Could you sum up the essence of Kuolema in a few words to our readers, please? Are there some bands you could be compared with?
O > It´s most definitely a complete STATE - OF - MIND. It´s a fucking lifestyle! Kuolema is definitely not an usual band line-up. We are a bunch of very fucked-up guys, either of us in a different way, so all together we make up a band that´s rather unique. That´s what Kuolema is about. And I was not talking about the music. You see, music it´s easy to imitate, but if someone outside our crew spends even a little time with us, there has been no other reaction than “You guys are mad, out of control, I don´t know anything like existed...” So, I guess that explains the first part.
Well, musically we have actually quite wide variety of influences. You might be surprised because we listen to a lot of “poppy” stuff, even some mainstream shit, movie soundtracks, (mostly old) heavy/hard rock and thrash/speed metal... But of course most of the time we listen to punk and hardcore, so that probably influences mostly our music, too. But the main influences absolutely come from the daily bullshit life that we live. It´s hard. We are not blessed with rich relatives, or friendly neighbours. The cops seem to hate us and we get into vicious fights with some dopeheads all the time. So it´s a constant battle of survival.
It´s only a month a ago I was stabbed to my knee and shoulder and the same guys hit me with a hammer to my head! Of course I was hospitalised for that. Only a couple of months prior I was beaten to a bloody pulp by one jock who broke my nose and cheek bones, and again I was hospitalised. There are enough this kind of stories to write a book about, but who cares? There are different laws and also different ways to handle problems like this. So I guess I don´t need to mention that we got some rather heavy connections and bullfuckingshit like beating me up is every time “taken care of” by a way the people who stand for us usually take care of things. Do you have any idea what I mean? It´s not a pleasant way, I tell you. Naturally I can´t go into further details because this is printed word so that´s certainly enough about the subject, OK? Summa summarum: our main influence is this fucking L.I.F.E.!!!
Maybe this is just a warning (!) example of what it is to live on the other side of the law? Kuolema doesn´t have a message like “Live your lives like we do”, “ Or do what we do”. Screw all that. We have no message although each of our lyrics are rather carefully written and thought about. But sadly they are also rather easy also to misinterprete. Let an easy example be our track “Viinaa ja aineita” (in English “Liquor & drugs”) –people still think after ten fucking years that it´s a song that praises the use of drugs and drinking till death. Well. That´s all wrong, wrong, wrong...! It is a song that nothing but warns you about the evil traps that lurk there once you get mixed up with all the pill popping, heavy drinking, shooting up drugs etc. –you see what I mean?
Musically we can´t really compared to anything I have heard, and I have heard A LOT of underground noise from all over the planet thanks to my intense tape trading hobby since 1989. And the same goes with the other guys, especially the vocalist who´s 45 years old and been receiving all wild and weird tapes from abroad since 1981!!! But, I could perhaps still try name bands/records that at least in the beginning were rather influential to all of us when we started Kuolema again: Disorder “Perdition” 12” + 3 first singles, D.R.I. 22 song 7”, The Exploited basically everything they´ve done, Napalm Death “Scum” LP, Repulsion “Horrified” LP, Terrorizer “World downfall” LP, Infest “Slave” 12”, U.K. Subs older stuff, naturally all kick-ass early 80´s Finnish hardcore/punk bands, etc. etc.
Kuolema was originally active around the year '83, and during those times the band released some demos and took part on quite a few compilations. What caused Kuolema to quit back then?
O > Kuolema started in 1981 and split-up in 1985. So, to tell the story... the beginning was really chaotic, using the rehearsal room & equipment of Terveet Kädet when it was available because one of the members was living the opposite side of the street so they were all friends. But I must warn you there is not now much to tell about. Firstly coz I wasn´t there and what I´ve asked from Ile and Juki (respectively the original vocalist & bassist at the time) they don´t remember much but fights, really dreadful gigs, huffing glue, getting bored, getting drunk, getting the treatment from the fucking cops on a regular basis... you can imagine. Finland was a really conservative country at that time and punks were a “disease”!!! OK, but things got slowly better (musicwise) and they actually managed to record a ripping 10-song demo in a real studio in 1983 that´s so far never been released anywhere! (interested labels: hint, hint!)
Those times Kuolema was starting to get some better/bigger gigs as well, a little name nationally because of the one-song appearance “Äpärä” (“Bastard”) on the well-recognized and classic Finnish v/a LP “Hardcore´83. Kuolema got some name also internationally coz they actually appeared on a quite a handful of compilation tapes in several countries (eg. Austria, Germany, Holland, Brazil, etc.) -thanks to the active tape trading the guys did those days. Despite the fucked-up conditions they even had a tape label that released one of the first Finnish hardcore compilation tapes Punk Elää! in 1981 (“Punk´s not dead!” in English).
But then the saddest part and the demise. The guitar player Walde died in a stupid drunken accident in 1984 and was replaced by Mäkinen from another local band The Rutto (“The Plague”) but this line-up was not anymore very solid, the death of Walde had brought everyone´s hopes & dreams down, some of the band members got into hard drugs and finally Mäkinen died of an overdose in 1985 so there was no more possibilities to continue the band. The guys moved to different towns/cities in Finland, some even went abroad and that was it.
The band's material from those times was gathered on the "Noise Not Music"-CD. I've noticed that this wasn't all of the material though; one compilation parttake was released as "Noise from the Sick City"- 7" vinyl, and the "Hardcore '83"-compilation has a clearer version of the song "Äpärä" that's currently not released elsewhere. Is there still more unreleased material in your vaults, maybe even something you've planned on releasing?
O > Like I said there is there is that 10-song demo tape still unreleased. I have the original master tape if someone is interested.
The "Noise from the Sick City"-EP was actually a very noisy and lo-fi rehearsal recording. Do you have any plans on releasing some similar, even noisecore-styled output? How about a rehearsal recording?
O > ”Noise from the sick city” was a release that was in my opinion something that basically should not have been released at all. It´s got really low quality even by Kuolema standards and for example the vocalist Ile is not pleased with this release at all! You see the other remaining members (that´s except Ile, who´s with the band now!) of the original line-up (=Juki and Weke from the original line-up) agreed about this release with a German label and they didn´t bother to do other than send some really muddy old rehearsal tape for releasing. The reason why they did this is still unknown for me. Yes, so the (ugly) sleeve was made by label as I have come to understand. I think, it´s a shitty ep! And there will be no more Kuolema rehearsals released on vinyl that´s for sure.
Kuolema was resurrected sometime after the year 2000, and the first EP consisting of new and newly recorded material came out in 2003. Why and how did Kuolema originally come to make a comeback?
O > Yes, we started again in 2001. Ile (the original vocalist) put the word around that he´d like to reform the band. And as I had always respected the awesome brutality and noise they created so early, I was totally stoked to hear the news. I got myself Ile´s phone number and called him right up that I could play the drums and as he said he had no other members yet for guitar and bass I thought about asking my bandmate from Forca Macabra (Lalli, also known as Pete) to play the bass because I know he had the same appreciation for Kuolema as I have. Then Mika had just quit playing guitar with Viimeinen Kolonna (actually together with Lalli, who was also originally in the Viimeinen Kolonna), and we came up immediately with the idea that why don´t we three team up and start Kuolema again with Ile! After all, Lalli and Mika and myself we´ve known each other since late 80´s/early 90´s, had bands together and so forth, so it was easy for us to get all together and see what can we do with Ile. And the rest is history. Ha ha! By the way, I think the 1st 7” with the new line-up came out in 2002. I remember it was recorded in a couple of hours in April 2002 at Studio303, Helsinki, and came out really quick after that... 1000 copies pressed as far as I know...
Is the "modern" Kuolema the same band as it was in the 80s? The music has gone to a lot more extreme direction and the line-up's quite different than the original one, so what are the things that unite the old and new Kuolema - meaning both the song material and Kuolema as a band, a group of people?
O > The new Kuolema is certainly NOT the same band as the old Kuolema. I guess the only thing common is that we´ve picked three (yes, only three! Kuolema had probably 30 or more songs back then...) of the old songs into our current repertoire, but even those sound much different than the originals.
The biggest difference is absolutely that even though Kuolema is just blurr, we can handle our instruments probably 251 times better than the original line-up. So this has given us some musical credibility –yes, I know how this sounds but that how it seems. As for the extremity of the music, for me, the original Kuolema again is like 251 times more extreme. It´s total madness listening to those early tapes!!!
There is not much of a bond between old and new Kuolema really. Juki, the original bassplayer lives near to me and the vocalist, so we get to see each other frequently, and Juki is still totally into hardcore/punk, listening to both old and new bands and even comes to our shows sometimes. He´s also been on the stage with us for the hell of it. It was great fun having him on the bass –pay attention he hadn´t touched a bass in nearly 30 years!!! Ha ha!! So it was typical chaos there both on the stage and the audience as usual...
Weke the original drummer keeps in touch with us sometimes through e-mail but he lives far up in the Northern Finland so we never get to meet him –except for Ile who still goes to his old hometown to visit his family few times a year.
What are the influeces that Kuolema nowdays draws it's energy and style from? What are the main influential bands, if there are any you can point out?
O > I guess I pretty much answered the question of the influences earlier. The style? Well, what “style”? We just play some fucked up, drugged up, speeded up hardcore punk, as simple as that. Some people can smell hints of metal there, but it´s not really intentional although some of the bands that have influenced us ARE more or less metal. But we try to channel it all though a filter in our minds and bodies and make it punk. Maybe it´s also partly the modern equipment that easily gives the band(s) “bigger” and better sound. But Kuolema is a punk band, we are punks. Fuck-ups, outcasts.
Kuolema stands for Death. How does this name show in your band activities, and how does it stand for your group and it's output? At least the name is short, simple and brutal in some sense, which describes your overall song material quite well.
O > Well, thanks. We also think it´s a suitable name for our lifestyle. But a name is still nothing but a name. I think we could be called just about anything and still do the same thing. But I´ll tell you an anecdote how the band got it´s name back in 1981. Well, the guys were somewhere just fucking around and suddenly they spotted a linen (=a bed sheet) hanging down from one balcony of a block of flats. Someone had painted there Kuolema with red paint and the guys naturally stole that bed sheet! So, the band had a “backdrop” even before they had a name for their freshly started band. Amazing! And as a matter fact Kuolema were called something else for a short period before that crucial point but I can´t recall the name now for 100% sure. But I think it was Rampton. And please note, if that´s the case, it was two years before Disorder wrote their “Rampton song”... For those who don´t know Rampton was (still is?) a mental institution with a bad reputation in England and there was a TV documentary on that in Finland in 1980 or 1981...
I think one of the main things that Kuolema is known for is drug abuse, and it seems that people often come to see you live just to see how messed up on drugs you are. Are the drugs involved for the show, for the way of life, for the chaos created through using them, or for what reason? Aren't you worried that the drugs will steal the whole show, so to say?
O > Well...there are two different points of view for this. One is ours, and the other is of the audience. As from our point of view, being fucked up can´t steal our show. The more fucked up we are, the more happy we are with the results. If someone things we suck, or played “a bad show”, well tough shit: we don´t care a fucking bit. We do this shit to amuse ourselves, to have fun, not to be some public animals and/or puppets on a string of some label or management (like Sex Pistols were, for instance). Apart from the first 7” we´ve released all our records on our own label (except most of the compilation cuts of course...).
Yes, we are known for drug abuse, being almost always so wasted on the stage that we don´t even play the same songs coz we can´t read the set list as our eyes are blurred by alcohol, weed, uppers, downers, laughers, screamers, LSD, mushrooms, speed, morphine, tranquilizers, GHB/GBL, whatever. Some of us do all that and more. Also off stage. But then again I´d like to stress that some of us stick with the traditional boozing most of the time and have perhaps just occasional treats. Whatever is the case, it´s our choice. Whatever YOU do is your choice. We do not want people to take an example of us in any way. Not the haircuts, not the music, not the sex life, not the philosophy, not the music. Nothing! We are not your idols, not your role models. So please create your own fucking lifestyle!
Is Kuolema a band with a message? I remember you've made a song with the lyrics "Here's our message: pussy, booze, drugs!", but is there something more to your lyrics? I remember that some songs on the "Mölyä, Perkele!!!"-EP criticised the war in the East as well as nuclear power. Do you stand for any ideology, or specifically oppose any for that matter?
O > Ile writes all the lyrics so he´d be the man to answer this question. But as far as I´ve come to understand in our over 10 years of existence we have no real, direct message. We just do our thing.
The song “Vittua, viinaa, aineita” (“Cunt, liquor & drugs”) was a direct reaction to a live review of Kuolema-gig we read on Toinen Vaihtoehto -fanzine where the reviewer complained about our lyrics (“message”) and was putting us down by writing: “If Kuolema has no other message than pussy, booze and drugs I really don´t see why anyone in their right mind would appreciate this disgusting nonsense...” So, Ile read that, and in 5 minutes he´d lyrics for the song: “Tässä teille sanomaa, vittua viinaa ja aineita, tässä teille sanomaa, vittua viinaa ja aineita!!!” (Translated: ”Here´s to you, cunt liquor & drugs, here´s to you, cunt liquor & drugs!!!” –And that´s the whole song! Repeated twice, runtime approximately 30 seconds. Our usual songs are probably 40-50 seconds...
Well, we don´t stand for any ideology but of course we hate the fucking cops and Nazis and any violent fuckheads. We´ve been kicked to shit way too many times.
Seriously speaking, we all follow the news, read the newspapers, etc. so we know what´s going in the world even if we are fuck-ups. Of course, just like everyone else, we are worried of the situation in the Middle-East, worried of China oppressing the Tibetians, the government trying to wipe out Chiapas in Mexico, and the Mexican and Colombian drug-cartels having their own private war. We are worried of the right-wing parties gaining ground in many EU-countries (including Finland!), the famine and all the crippling civil wars in probably 1/3 of countries on the whole African continent, the religious fundamentalism everywhere, the oppression of aboriginal people in Australia that still continues today. Then we have North-Korea that is a fucking question mark to the whole world and could make it explode into a total war on the Korean peninsula again, after 50 years, imagine that... There´s just mostly shit, bullshit and fucking shit wherever you look! How does it make you feel? Numb? If so you´ve gotten so used to it because that has become everyday life on this planet. The only planet we have that yet is doomed for destruction –perhaps even during OUR lifetimes! Well, other reaction one could have because of the realities of today is frustration, anxiety, anger, even rage. That´s at least how I feel about this thing called life. Rage! I am so fucking fed up with it. I am 37 years old now and all I´ve seen is just things getting worse and worse. I survive by working as a office rat from 8am till 4pm Monday till Friday. I detest, loathe this situation, but because I have no better education, and because the economy is not really at the hottest right now, I guess I am lucky even to have this one. Anyway, you do need fucking money to get by in the everyday life, don´t you.
Why don't you usually add any lyrics to accompany your releases, or if you do you only add a couple ones? For example, I've never managed to find the lyrics to one of your most legendary tunes "Äpärä", a fact which I find quite odd.
O > Ile writes great lyrics. They are short, but unlike Discharge´s. They are not imaginary things of what happens when the bomb drops, or how “the system works for them.” His lyrics are really intellectual in my opinion and I have a deep respect for those fine pieces or art he´s written! They are beautiful little anecdotes, or rather metaphoras of life –expressed in a way that I have not seen elsewhere before. Or they might be just right on something he´s gone through and thought he´d like to write about –but again, in an unique way. Or they could be like the example earlier: a direct counter-reaction to the reaction the gig-reviewer had had because of our gig. (Poor guy. Hope he wasn´t traumatized, ha ha!!) Anyway, I´d like to have all of them on the record sleeves but Ile refuses to show them to anyone but the band members. He´s a very, I mean VERY special character. I have an utmost respect for him!
You've said that Kuolema will never make a full-lenght. Do you still think the same way, and if so, why? Even Creepy Crawlie and Kylmä Sota made great LPs with their brand of noisy punk, so...
O > Well, I think Kylmä Sota is definitely one of the best, if not the best, Finnish hc/punk band in a decade here. Underrated -but I guess they don´t mind. More “publicity” would be just embarrassing and a plague for them, that´s my guess, and I know those guys (if someone didn´t know, one of them is a gal) for “quite many” years now. Kylmä Sota = Simply a superb blend of classic early/mid-80´s catchy, rather melodic, punchy bass lines that are driven forward by really distorted yet powerfully raw guitar-attack of G.B.H. and other “Motorhead-style punks” that prevailed (mostly) in England then. Those combined with pissed off yet somewhat clear vocals in Finnish and a totally relentless d-beat from start till finish, and that´s Kylmä Sota. Brilliant!
Creepy Crawlie yes they were a fine bunch of ladies I loved them since the first time I heard & saw them. Interesting personalities, many very special shows witnessed, releases a few only but quality surpasses quantity easily. I did a split 7” for them (w/Wurm) on my label, and then we released their ripping 12”ep (ltd. 300 copies pressed) on Kuolema´s label, Lady Lasol Records, that´s financed & organized by me and Ile the vocalist. Lady Lasol was basically created to have a distribution channel for the band´s releases.
I don´t know who´s said that Kuolema will never make a full-length?! If it was me, I was drunk and I can´t remember, sorry. Still, it´s probably the case. The fact Kuolema will never, ever make a full-length, that is. And why? Why??!? What the hell, are you serious?! Our 7”ep´s alone are probably hard enough to digest! I know just a couple of our die-hard fans have told us that they´ve listenened to our “Viinaa, aineita, naisia” 2001-2009 discography CD without any pauses. And that clocks somewhere around 55 minutes I think. Well, I can do it, I´ve done it a couple of times actually, but not that much for a fun but rather for educational reasons: to see if I could this way somehow penetrate a level little deeper into Kuolema´s material and philosophy of noise. You understand what I am talking about here?
Anyway, seriously speaking. If Kuolema ever made a 12”, “a full-length” if that´s what you call them all? I think I musn´t last more than 8 minutes. Better yet if we could make it in 6 minutes. I am serious. Period.
Kuolema is well known for it's live acts, but you've done quite a bit of EP's and other smaller releases. Do you see Kuolema as a live band, a studio band, or maybe a bit of both?
O > Recording is fucking boring and stressful in the same time. It´s bullshit! We also don´t rehearse. Because it´s even bigger bullshit!!! So I guess it´s rather obvious we are a live band even though it´s not unusual that before and/or at least after our shows more or less half of the band is not satisfied with what is about to happen, or with what has just happened. Or is just disillusioned with their very own existence and/or the band´s existence. Or is just generally unhappy with the situation -although could´ve been screaming with laughter and bursting with joy only 15 minutes earlier. Or later. So, you see, one could say we are a controversial band. But yes, gigs are most fun of these given choices, so I say Kuolema is more of a live band.
As drugs are a big part of your live show, how is the situation in the studio? What are your recording sessions like?
O > I´am happy you pointed out they are a big part of the SHOW. As long as there has been rock´n´roll, there have been various kinds of shows. Starting from the striking spex of Buddy Holly to the Chuck Berry´s jacket (that on-stage at least appeared to be) woven of golden threads. Well then you had the wacky 60´s & all the simple yet trippy shit that many of the bands endorsed. The early 70´s brought us the elements of danger (explosives, fire, showers of fire literally...) while the early 80´s the megalomaniac productions of (usually) heavy rock bands were travelling around the world, perhaps in 80 days, on 50 buses/trucks full of gear, playing roughly the same number of cities. But this was pretty much the dead end of the whole notion of great rock´n´n´roll show because the bands simply had pushed the limits to their extremes. Probably in the same time the length and number of different guitar or drum or bass solos during one set had reached its limits, too. The bands simply had to make their shows again more simple, but still being able to give the audience some extra value for their money.
Kuolema-guys have never been blessed with riches. Nor have we been too witty either but I guess the out-of-control –attitude and absolute recklessness someone would say have made our gigs usually a rather unique experience. To go off on a small stage, in a small club, it does create sometimes an intensified chaos that´s almost thick enough to slice a razor blade through and see pure fucking adrenaline gush out from the incision. Blood (mostly our own blood), smoke (from the chinese firecrackers: a really cost-efficient, cheap-looking as well, and an annoying little trick to get many members of the audience crying and pissed off while coughing their lungs out), and lots of broken glass or some furniture and equipment is a quite commonplace sight after Kuolema is through with our 15-minute-set.
We don´t do any of that in the studio of course. Except the drugs, of course. Some of the sessions have been recorded in a really fucked up condition, with fucked up, faulty equipment. Whereas some of that shit was recorded in a real studio in fact, and just little drunk... We prefer to record “live” as much as possible. So, at least the drums, bass and guitars go down with one take. Some half of the time we´ve also laid down the vocal tracks live. Recording live in studio sounds best in my ears but it also leaves the least room for fuck ups. So... like what I said we hate recording we´re on a constant tightrope, choosing the recording methods and how drugged up we end up to be while the tapes are rolling. It´s a chain of games.
One thing I wanna share with you though: once we recorded (that is, the 10 songs of the so-called “Arafo-sessions” on the discography CD) so that we did it all otherwise live, except added an extra guitar track there afterwards which is quite exceptional for us! The 2nd guitar has a little bit more distortion to it, and it´s slightly out-of-tune. Anyhow, I remember while we got to the “2nd-time ´round” with the guitars, Mika the guiarist was already so fucking drunk & stoned he could not stand on his feet –or even stay put on a chair, so he just lied on his back on the studio floor rushing through the songs and because he found the headphones somehow annoying he just threw them away and went on basically without hearing where or what speed the original tape was rolling at! So that´s why you are able hear the guitar starts or ends before/after the other instruments in the final mix, ha ha! We didn´t bother to do much about it as there was a local redneck bar in the same building so went there to drink some more beers and peered at the kitsch renaissance-styled pornographic paintings to celebrate the new masterpiece recording of Kuolema. August 2003. A dear friend of mine Kevin Hunt (originally from New Zealand, and who then migrated through Japan (Kobe, where we used to hang around a year together in 1999!) and the USA (where he kindly accommodated Forca Macabra and Kuolema in the NYC in 2008!) into some European countries... current location probably Benelux?) was actually staying with me in Finland that time is also on the recording! :-D
As for the aforementioned recording it´s in my opinion remarkable also in a sense that it was recorded 100% analogically in this modern era of ProFuckingTools, Fruityloops and other Mac/PC-based recording softwares. All of us Kuolema-guys are absolutely old-school and grew-up with tape trading and feel weird even with CD´s although there of course is no denying that the CD´s have come to stay. But you know what I am talking about here, right? Some studio guys come to record you at your rehearsal room, equipped only with their laptop computer, and a bunch of XLR-cables and fancy microphones that cost like a Ford Sierra each. Or, IF your very, very lucky they guy might bring a Fostex, Ampeg or some other reel-to-reel –recorder along with him. But still do the takes all digital which in the end result the same: modern sounding production, yuck!
Well, the recording I am still blabbering about was taken all directly with a bunch of regular 70´s studio mics, connected to the 24-track vintage mixing desk with XLR´s, and I tell you man I am not bullshitting, the whole shit was mastered onto a c-cassette (CrO2) of which the records were made from. So that´s kinda neat I think, thinking back to those hours of insanity. We naturally also watched some prime post-apocalyptic VHS tapes such as The Atlantis Interceptors.
Partly regarding the above: when you had a tour in Finland with Anal Cunt, you performed at least one acoustic gig (which seems to be quite a trend these days!). Have you ever thought, even jokingly, about making any acoustic recordings?
O > No no noooo!!! Basically we don´t even think about recording. Any recordings. Like I said, they are the worst snag! Really boring bullshit... And to make some acoustic Kuolema just for the hell of it would me wanna barf. The acoustic gig (“Picnic of Love”) was the idea of the Anal Cunt / Kuolema –tour organizer, and it was just something stupid we decided to agree upon. Once in a lifetime –thing. We had agreed beforehand that everyone of us would try to be was fucked up as possible before we´d to play and I think we succeeded pretty well on an individual level for that part at least. I personally dosed different kinds of opiates, opioids, GBL, benzodiazepines and other tranquilizers, ketamine, amphetamines, of course drank some alcohol and smoked some bud as well. Maybe there was more but what the hell one can´t remember everything. Ha ha!! Also, when one looks at the list I just wrote, you´d probably think that the guy must be dead –or at least couldn´t remember anything at all. But I really do remember (most of) the gig and that was a few years ago already... You see, boozing is not really my thing, I can´t handle it too well, and it wipes out my memory, but I can mix pretty well some really sick coctails of illegal drugs and medicine and at the best have an out of a body -experience! Highly recommended for anyone who´s mind is not too weak and has even the slightest appetite for dangerous adventures!
A big part of your releases is that the cover art for them is provided by Läjä Äijälä of Terveet Kädet. How and why did you get him to do the cover arts? In your opinion, how well has his artistic vision represented Kuolema this far?
O > Like I explained above Terveet Kädet sprang from the same neighborhood as Kuolema did. They had actually quite a huge influence on the punk bands back for the local scene those early days (and later on for the international scene!). Also Kuolema´s original guitar player Walde played drums for Terveet Kädet 1982-1984, all the way until his untimely passing away in that freak accident. So the friendship has continued for a couple of decades now and when Kuolema reformed it was rather obvious Läjä would make all the artwork for the recorded stuff, also the shirts, posters etc. Läjä quite recently turned 50 years and he´s probably more punk than ever before, an absolutely cool and nice character that we all have greatest respect for! Furthermore, his artwork is just ideal for Kuolema. He´s maybe at his best drawing skeletons, skulls, zombies, puke & blood and people in somewhat challenged adult situations –and that´s about everything that fits perfectly to the image of Kuolema.
You released a split with the now deceased doom metal band Reverend Bizarre, on which both of you covered a, say, more or less forgotten legend of Finnish musical history. How did this split originally come to be, and how did you come to make a cover of Eppu Normaali's song "Kaljaa Nuorille"? I must say that the two versions sound remarkably alike!
O > Well, the split came about from the friendship with the Reverend Bizarre –guys and also Sir Albert´s secret fetish: Kuolema, ha ha! Yeah, I don´t know who proposed who but mostly there was this “funny” idea of including one super slow and one super fast band on one split 7” (yes, it also came out as a 5”Mini-CD on Japan´s Modern Crazy Reaction –label (MCR) with some recorded video bonus material from Kuolema´s tour in Brazil...), and yes both doing some more or less eccentric covers there as well. R.Bizarre pretty much rewrote “Rotestilaulu” whereas we just pretty much tried to copy the original song. It was obvious we´ll never succeed and I don´t think it´s a really good output by us but it was put out nonetheless. The recording was done at our rehearsal room, using two microphones and some recording software on a laptop. One additional guitars, otherwise it was a live take. Quite OK considering we rehearsed it just two or three times -also it´s never been played again...
Your most recent releases are a compilation of your recordings as a "resurrected" band, as well as the split with Conclude. What plans are there for the band's future? I remember reading that you were going to do split releases with such bands as Barathrum and Barbatos; what's the situation with these ones? I'm hoping your next releases will face fewer setbacks than the split with Conclude. You've also made a good deal of compilation appearances, are any more of those coming up?
O > I guess the only compilation song that should have been released where it was originally recorded for, the official “Scum” tribute, is the “Divine death” by Napalm Death. We were all pretty satisfied with the results as it was another of those songs we rehearsed only a couple of times before we recorded while we were doing the “251” 7”ep. Eventually that song ended up on the 2001-2008 discography CD only, too bad.
The Barbatos split 7” is in the making. We supplied the material sleeve & the master CD maybe two years ago but it seems like that release is doomed with bad fate: label after label declines while trying to make it happen. To my best knowledge it´s now been worked by an English (?) label so perhaps it sees the light of day. One day.
The Barathrum split 7” is another of those “friendship” projects but as Barathrum´s line-up has changed almost in its entirety since this was first spoken about years ago, I don´t know if there is any will or interest for anyone involved to see it through. Neither of the bands has recorded for it yet. Here we had an idea that we´d play each others´ cover songs, Kuolema doing Barathrum´s classic “War metal” that we have even played live a couple of times. It´s a superb songs and I´d personally like to record it for some upcoming release.
The Conclude split 7” was also in the making for a few years. It was recorded August 2003 and came out early 2011 (or late 2010, I am not totally sure...), ha ha!! The pressing was a rather ridiculous 200 copies only so it sold out way too quickly. Well, and the Conclude-guys from Japan are also our old friends so it looks like there is an analogue with Kuolema doing split-releases only with some deeper meaning, such as a long-time/profound friendship. Why not... I am not such a big fan of tribute, compilation, or even split-releases, but as we have made a bunch I´d like to say to my defence I´ve been either drunk, disoriented, or just getting soft...
The next actual release of Kuolema is “Lääke Asetelma E.P.” –It´ll have the traditional works there, all new (that is, elsewhere unreleased) Kuolema songs and more or less cool sleeve to boot. This is in the works now, I am putting together the sleeve, and the recording is due before or during summer 2011. We will release it again on our own label, a small pressing, probably 300 only. That is probably about all I can tell about it at this point.
You've made a couple of very noteworthy cover songs, from Napalm Death and Terveet Kädet for example. Are there still bands left that you'd like to cover?
O > Well, yeah those are originally noteworthy songs. Not sure if we did the right justice for them but at least we tried. I am not sure about the other members but besides that one song by Barathrum at least I don´t feel like doing more cover songs.
Kuolema isn't the only band for the most of you. Would you like to tell us something about your other projects, for example Forca Macabra, and possibly even about these projects' current situation? I've understood that aside of band activities you also have some label business going on?
O > Ile the vocalist doesn´t do any other bands or projects but it´s the two of us who take care of the Kuolema´s record label (Lady Lasol Records) as well as organizing the Sekakäyttörock –gigs. I have also separate gig/tour booking agency, as well as a separate record label but those don´t do anything out of the ordinary, that is, I organize events (mostly for touring foreign bands in Finland, as well as for my bands, or sometimes for Finnish friends´ bands abroad...) and release records (both CD´s and vinyl).
Yes, Pete the bassplayer is with me in Forca Macabra as well. I am the founding member of Forca Macabra alongside with the vocalist Taurus, started back in 1991 so it´s become a dear child of mine although we are not that active or visible in the music scene. Pete joined the band in 1992 as a guitar player but quickly manouvered himself the bass because he realised he can drink more before the gigs if he plays bass. And yes I admire his bass playing a lot. A really fun guy to hang around with plus a superb bass player for any punk or thrash band. He learns the songs super fast, also remembers them. He can also improvise anytime if necessary, and can play (quite) well even if he´s loaded to teeth. Forca Macabra had just its 20th anniversary and to celebrate that we recorded 20 songs that we wanna have released as a CD this year. Still looking for a label though, anyone interested there? Check out our website for some sights & sounds: www.forcamacabra.com
Pete also has his thrash metal project Jumalation. It´s almost the same line-up as with Forca Macabra except the have a different drummer, one that can play with double bass drums coz I can´t, ha ha! They recorded an album a couple of years ago but something is holding back its release. The style is old school and you can hear obvious influences by Destruction, Dark Angel, Slayer, Sadus, Sodom, etc. etc. but the music is quite complex after all so in my opinion it´s certainly not another copycat group.
OK, then I have also been drumming with Selfish since 1991 and nowadays I am the longest-running member there, write all the lyrics (the guitarist writes pretty much all the music) and come up with the album / EP contexts, create the artwork montages for our personal japanese artist Sugi to make into actual record sleeves. I also do the booking/promotional shit for Selfish, and actually for Kuolema and Forca Macabra, too... .The Selfish website is www.selfishfinland.com and I´ll just tell you that we play some high tension, hi-energy rock´n´roll music, much influenced by the full-on Japanese hardcore/punks as well as some honest (heavy) rock music á la Motörhead, Judas Priest and AC/DC.
Mike Hammer the guitarist plays guitar also in a female-fronted, hoarse sounding punk/thrash combo Heterofobia. They have just started so there is not much to say about them yet except more practise will make them probably and hopefully better. I also have a few projects, such as Sekasorto for example. I have been their “help drummer” more than 7 years now so it looks like it´s become a steady seat for me. I don´t mind though, it´s a group of fine people and I love the music! It´s fast, very aggressive and utterly chaotic hardcore/punk with anarchist message. On the top of that I have always some bands/band projects coming and going, mostly in the field of hardcore and punk because that´s what I can do better than other musical styles... I also share much of same ideology than “punks” do so it´s kind of natural to mingle with them although I feel just as asocial and hateful at my late grandmother´s funeral as I feel with them. It´s the few individuals that make the difference and make everything worthwhile for me, that´s how I feel about it. Does that make me a willful neglect? I´d like to think so...
At least some of you have quite a bit of knowledge about the current Punk scene. Are there some bands that you'd like to recommend to fans of Kuolema, or to people overall?
O > Punk-scene, well, nationally or internationally? Well, either way, it´s one huge issue to deal with. Also, just like metal scene has all its subdivisions from speed to thrash to black to death, and even the most extreme styles such as slow and painful sludge –and on the other hand ultrafast, sick–sounding blurrnoise by grindcore, porngrind, and for example pathological grind bands who often have also extremely sick vocals to top it all.
So, I was about to say that the punk-scene is a vast sea and I don´t know where to start with, really. I am not so much into current bands musically (or lyrically), my fave stuff is the late 70´s original punk rock and some wave (The Damned, The Saints, Dead Boys, The Drones, The Germs, Machines, Art Attacks, Klips1988, Crime, etc.) as well as the 1st wave of hardcore (1981-1984), especially from the Scandinavian countries, Holland, Italy, Brazil, Yugoslavija, UK, USA, Germany etc. wherever it was made raging and fast and crazy... And yeah then I´ve got this mania for almosty any Japanese hardcore/punk/thrash/new wave/underground...
Well, there´d be basically 100´s of great recordings I could recommend for the readers and let it be known this little list here be just a tip of an ice berg... nowadays these recordings / bands should be easily available just by browsing internet –or buying some of the many, well-made official reissues. But if your musical taste goes a little further than just “metal” or “grind/noise”, check out some of these bands and you might be pleasantly surprised: Neos, Mecht Mensch, The Abused, Suburban Mutilation, Raw Noise, Genocide Association, Chaos U.K., Capitalist Alienation, Disorder, Chaotic Dischord, Confuse, Kuro, Sieg-Hell, Moral Demolition, Mornington Crescent, B.G.K., Odpadki Civilizacija, Herpes Distress, U.B.R., Eu´s Arse, Wretched, Armagedom, Dezerter, Armia, Moskwa, Agent Orange, Jesus & the Gospelfuckers, Shit S.A., Ultimo Resorte, Bluttat, Inferno, Olho Seco, Colera, Inocentes, Bastard, Death Side, G.I.S.M., Insane Youth, Terveet Kädet, Kaaos, Cadgers, Bannlyst, Svart Framtid, Akutt Innleggelse, The Varukers, Anti-Cimex, Avskum, Mob47, Crudity, Crow, Gruesome, Zouo, Gloom, Disclose... yeah, really 100´s more, and of course Discharge –the best ever!!!
Well, as the question was however about the current punk scene, I´ll say a few words about that on my behalf as well. So... I think the scene both in Finland and worldwide is now at its all time high. There are probably more individuals involved with the scene in one way or other than ever before during punk´s 30+ years of existence. For me this is a thrill, it´s certainly good news, and I am really happy each time I “discover” some new band and can set up a show for them, and then little later, perhaps put out a record by them. Such a thrill... Too bad only the number of paper fanzines has totally declined, as well as the number of compilation tapes. I am not a huge fan of CDR´s, nor don´t like too much browsing my “fanzine” in the internet. I hope that in my opinion the best finnish fanzine, Toinen Vaihtoehto, will never go online. Actually, why don´t you support them, and order 6 issues (=one year´s subscription) for 10 euro´s only. Seal your cashola well hidden inside an envelope, tell them you’re a new to the fanzine so they´ll know to start your order from the latest issue -and don´t forget to give them your address. I think you´ll be surprised at the value you get for that little money!!
Recently I´ve been also really glad to realise the D.I.Y.-spirit and punk-attitude live on strongly also outside the realms of underground metal and punk. It´s the underground rap here in Finland that´s really opened up my eyes during the recent years. Those guys are just so utterly cool, down to earth, both feet on the ground... still “artists” in the sense that they take their gigs seriously and want to entertain the crowd whereas sadly too often you get to see that the band like Kuolema is on the stage merely to amuse themselves. If you see what I mean. So, I really urge you to check out the following names on the YouTube for example, if you have the chance: Puukko-Allu, Puukko-Boris, Haittavaikutus, K.G.B. –those all hail from Oulu which seems to be the lone capital of the real UG-rap in Finland. Great people who´ve put their hearts into the music scene, and are also really open-minded for other musical genres so why didn´t you give them a chance in turn?
We now get to the regular questions. What is your view on music piracy, and the new trend of official digital-only releases?
O > Well, I´ve been familiar with digital-only official releases for a a quite a while since I´m a huge fan of Japanese hardcore and the CD-only releases came into hc/punk/metal there at an early stage, that is, since late 80´s it was already a rather obvious thing there. Sure, the Japanese consumers are also very aware of the power of the vinyl and there´s always been a demand for that but still today (sadly) very many of the best Japanese hardcore records come out on Japanese labels and on CD only. An increasing amount of these have been officially reissued on vinyl in Europe or in the States where the popularity of Japanese hardcore has literally exploded during the past 5-7 years. This is not always too easy though since the Japanese recording and mastering studios are quite expensive and naturally when a Japanese label/band gives the permission to rerelease their material abroad they are keen on having quite decent amounts of cash for the copyrights. This has held back for many of the classic releases to stay on CD only –or to end up into bootleggers´ hands!
So, I have actually once experienced the agony of being bootlegged myself. Well, Forca Macabra, that is. I sent a c-60 –tape of Forca Macabra´s recordings for a random, poor penpal in Mexico and what turned out less than a year later was a really badly put together CD, 500 copies manufactured directly off the cassette I had made. We received no free copies and the few copies I managed to obtain some other way made me wanna cry. All artwork, starting from the CD´s body print was so haphazard and looked almost like it was silk screened that it made us really feel disgusted. The key point here being that we ain´t picky with labels (Forca Macabra) therefore we´d have authorized these guys the material if the dumbskulls only had asked for the permission! We would have only made a decent artwork, and above all, sent a CDR-master source for much better sound quality...
Anyway, that´s just another story. Kuolema has not yet been a “victim” of such treatment, but for example the “Noise from the sick city” 7” is almost a bootleg, at least in our opinion. Why? Because this supplied material had no connection to the current line-up but was rather submitted to the German label by two of the ex-members (Juki and Weke) perhaps with not enough consideration. I think that 7”ep sucks shit. If there were some old, hissing rehearsal tape to put on vinyl by the early 80´s Kuolema even I had had much better quality and more ripping tapes in my vaults... so it´s just that I am one of those people who like to get things done right and as well as possible –even if it was only some noisecore band and its old rehearsal tape we were talking about here...
Kuolema´s material is basically no copyrighted but if you feel like reissuing some of the stuff please contact us, it´s more nice that way. In general, if people make illegal bootlegs, you should at least find out the fucking whereabouts of some of the (ex-)members and send them a bunch of freecopies, they will certainly not hate you more if you do that at least.
As for the latest (??) pre-fab in the musick-biz, the tracks (songs) sold in the internet: let me tell you I don´t understand it and I don´t approve to it. Just big Fuck Off to that!! It´s so damn far away from MY original idea of what is a recording: it is a vinyl or a tape, or even an original CD on your hands... I despise all the .mp3 –crap as well. I mean I don’t talk about the bands putting songs up on their website, that´s OK by me. I don´t like it but Kuolema has done it as well. I see it quite natural these days. But what I really dislike are those huge hubs like Soulseek where people download and upload gigas worth of mp3-music every second not paying a second thought really what they are giving or what they are getting. The music, the form of art itself totally loses its value this way if you ask me. I miss the times when it was up to good old tape trading and writing letters to distant countries and waiting eagerly for the next letter to arrive...
If you could change one or two things in the world, what would they be?
O > Well, I´ll speak now for myself, and I choose to pick just one thing: the population explosion! If I could use some magic wand I´d get rid of some 80% of the earth´s human population. This planet is simply far to crowded and it can not sustain the whole lot. There are so many problems linked directly to the amplitude to of the human race: lack of food, lack of fresh water, deforestation, erosion, mining and other exploitation of planet´s natural resources, as well as the general deflowering of the planet´s natural state. Those then have led to so many unnecessary wars, floods of refugees, starvation, people living in inhuman conditions... The future really looks bleak in my eyes and if (!!) I live long enough I am afraid I´ll see real doomsday visions in the near future already. Be prepared to purchase your daily dose of fresh air from the local supermarket!
Your thoughts about these things: Music (and Noise?), Human, God?
O > Noise not music, yeah... I guess this phrase was first used by legendary Discharge from England in 1980... They are considered as one of the first hardcore/punk bands and got a huge following in the early 80´s, and have maintained the cult status. Highly recommended to check out their material that varies from 3-chord hc/punk to (almost) metal. It really is great stuff all the way! Just like The Exploited, too! Anyway, good music is one of the things that always cheer me up, alongside good films (I´m a fanatic for any horror, action, exploitation, slasher, weird, documentaries and even artsy films) and the best thing ever: a call from my girlfriend <3
Human is just a teeny tiny cluster of atoms and molecules in this vast and ever expanding universe. So far we are not aware of the life outside our own solar system but I believe there is life elsewhere too and that it´s just a matter of time when they reach out to us. We have no technical capability for that in eons. We´ll probably destroy our planet and become extinct before that would happen. So, as you might already guess I´m not really excited about the things we the humans do. But we can all make a small difference at least to improve our own lives and the lives of the ones we love. And that is by love and by loving. Love is the most beautiful thing in my opinion. I feel it´s totally underrated in today´s world.
God? I´ve no god and as far as I know I think none of the Kuolema-guys believes in the god. The world was created in the big bang and we think there is no need to for any deities -especially the idea of the Christian god makes me wanna throw up. We are out own gods, we create our own life and we create our own rules. OK, if someone likes to believe in god and some Jesus Christ Superstar, go ahead, it´s not my business as long as you keep it not affecting my life and not rub it in my face. But for example that dangerous lunatic, the ex-US president George W. Bush Junior, was a really dangerous person because he is a religious nutcase and was basically controlling the world´s only superpower. If someone had him put to sleep I´d have really been happy to hear those news. Same goes for all religious lunatics. No gods, no masters!
And, of course: Why should our readers listen to Kuolema?
O > Well, I don´t think people should listen to Kuolema in particular. There are many bands that are far more exciting than Kuolema, but if you are interested to hear some pretty wild and out-of-control superfast hardcore/punk, you might as well check out Kuolema. Buy some of our records, for example directly from us, or go ahead and visit the myspace www.myspace.com/kallioonkuolema at least. You might like it, or then again might not. I think we are a live band anyway... And yes, we still have a small (!!) number of copies left of our 2001-2008 –discography-CD. It´s only 5 euros postpaid everywhere in the world. We also just did an official (25 numbered copies) reissue of our split 7”ep with Conclude (noisecore/punk from Japan!) on CDR, that´s available for 3 euros ppd everywhere. For ordering instructions, please e-mail us at: ottoitkonen at gmail dot com. We don´t check the MySpace-account nor the official website www.kuolema.biz (updated maybe 5 years ago, no kidding!!!) so just mail us directly, please.
This space is reserved for whatever you want to say and/or advertise.
O > OK, the advertising was pretty much done there in the previous question but one thing more at least: we are just making new T-shirts!! Many people have asked for those...And of course it´s another cool design by Läjä Äijälä! You can mail and ask how´s the shirt coming together if you are interested. Should be ready pretty soon I think.
Also the upcoming 7”EP “Lääke Asetelma” (”A Drug Set Up” E.P. in English) will be a small pressing on our own label so watch out for it coz usually we sell out the copies very fast... All contacts should be made to: ottoitkonen at gmail dot com -Yet please allow us some time to reply. The amount of mail I get is insane...
Well, what else... I guess Kuolema has no special message to deliver to the people, just something like “Stay punk, stay underground!” But personally I´d like to say to some people that you could open your minds for new things and let your mind expand, let your imagination fly, and let it fly high... especially if you come to the Kuolema-gig! Ha ha!! There are no limits to the human consciousness. You might be surprised what you may find there when you are “travelling” on drugs. Other than that, I always advice people to do things that you feel most comfortable doing! Don´t be a pawn. Don´t let them (or Kuolema, or me!!) control your thoughts and actions. And yes, if there are some young readers, we encourage you to avoid the military service. It´s easy, just fake a mental illness and your free from that total waste of time, or take at least the civil alternative service. Think about it, please. In general, THINK! You see, acts always have consequences...
Thank you for taking your time to answer our questions.
O > Thank YOU! This was a really good interview. We´d like to have some more interviews, please. Sorry it took so long time to answer and that despite my several attempts I couldn´t get the other guys to reply these questions... Take good care and stay true to underground! PEACE & VIOLENCE / Otto Itkonen, May 2011.
Above: Kuolema with Khatarina, 2009