"Antipope" band from Oulu (Finland) started as black metal band, but later we can hear elements of industrial, gothic of progressive rock in their music. This February band has released fifth full-lenght album "Apostle of Infinite Joy". About his album and whole band history we've talked with Mikko (vocals, lead & rhythm guitars), Antti (lead & rhythm guitars, backing vocals), Joni (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Tuska E. (drums).
FIRST OF ALL, I'D LIKE TO CONGRATULATE YOU ON THE LATEST ALBUM "APOSTLE OF INFINITE JOY", WHICH WAS A LOGICAL FOLLOW-UP TO "DENIAL / SURVIVAL" AND "3 EYES OF TIME", BUT IT STILL BLEW ME AWAY. WHAT WERE REACTIONS FROM LISTENERS WHEN THEY HEARD YOUR NEWEST STUFF?
Antti: Thank you! This might sound a bit strange, but I haven't really talked about the album so far with anyone outside the band at all. Social distancing made certain of that. I haven't even sold any copies by hand to any of the people I know who would buy the album.
There are few people I'd like to discuss things about the album and I'm sure they will want to pick my brain a little. That time is still ahead and hopefully during the summer they'll get their chance to do so and I'll learn what they thought about the whole release.
Mikko: Yeah, there has not been too much talk between us and our friends and old fans of the band, thanks to the Corona Spring. But I think the general reaction has been really positive, as more people are listening to the new album than any of the older, so I think we’re getting more new listeners all the time. And the reviews have been also almost 100 % positive.
SOME BANDS FROM THE EARLY DAYS FIND THEIR SOUND AND REMAIN FAITHFUL FOR ONE SUBGENRE. WHAT LED YOU THROUGH MUSICAL CHANGES, ESPECIALLY IF WE COMPARE YOUR LATEST ALBUM AND EARLY RECORDINGS?
Mikko: Well, when we set out to write the material for "Apostle of Infinite Joy", I wanted to get closer to Antipope’s musical roots, which are heavy metal, black metal and progressive rock/metal, so there’s never been one particular genre that we would have fit into easily. These said elements have always been present in our music, but without taking anything away from albums "House of Harlot" and "3 Eyes of Time", I felt that we had drifted too far into song-oriented direction. What I mean by this, is that on those albums, I think we more or less consciously tried to write individual songs that might be more accessible to the audience than our older, more extreme and complex material. Don’t get me wrong, songs are what we write first, but songs are made of moments that have distinct mood or atmosphere, and sometimes it’s better to go from one extreme to another to keep things interesting within one song instead of trying to make something that listener would understand easily. And personally, I’ve always been drawn to more complex stuff. So, even though "Apostle..." is not an overtly aggressive or complex album, very early on I made it clear to myself that the only person I’m trying to please with these new songs is me - and luckily my band mates share a lot of same preferences when it comes to music. In a way, our latest album is ‘a back to the roots-album’, even though it might not sound like that to anyone else.
Joni: Mikko writes most of the songs of Antipope, so he already gave you the best possible answer for this question. I joined "Antipope" when "Apostle..." was in production and already composed and mostly recorded. I remember hearing the first demos from the upcoming album and was blown away by how epic and original those new songs were. I had of course listened and enjoyed the older records, but these new songs were something else. "Apostle" is culmination of band's history, wrapped around influences of bands that we like: "Iron Maiden", "Manowar", "Behemoth", "Primordial" etc. And what Mikko says about writing songs that aren't trying to please others, I feel like that's strongly present in "Apostle..." and in everything that we are going to release coming forward.
TO BE HONEST, SOME OF YOUR EARLY ALBUMS GOT MIXED REVIEWS FROM WEBZINES. HOW DID YOU REACT TO THE NEGATIVE ONES?
Tuska E.: I don´t give a damn what the reviewers write about our music. We´ll still do our stuff this way and we don´t aim to please anyone but ourselves and have fun writing and playing music. Oh well, of course it feels nice if somebody likes the stuff you do and maybe you could show me some of those crappy reviews and I could send some crap back to the people writing that shit.
Antti: I'm onboard with Tuukka. Negative reviews are a thing and that's life, but as an artist you can't go running around trying to please every listener. If you are doing things for the right reasons, just keep at it, believe in it, and improve by making the next album/song even better.
Mikko: I think the reaction to our albums has always been mixed. It’s either confusion mixed with total dislike or praise of what the reviewers see as our originality. Those who don’t like or understand, or maybe usually both, have the same complaints to say after each album we release. This is especially true with the Finnish reviews, as all they seem to try to achieve is to pigeon-hole every low-to-mid-tier band according to the categories created by established bands. If they can’t classify what you do, then there must be something wrong with your music. And this is very typical Finnish mentality in every aspect of creative work: always keep your eye on what others – especially the Swedes – are doing and try to create a copy of that. Never try to innovate, ‘coz then you might fail, and you’ll become a laughingstock!
When it comes to compositions, I couldn’t care less what one individual critic has to say, as it’s just an opinion of one person anyway. But when they comment on production, then I tend to take look for recurring themes in the reviews and see if, for example, some decisions that we did while mixing the album did not translate well into various sound systems.
SOMEONE CALLED YOUR VIDEOS "TWIN PEAKS-ISH" (TOTALLY AGREE). WHOSE IDEA TO FILM VIDEOS AS "A THING SO VILE" OR "WHITE SUMMER NIGHT"? WHY DID THE BAND FINALLY DECIDE TO SHOW THEMSELVES IN THE LATEST VIDEO "SERPENT OF OLD"?
Mikko: It’s been me and Antti who have mostly been responsible for our videos, all the way from initial ideas to post-production. I think we both want a bit more from music videos than what you usually get, even though some videos which just feature a band playing can be entertaining. In our typical videos, we want to imply to some possible story that the lyrics and the general atmosphere of the song might suggest. As music doesn’t mean anything exactly - what does a E-minor chord ’mean’? - anyone with capability to experience emotions can interpret what they hear anyway they like, but obviously there are some at least culturally determined generalities. So there is an element of that when it comes to the visuals too. The viewer has the ultimate power to interpret what he or she is seeing. With "Serpent of Old", we wanted to create an exception to the rule and do something different. And since we haven’t played any gigs in a long while, we wanted to offer people a chance to see what do the guys behind the music look like.
I WOULD CALL YOUR BAND'S LINE-UP STABLE ENOUGH. BUT WHY IS ONLY ONE MEMBER LEFT FROM THAT LINE-UP, WHO HAS RECORDED DEMOS "APOSTATE ANGEL" OR "CHAOSMOS"?
Mikko: It’s been almost 15 years since "Apostate Angel", and Juho Rikeberg and Santtu Heinilehto, who played guitar and bass in "Antipope" back in those days have since moved on because losing interest in what Antipope does or in band activities in general. Jyri Palmu, our original drummer, died due to a congenital heart defect soon after we finished recording "Chaosmos" in June 2008. Actually, Antti was already in the band during final recordings of "Chaosmos", so there’s two of us left from those days, and Tuska E. joined us in August or September 2008, too.
OF COURSE, MIKKO IS THE OBVIOUS LEADER OF THE BAND. DO OTHER MEMBERS ARE INVOLVED IN THE CREATION PROCESS OF NEW SONGS?
Tuska E.: Obviously, he is the leader of the band but even the pope needs his abused boy choir, doesn't he? During the creation of a record, Antti and Joni give ideas and guitar riffs to Mikko and finally he composes the music and writes the lyrics. My part is mostly to learn to play the drum parts Mikko has arranged but the production is done together and at the latest during recording the final production is made because sometimes Mikko has arranged some drum parts for a drummer who has three hands.
By the way, have you heard this one:
-”Def Leppards drum solo.”
Joni: Like Tuukka says, we all contribute something to songwriting. Mikko of course writes most of the stuff, but we give him feedback about riffs, melodies, arrangement, structure etc. that usually influences the final product in some way. Sometimes songs are created by cooperative brainstorming where me and/or Antti will jam with Mikko and write new songs as we go. Tuukka is best at giving straight, ice-cold feedback and ultimately gives that final punch to songs with his fierce drumming. (Also Tuukka has best dad jokes!)
I'VE READ IN METAL-ARCHIVES.COM WEBSITE, THAT THERE WAS ONE COPY OF YOUR FIRST EP "SCORCHED HEAVENS". PROBABLY, MIKKO OWNS IT, RIGHT? IF YES, HAVE YOU GOT ANY REQUESTS FROM COLLECTORS NOWADAYS, WHEN BAND IS MORE KNOWN IN METAL SCENE?
Mikko: To be honest, I think you’re the first person to ask about our earliest recording! I don’t have the original CD in my possession, and I’m not sure if I even have a file copy of the version of the song "Scorched Heaven’s Sunset" that was featured on that EP. The version that you can hear on "Apostate Angel" is a later re-recording. The single copy ever produced of "Scorched Heavens" went to Japan with a friend of mine who went there to visit his friend, a friend of whose owned a record store or a metal club or something. As we had just started "Antipope" in the summer of 2004, we thought that we should start the whole thing by becoming big in Japan as we had this opportunity to get our music there. I’ve no idea what happened to the CD, and we never heard back from there, so we're not yet famous in Japan. So, if anyone wants that original CD, you have to head for Tokyo, that’s all I can tell.
THE FIRST WORDS THAT COME TO YOUR MIND, WHEN I HEAR OULU CITY NAME, ARE "SENTENCED", "IMPALED NAZARENE" AND "TEATRIA" CLUB, HAHA. DOES YOUR NATIVE CITY AND LOCALITIES SOMEHOW HAVE INSPIRED YOUR WORKS?
Antti: I like to draw influence from many different places. I myself was heavily into "Sentenced" back in the day and I would imagine they changed my taste in music more than most other bands I've listened to. So perhaps some of the melancholic bits might have been seeded originally by "Sentenced" that you might hear on this album as well. Who knows?
Joni: "Teatria" is of course important part of Oulu's metal music history, it was sad day when the original "Teatria" building was closed (luckily they opened new improved stage at Oulu recently). I think that many northern metal bands are drawing some of their inspiration from localities like nature, darkness, snow, cold etc. and I agree with Antti, that some of that "Sentenced" melancholic is present in our music as well. But what's commonly shared between nearly every metal band from Oulu is this twisted black sense of humor. And you can get glimpse of that from song names: "Sentenced" has "Excuse Me While I Kill Myself", "Impaled Nazarene" "Vitutuksen Multihuipennus" (you can google what that means), and we got "Rapeman"!
BASED ON INFORMATION ON YOUR OFFICIAL WEBSITE, "ANTIPOPE" WERE ACTIVE ENOUGH DURING 2007-2012 AND THE BAND PLAYED MANY GIGS IN NATIVE COUNTRY. WHY HAS THE BAND NEVER PLAYED LIVE SINCE 2012 (OR I COULDN'T FIND VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE OR FACEBOOK FROM THESE GIGS)?
Antti: The reason is quite simple. We were getting burned out. My personal feeling is that we were doing things for wrong reasons and that kept building up until we just didn't want to do anything anymore. We were burning out by trying to do more and more, so it was the time to pull the plug.
It took us, I can't remember exactly, maybe a few years at least before Mikko came up with some songs which ended up being "Denial/Survival". Those got made just because he wanted to write songs. Then they got recorded and we started to just play together every once in a while. But we still were technically on hiatus so there was no way we could even be able to play live.
Then we got us a new bass player and for the first time we were thinking of actually playing live again. That's still ways ahead, although I feel that with this new material, we would have something to give with live performances as well.
YOUR DRUMMER TUSKA E. VISITED VILNIUS THIS MARCH WITH HIS OTHER BAND "STRIDER". WHAT MEMORIES HE'S GOT ABOUT LITHUANIAN UNDERGROUND FROM THIS JOURNEY? ANY CHANCES TO SEE HIS COMEBACK WITH "ANTIPOPE" IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
Tuska E.: We did one show with "Strider" in Vilnius at a pretty cool venue called club "nAarauti" during the "Tour of The Baltic Sea". The crowd at Vilnius were just amazing and they were really supportive singing along and dancing in moshpit, it was really fun to watch! After the show we did have some time to have quite a few beers with the alcoholic thrashers from "Alcotopia" who also played that night. There were some vodka served by a horse-masked singer of "Strider" during "Alcotopias" show and what else… Vodka was good and Lithuanian girls were like angels. By the way, have you heard the song "Damnation", by "Impaled Nazarene"?! So, if you ask me we´ll definitely come by with "Antipope" to do a show in Lithuania as soon as possible!
Mikko: Yeah, definitely! "The Apostle" must be taken on a Baltic tour and Vilnius is of course one of the stops.