Interview with Sami Yli-Sirniö
March 2, 2017 – O2 Forum Kentish Town, London
Interview by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Inty Malcolm
Kreator guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö was kind enough to speak to us prior to their show at the O2 Forum Kentish Town in London on March 2, 2017. Read more to find out about who the Gods of Violence are, Sami’s classical training, the creation of “Hail to the Hordes”, and more!
Hello, nice to meet you! my name is Toby and this is Inty, and we’re from Metal-Rules.com.
Did you have the time to check out London at all today?
Not today, but obviously I’ve been to London many times before, when I was a kid, like 12 or something. This would go back to the 80s, before you were born. I usually walk around a little bit, try to find something to eat, it’s always exciting to come to London. It’s been a long tour, and also you guys are here [laughs], so there’s not much time!
How’s the tour been so far?
This is one of the last gigs, we’ve got three more to go on the European tour. It’s been really nice, maybe I can take this opportunity to thank all the people who came to see the shows! We’ll play our homecoming show in Essen in three days, then we’ll have one day off and go to Moscow. Then we have a week off, before going to the States to tour with a band called Obituary, which is kind of exciting for me. I don’t know the people [in Obituary], but I like the music.
How have the fans reacted to the new material?
Really well, we’ve got six songs in the setlist. I actually wanted to do even more, but somehow, because the band is ancient, we have to play some old stuff too, you know [laughs]. And why not? I guess what we’re gonna do is when the festivals come up, we’ll play different new songs then, that’s the idea.
Would you like to reveal what songs that could be?
Well you know, the song with the latest video, “Totalitarian Terror” I think. It’s not in the setlist now cause there’s six other new songs already [laughs]! Other ones too, we haven’t talked about it yet, but this time it’s actually nice to play any of the new songs live.
Can you give a brief summary of what the Gods of Violence do and who they are?
[Laughs] Well, there was this idea from Mille in the very beginning that it should be some kind of concept album about stuff like warfare and the evil that lives in mankind, connected to Greek mythology and then bring it on to the world of today. BUT, this was kind of the concept that got abandoned along the way, and the two songs “World War Now” and “Gods of Violence” are part of this original idea. At some point we felt a little restricted by the idea of doing a concept album, so then all the songs just started going in their own direction. We let them do so because songs somehow reveal themselves to musicians when you work on them more, so then it was perfectly legitimate to abandon that idea [laughs].
Is the Phantom Antichrist one of the Gods of Violence?
Could have been, I mean that was maybe more a metaphor for false information that is given to us through the mass media, that was kind of the idea behind that. All these titles are easily misunderstood, and there is typically always a deeper meaning behind them. Like Satan is not real [laughs]!
What’s your favorite Kreator album from before you joined the band?
I guess I like the debut because the guys are so young there, they’re kids and you can hear it! There’s so much effort and energy, and sometimes it doesn’t go according to the plan but that’s part of the charm. Then I guess maybe Coma of Souls because we still play some songs from that album to this date.
What songs from before you joined do you enjoy playing the most?
Well, I don’t know. Before I joined, the songs that I knew must’ve been stuff like “People of the Lie” and “When the Sun Burns Red” and shit like that. There’s just so many you know, it’s a huge discography!
Songs like “United in Hate” and “Gods of Violence” showcase some more classical sounding acoustic guitar bits in their intros. Are you classically trained at all?
When I was around 13 or 14 I was in the classical conservatory of Helsinki for classical music for a few years, but then later on at some point, metal came into the picture. Of course I still have a nylon string guitar at home, and I think classical music is really interesting, not only guitar-wise but otherwise too.
Do you try and incorporate that into the music a lot?
Well, I mean of course a little bit, but if you think of the classical elements on Gods of Violence we actually got some help from Italy, the guys from Fleshgod Apocalypse who helped us do the orchestration. Of course we could have tried to do it ourselves, but they’re really experts when it comes to this orchestration-thing. I started fooling around a little bit with it myself but it sounded too much like Star Wars [laughs].
How has your playing style changed since you joined Kreator?
I don’t know, of course I’m 44 so I like to think that I’ve developed, and I think I have. I play a lot and we tour a lot, but if it’s changed, that’s a very difficult question, it’s hard for me to analyze.
The video for “Fallen Brother” pays homage to fallen stars of rock and metal, where did the inspiration for that song and video come from?
The very first inspiration to that song came when somebody very close to Mille died. When we listened to the song, we realized it can be interpreted in several different ways, and what we did with the video seemed to be the obvious thing to do – especially with last year when so many iconic and important musicians died unfortunately. So it turned out as a tribute to everyone who died.
“Hail to the Hordes” is a bit of a rarity in Kreator’s discography in that it has almost an anthem-like feel to it, and it also incorporates the rather unexpected bagpipes. Can you tell me how the creation of that song came about?
Mille sent a demo with that riff [hums riff], and I thought ‘hmm, what can I put on top of it?’ and so I came up with the [hums guitar melody]. When we were recording it, Jens Bogren, the producer, pointed out that somehow it sounds kind of Scottish. I guess it does? So then we thought maybe we should ask Boris Pfeiffer who’s a friend of ours from this band called In Extremo to play bagpipes, and then we we’re still a little unsure about whether we could really pull it off. But then why the hell not? When I think of it now – hearing the final mix, I thought it was way too low in the mix, I mean if you have it there, make it so people can hear it! But you can still recognize that it’s a bagpipe, and the melody does for some reason, I don’t know why, sounds kind of Scottish.
Are there any songs you guys haven’t played in a while, or ever, that you would like to play live?
Yeah, we were thinking about it when we were putting together the setlist, that we always play the same old songs, which is a little boring for the fans. So we dug up some real fun stuff, like “Total Death” which is nice, it’s funny, but still at the same time I really enjoy it. But yeah, finding those older obscure songs is always a good idea, but now that we just have a new album out we wanted to concentrate on the new material.
Do any of the new songs provide some social commentary on the current state of the world?
I guess “World War Now” would, the inspiration for that was the unfortunate events that occurred at the Bataclan. But a week ago we played there [Paris] and it was opened again, that’s good.
What songs from the new album do you feel is working the most live?
Well I mean we’ve been doing six of them now, and “Satan is Real” is a fun tune to play, but it remains to be seen. Like I said earlier, we wanna do some other ones too, and it’s hard for me to say, it’s something for the listener to decide I suppose.
Is “Hail to the Hordes” a continuation of the song “Hordes of Chaos”?
I suppose it is, it’s paying tribute to all the people who bother to come and check us out [laughs].
What are your plans following festival appearances this summer?
There are some gigs planned for Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and they’re all being booked and I hope we get to do as many as possible, maybe even another European tour because there’s plenty of places we didn’t get to go on this one, like Portugal or Greece or whatever.
Is there anything you’d like to add in the end?
Just thank you for your interest, and now that we’re in the UK, thank you to everyone coming out to the gigs!
Thank you very much for your time, and good luck with the show!