INTERVIEW WITH SAMY ELBANNA OF LOST SOCIETY
Finland’s thrash quartet Lost Society has kept a high profile since the release of their 2013 debut album FAST LOUD DEATH. Lost Society has been either on tours or working on new material. The band’s new and fourth album, titled NO ABSOLUTION, is another excellent slab of catchy and killer thrashing metal. Metal-Rules.Com sat down with the vocalist of Lost Society, Samy Elbanna, and talk about the forthcoming 4th album NO ABSOLUTION.
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
Good day Samy.
Thank you sir, good day too.
What’s up? How is it going in the camp of Lost Society?
I got to say pretty amazingly at the moment. It’s been a long way to see NO ABSOLUTION finally being released. We’re super excited about it. When you think about it, it’s been over three years probably from the first riff that we’ve written until this point. What we ended up with this record is just 11 songs of pure on adulterated Lost Society, heart and soul. We’re just super proud of it and we’re so happy that finally the people will be hearing what we’ve been working on for all these years.
WORKING ON NEW SONGS
The previous album BRAINDEAD came out in 2016 – There is a four-year gap. That’s a pretty long period for Lost Society. Did you work on new songs all this time? You toured quite a lot anyway.
It’s hard to distinguish what we did in the whole period. When BRAINDEAD came out in 2016, we toured extensively obviously. We did shows all over the world, but of course at the same time we were writing, like we always do. Because it can be one day off you have, for example, at home and you grab your guitar. You write a couple of riffs. That is already songwriting. I couldn’t say that it’s been four years, every day would be in the studio writing and recording. It’s been a lot of stuff that’s happened since that. I’d say that because when you think of Lost Society, the first record came out in 2013. We started recording the second one already in 2013, because it came out the next year. Right after TERROR HUNGRY, we did a bunch of shows. We got tighter with the playing and of course we grew up a bit, because we started super young. We had two years of a gap before BRAINDEAD. I’m sure people already heard from BRAINDEAD. They’re, “Okay. The band is bringing in some new spices and new elements, which I think was super cool. After BRAINDEAD we wanted to take a small break and just think about what’s the next story that we want to tell the world. Combining that with the fact that we toured a lot. We saw the world. We’ve had our ups and downs in our personal lives. We’ve had just a lot of stuff happening around us. I think all of that combined with the fact that we focused on songwriting more than we ever have. We’ve had a completely like kind of outside person coming into the whole songwriting camp with us and all of that, and combine that and you get NO ABSOLUTION. It’s combining a lot of different situations and a lot of changes and similarities and here we are.
When I heard BRAINDEAD for the first time,there was an opening song called “I am The Antidote” having more grooviness. Whereas the first two albums were fast ones. I thought when hearing the first two songs on BRAINDEAD that you were going more and more into that direction.
The thing is that for me it’s been always really hard to kind of make that statement that we would go in this direction or that direction. For us, I think one of the most important things that has been from the very beginning, is that every single thing we write is just what happens to be on our minds at that time, and what just comes out of our riff hands. If I take my guitar for the first record, obviously it was songs that we’ve written during the whole time we’ve been living, at that point for the debut album. Right after that I grabbed the guitar, I wrote “Terror Hungary”. It was just something that happened. Then when I started writing songs for BRAINDEAD, “I am the Antidote”. The main riff was the first thing I wrote. I was like, “This is going to be a bit different. That’s cool.” I welcomed it. If you start challenging yourself in the way that you have to go into a certain direction, just because the fans kind of expect that, that’s when you’re going in the wrong direction. For me, of course, the first riff that I wrote for NO ABSOLUTION, I think it was the main riff for my prophecy, a song called “My Prophecy”. At once I knew that it’s going to be even a bit more different, but that’s cool. That’s cool. Let’s see where this goes. Just by jamming along to that, jamming with the other guys. Then finally to the point where we brought Joonas and also to the whole songwriting process. All of this made for something that’s a bit… I wouldn’t say it’s… Of course it’s different in the traditional sense, but musically it’s not changing the style, but it’s just bringing in more stuff into it. It’s just growing up in the way that you’re just going forward. It’s never going to be like that. We would release the same record over and over again. That’s the last thing I would want. For us this was the period of time where NO ABSOLUTION was born. It’s a reflection of our lives at the moment and for the last four years. It might also be a reflection of the last 20 years of our lives, but now we’re at the point in our career where we know how to kind of address it. We know how to build the story of what NO ABSOLUTION is in 2020.
You said that you reflected your life during the past four years on the NO ABSOLUTION album. How did you reflect that in your lyrics?
It’s been kind of a wordless thing from the beginning, a wordless agreement. Then I just write the lyrics. That’s just the way it’s always been and it’s the way it comes naturally obviously. In 2010 I founded the band and whether you want it or not, a band has to have the person who kind of drives it forward, and is the so-called leader. It just happens to be me and it happens to just be my job to write the lyrics and I love doing it. Obviously, if someone would have something that they want to bring out, of course I’ll listen to it. I’m not like a dictator or anything, fuck no. It’s just the style of how we work. We write the songs together and I write the lyrics to the songs.
You’re writing music as a unit?
Absolutely. Absolutely. Obviously there are certain realities that we play the music that is very riff-oriented. It is a reality that usually it is me or Arttu who comes up with the first riff. We start jamming that and we start building it up. We start challenging each other to write better stuff and that’s how it starts. I think one of the key elements to the NO ABSOLUTION songwriting process, was the fact that we had a completely fresh pair of ears from the get-go. It eliminates the time between. When you release a record and it might be a year or two years or 10 years afterwards when you’re like, “We could have done that differently. We could’ve made that better.”We wanted to just eliminate that whole time in between, and have someone there who kind of is new to the genre in a sense, but who knows what he’s doing and knows what we want to do. Having Joonas onboard completely changed that. It made us work harder to make the songs even better before we record them.
As far as the title of the album NO ABSOLUTION is concerned. What is all about – What does it mean?
NO ABSOLUTION in a nutshell – The whole theme that the album carries is the fact that we as people are… It’s from my point of view obviously. The theme is just that I’ve accepted the fact and I think that I live my life. I have a mantra just that you know. You got to just take every single possibility and every chance, every risk that you can take in life. Whether you want it or not, every human is going to have the exact same. The way it happens is different, but every single human will end in one way. Human life will end in one way. I think NO ABSOLUTION also means that if you have faith for something, you cannot use it to justify the bullshit that you do. You can believe in what you want. Personally I don’t believe in anything more than just that I think you just got to do what you got to do. You got to do what feels right, but you can’t be a dick about it. If you use your faith to justify war, to justify wrongdoing. You just got to remember there’s not going to be any absolution in the end, even though you have these opinions.
I listened to the album a lot as it started growing on me more and more. I think listeners have to focus on listening to the album because it starts growing. Especially it started growing on me. It is a really great album.
It’s great to hear. Thank you.
Do you think a listener has to focus to listen to your stuff, to get into the music world of Lost Society?
Not really. I think it’s normal for a listener, to listen to anything they have to focus. I never would like to write a record that it just goes out once like, “This is okay.” The more layers you have in a song and in a record, obviously it’s going to take more for the listener. I really don’t think that the record is that you have to really dig super deep to find something good in it. I think if you like the record, you’ll love it right away, by the end of the record. There are a lot of people who’ve just listened to the three first singles and usually… I don’t want to be rude about it or anything, but it’s usually these people. Who they kind of have it for any band, that they listen to one song and if they don’t like it they’ll say, “Fuck this band.” It’s a nasty habit. Which I try not to do, because I know that the record is a different thing. When you hear the whole record, it’s the whole story. It’s what they’ve been working for, for years, and that’s what the whole thing is all about. I understand absolutely. There are many people who are kind of saying that they had to get used to that. It’s a different style or whatever like this. When I listened to a record, the first thing I’ll say or the first thing I’ll judge is whether it’s good or not. I’m not going to think about, “Is this good for this band?” Because a good song is a good song, period.
As for Apocalyptica, there were huge headlines in Finland, when you teamed up with Apocalyptica. Did you approach them in the first place?
Absolutely, absolutely. The whole story was we had the song “Into Eternity”, which we had done about three or four versions of it. We had the final version and it was about a week before we headed to the studio. Our producer Joonas was in Italy, he was on vacation. He called me up one day. It was like halfway through the week. He was just like, “I had this idea that what if we try to make the song even a bit better, and we get some Finnish flavors into it.” I was like, “Okay. What are you talking about?” How about we ask Apocalyptica Band to join us?” It was one of those split second things that I heard the song with “The Shallows” and I was like, “Yeah. Let’s fucking do it. Let’s ask them.” I approached the other guys. I said, “What if we do this?” They were like, “Fuck yeah, fuck yeah.” Long story short, it was a few emails, a few phone calls and stuff like this. We were actually recording the album already and then we got a call from our manager who said that, “All the details had been sorted out and it’s fine, let’s do it.” Everyone was just quiet for a moment and we couldn’t even describe how good that felt. This is the first featuring that Lost Society has ever had. For us it’s super important that if we have a feature, it’s not because of the name. It’s not because someone is someone. It’s for the fact that it has to make the song better. It has to offer something special to the song. This, in my opinion, was the greatest thing that we could have done, because obviously we all love Apocalyptica. It’s an incredible band who has done something so unique with their music that no one can touch them. The second thing is just that it definitely made the song even better. The song itself obviously we loved it. We were going to record it either way, but we were like, “Okay. If we have this chance, let’s take it. Because this is going to be beautiful.” I think we ended up with a song that will live on forever. Honestly if the world was to end tomorrow, we will leave something incredible behind.
RECORDING IN THE MIDDLE OF NOTHING
You recorded the previous album at the Sonic Pump studio here in Helsinki.
I didn’t find any details where you recorded this one – Sonic Pump ?
No. We have recorded this in three different locations. We did the drums at Fin Box studios. We did actually the DI signals of the guitars. Which means we recorded the guitars and basses at a summer cottage in cooler summer. Our good buddy rent us his cabin. We recorded them first there with just the DI signals, but then we re-amped them. Which means they went through a real amplifier back in Helsinki at E Studio in… I’m terrible with the names of places in Helsinki, but it’s a studio here where Joonas works. He has his own office there or his own side of the studio, and those are the three locations. We did the vocals and the rest of the things there here in Helsinki. It was such a departure in so many ways out of what has become regular for us, which was Sonic Pump Studios. Don’t get me wrong, Sonic Pump is an incredible studio, but the fact that we went to the forest quite literally, to record the guitars and stuff. It completely eliminates all the stress that you can have from the environment of being at a studio, whether you like recording or not. It’s a fact that when you’re around the recording equipment day and night. It’s going to build up some pressure in your head, and you kind of feel like you’re all the time on the spot. If you’re doing something wrong, you’re just costing money. When you’re at a place where can easily just relax for a few hours and continue later. We had so much more time and everything and just the location, you can look out the window. There’s a reindeer outside and stuff like that. It was just brilliant. It was brilliant. It was like the best way of recording an album that incorporated so many new elements to Lost Society.
Did you decide that in the early stages of the recording and the planning that you will change studios ?
The thing that it started with was the fact that Joonas was with us, and we knew from the get-go that he is going to do this album. He is going to produce it. He’s going to mix it. The reality is that it’s the producer who comes up with the ideas for where you’re going to actually record the album. It’s where they’re used to doing it. Finnvox was a natural selection obviously. If you have to just do drums somewhere, you’ll do it there. You could do it at the Sonic Pump also. We had nothing to say. It was his decision. The idea that we would do all the guitars and basses at a summer cabin. That actually was a combined idea that we got when we were doing one of our songwriting sessions, our pre-production sessions with Joonas. He was just like, “It would be so cool to have a super chilled out environment when we do this.” I was like, “Yeah. Let’s just find a place.” We were so lucky that our good friend of ours just suggested it. He was like, “You can take mine for a few weeks and do it there.”We were lucky enough to do it there. A beautiful, beautiful place. Then obviously for Helsinki it was just natural, because he works in that studio, so obviously we would do it there.
In my opinion, working in the middle of nowhere is one of the reasons why the album has become so strong.
Absolutely, absolutely. The thing is that 99% of the music is done before you go to the studio. We had so many pre-production sessions like we’ve never had before. We went through every song three times. We just went through every single part of the song, to make sure that it’s just better than everything else we’ve ever done, with that kind of mentality. That’s what you got to do. You’re not going to record shit. When you go to the studio, obviously everything is pretty much ready. The fact that when you look outside and it’s such a beautiful environment, it just builds up your…It eliminates your stress, it boosts your mentality. It boosts up your creativity. There are many things on the record that we’ve kind of just done there that we got an idea, “Let’s try this maybe this way.” In the darkness of cool summer at some point and we’re just like, “Let’s record some ambient noise because it would seem beautiful here.” All of that ended up on the record. Yeah, absolutely. You’re correct. It did a lot.
The interesting thing is that are no longer on Nuclear Blast. This album is coming out on a different label . Could you tell a little bit more?
I will tell you, but then after I tell you I’ll ask you to ask our manager, because I’m the musician in the band. I can’t tell you, I don’t know all of it. I don’t know all of it. What I can say it’s not a big change, but you know we’re ever grateful for our great three records with Nuclear Blast. We did a lot of cool things together. We accomplished a lot of cool things together and all the credit to them, they’re amazing people. For this record it was just a natural progression for it to happen this way. I will absolutely refer you to someone who knows what to say because I don’t want to give any false information.
Regarding touring. You toured with Exodus in 2016.
Was it to some kind of education touring with Exodus?
Absolutely. If we tour with someone, it’s going to be a good tour, regardless of what kind of music they play. It’s going to be just a good tour. The idea of touring in different countries is that you give the kids who’ve paid a ticket. You give them the best night of their lives. It was a great tour, don’t get me wrong. It was absolutely amazing and it was educational. Not for the music. Exodus is awesome, we all love their music. It was just educational for the fact that you get to tour with someone who’s done it for so many years. You always learn a bit more about the actual parts of touring. You learn the rules, you learn what to do. You know when to pull an all-night and when not to. Because being on tour, it’s a big organization. It’s not just the shows, it’s everything else. The fact that you get closer with your band, you get closer with others. Socializing, doing interviews, all of that. It was an educational tour. They’re fucking amazing guys. We love those guys and we’re super happy to do the tour.
Did you tour with Destruction?
We did a two-week tour in 2014 with Destruction, yes.
When the new album is out, I’m pretty much sure that you will hit the road.
We’ll be doing a lot. It’s going to be Europe. There’s going to be Finnish shows, European shows, everywhere else. Our agencies are gathering all of these shows and they’ll be published at some point. We’re not giving out everything yet.
Have you tried to get the South America or expand your touring to North America? You have played some gigs in Japan anyway.
We did a big North American tour with Children of Bodom two years ago.
Right, now I do remember that.
Which was massive obviously.When you go into those details of South America and just expanding everything. It depends completely on the business side of things that we have no idea about. Obviously for us we’d tour every country and every city that’s possible every day, but it’s just not possible always. It depends on the promoters on the deals, and whether it’s just possible because it costs money to go to different countries and different continents. The amazing people we have behind us, which means our agencies, management’s, everything like this. They’re the ones who take care of us and make sure that we don’t go there and we can’t afford to come back. We’re a fairly young band, so that’s the good thing. We have a lot of time to go to these places. We’ve been lucky enough to visit Japan as you said. We’ve done North America once, but obviously it’ll happen again. Europe we’ve done extensively. Last year it was really cool. We got to do Russia, Ukraine, Belarus. That was super cool the first time ever. We’re lucky to be able to do this seriously. It’s something that we don’t take for granted, because we know how rare it is that a band gets so many opportunities as we do. We don’t take them for granted and we’ll always play our asses off if it’s possible.
When you toured in Europe for the first time after the first album came out and when you are touring now – What is the major difference in touring aspects compared to the early days?
The first tour we ever did was 31 days and 31 gigs. It was every day for a month we played. Obviously it was a shorter set also. We could just do that and if we wanted to, we could just party our asses on every day. Obviously there are some realities that come with getting older that you can’t do that. You also understand that you shouldn’t do that because of our job… We’ve profiled ourselves as an incredible live band. It’s because we love it. We love being onstage and we love to give the people what they paid for and even more so. The difference is that we take it easy on tour, we take care of ourselves, our health. I think that’s a great thing. You see that a lot nowadays with other bands, also the ones that have been doing it for many, many years. That they really do take care of themselves, which is important. When you go see a band, you don’t want to see a bunch of hangover dudes who just puke on stage and fuck up. That’s not what you paid for. I think that’s the biggest difference pretty much that’s happened. On the business side I have no fucking clue. For us it’s as amazing as it was back in 2014. It still is.
BODOM – BIG BROTHERS
You toured with Children of Bodom, and Bodom has been really supportive for Lost Society. What about now when Bodom is gone?
Honestly the thing is just to go back to just the beginning and say that we owe so much to the whole Children of Bodom organization, by which I mean the band and their crew. They’re amazing people. They’re some of the best people I’ve ever met. They’ve been super supportive to Lost Society. They became our big brothers right away, which is amazing. We love them. We’ve always loved the music, but it was great also to learn that they’re amazing people and they don’t care about the bullshit. It’s all about the music and having good times and absolutely, we’re going to miss them. The good thing with all of the bad news that came out now is that they’ve had an incredible career. They’d been doing it for 25 plus years. The fans are sure that it’s not just a split-second decision. We know that there’s something, probably something has happened. They’ve thought that this is the only way that we can continue, and we respect that and we don’t go into details. We’re not prying into all that. We don’t call them and ask them, “What happened?” What’s going to happen next? I know that they’re going to do music, all of them, be it in separate bands are in a band together. I don’t know. If you’ve been playing music for almost 30 years, it’s not just going to go out of you. Alexi and Daniel are going to be continuing obviously, and I’m sure it’s going to be a great project. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m looking forward to it. If one thing is for sure it’s that they all know how to play their asses off and they all know how to write. We’ll see. As to there not being Children of Bodom anymore, that just means that we have to up our game and rise to the occasion.
You also play in Local Band with Alexi Laiho, Jussi 69 from 69 Eyes and Herman from Reckless Love.
Have you ever thought about doing some kind of project with Alexi?
We’ve talked about it, I’m sure. If we just had time we would do something for sure. The brilliant thing about the Local Band is the fact that everyone in the band, has like their number one band and they’re all busy. It’s good friends just getting one weekend together to play fun songs together. When you find the time, but it’s not as easy as it sounds to find one weekend, where everyone is free. I’d absolutely love it at some point if we could do some cooperation with Olli and I’m sure we will at some point. Never say never. It’s just maybe the fact that we haven’t had the opportunity or the time to do it yet.
What is your favourite cover song to play with The Local Band?
That’s fucking bad man. That’s so hard dude. That’s so hard. One that t I’ve started to love. I’ve loved it from the beginning, but I really love doing it. It’s “Piece of Me”, by Skid Row. I got the pleasure of singing it and from the first EP they released, I love doing “Untouched”. It’s such a good… It’s so good. It’s just good times at once.
What kind of music do you listen to nowadays?
I listen to everything, man. From end to end. Of course many people say that, but I love to listen to good music in my opinion. I’ve never labelled anything. I don’t care about the genres. I was just saying in a previous interview that like last year for example, my favourite records were the Slipknot record, the new Slipknot record and new Billie Eilish record. Been listening to Billie Eilish, been listening to both of them. A shitload of them. I was blasting “A start is Born” soundtrack a bunch of times. The new Architects record. These having all come out last year just so I’m not giving misled information. From Architects to Bring me the Horizon, to Metallica, to Slayer. To Sepultura, to Billie Eilish, to Lady Gaga. It’s everything in between.
In that way you adopt possible ideas and influences.
Exactly. I think that’s one of the kind of advantages that many people may not even realize. I wouldn’t say when you have the courage, because that would seem like I’m an asshole. When you’re okay with the fact that you could adapt anything from different music styles and put them together. That’s when you’re creating something absolutely unique, because that’s something that not many people just want to do. There’s not a death metal band who wants to take influences from some places and they don’t have to either For me I love to experiment with everything, because let’s face it. When you’re in a band and you write music, it’s your vision of the world. I’m going to take every possible scenario into hand and I’ll try everything. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s just the way it is.
What is the next step for Lost Society?
Writing more and touring more. Just full stop. That’s all we love to do.
You’re going out to tour the for all of this year?
We’re going to be touring this year and next year. The year after that, every year, and we’ll try to write at the same time. I don’t know. For me, all I have in my mind is that I know that the record is coming out next month and we’re going to be doing gigs. I’m just so excited about that, that I cannot even think about the next year. That’s what the management and all these amazing people are for. They know what to do. They know where to put me next.
I appreciate your time man. Thanks for the interview.
Thank you sir.