Lie in Ruins, Swallowed, Worthless, Stench of Decay, Mörbid Vomit, Inharmonic and many others. What position do you see Crippler taking in the Finnish Death Metal scene and the larger, world-wide scene?
Pekka: None of those bands are in our narrow sector of the Death Metal genre. However, many of them are familiar bands and we know some of the guys. I don't listen/search new bands very much and don't know the exact situation but I assume there are not many bands that want to sound like older Suffocation. Well, we do! Old school and blackened Death Metal we have already. My goal is ALWAYS to make Crippler a heavier, more violent, tougher and faster Death Metal band and to surprise new listeners. Almost every new song contains parts that I can't play at full speed at first so I have to improve my technical skills at the time. I just wish that I could have a faster down stroke hand... HAH!
Luxi: How much cooperation do you get from other Finnish Death Metal bands when it comes to supporting each other? Do you have a network of friends in other bands that help you get gigs and spread the Crippler name to new audiences?
Pekka: Of course we know most of the guys in the Finnish Death Metal genre, but this is such a young band that we haven't done any real cooperative things with any others bands yet.
Jori: Our first two shows were booked by our friends, who also have bands they play in. It's the usual deal; we're all a part of community with the same love for music. Extreme music can't exist without this network of enthusiastic people.
Luxi: What are the next steps that the Crippler camp will be taking to make sure the flag of Death Metal stays as high as possible?
Pekka: I'm working with a new song and rehearsing the old ones (this summer I got lazy). Our goal is to perform 1-2 gigs in 2014 and record an album before the summer of 2015.
Luxi: What kinds of things bring you the most enjoyment when you grab your main instrument and start torturing it with sheer enthusiasm and energy? Do you feel most at home with Death Metal or do other forms of music give you an adrenaline rush?
Pekka: I have always been a fanatic fiend for the heavy and low-tuned distortion sound so that is the first reason I like to grab and play my Jackson. If I'm not in the mood for trying to make new riffs I usually just play some of my favorite riffs or adjust the sound, etc. For example, yesterday I just played the main verse riff from Nile's "Unas..." over and over again because it's just so awesome and majestic.
I used to blast Death Metal loud ALL THE TIME when I was at home but nowadays I listen to more light music at home. I blast Death Metal all the way to work and back in the car, you know, haha! I really don't listen much of this radio shit or other mainstream music. Just light or tough; brutal Death Metal, light ambient or jazz.
Jori: Fast drumming is something I enjoy very much; it demands your full attention and it relieves you of the stress of the world around you. I wasn't really at home playing Doom Metal back when I was in Hooded Menace. I've always enjoyed playing Death Metal, Thrash Metal and Grindcore more. Death Metal isn't the only style of music I love. I enjoy traditional Metal, Speed Metal, Thrash Metal, Hardcore, Grindcore and "power-violence." I don't listen to slow or mellow music that much, it's always Repulsion, Origin, Razor, Exciter or Deep Wound, etc. that I put on. The slowest stuff I listen to is Hardcore like Kickback, Cold as Life and All Out War. I love those kinds of bands.
Luxi: If you wanted to dedicate one of Crippler's songs to someone, which song would it be and why?
Pekka: I would like to dedicate "Exiled from the Throne of Dominance" to my dear friend Magne from Norway, because when he was visiting me in December 2012, we listened to the early version of first demo and the first riff from the "Exiled..." stuck with him. He hummed that riff the whole weekend, hah!
Luxi: What are Crippler's goals, small or large, for 2015? Remember, exaggerating is not forbidden and can actually be surprisingly healthy for you... ;o)
Pekka: We are going to record and release the toughest, most badass Death Metal album ever made by mankind and play few gigs in Finland, then do warm-up shows for Nile, Suffocation, Defeated Sanity and Bolt Thrower.
Luxi: Thank you Pekka and Jori for enlightening all of us about this Death Metal unit named Crippler. It was a pleasure. Also, I want to wish you all the best with your future activities with Crippler or whatever you choose to do. You are entitled to the last comments, be they swear words or whatever, so spit 'em out!
Pekka: Thank you!! It was fun. I just want to say... ooooOOOoooOOOO!! Listen to some goddamned Death Metal!! And if you like Crippler, please tell your motherfucking friends!!
|Other information about Crippler on this site|
|Review: To Crawl Among the Gods|
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