How would you sum up your band and sound to someone unfamiliar with The Carnival? "Too metal for punks, too punk for metalheads," but what else?
H > Raw, noisy and passionate music. People sometimes drinking too much. Joyless humour.
You were originally known as "Mörka Skoget," which stands for "The Dark Forest," but soon changed your name to the current one. How did you choose the band name, and what does it stand for?
H > I don't remember us having any grand ideas, but MS was just a joke for a name, so we needed to change that as soon as possible. Maybe the choice was subconscious, but anyway, the carnival is a celebration of laughter in which death is always present. It represents the animal sides of man and mocks all sorts of spiritual and political leaders. So I guess the name suits us just fine. Just like the name, we are weird, amorphous, maybe humorous but in a gloomy way.
I suggest anyone interested to read Mikhail Bakhtin's writings about the subject.
You've had the same lineup since forming the band in '99, or at least since your debut EP. What is it that has kept the group together? It's pretty rare for a band to operate for such a time with the same members.
H > Stubborness and friendship. The satisfying parts of the creative processes and the fun of touring together, even though they both can also be stressful. I may even dare to say ”brotherhood”, hahaha. We've learned how to deal with our inner difficulties at least in some ways, and the problems such as living in different parts of Finland (our bass player Jani lives in Kajaani and the rest of us in Helsinki.) It would never cross my mind to change any of the line up. Not for a long period anyway, hahaha.
How often do you rehearse? Based on your recordings you have a splendid group chemistry, which is why I'm asking.
H > It differs. I play in three active bands, so the one that is most active at the moment (tour or recordings coming up) gets most attention. But through the bands lifeline and even before the band as youngsters, we've played together quite a lot (just not strictly on any weekly basis.)
I often think that we have a very sloppy group chemistry, but maybe that's just me, hahaha. Playing well together is not only about playing. It's about knowing each other, I think.
Do you still have the same musical and lyrical main influences as you did when you begun, and could you name some bands that you could name as your current and/or past influences? Or, in short, are there some bands that you could recommend to your fans?
H > I think the main influences for The Carnival are and always have been Terveet Kädet, Bathory, Celtic Frost etc. But of course the taste varies during the years, although I don't think I'll ever quit listening to the mentioned groups. And even today, their music has lots of interesting layers, lots to feel astonished about, even though I've listened to them a lot. Right now I'd want us to take a more primitive and weird direction. Actually there are not many bands that all four of us listen to, but TK is definitely one of them.
Aside of music, what influences you to create? Watching the news?
H > Not the news, but reading a lot. You know, books: novels, biographies, history, some academic stuff etc. And I like cool paintings as well. And movies! Although nowadays it's hard to find time for movies, which is sad. And just walking around, that is a big influence.
Does The Carnival have a lead composer or lyricist, or how do you share the creative responsibilities? How are your songs usually born?
H > We definitely don't have any bosses in any of the creative departments, even though Hannu writes most of the music and me and Vesa basically all of the lyrics. And if one wants to participate, he has to have good enough ideas. Usually Hannu brings in the riffs and then we start making something out of them. The compositions are ready long before the lyrics. And about the lyrics, we may talk about the lyrical themes a little bit, but not very much. Lately we've been laughing about how similar stuff me and Vesa write, although we never discuss what we are writing at the moment. It's very weird actually.
Regarding the above, many of your lyrics have been written by Läjä Äijälä of Terveet Kädet fame, and he's drawn the covers for most of your releases as well. Your music and lyrics are clearly influenced by Terveet Kädet so I'm not surprised that you want to work with him, but how did you originally get him to contribute? I think his creations fit your music really well.
H > Back in the old days, when people still sent letters to each other, I sent Läjä our first demo recording and a letter, just to say that ”we have this band and you've been an influence” and blah blah blah. To my surprise, he sent us a postcard a few weeks later and that's how it started happening. His contribution was a big boost for us in the beginning, and still a fucking great honour. He seems to understand the band very well.
Your musical and vocal delivery often aim for raw and oldschool-spirited chaos. How do the lyrics fit this image? Are they there to deepen the misanthropic, often apocalyptic and delirium-induced atmospheres and to further colour the image of world in flames, or do you have something "deeper" that you're trying to deliver? Is The Carnival a band with a message, or a certain ideology?
H > Good lyrics paint impressive pictures but still carry lots in between the lines, I think. Some masters have even done that with only a few lines!
At least I have gone a long way from the ”lots of cool sounding words in a row” style to the stuff I do nowadays, which at least in my opinion is pretty far from the generic hardcore or metal material. I take the task pretty seriously, actually. For the forthcoming album I have written texts that I already know won't be included on the record. But finishing them anyway gives me a better picture of the worlds and the details I'm dealing with. May sound pretentious, but that's the way that seems to work for me.
I don't think there are plain messages or suggestions to do or not do something in the lyrics, but deeper meanings, yes. Absolutely.
Music is born from the individuals, who get the inspiration for their craft from the world around them. You've said that the band was originally formed as a counter-reaction towards the commercial metal scene and to keep the underground-spirit alive and kicking. Do you still have these same aims as you had in the beginning over ten years ago, or have additional ambitions appeared alongside it? Or, in other words, what keeps you active and creative? It seems that you have pretty clear vision of what to create musically, based on the fact how little your songs' basis has changed over the years.
H > I think the basic idea has not changed that much. Although we don't have to be so idealistic as we were as youngsters. The underground is alive and kicking, so why would we worry about the tons of lame metal-bands around. Of course, the main idea is not to fight against anyone, but to deliver our own musical ideas as well as we can. It seems that not many bands care about the artistic point enough: they either make songs for the fun of it, or want to ”make it big.” I want us to make music that satisfies us. And that's a hard job.
As said, your musical style has stayed roughly the same since your debut EP; it's a mixture of thrash metal, black metal, hardcore punk and chaos. Your music seemed to become rawer by each new release since the debut, which finally resulted in the downright hostile "Kivulias"-EP. What kind of recording methods do you use, and how do you know what kind of a soundscape is needed to suit each release?
H > Fucked up mentality is the first thing, hahaha. When you have it, everything just comes along.
How do the recordings sessions overall come to happen? Are they well thought-out and controlled, or just something that happens naturally without much planning?
H > I'd say half and half. For example I have a direct idea about how the drums should sound, even though it may sound chaotic to the listener. And we want to be prepared before entering the studio. But like with all ideas, things develop by the moment, how we feel when recording etc. You should always follow your instincts and watch where it takes you. I have left some unsatisfying parts to records just because I felt that the whole take had in some way a right spirit. I don't know if it's the best way, but it felt right back then.
And it's more fun to experiment with equipment which is possibly not so good than click the mouse and get some ready-made sound. It's like comparing painting something out of nothing to the colouring books which children do.
You've released a split with the death metal-band Enormity, one with HC-group Valium Kiharat, and a three-way with two Finnish legends of noisy hardcore, namely Creepy Crawlie and Kuolema. How do you choose the bands to do splits with? Do you have any more splits planned or coming up?
H > We don't particulary ”choose” anyone. Things just happen if you find like-minded people who also have some relations musically. We have a split with Malicious Death coming up. Maybe something else? Not too sure, some of us like to agree split EP's and tours with comrade bands when drinking together, hahaha.
Your split with Valium Kiharat was given the title "Kajaani." Both of the bands originate from there, but was this the sole reason for the split's title?
H > Kajaani is a state of mind. The record shows one side of it, although I have nothing against Kajaani. Not much to do there, but it's a fun place to visit every once-in-a-while.
You were supposed to release a split with VK that would've featured acoustic live-material from both bands, but due to VK's performances not having been recorded you released your part as a very limited (100pcs) tape on "Saimaan Silakat"-label. How satisfied are you with the tape now that it's been available for a while? Do you have any similar experiments planned for the future? It's a bummer that the pressing's so limited, but was the small pressing amount necessary to keep the attention on your "actual" releases, and keeping people from thinking that you've changed your musical direction?
H > It's a bummer that VK's side never got recorded, because they sounded great. The tape is a well enough documentary, and that's how it was meant to be. Silakka himself said that 100 sounds ok and we were satisfied with that. It's not as necessary to spread something wide as to just keep doing something. Had not the VK side been lost, we most likely would have made a 500 press of a split 7”EP. But I don't think the acoustic experiment is something extraordinary which should be limited. It's the same band, just another side of it.
Your latest creation is also your longest one yet: the 15-minuter "Maasta" MLP. What does this title stand for, and why was it chosen for the release? I haven't seen the full lyrics, so I cannot know if "Maasta" is a theme-release of some sort. Based on the covers and the lyric-bits I could suppose that the screaming trees symbolize man's ignorance for his surroundings as well as losing touch with reality, but I might be over-analyzing it all.
H > The title is a kind of a wordplay, it means ”from the soil” and ”about a land”. It's a theme album of a sort, dealing for example with the laws of man colliding with the laws of nature and so on. But I don't want to analyse it too much. That would spoil the fun from the listener. Loosing touch with something called reality is indeed a very strong theme in everything we do.
Mere snippets of the album's lyrics were included on the sleeve, why? Is it to "force" the listener to focus on the music in case they want to know the full lyrics and to get your message (and lunacy)? It seems that you've fully switched from English lyrics to Finnish ones, was it a conscious choice?
H > Yep, I don't think we´ll ever switch back to english. And you got the idea about printing the lyrics pretty much correct. We don't print the musical notes either, so why should we print the lyrics. The little parts are like peeks, keys, to the album, to make it a little bit easier. But to make it short: there's the music, that's the cover art and that's the whole picture. Deal with it the best you can, hahaha.
I was surprised to notice that "Maasta" has a cleaner guitar sound than your previous records, but the vocal distortion keeps the EP from sounding too light-weight. Did you intentionally aim for a cleaner soundscape this time? Some people might say that, for example, the soundscapes of "Kivulias" or "III"-EP would've been overkill if the records lasted for the full 15 minutes.
H > Hannu usually says ”it shall turn out like it shall turn out.” And that's all I can say about the guitar sound. But we never ever aim for anything light. It just happened, can't remember how. Maybe because the studio was more professional? Won't happen again though, hahaha.
You've released a demo, three splits and six EPs (if one counts the acoustic tape as an another EP). In your personal opinion, which ones have are best ones, and are there ones you would not release today?
H > I myself like the demo, the second EP and the MLP best. I'm not sure why. But anyway, I don't spend time listening to my own records. They all are not only artistic objects, but also documentaries of who we were and what did back then. And thinking that way, they all have a part in the bands history.
You're currently planning to record your debut full-lenght. How's this process going on at the moment, and are there something you could already reveal of the album? Will there be any contribution from Mr. Äijälä this time, and do you yet have a label for the album?
H > Not much to tell yet. The songs are nearly ready, but before we enter the studio, we don't know what will become of them. The studio is scheduled to take place at the end of the summer 2011.
When writing the lyrics I've been interested in the subject of insanity. Hopefully Läjä has time to make the cover once again.
Regarding the labels, how have you found the ones that've released your music? All except the Enormity-split seem to have been partially released by your own record label Krypta Records, so I'd guess not too many good labels have contacted you.
H > Usually when they do contact us, it's all talk. And for a band this size, there's no much distribution, so it's the easiest way to do everything ourselves, because if people want our records, they usually come to ask us directly, so there's no need for extra people. We've been happy with Rusto Osiris though. And to not stir things up too much: we are usually open for negotiations.
What other plans do you have for the future, in addition to the debut LP? I've understood that you're waiting for someone to release a compilation which would feature your debut demo. Do you know what the compilation's current situation is?
H > No idea. I think someone has drinked his money or something. But we'll wait. The split with Malicious Death will start taking its form better hopefully somewhere this year, and maybe we'll do some gigs, though nothing very particular in mind right now.
You've made quite a few gigs as well. Is The Carnival more of a live-band, a recording one, or equally both? Some artists regard physical releases just as a "necessary evil" to get some gigs.
H > I like both playing live and making records, but for different reasons. Gigs are usually more fun, and in a way they are very ceremonial at best, and I love it.
Speaking of live gigs. You've been active for over ten years. Do you have a certain group or type of people that come to your gigs and buy your albums? Mixing metal and punk together seems to have become more usual the past few years, so one would think people aren't as held back of your music as they were earlier.
H > I think the tide has turned a little bit. The crowds are mixed and there's lots of different kinds of people who come to see gigs. If someone comes to see particularily us, he or she usually wears a Celtic Frost or a Darkthrone shirt, hahaha.
Do any of you have any other active bands or musical projects?
H > Yes. I play the drums in the hardcore punk band Ydinperhe (we just came back from the US) and the Finnish-sung trad. heavy metal act Heavy Metal Perse (just recorded drums for the second full-lenght). And also I'm usually happy to play when needed, for example in Vesa's space-project Interstellar Torment. Vesa also has a black metal -band called Angmar, which has been around quite some time now.
I'd suppose you have a good knowing of the (Finnish) underground-scene. What are the names you'd recommend people to check out, if any?
H > I'm not sure I have a good knowing of anything, but here's some of my favourite local bands: Valium Kiharat (the best!), Ristisaatto, Creepy Crawlie, Ride for Revenge, Haistelijat, Lapinpolthajat, Kuolema, Jumalation, Malicious Death etc etc.
Time for the regular questions. What is your view on music piracy and digital-only releases? I'd guess that The Carnival will never release a digital album, at least.
H > Piracy sucks. Buy the fucking albums! Digital records are indeed handy and maybe ecological, but they're like computerized books for me: I prefer the old way.
Your thoughts about the following words: human, music, god?
H > Written gods are symbols of ourselves. Nature is the real god and that godhood can be found in everyone. Music is something that has existed from the day we were mere living slime. We should follow that track, in case someone makes something worthwile to follow.
What are the two things you would change in the world, if you could?
H > Difficult. Maybe I could hire two cosmic judges, one to make people responsible for their actions and another one to make everyone forget about false prestiges.
A tricky one: why should our readers listen to The Carnival... or should they?
H > I've grown tired of the idea of trying to sell something. The reason I'm doing this interview is not to sell the band but because it was interesting. But ok, if you're interested in music, maybe you should check us out. Or if you hate music, maybe you should try us too – it could be worthwhile, hahaha.
This paragraph is for whatever you might want to say and/or advertise.
H > This is a hard one. When in sorrow seek joy?
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.
H > Thanks for your interest and well-thought questions!