TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with of Excalion was done via the internet by Maud in March, 2006.
Hailing from Konnevesi, near Jyväskylä, Finland, Excalion was formed in 2000, when keyboardist/principle songwriter Jarmo "Jappe" Myllyvirta and the other members were still in their late teens (Only guitarist Vesa Nupponen, added later, had reached the advanced age of 20 at that time.). Their music matured very quickly, however, and after the release of only their second demo, "Obsession to Prosper," Excalion's catchy blend of symphonic power metal with traditional heavy metal garnered a contract with Sound Riot Records in late 2003. Recorded in late summer 2004, the band's debut album, Primal Exhale, was released worldwide in the summer of 2005.
Hello! Congratulations on Primal Exhale, and thanks very much for participating in this interview.
Hello and thanx.
Jappe Myllyvirta will be answering to the interview. Tero Vaaja will answer to one question.
Excalion is being billed as symphonic power metal, but you have resisted this label, preferring a less constrictive term like heavy/melodic metal. In what ways does your music depart from typical power metal? What are the more unique aspects of your sound, and how has it developed?
I personally don´t like the term "Power Metal", because in my ears it sounds too naive and in my opinion it does not describe our sound that well. I think that melodic metal is the best one to describe Primal Exhale. Our own sound comes from song´s arrangements, melodies and our vocalist´s voice and it has matured alot during the years.
Excalion comes across to me as a band that is evolving and improving at an unusually accelerated rate. Do you feel that this is the case, and can you speculate as to why this might be?
It is hard to say why, but one reason might be that we all are quite young and we are constantly improving our skill as musicians and nowdays we practice alot as a band. Hopefully the improvement continues.
You started with a one-guitar line-up, then added another guitarist because, as was stated in an older version of your bio, "making music with more variety and personality" would require two guitarists. But with the departure of Kimmo Hänninen and former guitarist Tero Vaaja's swithing to bass after Timo Sahlberg relinquished that role, you've returned to a one-guitar line-up, and have indicated that you're quite satisfied with this arrangement. Why does it work better now than it did earlier? Is this a reflection of your growth individually as musicians, the way your music has changed, or both?
First we started as a one-guitar band, because there was no other guitarist that we could consider for the band. But soon Kimmo arrived and that was a natural choice to take him into the group. It worked fine when we did not practice so seriously, but after the record deal things got more serious and band was improving alot and it was difficult get the two guitars to work properly together. Now we are quite different band compared to what we were a few years ago. Now the line-up works perfectly.
A few of the songs on Primal Exhale also appeared on your demos. Besides being re-recorded for the album, what other changes have they undergone?
All songs, except Dire Waters are recorded in some demo. But few songs are in old demos. Some songs have gone thru changes when some parts were changed or erased and arrangements were improved. Some lyrical improvements were also made.
To what degree is the band as a whole involved in the arrangements for songs?
Quite much. Now the song arrangements are made faster and everyone has a clearer vision how it must be done. Now the whole band works together for the arrangements.
How was it decided to have Primal Exhale mastered at The Digital Audio in the U. K.?
Our record company decided that. We are very satisfied with the result. They did a good job.
What are the similarities and differences between the lyrics by the band's two main writers--themes, inspirations, writing habits? How is it decided which of you will handle lyrics for a particular song? Are you continuing to divide lyrical duties for the songs written since the album was recorded?
I think that Tero writes more complex lyrics and mine are more down to earth. I can only speak for myself now, but I try to find some theme that fits in the atmosphere of the song. After that it is rather easy to write the story. My inspiration comes from real world and feelings that I get from some melodies or songs. If I don´t have an idea for lyrics I handle it forward.
The lyrcs for some tracks on the album, especially "Heart & Home" and "My Legacy," remind me of poetic folk epics - the timeless themes, the "feel" of them. Have the Kalevala and other verse from Finnish folk tradition had an influence on your lyrics - not overtly as with Amorphis, but in some subtle fashion?
No, real world, movies and music are my influence for lyrics. At least I don´t consciously take influences from finnish folk tales.
"Luopio," the bonus track on the European and North American versions of Primal Exhale, is a Finnish-language version of "Forlorn," a song from your first demo. Was "Forlorn" originally written in Finnish and then translated into English, or vice-versa? When writing lyrics, do you normally compose in Finnish first and then translate them?
It was first written in English so it was Forlorn then. Before we went to studio we decided to make a new version of it and changed the lyrics to Finnish. We always write lyrics in English, except the ones that are in Finnish.
Do you have favorites amongst the songs on the album, and are there ones you prefer live vs. the studio version?
I like them all, but if I have to pick a favorite I say: A moment in the spotlight, Dire waters and Luopio. Those are also great ones to play live.
For those of us who have not yet had an opportunity to see Excalion play, what are your live shows like? Any crazy anecdotes you'd like to share?
The shows are very energic. We give our best in every time. Nothing very crazy has happened so far, but one time the crowd almost pushed the PA -system down and tried to rip off Kimmo´s clothes, when he was playing a solo.
Is there a possibility that you'll be added to the roster for this year's Tuska Open Air Festival?
Hopefully. Time will tell.
I was excited to learn that you're planning to hit the studio in May to record your second album. Can you tell us a little about the new songs? What elements are you adding, and are there certain aspects of your sound that receive greater or less emphasis in the new material? Do particular tracks on Primal Exhale point to where you're headed now?
I think we have discovered our sound now. New songs are a bit different than songs in Primal Exhale. We have gone more in hard rock and 80´s heavy style of music, but it still sounds modern. We are very satisfied with the new material. A Moment in the Spotlight and Dire Waters are closest to the new songs, but there is of course some faster songs also. Generally I would say that the new songs are more melodic and catchy, but there are also rough and rhythmic guitars too.
Some of the biggest names in Finnish metal are from Helsinki and other coastal cities, but I have lately been discovering more and more quality bands (some of whom are not well-known yet) from the Jyväskylä area. Is the music community in your part of central Finland a "hidden jewel"? Do the members of Excalion have close ties to other bands in this region?
The music circles in here are quite small, so we know some people around here. The central Finland is certainly an area from where more and more great new bands will come in the future.
Looking at Excalion as a fusion of different personalities, what role does each member play in forming the band's chemistry?
Tero: It is an interesting mixture of personalities, where each of us often have strong individual opinions, but we manage to cope with them very well, we rarely really fight over anything. Jappe and Henri are the most prominent two, they have played together alot and they understand each other musically perfectly. If this band was a vehicle, Henri would be the engine, and Jappe the guy steering it.
Thanks again, and best wishes for continued success with Primal Exhale and for your recording and touring endeavors in the coming months. And if there's anything else you'd like to add, please feel free to do so.
Thanks for a great interview. It was a pleasure to answer it. Rock on!
Links of interest:
Sound Riot Records