Interview with Juha Saikkonen from Mistralth about their new opus, “My Grief” out on GS Productions.
I was working on a couple of melodic death metal bands before Mistralth. Once they started to fade I wanted to make different style of music combining doom and gothic metal. I started doing songs on my own and introduced them to female vocalist Jonna and later to Hans. The music started to take form and so Mistralth was born.
As it is the case in most bands, line ups tend to change due to different circumstances. The older,original line up included female vocals but there are none in “My Grief”. To what end did this influence newer songs?
I was thinking to try female vocals on the album, but once we started demoing with R.K. I didn’t feel they were necessary after demoing sessions because R.K. had a very versatile set of voices. I try to use only those elements that come naturally during the song making process. Most likely there will be female vocs in the future.
Did you have to go through a long search to find similarly minded members?
No, I asked them and they both wanted to work on this album. I know the guys from other music projects and I knew what they could bring to the table. This is just how I wanted this to happen.
I understand that you had worked with a more Gothic circumference back in 2001 when “Diary of Despair” was released. What made it be used then and what has made that influence be less noticeable?
A: It’s not really a choise I make, it just happens so. Of course, the vocals play a large role, but on this album the songs have a different type of tempo which is less “rockish”. There were more material than what we put on the album and some of those were more gothic influenced material. Those songs didn’t fit the album as a whole.
You favor what you would term “sadness”, “depressive”, “doom” in Mistralth’s musical compositions. Why do you take that approach?
To be honest, I don’t feel this music is entirely doom. I also find depressive bands be more extreme in the music style. During composing I try to find the feeling through melody that is beautiful and I think sadness would describe it best.
There are times that in listening to your new cd, “My Grief”, I feel similarities to classical music. Did you have training in this type of music? Much more so importantly, what made you want to start using that?
I don’t have classical music training, but I do like to listen to classical music. I listen to many types of music and I think it’s one of my strengths that I don’t try to hold back on any ideas that could work. I really enjoy the sound of classical instruments, they have such a big rich sound and they variety how you can use them is amazing. On this album I mixed modern synthetic sounds to the samples. Cello and violin have always been in the core of Mistralth. The sound of those instruments can really dig deep into the heart of the listener.
In the info sheet that accompanies Mistralths’s promo, it states that “the tempo is a bit slower”. Yet, I hear a fantastic change of a powerful melodic approach in the second track named “Feel Nothing.”
Yes, a bit slower to the first album overall. “Feel Nothing” is latest composition on this album and has most variety of elements used compared to other songs. It naturally needed a different type of chorus and the guitar riff is close to black metal style. Just doubling the hits on the drums can make a big difference even though the tempo remains the same.
What skills have you materialized from your preferred music taste, what are some bands you enjoy that provide a hand in developing your musical concepts?
I think my influences from the 90’s can be heard. There are a variety of bands from that era what people find similar to Mistralth, which is nice. I think one of the key elements for me is that the music doesn’t need to be complex or follow a certain pattern in order to make a great song. All parts of the song should be interesting and not just building towards chorus. Then again sometimes that works well in a song. All bands that have influenced me over the years would be too long list, but I find most similarities in Theatre of Tragedy, early Paradise Lost, early Moonspell, early Anathema.
The use of the dual vocals throughout the recording is displayed no holds barred. The vocals combine a more guttural death metal feel along with cleaner use of vocals. Did you gather thoughts on the combination of such combination as a tool for the band’s sound or was it an experimental step to develop Mistralth’s style?
Dual vocals have always played part in the music. In the first album, we had sort of a story in a dialogue between the voices. On this album there isn’t any dialogue between the vocals in the same sense. All of the decisions were made based on the song, but recording two different styles of vocals is one of the trademarks I use. In this album I had the pleasure of working with two quality singers so it worked out really nicely.
You are the main song-writer for Mistralth. How do you get your creative mind to work? Have the newer members been involved in prior collaborations with you?
This is interesting. When I get the creative part working I usually get a lot done in short period of time. Then it can take time again to find the mood again. I usually need to finish the core of the song in one session or I can’t get back to the idea next day. When I find a cool riff/melody I quickly get an idea how the song should sound as whole. Then it’s matter of finding the elements around it. I don’t write the initial riffs/melodies down so if I can’t find the core of the song in that one session I bury the idea. So once it starts to flow I keep on doing it until I have an album worth of material.
Both R.K.(vocals) and Daniel (drums, vocals) have affected all of the songs how they sound as a final version. They haven’t composed on this album, but more arranging the songs to fit their performances. It’s been a pleasure to work with musicians of this caliber. I have explained them how I see the song and they have performed their parts based on that. I think it’s more fruitful when everyone can throw in things, but I think there has to be some ground to start collaborating such as demos. That is how we worked on this album.
Your prior efforts where released in 2000 and 2001. What made the band stop and how /why revive it 16 years later?
We stopped 2003-2004 because I couldn’t form full lineup. I discussed with a major label at the time and we needed to have a full lineup to take the negotiations further. Due to some personal changes in life and unforeseen events it didn’t happen. When couple of years passed we lost the time window so I disbanded the band.
The work was left unfinished and ended due to non-musical difficulties. This left the idea to develop that maybe one day I would continue it. Due to recent events in life the moment seemed good couple years back to start again. I pick up the idea again quickly and started to work on the demos. After playing new demos to couple of friends and R.K. & Daniel it felt that there is a slot of this type of music and I hadn’t completely lost the skill.
Without saying, Finland’s natural winter weather can be one cold bitch for sure. Have the surroundings around you drawn partly from those instances or is it from outside situations that we have no control over that inspire you?
Difficult to say. I don’t think it’s coincidence that there are a lot of great metal bands in Nordic countries, but why it is so I don’t know. I guess when there is more presence of metal bands it naturally creates stronger scene. I’m sure the surroundings and the society we live in affects the music but I’m inspired mostly just by the intensity of music itself. It is so rewarding to get something down and be happy with the result.
Continuing with what is inspirational for Mistralth, what time of equipment do you prefer to use for compositions?
This album was composed with acoustic guitar and in the recording phase I started using distortion sounds and building synths on top of it. I like to make the elements of the song with only acoustic sounds to make sure the riffs and melody is interesting before sounds are added. I have failed in the past using distortion guitars too early in the process and I find that those songs don’t last time so well.
“Coming Full Circle” wasn’t in tune with the older material, now I think it fits this album perfectly. I actually did demos from couple of the older songs when I revived the band. This was to get the right mood and feeling where I left off. I think Coming Full Circle felt like right thing to remake on this album.
Please describe what is it like to you to see your hard work come to fruition in the new material?
It’s one of the greatest moments to publish the work which is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s rewarding to hear people enjoy the music in different ways.
You have “My Grief” as the main body of work for the new material and “No Tomorrow” as the single for the cd. Why use that track as a single?
It was an election and No Tomorrow won, hahahaa. I think it has a lot of depth and rises towards the end and the slowly moving lyric video fit the mood nicely. The lyrics and vocals also work very well with the song.
Do you have a favorite song off your new cd?
Not really. I had enough time to finish the songs how I wanted them to be with this setup I have which makes them equally good in my eyes. Two of the songs I had most difficulties to finalize which in my head are not that fluent, but still as good as possible.
You have a background in music recording. Do you still work in that field? Has that experience contributed to Mistralth’s sound?
It’s now a hobby, but I did all the studio work myself except Daniel recorded his parts. I also do a little bit of live music shows, but that’s a different world. I haven’t been very active in the studio sessions lately so much has changed in over 10 years so I had to get used to it again. I will be investing time and money to my home studio as time goes on so hopefully I have plenty of new options for the future recordings.
“My Grief” has been released through GSP from Russia. Their band roster includes many bands who play in a “Doom” style of Metal. Did they come to you with an interest in your new works or did you submit a promo to them?
Vitaly from GSP approached us after he had heard the single release. Working with GSP has been great and hopefully it will be prosperous in the future. They did fantastic job with the digipack print. Russia has a strong scene in this type of music and hopefully we find some audience there.
It is common place that many musicians take part on other musical projects. Have you participated in any and if so, what was your contribution and did it provide you with experience that could be used in Mistralth?
I’ve had a couple, but most of them tend to end before they even start due to lack of time. Making music seriously requires time and practice which can be difficult with all the other things going in life. This will most likely be only serious music project I will work on. “My Grief” was a new start and there is still a lot to do.
“Doom” style bands tend to be more prevalent in Europe that in the U.S. Any ideas why that is?
I have never thought of that, but I guess it’s true. I think it’s been difficult throughout history to make it as a band on both continents. So, I guess the music taste is different to some extend by nature. Also, I think other smaller European bands are more visible and mostly, we see bigger bands from the US.
How do you say “fish don’t have dicks but they still like to fuck” in Finnish?
kaloilla ei ole kyrpiä mutta ne silti haluavat nussia 😀
Vinyl has always been a preferred item to have besides CDs. Are there plans for a future record lp press?
I’d like to do some special editions, but there are none planned at the moment. LP+shirt limited edition package sounds nice, we’ll need to look into something like that.
No one knows what the future holds no matter how well prepared one can be. What do you want to do to ensure Mistralth’s works are recognized?
I’m not interested in commercial success, but I’d like the music to reach as many people as possible who like this type of music. Mistralth will be available free for all, but people who like it can order physical copy to support the scene. I’ll keep promoting through some online zines (couple planned interviews/reviews) and our social media, but it will be low profile stuff.
What plans do you have to advertise “My Grief”? Does your label advertise it?
Mostly through social media and GSP is also doing some advertising. No bigger plans at this point.
Any future plans for the immediate future?
Hopefully, “My Grief” will reach people who like this type of music and I will semi-actively promote it. There are some new songs bubbling under, I think I will have some demos done by the end of the year. I’ve had some thoughts about interesting composing collaborations as well. We’ll see what happens.
Any last thoughts and /or comments?
Thanks for interview and the time spent with our music. Interesting and well prepared set of questions. Hopefully my answers make sense, cheers!