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18/10/2006 – Interview with SPIRITUS MORTIS

The interview with this Finnish Doom Metal band was originally planned for April, which is when I sent the questions. Due to whatever reason, I got the answers this month, as the date shows. Jussi Maijala (guitar), Teemu Maijala (bass) and Vesa Lampi (vox) were kind enough to spend some time on the replies. SIX months waiting for your questions to be answered. Apparently the band had nothing to do with it, having received the questions three weeks before they sent them back. But all is fine now and the guys are working on their new album. Earlier this year they released "Fallen" of which you can read the review at this location.

Spiritus Mortis logo

The band was formed in 1987, released a couple of demos and contributed to compilations, but the debut only came out like 10 years later. What took you so long?

J: Why not so long? Time to grow and develop like wine you know. Now we are 'full-grown' band. It would not be so bad idea to bands to take their time and develop their own style. For youngsters; do not panic if you have played two weeks without record deal.

T: We were so goddamn lazy... We were so stuck with things like school, army, daily work, band members living on diffirent cities etc.

V: I came and kicked your asses and at least something began to happen!

Spiritus Mortis bandThere have also been some line-up changes: Vesa joined on vocals, replacing Tomi. Veli-Matti became the drummer, VP switched to guitar, ... After the recordings of the debut album Jarkko replaced Veli-Matti. How did you find the new members and how did you cope with all this changing and replacing?

J: and now Kari 'Gary' Lavila is our lead guitarist! Great man like Blackmore of Hakojärvi (his birthplace). 'New' members were our old friends, persons fit to SM world, so changing was not so hard to handle.

T: Lineup changes went rather painlessly. From the beginning we were searching for decent vocalist because I can't sing at all and drummer because VPs main instrument was and is guitar. So the main problem was to find right men to fill these slots. After Vesa begged us ;-) to get an opportunity to sing things finally started to click.

When VP moved to first to Pirkkala (150km away) and then Hellsinki (300km away) rehearsing as whole band became a problem, so we had to let him go. But no hard feelings, hopefully we can use him as producer while on studio, he's great with music theory and so on.

The release of the debut didn't go too well either, as the label went bankrupt. Could you give some explanation on that: why that label, your expectations, how you felt when the label closed its books, .... ?

J: Shortly; too many bands, too little time and money, I believe. I did not wait rock and roll dream come true, no Rolls-Royces, big titty girls or a lots of money.

T: What we heard that distribution in certain mid-european countries sucked big time. Like Germany, Rage Of Achilles told that debut sold about 30 copies. We could have sold twice that ourselves when we played on Doom Shall Rise festival. Because I'm so sceptic so I think that bankrupt was in the air because it seemed like they signed every available band...

V: That was kick in the teeth but so what life's a bitch anyway!

Fallen coverYou released "Fallen" via Black Lotus Records. How did they come into the picture and why were they chosen above other labels? In addition, were you now more careful when signing a contract, keeping the unlucky situation with the previous label in mind?

J: Tom Phillips from WHILE HEAVEN WEPT helped us to get a deal with Black Lotus Records. We met him in Doom Shall Rise festival. He mention us to BLR.

To the second question; BLR was the best possible choice at that time. Company big enough, other bands recommend them etc.

V: Well I don't know how much more careful you must be with signing a label? We should have had fortune teller to tell us what will happen with this case! All went so fine at first and then phone call that business guys have decide to not to release cds anymore.

Now that Black Lotus had to close its doors some time ago, how do you feel about it? This is another black moment in the band's history. Also very similar to what happened before. Won't this affect the signing of a the contract with another label? On your website, it seems like you're on a quest to suck record labels financially dry. ;-)

T: It is so 'normal' in SM world so I just took it. And I was actually relieved, because now we don't have to hurry to make songs to next album. And it was fun to put that "who wants to be next" slogan on our pages.

J: No panic just looking forward.

V: Yeah, we just try to find next label to ruin! We have almost all material for third attack ready so we have to check out possibilities. We'll see what happens!

Are you satisfied with the result on "Fallen" or are there things you wanted to change but couldn't because of whatever reasons?

T: I don't like how the mastering turned out but probably the result would have been even worse if I messed with it, so no hard feelings. We had a lot of time when we recorded "Fallen" and mixerman DoomSnake Ketola mixed it on his freetime but afterall we ended up in a hurry because we had less than week to master the whole thing and send it to Creece...

Vocals on first track "New Age" are mixed a little bit behind, but all other songs ended up rather good and sounds/production is ok.

J: "Fallen" is good, more 'rocking' than ancestor aka first one. We played old songs as we planned to do and it took just 8 hours to play my guitars.

Personally I do not like when some other bands says that "our album XXXX is so shitty, everything was so terrible, mixer fell asleep, my dog dies, I do not have enough beer" etc... Sounds just stupid; like things just happened and you can not control them.

V: As Teemu said, vocals on "New Age" are too down by mistake and some drum cymbal stuff could have been recorded more carefully. But those things are still so minor that normal listener won't hear them out at all.

When did you start writing and composing the material for "Fallen"?

T: Heh, because we are so slow with composing new material, songs on "Fallen" goes from 1991 ("New Age", "Wasteland") to 2004 ("All This In The Name Of Love" and "Goodbye")

V: Yes indeed we are lazy bastards with new stuff! Plenty of ideas but so time consuming to get them just the way we want songs to be.

Which issues were tackled on the new album - or in short: what's it about? If possible, could you give a brief description with each song?

T: Vesa?

V: Jussi?

J: Whole theme in album is death and destruction, almost like "Götterdämmerung". So title "Fallen" describe it quit well.

"All this In The Name of Love" is more in 'little people' level. It tells the story about, almost every year here in Finland, family man or woman kills his entirely family and himself because 'business is going bad' and he/she has to save his face by killing his family so none of them have to live in 'shame'. So, here in this one, family man has killed his family and himself and now he is waiting at the gates of heaven where Saint Peter is asking him that "is he really thinking about going to heaven after what he did". First love song from SPIRITUS MORTIS....

"Sleeping Beneath The Lawn"; I'm a big fan of Argento-style giallo films. You know mysterous murderer with black gloves, sharp knife and twisted mind. Song is dedicated to Dario Argento.

In this song I played SLAYER's "South of Heaven" which is truly masterpiece and get some ideas for SM. So it is more like 'modified' SLAYER played by SM.

V: There ain't specific theme on the album but somehow my lyrics always turns out to be kinda grim. Well, SM can't sing about flowers ..... only if they are poisoned!

Where was the album recorded and who did the production/mixing/mastering, because it has a very clear sound.

T: Album was recorded at local PopArtikkeli studio and the producing/mixing/mastering/
coffee were done by Marko 'DoomSnake' Ketola. It is a great place because it is so near and DoomSnake knows what he is doing and he also knows us. So he could mix the songs about 95% perfect and after that we could interfere with our own ideas.

J: Precisely! DoomSnake is great man and probably we couldn't have made those albums without his help.

Is there a chance older songs will re-released or re-recorded?

T: Heh, again: Since we are so goddamn slow with composing new material we try to recycle the older material as much as we can.

There has been some talk about vinyl pressing of the first album, making it double album with another disk with demo and live-versions of our songs. But lets wait and see what happens.

J: Yeah, something like put some older and 'weird' SM songs to vinyl where is first SM album and then live stuff, remake songs from VINTAGE MORTIS (early years trio where Teemu sings and VP plays drums) and songs we played with former singer. Interesting little stuff. :-)

V: And if we sign EMI or Warner we can release firstly greatest hits cd containing tracks from first two albums, right!?

J & T : Shut up idiot!

Concerning touring, which countries do plan to visit?

T: No specific plans but we like to play anywhere.

J: We love to play live! I must say we are damn good performers. But sadly in Finland, in land of ice and snow and not so many people, we do not have so many places to play. On the good side if you do not play often, then on the gig you want to play on ten. :-)

V: I have always had this huge urge to play in Monaco while F1's are racing .... then we could invite Räikkönen and Ferrari staff to our small rowing boat to join the party! Aren't I genius or something?

Spiritus Mortis bandWhat inspires you to write lyrics?

V: Everydays shit, movies and so on. I tend to hide 'real story' behind warrior, barbarian tales usually.

When writing new songs, do you get together and exchange ideas or does it start with one or two people (by manner of speech) who then tell the others what to play?

T: It varies. Sometimes someone comes with whole song and then we rehearse and arrenge it together. But usually someone comes up with good riff and other comes with chorus etc. Songs are composed together at rehearsal cave so the whole band can say something.

J: Usually it all starts with some great, doomy and groovy riffs and after that starts the long and interesting trip to compose functioning and smooth song. Not very short songs anymore like in old days. :-)

V: I guess I'm the one who brings almost whole songs to rehearsals.

On "Fallen", there seem to be similarities with BLACK SABBATH, DIO, CANDLEMASS, .... Are those the kind of bands you grew up with or that were very important as an influence for SPIRITUS MORTIS?

T: When we started our influences were CELTIC FROST, VENOM and BLACK SABBATH. But every member of the band brings his own ideas and influences. I gotta admit, I listen a lot of music and try to steal every decent idea to our own songs. :-)

J: I bought last album back in year 1996... But back to your question: quilty as charged. 'Musical home' of SM are those bands you mentioned. Maybe MANOWAR and JUDAS PRIEST too.

Do you keep track of the metal scene? Do you check out new bands (Powermetal, Death Metal, Thrash, Black, Heavy, Hardrock, Prog, ....)?

T: No. My taste in music was left behind on 80s. There are some bands whos albums I buy anyway, like SLAYER, CANDLEMASS etc. And sometimes when we are compared to bands like MANILLA ROAD and GRAND MAGUS, I go and buy their records because I haven't heard them ?

J: I use mainly YouTube. And I have found some interesting stuff.

V: I don't either keep up with new styles and stuff. I guess I'm pretty stuck with 70's!

Do you already have ideas (ready or not) for the next album? And have there already been talks with certain labels?

T: We have about seven songs for new album and we'll have to make a couple of more because sometimes the songs are not working as good as hoped so we leave them for next album. We're not one of those bands who composes 20 songs and take the best of them, we'll try to use every song we write. The title of the album will probably be "Dead, Dying or Alive". No contacts with labels but no hurry...

J: Third one will be the HEAVIEST SM album so far. Some talks, nothing serious yet.

What would you like to see become reality for SPIRITUS MORTIS? In addition, what can we expect for the future? Keep in mind these are two different, yet related questions. The first about your wishes/dreams, the second about what's certainly going to happen.

T: SM is a great hobby to me. Some balance to my daily work, at least while playing I can do what I like. I dream about Kobe Tai... I mean more gigs and good time with SM. What is certainly going to happen is some gigs in Finland, then after we have songs ready for third album we'll do an pre-production demo at rehearsalstudio and then we try to find an label ready to release it.

J: More gigs, third album, nothing too stressfull. That's all folks!

V: Of course it would be nice to make more gigs in more regular way and slowly eat world piece by piece.

Next to SPRITUS MORTIS, are (some of) you involved in other bands or do you have jobs or studies to finish? How do you combine these occupations plus do you still have time left over for yourselves?

T: My day-work as an IT-expert. And we have an
HardCorePunkVENOMThrashSpeedMOTÖRHEADHeavyMetalRock'n'Roll-project with Jussi called LAMPAANVAPAHTAJA. And also I play with my day-works band which plays some coverwhoring...

J: LAMPAANVAPAHTAJA (saviour of lamb aka hammer) is different kind of music than SM. Well but still on the old school style with VENOM/SLAYER/MOTÖRHEAD. In one gigs first played SM and then LAMPAANVAPAHTAJA. Quit hard but nice experience. I would like to listen both bands as listener in audience.

In my day-work I`m your worst nightmare... I mean teacher (student counceling and history). Time which is left over goes with movies and in internet.

V: Jussi you should make monster riffs also! I'm just a factory worker making just enuff money to be able to play in a band also! This is reality in Finland.

That's it for now. Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview. Good luck with "Fallen", the gigs and the recordings for the next album. May your next label home be in a stable financial state. If there's anything you want to add... go ahead. ;-)

T: Thank you! Buy our record and contact us and offer us record deal and gigs. We play anywhere if expenses are paid :-) And of course some pussy fo' me !

J: Stable label would be nice... :-)

V: Howdy readers! Buy SM cds! If you can find them ..... If you can't, contact me .

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