Interviewed by Kaheli and Narri
Tell us a little bit about the entity known as Antipope and how did the name ‘Antipope’ come to be?
Antipope is a band that performs music which could be described as ‘metal’, for most of the time. Antipope does not try to ‘fit in’ into any particular category of metal. Someone labeled us recently in a review as “cabaret metal”. I think that describes our music quite well. It is about entertainment and different moods. The music and the lyrics are equally important in what we do, and I think that makes us a bit like an old-fashioned rock band that tells stories with their music, not just focusing on the technical aspects of what they play. But rather than reading my descriptions, all of you out there who read this, go listen to our music. It speaks best for itself.
The name of the band came to be as I was looking for a name that could represent the above mentioned mentality of not giving shit about rules and conventions.
You guys have a new album coming out very soon and I’ve had the luxury of hearing it some time ago. It does differ but yet not…could you tell us how it does differ? How is it similar to your previous releases?
Well, I’d like to hear your opinion about how does it differ from our previous works…? (please, go ahead )
The biggest difference between the new album House of Harlot (HoH) and our debut Desert is that the songs on HoH are much more based on a traditional rock formula. The vocals and the storyline of the lyrics are what the album is based on and the music is written to support it and to emphasize the atmosphere. One could say that this is by far our most straightforward release, especially if you look at each song at time, but there is still variety and progression present on this album. The songs on Desert were more like classical pieces, comprised of several sections, whereas these new tracks have more simple structure.
Of course the whole atmosphere of the album is very different from that of Desert. Desert was written – both musically and lyrically – in very different emotional state. There were still things going on in my head about the unexpected death of Jyri, our original drummer. While I was writing Desert, I kind of had an impression that I had gotten over it, but now, looking back – or should I say “listening back” – at Desert I can perceive a lot stuff that is directly connected to what happened back in the summer of year 2008. In a way I think I tried to deal with the loss by writing an album that had stuff that Jyri would have agreed with. You could say that Desert was a testimony to the importance of Jyri to Antipope. Right now, after finishing yet another album, I feel that I’ve gotten over it in a positive way. I’ve never understood what people mean when they say after something terrible happens that “life goes on”. I mean, of course it does, it couldn’t be otherwise, could it?
As for the similarities, I think the most important thing is that it is an Antipope album, by which I mean that it’s going to take the listener to different places again. The new album has much more cohesion than the previous one, but it definitely is not about repeating the same song eleven times.
What is your favorite track from ‘House Of Harlot’ and why?
That’s a pretty though question, I have to say. I think I’m using a very worn and old expression if I say that it is like trying to say, which of your children is your favorite. We’ve been playing these songs for over a year now in rehearsals and they still manage to inspire us, and every one of them has something to offer. If I was forced to give an answer I’d say my favorite is the title track “House of the Harlot”. When I wrote it, I knew instantly that it’s going to be an album opener. It’s also very dissimilar with anything I’ve written so far. One of the reasons why I like it is the lyrics. They are based on Oscar Wilde’s poem “Harlot’s House”. I came across it by the time when I was starting to write the lyrics for the album and it fitted so well with the song and the whole theme of the album.
What was the inspiration behind ‘House Of Harlot’?
After working on Desert, which is quite cold and also very psychological, even psychoanalytical album, I wanted to do something completely different. First of all, I wanted to write a theme album instead of a concept album. I also wanted to explore different emotional concepts. Since Desert is, as the title suggests, about desertion, loss, disintegration of personality and about subconscious phobias controlling one’s actions, I wanted to take a different direction. HoH is about trying to reach others, about lust for life slightly gotten out of control, and about love and the different shapes it can take – not all of them healthy, so to say.
I think there are multiple things that inspired me while making this album, some movies like Mario Bava’s “La frusta e il corpo”, “Vampire Lovers”, “Irreversible”, “Mulholland Drive” etc., books like “The She-Devils” by Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly, the first essay collection by a Finnish author Antti Nylén… many things, also personal experiences.
The most important thing for me is that only after the album is ready, I realize what I was trying to do. So, writing an album is about self-discovery as much as self-expression. Maybe this is the reason why there is no “typical Antipope song” because each piece of music I write is about going to strange new places and exploring different moods and emotions.
If I’m understanding this correctly, you actually had all or most of the tracks written before you even released your previous album, ‘Desert’, are the songs from HOH leftovers that didn’t make it onto ‘Desert’ or were they written completely separate from it?
When I finished mixing Desert back in March 2010 I took a break of one week and then I began to write new material. Me and Juho wrote the songs for what was to become House of Harlot during the spring and summer 2010 and since Desert was published in the autumn 2010, we had all the music ready for the next release. So HoH is in no way about left-overs. I think I began to work on a new album right after finishing the previous one was because I wasn’t very happy with Desert. I was happy with it to a certain extent, but I felt like I had something else to offer and many ideas that didn’t come to realization while working on Desert.
According to an update on your website at the beginning of the year, you had written roughly 15 songs but only 9 made it to the album, does this mean you’re approximately 6 songs into the next release?
There are actually 11 songs on the album. The ones that were left out were either not good enough or just didn’t fit in with other songs. We already released one of these songs as a b-side to digital single “The World Coming Down”. The song is called “Powers of Satan”, and for the time being it’s only available online.
The ones that were left out will be either discarded or re-written so that they will work with the new material. I didn’t actually write anything for over a year, which is the longest break from writing music for at least ten years. Maybe writing two albums in a row has something to do with it. A couple of days ago I sat down with a guitar and worked on some ideas, though. Since the last two albums were written during spring and summer, I want to write something during winter and see if it is different. I usually listen to completely different music summer time, so it should make a difference too.
Do you have any tour plans in support of HOH? Any plans to take the live action outside of Finland?
There’s going to be individual shows to support HoH, the first one will be in Helsinki on 3rd of December, and there are more shows for next year. If and when a good opportunity arrives, we are ready to go anywhere.
Mikko, as the primary composer/lyricist for Antipope, what are the main influences behind your writing?
In regards to music, I really can’t point out any particular influences. Anything with something interesting can turn into an idea in my head and become a riff or a melody for a song. I think I’m more inspired by original artists and bands than by some particular style of music. Artist who do what they will, the likes of Cradle of Filth, Devin Townsend, Tool, John Zorn, Rammstein, Iron Maiden, Primordial, Guns ‘n Roses, Skinny Puppy (especially the late 80s-early 90s albums), AC/DC, Nine Inch Nails, Leonard Cohen, The Smiths and Morrissey…practically anything that is inspiring. Further it goes from metal, more inspiring it gets, since things are done differently.
Recently, the biggest influence on my writing the lyrics has been Leonard Cohen and Morrissey. I used to play around with very obscure and complex lyrics, but around the time of writing the lyrics for Desert, I experienced this “wakening”. I realized the power of everyday language. What Morrissey writes is deceptively simple but it’s so powerful it leaves you breathless.
How would you describe your writing style? And of course, your vocal style?
Well, I usually write the music first, sometimes in collaboration with Juho. I really don’t know if I have a specific style of writing. I sit down with the guitar and try to come up with something interesting. Sometimes I play around with different tunings, like I did just a couple of days ago, when I put an open C tuning on one of my guitars. I haven’t tried different tunings that much in the past, but after playing electric guitar for 20 years, it’s refreshing to try something different. When the music is ready, I go around about the ideas that I have for the lyrics. I guess that’s it. Long walks without any music player are good inspiration also. After a while I start to hear things in my head, I mean, usually musical ideas, not voices telling me to do something.
As for my vocal style, it’s hard for me to describe it. It’s just me singing these things. I allow the atmosphere of the song to guide me and I try to deliver the vocals so that they support the whole. I guess there’s no particular style there either, I mean like “clean” or metal “growl”.
Do you prefer writing albums that are theme-based or ones that tell a ‘story’ where each track is basically a chapter?
It depends on what do I want to write. Desert was a story-based concept album – even if that is not so obvious. HoH is a theme-based album with stories connected to each other thematically. No matter whether it is a concept or a theme album, the album does tell a story, or at least it should tell one. I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned in that I still listen to albums, not just individual songs. A good album with strong atmosphere is a great way to get away from here for an hour or so.
Antti & Juho…
Your favorite guitar and why, please
A Fender Stratocaster. I have own it for about ten years and even though I don’t use it on gigs the playability of it is simply the best.
Some old cheap, most likely Chinese, Gibson copy that I started to play with back in the day. It was my first touch to electric guitar and somehow still has a special place in my mind. I tried to acquire that guitar, only to learn that someone had burnt it as firewood.
If you could own any guitar in the world, regardless of age, price or availability, which one would it be?
Maybe some old Gibson gold-top.
I would love to own and play a guitar that I have made myself.
Why did you choose bass over guitar?
I chose the bass because I find it an interesting instrument which has quite a big role of making the groove of any band. The different playing styles make it a versatile instrument. There are lots of guitarists available, but every band also needs a dedicated bass player.
I’ve noticed in quite a few photos that you’re playing a 5-string. Do you prefer a 5-string over a 4?
I have a 5-string and a 4-string bass guitar. The 5-string is good for many things because it has wider scale, but I like to play the 4-string also.
Just out of curiosity, have you ever played a 12 or 15-string bass before?
No, those I have never tried.
Last but not least, Tuska…Could you describe your drum-kit setup for us?
My drum-kit setup varies. I like to try different setups, which I think most drummers like to, or at least should, do. I practice with a very basic 3 piece drum-kit with a couple of accent cymbals. I like to keep things simple. But when I play with Antipope I have to enhance the set with at least 2 tom-toms and more accent cymbals because the Antipope sound demands a big sound with drums.
How would you describe your playing style?
I like to hit hard and fast. Since I´m not a very technically oriented drummer, so I try to substitute the lack of technique with power. Everyone should come to see me and Antipope play live because I think our strength is in how we perform live.
Do you guys have any advice to offer young, up and coming musicians?
Whatever you do, do not try to “fit-in”. There are more than enough bands, especially in metal scene, that seem to try to prove that they are metal enough and that they know what metal should sound like according to some scene polices. Remember that playing technique should serve music, not the other way around. Well, that’s the way I see it.
Play what you want. Don´t play something because you´re told to or you think that you´re expected to play something. Always create something new. Don´t get stuck with things already done.
Practice hard and try to create your own style of playing your instrument, not just try to copy someone else’s style. Reasonable understanding of musical theory and ability read the music is also quite handy.
What would you consider to be some major flaws in today’s music industry?
I think the major flaw is that you can actually call it “industry”. Music is art, not a product that is made to make money. Of course those who make music should get compensation but when it comes to the profit or big record labels, then it’s not about compensation anymore but about stock value. But I guess the situation has been like that for quite some time, I mean for decades, so it’s not a new thing really. Record labels do not try to discover interesting bands with something to offer but ready made products to be sold with. Some say that because of downloading and dwindling sales record labels cannot support new bands anymore. Personally, I try to think things like that as little as possible and just concentrate on what I do myself.
Which is more important to you as a band: that a fan buys the CD or pays to see a live show? Obviously you’d want him/her to do both but if you had to choose…which one?
If I had to choose, I’d prefer to see the fans on our gigs. But what I would prefer most would be that people just listen to our music. If they like it, then it would be nice if they buy a record or a ticket to our show, but I write the music for those who want to listen to it, so that’s more important than getting paid.
Who was the one person (or persons) who had the most influence on you musically?
I guess it must be my cousin who had The Razor’s Edge by AC/DC on a c-cassette in 1991, I think. That got me interested in rock music. And due to that, I think Angus Young was the first “guitar hero” for me who got me to pick up electric guitar after playing classical guitar.
Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson
Scott Columbus (RIP)
Not sure if you’ve seen the ‘new’ thing going around from Drinkify.org, I put in ‘Antipope’ and came up with “1 oz. Blood, 1 oz. Cranberry juice and 1 bottle Honey Vodka. Combine in shaker and strain into cocktail glass. Serve. Garnish with twist of orange.” My question is…who is going to donate enough blood so that all of us at Finnish Underground Radio can have at least one drink apiece? That would about 10 of us
10 oz of blood, hmm, I guess it’s not that bad. I’m terrified by needles, however, so it has to be someone else.
Last but not least and no band being an exception boxers, briefs or commando? Any thoughts, preferences or opinions?
Thank you for doing this interview with us…is there anything else you would like to add about Antipope?
Thank you too, it was a pleasure. Those of you have haven’t seen our new video yet, go check out “A Thing so Vile” on YouTube. And see you on our shows, the next one being in Helsinki on 3rd of December.