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Interviews Kalmah

Interview with guitarist Antti Kokko

Interview conducted by Christian Renner

Date online: November 3, 2001

Kalmah is a band from Finland that has stormed onto the metal scene with their debut album "Swamplord". Well debut may not exactly be accurate. They started in 1993 as a band entitled Ancestor. Of course back then they were a straight-forward death metal band but changed to a more melodic approach in 1999 and changed their name to Kalmah. Although this is melodic death metal it definitely has a lot to offer. Excellent guitar work with great leads and kick ass riffs with more than a passing influence from good old thrash metal. I recently had a chance to do an interview with lead guitarist Antti Kokko and this is what he had to say. ENJOY…:)

Can you give us a little background info on the band such as where you all started and how you got Kalmah together?

The roots of Kalmah started to grow in 1992 when Pekka and Sankala started to play together. They formed a band called Ancestor. Ancestor made several demos but none of them brought the recording deal. I joined Ancestor in 1996. In 1998 we took keyboards in the band and our style became more melodic as it used to be more straightforward death metal. Why we changed our name? We wanted a fresh start because Ancestor had nothing to give us anymore.

Where did the name Kalmah come from and is there any special meaning behind it?

Kalmah is a word from Karelian dialect spoken by people who live on the Karelian area, which nowadays belongs to Russia but was part of Finland before World War II. We have some relatives who were evacuated from that area to Finland when the war was going on the border and they speak this language still even though it is a fading language. So we took the word from this language after a short search. Kalmah means "to the grave" or "to death" in English.

I know you all get compared to Children of Bodom quite a bit. Does this bother you at all? Do you feel the comparisons are justified?

I think we all honored because Bodom has such great players and they play very challenging music. Actually I think that our music is much more different from Bodoms. Bodom has lots of classical music parts combined to power metal drums and riffs but our style is based on the old school trash metal.

While listening to the album one overriding factor came to mind. I could not believe this was a debut album. The songwriting and musicianship is just excellent. Did you all spend a lot time preparing the songs and getting ready for the studio or is this just how it turned out?

Well, we had only 3-4 months to write the material for the studio and we trained about once in a week. We have played so much together that it must be heard on the record. In studio all things went fluently and there was no problems during the session, so I think the time for training was perfect. We had no time the fed up with the songs...:)

How are the songwriting duties handled within the band?

Basically everything is written to a guitar first. Then we go to a training place and start to fit the song for other instruments. We discuss and change some parts of the song so that, for example, keyboards can come forth. All in all, I and Pekka write about 90% of the songs.

Do you all constantly write or do you wait until after tours and other commitments?

I have noticed that when you don't play for a week, for example, the best riffs born. Writing the material all the time doesn't fit for me at all. The writing process may take a month if my inspiration has no style, but I'm patient because I know that someday I'll manage to invent something good.

Are you happy with the way the album turned out?

Definitely yes. Maybe now when the album has been on the markets for a year I'm not so satisfied with the sound of it. It just doesn't hit your brains out like it should. Well, on next album we're going to fix it up.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

The sound like I mentioned. All in all we are 90% satisfied. We had 3 weeks to record the album and maybe that is because the sound is not so good.

The only complaint I had of the album was that I felt that it was to short. It was so good I wish there would have been 10 or 20 more tracks...heh. Is there any thought at all given to song length or how many tracks to put on an album?

I think the best albums are 40-45 minutes long. When you have good songs to fill that time you should brutally skip the song that you're not totally satisfied with. So, we did it and the album became a bit too short. Maybe one more song and it would've been just perfect. I've never heard a good album from the beginning to an end, which is over 50 minutes long. There is always songs that are just there to make the time longer.

How did you like recording at Tico Tico? Did the Production turn out the way you had hoped?

We are very satisfied with the work at Tico Tico. Ahti did a great job. He hadn't heard us before and at first he didn't actually know what we want but he got the idea very soon. We had no producer on the studio. We kind of produced it by ourselves except Ahti`s comments and ideas and I think the result is quite good for a beginner.

Any thoughts or ideas on touring the US or Canada in support of the album?

I hope we could reach Canada after our next album, which will be recorded at Tico in this month actually. We have one week for the begin of the studio. The album will be released here in Finland in the beginning of 2002 and I hope it will reach Canada earlier than the previous album.

It seems of late that Sweden and Finland have just exploded with new metal bands. Do you think it helps or hurts you being from the same region? Are you afraid of being lumped in as "just another melodic death metal band"? How hard is it trying to rise above that perception?

We have many good metal bands in Finland and Sweden at the moment that is right and the underground is feeding the metal scene with huge front. This is a challenging situation and I think that if we keep that in mind we can rise to another level. Basically, it's not the most important thing for us. The thing is to make good music that satisfies us and the audience that listens to us. I don't give a damn if never make to the absolute top, as long as we have fun and we can do just the that we do, things are more than fine.

Your record company Spinefarm/Spikefarm is getting quite a reputation for signing some kick ass metal bands. Was the choice to sign with them easy or were you all looking at other labels as well?

We sent the demo at first only to the labels in Europe, because we couldn't believe that Spikefarm could sign us. Labels in Europe didn't respond, so we thought that why not send it to Spike as well. Few days after sending the promo package they answered and the answer had a single line: "when you guys are ready for the studio?". It was pretty amazing. Finally the 8 liquid years had paid them off...:)

The "Final Five" are just ignorant questions that mean absolutely nothing. They are strictly here for a little humor and to do something a little different.

1.Which would you rather do? A. Be forced to listen to an N'Sync album every day for the rest of your life. B. Chop off your little finger with a meat cleaver

B. (If the finger was from the right hand.)

2.If a tree falls in the forest does it still make a noise?

This question must be tricky one, maybe this doesn't mean the actual thing I don't know, but I think it does if the lumberjack is near it.

3.Are you or any of your band-mates involved in a conspiracy to eliminate all national governments and bring about a single entity that controls the entire world? If yes, can I be the leader?

No, we have no official conspiracy and if we had, the leader would be the Swamplord.

4. Have you ever donated blood for money to buy beer?

...:) Not yet! Actually we don't get money out of donating blood and that is a pity because this would be a great idea!!!

5.If they were both alive and willing to kick some ass who would win in a WWF wrestling match between Ghandi and Mother Theresa?

The Holy Spirit.

Thanks for the interview. Do you have any final comments for your fans?

I hope you can find Swamplord in yourselves while listening to our record. I hope that we will see on tour! Thanks for the interview,

A. Kalma

Other information about Kalmah on this site
Review: Swamplord
Review: Swampsong
Review: For the Revolution
Review: 12 Gauge
Review: 12 Gauge
Review: Seventh Swamphony
Review: Palo
Review: Kalmah
Interview with vocalist/guitarist Pekka Kokko and guitarist Antti Kokko on September 7, 2021 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with guitarist Antti Kokko on April 9, 2023 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)

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