INTERVIEWS

Interview with Omnium Gatherum — “If you don’t feel like challenging yourself, top your past work, then you already lost the game.”

Interview with Jukka Pelkonen and Markus Vanhala from Omnium Gatherum about their new album "The Burning Cold", out on 31 August 2018 via Century Media Records.

Finland’s Omnium Gatherum formed in 1996 and emerged from a vibrant European metal scene with a series of acclaimed demos. With a sound that blended the raging brutality of Scandinavian death metal with a rich sense of melody and harmony. The band continues to challenge themselves and leave their mark on the melodic death metal scene.

After the very successful “Grey Heavens”, the band is now releasing their 8th studio album “The Burning Cold” through Century Media Records on 31 August 2018. 

It’s Tuska weekend and the band organized a pre-listening session with the press before the festival took off. I found myself listening to some prime melodic death metal tunes, while the boat I was on was rocking to the beats of the water. Simultaneously and constant. The band was present as well, listening together with us. When the music ended, the band thanked us gratefully. Someone in the crowd started laughing and said: “No… Thank you!”. He was right, after listening one hour to what appeared to be an album definitely topping their latest one “Grey Heavens”, that seemed to be once again proof of Finnish humbleness. 

First impressions were made and after listening to “The Burning Cold” for the first time, I was able to discuss the new album with  Jukka Pelkonen and Markus Vanhala. 

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Hi guys! First of all, thank you so much for making the time for this. So, you had your pre-listening party today, how does it feel to have wrapped up the album and have this physical thing out there?

Markus: Very good! It’s a great feeling. For us, it’s been such a long process. Even though the album has been done, I hadn’t listened to it for a month. After the mixing process you just really get fed up with everything, you know. But we heard the album today and it felt and sounded good. So we’re still proud of it. Everything is done now, the studio work is behind us and now, finally, all the rewards are coming, such as playing live. That’s what we like to do!

Jukka: Now, we are going to see how those songs work live. We have been playing them at the rehearsal place, and they’ve been good, but it’s also a lot about the dynamics with the audience. That counts a lot. So, it’s gonna be good.

Wow, so wait. Is this the first time that you heard the finished result?

Jukka: Yes, so it was a great experience. You know, we heard all of those songs in different forms, it’s been almost two years since we did the first demos for it.

Markus: While mixing the albums, we also heard millions of different versions of every song. (laughs)

Jukka: In a way, you kind of lose touch of reality with the songs. You sometimes also just need to have a break, just to rest your ears… And soul (laughs).

Totally! So, let’s talk a little bit more about the album. It’s called “The Burning Cold”. I noticed the link to the first song “Burning” and the last song “Cold”. How did you come up with the idea? 

Jukka: I was playing around with different kinds of titles and the thematics of the album. When we were in Kaltenbach Open Air, last August, I suddenly had an idea. I talked to Erkki, our bass player, about it. I suggested to him that we could call the album “The Burning Cold”, told him it’s a good title and that we should really consider it. After that, I told Markus about it. Markus said that it sounds good. He asked me if it how it goes with the thematics and we all felt that it fits really well. If I’m being straightforward, my lyrics earlier have been kind of subjective in the way that they described different kinds of my own mental states of my own emotions. Now I included the perspective of the outside world, which seems to be burning. We are insensitive to the fact that there is so much going on in the world. That’s the cold part of the whole process. The title suits the atmosphere of the music really well.

Markus: The emotional scale of the music goes from burning to cold, from love to hate, from melodic to aggressive.

Jukka: Markus mentioned in one of the earlier statements of the album that the songs kind of wrote themselves. They were just something that came to us. So, the thematics and the lyrics came in a similar way. However, there was one setback. Beginning of 2017, my phone, passport and other things were stolen in Florida. The lyrics for the new album were among those belongings. I already had all the lyrics for the songs that were made at that time. I had them, I lost them. I remembered only 60-70% of those. The rest I had to do all over again. I mean, I usually do that, but now it wasn’t really a choice. I had to do it.

Markus: There’s so much in that story that I like. First of all, you used the written word, it was completely analog. Which makes it very honest. I hate it that nowadays everyone is working digitally and on the computer. I love the written word. You lost it and what you remembered, that was pure gold.

Jukka: It really was, because I had to remake the lyrics. I think I remembered either the best parts or just the themes. So, I had to reinvent the whole thing, which turned out to be a really refreshing process for me. I was really sad that I lost them though, but I talked to myself and said “Fuck it. I’ll do it all over again. There’s no other way. I’m not gonna take them like they were the originals. I will take the ones that I remember and I’ll redo those.” and with that, they got a completely different meaning, because of the loss.

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So, the silver lining of the whole process, is that you actually got an entirely new and deep dimension into the songs?

Markus: Exactly! And if I can change the subject a bit, that’s basically the same I did for the music. When you are in a creative process, doing music, you get into a certain flow, it makes you feel like a teenager, you start doing things really fast. Sometimes you have to have a break, though, because you’ve been listening too much to the songs. When you then, listen to the songs after two weeks, you kind of have a more logical ear of what is good and what’s bad. Then you can be a harvester kind of, 30-60% goes to the trash can and then you just decide what to redefine.

So, going back to the story of your personal belongings getting stolen. Where did the inspiration for the album come from before that happened?

Jukka: Inspiration, to me, is all around me. I can’t be specific about what my inspiration is if it’s a thing or a feeling, or just simply that movie. Inspiration is that kind of thing that you can’t rush, it’s a surprise guest at a party. It comes and it goes. It can be something that you saw outside, it can come to you when you take a walk outside, or it can be a really good line in a movie. Then the whole machinery, the gear, just starts. It’s kind of like the old Chaplin movie “Modern Times”, with the machines, that’s to me what the whole inspiration process looks like. It starts to happen involuntarily…

Markus: … And that’s the mystery of the human brain. If you know how your brain works, you would be able to do magic! Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Usually, inspiration comes when you don’t have the time for it…

Jukka: …When you least expect it.

Markus: A nice mystery!

Jukka: But it’s like that in whatever field of work you are doing. Inspiration is there no matter what you do and it’s a matter of listening and being alert, being open in that way.

We already discussed the biggest challenge of the whole process. Did you have any other challenges on the road? 

Jukka: Not so much actually. The band is also touring a lot, so there is just a little amount of time to do everything. Especially Markus is touring a lot because he is in two different bands.

Markus: I think one of the great things about getting old is that you don’t stress about things so much. Being in a band and doing a record was a lot more stressful and hard work ten years ago, when you were younger. Nowadays, you do a better job, in less time.

Jukka: You start realizing that right now, you’re doing a very specific thing, something in the moment. So why the hell would you stress about this thing and think about the future that hasn’t happened yet? Instead, just continue working and don’t stress so much about it. We’re both the kind of people that used to stress a lot (laughs) for different things, but like Markus said, you come to the idea that there is no need for all this overachieving anymore. We’re people, we all stress, you don’t need that excessive amount of stress, like the kind you had when you were young.

You really make it sound like you guys are super old (laughs) how old are you really?

Markus: 74 (laughs)

Jukka: 250 (laughs)

Okay! (laughs) that really is old! But to go back to the new album. What would you say is the main difference between “The Burning Cold” and “Grey Heavens”?

Markus: It’s better! (laughs)

Well, isn’t that actually so with every new release? You kind of want to progress in life in general, right? (laughs)

Markus: Of course and actually, that’s the only way to do it! If you don’t feel like challenging yourself, top your past work, then you already lost the game.

Jukka: You have to have the right kind of ambition. You don’t need to be the king of everything. Instead, be the king of the thing you’re doing best.

Markus: The thing with music is that you need to challenge yourself. Don’t care about anything else, anything else is a bonus. You have to be happier about your new release, then your previous one.

Jukka: Be excited, like a teenager. (laughs)

Markus: When that flame dies out, the whole thing ends for me.

Jukka: It’s the same for me, the day the flame dies out, that’s the day that I quit this fucking shit!

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I’m not sure if it will die out, because you see many bands like Scorpions for example, who have been on their farewell tour for well… Forever?

Jukka: (laughs) At The Gates!

Markus: But hopefully, we’re not yet in our Scorpions farewell tour-phase.

Jukka: (laughs) Yeah let’s hope so.

Well,  you were the ones who claimed you’re 70 so no one would blame you! (laughs) What’s personally for each of you what’s your favorite song of the album and why?

Jukka: Hell! (laughs)

Markus: That’s a tough question.

Jukka: I like them all and it changes every day.

Markus: They’re kind of like my children. (laughs)

Jukka: If I had to pick one right now, I would say “Over The Battlefield”. It’s one of my favorites, it’s also the only song that is kind of progressive on the album.

Markus: Today, I listened here to the outro and it’s so awesome, really good. It varies though, it’s like between choosing between your babies, which is your favorite kid, I don’t know, I don’t have children, but I have a cat and a dog and I don’t pick which one is the best (laughs)

Jukka: If you have to pick one, for me now I would say “Over The Battlefield”.

Markus: Well, if I have to, I think I’d go for “Gods Go First”. It’s also the first video that’s coming out.

Is that the first single? Can you talk a little bit more about the music video? 

Jukka: We made it in Kotka.

Markus: In my hometown and… (laughs) This sounds like a really heavy metal story. We went to the woods and we had a barn, we went into the barn to play some heavy metal. It’s a tiny barn, we’re playing inside and the light is coming outside, so it’s like tiny pieces of wood that reflect. The main thing I liked about the music video is the lighting for me, I don’t know about you. It’s really intense and rays coming.

Jukka: We had some artificial lights, but we also had really good natural light, coming from little gaps and holes from the barn, which is a really cool natural effect

Markus: The atmosphere during the video shooting was incredible. It’s weird to be in a small barn with this weird lighting, it was really fucking cool. And even though I usually hate shooting music videos, where you have to play constantly, it was really damn cool.

Jukka: The owners were also really nice for letting us use their place. It was a private farm, but the owners said that we, of course, could come there and shoot our video. It was a really excellent location, the atmosphere just worked. But you’ll see for yourself next week!

Markus: For us, of course, it’s not so much about the result, but the feeling that the team and the band had. Because you can’t even see the forest at all in the video, but the ambition and the atmosphere to create something…

I totally understand. I have also been part of shooting some music videos, as part of the crew. Those kinds of days are always really memorable. 

Markus: You’re right! I wish we shot making of videos during the process, so people could see all the cool things as well.

Well, maybe next time! Speaking about time… I think we ran out of it already. So one last question before we wrap things up, do you have any last words for our readers?

Jukka: See you on the road!

Markus: See you on the road, let’s have beers, let’s party!

Jukka: Let’s stay metal, forever!

Markus: Hope you like the album. We’re definitely coming to your town, cause we love to play in every town!

 

Omnium Gatherum online

 

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