INTERVIEW w/ BLOODLANDS
Interview by Petri da Costa
Live pictures by Jetro Staven
Formed a few years ago in Helsinki, Finland, with some members from different hardcore bands, Bloodlands has recently released its debut album “Nihilistic Dimension”. I sat down with vocalist Jaakko and guitarist Olli to talk about the band’s formation, their first record and much more.
So let’s start with an obvious question: does the name of the band comes from that Cannibal Corpse song or why you decided on the name Bloodlands?
Olli: Well, actually yes. We were thinking on so many names, nothing seemed to sound right and all the good names that we thought of were already taken. I think it was Atte [Bloodlands’ second guitarist] who said Bloodlands, he said it was a name of a Cannibal Corpse song, and to be honest at first I thought “Isn’t that a bit cheezy?”. But in a way it suits us…
Jaakko: Then there’s also this historical meaning. I think there are books or stuff written about it. In a nut shell there was this area around World War 2, where Stalin’s and Hitler’s troops were fighting each other, many people got killed there that the story goes that the lands were flooded with blood, so it was called “bloodlands”.
Olli: Yeah the name of the book is actually “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin”. But we only found out about it after the Cannibal Corpse song.
Olli: I don’t remember what year it was when we first thought about doing the band. I think from the start it was pretty much Jaako, me and Atte. We just wanted to play something different from our current bands, or back then “current” bands, I don’t play in any other band anymore. We wanted to have more metal influences because we all like Suffocation, Dying Fetus, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, all the basic US death metal stuff. So we wanted to have more of that influence and I just had some riffs I wanted to use. I think it took two years before we had any line up, but then we asked Jaakko [Bloodland’s drummer] from Ratface and just went on from there.
Jaakko: I think we had this idea back then to have actually three singers, but then we just realized that it’d be so difficult. We needed just something simple…simple guys, simple music [laughs] and simple set up. So when I moved here in Helsinki around 3 or 4 years ago we decided that it’d be a good time to do this.
What kind of music influences did you bring to the recording of “Nihilistic Dimension”? Was it supposed to be mainly hardcore and death metal? Was the idea for you guys to bring the best of both worlds?
Olli: Yeah, actually it was. When we first thought about the line up, Jaakko mentioned the three vocalists and we thought about having the “hardcore sounding guy”, then the gutural growls and then something in between. Then we realized, as Jaakko said, that i’d be a lot easier with just one vocalist. I have the experience of a band with two vocalists and that got difficult already…
Jaakko: Well, actually Atte backs up now….
Olli: Yeah, so now we have the gutural back ups and I think they’ll be present on the future releases but now [for the debut record] it was only Jaakko. But yeah the idea was to really have some blast beats coz I don’t think it’d suit for example in No One Is Safe, the band I used to play in, and we didn’t want to mix any more metal influences into that band. Now it was pretty much like mixing the best of both worlds as you said it.
Tell us about the recording process which was summer 2013, how was that and where did you guys recorded?
Olli: Actually most of the recording was done in March of 2013. During 2012 we made all those songs, it was really quick and I was really surprised that we managed to have over 10 tracks worth of music. So we thought that we can record all of these tracks and by March 2013 everything was ready. Actually we booked Vesku from Laappeenranta to record in March, so we had a deadline and it went pretty smoothly. We didn’t have all the lyrics and vocal arrangements yet but it didn’t matter coz we have worked like this before, doing the tracks and then doing the vocals later on.
Jaakko: Vesku gave us some great ideas about the arrangements as we were recording the vocals so that was really good. It was pretty smooth, but the main vocals got a bit delayed.
Olli: I think we had the final recording and the mastering in November or something. [laughs] After that it still didn’t get released, which was August this year. It’s always like that when you are a new band and you don’t have any label. Actually we tried to find some label but then we thought that’s too much hastle, we are a new band, no one wants to take a risk, we just want to get the music out.
Since you guys recorded last year and the album was recently released, did you now listen and think “Oh, maybe we should have done this differently”? Or do you think the record came out the way you wanted?
Jaakko: I’m very satisfied with it. Actually there are maybe two things that I’d like to have added, two small things when thinking about the vocals, but I’m happy with the vocals.
Olli: I think even though you have a long time to think about the arrangements, vocals or riffs or whatever, you always have something that you’d have done differently, but overall it was such a smooth process. We listened to the songs quite a lot when we recorded and now for six months I didn’t listen to it at all, but now I did and it still sounded really good, so I’m really pleased with the end result.
Was it difficult for you [Jaakko] doing the vocals because you were used to playing drums and now you switched to vocals? So how was this change for you?
Jaakko: Well, I had some practice in the past, some bands that never turned into “real bands”, stuff like that, but yeah in the beginning it really wore down my voice. But overall recording the vocals went quite smoothly.
Olli: To be honest, with my previous bands [Worth the Pain, No One Is Safe], all the vocalists had some problems with their voices, even though vocals are their “main instrument” it’s always hard to scream. Doing that over 10 songs is too much for the voice, and of course you want for the recording to sound as perfect as it can…
Jaakko: Or as aggressive as you can. But still I don’t have a technique or anything, what comes out comes out. So what happens, happens you know. [laughs]
Olli: So far I have liked how it sounds so no real problems then. [laughs]
What’s the idea behind the cover for the debut and who did it?
Olli: It was Ville from Angerdesign. We had some ideas and we talked within the band about different concepts of what kind of art we want coz we definitely wanted to go for the metal “look”. Actually the logo was made by our drummer. Then we wanted to have something that was metal as well, I think we ditched one or two ideas that weren’t good enough. We weren’t pretty much brainstorming what should be on the cover Most of us are fans of different horror and gore movies and series too, and in the Hannibal tv series there was this toten pole made of parts of human body so I thought it was a cool image. We wanted to have something similar to it but we didn’t wanted to just copy it, so we came up with the idea that it could be some hindu god or something. We are not mocking only that religion but all religions. [laughs]
Jaakko: Basically for me it can represent any god in some form, obviously a quiet ugly form.
Olli: Not the spiritual form but…
Jaakko: Yeah, coz I think it’s quite ridiculous that some people try to materialize this god so they can worship or whatever. So for me that represents some god which is made of human bodies. A lot of people have died and are still dying for different religions, so for me it [the cover] represents that.
Olli: The ugly version of organized religion. In some sense we just wanted to have something brutal so. [laughs]
Obviously. [laughs] You talked a bit about releasing the debut by yourselves, so was it difficult to get somebody to be interested in releasing your music? Especially because you are not confined to one genre, you aren’t just straight “hardcore” or just straight “death metal”, you have both. And do you see that nowadays is more difficult to take a chance on a new band?
Olli: I think in general it’s really hard to get anyone to release music from a new band and these days it seems that it’s hard for any label to start releasing albuns. I think it’s one of the worst ideas to form a label [laughs] coz no one buys like physical records anymore. I didn’t think that we are not just straight hardcore or metal, I didn’t think about that, but I understand that labels don’t want to risk it and release something from a new band. I think most of the records get sold at the shows, we only played a few shows before we recorded so I try to be realistic about it coz I have released some records myself, I had this really small label [On My Own Records]. I was stupid enough to release records from bands that didn’t play too many shows, so it was really hard to sell the cds or vinyls. We sent out a few emails, we didn’t send any physical promos, we just thought it was too much hastle and it’s easier just do it ourself.
How do you see Bloodlands? I mean, is this a full time band or? Because your dummer has other bands too…
Olli: He has so many projects and he’s so busy working at the tattoo studio [Paradise Tattoo], so…
But do you plan to make this band be more active or like a fun project and play when you have time? What’s the goal for you guys?
Olli: I think we try to be realistic about that, we understand that we can’t never be a band that plays like 5 shows a month. I think for us once or twice a month would be like the maximum. [laughs] But we also discussed with our drummer that if there’s any good chances to do a mini tour in Europe or something, we definitely want to do it. I think one of the most things about playing in a band is playing shows, and playing shows to different people. Recording and putting the album was the mandatory thing, so now we just want to play some shows. [laughs] We don’t want to play as many shows as possible, we want to play good shows with metal bands, with hardcore bands. So I wouldn’t call it a project band, but not a full time band…
Somewhere in between then? [laughs]
Olli: Yeah, something like that.
Talking about the gigs you have been playing, it’s been mainly with hardcore bands, but as you said you want to play with metal bands too, so do you see that happening soon? Are you guys trying to get more sort of metal gigs?
Jaakko: Well, I don’t think we are choosing, if we get a good gig then we’ll play, no matter what bands play. I think that you start meeting new people and more opportunities will be avaliable. I think quite soon that will happen, hopefully.
Olli: Actually one of the reasons we wanted to ask Make [Ulti Make – Tukkanuotta’s vocalist] to be in our album was to get our band known among the metal audience. Well, I have no idea if Tukkanuotta is a huge thing in Finland, but those are really cool guys and we’ve played with them many times, when I was in my previous band and also our drummer’s other band, Ratface, has played with them. But yeah Make is such a cool guy, he really liked our music. I think the only reason we’ve played mostly hardcore shows is because we know hardcore gig organizers, so it’s a lot easier to get a show that way. But yeah let’s see what happens.
So now that the debut is out, what’s the plan for Bloodlands?
Olli: We have some ideas, of course it’d be nice to play some shows now that the album is out. It’s always more fun to play when people know the songs. We also have some plans of what sort of records we want to release next, it’s not going to be a full lenght or anything, maybe one or two split 7”. Nothing is confirmed, so maybe we shouldn’t talk yet about it.
Well, good luck guys and thanks!