I'll start with a difficult one: how would you describe your music to someone unfamiliar with it? Ethnic metal, perhaps?
T > Ethnic metal is fine as a short genre definition. In the end you’ll have to listen and analyze the music yourself, no matter what the description was. Nowadays and at least in the near future in the music of Auringon hauta is a mixture of rock, death metal and traditional/ethnic/folk music. Proportions vary, and there may be some unfamiliar tones as well.
J > Probably we still fall under folk metal genre, because basically everything that combines folk music and metal can be called folk metal.
Are there some bands your music could rightfully be compared with, and do you recognize some bands or artists that would've had a great influence on your music? "Mr. trad." must be mentioned of course, heh, but perhaps there are some others as well.
T > Metsatöll and Skyforger are the only bands that cross my mind right now. And those aren’t quite similar to Auringon hauta.
J > My influences come mainly from folk music, and from bands like Hedningarna, Värttinä and Myllärit, who make modern folk music. From metal side, I mainly listen to classic death metal, like Amorphis. Thrash metal has also always been important to me. I grew up listening to Megadeth and Slayer.
What was it originally that drew your interest to Finnish folk-tales and Ethnic music - and of course even further to make your own music? An interest in the country's history and wanting to recreate the past people's thoughs, views and traditions, perhaps?
T > I speak on my behalf only, when I say that it was Moonsorrow that got me hooked on ethnic-influenced metal music. Their last demo “Tämä ikuinen talvi” made the trick for me in fall 1999. By that time I had listened to Hedningarna, Värttinä and Bathory but they didn’t catch me at those days yet.
J > For me, it was also Moonsorrow and Finntroll's first two albums in early 2000's that got me interested, and with Hedningarna I got deeper into folk music. Then I bought a kantele in 2004 and started making own kanteles in 2005. And who doesn't find old traditions interesting?
T > I haven’t thought it from that aspect, as “recreating the past people’s thoughts” - not that there’s anything stupid in that, it’s just not my thing personally. Rather, if and when I find some old traditions fascinating, it drives me to write it down in my own words, and sometimes this can create lyrics. But the fuel for me is not to recreate anything but to tell the story and pass the knowledge forward.
Your demos and debut full-length were released under the name Solgrav, which you changed to "Auringon Hauta" for your second album. What were the changes that caused this change? There's less black metal and more domestic folk in your music, so the change from Norwegian to Finnish seems logical enough.
T > We wanted to start with a clean slate. We weren’t at home in corpse paints (at least I wasn’t) and music-wise: ethnic/folk music gained our interest at that time and we found out black metal influences more and more restricting our creativity whereas death metal influences seem to fit - at least in our hands - better to that ethnic/folk stuff. I agree with you, the change was logical even though in the band I was the one who would have wanted to stick to the short and simpler Solgrav, my main reason for that being that the old name had already gained some conspicuousness around. In the end changing the name at that time quietened the black metal elitists, who accused us of ripping off black metal etc... It was a win-win solution after all. It’s not a big deal, but I’d like to remind that as Solgrav, we never claimed to play black metal. But then again, who cares. For example Dissection didn't either.
J > I personally found the scandinavian name awkward, because our music has nothing to do with scandinavia.
Do you still like these past works of yours, or is it all just nostalgic or even embarrassing today?
T > Everybody gains age as time goes by, and so did we since the Solgrav years. For me those albums where I participated (since the demo “Pohjola kotimme...”) are quite nostalgic, but I don’t really listen to them myself anymore. It’s nostalgic in a sense of thinking “I was part of that, it was cool at that time.” I think we didn’t make anything to be ashamed of, well maybe some parts of the first demo “Pohjoisen hämärän sarastus” sound a bit rudimentary but hey, everybody’s gotta begin from somewhere.
What caused you to change from a corpse paint-wearing band with Norwegian black metal-influences to a band with the artists using their own names instead of pseudonyms, and playing a lot more thought-out and ethnic music? Were you looking for more challenge, or didn't the black metal-based music seem rewarding or natural anymore? Why did you abandon the artist-names?
T > In my opinion both the corpse paints and pseudonyms are quite the opposite of the definition of word “true,” do you agree? It’s hard to be truly you when you play with some role name and hide behind a mask. That’s how I see it: we wanted to stand up and stand out - to get rid of the untrue mass of make believe persons that the black metal scene is full of, make something real and be true to ourselves. It’s okay to play roles if that fits you but it’s not necessary and we didn’t find it reasonable anymore.
J > Hah, my artist name was an outcome of a drunken joke, so I don't miss it! It's just that our new songs were so different compared to Solgrav material, that we needed to make these changes.
You changed the name's language when you morphed from Solgrav to Auringon Hauta, but you didn't change the name's meaning: "Sun's Grave." Why'd you stick with the name's meaning, what does it symbolize or mean for you? Does it somehow reflect your music?
J > In 2001, I came up with the band name Auringon hauta, but we changed it to norwegian before releasing the first demo, because it sounded more mysterious to Finnish ears. In few years it became obvious, that the original Finnish version would have been more natural to us, so finally we changed it back. To me it doesn’t symbolize anything, but what is interesting is what the “Sun’s grave” has symbolized to the ancient Estonian and Finnish people. There are thousands of years old tales even in Kalevala, probably related to that meteor impact in Saaremaa, Estonia.
Your logo has two joined hands and various elements of nature. The same basic idea is repeated on your "Muinaisia Muisteloita..."-album's cover in a different form. Would you like to reveal us the symbolism and meaning behind the logo and the mentioned album cover? Does it somehow describe the album's theme - if it even has a tangible theme that could be described shortly? The name already hints something about the album's concept, but I'd like to hear it described in your own words.
T > It's an old Finnish ornament. I don't know the exact origin of it but I guess it represents the traditional Finnish position of singing poems in pairs, sitting face-to-face to partner and with hands in partner’s hands.
J > It seems that Turisas has started to use the same ornament, although I don’t know what it has to do with their battle metal. But we already have a new nice looking fan-made logo, that suits our music very well, so I guess we will use that in the future.
Regarding the cover artwork, you've put a lot of effort into your visual and lyrical side. Especially the two music videos you made for "Muinaisia Muisteloita..."-album show this clearly, as well as the fact that you've actually researched your lyrical topics. Where do you draw the ideas and inspiration for these areas, is it something that flows through the books you've read or more of your own interpretations of the past?
J > Thank you, we put a lot of effort to them. It's just a shame that we were forced to use so crappy camera in filming the Veden loihtu video. Anyway, I mainly draw inspiration from old runes, as found from the book collection “Suomen kansan vanhat runot” / “The old runes of Finnish people.” It is a huge collection of fantastic folk tradition that I never get tired of. That old language and primitive way of life is just fascinating. And now, the modern Finland is one of the leading countries in technology. That contrast is huge.
What is the band's or your music's connection to the modern world? Is there something more you see in this are than just using electric guitars and basses?
T > I see the music of Auringon hauta as mainly modern music with just hints of ethnic melodies as a flavour.
J > We live in a modern world, and we have grown up listening modern heavy metal, so of course it can be heard from our music. Also, I think that I’m the only one from our band who is more interested in folk instruments and folk music in general. Others are more traditional metalheads. I guess this is rather typical in a folk metal band.
How important is the visual to your band these days? I've noticed how you've made the promotional pictures, videos and even the CD's cover image suit your concept, and I'm fairly certain it's just not a coincidence it all comes together so seamlessly.
T > Visual side is important to Auringon hauta. Of course we've had to pay some attention to it but it hasn't been difficult in the end. Some old cheap clothes from flee markets have made the biggest hole in the budget, which is not much.
J > I graduated from local art school in 2008, so I have some knowledge of digital multimedia. It's easier to keep the concept together when you make everything by yourself. It's hard work, though. Also we like to keep everything looking “home-made” and natural, not overly processed like most of new album covers.
Whereas your sole full-length under the name Solgrav focused on partly made-up mythical and mysterious tales that were rather abstract, the "Muinaisia Muisteloita..."-album seems to have a way stronger connection to Finland's actual folk-poetry and tales. Was this an intentional change or just something that happened during the composition-process?
J > During the Solgrav-days, we used our friend, Jussi “Susi” Sinkkonen, as our lyricist. He had his own concept of Auringon hauta (the name of the first album). Now after the name change, with the “Muinaisia muisteloita...”-album, we wanted to take more influences from actual tradition, rather than combine fiction and tradition.
The stylistical change bought one more major change. Previously you mostly used rather traditional instruments for a metal band and the songs were playable live, but the songs on "Muinaisia Muisteloita, Noita Syntyjä Syviä" use such an amount of additional acoustic instrumentation and various vocal styles that crafting the songs into a live-mold must be a challenge. Do you have any plans to play live in the future, or is it something that simply can't happen?
T > Well I think it would be cool to get on stage or even on a short tour in Europe, but as of now we just don't have enough musicians in the band to make it live yet. I'm not saying that Auringon hauta playing a live gig (or several) will ever happen but I personally hope so.
J > We are living in too remote location of Finland, so there isn't any players for this kind of music. And we are not moving to any major city, so it will be hard to bring this concept to a live stage. We also don't think about live performances when we make the songs. But all of us have other bands for making live shows.
Do you know how the album's been received, either domestically or in foreign countries? I bet some people were openly disappointed when you stopped making black metal-styled music.
J > At least I haven't read any bad reviews, and that's surprising. We have had good feedback especially from the people that matter. Oluen Synty and Veden Loihtu are the “hit singles” and they are the newest songs, and the ones most distant from black metal, so I think that the direction is right. We are going further into that direction with the next album.
How's your new album coming along? Is there something regarding its concept or style that you could already reveal to us? By the way, it's rare that I see band put such an effort into making their studio-videos - was this the reason you made them more artistic, them often being rather dull and usual I mean?
J > Yes, we will have even deeper concept album, this time about the midsummer feast, the Celebration of Ukko. Most of the songs will be about everyday life subjects, and rituals connecting to them. Other songs are about magic and beliefs related to midsummer, which has been the best time to make spells. And to the other question; the “Making of-videos” started from a very basic idea, but they were so fun to make that we decided to put more effort to them too. We have had a delay in recordings during this summer, because I have been building a new small studio to our yard. Recordings will continue during autumn, and more videos will follow.
Back in the Solgrav-days you made a split with the death metal-band F (earlier known as Fornjotr). Do you have any other splits in the plans - or in your dreams? What kind of plans do you have for Auringon Hauta after the upcoming album is finished, or do you yet think that far?
J > We don't have plans for so distant future. Our record deal is just for these two albums. I think that we won't do any split albums. The split with Fornjotr was a special one.
You have some other bands as well, of which I'm only familiar with Häive. Would you like to share a word about them and their current situation?
T > I play bass in Vuolla (www.vuolla.net). Vuolla plays somewhat progressive rock/metal. We’ve only released one 45 minutes long EP “At the Edge of the Mist” and will enter the studio in autumn to record a couple of long tunes more. We have played five gigs around Jyväskylä region and our first gig elsewhere is booked to Bar Loose, Helsinki on the 26th of October.
J > Häive is participating in an upcoming compilation of many quite well known pagan metal bands. No one knows when it will be released, but Häive songs are ready anyway. Two songs are almost completely based on traditional melodies and have clean vocals exclusively, and one songs is more familiar and epic Häive tune with distorted vocals. We also started a new oldschool thrash metal band called Antabus with Lari (the drummer of Auringon Hauta) and couple of other local guys early this year. We're still searching for a singer, and then we are ready for gigs and recording the first classic demonstration.
Anything you'd like to add or discuss further before we conclude this interview?
T > I'm happy with this. You had came up with interesting questions, thanks for the interview. For readers, check out our band if you haven’t already! www.auringonhauta.tk is a good place to start.
J > Cheers to our patient and loyal fans!
Thank you for your time. I'll be waiting for the upcoming album.