RE-ARMED – Interview with Jouni Matelainen (vocalist), Iiro Karjalainen (drummer), & Allan Välimaa (guitarist)
Interview by Kat Knite
We caught up with members of Finnish melodic death metal band RE-ARMED to chat about their upcoming album ‘Ignis Aeternum’, as well as to ask questions about their journey in music, and see how the band is navigating during the pandemic.
First off, congratulations on the new record! This is your fourth full length album. How does this one differ from the last three in terms of process and content?
Jouni: Thanks. Yeah, this is our fourth full-length album. ‘Ignis Aeternum’ is a huge leap for us as a band in musically. I mean in many levels, we have finally found our own so-called “voice”, intensity and way to say what we want to say with music and lyrics. Music is so much more than just technical tricks here and there. Sadly, death metal is sometimes more about showing your skills than doing good songs, but we keep our focus on good songs.
This album is in many ways a much deeper and more focused record than any previous album we have done. For example, big differences come with the lyrics: previously I used to watch this world through pessimistic eyes. You know, seeing this world as a constant battlefield where the rich are stealing from the poor, etc. Well, these days I’m not so focused anymore on this kind of “bad news” -point of view. Of course, I’m worried about people who need to find their food every day in order to survive alive day by day… BUT, in the big picture, we as humans are just a blink of an eye in this universe. I mean, this planet is full of miracles and we should be more interested and amazed by nature and life itself. We should be worried about what we humans are doing to nature and wildlife – find some kind of harmony, rather than trying to fool each other ‘cuz of money.
The album is described as being a generally positive reflection on life, bio- diversity, and the earth itself. The planet is currently in a tumultuous state, the future unclear for many of us. Is reflection and introspection on our existence and ways of life an important part of who you are?
Jouni: Very good question! It is indeed a very big part of me. No matter if I am doing music or not. I mean, I have constant need to reflect my experiences into some sort of art. it’s quite obvious that this planet is in great danger in many ways and we need to do something right now to get on a better course in our “boat” that we are in together. Regarding positivity – all we have left is hope. Otherwise, everything else is pointless. It’s better to look beyond the horizon than close your eyes forever.
The artwork for Ignus Aeternum is beautiful. I love the details. Can you please elaborate on the idea behind it and what it means?
Jouni: The statue in the picture presents us as human beings. DNA mycelium runs around the statue, ‘cuz we and everything on this planet is built around it, basically, we are all the same. The idea behind the picture is that we have been here on this planet just for a second and life and its many forms are in constant change. Evolution keeps going on, no matter what we do. Generally speaking, life is like an eternal flame. If we humans disappear, something else comes and takes our place.
What meaning does the band’s name have for you?
Jouni: It is about evolving. Simple as that.
The band has been together for 20 years. You’ve gone through lineup changes a few times. How do you deal with changes in the band, and how do you feel it’s affected the music?
Jouni: When we were younger we didn’t deal with these kinds of things so well. And music and writing music was somehow too much a serious “business”. These days communication between us is much more important than ever before and we have realized that this life contains much more than playing guitar, etc. I would like to say that we are more friends in the band nowadays than men on a mission.
Do members of the band use combined experiences to write the music/lyrics?
Allan: The album is lyrically based on a loose theme; life, life in many aspects. We wrote some songs individually, some in-group. For example, there are some lines or verses about thoughts and feelings of touring, being on the road, or the drive of energy and adrenaline. These are some subjects we all can relate to. We aimed to give positive delivery from lyrics, but due to unavoidable events in life, we also wrote a song that deals with anxiety and pain.
Over the years you’ve played some big festivals and opened for some big names. What has been your favourite gig so far?
Iiro: Yeah, there have been many good shows and big stages are always nice to play. For me, one memorable show was at Vernissa’s stage in Vantaa, Finland. We shot a live video and in the middle of the song, our friend and fellow drummer from Black Royal ran to me and sprayed some kind of stinky fish water all over me. And of course, I was plugged into our backing track system and we were filming so I just had to sit there and play as tight as I can. Luckily there was a shower at the venue’s backstage.
What would be your dream gig?
Allan: My dream gig… I think I haven’t given it any thought before, but of course, we would be the headliner, and it would be an indoor event with big lights and pyros. Also, it wouldn’t be anything without a big crazy crowd.
Where do you think you’ve had the most hardcore/dedicated crowd?
Iiro: Baltics or Japan. In those places, we have had awesome shows and felt very welcome by audiences. In Japan, there was a little situation going after the show. We were there talking to our fans after the show when the tour manager came to say that we need to go hide to backstage or the crowd won’t let us leave from the venue. That they will stay there as long as the band will.
What is the metal scene in Finland like?
Allan: I think there are lots of promising acts in different styles of metal here in Finland. The circles are not so big, as many people know each other, so there are lots of co-operations and bands, formed from members of already existing and successful bands. Also, bands are supportive of each other, regardless of their own genre, they take part in. For example, it’s delightful to see a death metaller being hyped about some old classic rock music of his pal’s band.
Metal and rock have somewhat fallen into the shadows as far as mainstream appreciation goes. What do you do to keep yourself thriving in the scene?
Iiro: As a listener or musician not that much. I still enjoy this music and I’ll keep doing it my way.
As a kid, did you ever think you’d be where you are now in your music career?
Iiro: I did dream about it at least. I’m lucky to have these talented guys with me in this band who made it possible for us.
Did you grow up in a metal-loving family, or was the journey to metal yours alone?
Iiro: Well, my dad used to listen to Deep Purple all the time, and my uncle introduced Metallica to me. So, they were always supportive and let me do my musical adventures.
Are there any new artists or bands that have caught your attention recently?
Jouni: For me, Blues Pills and Igorrr are the best bands at the moment. Or at least I have the most interest to listen to their music, hehehe.
Most artists use Spotify and similar platforms as a way to release music these days. How do you feel about these platforms, and have they significantly affected your experience in the industry?
Allan: I think it’s a great way to get the music to be heard easily all over the world, I mean – it’s online, easy to search for an artist and play a song, but of course, it’s another way we get ourselves heard, and get people to know that we exist. I think the major playlists play a huge role in reaching new audiences. We have had to adapt to this modern way of releasing music, like right from the start of writing music to the endpoint of marketing and so on.
Iiro: It’s good and bad. I like that you take your favorite music with you easily everywhere, without having a heavy bag full of CDs. But at the same time, people are getting more restless and they don’t use effort to listen to whole albums, or sometimes even a whole song. I know a few people who like to listen to music and switch a song every 10 seconds, that’s so stupid. Feels like they don’t appreciate it, or give a chance to that music at all.
If you could release your music in only one format, which would be your favourite and why?
Allan: As much as I would like to have our music as albums, I turn to streaming platforms. The idea of getting our music to be heard is one of the most important things for me in making music, so it should be easy for consumers. If we were like internationally known rock stars, maybe then we could afford having only albums, haha!
Most of the world is in lockdown right now. What are you doing to pass the time? Do you find yourself anxious about the situation, or is the extra time leaving you feeling creative?
Allan: It’s a pity that we should avoid meeting with people. I mostly spend my time indoors; playing guitar, making new ideas considering our band, or some physical exercises. To get some relief for being between four walls all the time I go for a walk or drive to a nearby lake-scape. It’s been refreshing weather lately.
Iiro: I read somewhere that it takes three weeks for humans to get used to a new situation. Well, I have, haha. It’s not that bad anymore. I work out at home, watch movies, sleep well, etc. It’s like Sunday – every day.
Do you or the other guys do anything else for work outside of the band?
Allan: Everybody has a day job, except one of us is studying. Also, four of us have at least one more band alongside Re-Armed.
Ignis Aeternum is set to drop on June 5th. Did you have plans for touring this summer? If so, and they have been thwarted, do you have any other plans to keep the band busy?
Jouni: Yes, we did have. We needed to push things onward to some unknown point of the future. Luckily, we haven’t invested any big money on upcoming tours yet. Everything is on hold at the moment for touring, but we are always looking around for new opportunities. Maybe, we should do some kind of live streaming show, or something like that while we are waiting for the situation to calm down. Let’s see.
Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Allan, Iiro, & Jouni: Thank you. Check out our latest single ‘Beyond The Horizon’ and the upcoming album ‘Ignis Aeternum’. Pre-order album now from Black Lion Records Bandcamp. Keep it metal and stay healthy!
Listen to ‘Beyond the Horizon’ (Digital)
Pre-order ‘Ignis Aeturnum’:
re-armedblacklion.bandcamp.com/album/ignis-aeternum (CD, Merch, Digital)
indiemerchstore.com/b/black-lion-records (CD, Merch)
WATCH MUSIC VIDEO FOR ‘BUILT TO LAST’ HERE: