TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with Juha-Pekka Leppäluoto of Charon was done by e-mail by Maud in March 2006.
Charon should need no introduction. In the words of TD's Chief Editor, "If you are into gothic rock you should know of Charon; it is as simple as that." They are, indeed, one of the finest bands gothic rock/metal has ever produced. And in frontman Juha-Pekka Leppäluoto, we have one of the truly great voices of our time as well as an extremely charismatic individual. Charon's fifth album, Songs for the Sinners, was released on Spinefarm in August 2005 in Finland, gradually making its way to other countries worldwide in the following months, most recently hitting Japan in March 2006.
Hello, and thanks very much for taking the time for this interview.
The studio diary for Songs for the Sinners mentions the degree of variety in these songs. Could you give some examples of this?
"Air" is a relly good example when changing from one style to another. We also managed to bring in some elements that are not the usual Charon, i mean influences from different styles of music. It doesnīt have to mean that weīre trying to switch from a style to another but to give us more space working with this kind of music.
You've identified several of the tracks on the SFTS as being potential singles, and two have already been released. Have you ever made an album with so many obvious candidates for singles? Will you be releasing any more from this album?
Thereīs no other point releasing singles than getting the airplay and advertising the album itself in order to sell more gigs...in order to buy some bread and butter! I donīt think weīre going to release any more singles from this album even it would be possible. People should hang on to the album itself. Thereīs more to give than just one single. "Songs for the sinners" is good enough to listen through.
Do you think the new album has more of a live feel than was the case with previous releases?
Yes. That was something we wanted to hold on to.
SFTS is the first Charon album for which songwriting credits are not broken down track by track (although more specific info is given in your descriptions of the songs posted at your website). Does crediting the music to the group as a whole reflect a greater level of collaboration for SFTS than was the case with your other albums or just a different way of acknowledging the contributions?
We have the situation in the band where everybody needs everybody to finish these songs and everything is made by playing together. We are all arranging the songs together as well. Thatīs the way it has always been but since now we decided to spell it that way.
Guitarist Lauri Tuohimaa has been an official member of the band since Spring 2004, and a touring member longer than that, but SFTS is the first album you have recorded with him. What has it meant to have Lauri in the band--what impact has he had in terms of band chemistry, performance, songwriting and recording.
With Lauri the band was like in a fresh beginning. Everything felt new and interesting again. The same thing happened with rehearsing and composing the new songs. That was very healing for everyone. For the first moment i met Lauri I felt like weīve known for ages. A the start we had to push him a little to bring his ideas to the album, of course itīs a strange situation for him at first to compose music with the new band. With Lauri we managed to play more together and thatīs the main reason for the sound of "songs for the sinners", the joy of making music like we wanted.
Many Charon fans must be pleased about the presence of the cello on SFTS, having enjoyed your use of it in the past, as on Tearstained. Songs like the amazing "Bullet," for example, are so enhanced by the cello. What is it, do you think, about the sounds of this classical instrument that make it so effective in metal music of various types and with varying degrees of emphasis--from Apocalyptica to Hevein to Charon, and so on?
Donīt know anything about "why" it fits to the music like this. It just sounds good, thereīs no matter what the instrument will be after all as long as it works. We didnīt choose Cello because of its classical tone. I hate classical music and mixing classical with metal is like mixing vodka with urine, no thanks.
Vesa Ranta's cover art (as well as his photography) for the new album represents a departure from that of your previous releases, more stark. In what ways does this style suit the music on SFTS? You yourself are also credited for the art and the booklet. What was the nature of your collaboration with Vesa Ranta?
I made the cover. Donīt tell it to anyone...heh. We had enormous problems to find the atmosphere for the "right" cover artwork so i just send that idea to Vesa one day and so we continued. We had nice moments with Vesa in the Messenger, never "seen" grown man almost burst in tears at the middle of conversation without being wasted or so. Well the cover is what i dream to be while being the opposite and itīs eating me alive from the inside. Strange...iīm gonna need a cigarette now...
How would you compare the emotional content and moods of SFTS to those of your other albums?
In other albums we succeeded with the moods by accidentally, this time it was all planned. I think the atmosphere is more fragile, more sensitive this time and itīs created with nuances in the playing like we wanted it to be...more jamming and a clear plan where we are going.
The more I read your lyrics (as opposed to just hearing them), the more struck I am by how poetic they are, especially in the case of SFTS. Is the use of figurative language a natural mode for you when it comes to articulating emotions? Do you find yourself speaking in metaphors frequently in your daily life, not just in writing? And do you agree with me that the lyrics on the new album are some of the strongest you've ever written?
Iīm never happy for what iīve done but this time iīm pretty ok with these writings. This is just the way iīm writing and expressing myself, but not in my daily life, hehe. People would consider me strange...maybe the already consider me strange, doesnīt matter anyway. I just hope that this is something more mature that iīve done this time. Didnīt expect them to effect some people so strong when i first started to receive letters from fans who told me how much they mean to them. I had to tell them that i just draw the picture and you do the thinking. Itīs them who they see at the texts and this is what i want from my lyrics.
You and I are both admirers of Nick Cave. What do you find most appealing about his music, singing, and songwriting, and which are your favorite albums of his?
I love Caveīs interpretation. Itīs more like telling tales with the most enjoyable way. Caveīs music is all about the feelings and thatīs why i love it so much. No More Shall We Part, Abattoir Blues/Lyre Of Orpheus, Murder Ballads and Let Love In are the ones that caught me for good. If I could choose the song of my life, that would be "We Came Along This Road".
Fans of Scandinavian metal are accustomed to musicians being involved in multiple bands, but you've had relatively few side ventures during your years with Charon, most notably Poisonblack, of course. Is this due to lack of time, to total artistic satisfaction with Charon, or both? Are there alternate musical styles or genres that you would like to perform sometime?
We have cover band playing Caveīs production, surprisingly, heh. In our area thereīs not so many bands to involve so that is the one reason for concentrating only to Charon, which is great of course.
How did your guest vocal spot on Astray's Promo 2002 come about? Do you anticipate doing any future sessions with them?
They were recording at the studio in our hometown and I was walking by at the right moment so they asked me to sing little bit. Why not, i said. That was all.
As someone who, about a year and a half ago, was slated to temporarily take on the role of Amorphis frontman (for at least one tour, which was unfortunately cancelled), what do you think of their ultimate selection for vocalist, Sinisthra's Tomi Joutsen?
I like him better than the previous. Heīs got the scale of doing the grawl parts perfectly too which is essential for Amorphis, AND he can sing.
Charon fans in North and South America have longed to see you play in those parts of the world. Is there any possiblity of that happening in the near future?
Of course. We have something coming up but nothing to publish yet.
On your 2005-2006 tours you've played in several locations for the first time: Greece, Croatia, Portugal, among others. What were those experiences like? Where did you find some of the most enthusiastic receptions.
Croatia and Serbia was mindblowing experience. We went there without expectations and found the most enthustiatic reception. All the new countries that we have the chance to travel gives always something new and till now the reception has been wonderful in any places.
Do you have any plans to release a live DVD from the recent and upcoming tours? The extensive shedule for 2005 through the first part of 2006 surely would have yielded quite a lot of footage. And will the much-sought-after Sorrowburn ever be re-released?
Both things have been in our minds. Now we got really much material on dv and beta from the last tour so something must be done with it. Re-Release of sorrowburn would be great too.
You have always talked about the satisfaction you get from interacting with your fans. As Charon has grown in popularity over the years, has that relationship become more difficult to maintain due to increasing demands being placed upon you?
Yes. Before I had even time to answer all the email inquiries but not anymore when thereīs so much of them per day. Nevertheless Iīm trying. But during the tour itīs wonderful to chat with the fans. Relationship with fans ainīt hard to maintain in this situation. Maybe it would be if Iīd be called Robbie Williams.
There are many young, newer bands who have obviously been influenced by Charon. Are there particular groups you've heard that have impressed you significantly?
Iīm not that aware whatīs going on with metal, to be honest. I prefer oldschool. All the new "rock/metal-bands" in finland that iīve heard from radio sucks, if they ever can call themselves a "metal-band". Rock music in Finland has become partly the scuff field of guys with makeup and shaven arse hair in tights. Pathetic, i mean how cheap can you sell your soul?
Thank you again for doing this interview. On a personal note, I would also like to say that I had the pleasure of seeing Charon for the first time in September 2005, and must therefore thank you additionally for a thrilling show. The best of luck to you for many more great performances in the coming months, and my apologies for the large number of questions : ). If you aren't worn out from answering them and wish to include any further comments, please feel free to do so.
Thank you very much. The next year will be busy for Charon, touring Europe once more and again 2007, doing our beloved home country at the same time. Summer festivals ahead. I have to say that in any point of view, the coming year will be the most interesting in our history. Cheers to you all!
Links of interest: