INTERVIEW WITH HARRI KOSKELA AND ANNE LILL FROM LOST IN GREY
Lost In Grey being a symphonic power metal group from Finland is about to release the second album called THE WASTE LAND on Reaper Entertainment. The album proves Lost In Grey’s melodic and symphonic metal will gain a lot of new fans. However started out in 2013 and released the debut album THE GREY REALMS in 2017, Lost In Grey have gained more and more attention amongst the metal crowd. Metal-Rules.Com had a conversation with the band’s mastermind and keyboardist Harri Koskela and vocalisit Anne Lill.
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
Hell-o how’s it going in the Lost in Grey camp right now?
Harri: Hello there! Thanks we are keeping busy rehearsing for shows and preparing all the necessary things for the upcoming album release.
Before going any further, it would be a great way of starting the interview by asking a little bit how Lost in Grey got started out in the first place, please could you introduce Lost in Grey? did you already have a clear vision, from the beginning, of what you wanted Lost in Grey to sound like as the band started taking shape? How would you describe the music of Lost in Grey ?!
Anne Lill: Lost in Grey is a Finnish theatrical metal band formed in 2013. Musically it combines elements from symphonic metal, folk, and then some. There are many similarities with theatrical plays, e.g. we sing as characters – the main characters being Lillian (Anne Lill), Odessa (Emily Leone) and Patrick (Harri Koskela). Very often the lyrics are almost like dialogues in a theatrical play, so lyric-wise there is always a dialogue going on. Harri Koskela is the composer and he plays keyboards and sings, I write the lyrics, do the photo- and video magic and sing, Emily Leone sings and plays the violin, Aapo Lindberg plays the bass and Miika Haavisto is the guitarist and graphic design god.
Originally Harri had been planning on releasing a three-song EP as some sort of solo project, and Harri asked me to plan and execute the visual parts of the project. As I was listening to the instrumental demos for those songs, besides images, a story sneaked into my mind. I told Harri about my ideas, and we were surprisingly much on the same wavelength. Harri showed me some of the lyrics he had been writing and I thought they were crap, so I rewrote them. Harri then asked me to sing these lines on the demo, and suddenly I got ‘upgraded’ from the visual AD to a singer and member of a band. I don’t really remember how the EP grew into a full-length album, but I think that we somehow realised that there was something really special going on which deserved more attention, it was more than just some side-project, so then we just had to find the rest of the band, ha ha.
Harri: Like Anne Lill said, our music is best described as theatrical metal, but more familiar terms for that could be symphonic metal, epic metal, or something similar. I myself am not so ‘into’ putting things into genres at all, and that’s something that might be heard in our music also. The music I compose is often very rich with moods, different parts and a lot of variety, and I usually want to challenge myself as a composer and a musician with the compositions. I guess our albums – and music in general – demands ‘a few spins’ before they open up to the listener, but for me, that’s the whole beauty of it. So, if you like dramatic music, spiced up with female and male vocals and massive choirs, you might want to give an ear to our music. 😉
As far as the name of the band is concerned, who came up with the band name Lost in Grey and does it have some kind of symbolic meaning related to your music?
Anne Lill: I guess it was me, but we did have several discussions regarding the name. And yes, I am always including symbols, metaphors and so on in the texts – the band name as well. Grey can be seen as gloominess which we may get lost in at times. Then again it can be all those shades of grey between black and white. Very often we may think about things as two opposites – warm or cold, good or bad, truth or lie, and so on – but between these two are so many more options and things to see. Also our music has multiple layers and can be interpreted in more than one or two ways. I used to think that the grey represents the fact that so many things are concealed from us, that there is so much we cannot see or understand, but now I think that by stepping into the ‘greyness’ we may see even more. Perhaps everyone should get a little bit “lost in grey” every now and then.
Harri: Since the beginning of Lost in Grey I wanted to play with versatility – musically and also regarding the voices of the vocalists. So yes – of course, all of us three vocalists differ in our style of singing and performing. Emily is classically trained and could conquer opera houses, and Anne Lill can be really sweet and ‘pop’, and suddenly growl so that people nearly pee their pants when they first hear it, and me – I both growl and sing a bit lower register clean vocals. Thus we can portray different moods and emotions in ways which would perhaps not be possible with only one or two vocalists. This ‘theatrical’ aspect vocal-wise would also be hard to do with only one or two vocalists, or more guest vocalists would be necessary which might then be hard to perform live. Lost in Grey is a band that consists of musicians and artists who all add their own personalities and own distinctive style of artistic expression, regardless of their gender. I personally feel that this ‘female fronted metal’ description used to name the genre of the band is rather ridiculous as it really doesn’t tell anything about the music itself. I mean if you think of bands like Arch Enemy, Myrkur and Nightwish – their music differs from each other a lot. We shouldn’t be focusing on the gender of the artists, but rather on the art and the contributions each band member gives to the whole.
The second Lost In Grey album called “The Waste Land” will see the light of day in the beginning of 2019. How are you feelings regarding the album, are you fully pleased with how the result turned out or are you able to pick up or point some part which could have been carried out in the other way ?
Harri: I am very pleased and happy with the result! Of course every album is a learning process of some kind – I learned so much from creating our debut album – lessons which I could use on this 2nd album – and now I learned things which I can use on the third one. Overall the whole album process with “The Waste Land” from composing to the finished record was really smooth and rewarding, and we surely had lots of fun making it.
Anne Lill: I feel that Harri was so fast with composing this 2nd album that I could not always keep up with his speed, and there was not always that much time to reflect on the things I wrote. However, I am also trying to learn to think that art can also be a product of a certain moment and does not always require weeks, months or years of planning. I also kind of wish I could have written the lyrics for “Unohdukseen Katoaa” in English instead of Finnish, but then again maybe that is something someone really enjoys or find it slightly ‘exotic’, so maybe it was a nice accident that the lyrics appeared to me this way.
Harri: I already had some demo songs for this 2nd album done, before our 1st album “The Grey Realms” was even released. Additionally, Anne Lill had some of the lyrics and the basic ‘storyline’ already thought back then. However, most of the composing work for this album I did right after our European tour in December 2017. We recorded the drums at Sonic Pump studios in March 2018. The other instruments and vocals were recorded at our own studio mainly in April and May. I did the recording engineer duties with the exception of the guest vocals as they were recorded in Sweden and Germany. Jonas Kjellgren (Black Lounge studio, Sweden) did the mixing and mastering, and the album was ready on July 4th. We always try to think and plan ahead, so e.g. the third and even fourth album is also something Anne Lill has been thinking about since the beginning. We also want to leave space for improvisation, and some things are simply created in the moment, but the overarching concept and ideas are there to help us proceed.
How did the second album come together? Was the writing process a democratic and smoothly process with everyone involved in the writing process or did you have to come up the ideas for songs on your own?
Anne Lill: Harri is mainly in charge of the composing and I write lyrics, and at times we compose together. Usually the music comes first and then the written word, but e.g. on this album there are two songs (“The Waste Land” and “1992”) that are text-based, meaning the text came first and the music afterwards. Both Harri and me can be really stubborn, so we end up arguing quite a lot with each other as well. Then again it is great that we challenge each other in such ways and really have to argue for our choices. Obviously once we start recording, everyone participates in the arrangements as they know their own instrument best.
Harri: At the moment I’d say that my favourites from this new album are ‘Far Beyond and Further’, ‘Drifting in the Universe’ and ‘Wolves Among Men’. ‘Far Beyond and Further’ deals with the things that troubles me in our world; human greed and the fact that for some people money seems to matter more than Mother Earth and the next generations. And what comes to ‘Drifting in the Universe’; I love composing long and epic tunes, and I think we did really good job and it turned out great. ‘Wolves Among Men’ is then again really playful, theatrical and kind of ‘circus-like’ song, which I’m really much looking forward to play live. However, every song is really dear to me, so these ‘favourites’ might change weekly. 😉
The lyrics, they always play the key role in the music, what about Lost In Grey, what kind of topics do you usually pen about and what do you want to express in your lyrics?!
Anne Lill: I would question if lyrics really do play a key role? As an example, I do not understand German at all, and yet I can get super excited about a Rammstein song. To me the importance is in the mood that it brings me while I am listening. Then again some song lyrics might be pure nonsense to me or I might completely disagree with them. I can then either ignore this aspect – or think further about why this is the case. Perhaps I have not come across that many songs in which the lyrics would actually be very interesting, and maybe that is why I eventually found myself writing. When I write, among other things, I want to tell stories which contain multiple different voices. Real life is also about people having different views and opinions, about negotiating, so why could not music do that too?
What is the biggest difference between the debut album and the newest second album from your point of view; the lyrics, the songs or the whole package?
Harri: Well, to start from the very beginning; composing… I feel that I composed the songs in somewhat ‘record breaking’ time for me, which made the whole process different than before. This time I was also much more familiar with the whole concept – three vocalists with their own characters – so I guess that made the journey easier. Also, I feel that the song material is much more coherent on this album – the pieces better in place so to say. What comes to recording and mixing; we recorded the whole album in just 4 months, so I guess that too enabled us to focus on the whole better. Also, this was my first time of working with the fantastic Jonas Kjellgren (mixing and mastering) and so, I think a pair of ‘fresh ears’ did the magic on this record too.
Anne Lill: The first album was more like a linear story which continued throughout the album – I described it similar to a theatrical play. On “The Waste Land” the songs are more like individual poems. However, they connect to the debut album e.g. through the characters. Additionally story-wise, on the debut album e.g. the Narrator asks Lillian what she saw and knew that made her retreat to the “Grey Realms”, and hopefully this new album answers some of these kind of questions.
How has the response been for the album in the press so far? Where have you received the utmost feedback regarding the second album?
Harri: Well, at the moment of writing for this interview, we haven’t seen that much reviews and responses of the album yet, but the feedback we have seen and received has been really good. The responses we have got so far are mainly from German music media. Overall, I’ve got a good feeling about this album and it seems that people are liking it.
The debut album THE GREY REALMS came out via NoiseArt Records and Reaper Ent. put out the newest one, what is the biggest difference between these two albums from your point of view? How did you end up having a deal inked with Reaper Ent.? Were there other labels interested in signing you a right way?
Harri: Well, I guess the main difference between these two albums is the fact that we’ve grown a lot as a band and musicians, especially regarding the fact that our ‘theatrical metal’ thing is more familiar to us now on this second album, which is one of the things that in my opinion makes this a good record. Also I think we learned a lot from the first release regarding the ‘non-musical’ things such as promotion and all that. What comes to record label things, we are really happy that we were welcomed as the very first signing of Reaper Entertainment. To put this simply; after the first album that NoiseArt didn’t want to continue our contract, and out of the blue we received a fantastic offer from Reaper, so we actually didn’t need to look for a new record deal, and I’m really happy we didn’t. Working with Reaper-guys has been absolute pleasure and they share the same kind of passion to our music that we do. I feel that when you’ve got a great team around you, you’ll be able to do great things, so I’m looking forward to making more albums with these guys.
All of you have strong background in other bands before and obviously some members still play in other bands, does this bring some extra problem to coordinate the schedule or how do you work this out?!
Harri: Yes, most of us are active in other bands too, and of course this brings some schedule related issues to consider. However, I feel that everything is ‘doable’ and we’ve had no problems this far, so I’m sure we will be fine in the future too. We usually plan things so much up-front that it enables us to prepare if some schedule overlapping would occur.
As for playing in other bands, have these experiences brought more know-how for you how to work in the music business and how to work with labels, in general the lesson learnt to avoid problems and pitfall?
Harri: Yes, those have certainly brought us a lot of experience on how to deal with things, and especially how to avoid certain things. I think we all have made the basic newbie-mistakes in our previous endeavours (I know I have :P) so I think that also gives us this certain kind of ‘chill-attitude’ of doing things nowadays. Personally, I feel that the experience has helped me not to stress about minor details and to just enjoy the art that we are making and the journey alongside it.
As Lost In Grey is relatively not-so-known yet, what is the hardest thing to get the name of the band spread out and distinguished in the metal/rock genre for your own sake?!
Anne Lill: There are many issues related to ‘spreading the word’ and getting visibility, but one aspect is the material resources (money for instance). Some have more resources than others to put into marketing online as well as into print media, and then some. Additionally it is very hard for bands to get to play live without money. Especially regarding tours there are really ridiculous and exploitative deals that the organizers and other involved might suggest for support acts. So unfortunately – money talks in many ways.
Harri: Well, I believe that becoming distinguished in the metal / rock scene is a result of hard work, humbleness, commitment and with a hint of pure luck. The thing that I consider the most important is of course the music itself, so I believe that if you keep on doing your thing good things will happen. On top of all of these, I believe you have to surround yourself with the people that you feel comfortable of working with. We’re super lucky to have such a great team around us working for the visibility of the band that I’m overly humbled and happy for that.
Anne Lill: At its best, music videos can be a form of art on its own – the music giving more to the images and the images giving more to the music – and the final result becoming more than the sum of its parts. To me a great example of this is e.g. Wardruna’s music video “Raido” – it brought new layers to the song itself, is just breathtakingly beautiful and I just can’t get tired of watching it! Thus, to me the videos are not (necessarily) about promoting, but rather about creating multimodal texts and experiences.
As far as these videos are concerned and especially the Waste Land video, where did you shoot it and who directed it?
Anne Lill: Well in my “previous life” I was a photographer and cinematographer, so since beginning I have been the ‘video department’ of Lost in Grey. Thus as usual, I directed, edited and shot also “The Waste Land” video (with the exception of the images in which I was forced to be in front of the camera instead of behind it). It was shot in our hometown Hyvinkää.
What’s the next step for Lost in Grey?
Harri: Obviously we hope that we could play as many shows as possible, and at the moment we’re looking for touring possibilities with this new album. However, as usual, I am also looking forward to start working on new material. I really hope that people will find our music and will enjoy it, and perhaps that we could make some impact on the world.
All right I for one thank you for your time and interest to do the interview for Metal-Rules.Com, but the last words are yours …
Harri: Thank You very much for the lovely interview, it was a pleasure! All of you reading this; spread the word about us and we might be touring in Your neighbourhood in the future.
Anne Lill: As last words I would like to quote Simone de Beauvoir. It is a quote we also used on the song “Expectations”, and it is something I wish all people would remember every day of their lives.
“The fact that we are human beings is infinitely more important than all the peculiarities
that distinguish human beings from one another.”
The Official LOST IN GREY Sites
PICTURES TAKEN AT THE ALBUM RELEASE PARTY HYVINKAA FINLAND THE 11th of JANUARY 2019