Interview with drummer/vocalist Ville Kojonen
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 20, 2014
Death, despair, darkness and morbidity; these four adjectives could be used to describe Swallowed, a new extreme Death/Doom/Black Metal act born under an unholy full moon in 2007.
Swallowed have been making a name for themselves with a couple of demos, an EP and exciting live shows. These cryptic Finns have been working on their debut album, Lunarterial, for quite some time, but October 30th has now set as an official release date by American label Dark Descent Records (as CD) and the UK's Me Saco Un Ojo Records (as double vinyl).
So, who are the warriors behind the Swallowed name? The Metal Crypt approached drummer and vocalist Ville Kojonen and asked a few questions to uncover a bit more about the hellish forces driving Swallowed, where they see themselves on the map of Finnish underground Death Metal, their future plans and so on. Read Ville's thoughts about his band and other burning topics, if you dare...
Luxi: The day one of the most anticipated Death Metal albums, Swallowed's Lunarterial, is drawing nearer every day. The official release data, on Dark Descent Records, is October 14th 2014. Are you feeling a lot excitement?
Ville: Yeah, we're pretty excited! We've been working on this stuff for about four years and we are very happy to finally get it out to the fans.
Luxi: What can you tell us about the recording of Lunarterial? Was it an easy process or a more time-consuming one? Or maybe both in equal measure?
Ville: We recorded the album around the first week of January at Hämeenkyrö Black Floyd studios in Tampere (Finland). We were there for five days and we got most, if not all, of the recording done. But then we had a few other days were we went in and put some overdubs, like vocals, synths and stuff like that, on the songs. The recording was really easy. The first day I came to the studio I was just wrecked and hung over from the night before so that day was spent just putting stuff together and on tape. It was kind of organic, in that sense. On the second day, things started to pan out and we had a better idea of what we had. Most of the songs on this album use the first or second takes for the base. There were some third takes but I don't think there is a fourth take anywhere on the album. It went well. Then we did overdubs and checks with the sound guys who, by the way, were awesome! The hardest part was doing the recording totally analog for the first time. It sounds a bit different and you don't have an infinite number of tracks so you can't cheat your way out. You have real, physical tape that its limitations, but it also gives it a feeling of being better because it is 100 percent real and not a plastic creation of ones and zeros in cyber space. When I first heard the analog drum sound, I was like "Ooooow, my god!" and I was sold. The mixing took time because everyone has their own ideas and after you've been in the studio for a long time, your ears turn into mush and you kind of forget what you were doing. The songs work because we don't plan them on soundscape, we play them as they are.
Luxi: The track "Arterial Mists of Doom" has been published on a couple of sites already and it sounds amazingly disturbing and sickening, and I mean that in a good way, yet pretty much separates Swallowed from other Finnish Death Metal bands around nowadays. Having an original and unique sound is always worth striving for, right?
Ville: Well, I joined that band after the first demo and the image was summed up with two words; Nihilist and Autopsy. After Samu and I started playing more and found we got along musically, we could be quite open with each other and I started bringing my influences into the band and that's when we started slowing down a bit. As for being original and sounding unique, there is a sort of cockiness and intolerance toward sameness that exists in every type of music. There are only a handful of bands I like that are totally different, like Beherit or Unholy, that still have similarities in production or the guitar tone is the same and a lot come from the same place. Some bands have more insight into what they do and they do it in a certain way and what comes out is unique and some bands I don't think feel that way. And thanks! The track you mentioned is actually from the EP and is an older track we have been playing around with so we gave it another name and now it is really a different song. We took out some riffs that were too repetitive.
When we started playing this stuff I didn't feel like there were any other Finnish Death Metal bands out there doing something similar, except maybe Slugathor, I guess. But we don't need to have others like us and there wasn't much of a scene back then anyway. We've been working on our stuff and there are things that define us. There is stuff we were never going to do but those things are open, as well. We're looking at it more like how can we be different, as musicians, and mold rhythm and melody in a way that has never been done before, you know? We don't try to be different and we like some bands but we don't ape them. I think that would be disrespectful and people need to understand that we are not apes. In the end, inspiration is inspiration and it can come in different forms. People understand it in many different ways.
Luxi: How difficult was it for you to nail down the song order for your debut album? Lunarterial, starts off with an intro type of track, "Opening of the Key," followed by "Reverence Through Darkness"...
Ville: It wasn't hard because we've been hoping and dreaming about doing an album since we started listening to albums ourselves. We had time to look at the song order as most of the songs were written earlier and we spent time from the end of 2011 through 2012 and into 2013 making our longer song, so we had time. Of course, things changed because we weren't going to record "The Dying Misted in the Bloodstream" or "Arterial Mists of Doom" because they were already done. We just thought we like to have a cool, long song so we put it at the end. The recording of that song happened late and we weren't sure about it. We usually leave the most massive thing until the end
Luxi: Lunarterial is closed by that monster of a song, "Libations," which lasts over 25 minutes. Why did you leave such monster for the last song of Lunarterial?
Ville: I don't think I understand this question. Why wouldn't you want to leave it for last? If you want, you can buy the vinyl put that side on first and see how that works. If you want to know what influenced us to do it this way, look at Rush albums that have one side of several songs and the other side, just one. Most of the material on Lunarterial was already written and we were playing them live. The songs were written a certain way, like one has double bass at the start and another is different. We don't write verse-chorus types of songs or "normal" kinds of music, we write fucking epics! (hehe, yeah, I know how that sounds) That's how it turned out it just feels right being there at the end because it's the last thing we wrote, so it's kind of the gateway to the next thing we're going to make.
Luxi: I am curious to know what kind of a process it was to put "Libations" together, from start to finish. A mammoth construction must have been done piece-by-piece, correct?
Ville: Well, not really. I had a vision that it would start one way then the riffs would speed up and it would get different again around the 12-minute mark. Then there are the really slow and repetitive sections that only came in at the last minute. We could "see" the song before it was finished and we just had to put it together to match that vision. Sometimes, we have to let things go because we sit back and think "whoa!"
Luxi: Are there specific parts to a song that give them the "trademark" Swallowed sound? Are those things you think about whenever there's a new Swallowed song in the works?
Ville: I think that, early on, we realized you can't just use anything in your songs. That sort of attitude never enters our sphere. There are many ways of looking at a part. Some part may come out a certain way because you are thinking about a number and saying to yourself "I want this riff that is based on nine." Later on, you find out that the harmony between two notes that make the riff what it is, is nine. Our songs are fairly linear and were trying to take out all the repetition (and that's usually me). We still have some repetition and that is not all bad, but you need to leave some of it off. Not like "hail and kill," which is fine, but that's not Death Metal to me; Death Metal is just fucking crazy. There is a lot more at work than just personal preference.
Luxi: What separates Swallowed from the rest of the Finnish Death Metal pack, in your opinion?
Ville: Now or the early days? We are in the now, of course. An example of a really different band is Demilich. On the album Nespithe the thrash beat is only on the last song, "Raped Embalmed Beauty Sleep." The drummer is doing something different the whole time. I have no clue what's going in the Finnish death metal scene. I like Krypts; Krypts has repetition and hype. We are a Doom band. If you compare us to new bands, our first demo was released six years ago and we haven't put out an album in that time. We work for it. There are bands younger than us who probably have two full-lengths out.
Luxi: What did you basically learn from the recording sessions for Lunarterial that you can use for future studio sessions?
Ville: We know that the next time we go to Hämeenkyrö there will be a 16-track tape machine, so we will get the overdubs we want. We should probably take more tape so we have more room to put stuff and maybe take more time with the frameworks of the songs.
Luxi: How did you share the responsibility of getting both the song and lyric writing processes started for Lunarterial? Do each of you have certain roles in the band and who's responsible for what and who's to blame when things don't go as originally planned?
Ville: Well, we don't look at efficiency. Not functional. Samu and I have been jamming and usually he starts with a riff and then I add some ideas and something comes out of it. I also wrote some riffs. We don't really blame the other member. This band is not a responsibility.
Luxi: How please are you with how Lunarterial turned out? Does it sound exactly the way you wanted it to sound or does it exceed your hopes?
Ville: Well, if I put on my thinking cap and say I could have handled myself better and the soul and flow of the band would be different then we probably wouldn't have even bothered making an album. We probably would be out on the streets howling or something :D That's the amount of craziness that were going to still have to reach. It is not exactly how we wanted it to sound but it is close enough. That is something for us to work on later. We'd be scared if it was perfect.
Luxi: Do you have plans to shoot a promotional video for one of the songs off Lunarterial to help get the word out?
Ville: Honestly, I think metal bands doing videos is shitty but, yeah, we have talked about it. We would need total creative control and it would probably be claymation with bloody skeletons. But, as it is, we would probably have a hard time keeping creative control and it would take a long time.
Luxi: Do you probably have extensive gigging plans for once the album hits the street on October 14th, 2014?
Ville: That's a bit of a secret; we will see.
Luxi: What can people who have never seen Swallowed live expect to see once they attend one of your shows? Feel free to use this space to advertise Swallowed's live experience ;o)
Ville: I'm looking forward to it. It will be a pretty intense experience and minds will be scarred or happy when it's over.
Luxi: Since we are talking about playing live, how was your experience at Kill-Town Death Fest in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2012? I also attended the festival (just Saturday, unfortunately) and there seemed to be a huge invasion of Finnish underground extreme Metal, including Hooded Menace, Lantern, Corpsessed, Cryptborn, Tyranny and, of course, Swallowed. Did you enjoy playing there with your fellow countrymen?
Ville: I would say, on the whole, there the crowd was maybe a bit too intoxicated. The show was good, i think. It was enjoyable, in that it wasn't a total train wreck. Enjoyable in the sense of having your guts ripped out and twisted and getting pricked by rusty needles, but enjoyable the same. Lots of impurity.
Luxi: Dark Descent Records has been around for five years and has become the home for many other Finnish Death Metal acts during that time. Lantern, Krypts, Corpsessed, Desolate Shrine, Maveth, Lie in Ruins, Gorephilia, Vorum and Swallowed; they are all a part of this big Finnish Death Metal family on the label. How does it feel being on a label that has such a strong affinity for the Finnish Death Metal sound?
Ville: Originally, we were on Detest Records and also on Me Saco u Ojo, which is important because they put out the vinyl. Mat is a cool guy. It's a pretty new label.
Luxi: I am curious to know if you have any new material that might appear on Swallowed's next release and what it is going to sound like. Much like Lunarterial, but with a twist of something even more poisonous and rotten, perhaps?
Ville: We have some material, a new song that is about a forest and a witch. It's going to be really cool. I think it will be concussive and heavy.
Luxi: Taking a longer view of the future of Swallowed, what are your goals and the things you would like to achieve, personally, playing in the band?
Ville: I guess, playing in as many cool places as we can. We are not really looking that far into the future at this time but whatever we do, it is going to be cool.
Luxi: Thank you, Ville, for taking some time and doing this interview for The Metal Crypt and revealing a thing or two about Swallowed. The time has come for your last closing words...
Ville: Thanks for the interview, Luxi!
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