Interview with guitarist and vocalist Jarkko "Jaake" Nikkilä
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 16, 2019
Damage was a late 80s thrash metal band from Liminka, Finland, that was a creation of three school kids who all shared the same interest: playing music that was loud, fast, heavy and aggressive. The band recorded a handful of demos before deciding to call it quits in 1996.
In the summer of 2018, these grown-up "kids" decided to regroup as Damage S.F.P., as intense, heavy, relentless and energetic as they were some 20+ years ago. The guys had some unfinished business, namely to record their debut album which will soon see the light of day.
The Metal Crypt contacted the band's frontman, Jarkko "Jaake" Nikkilä, to find out more of the reasons behind the band's comeback and many other things as well. Jaake was kind enough to fill us in...
FIRE WALKS WITH US
Luxi: First off, how hot and intense are the flames burning for the coming of Damage S.F.P.?
Jaake: Really hot and high. Those who know our music from the '90s seem to be most excited since they know what is happening.
Luxi: You have the original line-up back together after all these years. Do you consider that a miracle?
Jaake: No, actually. We have been friends all this time and this was the right moment for us to bring this band back to life. Here in Finland people stay best friends even if they have not talked to each other for a couple of decades. The same goes for marriage; married couples talk to each other only when they have something important to say.
Luxi: I got to know the band through your four-song 1993 demo and I was almost instantly blown away by the song "Death of Innocent". Please tell me that you are going to re-record it for your forthcoming debut album...
Jaake: Yes, it will be featured on the album. Everyone in the band likes that song, too, and we have played it in our live set right from the beginning. And no worries about getting bored playing it. "Death of Innocent" has always given us so much energy and that impact has grown even stronger over the years.
KIDS WANTED TO THRASH
Luxi: Before I get on the subject of the band's first ever full-length studio album, could you kindly shed some light on the history of Damage? What made you start the band and what led you to put the band to rest for more than two full decades?
Jaake: We started Damage in 1989 as school kids in a small village (it's called Liminka) in northern Finland. I was 14 and the other fellas, Tero and Antti, were 13. We listened to the metal music of the time (Metallica, Sepultura, Megadeth. etc.) and had a massive desire to start playing it. We had to start literally from nothing since I was the only one with an instrument (guitar) and had been playing it for years. The other guys had to buy drums and bass and start learning how to play.
As usual, we started by playing covers ("Am I Evil", "The Wait", "Whiplash", etc.), but quite quickly had some of our own songs in the set. We played our first gigs and got more. 1993 and 1994 were our most active years, but after that, the realities of life came in; first army, then studying far from home. I had to move to another city and so did our drummer, unfortunately to the other side of Finland. We never moved back. Antti was the only one that stayed in the north while we lived in Southern Finland. Then came other band projects...
Last year Tero and I spoke about waking Damage, and since I was putting my other band aside and Antti did not have active projects either, we decided to do what is right; bring Damage songs back to life.
DEATH WAS OUR MIDDLE NAME
Luxi: When Damage was formed in 1989, thrash metal as a genre was already showing some signs of dying and the ugly head of death metal was already starting to come out of the shadows, both in Finland and worldwide. Why didn't you choose to play death metal instead of thrash?
Jaake: Actually, death metal is our middle name. If you listen to songs like "Death of Innocent" or "Ode to Sorrow", there is more death than thrash in them. In 1994 we took a lot of influences from death metal into our music since I was listening to mainly death metal at the time. Then again, we have songs like "Ride" and "Tragedy" which are pure old school thrash metal. In the end, genres don't mean much to us. We play songs that make us feel good. Zero fucks given if they fit one genre or not.
Luxi: How much did you correspond with other bands/scene people back in the late eighties by spreading flyers and sending cassettes back and forth and how tough was it for the band to smooth the road to the same success and fame that other Finnish metal bands (i.e. A.R.G., Stone, N.N.S., Airdash—just to name a few) gained for themselves back in the day?
Jaake: Well, quite a lot I would say. I still have a box full of flyers and cassettes from all over the world. I don't recall us talking a lot about the bands you mentioned. I knew them, but we saw more northern bands like Sentenced on the same stages we were playing. A.R.G. is from the north, but we were not in contact at the time. Now we are.
Maybe one reason we were not jealous of other Finnish bands was that our goal from the start was to be as big as our idols, Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, etc. At the time we didn't see any obstacles. We had a good product and all we had to do was to get it to the people.
It did not quite happen, but zero fucks given. The product is now even better than it used to be.
Luxi: Moving on, as was mentioned already you are working with the band's debut album as we speak. How many songs will be on it? What's new and what's old and what is the realistic time frame to get it out on the band's own label, Damage Inc.?
Jaake: There will be 10 tracks on the album, nine full songs plus one instrumental. Every decent metal album has one instrumental track, so no exceptions there. All the songs were originally composed in the '90s, the newest one being from 1994. I made a couple of small arrangement changes for a couple of tracks, otherwise they are exactly the same as they used to be but, of course, with a more modern sound. The songs kicked ass back then and with the modern production, they now kick you every-fucking-where.
The plan is to release the album on the 22nd of March 2019. The negotiations for a distributor are still going on, but at the start, we might use our own label plus a third-party company to get the album available for Spotify and other non-physical platforms first.
Luxi: Did you try to adopt the same old-school feeling and vibe on your debut album that you had in the band's active demo days or do you believe some things will definitely be a bit more "modernized" regarding the overall sound of the album?
Jaake: The spirit is still there. Modern sounds made them sound even more aggressive and, well, more massive.
Luxi: Do you intend to produce the album yourselves or have you hired some outsider to turn the knobs?
Jaake: Both. We will do the mixing and mastering together with Jarno Hänninen, who is a specialist in producing aggressive metal music. Jarno has produced some very good metal albums, so we rely on him as much as in our own ears. So far, the cooperation has been very successful when it comes to sound and production.
SUOMI FINLAND PERKELE
Luxi: When you reformed, you added the S.F.P. abbreviation to the band's name, I assume to differ from many other bands out there using the Damage name. I am sure that many Finns already know what those three letters stand for. Would you mind telling our non-Finnish readers what they mean? Do you think the actual words behind those three letters help to convey what the band represents musically?
Jaake: Yes, you are right, the letters were added to prevent any confusion with other groups. They stand for our attitude; "S" is for "Suomi" (Finland in Finnish)", "F" is for "Finland" and "P" is for "Perkele", which is a Finnish swear word. "Perkele" is an old Finnish word for an ancient pagan god. Nowadays only a few people know about this etymology, but it is still very commonly used whenever one wants to curse.
Luxi: When the album is out, what will be the next step that you are going to take as a band? Are some summer metal festivals already calling Damage's name? ;o)
Jaake: There have been some talks with some festivals and we hope that we get a chance to show what we are made of. Last August we played at Kaliningrad in Rock, the biggest rock festival in western Russia and they asked us to come back this year. Our goal is to play more international shows than in Finland. Finland is a heavy metal-oriented country, but the scene is full of bands and it is hard to get gigs unless you are Deep Purple or someone as big.
Luxi: Is one of your main goals to play gigs outside of Finland as well or will the Finnish ground basically be the band's most important battleground in 2019 due to jobs, families, etc.?
Jaake: As I said, our goal is to get out of Finland. Finnish people are hard to get going, and one has to be a very big name to get a big audience and even bigger to get them moving. Our experiences have been good in foreign lands, but that does not mean we won't be playing shows in Finland at all. We have some shows coming up this spring in the biggest cities. We want to show our Finnish fans that the band is alive and tougher than ever.
Luxi: How was your gig in Vilnius, Lithuania, on January 12, 2019? Were there some people in the crowd that already knew who you were?
Jaake: They were good, thanks! I think most of the people in the audience did not know anything about our history because we were active mainly in the underground scene in the '90s and played shows mostly in Northern Finland but that did not seem to bother people. There were mosh pits and shirtless people banging their heads. That is why we love playing in Baltic countries and Russia. People start thrashing around despite having no idea of what band is playing on stage. They listen to music, and instant carpe diem just happens if they feel that the music is good. That is the attitude I wish I could see more in other countries.
Luxi: Trying to book gigs for your own band is time-consuming and requires nerves and patience. Do you take care of your own gigs or do you have someone who does this for you?
Jaake: The "second coming" of our band has so far been so interesting for some clubs that we have been asked to play. We know promoters from Finland, the Baltics and Russia and they help us get gigs. Hopefully, these gigs will open more doors for us and we will widen our audience. Asia would be interesting, that is why there have been preliminary talks about a tour in China.
BEING YOURSELF IS THE WINNING CARD TO PLAY WITHIN MUSIC
Luxi: Metal music and the whole music industry has been changing a lot in the last 2-3 decades or so. Bands, labels, etc. have come and gone and we have seen the worst times with the downward spiral of album sales. Do you think we still have a light at the end of the tunnel as far as making a living by playing music? Have your habits changed, or do you still consider yourself an old-school fart that has been the same since day one, never changing colors and sticking to your guns?
Jaake: We have never done music for money, only because it feels great to perform it. Back in the '90s, we did not have money to do much of anything. Now we have some money thanks to our daytime jobs, but that means that we don't have to be worried about how fucked up the business is nowadays. Making a living from music is next to impossible, so we are focusing on the more important thing, the music itself. We don't have to think about genres or how mainstream our music is. We can honestly be whatever we like, without trying to sell it to anyone.
What comes to habits, changing from ordinary family man to a metal thrashing maniac is easy. It is the other me, something I've always been, but has been hiding now for some time. We are traveling to gigs as the same group as back then and since our personalities have not changed, the talks in the car are—if possible—even more stupid than they used to be. Lots of laughing and good times. Gig trips are a great variation from ordinary life.
Luxi: Well, that's all I had in my mind for this conversation. Perhaps more next time around? Thanks for taking your time with my questionnaire, Jaake, and I also want to wish you all the best with Damage S.F.P. Never count this ol' fucker out, right? ;o)
Jaake: Thanks to you! Hope to see you sometime at our gigs so we can have a beer or ten after ;)
Copyright © 1999-2019, Michel Renaud / The Metal Crypt. All Rights Reserved.