TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with the guitarist Riku “K-oz” Hopeakoski of the Finnish black metal band Catamenia was done on the phone by Sam Chronic in July 2003.
Catamenia is one of the premier bands on the frontline of the Finnish scene that seems to be overtaking the metal world and growing at a non-stop rate. With their latest work; Chaosborn, being released Catamenia has really evolved into a well-oiled machine producing another incredibly brilliant album with a tremendous amount of range musically. The band has found a steady blend of melodic black metal mixed with grim and clean vocals, atmospheric keyboards and chill inducing guitar riffs. There is absolutely no telling what we may expect from this band in the future but I caught recently up with guitarist Riku “K-oz” Hopeakoski to see what Catamenia is currently working on…
I wanted to start off by talking about the latest album Chaosborn. What sort of significance or meaning does the title have?
The meaning of Chaosborn is like the whole concept of the album because all of the lyrics are concerned about chaos from different views...from the mind view and from the real life view. We handle this chaos globally but don’t get me wrong; we are not political by any means. A good example is how the world is now with the US striking Iraq, so everything is full of chaos. I think that was quite a good concept to start because earlier we had a 4-album contract and now we have renewed our contract with Massacre records so we started kind of a new concept for the next three albums. And it all starts with the chaos and how the chaos was born.
Have you gotten a good response so far?
The response has been really great. Every review and interview has been just great. An example is how the previous album has gotten really good reviews but now the reviews are much better. This is quite funny because in Europe there is not really a lot of interviews and reviews at the moment but there are actually a lot from South America, Middle East and Ukraine, which has been really great.
What about America?
Only about three people but they have really liked the album.
This is the first album in some time for Catamenia to have a full Finnish track on it. I was wondering what the translation of the song title was and some of the meaning of the lyrics?
Kuolon Tansi is like a dance of death and this is the song that starts the whole chaos….as you can see it starts with the dance of death. I think that the lyrics of this song carries on throughout the whole album till the very end of Chaosborn.... it is like a summoning for the chaos to come.
What is the reasoning behind writing the lyrics in Finnish?
First we tried to write all of the lyrics in English on the song but it did not quite fit...to be honest it was actually quite funny (both of us laugh). We translated the Finnish lyrics straight to English, it did not work and the pronunciation and rhymes were much better in Finnish. Of course we had a lot of requests asking for Finnish lyrics so we said OK, why not? We had a song on the Morning Crimson album with Finnish lyrics so this is not the first one.
I believe this also your first album back with a six-piece line-up. Is it harder to write material with more members or does it not make a difference?
I would say that it is not harder with 4 or 6 members because I write every song and together on the rehearsal we fine-tune everything. I think it is easier at times with more members because we can realize what is wrong with the songs because there is many opinions on each song. So it is kind of easier with more members and at the same time there is too many people talking at once and that kind of sucks but we can manage with 6 members.
Is there a lot of head butting when it comes to writing material?
It goes very smoothly. We have had a few fights but it has not been during rehearsals, it has been before going to the bar or when we have had too much to drink (Both of us laugh). But not in the rehearsals or during the songwriting-there has not been any fights.
There were two guest vocalists on Chaosborn. Did Wartechs sing any of the clean vocals on this album?
No, he didn’t because from touring to recording he had so many things to do. He visited a lot in Sweden and came to recordings and just played guitar and he did not have time to sing. At that time of course he had a really bad case of the flu and his voice was just awful (laughs). I knew that one of the producers (Kakke Vähäkuopus) had a really great voice and I just said to him that it was his time to go to the singing booth and you will be on this disc. The female vocals were done by Essi and she is an old friend and we tried her on my second band and I knew that she could sing really well. So why not have her on this album?
Definitely, what is the name of your other band?
It is called Unwrap and our drummer Veikko ‘Moottorisaha’ Jumisko and guitarist Ari ‘WarTechs’ Nissilä are also on it.
I will have to check that out, I have not heard of the band yet.
Well we have just recorded the album but it is not out yet.
When is it going to be released?
I think it will be postponed a little bit because we have to record it again because we have really great ideas so we thought it would be better to record the whole album again.
That makes sense, are you just not happy with the way it sounded?
Yes, I am happy with it but we will be happier with it when the album is recorded again! (Both of us laugh) We have a few samples on the net and they are from the four-song promo that we made a year and a half ago but the music is quite the same.
Well hopefully the album comes out soon.
Yes, it will definitely come out but we just don’t know when right now. Hopefully soon.
Why we are discussing the members, what do all the nicknames mean?
They don’t mean anything; we just invented the nicknames because everyone was asking for something. Personally, I like going with my own name so we thought okay you are “K-oz” and Ari is “Wartechs”. Timo our bassist, we have always called him “Lede” and it does not mean anything it is only a nickname. Of course for our keyboardist there is “Vitun Hippi” it means “fucking hippie” (both of us laugh) and the drummer “Moottorisaha” means “chainsaw” and we just invented it because it sounds funny in Finnish. Our singer Mika has “Deimhal” and I don’t know where the hell he came up with that.
I see that with Chaosborn you stuck with artist Thomas Ewerhard and the wolf theme on your albums cover. What is the significance of the wolf?
Well it was from the debut album, we were talking to our A & R Alex Krull from Master Sound and we were discussing what we should do that would make fans and people recognize us in the store when they are looking for something. So we were talking about images and so on and we just came up with the idea that the wolf is really cool because it is very mystic and it is such a cool animal in it’s own way. So we thought that the idea was good and it fit Catamenia. When it came time to record the second album Morning Crimson we thought what now? So then Alex Krull said we should just continue with the wolf theme because now the fans know that is your image. That is the story, no big secrets behind it.
Was this something that everyone agreed on?
No, there were no disagreements. All of us agreed and thought it was great and I think for example lets replace the wolf with the cow (laughs) not that would never work out.
I see that some of the band still uses corpse paint. Do you feel that this is still relevant for the band or the music?
I would say that is not relevant to the music or the band. On live shows we use corpse paint and that is the most important thing for us. Backstage we are just hanging around and tuning our guitars and basses and drinking a few beers and talking. When we start to put the corpse paint on we know that we have 30 minutes and then we are onstage and we get on the feeling. We have played a few times without corpse paint and there is no feeling. It is only theatrics, not like Satan worshipping or something foolish like that, it is only about getting the feeling.
So is sort of like your war paint?
Yeah, I would say so.
Since I have listened to Catamenia I have wondered why a band would name themselves after…….the menstrual cycle?
(Laughs) Well the story goes like this: We were recording our first demo in 1995 here and we were thinking about a band name and we had a lot of different options for it. It was one day when our singer Mika came to the studio and he said the name Catamenia and we thought that sounded really great and we should take that name. It was after our debut album that one of our fans and now he is our friend from the Netherlands said, “Did you know guys that Catamenia has a meaning?” and we were like “No-it does not mean anything!” Then he said, “OK, well it is woman’s menstrual cycle” and we thought shit, what do we do now? Do we change the name? But why, it does not mean anything to us, it was just a name that sounded good to our ears and it means what it means but for us it does not mean anything.
I thought originally that it was a disease or a disorder but then when I looked it up I saw that it meant the woman’s menstrual cycle.
Yeah, it was like oh god! (Both of us laugh)
I wanted to talk about the Finnish metal scene. Do you feel that Finland is beginning to make more of a name for itself and becoming better known like the bands from Norway and Sweden?
Yeah I would say that. For example lets talk about Black metal. I think that the Finnish scene is getting well known like Norwegian metal and Swedish metal and that is only great because we should stick together in Scandinavia because we are a small country and still we have a lot of great black metal bands. It is not like it was before when it was like war against everybody, now we are just professional musicians that make Black metal music and we just get along fine here in Finland and we get along fine with Norwegians and so on. It is not like it was in the 80’s when it was like a Vietnam War. We are just happy that we can be without fighting and any war and everybody can listen to what they want nowadays. For example, some Norwegian does not like he us, he would send us a killing threat.
That used to happen?
Yeah it used to happen, I think it was like late 80’s and early 90’s. You really have to think what you do because all of that was really stupid and it is not part of the music.
Yeah, and if you look back at that era of the early 90’s there is a lot of controversy that comes with black metal and unfortunately it has given the music a lot of negative feedback in the media.
Yeah, and that is not part of the music because I like playing Black metal and Catamenia is not a Satanic band or something like that. We just love to play that kind of music and for example when you play live you get all the aggressions out without physical harm or fighting. You can get all the aggressions out without harming anyone.
I am a huge fan of the Finnish scene. Bands like: Funeris Nocturnum, Trollheim’s Grott and of course Catamenia. I feel like there is a lot of killer music coming from the region and there seems to be more of an atmosphere to the music. I actually feel that the Finnish scene seems to surpass the other regions right now.
Yeah, I have to say one thing on this about the Black metal scene. Personally, I like well-produced music. For example Dimmu Borgir started out with great production and some people really did not like that and felt that it ruined the Black metal scene and I only think it was good for Black metal. I don’t have any thing against the “True” Black metal music, they want to make the music and the production they way they want but I prefer the well-produced music.
Myself too, you have bands like Darkthrone that still use the primitive production but there is only one Darkthrone.
Yes, I agree.
What are some of your favorite bands right now?
It has always been Immortal, they are just really great and I really appreciate and honor them on their career. Also Dimension Zero, they are really great and In Flames is one of my favorites also. Of course Old Man’s Child and Dimmu Borgir…. there are just so many good bands that if I listed them all it would be way too long (laughs).
I wanted to ask you about tattoos. I saw a few in some photos and wondered if there was anything significant that you had.
Well, tribals on my right arm because I don’t like skulls or anything like that and I like tribals more.
I have heard about a few drinks in Finland including Cactus Long Drink. What is your favorite drink?
Of course beer but I really like Gin but if we are talking about alcohol everything goes! (Laughs)
What is your favorite beer?
I like Finnish and German beer but I think I prefer more German beer. We have really expensive beer here in Finland so I usually drink Finnish beer. It was our first recording session in Germany and our first time there so when we saw the prices of beer for the first time it was like paradise (Both of us laugh).
It is really expensive in Finland?
Yes, it is very expensive but next year the taxes should be lower because there are really high taxes on alcohol, gasoline and cars…well everything-we have really high taxes here.
What about tobacco?
Yeah, well how much do you pay there?
I think it is up to about $3.50 a pack.
Here it is around 4 Euros, which is about the same.
Well that is not bad, if you smoke which is terrible in the first place.
Yeah that is true, how much is a bottle of beer there?
Here it is about 6 or 7 dollars for a six pack but for cheaper beer like Budweiser it is about 4 or 5 dollars. And liquor it is about 20 dollars a liter.
OK, it is the same here but for us that is really expensive after Germany (laughs).
How much is it there?
You can get a six-pack for around 2 dollars and just plain liquor a liter is about 7 dollars.
Wow that is cheap, there must be tons of alcoholics in Germany.
No, because they can drink sophisticated. But here they are crazy so you can imagine what it was like when the band got to Germany! (Laughs)
Well that leads me to my next question. Can you tell us about any funny experiences that the band has had on tour or drinking?
One is coming to my mind. We were in Germany and we were recording the debut album and we were drinking first in the studio and then we went off to the city to a bar. Our guitarist then Sampo Ukkola got really drunk and we told him to go outside and get some fresh air and we took him outside and came back to the bar. We forgot Sampo outside for many hours and he just was just sitting in the alley for about 4 hours and just sleeping (Both of us laugh). We were thinking that he got mugged or robbed or something but he was just there sleeping. So then we ordered a taxi for him and gave the driver the address and we went back inside to continue drinking.
That is pretty bad.
Are you guys looking to hit the road again any time soon?
Well at the moment we are planning a small European tour and it will be within this year-November I think. Of course we are planning a bigger tour for Europe but I have no more information about touring now but I hope that someday that we can make our first American tour because we would really love to come there.
You have never been to America before?
No, I have a good opportunity to come there because my father comes there to work and I could visit him for a few weeks.
So maybe you could come here for a vacation.
Yeah, definitely vacation.
What is next for Catamenia?
I have started to compose new songs for Catamenia and I think that we will go record in the winter again and the next album should be released in the spring of next year. And of course the touring, that is the main point because we really love to play live.
You don’t make a million dollars playing black metal you get to do what you want to do.
That is the main thing. If we wanted to make a million dollars we would play something like Robbie Williams stuff (laughs). But we would not do that because that sucks.
You could be like the Finnish N’sync.
(Both of us laugh) Yeah, that bullshit.
To wrap things up would you like to say anything to all the readers and fans out there?
Check out Catamenia’s new album and all of Catamenia’s albums and visit our website and stay fucking dark!
Thanks to Riku for taking some of the time out of his day for the interview. Be sure to go and check out Catamenia’s new album “Chaosborn” which is another killer album from a great band. Also be sure to go to the Catamenia website for any news and touring information on the band.
Links of interest: