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Interview With Nalle Österman, Drummer For Gandalf!


Interview added - October 23, 1999
Gandalf: line-up for "Deadly Fairytales"

Metal Rules!!
Tell me about your band name, obviously someone in the band likes JRR Tolkien?

Nalle:
I came up with the name; ironically I haven't even read the Tolkien books by myself as opposed to Timo. The name Gandalf struck into my mind when I was playing computer games like The Hobbit in my childhood. Gandalf seemed to be a strong and powerful character - unlike us, haha - so when it came down to think of a name for the band the name Gandalf just struck into my head.

 

Metal Rules!!
For those who have yet to hear your music who would you compare it to as a reference point?

Nalle:
Finnish journalists have compared it to Sentenced, the Swedes to In Flames and the Brits to Carcass, so there you go. It's cool that no-one has found a common denominator 'cause I have wanted to write music that might remind of some bands but that sounds just like us. Perhaps I would compare our music to Marilyn Manson, if that might increase our sales...

 

Metal Rules!!
I've read that you're not too fond of the comparison to In Flames and that you'd love to tour with them just to kick their ass...Do you still have this attitude and do you understand why people are comparing both bands?

Nalle:
You have done your homework! Yeah, I'm not fond of these comparisons because we are two different bands. In Flames is more about those widdly-melodies, whereas we're more about groove. I can understand these comparisons to a certain extent, but if someone accuses us of being an In Flames-clone, then I'll kill that fucker! And I fuckin' mean it too! It would be cool to tour with In Flames though to see what kind of response we would get from their crowds.

 

Metal Rules!!
I hear a mixture of bands like later day Carcass (and BlackStar) along with Entombed and yes some In Flames style. Would that be accurate to you?

Nalle:
Anything you say, baby, anything you say. Personally I would call our music well-crafted metal with strong and powerful riffs & catchy and memorable hooks. One band whose influence I won't deny is Entombed, because Nicke Andersson is probably the person who got me to play drums and write my own songs, but the other bands you mentioned have never been an influence in my songwriting.

 

Metal Rules!!
So many great bands have emerged from Finland - Amorphis, Children of Bodom, Sentenced, Stratovarius and of course Gandalf. What do you think of these other bands?

Nalle:
In my books the new Amorphis' album Tuonela is probably the best metal album released this year, and it brought my belief back into metal in a time when I couldn't have cared less about metal. All bands you mentioned do their own thing very well and deserve all recognition they get.

 

Metal Rules!!
Are they (and Gandalf) as popular at home as they have become abroad?

Nalle:
All bands you mentioned (except for us, ha-ha) have gotten fairly high in the charts in Finland and Stratovarius even managed to get as no. 1 in the Top 40 album charts with their latest album Destiny and getting gold for it. I think Sentenced got also gold for Frozen, and Amorphis & Children Of Bodom have gotten pretty near the same status, so one could say that the demand and popularity for these bands is high. And I see there being a growing interest for us as well, which obviously is nothing but positive.

 

Metal Rules!!
What countries did you get to play for while promoting "Deadly Fairytales" - were you able to get on any the bill for any of the European metal festivals?

Nalle:
So far we haven't gotten to play abroad which is a pity 'cos I feel that first and foremost we're a live band, but I believe that things happen in this life when they're meant to happen and it wasn't meant to be... yet. But sooner or later a tour abroad will happen. Just buy our records and then we might have a chance to play to foreign crowds as well. The only festival we played this year was the Tuska metal fest here in Hellsinki with Dark Tranquillity, Sentenced and Amorphis among others, where we had the chance to show ourselves to approx 2000 punters. Hope there will be more of those in the next millennium!

 

Metal Rules!!
What other bands have you played with or would like to play with?

Nalle:
We have had the chance to play on a few festivals where Megadeth, Slayer and Pantera have been headlining among Finnish gods, but the other than that it's been always a pleasure to support Sentenced, which has happened a half a dozen times by now. It would be great to play with gods like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC or Metallica, but usually when it comes down to secure support slots for those kind of bands, it's not a case of how good you are but how much money you can squeeze to gain a spot on a big tour or bill. And I don't know whether Earache has or wants to put such money on a tour if they can't that money recouping... Oh hell, let's talk about something else, shall we!

 

Metal Rules!!
What do you do when you're not recording or playing in Gandalf?

Nalle:
Listening to good music (lately AC/DC, Andy McCoy, Ozzy Osbourne solo stuff, Jan Stenfors, Michael Monroe, Iggy Pop, Motorhead, Skid Row, Entombed, Suede), hanging out with friends or my girlfriend, getting drunk, playing guitar, going to gigs, watching some cool movies or videos... Just usual mellow stuff.

 

Metal Rules!!
Are you now signed to Earache or are you still with their sub-label Wicked World?

Nalle:
The recording contract says Earache whereas the label on the back of the record says Wicked World, so... Personally I don't give a fuck as long as the records get into the shops! It's the same people working for the same cause whether it's Earache or Wicked World, the only difference being the name.

 

Metal Rules!!
What label will the next CD be available under?

Nalle:
This is a question I can't answer myself. If you want necessarily to have an answer for this one then it's probably the best to make all enquiries to Earache.

 

Metal Rules!!
Timo must be quite the fan of Morbid Angel's lead guitarist Trey considering that he dedicated his playing on the song "Dark Memories" to him?!?! Has he ever met Trey?

Nalle:
Timo dedicated that solo for Trey 'cos Trey's playing has touched him very deeply and he wanted to make this as a polite gesture the same way as Trey did on Domination (I recall) where he dedicated his playing for Eddie Van Halen. I doubt Timo has ever met Trey, but I suppose that meeting would happen on friendlier basis than when Timo bumped into Dave Mustaine.

 

Metal Rules!!
Since you are a drummer, who are you favorite drummers and who has influenced you?

Nalle:
I already mentioned Nicke Andersson, who has been my biggest influence when it comes down to drumming and writing music, but other than that I also admire the talents of Dave Lombardo, Gene Hoglan, Pete Sandoval (especially in Terrorizer), Abaddon (especially his pyrotechnique), Chris Kontos (on Machine Head's debut Burn My Eyes), Mikkey Dee (especially in King Diamond), Philty "Animal" Taylor (ex-Motorhead), Jimmy Clark (ex-Demolition 23) and Vinnie Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio), not forgetting Finnish gods like Sami Kuoppamaki (check out Kingston Wall, on whom Amorphis made a cover of for their My Kantele-ep) and Twist Twist Erkinharju (check out Peer Günt, who's like AC/DC, Motorhead and ZZ Top mixed into one, only better).

 

Metal Rules!!
I noticed in the credits that you are the main songwriter for the band. Do you write the songs on guitar or what?

Nalle:
Yep.

 

Gandalf -CD coverMetal Rules!!
What are your favorite songs on the CD?

Nalle:
It varies from time to time, but the ones I like the least are Dark Memories, The Price Of My Deeds, Forlorn and Stronger Than Hell, and I doubt if we'll play them anymore when the next album comes out.

 

Metal Rules!!
I read about your first unreleased record "Live to Suffer." You said it didn't properly represent Gandalf - how is that and what happened?

Nalle:
Originally we signed for an obscure Austrian label Dark Matter and recorded an album which goes under the name "Live To Suffer". The problems began when we weren't happy with the end result, whereas Dark Matter would have been completely happy to release it. Obviously they would have gotten their money back from the sales but we didn't want to dirt our name by releasing a product that we couldn't stand behind. Also by that time I started to receive strange faxes and letters from people who claimed that Dark Matter couldn't handle their job. I started noticing that too when I couldn't get in touch with those people as their phone lines where disconnected and they were moving from one place to the next. So when Earache contacted us I was already keen on getting rid of Dark Matter. When I pointed out some facts for Dark Matter about us wanting to get on Earache, they started to make calculations of how they would lose something like £400 000 (about 700 000 US$) on the three albums we were signed for and that they would already lose something like £100 000 (about 180 000 US$) with our debut if it wasn't released, but as generous people they would let us go to Earache for £50 000 (about 90 000 US$). Well, Earache wouldn't have anything of that so we thought that this is it, we split the band and do something else then. When I pointed this out to Dark Matter, they suddenly realized they couldn't win and let us go for £2000 (approx 3400 US$). So we got rid of the deal and recorded "Deadly Fairytales" which includes five songs that were meant to be on "Live To Suffer", whereas the rest of the material is new stuff. The production on "Live To Suffer" is crap and even the playing doesn't do justice to the songs. Shit happens.

 

Metal Rules!!
Will the songs from "Live To Suffer" ever be re-recorded or released or do you prefer to just move on and forget the whole thing?

Nalle:
Marionette, The Cradle, Dark Memories, Forlorn and Never Again would have been on "Live To Suffer" but were re-recorded for "Deadly Fairytales". There's a lot of good songs on there and I assume we'll record one song (The Dragon) for our next album, which hopefully will be out early next year.

 

Metal Rules!!
What do you think of the endless stream of tribute albums that have been coming out lately? How about the new one HOLY DIO??? Have you, or would you, contribute to any such tributes?

Nalle:
I prefer the originals. Obviously it might be cool for a band to record a version of a fav band, but usually those versions should be left for the band to hear, 'cos in too many occasions it's delirious to have to bear with useless covers. On Holy Dio I enjoy only the version of Egypt by Doro, which has an excellent sound and also gives new depth to the songs, but when you have drivel such as "We Rock" by Grave Digger, there should be a warrant to shoot those guys! I could think of making a cover for a tribute album, if it would do the song justice, but otherwise don't. Some examples of good covers are Slayer's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and Disorder, Abattoir's Ace Of Spades and Entombed's Black Breath, but most of the time covers and tributes are just useless.

 

Metal Rules!!
Have you been writing new material for the next CD?

Nalle:
Yeah, we are now in a stage where we are putting new songs together. It was hard for a long time but now the pieces are coming together. So far we have been playing seven new songs and there's songs that we haven't even started rehearsing yet, so I'm really confident about how things are finally turning out. The rest of the guys have been telling me how different the new songs sound, but I don't see it like that. I still can hear the music being catchy, groovy and intense, but maybe the difference is that they have never heard it this good... Well, it's hard for me to judge how good the songs are 'cos obviously I like them a lot, but I'm very nervous about how they will be received 'cos they are quite different from what the bands we have been compared to are doing and/or have been doing. I'd say there's a wider spectrum of songs: the harder stuff is even harder and the more subtle stuff is even more atmospheric. And obviously the heavy stuff is heavier...

 

Metal Rules!!
When can we expect to hear the new material?

Nalle:
We hope to get in the studio early next year and have the album released in Spring 2000 at least in Europe, but there isn't an exact schedule just yet. We're planning to do some demoing of the new songs soon to see how the songs work out.

 

Metal Rules!!
If there is ANY other Gandalf news or happenings please let us know!!

Nalle:
Our line-up will change for our next record. Our 2nd guitar player Sami isn't in the band anymore and it looks like our bass man Kirka won't be playing with us anymore either. We have a replacement for Sami already (whose name won't be announced just yet), but we have been in trouble trying to find a replacement on bass. But I believe that things will work out in the end. 

Remember... Gandalf will ROCK HELL!



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