Finland - Full Moon 117 - 04/13/06
Finnish woods - an interview with...
Riding the gentle wave
With their current project, the quite atmospheric, acoustic based Subaudition, Finnish duo Antti Korpinien and Roope Niemelä couldn't be further removed from the sound of their previous band, the prog-metal outfit Manifold Object. Yet they've managed to put a very nice debut album, The Scope, through Prophecy sub-label Auerbach this spring.
Luna Kafé: You took your time to finish and release The Scope: Was that only a blessing (= taking time to make everything
perfect) or was
that a curse as well sometimes (=wish we could get this out earlier, but circumstances didn't allow it?)
Roope: "From my point of view there where many small details that had to be 'fine tuned' and of course the recording equipment we were using wasn't as good as it perhaps should have been even in a project of this size."
Antti: "It was very much both. The recordings themselves took something like four months, so the process was far from intensive. On the other hand, the time allowed us to take a more objective view on the songs, so we were able to make them better and better during those four months. At times we weren't quite sure if we could even finalise the album. Like Roope said, the equipment wasn't nearly as reliable it should have been. Many times the recording devide we had on the computer made its infamous dropouts in the middle of a take. You know, the computer was like an annoying producer who would only cut the good takes.
It was a bit of a struggle, but we came through in the end. The album is released about one and a half years after we were done recording it, and many people have asked us why it has taken such a long time. The one and a half years were quite stressful at times when nothing seemed to move forward, but now that we have seen the final coverart I did in collaboration with Lukasz from Prophecy, I think it has all been worth it. So right now we're just really happy the album will be released. Some might say 'finally', but I think we needed this time to fine tune the album, as Roope said."
Luna Kafé: It seems like quite a step from Manifold Object's sound to Subaudition. Does this simply mean you've got a very varied taste in music or does this imply that the 'approach', this time acoustic-based, is more important than the resulting songs? In other words: Is the "getting there"
in the studio more important than the finished record?
Antti: "We do listen to music on a very wide scale. Actually, as long as the music touches me, I couldn't care less what genre it represents. At the time I left MO, for instance, it just didn't touch me anymore. Anyway, I think all of our songs reflect the 'getting there', nevertheless, for me the finished song is always the more important thing, at least musically. In many other respects the getting there is more important than the end-product, but with music the end-product is all that matters in the end. So in this light it doesn't really matter what approach you take with your music, as long as the resulting song is relevant to yourself. However, the acoustic foundation was, and still is, important for us. To me at least it's more demanding to come up with a good song on the acoustic guitar than on the electric guitar. You know, with the distorted electric guitar you can just hit the E-string and call it a riff, but try do the same with the acoustic guitar. If you manage to write a good song on the acoustic guitar, the song will probably sound as good the next day.
isn't the case with much of today's metal/rock music, for instance - after the nice first impression has faded, you've left with a hollow heaviness which doesn't move you in any way."
Roope: "Manifold Object was very experimental and challenging for every one of us. For example I had to practise our upcoming songs until my fingers would be in tatters. In Manifold Object I developed technically more than ever before or since as a guitar player. Anyway, the fact that you've got only two guys in the band instead of four makes many things much more easier. When it comes to composing for example. Somehow rehearsing of new songs becomes more magical and you can easier control the overall feeling or atmosphere of your music."
Luna Kafé: Talking of "taste in music" - would you be willing and able to name five records that have been an inspiration in the process of making The Scope?
Roope: "I've got two records in my mind: Erik Satie's Gymnopédies, Gnossiennes played by Anne Queffélec, and the soundtrack album of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's film Amélie, composed by Yann Tiersen."
Antti: "For some reason I've tried to not give out any names, but since you kindly asked, I think it's only polite to provide the list: Tenhi
Pink Floyd : Meddle, Sigur Rós : Ágætis Byrjun, Katatonia : Brave Murder Day, and Anathema :
fact, I could've named any album from these bands, so it's fair to say these five have been the most influential ones to me. For example, Tenhi's debut full-length was a real eye-opener for me, I think that is the one album that made me reconsider the way I think about music. I mean, before that I was perhaps a bit bound to certain genres, but that record showed me that it doesn't take a heavy guitars to make a heavy song, for instance. Atmosphere before everything."
Luna Kafé: According to your biography, you were quite surprised by the good reviews your first release, the demo Waves At Ease got, especially in Germany. What, compared to The Scope, was missing that made you think it wouldn't get such great reviews?
Roope: "I've always thought Waves at Ease as a kind of laboratory examination. It's not that clinical but during the recordings of those songs I had that unique feeling that something new is about to happen. At least for us as musicians. As far as I recall there weren't really arrangements done before we hit the record button unlike during The Scope recordings. The whole cd was born right in front of us that way. That is perhaps the main difference between the Waves at Ease and The Scope."
Antti: "Well, after all it was our debut release, a very non-produced one actually. I mean, I was very happy with the demo, even production-wise, but I didn't think so many other people would understand what we were trying to achieve there. In a sense, we might have been underestimating the audience back then. Perhaps it was because of the media we sent promotional copies to were mainly metal-oriented media. Nevertheless, the "success" we got in Germany in particular once again proved that metalheads are very open-minded people. As I said, it doesn't have that much to do with the instruments used, but the atmosphere achieved. Of course we were way more demanding on ourselves, not least production-wise, when we recorded the full-length album, but I think the foundation on both releases is pretty much the same. Even though The Scope is a more produced effort, there's still a lot of room for unintentional pearl takes - mistakes that prove to be way better than the intended arrangements."
Luna Kafé: Was there a special turning point, a special review or other event that made you realize that you were doing "The right thing"
and that this project would probably more successful (at least artistically) than M.O.?
Antti: "Even if the reviews had put us down totally, we wouldn't have stopped what we were doing. Of course the good reviews encouraged us in some way, but at the end of the day Subaudition is our thing, and there's very little room for the opinions of other people. Of course it's nice to hear that other people, too, find our music touching and relevant. I can't name any sort of special events or turning points, though, because I've felt extremely comfortable with our music and approach from the very beginning. Or perhaps I could say that the time when I made the very first "riff" for Subaudition was a very special event for me. I'm also way more comfortable with the duo-based way of working compared to a band-like approach. The rehearsals with a full band are more time-consuming and most often very ineffective. Frustration was one of the main things that drove me out of MO. So, indeed I think that Subaudition is in many respects way more successful than MO, the most important thing being the music we come up with, of course. It's naturally a dream come true to be signed to Auerbach/Prophecy, and get the album officially released."
Luna Kafé: When it comes to the music itself, the 'atmosphere' seems to play just as big a part as the actual song - the words, the melodies - itself. so how do you create these songs? do you start with a straight song on acoustic guitar and than start layering the other sounds or do the atmospherics come first sometimes and then inspire words & melody?
Roope: "Usually Antti has these chord progressions on acoustic guitar and I try to play them on piano. If I had something written down for piano I would play them for Antti and we would often listen what would be the final instrumentation for song."
Antti: "Lyrics and music are created pretty much separately in Subaudition. For instance, I already have enough texts for the second album, even though we don't have that much new music ready yet. Basically I just pick the most suitable lyrics for a finalised new song. On The Scope most of the songs are built on the top of a chord progression or a riff I've had on the acoustic guitar.
Often I also have an idea, a melody or something what could be played on another instruments on top of that chord progression. Then we try to find the optimal instrumentation and arrangement for each song. There will be the exact number of overdubs the song needs, we don't try to make as multi-layered stuff we possibly can just for the sake of being multi-layered. So, all in all, your description of our song writing process is fairly accurate."
Luna Kafé: There are some guest apperances on the album.
How much input did these people have? Did you just get them to sing or play exactly what you had in mind before or did you give them (some) freedom?
Roope: "The wind instrument arrangements are played as accurate as possible from the original score. I remember we had some problems with the tunings because it ain't easy to play long-duration notes in accurate tune. This was for the most part my fault as an arranger. Thank you to our valuable guests!"
Antti: "Yes, we had guest musicians on flute, saxophone, hammond and rhodes. Either we didn't have those instruments available or couldn't play them, so we invited a few friend of ours to play on the album. As Roope said, the arrangement for the wind instruments were fairly strict, whereas with the rhodes and hammond we gave the guy who played them a fair amount of freedom. We did have the score written for him as well, but since we weren't that familiar with the nature of those instruments, we let him do pretty much anything he wanted to. Sometimes he obeyed the original score, sometimes not, all in all he did an incredible job. As did all other guest musicians, of course."
Luna Kafé: Your music has been compared to both Tenhi and Sigur Rós before, both seem to fit quite well. But what's the "weirdest"
comparison you ever got, where you just thought: How on earth could they think we sound like this band?
Antti: "Heh, since we didn't send that many promos of the demo we haven't had that much reviews or anything, but of course there have been some interesting comparisons already. By far the most "interesting" one can be found on the link list on the website of Soundi, which is the biggest music media in Finland.
They describe us as 'progressive metal'. Fair enough, maybe they've read the very first lines from our biography where we refer to Manifold Object as progressive metal. At least I'd like to think that it's just a some sort of mistake from the leading Finnish music media, and doesn't have any effect on the reliability of the magazine, if you get my drift. Actual comparisons have always seemed quite fitting, even though there are some bands that we have never heard of before. Like many people said when they had heard The Scope for the first time that it sounds very much like Steve von Till (from Neurosis). Of course I knew who he was but hadn't heard his music before. Now that I have his both solo albums I can say that it's yet another fitting comparison. So unfortunately not any particularly funny ones yet, but I guess we get those ones too very soon as the reviews for The Scope start to pour in."
Luna Kafé: Any famous last words, anything that is really important, that should be mentioned?
Antti: "I think you got pretty much everything relevant covered in the actual questions. Anyone who wants additional information can visit our website, where you can, for example, download the video "Raindrops" or download the demo Waves at Ease in its entirety. Thank you very much for a nice interview!
Copyright © 2006 Carsten Wohlfeld