Mon. Nov 30th, 2020

Interview with Daimonic – “Artistically it’s best if the songwriter can sing his own songs.” (Musicalypse Archive)

If 2019 was a musical sundae, the introduction of DAIMONIC to the world was the cherry on top at the end! Having released two singles now to show off KIUAS mastermind Mikko Salovaara‘s new project, we knew that we had more questions than answers. Fortunately, Salovaara himself took the time to go over the band’s inception and concept for us!

First of all, welcome back to the scene! You’ve been quite busy lately with LEVERAGE and METAL DE FACTO, and now you’ve announced DAIMONIC… would you care to tell us what you’ve been up to in the years since KIUAS disbanded?

Well, regarding the three bands you answered the question right there already [laughs].

Getting those three bands going required a lot of work from all people involved. Every new band starts out as an idea or a vision, it goes through a formation process with the right people joining in, there’s a brainstorm of ideas, a lot of planning and organizing. For anyone who hasn’t been in a pro-level band or seen things up close, it’s hard to understand how many different details there are besides the music – from the stage look to the sound (including choosing the right gear, tuning), the logo, the lyrical concepts, having a good rehearsal place/studio, and then working on the music, etc.; my time was very much consumed with the songwriting and of course learning to sing, which I’ve hopefully managed to do at least to some degree. But other than that, for example just coming up with the right name took a very long time.

And people must remember that we have lives as well. I won’t get into my personal life too much here, but let’s just say that stuff happens. I both enjoy and am also occupied by many other things in life besides music… such as summoning demons in my crypt which is one of my favorite hobbies [laughs].

I believe that to make great or even decent art you have to live, experience life. If you just lock yourself in a basement waiting for inspiration to come, you’ll end up with a bunch of songs (or paintings or whatever the art form) about living in a basement trying to create art, and with the color spectrum of a basement wall. So, therefore, to remain creative you have to disconnect now and then from the creative process and come back. That also takes time.

I have to thank the guys in LEVERAGE and METAL DE FACTO for making my job very easy. Those bands run very well and are led by very active and productive people. I’ve done my best to contribute my part to their music as well, but thanks to everyone, I’ve been able to continue building DAIMONIC at the same time.

For those who missed the news back in the day, why did KIUAS split up?

Well, all things come to an end. I think bands are not meant to be forever, at least not in the same form. Even without any drama or tragedy, there comes a point where it’s not fresh anymore. With the original line-up, things came to an end as vocalist Ilja Jalkanen basically needed to move on towards a different direction, which isn’t that bad in retrospect because all of the four albums we did are solid and I wouldn’t change anything on them. Perhaps the fifth one would have been a disaster, had we kept on forcing it without the right kind of passion in everyone.

With the second line-up, there was new inspiration and energy, but sadly we came to some disagreements which are all settled now and don’t need to be opened up anymore. But the result was that the band was left without a singer once again and finding a suitable one didn’t seem to be in the stars so to speak, which led to me taking the position. And with that choice and all other things combined, it felt right to leave the name behind as well.

It was already hinted when KIUAS broke up that you had a KIUAS 2.0 project in the works – was there any reason it took this long to put the new band together?

When KIUAS was put to rest, we – the remaining members – already had the plans for a new band. Actually when KIUAS was still alive and well back in 2011, I remember sitting down in a pub in Camden town, London, with Jari [Pailamo, keyboards] and Teemu [Tuominen, bass] on our final UK tour with TURISAS and CHTONIC, and envisioning a new stage look to go along with the new era of KIUAS. Some ideas go that far back. That was actually the tour where I had to sing, since unfortunately Asim [Searah] couldn’t make it at the last minute. Maybe that planted some seed somewhere too [laughs].

Fast forward a couple of years to the point where we were without a singer and had decided on changing the name and refreshing everything else too. There wasn’t any hurry in the beginning since I wanted to focus on writing songs without rushing. Jari, Teemu, and I were also quite excited to develop the concept, so much so that there was an overflow of ideas and we went through some very complex and cryptic [ideas] and had to come back and simplify things.

We wanted to have the visual side thought out carefully and had some very talented people working on that: our stage outfits are designed and hand-made by Nina Korento, also known nowadays for designing costumes for Nightwish, for example, and our logo was designed by Tuomas Tahvanainen, known for his artwork with countless bands. Photographer Marko Simonen captured exactly the feel we wanted in our band photos.

We had some changes in the line-up along the way as well. There were a couple of great guys in the band in the beginning stages but they were also very occupied with other active bands, and since we knew DAIMONIC would require a lot of groundwork, we decided mutually that it was best that those guys focus on their work with already established bands.

Finally, even Teemu dropped out because he needed to focus on other things in life, but lucky for us we got Ville [Sorvali; MOONSORROW] to fill his boots.

The riffs in the new DAIMONIC singles are very familiar-sounding. Was any of the DAIMONIC material originally meant to be for KIUAS?

Yes, definitely. We had recorded a couple of new songs already with the second KIUAS line-up which never got released, so some of that material will and has already been heard through DAIMONIC, although it has undergone some changes since then. In some older parts, you might hear a touch of Asim and Raikku [Rainer Tuomikanto; AJATTARA, GRAVE PLEASURES] – the singer and drummer from the second KIUAS line-up – in there too.

You’ve taken over vocals this time – was that a big decision? Did you look for any vocalists for DAIMONIC or did you know you wanted to sing this time around?

This goes back to the end of KIUAS. As I said earlier, we where left without a singer and it was actually our manager at the time Teemu Suominen who suggested that I take on the vocals as well. In the beginning I wasn’t sure about it all but after some coaching and some trial and error, I felt I could produce a suitable sound for the music I had already been writing. The other guys were very supportive and convinced with my test recordings – I was kind of auditioning myself for us, haha.

Also, there were many other things to consider: artistically it’s best if the songwriter can sing his own songs. It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s something that I’d also discussed a lot with Ilja. When the composer/lyricist writes the music AND the lyrics for his own voice, the voice guides the writing process in the right direction by default, and also demands that the lyrics are honest enough because the same person has to perform them, so everything is tied together from the beginning.

Devin Townsend mentioned, I believe at the Evening with Devin Townsend show, that he learned to sing because getting someone else to get the right feel into the music was more effort than learning to do it himself.

That’s a great point, I agree! I also think that this fact weighs a lot compared to the actual skills of the singer: you might have a very talented and skilled singer but he/she might not be able to grasp the emotions or message in a song written by someone else. Where, on the other hand, someone with less skill might have a rough but personal and interesting voice and be able to find exactly the right vibe for the song, and generally the person who wrote the song probably knows best what that vibe is.

So, we kind of made the decision that I had enough skill and potential already by then to take on the job, and as that was the case, that was definitely the best thing for the band both artistically and from a practical point of view.

Of course it has required and still requires a lot of practice, but I’ve got a lot of support from the other guys in DAIMONIC, as well as all of the KIUAS team, especially Ilja, and other great singers such as Mikko Herranen, who has recorded and mixed all of the DAIMONIC songs so far, and Mari Multanen who coached me in the very beginning.

You once filled in on vocals for KIUAS in a UK tour, if I recall correctly. What was it like on vocals then? Were you already comfortable on vocals or was that a strange experience?

Well, that was my first time performing as a lead vocalist ever and trying to play guitar parts that weren’t supposed to be played at the same time while singing lead, and none of it was planned… it was a quick emergency solution! The rest of us heard at the last minute before leaving for the tour that Asim couldn’t come, and on the night of the first show, I was quickly going through the songs trying to figure out which parts I could and couldn’t play and sing together properly since I had to do it ex tempore…

Adding to the already difficult situation, I was having a bad time in my personal life… so I wouldn’t describe it as exactly “comfortable,” [laughs] but under the circumstances it went very well. Perhaps the excitement and the pride of getting the job done helped.

How did DAIMONIC (in its current iteration) form and how did you pick the name?

After we had gone through all the stuff I’ve mentioned, including the the plans, preparations, and slight line-up changes, the final group is very solid and consists of guys I’ve known for at least 10-20 years, so we share a common sense of humor and work together very well. And actually, throughout the whole formation process, all moves were pretty much within a circle of close friends and professional people, easy phone calls and no BS, no testing out someone’s “half-cousin who they say is a pretty good player,” etc. We know enough people to know where to ask when we need something.

We’ve also had some very qualified help from the management side of things from Teemu Suominen, who was very close with KIUAS as our agent back in the days, as well as Tina Jukarainen who has worked with metal bands such as CRIMSON SUN and some very high-profile mainstream artists, like CHEEK. For example, she helped a lot when we were brainstorming different ideas and putting together the overall concept and look.

We had a lot of different ideas for the name before settling on this one. It has a wide array of meanings and different levels behind it that are very inspiring. To summarize the meaning of the word that best connects with what we are trying to convey, it refers to an inner force in a person, leaning on the originally Greek word “daimon,” which means a kind of spirit or something godlike within us. At the risk of sounding extremely mundane and watering down some of the mysticism, I must say that the Wikipedia article on the word “daimonic” serves as a pretty good introduction.

Now that there’s already enough music written for the band to keep us working for some time, the other responsibilities are also shared a bit more evenly than in the beginning phases, so that it’s easier to keep things going. Especially our drummer, Timo [Aspiala], is very active in planning and organizing.

What kind of artist are you, in terms of writing songs to tell stories, to change the world/spread a message, or for the simple sake of creating music (or something totally different)?

I think it has changed along the way and keeps on evolving, and I like to take on a different kind of approach to writing in different bands and projects.

With DAIMONIC, there’s definitely a certain type of world I want to take the listener into. I opened up the meaning behind the band name a little already, so that’s a good starting point. I’m very interested in psychology, the (subjective) human experience, and the idea of consciousness and all the problems and endless questions that arise when we start to look into such things. And they can be seen from a philosophical, scientific, spiritual, or some other point of view, all of which I find fascinating… and who wouldn’t, I think – since we’re taking about us, ourselves (whatever that means, if we get really philosophical). And throughout history, myths and stories have been used as allegories to describe all the complexities of human emotions, thoughts, and consciousness, etc., which is also the way I prefer to use stories, mythological and perhaps religious references (without subscribing to any religion myself).

I want to provide the listener with a strong experience, stir up their emotions, and if they’re willing, make them see under the surface of the song and and hopefully inspire them with surprising associations and meanings that make them think.

We’ve heard two singles now. Can you tell us a bit about the songs; how were they written, and how were they chosen as singles?

The songs serve as a great introduction to our style: it’s very guitar-driven and the drum parts are often arranged very tightly with the riffs but have a lot of independent action going on.

The synth section could sometimes be described as “orchestral,” but in the real sense of the word so that there are a lot of individual parts intertwining like in a real orchestra – not just using some kind of generic sound that’s supposed to be “symphonic” and then leaning on a chord (that’s what some bands do which doesn’t make them symphonic at all, though they like to describe themselves as such)… but also I like to have the keyboards do whatever is interesting and sometimes surprising – there are all kinds of effects, folk instrument sounds, etc. but you might not always notice them on the surface.

The first one, “Might Concealed” was a logical choice for a debut single because it’s pretty straightforward and easy to get into. Both of the songs are pretty fast and intense, but the second one, “The Grand Ascension” has a bit more diversity – the tempos change from half-time and different grooves, the vocal style changes from growls to clean, etc.

As for the writing process, so far it’s been almost totally in my hands, like it was very much in KIUAS. So these and most of the other songs we have now have been created throughout the past years in my crypt, where I’ve been also exploring and developing my vocal capabilities to make everything fit together. In the final stages, everyone has added their input and touch to the songs and since there’s so much talent in the band, in the future I’m very much looking forward to harnessing more songwriting power from the other guys as well, since everyone in the band writes music – very probably some of that will be heard on the debut full-length album.

Regarding the synth section still, Jari is not only a virtuoso keyboard player, but has veteran experience and knowledge from the technological side of musical instruments, having also worked in that field and industry for years. And on top of that, surprisingly, our drummer Timo is a talented orchestral composer. The intro that we use in concerts is his work.

I’m also very pleased to say that we have a fantastic rhythm section with Timo, Aki [Holma], and Ville, who are extremely tight players and have also pushed me to try and improve my rhythm playing skills. Besides his rhythm tightness, Aki can also shred like the best of them which also enables us to do guitar harmonies anyway we want to.

All the guys are performing live vocals too, which isn’t common at all with many bands. Ville, of course, is a well-known frontman and vocalist, so we’re definitely using that card to our advantage as well.

What about lyrically? Is there anything specific or thematic that you’re trying to get across?

The main theme in “The Grand Ascension” is ambition and its many sides including the good, the bad, and the ugly. The verses describe this human trait in a very clear and easy-to-grasp manner, while the C-section draws associations to survival in the animal kingdom, hinting that ambition might be a product of evolution in modern man, now that natural selection doesn’t happen within our species quite the same way it does with most species (of course this isn’t black and white, and the song doesn’t present any theories or statements though; the listener can think for him/herself and come up with their own ideas).

The song also brings up obsession and the perils ambition leads to when taken too far – a concrete example in the end of the C-section is a reference to the corpses of dead mountain climbers at Mt. Everest, which are actually used as landmarks by living ones (special thanks to Teemu Suominen for that!).

The pre-choruses and chorus present the idea that, in the end, the deepest ambition for the individual is more of a spiritual one in nature, whatever their beliefs (or lack thereof) might be – in the end we all crave such things as meaning in life, receiving answers to “the big questions,” to feel “whole,” “be in the flow,” etc., or to be connected with “higher powers” if one’s beliefs include such things (once again the song doesn’t take any stance regarding different beliefs – the idea is that this craving exists whether the person is an atheist, follows some sort of ideology, religion, or anything in between). This is in line with the idea of the “daimonic,” which I discussed regarding the name of the band and its meaning.

This idea of the inner force is very much the theme of “Might Concealed” as well, but there the approach is kind of flipped in comparison: this time the inner force, the “daimon” – whatever you want to call it – is the source of harmony, balance, inner peace, and true strength in contrast to just mindlessly and obsessively grinding and trying to achieve something, so there’s a very zen-influenced message. However, the inner conflict and the difficulty of finding this state of flow/enlightenment/whatever is described by phrases such as “The hero eclipses the zen…” which is kind of a loose Jungian reference to the hero archetype: the “hero” always needs to complete another task and that need can never be fulfilled by any accomplishment because there’s always the next one. And yet, as the chorus says, “our unwavering might” is “concealed in this one breath eternal,” which basically means that this wholeness, strength, peace, and so forth can be found here and now at every moment, and – to be exact – nowhere else.

You had your debut show recently in Kuopio – why did you choose to hold it there?

Well that was actually just for practical reasons – there’s enough stuff going on as it is, so I wanted to combine a DAIMONIC and a LEVERAGE show and it was a good way to start that way.

I unfortunately couldn’t make it because I was out of the country; how did it go?

Well, all-in-all we’re quite pleased with it. There are always details that can be improved and of course we we’re kind of testing the waters for the first time with this band, but it definitely broke the ice and let out the steam that had been building up for a long time. Now we know there’s no stopping us!

What are DAIMONIC’s plans from here on out? Will we get a debut album, or perhaps a tour?

Since we decided to come out independently and release a couple of songs to start with, everything is very dynamic and we’re calculating our next move as we proceed. All such plans will be announced once they are confirmed, and it’s better to not make any half-assed promises to the public before contracts are signed and so forth, since everything in the music business can change quickly.

Right now we’re negotiating with record companies and booking agents but since we’re not kids anymore, we’re not going to jump on the first offer thrown on the table without making sure it fits our purpose. We have a lot of music waiting to be put out and are hungry to get on stage more, so it’s all around the corner, and yes a full length album too, sooner or later.

Lastly, is there anything else about the band/music you’d like to share that I didn’t ask about, or do you have any last words for our readers?

Thanks for all the great support we’ve got from everyone so far, it means a lot! Follow us on social media to stay on track with plans and other stuff – for instance people have been asking for merch, so stay tuned for updates. And spread the word! The more you do, the better your chances are of seeing us live, even if you live on the other side of the earth!

Interview by Bear Wiseman
Musicalypse, 2020
OV: 1003

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