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Interviews Evil Drive

Interview with vocalist Viktoria Viren and guitarists Ville Wiren and J-P Pusa

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: March 24, 2018


Live photo credits (when shown and readable) by Kormu Graphy, Kelly Thans Photography, Jaakko Manninen, Niko Sihvonen and Christoph Marberger (www.stormbringer.at)
Thanks to Silke Yli-Sirniö for setting up the interview + extra hangover drinks that saved my day.

Finland's melodic Thrash/Death Metal act Evil Drive, fronted by a woman named Viktoria Viren, has been steadily gaining fame and success especially on their home turf, Finland. The band released their debut album, The Land of the Dead, via Denmark's Mighty Music in early 2016 which showed a lot of potential.

The band's story is set to continue on their follow-up album Ragemaker, to be released on March 30th. It has already received some very positive reviews even if many still see them as a clone of Swedish Metal giants Arch Enemy, which is kind of sad and pointless. In reality, Evil Drive's musical path is quite different from their Swedish comrades, at least from a Thrash orientation.

The Metal Crypt met three out of the five band members Helsinki, Finland, one Sunday afternoon to talk about their follow-up album, the harsh and rude reality in making an impact on the Metal markets, a new label and booking agency - and many other things as well.

THE NEW ALBUM RAGEMAKER

Luxi: There's a new Evil Drive album coming out at the end of March and I bet you guys must be thrilled...

Ville: Yes, we indeed are! I believe we got the album recorded the way we wanted, and I am perfectly happy with it, especially compared to our debut album. With the debut, we made quite a few mistakes actually. On Ragemaker we avoided those mistakes. Plus, we have a new guitarist in the band, J-P Pusa, who brought his input to this new record.

Viktoria: Yes, he brought a lot of energy to the band. Having two guitarists who can work together seamlessly is a good thing for us. J-P is a very good team player I would say.

Ville: Indeed, he is. I basically did everything on our debut but with this follow-up, we worked as a team. We wrote the songs for this album relatively quickly, especially compared to our debut, demoing and changing the songs when we felt like something needed to be done a bit better. We went back and forth as we wanted to make sure that we didn't make the same mistakes. Despite this, we got the songs ready in a reasonable amount of time. Plus, I hate to say this, but we also considered whether this type of stuff would appeal a bigger audience. I wanted to do perhaps some simpler sounding stuff whereas J-P wanted to bring a more technical style of playing. For me, early Slayer with some nice and hooky Maiden-esque melodies always works. That's the recipe when magic starts happening.

Luxi: How about you, J-P? How did you end up joining the band?

J-P: Well, I knew our drummer Juha (Beck) already. He told me that they were looking for another guitarist and I didn't hesitate with my decision.

Ville: I remember that Juha showed me one of J-P's videos on YouTube where he played with his other band. I first paid attention to his guitar, a Charvel Star, thinking at least this guy has taste regarding guitars, haha!

J-P: If you play the Charvel Star guitar, there's always a danger that you will end up playing in Evil Drive too...

[*laughter*]

Ville: True, true. And having long hair and a beard only increases your chances for all that, haha!! But seriously, we connected right from the beginning and had this strong chemistry between us very soon.

J-P: In my opinion, Ville and I are very similar as far as composing music for this band is concerned. Plus, our personal musical tastes seemed to mesh well, so in that sense, it was very easy for me to start doing stuff for this band. I think we were on the same page regarding many things in the band.

Luxi: So, it didn't even cross your minds that you were auditioning the second guitarist for the band?

Ville: No. We knew right off the bat that Ville was our guy. There were some guitarists that wanted to take this "job", but we ignored them all and hired J-P without thinking any further. It's also a good thing because J-P lives nearby, making it even easier for us to work with.

Luxi: As was mentioned already, you had a deal with Mighty Music, a 1 + 1 type of a deal. What happened with them?

Ville: Yes, that's the kind of a deal we had with them. They were also very interested in releasing Ragemaker, but at nearly the same time we got an offer from Reaper Entertainment, and their offer was about 10 times better than Mighty Music's.

Luxi: Did you feel that Mighty Music was lacking in promotional work for the band or were you happy with how they were promoting Evil Drive?

Ville: I have nothing to complain about regarding the promotional work they did for our debut album. The thing with Mighty Music was that we paid for the whole package from our own pockets. In turn, they paid us something like 70% of all records sold, which wasn't such a bad deal. With Reaper Entertainment, we have a different kind of a contract. Even if our own share for the sold albums is less than with Mighty Music, they put more effort in promoting us, which is exactly what we need.

J-P: I agree. The financial risk is more on our new label's shoulders than ours. That's why they wanted to do a deal for three albums as they clearly want to promote us the best they can, investing lots of their own money, which is great, of course. They want to look further into the future regarding us and our potential to bring some of that money back to the label in the long run.

Luxi: It's a very cool thing that as small as this label may be, they are releasing three different coloured, limited vinyl versions of Ragemaker. I saw this on your Facebook page the other day...

Ville: Yeah, that's very nice of them indeed. If we had wanted to do a vinyl release with Mighty Music, we would have paid all the costs for it, which was something we couldn't do. With Reaper Entertainment, it was finally possible to get these nice-looking vinyl releases out with three different colors, gatefold covers and so on. They look really beautiful. I have always dreamt of releasing a vinyl album with one of my bands and now it's finally happening. I just couldn't hope for more.

Luxi: What experiences from the recording sessions for your debut album helped you with Ragemaker?

Ville: Hmm, that's a pretty tough question, but I would say we tried to eliminate some of the mistakes on our debut album. When we were making the debut, everything felt right but after its release, you could spot some mistakes here and there. For example, some of the vocal parts could have been slightly better...

Viktoria: Yes, I could have done some of my vocals better. I did all of my vocals for the debut in three days, so they were a bit rushed I guess. I sang 3-4 songs a day, without a break basically. My voice was under a huge strain and they did change quite a bit by the end of the sessions because I used them so heavily.

Ville: Yes, that was pretty insane, thinking about it afterwards. Happily, we used a different method to work with her vocals for Ragemaker.

Viktoria: I got some advice from producer Saku Moilanen on how better to use my voice some different vocal techniques that helped get the best out of them. It was great working with Saku because he was interested to see how I would deliver using his advice.

Juuso Elminen, who produced our debut album, was completely different. He seemed to be in a hurry all the time. With Saku, everything was different; he showed he was interested in getting the best results out of my voice.

Ville: With Saku's help, you can actually hear all the words when Viktoria sings on the new record. To be honest Viktoria sings way better on this album. In fact, we were criticized quite a bit about the relatively monotonous, grunty vocals. I don't necessarily agree with some of this (unfair) criticism because I don't feel like Viktoria's vocals were that bad. Besides, in my opinion, she actually doesn't growl her guts out but shouts the way like Tom Araya did on the God Hates Us All album.

Viktoria: It helped my performance when I had days off between recording sessions, giving me a chance to let my voice rest a little bit.

Ville: One day when we went to the studio to do Viktoria's vocal parts, after 15-or-so minutes Saku told us we were done because he felt like Viktoria needed to take a break as her voice sounded strained and tired. He had reserved 6 hours of studio time but after 15 minutes he noticed that Viktoria needed to rest her voice. All this show Saku is a true pro.

Viktoria: Yes, Saku paid a lot of attention to how I sang and noticed something wasn't right that day. He did the right thing by telling us it would be better if we took a break.

BEING ABLE TO GROWL LIKE A BEAST IN RAGE

Luxi: Do those growls come naturally or have you trained in different vocal techniques?

Viktoria: They all come out naturally. To be honest I have never paid attention to vocal techniques or tried to learn them via the internet.

Ville: I think she's good at it because every time I screw things up at our home, she shouts at me like there's no tomorrow...

[*laughter*]

Viktoria: Don't listen to him! Anyway, I don't know how I do them. I remember that I started using my voice that way when I was 14 years old and heard Angela Gossow's singing on an Arch Enemy record. I was hugely inspired by her vocal performance and thought it would be nice to try singing/growling that way. I gave it a try and noticed, much to my surprise, that I can growl like her. After a month of using my voice the same way as Angela, I joined a band in Vyborg, Russia.

Luxi: Does your voice come from the bottom of your throat or midriff?

Viktoria: It's very important to me that I use my midriff to generate my voice. Otherwise, I would be doomed.

Luxi: When you use your voice that way during a gig, which may last 40-50 minutes, is it difficult to keep your tone through the whole set?

Viktoria: No, not at all. When I use my midriff wisely, I have no problems whatsoever. If I tried to sing using only my throat, I am sure it would kill my voice after five minutes or so. It's the same thing with opera singers. They use the midriff technique to produce a voice; it's essential to know how to use your voice or otherwise you should not sing at all.

Ville: When playing live, Viktoria uses her grunty shouts mostly, but we have some songs that also need clean vocals, which is a bit of a challenge. I mean, our ear is set for her brutal singing and when she needs to perform something with clean vocals, we all need to modify our sound so that it fits her ballad-type of singing.

Luxi: I know that Ville was responsible for composing all the songs for your debut album. How was it with the follow-up album?

J-P: Well, some songs were completely done by Ville and there are a couple of songs that are mostly written by me. Both Ville and I brought many ideas for this album and we built this album like a puzzle.

KIDS DON'T LIE

Luxi: When making his record, did you share sound files via Dropbox or did you work other ways?

Ville: Actually, we visited each other's homes when someone had something new.

J-P: Besides visiting physically we also shared some files.

Ville: I think that it works best when there's basically J-P and me putting the album together. If everyone is involved, there's always a risk that we may lose how we want the album to sound. Of course, it's important to be open to everyone's ideas, but in my opinion, there's not much sense if too many of us start delivering stuff for songs because that's the easiest way to make an album sound unfocused and directionless.

Viktoria: Yes, I agree. At our home when Ville comes up with riffs and stuff for our band, he tends to introduce them to me first. If some of his riffs sound average or just crappy, I usually let him know right away. We work like a good team I'd say.

Ville: The most honest opinion, however, comes from our 9-year-old little Mister, named Vitaly. This little fellow really digs songs like "Enter Sandman" and "Symphony of Destruction". He loves Iron Maiden and especially the chorus part of Slayer's "Seasons in the Abyss". He's the kind of kid who tells it straight to our faces, which is good and bad.

Viktoria: Yeah, the absolute truth comes from him, which is a great thing. You cannot escape from his opinions, haha!

Ville: He may listen to our songs a long time, like in our car for example, and if he thinks something is good or just crappy, we know about it in no time. This kid is always a good indicator for us whether we should do something a bit differently.

Luxi: How true, little kids just cannot lie. Let's talk about your lyrics a little bit. For this new album, you have been inspired by the current state of the world and the ugly and evil things happening today.

Viktoria: That's true. I don't think people want to hate this world but, like you mentioned there are so many bad things going on at the moment. I personally hate double-standard politics, all kinds of corruption and things like this. Politics can't do without corruption and vice versa; people killing each other without reason and shit like that.

Ville: Plus, all the pollution like those massive, floating plastic garbage rafts on our oceans that are caused by us, the human scum. The more I think of it, the angrier it makes me. People are fuckin' idiots, not caring for this world except how they can benefit themselves by using the earth's resources.

Luxi: So, all of your lyrical inspirations for his album come from real life, not fiction?

Ville: Yes. You could say so.

Viktoria: Germany's Rage is heavily inspired by today's crazy world, too. People seem to have so much hate for each other, which is just stupid I think.

Ville: I remember when I was at work and I got inspired to write the lyrics for the title track of Ragemaker. I was doing a night shift and reading one of the major newspapers that's published in Finland. There were articles about pedophiles, rapes, and shit and after I had finished reading, I just felt a deep anger towards the human race. At some point you want of release this anger somehow. Writing lyrics about all this shit is a channel to get all of this frustration out and that's how I dealt with my anger. I wrote those lyrics about how I felt at the point after reading this news about raping a small child, how I would have treated this rapist if I had caught him in this brutal action. I guess these particular lyrics reek of Slayer's style. There's no happy message within those lyrics I am afraid, haha!

Writing those lyrics helped me to let off steam plus I must say the song itself is quite a neck-torturing cut as well. Doing this type of brutal and aggressive stuff is a nice way to get rid of some of your bad feelings; like your own personal channel to escape from this rude world, to make you feel a bit better after doing so.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROMOTIONAL VIDEOS

Luxi: "Fire Is Her Name" was your latest promotional video off this new album. How did you end up choosing this particular song?

Ville: Well, let me tell you first that choosing it was a difficult process. Personally, I would have chosen the ballad "Legends Never Die" for the video but it's so different from the rest of our stuff that we ended up using "Fire Is her Name" instead. "Fire..." is neither the heaviest nor the softest song off this new album but it gives a pretty good taste of who we are. What do the rest of my bandmates think?

Viktoria: In my opinion "Fire..." is a pretty melodic but still heavy tune all in all, representing us well enough.

Ville: In fact, I feel like every song on this new album sounds different from each other, so at the end of the day it really doesn't matter which song we chose for a video.

J-P: It would have been difficult for us to pick a song that would reflect the whole album.

Viktoria: Indeed. Because they all sound so different from each other.

Luxi: If you had chosen "Legends..." that song would have offered a very different picture of the band, right?

J-P: That's very true, I agree.

Luxi: "Legends..." doesn't really reflect the album's title much either...

Viktoria: Yes, it would have been a big risk if we had chosen that one for the promotional video.

Ville: Anyway, we decided to look a bit further and are about to release three more promotional videos, one of them being this ballad song.

Luxi: I see. So, they will all come out before the album, I suppose?

J-P: Yes, we plan to put out our 3rd promotional video just before the album's official release date, on March 30th and "Legends..." will be published 2-3 weeks prior to Ragemaker's release date.

Ville: The guy who is also responsible for some of Sabaton's lyric videos will put it all together for us for "Legends...". This lyric video will contain some pictures taken from Slayer's Jeff Hanneman for example. Our third promotional video won't be just a lyric video but have us all playing in it instead.

ARCH WHAT...?!

Luxi: I am quite sure that you have heard endless comparisons to Swedish Metal giants Arch Enemy because you have Viktoria fronting the band and you play melodic, brutal Metal music. Do these comparisons bother you at any level?

Viktoria: No, not at all.

Ville: No, this comparison does not bother me in the slightest because I haven't listened to their stuff much at all. Then again, some media outlets have irritated me quite a bit because they drag us straight to Arch Enemy comparison like "Arch Enemy have a better sound on their albums than Evil Drive...", or "Arch Enemy would have played this or that part differently than these Finns did...", and so on... I am like, "what the F**K??!!" These types of comments are just irritating as you can clearly imagine.

Luxi: Indeed, they are and totally pointless and clueless as well.

Ville: People tend to compare us straight to them and should concentrate on listening to our stuff instead.

Luxi: True. It's unfair to base these comparisons on a similar style or the fact you have Viktoria fronting the band. That's just silly.

Viktoria: Yes, they just see me fronting the band and just listen to a clip or two of our stuff and say "Arch Enemy rip-offs..!!" Now how fair is that? They (i.e. mostly journalists) should put more time into listening to our stuff, instead of making such quick and unfair judgments. It does not make much sense at all, not for us anyway.

Luxi: You can always tell these people "come to our gigs, listen to our stuff with an open mind and just after that come to tell u we are a rip-off band from Arch Enemy", right?

Ville: Yes, exactly. With how little I've listened to their stuff, I would say they don't sound bad. So, in other words, it doesn't bother me that much if we are getting compared to them from time to time, haha!

SAM AGENCY STEPS INTO THE PICTURE

Luxi: I read on your Facebook-page that you will also shoot a record release party for Ragemaker at Sam's Pub in Karhula on March 31st, but you also want to celebrate this album at some place in Helsinki. So, how are things standing at the moment as far as your plans for this another record release party are concerned? When and where? I bet people are already dying to hear the news you know...

Ville: We have a new booking agency taking care of our gigs, named Sam Agency, and I think they have already working on another record release gig for Helsinki.

J-P: Indeed, they have a second record release gig in the works already. We actually put our names down on the contract just this weekend with them.

Luxi: Do you have a club tour in sight after this new album's out?

Ville: Well, it depends on a few things I guess. It isn't so cheap to do a club tour in Finland I am afraid.

Viktoria: Also, I think there are some shows coming up in Germany this year too, so we just have to wait and see...

Luxi: While we are at it, do you still have time to jump on some festival shows?

J-P: For this year, it's unfortunately too late for us. The thing is that our new album will be released at the end of March so that in itself is sort of a belated calling card to get some shows booked for outdoor festivals. Next year is a whole different story, of course.

Luxi: If you look towards a distant horizon, you'd like to make your living out of this, right?

Ville: That's naturally a distant dream for all of us I guess. To be honest with you, my own attitude and motivation regarding this band are if I knew right now as I am sitting here and talking to you that I have no chance to achieve anything with this band, I would drop my instrument on the floor immediately, metaphorically speaking at least. Having a regular job, family life and such things, cannot stop me right now. I really want to see how far we can go with this band, and whether it will become something worthwhile in the long run. I hope so, but time will tell, obviously.

Besides, as I get older, I really want to see what's at the end of this road. Thinking of this band as some sort of hobby isn't enough for me. We need to get something out of them for our own pockets too, without sounding too egotistical or elitist.

Luxi: What are some of your long-term plans for Evil Drive? To get a few support slots on tours with bigger names could open new doors and bring things to the next level.

Ville: That would be so cool and important for us, of course!

Viktoria: In my opinion, we should move away from Finland. I mean, there are so many Metal bands in Finland that it's hard for us to show who were really are. It'd be better for us to move to a country like Germany where we might have a better chance to succeed I think.

Luxi: I understand what you are saying. I have noticed Finland has become known for its quality Metal bands over the years. It's amazing that we have so many of them.

Ville: Indeed. The number of quality Metal bands from this country is just overwhelming. We also have many quality bands that not many have even heard of thus far. To get to this point where we are right now demands a lot of hard work and sacrifices for sure.

Luxi: You should talk to your new booking agency about getting you to Japan next year to play at this Suomi Feast festival, which is only for Finnish Metal bands. This year they have bands like Turisas, Beast in Black, Mors Subita etc. performing at the end of May.

J-P: As a matter of fact, I have heard about it and it sounds like a killer festival indeed.

PROMOTION MEANS... EVERYTHING

Luxi: Another potential event for you might be the semi-legendary 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise that happens annually in January-February every year. It's crazy many Finnish Metal bands they book for this cruise every year, along with Swedish Metal bands too...

Ville: Yeah, the Metal cruise in itself, of course, sounds very cool and tempting, but let's see how the response is for our new album. I am already excited to hear people's reaction to it. It all depends on the success of this album as to how things will start rollin' for us after its release. Hopefully good... Fingers crossed.

I believe this album has much more potential compared to our debut back in 2016. I honestly think we have improved in all areas as a band. I am very satisfied with this new album because we did some cool things that weren't on our debut. I am still relatively happy with our debut, but honestly our follow-up album kicks ass way more and I am sure the fans will think so too when they get to hear it.

Our success hasn't come easy; we need to be constantly active and push the band forward, no matter what.

J-P: Yes. When we signed the deal with Reaper Entertainment, we noticed almost immediately that our workload increased drastically as far as band promotion and shit are concerned.

Ville: That's very true. When I am at work, I need to keep my phone next to me all the time because the label keeps bombing me with all kinds of requests. I need to keep in the loop of what's happening constantly, explaining how things are progressing related to our next promotional video and all this type of stuff. It's a tough work, but it's mandatory for us to get it all done if we are ever intended to go somewhere with the band.

Luxi: Okay, time for the last question and then we have crossed the finish line. What are some of your personal expectations/guesses how far the Evil Drive ship will be able to sail across the metallic ocean once this new album is out and available for everyone? Be my guest - you are the first one to start this round Ville!

Ville: Well, let me just say that I am just hoping that everything will go well for us and we exceed expectations with this new album. I have been doing this so long that realistically I don't expect anything anymore. If things are meant to happen for us, great but if not, so be it. I remember when we did our last album Dimension: Death, with my other band Domination Black. It was a really good album, in my opinion, but nothing really happened with it. Perhaps we can only blame ourselves for not getting anywhere with D.B. because we didn't put enough effort behind the band in the sense of promotion. You always need to remember that no matter how much killer stuff you create, if there's no real, hard work beyond the making of music, you are destined to fail. That's what happened with Domination Black, for example.

I also must remember to keep my feet firmly on the ground so that I don't dream too highly about this current band, haha!

Viktoria: Short answer; we'll rock!

['laughter*]

J-P: That was very well said. But anyways, I also hope this album will be received well. I need to get some distance from it because the making of this album has been so close to me for the past 6 months or so. I am excited about it, to say the least.

Other information about Evil Drive on this site
Review: The Land of the Dead




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