Guitarist Jukka Kyrö
Interview by Niko Karppinen
National Napalm Syndicate is one of the oldest speed´n´thrash metal bands in Finland. Lots of water has flown under the bridges of Northern Finland since band was formed in 1986. I had an opportunity to talk with one of the original members of the band, Jukka Kyrö. N.N.S. just released their new album DEVOLUTION OF SPECIES so it was time to meet under the meat hook, speak the truth and of course shoot straight.
ABOUT NEW ALBUM AND WORKING AT THE STUDIO
When listening to the brand-new DEVOLUTION OF SPECIES album I was surprised about the “rocking” sound of N.N.S. You certainly left some room for the songs instead of traditional thrash/speed -metal elements. Was this something what you originally planned to do?
Yeah, it was. We started to look for totally new sound for us. We were searching for a heavier and more melodic approach to the record. But have to admit that there’s some kind of AC/DC -touch in the record – eh! Olli Kykkänen mixed the whole thing and to be honest sounds from the 70s we were asking for. Olli actually produced the whole album and have to say we’re satisfied.
The album itself contains a lot of heavy songs. Do you personally think that influences come through too easily? For example “Dancing Days” has some similarities with one famous Entombed -track.
That’s really interesting man! Make (Markku Jokikokko), did that song and I know he doesn’t own any Entombed albums at all. I bet he cannot even recognize the band in the case if somebody would play him Entombed songs. Working title for the “Dancing Days” was “Anthrax”! In my opinion Tero’s the main man behind Entombed -influences in our band. But if the influences are coming through I guess there’s nothing you can do. Exodus and Slayer are both so deeply tattooed in our minds and there’s no way to get away from them! Old-school thrash metal is still presented in the sound of N.N.S. but not that much than before.
The album contains two cover-songs; Murderdolls´ ”Die My Bride” and Black Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules” as a bonus track. In “the Mob Rules” there’s also Kepa Salmirinne and Timo Käsmä from Zero Nine. (To those who are not aware of the facts, Zero Nine’s one of the oldest heavy metal band in Finland. Their second album BLANK VERSE was produced by Ian Gillan in 1982). How did this take place?
Well, originally we had a plan to record about 10 different cover songs and spread them all over. Because of different reasons we finished only 3 songs and Murderdolls -cover was Tero’s proposal and we liked it so much that it ended up in a record. “The Mob Rules” was a tribute to the hardest band in a world and so to speak a salute to the one of the oldest heavy metal band in Finland, Zero Nine. To put this straight; people should pay attention and respect Zero Nine a hell of a lot more than they used to be. These guys really deserve that! They’re fine bunch of hard working professionals!
You obviously had some connections with the Zero Nine -guys already before you decided to record “The Mob Rules” -cover?
That’s true. We’ve seen each others during the years in nightlife; both bands are living in Oulu and done some gigs together. I started to dig their stuff in the beginning of the 80s and I was able to see them play countless times in live. We’ve got along fine; it doesn’t matter that we’re from different side of genres musically.
First thing listeners might notice while listening DEVOLUTION OF SPECIES is Ilkka Järvenpää’s really versatile voice. As far as I know he’s also singing in The Perforators, do other members of N.N.S. have any side-projects?
Well I’m playing also in Amazing Tails (melodic hardcore band) and I’m playing with Tero, we have some sort of a punk rock band. Jari’s playing only in N.N.S. right now just like Make, they’re both pure “Syndicate” men.
How did you come up with title DEVOLUTION OF SPECIES? What does that actually mean?
Ilkka came up with idea. He wanted to describe society and people present day point-of-view. How modern society’s falling down to bottom of the drain and humanism is slowly dying. Here in Finland politicians are like trained monkeys, so the cover of the album fits very well to situation we have here right now. Well I have to apologize we’re insulting chimpanzees that way. Perhaps a bit too much… Ha!
The cover of the album is different from other regular metal-albums. I bet this was what you wanted to do? Right?
That’s right. We wanted to get some distance between us and so called metal-scene nowadays. All the covers are made with Photoshop and are full of devil-figures, skulls and blood… Back in the old days bands used to spend a lot more time to design album covers. We actually wanted to go further on with that and create something alike with Pink Floyd and other proge-groups been doing. We wanted to evoke new ideas, discussion and even reactions with the cover and I really believe we succeeded with that pretty damn well. Response has been different; some people been liked a lot about the cover and wanted to know more about the idea behind that. Though some people been preaching that cover’s not METAL enough! Yeah, for sure… Lassi Junttila was the guy who worked the covers for us and he just worked it out and got those monkeys for us. It’s actually our band standing on the identification-line like monkeys.
How much did you influence the overall production of the album?
Well we recorded the whole album in our own Helgate Studios but we mixed, mastered and produced it with Olli Kykkänen. I was involved with mastering and I was asking similar sound like Rolling Stones did with the “Exile on Mainstreet” more rocking sound… Like playing live. I wanted to have sound which was far away from modern compressed and clean sound. So we can say we took a risk with it.
You mentioned that the album was mixed with the analog table in a ”traditional way”. Was that because you wanted “warmer” sound to the album?
Yes. Olli just had got a really great old Neve mixing table. We used Pro Tools when recording but mixing has been done analogically and I’d like to mention that there are no samples in the album at all.
Were there any changes in studio? Did you do anything different than usually?
Well we did the recording the same way like we’ve been working for years. We worked as diverse order, first we played all songs in with the click and after that we added drum-tracks in. This time the working process was slightly different than before because all the other members of the band had their own songs too. Before this almost all the songs were made by me and Make. I was having extremely good vibes about the sessions and Tero surprised me most for bringing the old-school thrash-metal elements into our songs.
Jukka, you’re exclusively playing Amfisound guitars which are handmade. How many custom guitars do you have and how did this co-operation with the Amfisound start?
I have two handmade Amfisound guitars one custom Les Paul model and one SG-model. They are really great guitars to play. I saw an interview in a magazine and I contacted Amfisound and asked them for prices and we got a deal. That was when I was playing in Burning Point, nowadays those endorsement deals are personal. The whole Amfisound-company’s been growing much bigger than a few years ago and I think those guitars I got were one of the first artist-made models at the time.
There are also plenty of international artists whom are playing Amfisound guitars too?
Amfisound is beginning to become pretty popular abroad too and have to say I’m not surprised at all. For example I once got a Jackson custom shop guitar and my Amfisound guitars beats it anytime.
NEW RECORD LABEL, NEW DEAL… AND ABOUT REUNIONS
N.N.S. is now on Violent Journey Records and the main man behind the label is Vesa Ruokangas who’s actually your old singer. How did you start to warm up the idea of working together?
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Vesa’s definitely the right guy for running our business. He’s a really down-to-earth person and knows exactly what to do and how. Vesa contacted me couple months later on and offered us a deal. It certainly was easy decision for us and our co-operation’s been working fine thus far.
You’re also experienced in running a record label. You had your own label called Poison Arrows. Do think that labels are way too careful with new bands nowadays?
All the companies are doing the same and are signing crappy bands; they’re seeking new Children of Bodom and the next new Nightwish. Though Vesa is running risks and releases the bands he likes.
So if you could send a message to the labels it would contain something like ”run a risk” and ”break genres”?
Definitely. The whole metal scene is going to be breaking down once again when all the labels are releasing the same shit. Who the hell need those endless lines of gothic bands with female singers or all those power metal bands? I’m really missing the old times when a new record might even surprise you with the first listen!
When looking back in time N.N.S. was one of the first thrash/speed-bands in Finland with a record deal. Since 2000 we’ve had a huge boom of reunions for example from such bands as Maple Cross, Prestige, Stone, Sacred Crucifix, etc. What do you think about all this?
I don’t really care, you can find out pretty fast whose making money and who’s really making new music and wants to develop the sound of the band further. In Finland there are not even that many bands that are able to make some money by playing. We started again because we felt with Make that we had something left unfinished and we definitely wanted to work together.
So it was pretty natural to work under the moniker N.N.S. again?
Oh yes! We just sat down with our guitars and had a few beers we started to make new material straight away. We never thought that the band would be named anything other than N.N.S.
BACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN AND FUTURE´S BRIGHT AHEAD
Do you think that you’ve gained so much experience during the years that you won’t be surprised anymore when you’re going to play a gig in a worn-old van and have no money for gas and the only salary you get from a gig is cold pizza at the backstage?
What pizza? Ha! Nothing surprises me anymore. When I was playing with Amazing Tails in my wild punk-years and had gigs everywhere in Finland I think I saw everything. You don’t do this if you’re not somehow disturbed or mentally unstable and own a mind like 16 year old teenager. But hey, what else you could do? I’ve been playing metal my whole life and you just can’t throw it away!
Do you ever feel, when meeting young bands with lots of expectations and dreams that you liked to say “if you only knew”?
Every time I see young band playing on stage. I still think you should experience everything by yourselves. There is always slight chance that your band would hit big. If I should advise young bands I would definitely advise them to seek their own sound. I’m sure it’ll help a lot if you really want to make career.
What kind of set list does N.N.S. have nowadays? Do you still play old songs?
Of course we do. We still even play “Life is Pain” from our first demo. Our set lists are divided in three parts and it contains stuff from all our albums. We used to play couple of covers too in the end of the gig. Though I don’t think we’ve got enough old songs because we already had our 10 year break with the band.
You mentioned in some interviews that punk- and metal scenes differs from each other very much? Do you still feel the same?
Years ago I felt the punk-scene was more comfortable for myself and there was certainly the ´rock-police attitude´ missing. Bands got along easier and were doing things together. In the beginning of the 90s the whole metal-scene was being torn apart and bands were focusing on playing as technically as they could. During those days I felt myself an outsider. Today I’m not so much aware about the punk-scene at all and the metal-scene seems to be alright.
Do you think that there are similarities between the underground metal scene during the 80s and the punk scene? Way back in the 80s in the metal Underground people were doing a lots of things together.
At some point yes, but I felt that there was huge distance between Oulu and Helsinki in the metal scene mentally. That was not the case with the punk-scene, bands worked together more intensively from Oulu to Helsinki. Back in the old days when we came to play in Southern Finland people did not welcome us that warmly.
What plans does N.N.S. have for the near future?
We have already started to work on new material and we’re planning to tour around in Finland in the autumn. We’ll probably enter the studio in the summer of 2010 and of course we’re doing as many gigs as we can!
You got any last words?
Check out Violent Journey Records and buy some new stuff! Downloading kills music!