When the Banging Does Not Stop
With tragedies adorned, from plaintive scenes and fresh out of the frore meadow, Yearning have been creating original music in the underground for many years now, perpetually refining themselves and their unique brand of death metal, classical and experimental music rolled up into one with each subsequent album. I have got in touch with the main composer and vocalist/instrumentalist, Juhani Palomäki, via electronic mail, to uncover some of the nuts and bolts of the machine… Read on and learn as I do more of this great and totally understated band…
When I encounter Juhani the first question I ask is of something that I am sure must have caught many people off guard; namely, the apparent reduction of the band from five members to two. What happened to Tero, Mr. Woodland and Lady Tiina between the Plaintive Scenes and Frore Meadow (Holy Records 2001) recording sessions? Are any of them still actively involved in the band, or will Yearning remain a two-piece for the time being?
“The members you mentioned were kicked out of the band because we just couldn’t work with each other in that old line-up,” Juhani replies. “I wrote all the material of Plaintive Scenes also so it was no problem to make a third album as a two-piece. None of the former members are involved in the band anymore, but we’ve got new session members for live performances: Matti S. on guitar, Loikas on bass and Jouni J.N. on keyboards.”
I was pleasantly surprised that with Frore Meadow the metal core still remained strong without any compromise in regard to the avant-garde and progressive elements that are so characteristic of the band…
Juhani agrees: “The album came out spontaneously and the result is very professional. I’m satisfied with it. There’s no limits concerning musical expression on this album and this was a basic idea: to work with interesting musical themes to create something once more unique. The first part of the album is the ‘easier’ one and on the second half there’s more experimental material.”
Experimental in title also, it appears. It’s a curious choice for a name. Could the Frore Meadow overtly symbolize anything in specific?
“The title can be interpreted in many ways, but it could stand for a hollow inner landscape or emotional coldness, for example.”
In regard to the challenges recording the new album, Juhani sees some specific ones: “The challenge in making this album, besides lack of rehearsals, was definitely the method of how we did it, because we’d never done it this way. I went to the studio alone to work with the engineer Ahti, recording guitar and keyboard parts and after there was a lot of material on the tape T. Kristian came to check out what was going on and to record the drum parts. After the drums were ready I recorded the bass-lines and vocals, et cetera. Anyway, it seemed to be working in an excellent way with this inverted method.”
Did it take longer than usual to record the material?
“The material of this album was written partly during the years and also partly during the sessions,” he says.
What were some of the sources of the samples and electronics used, if you can divulge?
“What comes to the effects on this album we just used our imagination. I’m not really informed about electronic music.”
Informed enough, however, to try out some strikingly courageous experiments on the new album, several of which utilizing the samples and electronics I’ve mentioned. The tracks Years of Pain and Disappearance are especially unique for Yearning. Have these new approaches been fulfilling; the classical instrumental in the former and the ambient soundscape in the latter, looking back now that they are committed to tape?
Juhani: “I believe Years of Pain could have been better with better equipment. Disappearance was made to confuse the listener and that’s what it does. I’m listening almost exclusively to classical music, so that influence will always remain.”
Looking back, the production on all of Yearning’s music has been excellent ever since the inception - even the demo material sounded great. It seems that Tico-Tico studios has some sort of special significance for the band in recent years. Is there any special reason, outside of the obvious, of why it is the preferred Yearning studio?
“We’ve produced pretty different sounding albums in Tico-Tico compared to the other stuff recorded there. We’re satisfied with the results and Ahti is also a great engineer and personality. Production is definitely one of the most important factors in any album,” Juhani affirms, “with a bad production you can kill any material.”
But what about when you want your music to sound dead purposely? When you strive for a ‘necro-production’? Seems that in the case of Yearning the music is strong enough to stand on its own, minus any extraneous embellishments.
Is music then the sole outlet of expression for everyone involved in Yearning? Or do the other members engage their creativity in other things worth noting? How much of a role, exactly, does music play in your lives?
Juhani keeps a low-profile to my question. “Music has been a big part of my life since being a child and it’s still my main interest.”
Is it possible that the melancholic character of Yearning is an extension of the real life experiences of the band members - in other words, does Juhani ‘live’ the life of the music? It’s a fair question, I think, as it’s very easy to come to such conclusion judging from his passionate creations.
“There are real life experiences and felt emotions behind our songs, but there’s also imagination and symbolism in the lyrics. I guess writing this music has always been a way for me to handle the negative side of myself and that’s why I think I’ve captured something really emotionally powerful now and then.”
An effusion of powerful and personal emotions, if I may say so. In the Yearning lyrics there is so often mention of pain, desolation, sorrow. It really does make one empathize… well, it makes me empathize anyway. What is the most painful part of the human condition if such a thing can be quantified? How can such things as mortality, anguish, etc. be evaluated?
“The world is full of suffering, so I think it’s quite futile trying to measure what’s the most painful misery. We live, suffer and die and one just has to bear it; it’s just as simple as that. The best thing about banging your head to the wall is when it stops…”
Is pain therefore an essential part of life? And could the modern quest of erasing it - particularly mental pain - betray a futile, vain, and ultimately short-sighted endeavor?
Says Juhani, “Erasing mental pain with medicines has of course its place when needed. We would end up in chaos without them - a nuthouse called the world.”
A nuthouse, indeed, of no escape, unless, maybe, if you have a great deal of power and a great deal of cash. Has Juhani ever imagined living in another period of time, or another place, in order to, perhaps, escape from this nuthouse?
“Not really I’m OK being here right now.”
Returning to the band, if a visual-accompaniment or a ‘video’ for Yearning would be made, something to capture the essence, what would it be like - if only a few seconds of it? Is it possible to translate such feelings into images and vice versa?
“This of course depends on the song and its atmosphere. Slow-motion pictures would likely do a favour to many songs of ours. Of course you can succeed in capturing the right mood at least in some way. Basically it’s about personal impressions.”
Does Yearning consider itself a proud member of any ‘scene’ in particular? What are some of the things Juhani would like to see changed in the metal world, if he could make it happen?
“We are a metal band. Right now I haven’t been following too actively what’s going on in the metal scene, because I’m mainly concentrated in listening to classical music. Anyway, good albums remain good albums.”
As certain artists today receive a great deal of spotlight, while others, some even more deserving, receive very little, is there any band or artist to mention that has been disregarded, as we in the underground understand the word, by the public?
“Well, naturally we should be the ones selling millions of records. I haven’t heard any really astonishing stuff for a while.”
Well, a million sold or not, now that three CD’s have been released, three ‘chapters’ finished, so to speak, what does Yearning plan to do now? In the dim haze of the future, can any definite shapes be seen? As Juhani has written both the music and the lyrics on Frore Meadow, will there arise a point where he will consider working alone, without anyone else?
“Right now our main priority is playing live and we’re looking for a tour this year. I’m also gathering musical ideas together as always. I have no particular reason to work without such a good drummer as T. Kristian.
Any consideration to produce the demo on CD sometime?
“Our demo must be very rare stuff nowadays,” he says, “but there hasn’t been any plan of releasing it on CD anyway.”
The interview drawing to a conclusion, some interesting bits of knowledge noted for posterity, I thank Juhani for his time and patience with my questions and finish by asking him if there’s anything else he’d like to add for our readers - any greetings, hails, fuck-offs, etc. The imagination is the limit. My best wishes to everyone in Yearning.
“Thanks a lot for this original interview. Those of you not familiar with Frore Meadow, check it out, goddamnit. Greetings go to all our supporters. Cheers!”