TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with Riku Hopeakoski and O.J. Mustonen of Catamenia was done by instant messenger by Sam Chronic on May 5th, 2005.
The Nordic black metal act Catamenia has been a silent but growing force in the Finnish metal scene since their inception in 1995. Their latest release "Winternight Tragedies" see's the band in a darker, much different light from the previous released albums. Catamenia still captures the brutal/melodic nature that has always been a part of the music but as said - there is a different feel to this release. Could this be attributed to member changes, personal problems or maybe just because it is so damn cold in Finland?!
I recently caught up with guitarist Riku Hopeakoski and vocalist O.J. Mustonen to unravel a little more about this latest release.
Read below to find out more.
Hey Riku and O.J., how is everything going for you?
Riku: Everything’s going well - Drunk and satisfied...(Laughs). Everything's going well around Catamenia. Great reviews and great feedback on Winternight Tragedies.
O.J.: ”Winternight Tragedies” was just released and the whole band is really satisfied to the album. And just like Riku said, the feedback by the fans and press has been great.
Cool, well I wanted to start off by talking about the new album Winternight Tragedies.... what is the inspiration behind the title and the songs within the album?
Riku: Well Sam, example the Finnish songs on the album are dedicated for the Finnish soldiers and veterans who fought against Russians in the Winter War. They are kind of tributes for them, how much we respect them. Other songs are different kind of stories of winter, dark and cold from different aspects.
O.J.: I joined the band after all songs were composed and recorded so I didn’t have any part in that process. But I think that the main themes for Catamenia always come from things that Riku already mentioned. It’s always winter, dark or cold here in Finland. Even in the summer (laughs)
That's killer.... hearing that kind of ties the album and the song meanings together and goes to the next question - can you translate the Finnish song titles to English for us?
Riku: Verikansa means 'Blood Nation' or 'Blood People'. Depends the view where you're looking / hearing it. Perintö Pohjolan means 'Heritage of Northland'. Both tell about Finnish Winter War.
Though I cannot interpret the rest of the song due to the language barrier I have to say these are probably the 2 personal favourites off of the album.... just incredible atmosphere in both and also almost a "folk" feeling to both of them
Riku: Thank you. And we think so too. But despite the Finnish clearly fits on our music, we'll probably never make a completely Finnish album. But on this case we have to knock on the wood, cause you cannot know what happens on the next album.
O.J.: For some reason even the people who don’t understand Finnish language seem to like the Finnish songs the most. Maybe it’s somewhat “exotic” to people who haven’t heard Finnish anywhere else. Also our language sounds more rough and sharp than English so it fits pretty well in aggressive music.
Sure, and back on that subject I really have to say that this album though a little more aggressive and progressed from the previous albums; really solidified a sound for Catamenia. I feel as if this album separates the band from any of the others in the same genre. As well - I think is just an all around killer album.
Riku: I think this is a result already from the previous album 'ChaosBorn'. After 'ChaosBorn' we wanted to have the same producer and the same studio. So I think that's the main thing on this. Of course the songs are way more aggressive and raw, and O.J.'s voice does not make it any softer (laughs). But I had this vision already in my mind after 'ChaosBorn'.
O.J.: I totally agree about this being the most aggressive album for so far. The guitars are now more in front and the keyboard arrangements aren´t as dominating as in the previous albums. I can also hear lots of more attitude in the playing on this album.
That kind of falls into my next question.....there were some changes and complications going into this recording correct?
Riku: Yes. And the line-up changes were not easy. Our bassist Timo was replaced by Mikko, and that was cause of Timo having no time to rehearse with Catamenia. He had his own things and so on. And then to vocalist Mika. I see only one reason for changing him to O.J. Mika did not rehearse at all. When he came to studio, was time to record the vocals. He went to the 'booth' and the voice he gave us was awful. We gave him 2 weeks to rehearse. Nothing happened during those 2 expensive weeks, so we had to make decision to replace the vocalist. And our rhythm guitarist was the one I asked, “are we crazy or what?” But after hearing O.J. we realize we're not crazy. Previous vocals sound so lame in comparison to O.J. Really no offence to Mika, cause he had a great voice, but something just happened to it. And also Dawn of Relic noticed the same thing.
What band did OJ come from?
O.J.: I came from Dorotha, the same band that I was in with Tero and Veikko. So half of Dorotha are now members of Catamenia.
Riku: We should change our name to Catatha, right?! (Laughs)
Yeah it seems that way! And what band did the bassist Mikko come from?
Riku: From the band called Unwrap. It was a project band of Ari and me. Also Veikko played on that. Unwrap is inactive band nowadays, cause everyone who played on Unwrap is now on Catamenia also. So what would have been the point to continue? Thou the music was different.
It seems that there is a pretty tight scene in Finland -was there any animosity from the other band for losing what is obviously a killer vocalist in O.J?
O.J.: We hadn’t rehearsed with Dorotha for quite a while and two other from Dorotha were in Catamenia already so there were no problems at all.
Riku: No there were no any of that, cause Dorotha's inactive band.
Well is always tough to bounce back sometimes when things are not working out but to me O.J. is a great asset to the band so it seems to be a blessing. How much did the writing change with new members?
Riku: None at all, cause the member change’s happened so late in the studio session. Of course the arrangements of the songs changed a little bit. O.J. did amazing job on arranging the songs sound more into his 'throat'.
O.J.: We’ll see if I participate in the writing of lyrics for the next album.
Wow...that is amazing when a vocalist comes in at the stage in the game and handles things so well. The clean vocals are amazing as well on this album.... does Tero (Keyboards) handle all of these vocals?
Riku: Yeah...Tero sings the clean vocals live, but on the album the clean vocals are sang by Kakke, our producer. We wanted to have Kakke's voice on this album also as on the previous album 'ChaosBorn', cause it damn fits great on our music.
There was female vocals on the new album wasn’t there?
Riku: Yes there are some female vocals on the album. They are sung by Heidi Sainio.
There is also a cover song "Fuel for Hatred" By Satyricon...which was right on the money by the way - Why did the band choose this song?
Riku: Simple. Satyricon's 'Fuel For Hatred' is absolutely a great song, and we wanted to make a cover song from it. But when we were at studio we told Veikko to play the drums on the track just in case, cause still we were not sure would the song fit on Catamenia's album. After adding the guitars we knew this is going to work. And no, we do not care that it is quite a new song (Laughs)
Oh sure...well new or old is a fucking killer song and you guys definitely nailed it!
Riku: Thank you. Thou everyone say that Frost play it better than Moottorisaha and Satyricon's version sound better. Of course this is always a matter of opinion and taste, but I think Veikko plays the song great also. And that's no news that almost every time the original version is better. But I think also we have done good job when covering this song.
O.J.: As Riku mentioned, it’s always a matter of opinion what sounds good and what doesn’t. But I think we did a great job on that song, we got the Catamenia –sound to it and that’s the most important thing when making a cover song.
Well just like you said you have to always take the good and the band when you cover a song.... but I think you guys nailed it and again a great song to cover. Does Satyricon know of this covering?
Riku: We would be anxious to know what they think of our version. Maybe someday they'll tell us.
O.J.: I’d like to hear too someday what Satyr and Frost have to say about it. Hopefully they like it or we’ll have to kick their Ass! (Laughs).
That would definitely be cool to hear their input…. and maybe even see an ass kicking. Back to the subject of "Black Metal" what would you consider the music of Catamenia to be classified as if you had to be placed into a genre?
O.J.: We do have lots of black metal –elements in our music, but there are so many other influences that can be heard as well so I wouldn’t classify us in the black metal genre. Also the lyrical themes on Catamenia songs aren’t that black either and I think that “real” black metal should have the satanic ideology within, but that’s not our cup of tea. But the atmosphere is quite black in our songs.
Well I agree...I think that Black metal is based on an atmosphere that Catamenia has.... but there is so much more to define a genre and I think it is just up to individual definition. But Catamenia has many elements of many music...it seems to pigeonhole the band to put them in one genre. And I think that you guys have definitely always stayed true to that concept
Riku: (Laughs) We fucking hate this genre shit. Yes, we have always played what we want. We do not listen to if someone wants that we should add little bit of new metal, little bit of progressive rock. ……Nononono. We play the music what we want to, and long as we are comfortable with our own music, we will continue it.
O.J.: I’m with Riku on this one. I really don’t care to what genre people count us in as long as we play music that we like. Making music for the Dollars is shit.
Cool.... that is the way to be. It also seems that the band has grown quite a bit in popularity...has label support reflected this?
Riku: Massacre has raised their support for Catamenia. Everything's going well with them. Nothing bad about Germans for this interview (Laughs)
Is there a tour planned in the upcoming future?
Riku: In a matter of fact, there's quite a lot of tour planning. Inside Finland few gigs planned with Soulgrind, Rapture and Dark Flood. But after our east European tour, bigger tour in Europe is also planned. I have heard that there is also a European tour planned for October, but further info, when something is confirmed. Hoping also that tour in Northern and Southern America will come true someday.
Yes definitely.... you guys need to head over here to the States!
Riku: Yes, we need to show you guys how to drink some beer! (Laughs)
O.J.: You better lock up your wives and booze when we’re coming to town!
And I know you Fin's can drink! Speaking of this do you have any funny drinking stories involving the band recently?
Riku: Every time we drink we have fun. And one fact outside the subject: “Thou Finn trip and fall to the ground, the beer bottle is never spilled.”
O.J.: After our last gig I got pretty wasted. I sung songs of famous Finnish alcoholic/musician called Topi Sorsakoski and pissed on our drummers pants. After that I tried to roll down stairs but luckily someone caught me before I broke my neck (Laughs).
Yes it will be dangerous if you guys come over here - I think a week off of work to recover should hopefully be enough time to recover after a Catamenia show! Okay here is a off subject question - we stick the band on a desert island...sort of like survivor...there is food.... there is drink...water and beer.... who is the last man standing?
O.J.: I think Ari is the last to stand. He would beat the shit out of the rest of us and drink all the beer by himself.
Riku: I think Ari will not beat me (Laughs). We'd share the beer as always. We never have had these questions as "Can I take one beer from your fridge?". But you never know what the illusions of having no beer do to the man (Laughs)..
Mine being spiders - what are your biggest fears?
Riku: (Laughs) I think one of my fears is dying being suffocated, burnt alive or drowned.
O.J.: Our rehearsal room’s toilet.
Another hypothetical question - if you had an infinite amount of money what would be the one thing you would buy first?
Riku: Two-Chevrolet Corvette's. One for me and one for Ari. (Laughs) He is such a big fan of Corvette.
O.J.: I’d probably buy some beer.
And meeting Zakk Wylde would be something big for you as well correct?
Riku: It would be something so great. I have always admired him, especially when he plays some Black Label Society. One of my favourite bands.
O.J.: I´m not that much into BLS but Pride & Glory was a great band.
Any other big influences.... as you have obvious varied influences?
O.J.: Turbonegro and Carpathian Forest. Both of the make awesome music and have great attitudes.
Riku: Bands like Immortal, Hypocrisy, Sepultura, etc. If I would not have any influences, I would be a poser, heh...?!
Yes...that is true. Well what is next for the band as far as the grand scheme?
Riku: At least we are going to do one more album. Hopefully more, but one is already in contract so that's for sure.
O.J.: Make more great albums and be the first band in the moon.
Anything you want to say to fans and readers as well?
O.J.: If you like aggressive metal with great melodies, go and get “Winternight Tragedies”.
Riku: Yes...go and check out our website www.catamenia.net. Try some Karjala beer from Finland! Keep on rocking!
Never had...but since I am partial to Miller Lite than I would think that anything tastes good
O.J.: I like only Finnish beers. Everything that’s brewed outside Finland’s tastes like piss.
Riku: Yes...Miller Lite is nothing compared to Karjala, (Laughs) and hails to fans worldwide.
Thanks Riku & O.J. for the interview...I do appreciate your time and always a pleasure to talk!
Riku: Thank you Sam!
Thanks to Riku and O.J. for taking their time to conduct this interview - it is always a fun experience to talk these guys and I am a huge fan of their work. Be sure to visit the Catamenia website for more information and updates on news and touring dates.
Links of interest:
Catamenia @ MySpace.com