Interview with Mercury Circle — “Just put the helmet on and you can dream about everyone in your life and your dreams become alive.”

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Originally, MERCURY CIRCLE were meant to play a few shows in Finland around this time, however, these shows were unfortunately canceled, but we still had an interview to share with you from some time ago about their debut effort, Killing Moons,” released in October 8th, 2021, via Noble Demon Records. Some months ago, we sat down with singer Jaani Peuhu and drummer Jaska Raatikainen to talk about the release of their very first full-length release. Read the complete interview below…

Hi guys! Thank you so much for the interview. How are you guys doing? How was your radio [interview] day?

Jaani: So far so good. It’s been fun. I love to do interviews with this guy. It’s like every interview is an adventure. Anything can happen. So relaxed.

Earlier, Jaska, you mentioned that you’re a little bit stressed with your debut show?

Jaska: Oh yeah, because it’s gonna be the first show, but this time – I mean, of course, playing the show is not a big thing. I have done that for 25 years – but still, it’s new guys, new music, and everything. Even though I trust these people a lot, you never know how it is or how it will be.

What about you, Jaani?

Jaani: Oh, I’m terrified, but it’s good. That’s how it should feel and it will feel like that for a while, and then after the first proper tour, maybe we can start relaxing, but it will take time, like with every band… we are just taking our first steps with this band.

I guess it’s different to be the vocalist of a band again, [rather] than the keyboard player.

Jaani: [singing]’s what I’ve been doing more. Keyboard playing was just like… I’m a singer, so I feel so inspired now that I can be free on a stage and do whatever I want and don’t need to be behind anything. [laughs]

Jaska: I hope that people will somehow see that we’re excited. I hope that the crowd will see that.

I guess your upcoming show will be interesting because it’s also before your actual release date. Are you curious to see what the audience will think about your songs?

Jaani: Oh yeah. I prefer it like this. They don’t know the songs and then we can really see what kinds of songs they like and what works and what doesn’t work. And then, we’re more prepared for our headlining gigs, which will follow later.

Your debut album is going to be released this Friday; how are you guys feeling about that?

Jaska: Well, I think it’s a big step because we’ve been waiting for it for so long. I mean it was supposed to come out a year ago. Then we postponed the release date and you know so many things happened, my God, it’s like another month, another month, and another month.

Jaani: Yeah, we’ve just been waiting to be able to show the songs to people, because now they have just heard three songs or something like that, and we were finished with the album already at the beginning of December, so it’s so painful to have something, but you can’t show it.

Jaska: Yeah, it’s like having a secret you can’t tell.

Jaani: Yeah and that’s not fair.

Must be a pain in the ass for those big bands who usually sit very long on their new albums without telling anyone and then just drop it. That’s not gonna happen for you guys, I presume.

Jaani: I really hope so, but still it’s good to have enough time to prepare for the release, so like 6 months is totally fine. And now, we have time to put out singles and we are a totally new band, so I prefer it that way, that we can introduce our world to people. And then, they are more prepared for us.

I guess you have followed the reactions a little bit more on the new singles.

Jaani: Yeah, but now it’s been so fantastic to start to be able to read the reviews of the album, the first one.

I’m sure there are lots of positive reactions or did someone trash your album?

Jaani: Super positive. It’s been so nice to see that people are really understanding what we’re doing.

Jaska: So rewarding!

Obviously, you’re still a new band, so maybe not everyone has had the chance to listen to your EP. However, how would you say that this album differs from that?

Jaani: It was just a testing ground in a way. We were still working on the concept, but it will never end. This album is another chapter. After this album, we go to chapters two or three, four, five, six, or seven. It will be another new game again. I hope that it sounds different if you compare them, but of course, there are a lot of the same elements. Because most of the songs were written in the same era, we just decided to do these songs first, but then Jaska joined the band and you came up with a lot of new ideas and fresh ways of approaching the songs. So it was a big game-changer for this band and made us a band. Now we are a really strong unit.

Would you say that Jaska is a… because I’m sure that drummers don’t nearly get enough credit…

Jaska: [laughs] Now I finally got it!

…was he an important element in creating the sound?

Jaani: Absolutely, absolutely. He was so open-minded, so we had so much fun in the studio. I asked him not to prepare himself too much before we go to the studio, so it was like we were diving together into that world and it worked so well. Thank you for that. I know it wasn’t easy.

Jaska: No it wasn’t. Because the way I was used to entering the studio was that I was always 100% prepared. So I was like… don’t do it… oh my God, help me… I don’t know what to do. I felt like I was going to the studio for the first time ever.

Was this new energy something that made you re-discover your love for music?

Jaska: Yes, because doing music this way, there were no filters, it was like the crazier the idea was, the crazier [Jaani] was. Just keep ’em coming and then he was going further, and I would be like, hold on, I have to try if I can even do it. And I did it.

Jaani: Yeah, it was so much fun. It was like we were kind of trying all the craziest ideas in the studio, we had fun, just tried it, and that’s really difficult for musicians when you go out of your comfort zone and try something totally new, and still, it was the first time when we were working together, and it is critical for most session guys, but, you know, Jaska is not a session guy, he’s a band guy. He’s always been working with the same people and in the same ways, and this was totally something new to him. So [he] had to just trust me and that I have a vision, and that I find the right elements that we need for the album, that are good for the album, and you really did. It was beautiful.

We now know what the drumming recording sessions looked like. How did it go for the rest of you guys? Were you also working closely together?

Jaani: We worked in many different ways, but still it was this COVID time… we tried to work separately as much as possible. We had sessions together to record too and Jupe recorded a lot of guitars at home. Then, Jussi also has his own home studio, I have my own studio so we were just sending a lot of files back and forth trying something together, like a total mess… creative mess. [laughter]

When you are planning to record, do you try and play the songs through to see if there’s anything you should change?

Jaani: We recorded the album and then now we’ve gone to the rehearsal place, creating the live versions. We don’t need to do it exactly like it’s in the album, but we’re going to try a few things in our rehearsal place. And then we’re doing it in front of the audience, and from there, the songs will be changing.

You also have a lot of different elements in your music: there are the shaman drums and ethereal vocals. Are you planning to use a backing track or are you inviting guests to the stage?

Jaani: We have our first gig this week, so we’re using backing tracks there. But then, in a later stage, we will bring more people on stage with us.

You work a lot with different guests, in general. For instance, Cammie of OCEANS OF SLUMBER is singing in “Like Matches.” Are there any others included in this record?

Jaani: Snoopy is playing a small part – Jan from AMORPHIS, I mean – with Ukri [Suvilehto, ABBATH]. So we had this percussion team, it was Jaska, me, Ukri, and Jan. Gogo, did a lot of vocals… Gogo from AEONIAN SORROW. She did beautiful like old traditional vocals and Helena [Haaparanta] and Sarah [Wohlfahrt] female backing vocals, and Ben [Christo] from SISTERS OF MERCY did backing vocals too, and Holocausto from BEHERIT, which is one of my all-time favorite bands, he did vocals in two songs, then we have an amazing harpist and a cello player.

I’ve noticed you like to work with real instruments rather than using samples.

Jaani: Always when it’s possible. I always prefer the real ones, even if it takes so much work to work with music sheets and find the right musicians and get them recorded, especially in times like these where you can’t just go to the studio and ask people to join you, and show them what to do, we had to do it remotely, so it was a lot of work, but I’m really happy that we did it.

You mentioned that the figure on the cover art is connected to some kind of a bigger theme of the album. What can you tell me about him, about the themes of this album?

Jaska: There is this helmet, you mean that?

Yes!

Jaska: Well, it was Jaani‘s idea to – when I was thinking about joining the band – to have a whole concept to this band, like a year ago. I [had] imagined that the band would be great, the atmosphere, the music, and everything. Then, he mentioned that he would like to have a side story to it. He had a character, which he was working on probably before I joined the band, or at least, in his mind. And then, I saw this one drawing or picture of this guy, the character, the “helmet guy,” and it blew me away. This made the band even better… the concept. You have this side story that if you see this helmet dude somewhere it means this band, that’s a positive thing. At some point, we were starting to think about music videos, and then it was like, okay, let’s play as a band, and then have a little side story where this little helmet guy is present. Let’s have this innocent little boy in the first music video, the story behind that is our music. Just put the helmet on and you can dream about everyone in your life and your dreams become alive and then you enter this fantasy, this music, and that’s the story so we’re going to then have the helmet in every video.

Jaani: The first video was this little boy with the helmet on and he went to space.

Jaska: We were thinking that he’s alone, he’s probably bullied or something like that, but still, no one can take his dreams out of him. So in the music video, there is this rocket launch, a space station, then he goes to space.

Jaani: In the second video, it was like Kirsi’s [the actor] fantasy in a way. We were in Paris, in the ’50s-’60s, there was a really weird party, we were guests in her fantasy, and in the next video, “Like Matches,” it’s more like my own fantasy. You’ll see it.

So is it a bit like Eddie of IRON MAIDEN, but then an object?

Jaani: In a way, yes, it’s how I want people to listen to our music. They create their own stories, when they listen to us, they can go wherever they want and into that dreamy world.

Jaska: Yeah, in a way it’s like Eddie of IRON MAIDEN, we have this helmet…

Jaani: You realize that in the beginning, you want to have this little guy representing us when we don’t feel like… I think we’ll have a little fun with that character. But I don’t want the character to be like he’s a 10-year-old boy. It should be just anybody. You can be that person. It’s not necessarily him, it can be you, it can be anybody.

Jaska: Yeah, it can be whoever wants to get out of this world, these surroundings, and then just dream.

Are you going to do something with that during your show?

Jaani: We should! Yeah. Are you free on Thursday? [laughter]

Are you putting a helmet on me? [laughs]

Jaska: We don’t know, we don’t have any rules. Whatever happens but it’s really cinematic, this visual side of this band. The helmet thing is so perfect. It doesn’t have to be as huge as Eddie, like 5 meters or so, you know it can be a tiny little boy or girl or man or women or whoever.

Jaani: Maybe we’ll start seeing helmets in the audience, I don’t want it to be exactly the white helmet that we have in the video.

Jaska: No more head accidents in the crowd. [laughs]

Jaani: Be safe for a change. We really care about our fans, their safety comes first. [laughter] We should have that.

I know that buckets are really popular in Finland to hand out. You could give out helmets at your shows.

Jaska: At the door, you can get like a free bucket, but bring your own wings. [laughter] We could sell sticker wings.

Jaani: Oh my God. Why didn’t we come up with that earlier?

Jaska: Because we didn’t have her and her imagination! [laughter]

Jaani: I really like the idea!

I hope to see that someday. You recently decided to skip the SWALLOW THE SUN album cycle. Does that mean you are planning a tour with MERCURY CIRCLE?

Jaani: We are releasing our album around the same time. Things happen for a reason. I wanted to focus on this, we’ve been working really hard on the album and we will start touring soon.

Alright! I think that’s it for my questions. Any last thoughts you want to share?

Jaani: Stay safe.

Jaska: Don’t hit your head

Jaani: Drink water, that’s good for you… 2-3 liters a day.

Jaska: Use a helmet.

Jaani: All the time. Even when you’re drinking, it could be messy, but there’s a way you could use it. Thank you. [laughter]

Written by Laureline Tilkin