"Power metal melodies? I don't know..."
Almost after 5 years, finally the new Kreator album is here. We contacted with guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö in order to discuss the new melodic approach of "Gods Of Violence" and learn all the interesting details behind the making of the new record. A few days before they kick of the first leg of their European tour, Sami sounded really happy and excited about their new work and he answered all of our questions in a humorous and self-sarcasm mood.
It’s been almost 5 years since Phantom Antichrist. Why it took you so long to release the new album?
It’s the similar reason with it took as so long the last time between albums. For me it’s a good thing because it means that we were able to tour much. There were a lot of tours going on. There was three U.S. runs which is not normal (laughs). Basically we went all around the world and that tool as a while. For songwriting is better to take some time off to work. Some people know how to do it on the road but we can’t. (laughs)
Give us the details behind the creation of "Gods Of Violence". How long it took you to compose and record it? Is Mille comes with all the songs ready or you work all together from some point on with his ideas?
It started with him sending demos of a few songs, some of them where ready, some of them were not, but then he asked from everybody to throw in ideas. I send him back my homemade demos from Helsinki Finland where I live and files where flying back and forth since then. But when we really start working on the songs is when we all meet in the rehearsal room like we did back in the day before the internet was even there and that’s the most fun part anyway. This is where all the magic happens and the songs start sound like Kreator. I think he sent the first demo already a couple of years ago, it was still while we were touring, but like I said earlier it’s good to have some time off to concentrate on that and have a little quite time to be able to be creative.
Once again you collaborate with Jens Borgen in terms of production, so I guess that means that you were fully satisfied with his work in "Phantom Antichrist". Which is the part of the producer in the making of a Kreator album?
Well, he doesn’t compose but he arranged in a way, like making edits in the demos and then asking "what do you think about this, does this makes sense to you?" and usually it does. We were so happy with the job he did last time so why not use him again? (laughs) He is a very wanted producer and we had to wait a while before he said "yes" or "no". I mean he said yes immediately but we have to wait to find the right moment to work together because he have a really busy schedule.
I want to congratulate you because "Gods Of Violence" is a spectacular album. I feel like with this album you reinvented yourselves. I believe that it’s by far your most melodic album, isn’t it?
First of all, thank you very much for your compliment. I don’t know if it’s the most melodic, it’s hard to tell from my perspective, but sure it is very melodic. When it comes to songwriting -if we talk guitar wise- you just do what you feel that the song requires and so on... (laughs)
For me it seems like you want to sound aggressive with furious riffs and the double bass drums but at the same time you present this through a melodic environment. What was your vision behind the sound of the album?
That’s of course a very difficult question, because I’m so very close to it and it was such a long long process of writing but if you take the first song in the album "World War Now" the verse and the chorus it’s extremely aggressive thrash metal with double bass drums, but then again there’s a third part with more melody in it which actually my composition as it is the instrumental part that follows. We thought that such a melodic theme will fit the part where the humanity realizes that the world war has started (laughs). That’s the idea of that part...
At this point it seems that Kreator’s music manages to balance perfectly the aggression with the melodies. Can you imagine what the next step might be in the future or is it too early to tell?
Well, right now the jacket is really empty. We don’t have any songs written right now (laughs) but there’re three leftover songs which are going to be released somehow at some point probably via you tube or facebook or whatever. I think it’s too early to say. All I can tell is that the band is in a really good shape right now. We just started rehearsing for the tour and at that point we are looking forward to that, to bring the new songs to the audience.
Do you feel that the steady line up has helped the band to be in such a good shape?
Yeah, it’s somehow weird but this line up has been for 15 years but it doesn’t feels like that for me because I’m living in another country. Obviously I see a lot these people but it’s mostly through recording process and touring. It really doesn’t feel like 15 years but somehow the time has passed. Again it’s difficult for me to answer because I don’t think of it that much (laughs).
It might sound weird but for me the melodies in the album are not the kind that someone will come up in other thrash bands. I would say that they point out some power metal bands, especially bands like Blind Guardian, they are more lyrical more mellow... who is behind all those hooking melodies?
Basically I don’t know the music of Blind Guardian, I can’t even name one song of theirs but I’ve met the guys a couple of times and there’re really nice and I’m sure they play good music but I’ve never listen to it. But when it comes to melodies, most of the time we work them together . For example, if you want to get into detail, melodies for me would be "Death Becomes My Light" which the intro, the main theme and the outro are mine composition and like I mention earlier "World War Now" the C part, but other than that it’s mostly Mille or Mille and me together. I don’t know if it’s power metal...
To help you understand what I’m saying... in most thrash bands the melodies are quite simple but Kreator’s are quite complex and grande in a way. They take you to places...
Oh thank you very much; I’m guessing that’s a compliment, right? (laughs)
Yeah, of course...
Cool! That’s nice to hear.
If I’m not mistaken I also hear some orchestral themes here and there in the album that add more depth in the songs. Am I right? How this thing came up?
It all started with the intro song called "Apocalypticon". Τhere was a demo and then another demo and then another one where we demonstrate some simple orchestration, something a little bit like Star Wars or something like that (laughs), but I thought that it should sound more threatening and more sinister. Before we even start programming the orchestration for ourselves, our producer Jens Borgen brought up these people, this Italian band called Fleshgod Apocalypse with whom he had been working with and we listen to them and it was obvious that they were really experts in making sinister sounding orchestrations. I listen to their music and they were excellent, a really amazing band. Then we talked with this guy Francesco and one other guy and send them the song and it took them only two and a half weeks to send us the first version of what they had in mind and what they came up with was exactly what we were thinking of, like... if you think of classical pieces like Gustav Holst’s "Mars, The Bringer Of War" that theme which is mild but still bombastic. So, because it sounded so good we also asked them to make us some demos for "Lion With Eagle Wings" and then a very sort section on the C part of "World War Now", but I think the most dominant part where you can hear their work is in the intro song.
In the unanimous track I was surprised listening the sitar in the acoustic intro and I really thought that it was played through keyboards or something , but then I did a little research and read somewhere that indeed you play sitar. How you came up with this organ, what is that you like about it?
(laughs) Well, I started playing the sitar back in the '90s. It was my cousins wife, who’s from India, that she brought me a sitar as a present back in the day, a long time ago and also a book about Indian music theory and improvisation and I found it very fascinated and I still do. I did sitar guest appearances in a lot of albums like for example Nightwish on their album "Once", Samael and Grip Inc. The fact is that I didn’t bring my acoustic sitar with me in the studio in Erebro where we did the recordings of the new album but it happened to be there an electric sitar hanging around in the corner of the studio. It’s mostly like a guitar but it had the sympathy strings so it sounds very much like a sitar. I planned to play that melody on a guitar earlier but I just tried it out on this electric guitar/sitar and it just fitted there nicely so we kept it.
What kind of songs you like better playing? The aggressive "World War Now" and "Totalitarian Terror", the mid pace catchy songs like "Satan Is Real" and "Gods Of Violence" or the more complex kind like "Death Becomes My light"?
It’s hard to say which because we haven’t played them in front of an audience yet, but we’re planning to play at least six songs of the new album in the forthcoming tour because we’re so happy with it. I guess it remains to be seen which ones would be the live favorites.
Are you aware of any details about the lyrical concept of the album? Let me say that the only thing that disappointed me a little was the cover. Octopus and goats and reverse crosses and oceans of blood... what’s going wrong with your minds? (laughs)
(laughs) I guess it has to do with previous Kreator’s albums and the artwork was asked from Mr. Jan Meininghaus this time. But to be honest, I didn’t have a lot to do with that. I just know the person who was hired to do it and it came up like what was expected from him to do. The lyrical themes are pretty obvious in the album I think. The first song is a kind of a question asking if a world war is happening right now, which unfortunately it’s true. There’s a general theme of evil which has passed on from the beginning of time till the world of today... and it’s funny because you’re coming from Greece and the first music video for "Gods Of Violence" it’s depicted that the god of evil is born in Greece (laughs) because the ancient Greek mythology has all these interesting gods for different purposes. I mean, all religions do but Mille wanted to connect it somehow with that.
In terms of soloing I have to say that you have done a fantastic job. What type of guitarist you would say that you are?
I’ve been playing since I was thirteen years old and started with classical music in the Helsinki music school for classical music. Then after that I got interested in metal. In the beginning it was mostly about '70s British bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath you know all that kind of stuff. Later on, I got into more extreme metal as a teenager and after that I was into progressive music. You know, when you grow up you get through all these phases of different kind of music that influences you, so inspiration I guess comes from a lot of places. I always try to develop myself and the best way to do that is to play with as many people as possible, not only with your band but to make music with people hopefully better musicians than you are or different so you can learn from them. I like to go to jam sessions with friends, sometimes even in bars and also make music with as many different people as possible, people who I might find interesting musically, as long as it is fan.
So, as we said earlier, you’ve been now for 15 years in the band. How you describe your journey through all this years? What do you think looking back and see yourself coming from Finland to Germany until now?
I still live in Finland. I come here (in Germany) every now and then not only for the rehearsals, of course Essex is not the most interesting city in the world (laughs) but I still like to come here because of the music. I used to live here back in the '90s, a really very long time ago, for about one and a half or two years, but then I decided to move back to Finland because it was easier for me. How it started... I was filling in for the previous guitarist Tommy Vetterli, but then after a while when he left the band I was asked to join on a permanent basis. The best thing playing in Kreator for me is that even if we’re not the most popular band in the world, there’s a small underground following all around the world so we can pretty much play gigs everywhere. So, that must be the best part about it.
Which is your favorite Kreator album before you joined them?
"Coma Of Souls" is a very nice album I think...
It’s not just nice, it’s superb...
(laughs) Yeah, of course. For the 25th anniversary we had people voting which song we should play live and "When The Sun Burns Red" was the one that won the competition and we were playing that for about a year back then. It has really good songs that we sometimes still playing live.
I assume that you’re hitting the road very soon. What are your plans?
The very first thing to do is this warm up show in Berlin in a week or so, I don’t know why we’re doing it (huge laughs) but anyway, it would be a small sweaty club gig without the big production. After that I will go home for a few days and then come back in Germany so we drive to Metz France where we will have a pre-production day and built up the whole stage set up for the real tour, then relax for a couple of days and after that it’s almost a show every day. It would be a lot of fun. The best part in the life of a musician is always this moment, just before you start playing new songs which make things much more exiting in a way.
You have visited Greece 3 times from 2013. You did two festivals and one club show, is it safe to say that you’re coming back to present "Gods Of Violence" to your Greek fans?
I would say that it’s definitely safe to say that. I don’t know why Greece was not included in this first European leg of the tour. There’re a lot of places in Europe that were not included in this first part of the tour. We have to come to Greece of course and I’m looking forward to do so because the audience there is crazy. People always treat us very well over there.
Sami, thank you very much for your time. I wish you all the best.
Kostas, thank you very much for your interest and have a very nice rest of the evening.