One of death metal’s seminal bands? Check. La scena è addirittura quella finlandese? Are we talking about the Finnish scene, even? Check. Just one album in almost 30 years? Check. Demilich have definitely earned their cult status: during Frantic Fest’s second day, at Francavilla al Mare, Antti told us something about the past, present and, who knows, future for the quartet from Kuopio
First of all, how was your experience at Frantic Fest?
It was great. I didn’t know what to expect because we’ve only done a couple of gigs in Italy, and the festival is very far away from Northern Italy, were we’ve played. It was very cool, I like this place and the audience was great.
The audience was great but you also mentioned the other bands you liked, for example 40 Watts Sun. As a death metal artist, where do you place your tastes? What other bands do you tend to listen to?
Nowadays I listen to things I don’t even want to mention. [laughs] I also listen to death metal, black metal, stuff like that… but when you’re about 50 you kinda have learned there’s other music than metal. When I was 18 there wasn’t anything else. Anything else was not worth it, although I know there were bands I didn’t wanna admit I liked. Pop bands, even. But only metal was real. I’m not going into detail, I have very nasty secrets, but I listen to everything from metal to industrial rock, even Finnish pop if the songs are good. Many times it’s metal which brings good albums, because I love pop songs, but it’s only those songs. Most of the stuff I hear from them, this kind of artists, are done by other people. I don’t like their style and their ideas about music.
Speaking about Demilich, you started more or less 30 years ago and your only album to this date is going to be 30 next year. How do you feel about Nespithe getting to be 30?
Yeah, we’re a 32 and a half years old band, and Nespithe came out 29 years ago. I remember I wasn’t happy about it when we recorded it, because I started seeing the flaws and things I would have wanted to make differently. Then I gave it a rest, I didn’t listen to it or think about it. I’m a perfectionist unfortunately, so it wasn’t perfect and I hated it. But! Little by little, when I saw people started liking it… I had this period of five years, when I didn’t even know about people’s reactions… but then I started understanding there’s something there. Especially, it was cool when the younger generation, the kids of people my age, came to me and were like «I love your band» and I was like «oh, this is different». I never thought they would do it. Nowadays I think it’s something that had to be done. I thought there would be many albums like that made by other people, but no. It’s unique, it’s not perfect for me, for some people here… I guess I’m pretty happy that we made it back then.
Actually, the album has inspired, especially now, a big revival of that old school style, but with a more cryptic, progressive attitude. What do you think about this rediscovery of the Finnish death metal scene? Like even in America, it’s so distant, but people love you there! How do you feel about that?
Obviously when I started making music my main dream was to play in America, because America is the big place and everybody gets to be a star there. Later, of course I realized there’s different levels of stardom, but still cool. It’s kind of unexpected, because America back then, in the early ‘90s, people were going towards more straightforward metal. Of course I loved Pantera and stuff like that, but I didn’t see us fit in among those people. And then, it was really weird that America started to be the main place where people liked us, and still I don’t understand why exactly. Why do American people love us? I have no idea, I have talked with them about it, but I haven’t had a good explanation. [laughs]
Being such a perfectionist, how long your fans will have to wait to see, if there’s any chance, a second album?
First of all, we have four songs almost ready. I will have to get them done and we have a release plan for that. Then it’s time to think about the second album: I have the name, the concept, some riffs, but knowing myself I may run out of time in this life. We’ll see, hopefully I will find a spark to get it done, because I’ve got pretty much done in those two and a half years back then.
The Finnish death metal scene has pretty much grown up over the years, I mean it was a lot underground and it still is a bit compared to the Swedish death metal or Norwegian scenes, but it has it perks. Would you name a handful of Finnish bands related to the death metal scene, that people should know about?
One of the hard parts here is that I’ve always had a hard time at loving Finnish bands, because they are too close to me. They may be my friends, or I might know them or see them at the airport when we leave, like today when I saw the guys from Swallow The Sun. It kind of makes them be at the same level and not heroes. By the way, I don’t want to ever meet my heroes because it might ruin it. There’s one hero that makes it hard for me to listen to that band, because I met him, spent the night with the guy and I wish that didn’t happen. But anyway! What bands… for me, I think Amorphis is the band that still has the most interesting feeling in them, among these old bands that maybe turned to something else. They have good songs and they have that Finnish sadness in them, still.
What drove you to put up this band? What were your first ground lines, which bands did you love back then and how do you feel about them today? For example: you started by loving A, B and C, but now you still love B but have a different idea for A and C… and all of the other bands that you would approach, musically speaking. What about this journey into music?
Like with everybody, it’s a long journey by falling in love with something, with some energy in music, and then you find energy in other things and you change. Especially as a kid you change a lot, for example I went from only metal to only rough metal, I kind of dropped out Iron Maiden and Dio, things like that… it was a path of finding things, of course stuff like Iron Maiden, Dio, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P., they affected me. Then I found — let’s keep it inside death metal — more simple death metal bands like Bolt Thrower. I remember that being one of the main reasons: them, Napalm Death and Carcass, though they were a bit more progressive. I wanted to do things like them, but then again I always desire something else and I just cannot go that way. The first demo in my opinion has very much Bolt Thrower influences, but when we did it I instantly felt I had to go somewhere else. I have to get my original things in it, of course I took them from somebody else, but I came up with what I wanted to do. Bands like Pestilence, Atheist affected me afterwards, progressive metal.
One very last question, but a very important one: how much would you prefer staying at Frantic Fest tomorrow and seeing the other bands, rather than getting back home, to Finland?
Very much right now! [laughs] Well, it’s good to be home, to relax and everything. But if I could get to the hotel now, get some good sleep and come back to see the bands: yeah, I would do it.