Spiralism - Interview
In a time where cloning is the norm and originality has fallen by the wayside, it's so refreshing to hear a band that is doing something creative that is their own. Mixing post rock/metal, psychedelic rock, stoner/doom all with progressive sensibility, Spiralism has separated themselves from their peers. Their debut LP "Chakras" will be released worldwide in January. I recently had a chance to discuss, with front man Riku Kuukka, the bands sound, the album and their influences in and outside of the music world.
By Brian Grebenz
What brought you guys together? I hear a lot of different musical styles on 'Chakras', do you all come from different musical backgrounds?
Yeah we all have done our schools. Me personally, I began studying classical piano at the age of 6 and classical guitar came around at the age of 12, at that same time my first "rock" band, the first grunge metal groups with friends and so on. And now at the age of 31 I've noticed that there's a quite big range of different musical styles I've gone through. But anyway, I got to know Juho (the other founding member) in 2010. Shared some similar ideas about occult and music and decided to form a band after I played him some demos. We had a different drummer for few years and a 3rd guitarist also (Jani Marjoniemi) who was along until he had to leave the band due to personal reasons this year. I knew our drummer Oskari through our other previous band and as with Juho we have a similar vision about things, so it was a natural, magical thing that he joined the band in 2012. Tuomo came along in the of summer 2013 when he replaced Jani for one gig, and it worked so good that he joined as a third guitarist/vocalist. When Jani had to leave it was only natural that Tuamo become part of the band. But, anyway, in general I think all we listen to and have listened to music that influences the music we make.
A lot of the album sounds improvised. Did you guys go into the studio with songs fully written, or a few ideas that you expanded on through jamming? Does everyone contribute to the songwriting process or is there a majority songwriter?
The songs were quite fully written. Actually 4 out of the 7 songs is recorded mostly at our rehearsal studio. Live drums, bass, my guitar parts, so the basic beginning point is very organic and spontaneous. Of course, we did overdubs and the vocals afterwards. Most of the time we like to keep the songs playable live similar to as they are on the record. Improvisation... hmmm, well we loop the riffs at our recording place and then the stars align, I guess. "Sophia", "Dust Devils" and "Gnosis" were recorded at our producer Sami Wirkkalas "Moldy" Notkostudios which is an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. Nowadays it's really easy to produce good sounding stuff just with some mic's & pre amplifiers. But in general, Sami has a really big influence on how the thing comes out, although the building blocks are there. It's just fine tuning of things, I guess.
We all take part in the writing process. On Chakras, I mostly had my own guitar riffs and arrangements (the red line) of the song ready, and the others started to play on my guitar riffs & we start to jam. Gnosis is mostly musically written on the same idea by Jani. We are really democratic band, somebody has the idea that sparks the song, then we take it from there.
The album title 'Chakras' refers to the energy points in the human body. Can you elaborate on why you chose that title? Also, with there being the 7 main chakras and there being 7 tracks on the album, is it a concept album?
It's because of the stories of the songs. Lyrically I had a huge influence from my "pilgrimage" to egypt years ago and studies on Comparative religion and Crowley's Thelema and obviously Left Hand Path. Juho hated the title "Chakras" first (laughs) but then came to understand. Every song has a sparkle of an intuition or a light starts to shine, or a realization of something. Like the energy centers reflect different aspects of life and human beings. The songs on the album also reflect on different things, and that's for the listener to find out what they are. The title "Chakras" actually came to me like the apple fell to Newton's head. Honestly we did not think about a concept album, only the inspiration behind the music was obvious to me and Juho. But it's quite a stars aligned thing, 7 years ago the first riffs were composed, 7 chakras, 7 songs.
Spiralism is a very interesting name and seems to fit the bands sound. Can you elaborate a little on why you chose to name the band that?
Well, from our point of view people follow always some "isms", even if not they are really. Spiral symbols growth and golden ratio and fibonacci. And it's not religious or scientifically narrowed to some category. It's pure and resembles our will to grow as musicians. Music is for us the purest form of spirituality. The will to evolve and create is pure and not restricted to any religion or science.
With Chakras being released in Finland in December and the rest of the world in January, What are your plans? Do you have any tour plans outside of Finland?
There are plans and we are trying to spread our wings and fly away from our beautiful home country, especially since winter is not that appealing to us (laughs). Nowadays it's hard to get any gigs in Finland especially outside Helsinki, but we are ready to do any gigs anywhere anytime. We don't have a booking agent at the moment so any and every booking agents out there feel free to contact us, around the world (chuckles)
You stated that your producer Sami has a lot to do with the finished product. Will you be using him for future recordings? What do you see in the future for Spiralism?
Evolving. Yeah definitely we will use Sami in the future if schedules match. He plays in a great band Hidria Spacefolk (check that out) also and has produced their latest critically acclaimed album Astronautica which is a fucking awesome space rock album. The basic idea was that we don't want basic heavy max compressed sound because our music has a wide dynamic range. Sami has a third eye for our kind of stuff. When we play live, I think we sound quite more aggressive, so when we record there's a spot to open up those vibes. We have actually 4 new songs rehearsed and the new stuff and the brutal is more brutal and the spacious more spacious. So we spiral up.
You stated earlier that you all come from different schools of music. What bands or musicians have influenced you guys? Is the heavier and more spacious sound on the new songs a direct result of the influences or is it just a natural progression of the band?
I guess it all started for me with Metallica and Nirvana. At least I think those were the main kickstarters for my interest to start playing electric guitar with distorted sound. Also as a growing kid Paradise Lost's "Draconian Times" album had a huge influence on me and as a teenager it was Fields of the Nephilim. I studied classical piano and guitar for long time and that has had a huge role on my understanding of basis of music: melody; harmonies; structure etc... I've played in metal, alternative, avant garde, experimental, post-punk, gothic, hippiefolk, and psychedelic rock groups before.
My influences are from rock/metal stuff that I've always enjoyed the stuff from Tool, Isis, Cult Of Luna, Kyuss, QotSA, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden etc... etc... but enjoy everything which has a "soul" or "sparkle" or something, if you know what I mean. Massive Attack & Portishead are great. I also Byzantine, coptic choir music, oriental, asian stuff. Sometimes silence is golden you know (laughs). Latest group I've really fell in love with is Sólstafir, they are really really really awesome group. God damn!
Tuomo has a classical training also, he's actually brilliant drummer and has played in progressive rock bands. He also has his other band Pohjoinen which is more straightforward stoner/doom metal-ish stuff, check 'em out even it's in finnish.
Juho has played punk, groove and rock stuff and also some blues/country stuff.
Oskari is quite honest metal and rock drummer and has always been I guess.
Concerning new stuff I think it's the natural progression of us playing more & more together and and using the influences from subconscious and conscious seas. There's also some old riffs I've composed a long time ago and new stuff. I think Tuomo has a lot more influence on the new stuff because our former member Jani had a big role on Chakras as a 2nd guitarist.
What do you see the future being for Spiralism?
Well I'm no weather man, but wish the best and survival through ups & downs. We have some surprises up our sleeve coming later in 2015 for the likers of Spiralism's music. If everything goes well, we will post the news on our facebook page. Some sonic showers before 2nd album.
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