The first but perhaps not the easiest question is as follows: how would you describe your music to someone who hasn't heard of you before? Are there some bands you'd be comfortable comparing Black Totem with?
Spit Poison > We call it Black Bleeding Blues. We often describe it as doom and blues influenced garage rock. Just stating that Black Totem is a dirty guitar and drum duo often does the job as well. We don't mind what or who people compare us to. Some people say that we sound like Danzig and Black Magic Six. Not far fetched, but not completely accurate, either.
What is the history of Black Totem and the reason for its birth? Did you have a clear vision of what to do when you started, or did it form along the way through jamming? How did you two come together to form a band?
Spit Poison > Me and the drummer Tony Cash know each other since we were teens. We put the band together mainly because we needed an outlet for a lot of black and blue feelings. I was working too much and was done spending time around useless people. Both of us played in bands way back when, but hadn't picked up an instrument in something like 13 years when Black Totem got started. In the early Totem days we were just playing what we were able to pull off. We never were big on learning cover songs. It was about writing songs and beating the hell out of the instruments. Naturally the band name came to be before the actual band.
As a follow-up, what are the bands/artists that you're influenced by? Do you recognize any influences coming from outside musical spheres? I would assume that you're influenced by nature as well, based on your artworks and some of the song titles and lyrics.
Spit Poison > I'm influenced by a lot of bands. I'm impressed by a lot of different guitar drum duos like The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Black Cobra, Black Magic Six, Urfaust and Dark Throne. I don't know how much you can hear that in our thing. Less is war! Danzig and my all time favourite band, Samhain, affect most aspects of my life. I can't deny that. I like my music like I like my women, simple and dark. Deranged people, sleazy films, uncomfortable art and, yes, northern predatory animals serve as additional inspirations. I feel a strong connection to the Finnish forest and wildlife. I ain't talking new age mumbo jumbo here, but something more profound.
Your five-song debut 7" was released in 2009, and we had to wait until 2012 to hear a new 7" from you. As far as I've understood, you didn't do a lot of gigs during that time either. How active is Black Totem, generally speaking - either as a rehearsing band or a more publicly operating one? Are you more at home on stage or in studio?
Spit Poison > As I said before Black Totem is our outlet. We don't want it to turn into a burden. So we don't get stressed about anything concerning Black Totem. There are thousands of bands competing for whatever reasons. We have no interest in anything except enjoying what we do. It's pleasant playing a gig now and then, especially with bands we know and appreciate. It seems hard, though, getting gigs because of the competition and many times it feels like it's not worth the effort. We try to rehearse and compose a couple times a week.
You haven't been too active in the field of advertising your releases either, heh. Have you followed their reception, and if yes, how has the feedback been so far?
Spit Poison > We have no need to push our thing on our listeners. Life should be laid back. Every aspect of life can't be laid back, but I want my connection to this band to be that exclusively. I also like the fact that someone might discover our songs, like jewels in pig shit. A band always feels more personal if you find it yourself.
I think we've got a fair reception. Mostly the reviews have been very agreeable. I enjoy the fact that despite liking our songs or not many critics have been inspired to describe our sound very verbally, using words like sweat, grit, whiskey and moldy potato cellars. We seem to have captured a certain mood, which I feel is more than an achievement for any band. Like most bands we've got lovers and haters. The haters mostly keep it to themselves, with an exception to the usual lame anonymous internet hater. Comparing us to Black Magic Six seems to be a cliché that is starting to get annoying. Yeah, sure both begin with Black and are duos from Finland, but we're not carved out of the same wood when you get down to it. We don't rock like they do. We howl and drool.
Both of your EP's have been released in 7" vinyl-format. Do you personally favour vinyl over other formats, or was this choice defined by something else?
Spit Poison > Vinyl is the one and only acceptable format for RECORDS. Releasing music in any format is totally acceptable, but if you want to make a RECORD, release it on vinyl. Vinyl comes first in my book.
A big chunk of your sound is defined by your choice of guitar. Would you like to tell us something about this specific instrument?
Spit Poison > I call her Mañana. She's a custom made bed pan guitar made by instrument builder Kimmo Nissinen. She's been pissed and crapped on in her past, but those days are over now. There's a lot of quirks to deal with when it comes to this kind of guitar. Probably not the best guitar in the world, but it's the one for me.
Your lyrics are often rather simple, but feature very dark, haunting and distressed themes - as do your music videos. What inspires your lyrics? Are such dark lyrics simply something that needs to go hand in hand with the rougher type of music that you create, or do they have a certain deeper meaning behind them?
Spit Poison > I've been writing lyrics since back in my punk days of the early 90's. I tend to reflect what I feel through a simple bluesy tone. To me good lyrics need an edge, so I feel reluctant to write about the soft spots of my existence. I'm letting out a lot of bad blood on this and it's not proper ingredients for cheery songs. Black Totem channels the aggression, the frustration and the blues right out of our system, making room for more bittersweet feelings. I like catchiness in music to a certain extent and I never felt rock was an intellectual form of self expression. That's why I prefer music in a simple, repetitive form. It seems like saying stuff once just isn't enough many times.
Regarding the above, is there some belief system that operates behind your lyrics, or is it all just earthly themes viewed through a twisted mind?
Spit Poison > It's difficult to describe the shit you're knee-deep in. I feel that I write dramatic, updated blues lyrics with a horror twist.
Your music videos seem to have been done with a lot of thought and effort. They're dark, rough, and feature possessed/possessing women. How did you originally come up with the idea to make such music videos, and how did you (aim to) form their general feel and aesthetics? Did you have some specific inspirers in mind while crafting and/or planning them?
Spit Poison > I make films for a living. That's where the craft and skills come from. Again, I'm out to capture the mood of the music into visual form in the videos. Beautiful women make us look good. I think music videos in general are mostly boring, lame and too safe. Wouldn't want to fall into those categories myself. I find it amusing that our last video with the gorgeous topless girl dancing was too much for a lot of people. It's not like it's anything you haven't sen before. I would get personal mail from fans saying that they really enjoy it, but are too ashamed to share, like or comment on it on the internet. So we have closet fans. Priceless.
It seems that you generally put a lot of thought and effort to your aesthetic side, as both of your albums feature hand-painted covers and they both look rather unusual. What are the stories behind these artworks?
Spit Poison > The cover art on our records are paintings found in flea markets painted by unknown amateurs. I collect amateur art. I know what I like, so I don't buy a painting often. I feel amateurs can get something right by doing it wrong. It's like drunk alchemy. We want the look of our releases to look as traditional as we feel about the content. With a twist. Always with a twist.
The second EP's opener featured some (very shrilling!) additional screams by the band The Seekrets. How did you come to work with these ladies?
Spit Poison > I've known A.Seekret and S.Seekret for years. Went to school with A. and so on. The Seekrets and Black Totem have played a whole lot of gigs together, the Rituaalimenot 1 & 2- mini tours for instance. We respect their take on what they are doing. It was really natural for us to invite them to be the witches burning in our flame.
What are your plans for the future? You've mentioned that you'll be working on a full- length album next, what is its schedule and general situation at the moment? I'm assuming it'll be released as a 12" vinyl, correct?
Spit Poison > 12" vinyl it is. We have the songs ready to go for the first album. We just have to record them and find the right company to release it. We have no strict schedule, but we hope to get them recorded during this -13 year.
You made some very rough recordings prior to your debut 7", will these early songs become publicly available at some point?
Spit Poison > I doubt that, but some of the songs will be on the album in their updated form.
Is Black Totem your only band at the moment? Are you active in other fields of artistic expression?
Spit Poison > Spit Poison and Tony Cash only appear in Black Totem. My alter ego plays drums in Mansion, a spiritual doom rock outfit. Also, I'm a filmmaker, illustrator and screen writer. I've made an album cover for Pentagram and a gig poster for Diamanda Galás. The only non-artistic job I've done in 15 years has been packing records at Svart Records. It was great, though. Gotta love 'em.
Anything else you'd like to add, discuss further, advertise, ask..?
Spit Poison > I Will Haunt You. Just needed to come clean about that.
Thank you for your time! I'll be waiting to hear your full-length album.
Spit Poison > Cheers!