Interview with guitarist Jurg
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 19, 2021
Final Assault, formed in 2009, is a Finnish thrash/punk-hardcore band that have made a name for themselves over the past years with their intensive and aggressive music and relentless live shows. These crossover maniacs' recording repertoire includes a couple of EPs and three full-lengths that have all been received very well among the thrash and punk/hardcore camps, which explains why the band hasn't been so restricted by any certain genre-specific happenings, being invited to play metal or punk/hardcore gigs and festivals.
Yours truly has been following the band for many years, so it was about time to interview the band to find about some details regarding their plans to cause havoc in mosh pits, how in general their new album, III – Return to Moshkinville, has been welcomed among the crossover audience, is there any life after the Corona-invasion, and so on forth...
The band's longtime guitarist kindly Jurg stepped in to fill us in with all the necessary information one may need to find about their recent moves near a wild and semi-loaded mosh pit...
Hey Jurg! It's been "a while" since your band released a full-length studio album, in 2011 when you released your second album, Dead by Dawn. Of course, you did release a couple of EPs after that (in 2013 and 2016), so my question is why did it take nine more years from you to get to the point when you thought it would be the right time to record your next studio album?
Jurg: Hey Luxi and it's always great to hear from you!
Yeah, it's been a while since we released a full-length studio album and there are a couple of reasons for that "gap". We have had two line-up changes on bass and drums. Today's line-up has been solid since 2015, when drummer Anttu came on board. Bass player and co-vocalist Tuomas hopped in 2014. We also thought it would be kind of easier for the band to do EPs and singles. Not so many songs, very short and a very tight package could get more attention. I have noticed that people and especially the youth of today are not so interested in full-length albums. I don't know why, but maybe they get bored too fast and cannot concentrate on whole albums with 10 songs or more. It's kind of funny when all our full-lengths are between 18 and 30 minutes, hahahahaha!!!!! The first Final Assault album was only 18 minutes, Dead by Dawn was 24 minutes and now III - Return to Moshkinville is about 30 minutes. Maybe that's too much when the music industry nowadays is so one-song orientated. But what the hell, we are doing our own thing in our own style and if there are people who like it too, that's always a good thing and brings positive vibes to us.
RETURN TO MOSHKINVILLE
Oh, and my sincere congrats for your new album, titled III - Return to Moshkinville. It's a very cool sounding continuum to the 'thrashcore' style that you have been known for since the dawn of time, since the band was formed in 2009. I have never asked you this before, but what bands could you state as your biggest and most influential as far as the sound of your band is concerned?
Jurg: Thanks! We are very satisfied with the new album. Solid package of good songs with a tight sound that makes your head bang! Also, a great-looking Final Assault album cover and artwork in general.
When there are five members in a band, there are of course many different styles of music that we listen to as individuals and our influences are obvious and not so obvious. Final Assault's roots are in '80s thrash metal with a punk attitude. We are and we will be a mixture of metal, punk and hardcore, so crossover is the name of the game! We try to bring the "traditional" crossover to the 21st century as best as we can.
What is behind the fictional album title, Return to Moshkinville? What kind of a town is that?
Jurg: Moshkinville is a town where all the creatures and monsters from your favorite horror movies dwell. The classic zombie and splatter movies have possibly been the bands biggest influence in general. The title III - Return to Moshkinville is a homage to our ancestors but we'll leave the interpretation to the listener.
You were also supposed to have a record release party for this new album at Bar Loose, Helsinki, Finland, on November 28, 2020, but due to this worsening virus situation in Finland, they decided to close their doors until further notice. Yeah, "Fuck Corona" indeed...!!
Jurg: Yeah, the whole Covid-19 situation blows, and all bands are in the same situation, but what can you do. We just have to look into the future, hope for the best and hope that we can soon get back on stage as the new album needs to be played live as well.
Do you believe you may re-arrange the already agreed party later on, sometimes during the spring of 2021?
Jurg: Live gigs in spring 2021 look very unlikely at the moment but let's hope for the best. We will for sure arrange the release party when possible!
In Finland, the closest bands similar to your hardcore-oozing thrash style nowadays that I can think of could be Rytmihäiriö and Ratface that both also combine some relentless thrash aggression with a strong attitude-filled punk/HC. Do you feel some closeness and unity to these acts?
Jurg: Both bands are well known to us and we have played live with them so yes, there is an obvious connection. We have actually been on a couple of mini tours with Ratface and all I can say is that it was quite hilarious! Looking back at all that happened during these tours still puts a grin on my face and makes me take some medicine for heartburn, hahahahaha!!!!!
Were there any bigger challenges to get this album done, be it limited time resources, a big enough recording budget, lineup changes, etc.? What was the biggest challenge with this new album that seemed to give some extra gray hairs for everyone in the band?
Jurg: The recording procedure actually went quite straight forward although it was done in three different studios. The mixing and mastering procedure took some time, but we are very happy with the result from Hiili Hiilesmaa. The album was done with quite a small budget, luckily we had the possibility to work in proper studio environments for a fair price.
ABOUT THE SONGWRITING METHODS
Did your roles change in any way since your 5-track Kick Out Your Brain EP, released in 2016? What I mean by this, did some of you take more responsibility in the actual songwriting process, or any other areas related to keeping the band active and running?
Jurg: Most of the material on Kick Out Your Brain was written over a longer period whereas III - Return to Moshkinville was written with a more intense schedule. Actually, we made a demo of five Moshkinville songs in late 2018 called Back to Metal. That demo showed us the way and after that we decided to do more new songs and release a full-length album. All of us were more involved in the whole process from the start.
Whenever the band gets to an intense songwriting mood, are there some things in this process that you always pay attention to, just to make sure the end result could sound as much Final Assault as possible?
Jurg: We are old schoolers in many ways, so the songwriting happens mostly at the rehearsal space. Everybody brings in their ideas and spices and the whole band then stirs the soup together until the taste is right. The basic ingredients of an Assault song include gnarly but catchy metal riffs, short song lengths with punk attitude and tight downstroke playing. I think whatever material we throw into the waste compactor that is us, the outcome will sound like Final Assault. For the Moshkinville album there was more thought put in the writing process. When a song starts to be ready, we record a demo and then later on fine-tune the details. This has been the way the band has worked since the beginning.
It's also great to see that you guys have truly put all of your efforts on this new album, even releasing it in three fancy-looking vinyl formats, with the gatefold covers and everything. To me it all looks like you guys really care for your fans...
Jurg: We wanted to make something special this time since we all felt this album is probably the strongest material Final Assault has done so far. As vinyl is the only valid physical format at the moment and there is some added value to the record if it has something special that catches your attention. The record plant actually had some cool ideas and as it was difficult to decide which was the best option, so we decided to go for three different versions!
Will there also be a standard CD available at some point, or do you want to stick to this vinyl release only?
Jurg: At the moment CD is not very popular, so the album will most probably only be available as vinyl and through streaming services.
KEEPING THINGS DIY
What's a bit odd to me is that Final Assault have always wanted to be a relatively independent act as you have basically kept all the strings in your hands since the beginning and released nearly every EP and album by yourselves. Is there any reason for this policy? Is the music business so 'rotten to the core' these days that it's safer to do everything on your own, even taking care of your physical releases?
Jurg: We have been a very DIY and self-contained unit since the beginning. I think nowadays it's much easier to do the physical stuff yourself than in the past. We have access to proper studios/gear, the expertise to record our music, you can utilize vinyl pressing plants to print small batches of records etc. Of course, if some reputable record company/distributor would want to release our music we'd be up for it.
Now let's have a word or two about playing shows, which at this point, seems like a distant dream. How much have you, despite this virus situation, planned gig activities for 2021? As you know, the summer in Finland is always full of numerous festival opportunities, so do you have negotiations underway with some festival organizers?
Jurg: We'll try to play as many shows as possible once the pandemic situation gets better and allows bands to play live gigs again. The booking train for the festivals in 2021 has passed as most of the bands booked for last year's cancelled festivals got transferred over to this year.
The band also needs to get "back in shape" after a long break of playing live. Playing this kind of music is very physical and when I was watching the Mr. Bungle live stream gig, it was funny to see when a long-time musician like guitarist Trey Spruance was in some sort of trouble when playing fast thrash metal songs! Spruance has played over 30 years a little bit easier and not so physical music styles when the other guitarist Scott Ian from Anthrax was like a piranha in a toxic pond, very sovereign! I have to say, I looked at that with pleasure and kind of enjoyed that, too. It's not so easy to play stuff like this when you are in your fifties, hahahahaha!!!!
But yes, all shows are welcome since there will most definitely be a lot of other bands who want to get back to gigging at the same time. As the lock down is still very much active, there are no on-going negotiations.
CROSSOVER IS NOT DEAD!
We also do have some pretty cool punk/hardcore festivals arranged annually in Finland, like Puntala-Rock and LPRHC Fest that both have been very popular and crowded events. Are you aiming to play at one of these festivals, or even both, in 2021?
Jurg: Ah, the infinite struggle to book shows for festivals as an independent band... I mean we'd love to play festivals like LPRHC Fest and Puntala-Rock for instance, but so do many bands too and the band scene in Finland (or the world, for that matter) is quite saturated. So, if you want us to play at your festival, hook us up! We'll bring out the riot, we'll bring out the mosh, we'll bring out the mayhem, come thrash with us!
As your band's sound is a perfect mix in both HC-punk and thrash, have you noticed that it's actually relatively easy to get the band to play at some punk/HC festivals as well as some metal festivals? I bet the sound that you have cannot be considered as a disadvantage for you when it comes down to booking gigs at those types of events, right?
Jurg: It is actually a pity that bands are put in a certain category and thus might have a hard time to get access to certain shows or festivals. As long as the band and the live shows are killer, it should not be a big deal if a so-called metal band plays at a punk festival or vice versa. People who like punk are often also into metal or HC, so why draw a strict line? Anyway, this can sometimes be an obstacle when promoting the band for a show or festival.
When was the last time that you were invited to play at a punk/HC festival, and where did it happen (unless you were forced to play there for some reason or the other)?
Jurg: Last time was probably the Helsinki Must Be Destroyed festival in 2019 at the legendary Nosturi. Feels good that we had the opportunity to play at this festival since Nosturi has now been torn down.
For those (unfortunate) people who have never managed to witness the band raging on stage before, could you give a few good reasons why they should try to come see you guys live when they get a chance to do it? What can you promise regarding the band's live show?
Jurg: I think the best asset the band has is that it is as tight live as on the record. We always try to put on a show that hopefully makes those in the audience feel like they have been doing a hard workout with good feelings and fun once the gig is over. So, if you are a fan of our music style, just dust your groin with some talcum powder, put your mouthguard on, get into the pit and let yourself go!
Well, that was everything from my part, so thanks a lot, Jurg, for your time and let 2021 be just way better to you and your band as far as returning back on the stages is concerned. Do you have something else that'd like to add to this chat? If so, be my guest... ;o)
Jurg: Thanks to you for this interview! I hope 2021 will be better than 2020 and we all will get back to normal life and bands will be able to play live gigs again. We are working with new material at the moment and I promise we'll be back to play our asses off on stage when this pandemic is over, MOSH IT UP!
|Other information about Final Assault on this site|
|Review: Kick Out Your Brain|
|Review: III - Return to Moshkinville|
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