Interview with vocalist and bassist Markus Makkonen, guitarist Antti Heikkinen and drummer Vesa Mutka
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: August 14, 2017
Sadistik Forest, a Finnish old-school Death Metal squad formed in 2007, has loyally stuck to its guns since this unholy entity came together. They've released two full-length studio albums and one split (with Russian Death Metal trio Septory) during their 10 years of existence.
Their third full-length studio album has long been in the works and finally things seem to be falling into place. Read what three of the four band members have to say about the plans for this new album, playing gigs and many other things.
Luxi: To get this interview started, the news is that you guys have been working with album no. 3 for quite some time. I guess there's a bunch of things that you would like to reveal about it, so by be my guest...
Markus: Hi Luxi! Good to hear from you and thanks for the opportunity to do this interview. Yeah, it has been taking us quite some time with this one. Our former label Violent Journey Records went under soon after our previous album Death, Doom, Radiation was out and we decided to work without any deadlines this time. We wanted to arrange the songs as well as we could and get top-notch performances. For example, this is the first Sadistik Forest album that has both guitarists doing rhythm all the time in two channels; the old skool way! So far, Antti and Matti have split the tracks on previous albums and the guy who was tighter with that particular track did all the rhythm guitars. This was mainly to save time. Now we could get as old school was we wanted instead...
Also, S.F. #3 will be the first one to feature second generation music for us. Our first two records were largely written during the previous decade, so it is a bit like opening a new bag of toys for us...
Luxi: Were there things on this new opus that you paid more attention to after learning from your past recording experiences?
Markus: Well, like I already mentioned we took time to get everything the way we wanted. And I mean everything - all the musical/graphical/lyrical aspects of the recording. In the past, things have maybe been a bit rushed for us. The first S.F. album was intentionally in a week as it was meant to be our Kill 'em All and Show No Mercy. We rammed through the songs without adding "the scent of roses"... Heh! It worked well for the debut but the sophomore record would surely have benefitted from more pre-production. This time around we did not go even near the studio until we had the songs arranged and had them "flowing" in rehearsals. Another important thing was waiting for the recorded material to sink in a bit and going back to fix things that were bothering us. Let me assure you, we have never been this patient before... Hahah! So yeah - the intentional lack of schedules is the thing with this record. Not rushing it, as has been the case in the past.
Antti: It has taken us so long that it is hard to remember what we planned for it in the first place! But yeah, our sole goal was to improve everything and not to rush things.
Luxi: It's been five long years between this forthcoming album and your previous album, Death, Doom, Radiation. What have been some of the main reasons for the extended time? Did you ever have moments when you thought, "our blood is not boiling the way it should be. It's hard to pump new-old blood into this beast"?
Markus: I suppose the main reason was me being really busy with Hooded Menace for the past five years. In the beginning, I had the optimistic idea that the time between bands would be split 50/50, but it proved to be far from the case. Hooded Menace was a really time-consuming effort, as there was constantly something new and interesting going on. Tours, festivals and recordings meant the time spent on Sadistik Forest grew less and less. It must've been a frustrating to other guys for sure. We really tried to be efficient with the time we could spend together, not messing around and getting the momentum going whenever we could.
On the other hand, you've got to remember we were recording this album for two years! If we had rammed it through in seven days like the first one, this record would've been out in late 2015!! As there was a new album on the works, there was no point touring in support of old material. We played at Jalometalli festival in Oulu (Finland) in 2015 with Obituary, Cradle of Filth etc., did some shows with Anatomy of I in the Baltics and in Finland, plus also Kuolema II fest last year with Angelcorpse, Torture Killer, Wombbath, etc. So yeah, even though there was not a new album, there was constantly something going on still. We played maybe less shows, but got better slots in return.
Antti: Yeah, and we also had the split-EP with Septory in 2013, spent most of 2014 and early 2015 writing and arranging the songs and did some gigs on the side, so the writing process didn't actually take as long as the recording itself. And as we had not planned any tight schedules for the recording, I think the usual thing - life - happened. There were all kinds of delays with everybody's personal schedules and such. As for the fear of getting the blood boiling again, I don't think there was much of that, because every time the four of us enter the same room, the so-called magic happens! Even if we weren't so active all the time, the Forest was still breathing steadily.
Luxi: Would you say you were hungrier when you started the songwriting process for this new Sadistik Forest album because you wanted to show everyone that the band was still dangerous and hungry?
Antti: Yes, of course, you always strive to outdo yourself, evolve and become better.
Markus: Sure. Maybe we also had a better understanding this time of what we wanted to do and especially what we were able to deliver. Our song writing is a lot like sonic mercury as the music evolves and breathes constantly from rehearsals all the way up to the moment of capturing the tracks on tape. In that sense Sadistik Forest works a lot like a traditional Rock band rather than projects you get these days. Maybe we were confident enough this time to let the music flow and shape up as it wanted. We didn't hold back anything or leave any doors unopened.
Luxi: What make you proudest of this newest Sadistik Forest opus?
Markus: I'm sure bands say this a lot but I can say this time in full honesty; we have done by far our best recording. It updates everything! Song writing and performance are now on completely new levels when compared to our past. We are not trying to be different, just doing the things we do much better. You can hear the miles behind us and 10 years in the rehearsal dungeon with the same guys. Or seven at least, as Matti joined in 2010, but you sure get the picture. We have all played in bands since the 90s, so the homework was done before the journey with S.F. started. The past 10 years have been a case of fine-tuning our death machine and this album is the culmination of everything that has happened to us so far. I'm proud of the journey and I am proud of this album.
Antti: Personally, I like the development of the vocals. They are much more versatile and varied. Markus seems to get better album by album, which is very nice. Also, the drums are better and there are some cool things and sounds with the guitars. Overall, it seems that we finally succeeded in avoiding the big mistakes we have made in the past but we feel that we can achieve so much more still in the future.
Luxi: How well do you get your own ideas reflected through the music of Sadistik Forest? Is it sometimes hard to transfer those ideas into something concrete in terms of song writing?
Markus: Everything in Sadistik Forest goes through four lenses. Each band member contributes to the final arrangements and how the songs take shape. Therefore, none of us can get their ideas 100% through as they are but I like to think we get the ideas returned in more interesting ways than they originally intended. Different at least... Hahaha! Our songs certainly tend to start living a life of their own after being brought to rehearsal. For example, if I write a bunch of riffs, guys tend to take them to directions I would have never thought they could go. It is a bit of an adventure with each track.
Antti: Yes. It's hard, but you can always use those ideas somewhere else if they don't fit in the concept of S.F. The most important thing is to make songs that everyone of us likes and can stand behind totally. There is always some adjustments, nevertheless.
Markus: Yeah. It can be a bit frustrating at times for a song writer when what you thought to be killer material is put under a lot of scrutiny, or it gets totally turned upside down and ends up being almost a different song. Still, this is how Sadistik Forest works. This is how our sound is created. We all have our own filters of things we do not like to play. This strips the material of unwanted elements and we start adding new meat to the skeleton that is left. Every S.F. song is at first torn apart, then reassembled. It is a matter of musical death and resurrection.
Luxi: Who's the true "whipping king" in the Sadistik Forest camp when it comes down to approving material for the band? Or would you say the whole band works as a giant filter, through which all the "crappy" stuff gets removed while the quality stuff remains?
Antti: I would say you have to pass all four gates.
Markus: The four gates of Forest!!
Luxi: As for (band) influences, undoubtedly you have some names that have made Sadistik Forest sound the way it did when you started out back in 2007?
Vesa: Deicide, without a doubt!!
Markus: Celtic Frost's Monotheist. It came out in 2006 and made me want to return to my extreme Metal roots, to play heavier and more intense stuff than my bands at the time were doing. Not too much later and Antti approached me about a new band he was forming. He said it would play relentless and unforgiving extreme Metal of death. I replied "yes" without thinking twice.
Antti: Slayer, Deicide, Possessed, Kreator, Sodom, Testament, Morbid Angel and Polish Death Metal. Basically, every first or second album from these legendary bands where you're not quite sure where you're heading but you're still going there without stopping to think too much.
Luxi: Have you nailed down which label will be the lucky one to put out the new album?
Markus: Well, we have contacted quite a number of labels this spring and right now, I can tell you that we are negotiating with a cool label about an international and well-distributed release. More news about this in the near future. But yeah, it is looking good right now. We are aiming for the album to be out in late 2017.
One thing we have noticed is that there are A LOT more Death Metal bands around now, compared to 10 years ago when we started. Around that time, the brutal, slamming and technical form of Death Metal was dominant and we stood out from those bands pretty well with our straightforward attitude. When looking for a label for the first album, we got contacted pretty quickly after the promos were out. This time it felt a lot more confident to stand out. The trend has turned around completely, as now labels are looking for very primitive and retro-sounding Death Metal acts and suddenly, it seemed that WE are the technical ones and not very cool, or hip at the moment. Yet, I'm glad that not all the labels are running after trends and our best recorded work so far seems to be finding a home as we speak.
Luxi: What kind of cooperation do you expect from your label?
Markus: Well, progress mainly. To reach people who have not heard us. Better distribution and publicity. Also, we have always gone for the label that genuinely believes in us and in the music. It's better to be liked on a smaller label than to be a totally unknown name in larger scale business corporations.
Luxi: Do you believe this label will be a stepping stone that gets Sadistik Forest to the next level?
Markus: Oh yeah. That should be the only goal - constant development. We've been firmly in the underground but getting more fans playing new towns and fests won't make us sell outs... Heheh. New tricks in the bag will only keep things interesting for everybody.
Luxi: What does properly done promotion mean to you guys?
Markus: No matter how good the release, it does not mean anything if people do not know about it. Well done promotion passes the information out as thoroughly as possible, to all possible audiences. Yes, it is true in a sense that you should do music only for yourself but if you do not wish people to know about it, you should not release it at all. Good labels understand the nuances of social media and the way things work in today's perspective.
Luxi: Putting all the weight on the shoulders of your label won't be enough so how much do you believe you can make the band more visible and heard?
Markus: It is surely difficult as hell these days. No doubt about it. There is such a huge amount of quality Death Metal today that the true professionalism lies in the way the label works to make the band stand out. Unfortunately, some labels are stuck in the 90s way, thinking a couple of adverts in magazines is enough, but it isn't so. You have to be active, have the right contacts and keep pushing the info forwards in constant repeat. You have to create awareness in multiple "waves" of promotion. To promote in layers. It is a combination of social media, media coverage and gigs that create the best results.
Luxi: Are you aiming to tour around the globe with Sadistik Forest, as showing your faces in front of crowds is always the best way to promote your band. How restricted, due to jobs and families, are you?
Antti: I hope we can get those organized, because touring and playing is the best!
Markus: It is not possible financially for us to do tours of several months in a row right now. This is not paying our rent, but a week or two should be easy enough to organize. After all, S.F. is at its best when on stage and that is what we enjoy the most, too. So yeah, looking forward to getting the album out and hitting the stage again.
Luxi: Would there be some sort of "dream-come-true" tour for your guys that you would jump on immediately if it was offered to you?
Antti: So far, we've done so few long tours that, personally I would be happy just to get anywhere outside of Finland for a couple of weeks. Of course, touring with any of the 80s-90s Death Metal legends would be fun.
Markus: Triptykon. For some reason, I've always wanted to play with them. Also, I know for a fact that Misery Index and Spain's Graveyard are fantastic people, so them too. But yeah... If somebody asks and we can do it schedule wise, we will do it. The yearning to tour is there, definitely!
Luxi: What's your viewpoint about the current Death Metal scene? Do you see it still as interesting or would you rather stick to what was created in the past?
Antti: Somehow, it seems that there are more Death Metal bands around than ten years ago, when we started this band. Or at least, more of those old school-sounding Death Metal bands now. My goal in the beginning was to make the same kind of music those retro-sounding bands are making now, but I realized quite soon that there's no point repeating the style and music of the past legends, because you just can't beat them. You can only try to have that mentality and then try to do something of your own with it. That's why I often find myself quite bored with the new bands coming out right now. I'd like to hear some development, but at the same time realize that the old school sound is something that the fans want to hear. It doesn't obviously matter if they have heard it before. Of course, there are some exceptions to the rule, but I've been a little lazy trying to find those nowadays. Personally, I would like to see some new band that would bend the rules and push the limits of Death Metal so that even the purists would accept.
Markus: Exactly!! The Death Metal scene looks too much to the past instead of the future at the moment. If you think about it, Morbid Angel did not want to sound like Slayer, Dark Angel or Coroner. Instead, they did their thing and came up with something new in the process! Celtic Frost is another prime example of this. These days bands think that evil has some kind of boundaries, if you know what I mean, but that is not how I see it at all. I'd rather see more bands that evolve and stir the mix with unexpected turns, than bands who just copy, imitate or pass the legacy on without adding their own signature to it. Don't get me wrong - there are amazing bands out there like Blasphemer (UK) who sound like it is 1990 again, but there are also too many bands who spend too much time thinking of their reference albums instead their own works.
Nevertheless, Death Metal is still a fantastic musical environment. Rockstar-free and down to earth. At least the vast majority of it is. This decade has already seen quite a few mind-blowing Death Metal records that will be considered classics later on, so yeah, the scene is still alive and kicking. It is just that the world has probably more Death Metal bands today than ever in the history of the movement. So it is a challenge for the musicians involved to keep the wheel a-rolling, the musical direction evolving and preventing the saturation of it all.
Luxi: How do you see the future - either near or distant - for the band?
Markus: We have to get back on track in many ways. The slumber is about to end. It has to end. This means basically gigs on more regular basis, an album to be supported and new mischievous plans to be plotted. I really do hope that the next album won't take five years to be released!! Hahah! We are about to announce the label, artwork, release date, etc., so there is a lot of news to come. All I can say right now to people is to stay tuned!! The flood of info is about to begin.
Luxi: I would like to thank you guys for accepting this invitation to interview you and in the very same breath, wish you great things to come with all of your future endeavours. Let the closing comments be your...
Markus: Thanks a million, Luxi, for this killer interview! Let the metal flow people and see you in the pit!!
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