Interview with Evil Drive
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 1, 2020
Finnish melodic death/thrash metalllers Evil Drive, formed in 2013, are on the verge of releasing their third album (scheduled for early 2021) via German label Reaper Entertainment. The new album contains 10 new cuts that musically cross the borders of intriguing Maiden-esque melodies and Slayer's brutal and evil riffs that together form hooky and catchy songs. And on top of all that, they have the ominous and demonic vocals of Viktoria Viren, who puts many male growlers to shame with her wicked, out-from-this-world growls.
Since the band's previous album, Ragemaker, released in 2018, a lot of things have happened and not all of them were positive. They went through a lineup change, had a very tight schedule to get the new album recorded and, as if that wasn't enough, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the cancelation of their spring tour (sharing the same fate as many other bands).
However, the band is fine form nowadays and they seem to be more confident and ready to take the world by storm with their new album.
The Metal Crypt had the privilege to meet the whole band in their hometown of Kotka, Finland, on July 11th, a few hours prior their headlining slot on the second day of Kotka Open Air Festival. Discussions went through many topics around the table from their new album to lineup changes to COVID-19, etc., so sit tight, grab a beer (if you want?) and learn more about the latest happenings in Evil Drive...
Since your sophomore album Ragemaker, which was released in 2018, a lot of things have happened in your band. Can you elaborate a little bit on what has happened in these two past years?
Ville: Uh, I don't even know where to start. It was a very hectic time for all of us when we started to compose new songs for our third album. We had to figure out when we would like to get our next album recorded and so it was important for us to keep the lines of communication open with our label. If you don't make real plans, nothing happens, and you won't go anywhere. Then, these lineup changes hit us...
Viktoria: It wasn't an easy time for us, not at all.
Ville: We had all the songs ready for this album and when the time came for our now ex-bassist to record his bass parts, he was, to put it nicely, totally lost. That was a very worrying signal for us even if we had already been talking about replacing him with a better one. He admitted that he's not a metal bassist and he was honest about this dilemma. We had no other option left but to give him the boot and find a new bassist.
Ok. What's the story behind your new bassist, Matti (Sorsa)?
J-P: Matti wasn't actually a new face because he had already come to see our gigs many times before. In that sense, we "found" him pretty quickly. We had had some in-depth discussions about music in general with Matti earlier and he seemed to be on the same level with us about many things. He's proved to be a great bassist.
Ville: Yes, indeed. He proved his skills with the 4-string right away and we were all very impressed. Besides, he really liked our music, so it was no-brainer for us to recruit him as our new bassist.
J-P: As a side note, Matti is not only a self-taught musician, but has also spent some time in music school. He's a true pro musician in every sense of the word.
Why did Juha Peck, your now ex-drummer, step aside?
Viktoria: Well, I noticed that he was having less and less time for band activities. He never had the same schedule as the rest of us, which made things really tough to arrange band rehearsals and stuff. When we told him that we should start the recording process for this new album this summer, he told us that he might have not much time for it because he had made some travel plans and such.
After that, I told Ville that perhaps we should give him a call and have a straight talk about whether he truly wants to continue with us as our drummer or not. I mean, if someone is interested in something, there's always time to get your shit together for it, no matter what. That's how I see it anyway.
We gave him a call and had a good conversation about things regarding the band. We told him he doesn't need to give his answer right away, but he can call us back after a few days when he made up his mind whether he felt this band is still important to him or not. He called us back and honestly told that there's so much been happening in his life—with his family matters and stuff that he felt he could not give 100% effort for the band anymore. He chose to focus on these things more than the band, which all the remaining members, of course, understood.
How did your new drummer Antti Tani come into the picture?
J-P: Actually, we have to thank Juha for that. He told Ville that he might have a good candidate in mind to replace him on the drummer's seat. I wasn't even present in Finland when Antti was chosen to be our new drummer. Ville just messaged me via WhatsApp when I was on a working trip that they have found a killer drummer for the band. I was like, "Sounds good, let's go for it then..."
Ville: There are many good drummers out there, but the difficulty was to find one that would fit in our band and play our kind of stuff.
Did you have any criteria regarding your next drummer and if he or she should be found somewhere near your location to make band practices easier to pull off?
Ville: No. This really wasn't the case at all. We were lucky that we did find him so near our location, though.
Viktoria: We were thinking the closer we could find him, the better for us, of course. Oddly enough even though there are many bands from our area and I know many of these musicians by name, I had never even heard of Antti before. When he practiced with us for the first time, we knew straight away we had found our guy.
Apparently the right chemistry was there since your first meeting...?
Viktoria: Yes, it definitely was. Besides, he proved that he's a talented drummer and fit with our band perfectly.
So Antti, how does the drummer's seat fit against your butt in this band?
Antti: Thanks for asking. I would say pretty well actually. Even though they were in a hurry with the recordings for this new album, I think I adopted the right playing style in this band relatively quickly, after trying out a few different things while getting my drum parts done for the album.
I had played in some other bands before that were different compared to Evil Drive, so it was a new challenge for me to learn to play this type of stuff, but it was a good challenge and I really do enjoy playing with these guys. It's definitely a great thing to be a part of this band.
I guess it is sufficient to say that everything starts with the right chemistry in a band: if it isn't there, it makes things harder for the band to go on and have success in the long run, no matter how good the musicians are...
Ville: Yes, that's true. If one link in this chain fails, it becomes much tougher for everyone.
I strongly agree. Anyways, if we jump to your new album, what would you like to tell our readers to expect?
Viktoria: If I can start, I would like to start by saying to both our newest members, Antti and Matti, that I am so very grateful that they took the challenge and joined our band on such on short notice when we were in the middle of recording our third album. We had all of our material ready for this album, so the challenge for them was to learn to play the songs properly and they did such a great job considering how little time we had to get the recording done. In fact, everyone in the band was so 100% involved with the recordings sessions and I was so happy to see all this very dedicated commitment from everyone. You know, coming to our rehearsals almost straight from work and spending hours practicing this new material shows the commitment that we all have for this band. I am so proud of having these hard-working and talented musicians around me, so big thanks to goes out to each of them from me personally.
It was such a satisfying and cool feeling to see how much each of us cares for this band. The chemistry inside the band just couldn't be any better. Everyone is absolutely 100% dedicated to this band now, which it should be in the very first place.
Ville: It helped a lot realizing how talented both Matti and Antti were as musicians, making things much easier for all of us when shaping up the songs for this record. So yeah, big thanks to them for proving themselves to be such hard-working and wonderful guys to work with.
Matti: For me, it was somewhat easy to fit in with this band, being the huge Iron Maiden fan that I have always been. I mean, Evil Drive's music has similar elements that can be found in Maiden's music, too, so in that sense it made things easier for me.
It felt natural and even homey right off the bat. I have been listening to Maiden and Slayer type of stuff since I was 15 or 16 and hearing Evil Drive's stuff for the first time, it all sounded somehow familiar to me, with the chord progressions and stuff.
Antti: When I got to hear some raw demos, I really liked what I heard with all the hooky melody lines, brutal riffs and that kind of stuff. Although it was relatively easy for me to adopt their style, I also wanted to bring my own spices to the soup with some blastbeat parts, etc. I felt right from the very beginning that I want to work with them because I loved the musical style this band has.
I don't want to brag too much, but in my opinion, I am a quick learner when it comes to learning different types of stuff.
Thanks to Ville in particular for allowing me to listen to your new album in advance. I must confess this is for me your best work to date due to the many catchy melodies, chorus parts, riffs, etc. all forming a very coherent wholeness that really underlines what this band is all about musically.
Viktoria: Thanks for saying that. I feel the same way. I remember when I was recording my vocal parts for the album, J-P was there to capture them and it was a very relaxing and comfortable session. I also think I sang way better on this new album than our previous albums.
How important was it that the songs on this new album all have a coherent feel to them and not from the Evil Drive vibe to the point of sounding like they were played by a different band?
J-P: It's important. With this album, we had practiced our songs to the point that they were 99% ready when we entered the studio. With our previous album, Ragemaker, some of our demo songs were still pretty raw when we went to the studio with them. This time it was different because we tried to get even the arrangements shaped up so we could just record them. Naturally, some details were changed in the studio, but nothing major. Overall, the songs were recorded the way they sounded on the demos.
AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY
How did you share composition duties for this record?
Ville: J-P and I first come up with basic structures for our material; some riffs, rhythm arrangements and shit and we all start building up the songs from there on.
J-P: A lot of the riffs are Ville's, some are mine, but both Ville and I work together to try and find the best riffs for our songs, like building a big puzzle piece by piece. Some songs are entirely Ville's creations, while others are done by me. In fact, one of the songs was born at our rehearsal place while we were just jamming. I wanted to capture it with my iPhone because it's rare to get a song almost fully done that way, just by jamming. After this one rehearsal only, we had 75% of that song done, which felt great, of course!
Ville. Whenever the time comes for us to start making our fourth album, our bassist Matti has some cool ideas ready. Besides being a superb bassist, he's also very good with a 6-string axe, truly making him a great asset to our band.
Matti: I have been composing quite a lot of stuff since I was younger. I guess that helps a lot in this process, especially if you are a metal head yourself. Cradle of Filth, Iron Maiden, Slayer and At the Gates were main sources of inspirations back in the day when I was composing music for my own purposes.
Ville: With the help of Matti, we'll get more new ideas for our future stuff, I think.
Did Matti or Antti get any of their ideas squeezed into any of the songs on the album and how much did they influence the arrangements?
Matti: From my point of view, and thinking of those striking melodies that one can find from any Iron Maiden album, my vision about how I wanted to my bass lines to sound was actually very clear right from the very start.
Ville: As for the drum parts, I would say Antti brought in a lot of his personality and personal skills to the songs because on the demos the drum parts were pretty simple, just some straight beats and stuff. Antti did an amazing job not holding back at all but playing his drum parts with a brave heart and mind.
Antti: When I learned the songs and did my drum parts for the album, I felt very comfortable and I did try to "surprise" the others with a couple of tricks that I had up in my sleeve.
I first got the demos to be learned at my home as well as I possibly could and after when I had learned to play them, I went to our band practice to introduce to the rest my band mates what I had come up with.
When I was learning to play the songs, I went with my intuition as to how I felt of my drum parts in each song should sound. Happily, the rest of my band mates approved of my work without questioning if I was the right guy for the job or not.
EVERY OPINION COUNTS
Ville obviously has always been the main filter in the band. Are you Mr. Nice Guy in the band, approving almost every idea that your other band fellow band mates introduce or does this small dictator appear on your right shoulder every time when you get to hear the musical ideas of your lovely band mates?
Ville: Nah, I am a poor, weak sheep when being presented ideas from these other fellows around this table. I mean, most of the time I have always felt pretty comfortable with almost every new song idea from my band mates.
Antti: As I see this, Ville has been very flexible and understanding with our song ideas, so far at least, which is a cool thing, of course.
Ville: Also, I need to add that sometimes I am kind of deaf when it comes to approving which idea might be good for further use and which would not. That's why I feel it's important that everyone has a say in the band, to bring out their own ideas in this group. Honestly said, collectively thought-out ideas are always better than just one single, sloppy idea, I think. It's a good thing to have a few extra pairs of ears in the band. You get more perspective regarding your stuff and such, you know.
Antti: I agree with Ville. When we are working together on something, it's good to have a few different opinions as far as our music is concerned. That's how you are able to create a feeling of unity inside the band by not leaving anyone outside of the process. It would be pretty absurd to think that one of us would pull all the strings, commanding this is how the bass should go in this or that song, or how the vocals should come across in the songs and such. It just wouldn't work at all.
Ville: Everyone is, of course, allowed to bring forth their own ideas in this band. That's the only way to become a better band.
Viktoria: Yes, the whole band is always involved with our songwriting process, which is a great thing. It's not like both of our guitarists Ville and J-P call all the shots for our entire songwriting process because they obviously are the riff masters of our band, or I would only be responsible for writing all the lyrics because I happen to be the vocalist of this band. It does not go that way at all. As was said already, each of us is entitled to present ideas to the other members, which is truly great because after all as I see it Evil Drive is a very democratic unit as it should be in the very first place in order to work coherently.
Ville: Indeed. At the end of the day, the main thing is the band sounds good, so it's very important for each of us to be heard.
Talking about your lyrics, who is mainly responsible for them and how do you usually choose the subjects for your lyrics?
Viktoria: It's most often me who writes them all. As for the subjects, I am always sort of digging deep regarding the subject matters for our lyrics...
Ville: Yes, she does. Every album from us should always contain a mandatory song with religion-related lyrics...
Like "Payback", the opening track off your new album, which deals with the Catholic church and its pedophile priests who are all sent to hell and are confronted by Satan himself, who has something reserved for them...
Viktoria: Haha... Yes, that's the one, a song dealing with religion's "darker sides", so to speak.
Ville: Haha... poor priests indeed! They got what they deserved. It's hard to get inspired more when you have a certain topic haunting in the back your mind that makes you fuckin' pissed off and mad.
That's very true. If we continue talking about your new album a bit more, do you have your own favorite songs off this record that somehow seem to stand above the others, for one reason or another?
Ville: At the moment it's hard to say because to me it's got a plenty of good songs that sound equally good to my ears. All the songs sound different to me, but they still have something connecting them together. It really depends on my feelings; one day it could be this and the next day it could be that. Lately, I have found the song "Lord of Chaos" appealing for some strange reason.
Viktoria: For me, each song is somehow special. I guess it has a lot of to do with a fact that when I write lyrics for our songs, every piece that I write is like a little story, making each song very special to me. They are mostly based on whatever happens in life. Life is full of all kinds of bad and ugly things that one gets inspired by very easily, causing all kinds of different feelings that tempt you to write about them.
Ville: Like how our own J-P may feel when he's been forced to spend 200 hours in the studio with all of us, desperately trying to get things right, recording-wise...
[*everyone burst out laughing*]
J-P: For some obvious reason, I have been listening to this album, eh, "quite a lot."
Ville: I'm not sure if 200 hours even covers the amount of time J-P has been spending with the songs for this album...?
J-P: Well, I guess a few hundreds of hours might be close to actual truth. More than enough anyway...
VIRUS OUTBREAK AND BEING IN A HURRY BOTH SUCK
Due to this annoying coronavirus, you had to cancel all of your gigs in Sweden, Estonia, Russia as well as here in Finland this spring. What kind of blow was it for you to deal with all the cancellations?
Ville: It sucked, big time! We ordered new shirts and some other band merchandise for this tour and well, what happened, happened.
Viktoria: We were also in a hurry with the recordings of this album at the very same time, so it was a very stressful time for each of us.
Ville: Yeah, it was tough work getting the tour arranged to then cancel it but there really wasn't much else we could do. We had no other option left but to cancel the tour, to be done later when the world is a safer place again.
Are you still going to stick to your plans and play the new album in its entirety at tonight's gig?
J-P: Yes, with some older songs off our first two albums, too.
Does it put any extra pressure on you that it's been a while since you have played live and this will be your first time playing these new songs live?
Viktoria: I don't feel any pressure myself because I happen to know that we have rehearsed these songs quite a lot over the past few months due to the recording sessions. But, a bit more worrying is whether there'll be enough of a crowd there coming to see us because some people may still avoid going to bigger public gatherings because of this damn COVID-19.
Ville: I am more worried of remembering whether I can play our older songs properly enough live because we have basically concentrated on playing these new album tracks so intensively for the past few months. I know these new album songs as well as my own pockets.
Antti: I have been practicing our new album for like four hours within the past two days or so, so the songs should well be installed in my spine by now.
This new album should come out early in 2021 and I suppose you will build a tour of some sort around the record release date, if I am not mistaken?
J-P: Yes, we are already focusing on next year. We just have this gig here, and possibly our last gig in Hamina, Finland, at the end of August this year with three other bands—and that's about it.
Ville: So far, we haven't agreed to do any other gigs this year. After our new album is released, our gig agency will start negotiating new gigs for us again.
You are on Reaper Entertainment and did your previous album, Ragemaker, with them in 2018. How has your cooperation with the label worked out so far? Are you satisfied with how they have promoted and supported you?
Ville: Yes, I could say that we are satisfied with them. A great thing about them is their immediate and straight communication. When this Corona-pandemic hit, they suggested it might be better to release our new album this August, but after a while they had to push back the release date because their financial situation sadly turned to worse. They are professionals and they know what they are doing.
GIGGING IS IMPORTANT, BUT...
Even if touring around the world is a distant dream for many bands at the moment due to these tough times, how much have you been thinking of getting a slot with some bigger, more established name to get the chance to play bigger venues and gain more notoriety for your band?
Ville: That would be in our plans, but those kinds of tours are pretty expensive for smaller bands like us. I recently had a fruitful talk with Tuomas Saukkonen (Wolfheart, Dawn of Solace, etc.) and he advised me about a few important aspects when going out for a tour with a bigger band. He underlined the important fact that it is optimal to tour with a relatively similar sounding bigger act—from the same genre category at least. He also said that if you have a tour package including 3-4 bands, try to negotiate a deal where you don't have to play as an opening band because venues are almost empty when the first band plays, among other things, of course! Let's say, Arch Enemy would be the kind of band that would fit with us when thinking of their style.
Antti: Playing in front of a big audience is always very cool, of course!
Ville: We played with Battle Beast at Pakkahuone, Tampere, Finland, in February 2019, supporting them. We took around 50 CDs with us that all sold out during the event, which was nice.
It's always important to have enough merchandise at your gigs because, as we know, metal fans are pretty darn dedicated people overall. They may not buy just one thing from the merchandise table but multiple different things at the very same time.
Ville: Yes, that is so true. Many bands make a big chunk of money by selling their own merchandise at gigs nowadays, so it's always crucial financially to have some along with you.
GROWL LIL' GIRL, GROWL...
Now that you mention Arch Enemy, when Evil Drive started out in 2013, I remember reading some reviews/articles and people tended to compare Evil Drive to those Swedish metal giants, which probably has a lot of to do with the fact you have Viktoria as your growling front woman. Do these types of comparisons bother you at all, or do you mostly take them as compliments?
Viktoria: It's funny actually to hear these types of comparisons to Arch Enemy. I mean, I was like 14 or 15 years old when I seriously started learning to growl myself. I was 15 when I first started growling in a melodic death metal band with band mates who were between 29-32 years old. I was just a little girl at that time, growling my lungs out in the band with musicians who were all adults already. At the same time, they had just released Doomsday Machine, which was Angela's (Gossow) third album with the band. It's a pretty phenomenal thing when some band makes a breakthrough and becomes a highly popular act among fans and media and people start throwing these different comparisons back and forth. It's just unavoidable.
Ville: Some years ago I read an interview that was done with Michael Amott (Arch Enemy's guitarist) in which he was asked about his main musical influences and they were pretty much the same as ours; Iron Maiden, Slayer, old Sepultura, etc., so it's no surprise that we have gotten such comparisons over the years.
Viktoria: Also, when I first started to growl at the age of 14, I didn't know that there were other females doing this. Sabina Classen from Holy Moses was there, Rachel from Sinister was there and, of course, Angel Gossow from Arch Enemy was there, growling with a similar vocal style that I was doing back then just as that sweet, little girl. Now, however, I am already feeling pretty old... [*LOL*]
... AND THE FUTURE?
Alright, I have one more question for you and then we are done. Ready? What kind of expectations do you have for this band like, let's say, for the next two years?
Ville: Uh, that's a tough one. I am confident that our new material is very good, so that might bring us somewhere, if we are lucky.
Matti: This is the band's third album and I sincerely believe it is the band's best work to date. I would make this claim even if I didn't play in the band.
Ville: I would buy the album even if I wasn't a part of it.
Matti: Same here, as I have done with the band's previous two albums. Fortunately, this time I suppose I don't have to buy the band's albums anymore, at least not this one, haha! It's a pretty different situation for me this time because I may even get one for free...
Ville: You made a wise move by joining this band. Now you just don't have to buy every single item from this band anymore, haha!
J-P: I am hoping that we could get some good gig opportunities and become exposed to bigger crowds. Also, it's a positive thing for us that our slot at Nummirock Festival here in Finland, was moved to next year. If we got similar opportunities to play at some festivals during that year, it would not hurt us much either, that's for sure.
Antti: Some gigs outside of our Finland would be a nice addition, of course!
Ville: Our gigs in Sweden, Estonia as well as in Russia, were all moved to next year, too.
Let me ask this, too. Is each of you in that position in your life that you are able to go on tour for two, three or even more weeks, with this band?
Ville: It's just a matter of organizing, I believe.
Antti: Most probably so. I am pretty sure our employers will understand that we have this good reason to be away for a while or, nothing stops you taking unpaid vacation either. There are always some possibilities out there that can be tackled so that touring with the band would be possible for each of us. We have to remember that we are not here forever, so use every possible opportunity that you can to make your dream come true.
Viktoria: This is my third album with this band, and I feel it's also a very important album for us regarding whether we will ever gain bigger success or not. My gut feeling is we may well take a big leap forward with this forthcoming album.
Ville: Also, there's one worrying thing that occurred in my mind. When the world will be opened for bands for a bit more extensive touring again, the question is whether there will also be enough proper venues for smaller bands because it's quite obvious every band wants to go out and play live for people. But perhaps I am alone with my fears here...?
Alright, I think that's all I had in my mind for this chat with you guys. Thanks for coming over and having this conversation with me. It was a pleasure.
Ville: Thank you for having us. It was nice talking to you.
|Other information about Evil Drive on this site|
|Review: The Land of the Dead|
|Interview with vocalist Viktoria Viren and guitarists Ville Wiren and J-P Pusa on March 24, 2018 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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