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03/03/2010 – Interview with EXCALION

This is now the third time (once per album) I had the chance to ask the guys from EXCALION (official website) some questions about their new release. This time it concerns their third and newest output, "High Time", out since January 29 via Limb Music Products. You can check out the review of the album at this location. This is another big step forward for these Finns and show that, even at this stage, they are worth checking out and deserve more than just the release of their albums. "High Time" is perhaps the band's strongest album to date. With this release the band showed how they have improved their skills since the founding in 2000 and especially since the debut album, "Primal Exhale" (2005). Bassist Tero and drummer Henri took the time to add answers to my questions.


It's been three years since "Waterlines". What have you guys been up to in that period?

Henri: Wow, that's a good question. After "Waterlines" was released we played gigs around Finland and started to rehearse new material pretty much straight away. Soon we had something like 4 songs ready and started to negotiate for the next record deal. We were discussing soon with Limb music about a possible deal. However it took quite long to finalize the deal and we didn't rehearse and play together as much as we used to. We were basically all the time on a stand-by mode and later it was harder to get the same energy back as we used to. One year back we had quite a boost while jamming at the rehearsal space. The new songs sounded extremely good and the record deal was agreed with Limb. After a quiet year everything felt so damn good again and we felt that many of the new songs were by far the best we have written. It didn't take long after that to finalize the material and hit the studio. Now "High Time" is out and we're damn proud of it!

Album no. 3, "High Time". Third time, best time? ;-) Is this now what you had in mind with EXCALION? I mean, were the previous two more "trial and error" to arrive at this point ("High Time") or is each album what you meant to make at that moment in time?

Tero: The first album is pretty much the thing we were doing in the early years and with that line-up. There was certainly some trial and error stuff in that because of sheer inexperience. Actually "Waterlines" was maybe more pre-planned than the new album is, because back then we had all the songs ready and arranged at an early stage. With "High Time", we came up with some stuff still in the studio sessions.

The logo also changed. Another indication of a new chapter/beginning/era?

Tero: You can say that, yes. Nothing especially deep about it, though, we just liked the change.

Henri: Yes, we felt we should update the logo as well. One reason was also that it was designed by one of the guys from our previous label and we wanted to avoid getting into any arguments about rights issues.

Judging by the cover and album title, are the songs (maybe not all) about what's happening in the world nowadays, with all the disasters, floods, quakes, (political) riots, ...?

Excalion - High TimeTero: Not actually. Most operate on a bit smaller scale. Maybe "Sun Stones" has something in that direction.

Jarmo (vocals) had improved his singing on "Waterlines", but here I think he's sounding at his best (so far). Is this a natural evolution, or did he really practise to perfection?

Tero: I think much of it is natural. He has sounded more mature on each album.

Henri: One reason for this is that Jappe has changed the way he writes the vocal melodies. Nowadays we try to write them that they fit Jarmo's voice the best. Jarmo has also learned to guide the vocal melody creation process that he feels straight away natural and comfortable with the melodies. I think this is the most important reason why the vocals sound so damn good on "High Time".

In 2007 Jappe said there were some songs that didn't make it onto the album ("Waterlines"). Did you use these (reworked or not) for "High Time" or are all songs new, made from scratch?

Henri: All songs for "High Time" came after the "Waterlines" sessions. That's true that maybe two songs didn't make it for "Waterlines". This time it went pretty much the same and there were not that many leftovers. I think this is Jappe's greatest strength as a composer that he doesn't put effort to songs that he doesn't believe in. Why bother when you can focus on the better songs?

Tero: Yes, there were a couple of other new pieces we rehearsed, but they never developed into full songs.

Besides the music floating between Hard Rock and Power Metal, you also cross over to Progressive, like in "Sun Stones", which - like I mentioned in the review - reminded me of CONCEPTION. Which is good, as it shows EXCALION can go into various directions, without going into Extreme Metal territory. Did this happen by chance or did you have a more Progressive touch in mind when writing the song?

Tero: It was not a coincidence, I think the whole song got started with the keyboard theme that used a non-standard scale. So it was a Prog song from the start.

Henri: Yes, Jappe brought this oriental sounding theme to the rehearsals and we started to Jam it with Tero, Jappe and myself. It felt pretty comfortable and it didn't take long when we had the most parts of the song figured out.

The album ends with a very nice, speedy track called "Foreversong". I know that this is not the kind of songs you usually make, so I found it great to hear you push the pedal to the metal. Any chance of doing this more often on the upcoming albums?

Henri: Sure, why not. We haven't really planned our albums in the past and I doubt we will in the future. It goes very naturally. Jappe has an idea that he shares with us and the song builts out of it and it turns into a faster, midpaced or a slower song. I personally of course love this kind of songs that are extremely energetic and versatile.

Tero: "Foreversong" was a great song to record, it turned out to become something other than what it seemed like in demo stage. I love that song.

Arttu Sarvanne sat behind the desk again. Since he's very well aware of your capabilities and desires, I guess things went very smooth this time, more than before, no? Or did you change some compositions while in the studio, whether or not Arttu gave his impressions?

EXCALION bandTero: Yes, the fact that we know each other well makes things generally easy. But it does happen that we sometimes argue about stuff too. Arttu does not usually comment the song structures and such, it is more the smaller nuances of the arrangements.

Uwe Lulis from REBELLION mastered "High Time". Your choice or Limb's suggestion?

Henri: Uwe was purely Limb's choice, but a good one. We didn't have to complain about the result as we heard the mastered version. Very nice job.

The deal with Limb Music got renewed, or better, a proper deal was made, as "Waterlines" was only licensed to them. Was it for the sake of ease that you signed with Limb again or did he make the first step?

Henri: After "Waterlines" came out we felt pretty good with Limb and we were quite sure that they felt good about the cooperation as well. So it didn't take long when they suggested that maybe we should negotiate a bit.

Gigwise you've stayed up north. Any plans now to cross the Baltic Sea and play gigs on the European mainland, in support of "High Time"?

Tero: People ask this a lot, but currently we are primarily a recording band and not much of a touring band since it's really hard to get tours organized abroad.

Henri: Yes, we still hope to get a tour organized abroad and I'm quite confident we will manage to do that still but for now we have to stick to Finland and play as much gigs as we can here.

When writing songs, do you really start from zero or does it happen that you listen to recorded songs (be them from "Primal Exhale" or "Waterlines", for example) and re-use certain parts to create new songs? I don't mean you have to copy yourselves, but in several cases certain melodies and/or riffs would also do well in a new song, if you know what I mean.

Henri: I kinda like this reuse idea that some bands tend to do, like DREAM THEATER with some of their stuff appearing in a different form in maybe three albums, but we never did that. In our case the only similar thing that has happened a couple of times that we had some really cool part in some song but it didn't really fit the song and we might have built on that part for some other song. But this has only happened for songs that are still in the early creation phase.

With the live recordings you already have made, any chance of using some songs as bonus tracks? Or would a proper live album be a possible option? Or maybe a DVD, as bonus disc?

Henri: I think the problem still is that we haven't made a real live recording until this day. Even if we had a couple of cams shooting at us, the audio is straight from one of the two camera mics so it isn't so high quality stuff. Hopefully we'll do some proper live recordings soon enough. Would be nice to use those as bonus material of course. For now we have to stick to the demo tapes as bonus material.

Going back to the licensing issue, who owns the rights to your music? You or Sound Riot/Limb Music?

Tero: Our agreement with Limb Music grants them the commercial rights. Sound Riot no longer has any of those.

Are you linked to a copyright collection societies in Finland? If so, has it already proven beneficial for you? And what do you think of such organizations?

Tero: The songwriting guys are members of the Finnish organization Teosto. Based on what I have heard, people have mixed opinions on how well those serve their function, but I know only benefits of them.

That's it from me. Many thanks for taking the time to reply. Any last words are yours to add, as usual. Other than that, keep up the good work and all the best with things to come.

Tero: Thanks! All the readers, go ahead and pick up a copy of "High Time", we love it, maybe you'll love it too.

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