After Forest is a progressive metal band from Vaasa, which was founded in 2007. “Act I”, the first album was released in 2015, a next release was planned during the consecutive year, but due to the sudden death of Juha Tujunen, the band choose to move the recording process to the future.
Some weeks ago however, “Act II & III” was finally released to the world. We have had the pleasure of checking out the album first hand and moreover, had the chance to talk to Jukka and Jesse from After Forest about their latest release, the past and what the future brings.
Hi there! Congratulations on your new release “Act II and III”. Now, you have been around for quite a while, but can you introduce the band to those who haven’t heard of you yet?
Jukka: I guess we formed the band in 2007, together with my childhood friend Juha Tujunen and one other guy named Jonne Syrjälä. I played bass that that time. They had this jam band. They mostly played Metallica, but also some random rock like Creedence Clearwater Revival. I joined that band July 2007. By the end of the year I had started to bring up my own riffs to the rehearsal place. Some of those riffs ended up on our very first EP, called the “insignificant EP”, which we made together with our late drummer, Juha Tujunen. This was before Jesse joined the band in 2012. At the time of the recording, we were inspired by bands like Lamb of God, In Flames and of course Metallica, so basically straight forward metal. I was also getting into bands like Opeth and getting deeper in to 70s prog and rock, so you can definitely hear that kind of atmosphere in there as well. Ever since the vibe has gotten stronger.
Nowadays, I guess you could call us progressive metal. There is definitely a lot more to our music than just metal, and will be even more so in the future. I’m not completely comfortable with that term, but it’s the best way to describe us at the moment.
So, your latest release is called “Act II and II”, quite logically there should be an “Act I”. Can you tell us a bit more about that, was it part of the same story?
Jesse: “Act I” was the beginning of the story that this EP trilogy tells. In “Act I”, we laid the basis for our story. We described the bad conditions of the world and the distress of mankind. We also introduced ‘the others’, the race that lives like humans really do – destroying and raping the nature. The others are then used as scapegoat by the leaders of humans.
Jukka: In 2014 we started to record an album, which was supposed to become our first full-length album called “After Forest”. Juha had recorded drums for the first two songs, when we noticed some problems with the overhead mics, and we had to send them back to the store to be fixed. That got us thinking since we were forced to take a break anyway with the drums, it could actually be good idea to finish the two songs, and to release the album in three EP:s instead of one full length. That could work better now when most of the people favors singles and playlists, and we could also get something out faster.. Act I was released eventually in May of 2015, and we were getting ready for the recording process for Act II & III when Juha died in an accident, and that ended the whole process for a long time.
The EPs are based on Alan Weisman’s “World Without Us”. Can you tell us a bit more about that book?
Jesse: ‘World Without Us’ is a play based on the idea that mankind would simply vanish from Earth overnight. The book describes how nature would slowly take back control and how long it would take before all traces of human civilization are wiped out. This is a very powerful way to demonstrate the imprint of mankind’s behavior. However, we ended up telling a fictional story where real acts of mankind are done by the others. Other themes in our story are hypocrisy and governmental control.
Jukka: Yeah, so the album isn’t exactly based on the book, but it was definitely inspired by it. I think we (me and Jesse) both read the book in 2013. I was also reading Naomi Klein’s “The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” at the time, and those really got me thinking about how fucked up our environment is and basically the whole system around us, and how most people just don’t seem to give a shit because they’re the ones who benefit from it, or it’s their own habits or whatever. So we thought that it would be a relevant question for everybody to ask themselves how they would react to all of this in a different position. Politicians often say how it’s irresponsible to leave (money) debt for future generations, but apparently it’s just fine to leave them stranded with a decayed planet.. Have fun with your internet-money, future-kids!
Other than literature is there anything else that inspired you (perhaps even outside of music) and that contributed to making this album?
Jukka: It’s actually kinda funny that we ended up doing a concept album, since at least for me, the lyrics are kind of the last thing I come up with when creating something new, and also often the last thing I pay attention to when I listen to new music. I play guitar daily, and i’m constantly trying to come up with something new, but i’m only writing lyrics for the need. But I love albums like “The Wall” or “Metropolis pt.2” and I think Jesse does too (Jesse nods), and concept albums in general have always been quite intriguing for me, so we wanted to do something like that with this album.
I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, and I think that’s the main thing for me when it comes down to inspiration. I’m always looking for something new, whether it’s from the 50s or 2010s, and there’s just so much amazing music around and everything is nowadays so easily achievable, that how can you not be inspired! .. Of course there’s these “blocks” too, but i have never stressed about them. I would even say they’re important for artists. You need to charge your head every now and then, to be able to create something. It works in sports too. You need to rest in order to develop.
What was the creative process behind “ACT I and III” like?
Jukka: Music-wise the process was so long that looking back makes me feel as if everything just happened really easily. I do remember being kinda stuck with some songs, but most of the major parts were already written before we started working with “Act I”, and everything happened so little by little, so it’s hard to say.
Jesse: We recorded everything by ourselves as we did with “Act I”. While it was great that we had all that time for ourselves without a rush, it certainly would have been good to have someone kicking our asses. Everything went well in the end and we are really satisfied with the results, but the process was very slow and frustrating at some points. After all of the instruments were recorded we started to think about the lyrics and how to fit them to the story and melodies we had already written.
Jukka: The lyrics were kind of a pain in the ass. We had a script written, and maybe like 70% of the lyrics ready, but putting everything together and make them work with the compositions was a lot of work. Everything needed to make sense and most of the times I didn’t want to change the melodies or sometimes even the rhythm. But I guess we managed to make it work.
We have already talked quite much about the album, but let’s talk a bit about the songwriting. Who writes the songs?
Jukka: I’ve written most of our music so far. Also our previous keyboard-player Sami Selkäinaho wrote some really nice arrangements for keyboards, and some of them really upgraded the songs. For some songs I’ve used Jesse’s ideas and arranged them differently. The lyrics for this album were written by both me and Jesse. I would say it’s fifty-fifty. We both worked on our own, and eventually sat down and put everything together. I’m sure we will end up doing some bigger concepts too in the future, but for now that’s really the last thing on my mind. Now I just wanna do music and not think if it fits in some certain theme or anything. It’s been awhile since we were actually rehearsing and arranging new stuff, so that’s what we’re gonna focus next. Although, I actually do have some ideas for the future concepts which i would like to do in one form or another, but they might as well be for one song only, I really don’t know yet.
The cover and artwork for the album really fitted the concept. Can you tell us a bit more about who did the artwork and the story behind it?
Jukka: There was no point for us to hire just about anyone who would do what we tell them to do. We wanted to find an artist who would be inspired by the story, and would like to to his/her own work based on it. We found all of that in Laura Haapasalo. We talked about the story, how it could end and so on, but then she basically had totally free hands and the album was more of a format for her to release her art. We might as well let her tell something about herself.
Hi Laura, thanks for your time. Can you shed a bit of light on the work you have done for After Forest and who you are?
Laura: I’m a 24 year old artist, born in Vaasa and studying at the University of Lapland. My major is in Art Education. Painting has been my main medium throughout my teenage years and I won the Young Cultural Influencer award of the year 2012 in Vaasa. In university I have been mostly focusing on sculpting, which is why nowadays I call myself nowadays sculptor and ceramic artist. Ceramic, a.k.a. clay is my main medium, though I use also other materials. My sculptures have been sold in Finland and Sweden. Besides sculptures, I also produce stoneware ceramics which are being sold in Rovaniemi Arctic Design Shop.
For me art has always been a tool for self examination and more recently, I have seen it as meditative work. Sketching has never really been my strength, as for me art is born from the moment and feeling. Usually, no matter what medium, I take all the equipment before starting to work and sit down for a while to find what kind of feeling I have – what will be born this time. I never know beforehand what I’m going to do usually. In sculpting I am most interested in describing motion, emotions, tensions and feeling of the material itself. I love playing with opposites and to challenge the viewer’s senses. For example, ceramics is associated as stopped, even frozen material that is heavy and easy to break. The last couple of years I have made installations and art pieces that invite viewers to touch and feel, when normally art is considered not to be touched. Also ceramics hanging in the air is my thing, because there is always the thought of “maybe it will fall down and shatter”. When it comes down to painting, anatomical studies, wordless messages expressed with bodies of humans or animals and emotions are interesting for me. I also concentrate on colors and feeling of space. Textile art has a special place in my heart as well, even though recently I haven’t had so much time for it.
I haven’t been painting so much during the last years. It has been more of a thing I do every once in a while, studying the moment and searching the meditative state of mind. It was nice to join this project, because it challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, to take on with the partly familiar, partly uncontrollable medium of digital painting. I tried not to duplicate too much of the lyrical content into my art, but aimed more for storytelling that I used to create a rhythm to go with the story. Telling stories has always been very important to me when it comes to art and life in general, and I have also written a book that is still searching the right publisher. I wanted to weave the art of the story to a fabric-like pattern, that partly goes along with the rhythm of the lyrics, partly looks forward towards what is yet to come and partly lingers with what has already been. I think linear structure of time and the story has been artificially created by Western culture, and I try my best to detach it in this piece and in creating art in general.
Thanks Laura! Now, back to After Forest. You are based in Vaasa, how does that influence you as musicians, do you feel like it restricts you in any way?
Jukka: Well, Vaasa is relatively small place, so the metal scene is also small. That means that there is a lot of the same musicians playing in different bands. Which on one hand can be great, if you think like Canterbury prog. The same guys played in different bands and they made this unique, really recognizable sound. On the other hand people are busy with different projects. For example we’ve been struggling a lot with our lineup because there’s just not too many people around who would be into playing this kind of music. That being said, I’m very happy with our current line-up..
It hasn’t really restricted us so far at least, since we’ve been on/off since we started doing gigs in 2013. Like there have been a few gigs here in Vaasa and around Ostrobothnia, and then back some kind of break again for whatever reason. After our last gig in Helsinki, I talked with one guy who’s involved within the music industry, and basically what he said was “First of all you need to move to Helsinki, and then you can start working on getting recognition”. I kinda don’t wanna believe that that’s the way things need to go, but obviously Vaasa isn’t the best location to run a band from, since it’s kinda far from everything, and there’s nothing West from here. But at least so far everything has worked out fine.
And I think One Morning Left was based in here quite a long time after they started to get recognition? Maybe. I might be wrong. Well at least there’s Klamydia in here!
So apart from living in Vaasa, what are some of the challenges you had to overcome as a band and how have they changed you?
Jukka: Oh during the recording session? Well, the usual. PCs crashing and resigning band members. (laughs) Also, we all have day jobs and some of us have families, so it can be hard to match the schedule at times.
But we’ve had quite a lot of challenges during the years. The sudden death of Juha obviously being the most serious and hardest one getting through, but the lineup has been changing a lot for different reasons and it’s been slowing us down a lot. It’s been hard to find members who are willing to commit to the band and put both time and effort to it.
Not sure if those challenges have changed me a lot. Although, I really try to push myself to make things happen now, because it’s so easy to stay in your own comfort zone and not actually do anything that could improve your career, and before you realize it’s been yet another year with the same old songs in the same rehearsal place.
Alright, so we talked about the past, we talked about the present, let’s talk a bit more about the future. What are your plans?
Jukka: Oh. I don’t know. And I love not knowing! We have quite a lot of demos, but we really haven’t started working on with them yet. My way of composing is really random, and it’s always a mystery what comes out next. I might do some death metal today, and some kind of classical music tomorrow. Of course most of the stuff won’t end up on After Forest songs, but it’s interesting to see what we are going to use and how they end up sounding when everybody’s putting their own fingerprint on them and bringing up their own ideas.
I would probably like to go a bit more experimental, and maybe do some more improvisation and more weird stuff, but to be honest I really don’t know. I think we’re going to start working with the new songs after our next gig in Kokkola early June, so I’m excited!
We have been talking about some gigs in the fall season, but they’re not confirmed yet, so I can’t really talk about them. But yes, there will be shows too, and we’re currently working on getting more.
Thank you so much for your time! It was great to get to know After Forest a little bit better. Before we wrap up, do you have any last words for our readers?
Jukka: Keep listening good music and hope to see you at the gigs. Have a great summer. Thank you!