Yes, it’s true – it really took us quite a while, unfortunately way too long to still feature them in one of our print issues. But things luckily changed for the better after all and we are proud to finally present you an interview with Finland’s finest Death Metal lunatics: DEMIGOD! The band is back in business and has just released their follow up album to their alltime classic "Slumber Of Sullen Eyes" from 1992. The record is entitled "Shadow Mechanics" and musically shows us a quite different side of DEMIGOD… unfortunately. The entire material is less brutal and more thrashy, with a bigger focus on melodies. Not exactly what I would expect from these guys, but it couldn’t stop me from doing the following interview with DEMIGOD’s guitar team Jussi and Tero…
According to your bio, bands like Infernal Majesty, Possessed, Obliveon, Invocator and Carcass kinda shaped the DEMIGOD sound when you originally started out back in 1990…But honestly spoken, except for the obvious Carcass influences I never really noticed anything like that in your song writing… So, what was the reason for that? Were your musical abilities in those days still too immature, maybe?!
Jussi: “It has nothing to do with our musical abilities (which are not very high!) It’s easy to sound like other bands but very hard to have an original sound… And originality was what we were and are after! To be honest, a huge amount of material was thrown away because we thought it sounded too much like someone else’s music…”
What inspired the band’s name? Did you pick that simply because it sounded good or did you have some kinda concept based around it?
Tero: “The name idea came from our former guitarist Erik Parviainen. He had read it somewhere and he suggested it as the name for the band, the rest of us were instantly “Yeah that’s fucking it man!” It sounded so powerful and of course still does. So there are no deeper meanings to it, just a cool name for the band.”
Have there already been any line-up changes up to the recordings of that demo or did the early band always consist of Esa Linden on guitar and vocals, Seppo Taatila on drums and you, Tero Laitinen on bass? You just mentioned Erik Parviainen, who was DEMIGOD’s original guitar player in 1990… whatever happened to him?
Tero: “Those four names you mentioned are the founder members of DEMIGOD. Erik however was departed from the band before the “Unholy Domain” demo. Reason for that were the musical differences that grew between him and the rest of us. Later he formed his own band called MYTHEM.”
Was it difficult back in those days to find likeminded musicians in Finland, especially in such a little town as Loimaa, or what made you go for a three piece line-up in the first place? How did you all get together? I mean, did anyone of you have any band / musical experiences prior to forming DEMIGOD?
Jussi: “Yes it was and still is!!! Everyone who ever played in DEMIGOD has had musical experience in one form or another and when DEMIGOD was formed those involved knew each other from before. We do get along very well. We have this kinda inside humour that no one else seem to understand.”
In 1991 you already released your first demo, “Unholy Domain”, which featured ‘Perpetual Ascent’ (intro), ‘Anxiety’, ‘Reincarnation’ and ‘Succumb To Dark’… Were those actually the first DEMIGOD songs you had written or did you already have some more finished to chose from?
Jussi: “No… there was a few songs before that. Here’s an old song title for you to laugh at… ‘Frozen Flesh Funeral’, also I want to mention that ‘Succumb To Dark’ was pretty much made the day before going to the studio…”
What can you tell us about the AMR-Studio in Viiala, where that demo was recorded in December 1990… Did you have to face any difficulties while recording in a studio for the first time?
Tero: “The only reason we chose that studio was because it was located near and it was cheap enough for us. It’s quite hard to remember the actual session, but as far as I recall it went quite smoothly. We visited the studio a few times afterwards too.”
I always found it rather strange that none of the songs from your “Unholy Domain” demo got used for the band’s debut album “Slumber Of Sullen Eyes” later on… What exactly was the reason for that? Weren’t you completely satisfied with those songs anymore or had the fact that the demo got re-released as a split LP with your countrymen NECROPSY in 1992 maybe something to do with it?!
Tero: “The demo “Unholy Domain”, was spread around quite widely and, as you mentioned, the split LP with Necropsy was available too. Also we had so many new songs we wanted to record and those demo songs kinda got out of date for us if I recall right. However, ‘Perpetual Ascent’, is in fact on the album…”
How did that split LP actually come about? Did you know NECROPSY before that already, was one of the bands the leading force behind that whole project or did Seraphic Decay contact you about the idea?? By the way, what kind of experiences did you make with that infamous company? Did the release help DEMIGOD’s popularity in any way?
Tero: “Seraphic Decay was behind the whole idea. They contacted us and we weren’t aware about their reputation at that time. We don’t have anything good to say about them… They ripped us off quite good. We didn’t even get any copies of the Split LP. We had to buy the son of a bitch! And they still got the master tape of “Unholy Domain”. It’s hard to say anything about what it did to our popularity. We never got see any numbers…”
“Unholy Domain” pretty quickly established the name DEMIGOD in the underground, so how many copies (approximately) got sold / spread around of it and did you get any negative response on it as well?
Tero: “Yep it really got more famous than we could have ever dreamed. Pretty hard to remember any numbers, but I think it sold / spread somewhere around 1500 – 2000 copies worldwide. Of course there was some negative response to it as well.”
I suppose that not too many people are aware of the fact that you recorded another (promo) demo in 1992, which featured ‘Transmigration Beyond Eternities’ and ‘Darkened’. Was that ever officially released or did you just use that in order to find a record label? Where did you actually record those two songs?
Jussi: “Unholy Domain” was the only demo tape that we ever “officially” released, so the other tapes we’ve done were made to promote us to the labels, or in some cases for our personal use. That demo tape was recorded in AMR studio as well.”
At that particular time DEMIGOD had already become a four piece band, so tell us a bit about how, when and where you got together with Jussi Kiiski who joined you as your second guitar player.
Tero: “Well someone introduced Jussi to us and told us that he was a potential guitarist, so after meeting him and a few heavy drinking sessions later Esa asked him if he would try out for the band… He turned out to be the right man for the job!!!”
In 1992 you finally signed with Drowned Productions for your debut full length “Slumber Of Sullen Eyes”. Were Drowned the first / only company to offer you a contract or what made you sign with a company from Spain? How do you judge your co-operation with them in retrospect?
Jussi: “We had a lot of offers from other labels as well, however Drowned Prod. seemed to be genuinely interested!!! So we signed a deal with them and everything worked out just fine.”
The album was recorded in July the same year at Tico-Tico studio… Back then the studio was still pretty much unknown, so how did you get the idea to record there? How long did you stay in the studio (incl. mix) and are you still satisfied with the way it turned out?
Jussi: “Finnish metallers Sentenced had recorded some stuff in Tico-Tico that sounded really cool to us, so that is pretty much why we went there… We stayed in the studio for 6 days which was not enough at all. To be honest we weren’t too much satisfied with the album even back then!”
By the time the album came out DEMIGOD had added another new member to the line-up… Mika Naapasalo had joined you on guitar, so what lead to Esa’s decision not to play guitar any longer? “Slumber Of Sullen Eyes” also featured the new band logo for the very first time… what made you go for a different logo at the time?
Jussi: “Esa’s decision was based on the fact that in live situations, both his vocals and guitar playing were disturbed by each other. So he just focused on vocals and it did help… We wanted to change our logo a bit and our good friend Turkka G. Rantanen who was behind the first logo too came to us with the new one and that was it. Quite radical change to the original one but a lot better I must say.”
After that album I pretty much lost sight with you guys and even thought that you might have had split up… But most recently I found out about a bunch of promo demos that got recorded and released between 1993 and 1999… Tell us a bit more about them and how the material differs to “Slumber Of Sullen Eyes”.
Jussi: “Well, we had all kinds of project bands and line up experiments with DEMIGOD, which led us to record a few demos. Best songs from those days ended up on “Shadow Mechanics” and that’s why the new album is quite diversified. Let me assure you, though, that the weirdest material did not end up on the album!”
The 1993 promo featured your new bass player Sami Vesanto for the first time… what happened to you at the time that you weren’t with the band any longer and why did you rejoin on guitar for the 1997 promo?
Tero: “There were things going on in the band that we would rather not talk about anymore, so let’s leave it at that. The rejoining thing happened because we’re friends and at the end of the day that is what this is all about – a few friends having fun and making music.”
The 1994 promo demo was the only one of those four which didn’t feature Esa, but a your guitar player Mika Haapasalo on vocals… What happened to Esa at the time? And did he rejoin just for the 1999 promo demo?
Tero: “Well as mentioned before we had lots of different experiments going on during those years. We didn’t have any goals or plans so who ever had the time to play in the band was in the line up basically, heh heh.”
Why did you split-up temporarily in between the 1994 and 1997 promo tapes? Were you disillusioned with the whole music business or the lack of success that DEMIGOD managed to achieve with those promo releases?
Jussi: “We jus didn’t have any fun making music, and it was mostly because we didn’t have enough players in the band.”
Back in 1993 Germany’s FLESHCRAWL did a very cool DEMIGOD cover (‘Reincarnation’) on their “Impurity” album… Did you ever get to hear that? How does it feel to get honoured that way?
Tero: ”The FLESHCRAWL dudes were very good friends of us, of course still are, we just haven’t been in touch in years, but back then we had some beer drinking sessions with them in Germany as well as when they visited us in Finland. We are very honoured about the cover version.”
When and how did you get together with Sami of Spikefarm Records, who offered DEMIGOD the opportunity to release another album after all those years? Were you excited about the offer straight away or did you have to make up your minds first, whether you should go for it or not?
Tero: “If I remember right, it was our good old friend Luxi Lahtinen who originally introduced our Promo ‘99 to the dudes at Spikefarm and we had some positive feedback from them already back in those days. Couple of years later… last spring in fact… Seppo went there and introduced more of our material to them: promos, demos, rehearsal tapes & shit like that. Luckily they liked the stuff and offered us a deal. Of course we were excited about it right away!”
Nine out of the eleven songs on your new album "Shadow Mechanics" are from those promo demos and only two are previously unreleased, so are those the newest DEMIGOD creations? What will happen to tracks like ‘The Essence’, ‘Twilight’, ‘Side By Side’ and especially ‘Concealed Way’ which you already had recorded for the album?
Jussi: “Those demos were never actually released, so as far as we are concerned every song on the album is previously unreleased. Those tracks you mentioned will most likely never get released in any way.”
By the way, I don’t really understand the explanation why ‘Concealed Way’ didn’t make it onto the new album in the end as the album length definitely isn’t too long, so was there a different reason not to use it maybe?
Tero: “In our opinion the album would have been too long. We had to see it as the whole picture and so the picture got completed when we dropped ‘Concealed Way’ off. The length of an album is also another matter of opinion, isn’t it?” (of course it is! I personally prefer albums with a playing time of approx. 40 – 45 minutes over the extremely long ones… I just thought the song got dropped for the simple reason that you already had reached the 76min mark, which obviously isn’t the case… luckily… – Ed.)
Tell us about the reason why you worked with three vocalists on the new album this time and how you got together with Tuomas Ala-Nissilä and Ali Leiniö additionally to Mika… Have you ever considered working with Esa again?
Tero: “We knew from the beginning that our songs just couldn’t have been sang in just one tone of voice. So we needed diversity on vocals. Those guys were able to give us just what we needed. It seemed to work really good I must add. Of course we will continue with one vocalist in the future. Sure it would be nice to work with Esa too, but he also has other interests in life so he couldn’t find enough time for a band anymore.”
There’s quite a big change in the musical direction from “Slumber Of Sullen Eyes” to “Shadow Mechanics”, so do you think it was a good decision to still release the new album under the DEMIGOD moniker?
Tero: “Yes because there has still been the same group behind all the material. Of course some stuff is very experimental, but still it is the hard fact that it is the direction that started to develod right after “Slumber…”
What actually lead to this drastic change in style? I mean, were you simply tired of the brutal Death Metal of the past? Did you feel limited in that genre as musicians?
Tero: “Yes we kinda got tired of the music that came out from us at that time. Not particularly of Death Metal or anything… So we started writing stuff that came out naturally and there it is on “Shadow…”, well most of it anyway. To be honest the whole scene got kinda dull at one time I think.”
Wouldn’t it be more loyal to your original fan base to write more material in the same style, and to develop as musicians within that particular genre, as opposed to surprise everyone with drastic changes?
Tero: “Then we’d find us in the same kind of position as before, in a way. I think writing as well as playing should be fun. We do what comes naturally and that seems to suit us. If we started to write whatever style is expected from us by an outsider it would kill the fun of it all instantly. Sure it must’ve been a great surprise to some old Death Metal die hards to hear some of the stuff from “Shadow…”. As it is kinda reflection of all that we’ve done in past ten years, what can you expect.”
Who was the driving force within the band to develop DEMIGOD into a more melodic, modern and thrashy direction?
Tero: “I think it was the sum of many things. I believe it was Esa who pushed the thrashier direction in the first place. I loved the direction. Esa and I had been listening to Thrash Metal since 1984 or something, hehe. Then came other things and stuff so there is no one in person to point on who’s responsible. It’s the whole group.”
I suppose that your musical influences have also changed ever since your debut album, so which bands / artists had a big impact on you over the last couple of years?
Tero: “This may sound stupid, but I can’t think of any. We haven’t really specified any bands that may have influenced us. We still basically listen to the same kind of music as before; Death Thrash, old fashioned Heavy Metal, Death Metal, whatever Metal.”
It seems to me that bands from Finland are constantly trying to reach new musical boundaries as all those bands who started out as brutal Death Metal (SENTENCED, AMORPHIS, DEMIGOD etc.) developed into something completely different over the years… What do you think is the reason for that?
Tero: “Hard to say about those other bands. For us the change has become through experiments. Don’t worry we’re not going any more stranger than we are, heh. Besides I personally think that bands that have variety in their songs can keep up my interest a lot longer. The newer songs that we have already written are actually quite kick in the face kinda shit, so don’t shred your leather pants yet…”
After the recordings, your original drummer Seppo left DEMIGOD due to his commitment with his work and family. Did his decision to leave was a big surprise to you or were you already aware of the fact that he probably won’t continue on with you for too long?
Jussi: “No, we knew about it long before. But still it left a huge hole in our band, we miss him a lot, especially when we’re writing new material. Seppo always had the best visions about the arrangements.”
So now, you’re rehearsing with Tuomas on drums as his replacement… Is he a drummer in the first place now or will he do both, singing and drumming? Have you never considered asking Jarkko Rantanen again, who already helped you out in the past at rehearsals every now and then and even was your stand-in vocalist at a live show in 1998?
Tero: “Tuomas seems to be able to play every goddamn instrument on this planet. He’s also a great guitarist. You should hear him play the trumpet. Tuomas will concentrate on vocals more in the future as the new drummer is on his way… Jarkko is too busy with his own band Adramelech so we won’t be bothering him anymore, I hope.”
What are your plans for the near future, now that a new album is finally out? Did you already get any response from old DEMIGOD fans? How did they react on the new material?
Jussi: “Now the most important thing for us is to concentrate on writing new material for the next album. We are also aiming to do some live shows in the future but there’s still lots of rehearsing to be done before it’s possible. There has been very different feedback on the album. Mostly positive but everybody seem to have a different opinion about what are the strongest points of the album.”
“Slumber Of Sullen Eyes” has become a collectors item by now and people are paying very high prices for it already, so has there never been talk about a re-issue maybe?
Jussi: “Yes, there’s been a few discussions about it, but nothing’s confirmed yet so…”
What can you tell us about the DEMIGOD bootleg CD which features your old demo stuff… Are you happy about the release?
Jussi: “We could never be happy with a product that is been released without our permission!!! Further more we’ve only had one demo (“Unholy Domain”) that was meant to be heard by others. So any bootleg is a bad idea, whether it’s DEMIGOD or any other band!!!”
If there’s anything else we might have forgotten to mention, feel free to talk about that now or end this interview in any way you like
Jussi: “I just want to remind everyone that DEMIGOD is alive and kicking!! We’re writing new songs so it should take less than 10 years until our third album comes out, haha. Also I wanna thank you for the interview… so that’s all folks, see ya!!”
Tero: “Don’t forget to keep your alcohol balance in a right level. Cheerz!!”