Chaosweaver. Puppetmaster of pandemonium. Controller of disorder.
Max Power and Thab Picard
Interview by Luxi Lahtinen
These 7 Finnish modern messiahs of everything sinister and majestic, have existed since 2004. Within those 4 years they have managed to turn many people´s attention toward them by their atmospheric and ominous sounding dark metal which has been finely culminated on the band´s debut album, titled PUPPETMASTER OF PANDEMONIUM; a bombastic collection of a greater musical art that shouldn´t question the fact of how ambitious and insane the troops of Chaosweaver are.
PUPPETMASTER OF PANDEMONIUM is just the beginning for more madness to come, and the band´s bassist Max Power and keyboardist Thab Picard were keen on diving deeper into their dark and unexplored waters and telling more what kind of plans they have for a world domination…
HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED
First off, would you reveal a little bit how ‘the puppet show of pandemonium’ of Chaosweaver got started originally? In the early days of the band, line-up changes seemed to be kinda usual for the band, but nowadays there are 7 individuals in Chaosweaver, so could you tell briefly how the band’s current line-up was found?
Max: Chaosweaver started as a dark metal project consisting of Kole, myself and this guy called Hursti, who has long since faded from the ranks, in 2004. Kole and Hursti played guitar, and I took care of the keyboards before moving on to bass. It was clear from the very beginning that this band would focus its energy in writing the gloomiest, strangest and most pompous music as possible, but without loosing the grip on catchiness and the bombastic elements of classical music. It was – and still is – kind of a quest for the ultimate soundtrack to your darkest nightmares, you know. A lot of band members came and went, but the line-up on PUPPETMASTER OF PANDEMONIUM is pretty much a collective of dudes I’ve personally known for a long time. Jack (the owner of Studio Perkele) recorded our first demo, and when we were in a situation, where we had to search for a new drummer, he was our number one choice. Ezzymania 2000 was asked to join the band simply because he’s the craziest shredder we know, and a very cool guy to hang out with. Thab, who writes for the same music mags as I do, was found by an ad at Imperiumi.net, a very popular Finnish metal portal. I got acquainted with Albert, when he was recording the debut album of his other band, Verjnuarmu. He’s a big drinker, industrious eater and a very accurate rhythm guitarist, so he was a perfect match for this notorious gang of mischiefs. Besides, he had been a fan of Chaosweaver’s music from the beginning, and has a lot of experience as a studio engineer, which was very helpful during the recording process of this album. Now, what can I say about Cypher Commander, haha… He a down-to-earth type of a guy, and one hell of a vocalist – one of the best in the biz, if you ask me. He was going to guest star on the album anyway, so it was easy to convince him to sing the whole fuckin’ thing after Kole decided that he wanted to concentrate on guitar only. This decision was made at the studio whilst making the record, I think it was on the day of his arrival. Lucky for us, he’s a member of the band now.
PUPPETMASTER OF PANDEMONIUM: A GREATER WORK OF ART
Your debut album, titled PUPPETMASTER OF PANDEMONIUM, which was released just a while ago – to be honest, it is quite a piece of art as far as its content is concerned. Rarely one gets to hear such an ambitiously made and pompous (debut) album in which everything has been stretched to extremes, and in which nothing can take for granted. Would you even say that you are also surprised by yourselves how ideas tended to develop while working with this massive opus in the studio? What kinds of things surprised you mostly when putting this huge puzzle of yours together, in sense of bringing this album to some of those musical territories that you crossed without you even realising it at first?
Max: We definitely had no idea what the album would sound like when we started making it. That was the whole idea; to keep everything fresh. We had the basic rhythm guitars written beforehand, but even those were partly rearranged. I’d say we composed 95 % of all the massive orchestral shit in the studio, and believe you me, it took quite a while… We didn’t stop to think for one second, that were we making death, thrash, classical or pop. We focused completely on the things which sounded the best, and moved on from there. It really was puppetmastering pandemonium, as one might say. At some parts there are four or so different melodies on top of each other, and if you listen to just one or two of them, they sound misplaced. But when we added the extra flavours and layers on top of that, voilá! Order in chaos was found. Controlling the uncontrollable, not giving a shit about anything else. That’s what making this record was all about. Personally, making this album was a huge learning experience. Most of the time it was me and Jack sitting in front of the keyboard with an arsenal of synthetic classical instruments; not forgetting Thab’s output, of course. We were just getting the hang of making murky classical symphonies, and finding out different aspects for non-metal instruments. No limits, no laws, no boundaries – that was the recipe of the album. And yet it works phenomenally as an entity!
Thab: My recollections of the recording sessions are very chaotic, although it was great fun for the most part as well. Suffice to say I had no idea on how the end result would sound like – I guess none of us did – but that was the beauty of it. It’s amazing how carefully constructed piece of work the album sounds like, as it was anything but. Many arrangements were basically done by trial and error.
You have stated in the band’s official information kit that old horror movies, some classical music composers from Sibelius to Wagner – and many kinds of mysticism, have all worked out a huge inspiration for the band, but what about band-wise then? Regarding to some of the comments what people have said about Chaosweaver, such names as Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Arcturus, etc. have all been popped up as a comparison to your style. Would you subscribe any of those aforementioned bands as some sort of musical influences for Chaosweaver?
Max: We weren’t thinking of anybody else’s material whilst composing our own, but I believe the whole band likes Dimmu’s and Filth’s stuff. Arcturus I only know by name. I’d say Chaosweaver has more of a PASSAGE era Samael vibe as far as the twisted riffs are concerned. Me, Jack and Albert are huge fans of The Kovenant’s ANIMATRONIC, but I think PUPPETMASTER OF PANDEMONIUM is closer to NEXUS POLARIS than its successor, especially on the piano parts. Strangely enough, the album ender, "Son of the Moon", bows atmosphere wise in Amorphis’ direction.
Thab: Actually, I must admit I am not a big fan of any of the bands you mentioned, although they are good at what they do. I’m not that much influenced by Sibelius or Wagner, either. I don’t know what influences me, I don’t have that kind of access to my subconscious.
How did you actuallY end up choosing all of those guest musicians (Rotten/ex-Deathchain, Aleksi/Swallow the Sun, Jules/Profane Omen and Ville/Moonsorrow) to add their own inputs for this album? Were they all more or less like a result of getting more absurdity and ´fire power´ added into the already pompous wholeness, the further the recording process tended to progress on?
Max: Even though Cypher is an extremely diverse vocalist, we wanted to add more spices to the soup. Rotten was an obvious choice, because we’re all fans of his work with Deathchain and Survivors Zero, and some of us have known him for a long time. He growls like the lion king, and I’m not talking about Simba! It was obvious that "Son of the Moon" needed clean vocal parts, so Tomi Joutsen and Pasi Koskinen were the first names that popped into our minds. It would have been pointless to ask the present or the former lead singer of Amorphis to sing the track, so we decided to ask Jules Näveri, a vocalist wizard extraordinaire. I bumped to him on the street one day, and asked if he’d be interested in doing the song. I believe his exact words were: “Sure, as long as I don’t have to do it today”. The grindish part of "White Noise" was supposed to have a trombone solo by Eriksson of Tytär, but he was too busy, so we went straight for the best: Aleksi Munter of Swallow the Sun. He came up with this bizarre black and white movie soundtrack type of a melody rollercoaster, and it fit the song perfectly. "Denied Memories" was the hardest song to make on the album, no question about it. Eventually I ended up doing the vocals for it. Ville Sorvali is a friend of mine, and I asked him to shriek the backing vocals and play some bass on it. Man, we were so wasted at those sessions, but had a really good time.
Your second guitarist named Kole did the vocals for the band’s previous two demo releases, and he indeed did a fine job in the vocal department. Therefore one may wonder by a good reason why he didn’t continue his vocal contribution on P.O.P. any more, being a killer vocalist that he honestly was?
Thab: It was kind of unanimous decision that Kole was not the right man for the job anymore. I don’t think he really saw himself as a singer to begin with, even though he certainly did a good job on the demos. He wanted to concentrate on guitar only.
A MASKED MAN: CYPHER COMMANDER
How did you find Cypher Commander to handle the vocal duties on P.O.P. anyway? Was the recipe for this basically the usual one: Hanging out at some pub or bar, getting drunk and meeting some crazy enough, long-haired fellow – when at some point of that particular alcohol-filled night in question someone goes and mumbles to him: "I have a band. Would you like to join the band, too?". At least that’s how it usually works here in Finland most often… ;o)
Max: That wasn’t actually the case this time. As I mentioned earlier, we asked him to guest star on the album, because we all love his voice. He is a friend of mine and Jack’s, so it was easy to phone him up, and ask him. Actually, we might have been drunk, when we first came up with the idea, and got in touch with him. I know there were serious alcohol consumption going on afterwards anyway…
I can help asking this, but what is the main reason for that why the identity of band’s main vocalist, Cypher Commander, is kept in secret? What’s actually the purpose of hiding his identity?
Max: The reason is plain and simple: he wanted it that way. He is a rather well-known musician who is a member of a few popular bands, but with this one, he just wants to remain anonymous. Cypher Commander is Cypher Commander, and that’s that. He’s an underground soul, who wants to earn respect for his doings, not his reputation, which is based on the things of the past. And the frightening part is, that he is getting better and better at his craft day by day!
Obviously the whole recording process was kind of challenging and demanding for you guys, making and recording the album at Studio Perkele for 5 months. Did you feel at some point that enough boundaries have already been smashed down musically; it’s the time to put the end to all this ever-flowing madness and continue it probably on your new recording up next?
Max: You’re right, the recording process was very demanding, but at the same time rewarding. In my opinion the hardest part was putting our creative juices to rest and deciding that the track in question was finished. I’m not going to lie to you, the course of action reminded us of CHINESE DEMOCRAZY and SOME KIND OF A MONSTER on several occasions, and it was rather stressful. Composing can suck the life force out of you, when you have to wake up each morning just for the sake of creating something new and exciting. We had to take breaks from the studio session lots of times, and we actually ended up starting and recording three side projects during the non-break period! I’m sure you’ll hear about two of those later on.
So, would you even honestly say that a sort of musical madness and insanity of Chaosweaver’s creativity is yet to come and hasn’t reached its peak yet by any means?
Max: To be honest, yes I would say that. PUPPETMASTER OF PANDEMONIUM is one hell of an album, but that’s only the beginning. We’ve already started writing new material, and it is as insane as the stuff on the debut, but different. Can’t wait for you to hear it. The gap between the beautiful melodies and twisted black symphonies is getting even wider!
Thab: The moment any band starts to feel like its music has reached its peak is the moment they should stop, but I don’t think we are even close. More like we’re just getting started. There are already many ideas concerning the new material, and I can promise you at least that the second Chaosweaver album will certainly not be P.O.P. part II!
PUPPETMASTER OF PANDEMONIUM would have well be a concept album as well according to all those elements that it has sucked in. Of course it’s way too early to talk about your next album, but would you even consider doing some sort of a concept album next time as I honestly believe you guys would be capable of doing one?
Max: We’ve informally decided that at least the next two Chaosweaver albums will follow a solid thematic concept from start to finish. Nothing has been stamped or signed in blood yet, but we’re working on a couple of ideas, that are loosely based on the lyrical theme of "Son of the Moon". Or actually what happens after main character, the son of the moon, finds his way to the land of the dead. Google up Kinahmi, if you want to read more about the subject.
Is there any particular genre or style of music where you would never even consider stretching the sound of Chaosweaver to?
Max: No, not really. I could easily see this band doing jazz, electro, opera or hip-hop; not exclusively, but as for some parts. Listen to the middle part of "Horned Serpent" if you don’t believe me, hahah…
Thab: Like Max mentioned earlier, we don’t even think of our music in terms of categories. Of course, not all ideas are suitable for this band, but really, we’re not throwing good stuff away because it’s not in the right genre.
As for the songs on P.O.P., there’s 10 songs on this release, and if you named each of your own very favorite cut out from it, what would each of your favorite songs be?
Max: It’s hard to name just one track, because I like all of them. But my personal top three are "Locked in a Coffin", "White Noise" and "Son of the Moon". "White Noise" is probably the most ´chaosweaveric´ song we’ve done, since it combines all the key elements that this band is about: beautiful piano melodies, outer space atmosphere, twisted vocals, low tone spoken parts, wicked guitar leads, disturbing lyrics and an ending that will squash your nuts into a chunky red cocktail. I’d still pick out "Locked in a Coffin", if I had to choose just one.
Thab: My favourite would be "Locked it a Coffin", as the composition, the words and the atmosphere work very well together. Of course I love the other tracks as well.
So far PUPPETMASTER OF PANDEMONIUM has been gaining nothing but raving reviews from the media and people in general. Did you actually expect such positive reactions from people toward the album, or would you rather like to claim that you did expect nothing but positive response from people about your debut album?
Max: We knew we were making an album that differs from the usual stuff that’s being released daily. I honestly had no idea, what to expect from media and public, but I’m damn glad people seem to enjoy it. What makes me happiest though is the fact that the guest stars that featured on the album really dig the songs and want to perform them live with us.
What kind of promotional campaign has been run for P.O.P. so far anyway, both in your home country Finland as well as some other countries where it will be/has been released (UK, Germany, Austria, etc?)? As far as I know already, obviously it’s gonna be both Universal Music and Brainstorm Music Marketing (taking care of Marilyn Manson, U2, Mötley Crue, Rammstein, etc.) that are about to do the most massive job for the promotion of the band, correct?
Max: Shadow World Records, our Finnish label, is taking care of the promotion and marketing in Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, where the cd has already been released. Shadow World also promotes the album in the UK and Eire, where it will be set loose by Code 7 Music via Plastic Head Distribution on June 16th. As for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the album will be released by Hellfest Records, a sub-label of Universal, on June 20th. The contract also assures promotion by Brainstorm Music Marketing, as you pointed out. In addition to the bands you mentioned, they’ve also worked with Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura and a shit load of other huge artists. We’re obviously quite psyched about that. Other countries are in the works, but Plastic Head distributes worldwide till then.
Is there already any plans in sight that some of you guys might even travel to some of those countries where the album will be/has been released, only for doing interviews and stuff for the band – and for this album, of course?
Max: No foreign trips have been confirmed yet, but our German label wants us to do a European tour. No one knows what the future holds, but we’d be happy to do promotional trips to other countries. A bunch of interviews have already been booked for the UK, Germany and the US.
KEEPING IT ALL IN YOUR OWN HANDS – SHADOW WORLD RECORDS
By releasing P.O.P. through your own label, Shadow World Records, obviously was the best option to get the album released as in that way you can hold all of those important yet necessary strings in your own hands and have this essential control over everything as far as the marketing aspect of the album is concerned. Do you still feel like releasing P.O.P. on your own label, was the only possible and thinkable choice as in that way it’s much easier, let’s say, to be in the top of the needle and feel all those pinpricks in your ass whenever there’s something happening around the band?
Max: I’d rather not mix ´the day job me´ with the ´Chaosweaver me´ in public, but since you asked, Shadow World was definitely the best choice for us mostly because of the reasons you mentioned. We didn’t want to bleed our asses off hunting for a label with the demos, which were pretty good, but don’t really give the right picture of our megalomania and madness. It’s better to release the album via Shadow World and get distribution and licence deals from other countries as we have done.
As you run the label, have this band and obviously a regular job, how do you find all the needed time for keeping the balance between your life activities – not to mention a girlfriend can be pretty demanding from time to time, too… (he!)
Max: Running Shadow World is actually my day job; I write to music mags part time. In addition to that I’ve got a several musical projects in the works, which are not that time consuming – they exist just for fun, you know. Fortunately we don’t rehearse that much with Chaosweaver, so I somehow find order in my personal chaos. This year has been quite crazy, because Shadow World is functioning very actively and getting larger, Chaosweaver’s album just came out, I’ve got a bunch of interviews to write and answer, I sold my apartment and bought another one, our office just moved and I’m getting married this summer. Can you top that, hah…?
What about playing live all of these songs that you have recorded for P.O.P.? Do you think it can be put through some day, even if it might be a pretty hard task to accomplish probably due to a number of reasons?
Max: A lot of people ask about us playing live, but we’ve turned down all the offers so far. It’s not impossible, but we want our stage presence compliment our music, which is very hard to master in practise.
Thab: Some time ago I would have said “never”, but I’m not that sure anymore. For me, as the keyboard player, it would require quite a bit of work, though. The keyboard parts on the album are pretty complicated, it almost feels like I would need 8 hands and 25 different synths to be able to perform them correctly. So, I’m not saying Chaosweaver will never play live, but don’t hold your breath, either. At least not yet.
Is there – or are there, any bands you might want to play live or tour with?
Max: The Kovenant! I don’t think we’d say no to Samael, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth or Leila K either.
Thab: I’d be happy to tour with any band that consists people you can get along with (very important when it comes to touring). Musically, it would be good if there would be some similarity between the bands, but it wouldn’t necessarily need to be a metal band. Maybe Dead Can Dance? Or Fields of the Nephilim? Or some post rock band, like Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
ODDBALL OF THE FINNISH METAL SCENE
Chaosweaver could be considered – for the right enough reasons, quite an oddball amongst the Finnish metal bands these days as this type of symphonic and very atmospheric dark metal style you guys do, is something that people into metal aren’t that keen on playing at all for some reason or the other. How would you see yourselves on the map of the Finnish metal community anyway?
Max: We are quite an oddity, you’re right, but this is exactly the kind of music we love to write. There aren’t that many bands in Finland who play the kind of symphonic and atmospheric shit as we do, but we have kind of a brotherly bond with Shade Empire. The guitars on this album are actually recorded through Shade Empire guitarist J. Sirkkiä’s tremendous Mesaboogie amp.
I personally dig Finnish metal music, but don’t really mind, if some people don’t understand our music at all. Everyone’s allowed to have their own opinions.
What do you hope to accomplish with Chaosweaver within the next couple of years or so?
Max: I’ve said in the past that I never want to play live with this band, but I’m forced to take it back. I hope we can build a solid live set and play awesome gigs with awesome bands. Other than that, the second and third Chaosweaver albums have already been tentatively musically planned. People will be surprised, that’s a promise.
If Chaosweaver were a condom, what kind of condom it would be like? A raven-black, latex-free condom (extra large size, of course!), full of sharp and abominable nails and needles – and fitted with a text: "You are not safe" tagged all over it, maybe?
Thab: I must say I am glad Chaosweaver is a band and not a condom, but your vision sounds pretty good to me.
Max: If Chaosweaver were a condom, it would obviously have holes in it. That’s the only way to spread the Pandemonium! Never waste good semen.
Thank you guys for the interview and all the best for Chaosweaver in the future. Hopefully you found my q’s worth answering…
Max: Thank you very much for taking the time to plan such thorough questions. Best of luck to you in all your future adventures. To the readers: if you want to check our music out, there’s a couple of songs at www.myspace.com/chaosweaverband.