Shape of Despair’s long-awaited return in discography has come to life. Metal Invader reached the band’s founder Jarno Salomaa and discussed about “Monotony Fields” and the Finn’s future plans…
Hello there, Jarno, from an old fan of Shape of Despair. Doing this interview is a great honor!
Hello Giorgos, great honor to take part on Metal Invader.
“Monotony Fields” has just been released and the response from fans and media seems great! Is that so?
Mostly yes. I’ve stated earlier too that it’s great to see what kind of people’s feedback we’ve received, when we’ve concentrated into this album like we’ve had. I think we’ve made an album which we thought to make from the beginning when we started to compose “Monotony Fields”. We worked for this for quite some time and lost some nerves here and there but overall this album fits perfectly along with the rest of our albums we’ve released so far.
Where was the album recorded? What was the process like? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Yes, we are very satisfied with the album and its sounds. Even we recorded bits over at rehearsal place, we got the sounds we needed. We used Citylights Studio (ex-Hellhole Studio where we recorded our 3 previous albums) and one rehearsal place along with D-studio for final mixing.
It was quite a long process since we started recording parts in few stages in between quite a long period of time. We recorded, for example, guitars at one weekend, vocals after work within couple of days, bass in one weekend and same as drums. But as we all had work and touring, the whole recordings took those about two weeks in about 6 months of time or so… long time.
A typical question comes next… It has been eleven years since your last full-length “Illusion’s Play”. What caused this delay?
Yes, seems that these years count for so many people. I don’t blame… For the start, we weren’t very active since from the beginning… we’ve made only few albums and not even a single live show before ’12. But I admit that these years have been long. All kinds of personal issues, other bands touring, recordings etc just postponed Shape of Despair’s way further. As you may know, we released only 2 ep’s in this time and these songs should’ve been somekind of “trendsetter” to our forthcoming material… but we are quite far away from those songs nowadays, actually very far.
After all this time, what were your feelings when you first held the new record in your hands?
Of course it’s great to see the all the artwork in its full size… the whole package. But even greater is when you have your songs after the final mastering process. That’s when you first hear the songs how they will sound in the final form and then you know that this is it, nothing to tweak anymore, work is done.
Keyboards seem to be the spine of almost every song in “Monotony Fields”. Do you start composing a song on them first or on the guitars?
Well for this album Tomi wrote “Descending Inner Night” and “Withdrawn” and he doesn’t compose with synth. He already got a vision how the songs should go, so it was easy to start arranging synth parts on these ones. I made parts of “Reaching the Innermost” and “The Blank Journey” with guitar and “The Distant Dream of Life” was fully composed by guitar, but mostly I start with synth. In the end this is not that important… it’s just what you come up with and how you arrange the rest, to finish the song in its full form.
The lyrics (as always) seem to me to have a poem-like structure, I’d say they actually are pessimistic poems… I would guess that these verses precede the songwriting…
Henri made lyrics after we worked the songs as so called ready. Of course we had to tweak something later on cause of the vocals but all in all this went quite easily. Henri worked very well with all the arrangements and especially lyrics.
Why did you choose to re-record “Written In My Scars” and include it in the new album?
Well that was quite a must. We had quite bad sounds on the ep itself and I knew we could get much heavier sound to it. Aside from that, the song itself is damn great and with just a minor change in the song, it fits perfectly to this album as a bonus track. And everyone doesn’t have, or don’t want to buy and vinyl player so it’s one reason too.
Henri Koivula is in my opinion a great successor to Pasi Koskinen. How hard was it to find a singer with such depth in his voice? Is he doing the clean vocals as well along with Natalie?
Yes he is. It was a great pleasure to get to know him in the past. If I haven’t met him, I’m not sure if our paths would ever get crossed… who knows. And yes, he’s singing both clean and growls.
Pasi has been described as a “hard to get by” person… Is that the reason he left Shape of Despair? Do you have any news of him –he seems to be musically inactive since 2012 when Ajatara split.
Well, he wasn’t that active with Shape of Despair in those last years. It was hard to have him to rehearse or anything. And it seemed he had quite a lot of doings with his other bands too so I think we made a right choice to leave both of us to do things we hold more important and not to postpone each other’s doings… I’m not sure either about his whereabouts nowadays, haven’t seen or heard of him for years.
You signed with Seasons of Mist last year. Are you pleased with your cooperation so far?
Yes we’ve been satisfied. It’s been quite a step from the previous label to Seasons of Mist and there’s some catching up on things. But all in all people at Seasons of Mist knows what they are doing and it’s easy to handle all the things with them.
Your Hellfest appearance was really crowded. I guess people are yearning to see Shape of Despair live.
Hopefully so. It was great to see so much people coming to see us. Even we didn’t have the best lighting possibility since we had to play so early. Ligthing and having the show at darkest stages fits to this music more than perfectly. But overall I think it went quite ok and had pretty good feeling on the stage for this music.
I get the feeling that Shape Of Despair don’t really fit in Summer Festivals. I think that an Autumn/Winter tour in indoor stages would produce a more genuine funeral feeling. So, do you have any plans for a tour?
No unfortunately. Some of us can’t tour since family etc things and honestly, I don’t even see Shape of Despair as a touring band. We can have different opinions about this but that’s what I feel at least myself. But you are right about summer shows… there just needs to be indoor place to play our music than open air shows. There’s so much more to get that feeling than just play the music out. People have to get into this music and one thing is to choose the right place where to play.
The last four years you have released your first three albums in vinyl through Aftermath music. Looking back, do you feel that you should have originally done that at first press?
Well of course. Though, we had quite bad deal with Spikefarm and they didn’t support that much of pressing vinyls… which was an awful shame.
“Sleeping Murder” is a fantastic song, though pretty fast for Shape of Despair’s standards. Did you ever think to create a side-project writing similar music, maybe even faster stuff?
No, not at least anything similar to Shape of Despair. I have few other projects but with those bands I’ve kept quite a low profile for now. There will be some releases later but so far we are rehearsing when we just can. There are couple unnamed bands which one is more into shoegaze and the other more in Rapture’s vein, since I’ve started this solely from the leftovers I had for Rapture. It’s evolving great and will be different. Then there’s one band which sounds more black metal than else… earlier progress were something like of Burzum and Shape of Despair combined.
Shape of Despair has, in my opinion, released four masterpieces. I find that the band is, until today, somewhat overlooked… Is it due to your bleak style, the promotion you got from your previous label? Did the band itself not work as hard as it should?
Well…we really didn’t work on promotion in any way, not the band nor the label for that matter. Most important was to record the songs we had done and to have them released in a way or another. And I quess this music isn’t for everyone… and it’s not meant either.
Writing such slow-paced, melancholic music and managing to fuse intense feelings to the listener is a hard task in my book. Does it have to do with your personal state of mind? Are you an eternally melancholic person?
In a way it is quite a work to finish the song… but usually when you get to that certain state, it gets easier to write music and complete what you’ve started already. Sometimes you’ll make a song in just an hour and next song takes 1 year to complete. As Ι’m not constantly writing music, composing may get quite far.
As a person I think I’m not that social than most are and I like to be more in the background… I wouldn’t go very deep to analyze what kind of person I am but I have to say that I like everything that’s not very mainstream and like to have some kind of originality in some form, speaking of music at least.
What does the word “doom” mean to you?
Apocalypse/end of existence, music, relief…
Thank you for your time! Any message for the Greek fans?
Thank you. We’ll see if there’s any chance later on to visit Greece or nearby with Shape of Despair… would be great. You guys have very good food and beer there without forgetting the awesome landscapes. Cheers Giorgos!