Hooded Menace - Interview
It is that time of the year again - only a week to go til Roadburn Festival 2018 takes over Tilburg and fills many minds, hearts and souls with incomparable experiences, musical and otherwise. Part of this years extensive line-up are Hooded Menace who will play their 'Fulfill the Curse' album in full for its 10 year anniversary. Time to get into Roadburn mood by chatting with Lasse about the band, the new and old albums and the festival.
TMP: How did the album release gig at Kuudes Linja in Helsinki on February 9 go, playing for the first time with the new line up?
Lasse: Very well. It was a really encouraging start for the new line-up. The turnout was good too - cheers to everyone who showed up!
TMP: What do you think each of the new guys brings to the band, how do they affect the music?
L: Time will tell if they bring any musical ideas to the band but since everyone has their own playing style it affects the overall sound anyway. Otso is a solid as a rock drummer who learns songs super-fast while the new bassist Antti is originally a cellist which partly explains his admirable vibrato. I can´t wait to record new Hooded Menace material with these guys.
TMP: How did the decision to bring on those guys come about?
L: Our old drummer Pekka wasn´t comfortable with the band moving its headquarters (read: rehearsal place) from Joensuu to Helsinki. Things got a bit too complicated for him, but to our luck he still wanted to record 'Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed' with us and then quit the band. When it comes to the bass player, our former bassist (and live-vocalist before Harri took over the vocals) Markus wanted to focus on his main band Sadistik Forest. Timetables got a bit too hectic for him to handle both bands decently, so he decided to step out to be able to devote as much time for his main band as he needed to. My friend, Kalle/Oksennus, hooked me up with Otso, and Otso recommended Antti as a bassist, and so the new line-up was complete.
Hooded Menace (Photo by Pasi Nevalaita)
TMP: How do you make sure there is this balance of that utter heaviness and the melodies – that it works together as one? To make the music, it all more than the sum of just its parts?
L: By instinct and experience. It´s a very natural process.
TMP: Why have you chosen to go with more abstract lyrics for this album?
L: We did that on the previous album 'Darkness Drips Forth' as well. I think the main reason is that we finally started to write all the lyrics by ourselves. You know, we had guest-writers before, and as well as their lyrics might suited the music/concept, it isn´t the style that comes out of us the most naturally. Just look at the lyrics of my and Teemu´s old band Phlegethon (active ´88-´92). It´s pretty weird stuff and it was written about 30 years ago. The darkly surreal and dreamy approach seems to be more natural to us than in-your-face horror. It´s almost like we picked up on where we left with Phlegethon and mixed it with the cheese (for the lack of better word) of Hooded Menace.
TMP: Where does the maybe more melancholic tone come from?
L: It´s been just a very natural way for us to widen our musical palette by adding more melody and melancholy on each new album. Perhaps the influence of the so-called “Peaceville Three” has gotten stronger and stronger. I´ve certainly listened more to those classic doom/death bands during the past 10 years than pure death metal. Frankly, I haven´t found pure death metal very inspiring in a long time but I´m sure it´ll pick up - it always does. In addition to doom/death, I´ve been jamming mainly early Ratt, Jake/Randy -era Ozzy Osbourne, old Yngwie J. Malmsteen, 80´s Maiden, classic recordings from Judas Priest, Dio, Accept and so forth. It´s been less and less death metal for me lately. Well, I really liked the new albums by Necrot and Undergang.
TMP: What are you looking to portray during a live show?
L: We just try to play the songs well and hope to put emotion and power to the performance. We don´t have a master plan. Everyone on stage does what he feels is natural to him. To be honest with you, I still don´t feel the most comfortable being on stage but there´s something really addictive to the live shows, so I keep putting myself into those situations again and again.
TMP: (How) does that differ from what you want to portray on an album?
L: Recording is much more private and you have a better control over it and the result is closer to the vision I have in my head. Live is slightly more stripped down and rawer but basically we try to convey the same vibes. It´s just a different situation. I don´t mean to sound disrespectful to the audience, but there´s no distractions such as unknown people (audience) when making an album and personally I like that. I´m not a person that enjoys being in the centre of attention, so studio work suits me better than performing. My focus is better, and like I said, in studio things are under control, and being a little bit of a control freak, I like that.
TMP: This record seems to have gotten some attention also outside just pure metal media (The Quietus, Sound in Finland…) what are your thoughts on metal underground vs. a bigger/more mainstream (music) audience? Being “trve” if you want to call it that vs. being successful, or is that a versus?
L: Staying true to our artistic vision is the only “true” that matters. If we can reach out to the mainstream audience on our own terms, it´s an achievement - not a sell-out.
TMP: Why, in your opinion, is death-doom the right vehicle to transport emotion? Or is it?
L: It´s powerful music. It´s the most extreme version of heavy metal basically. The extreme slow tempos and the heaviness of each note and each drum hit… Everything´s exaggerated, also emotionally.
TMP: So now you will be playing at Roadburn again– how does that feel?
L: Great of course. Actually, I´ve been hoping for an opportunity like this to play one of our albums in its entirety at the fest. It´s a great honor.
TMP: Do you prepare differently for this show?
L: It´s just a different set. We just learn the songs just like we´d learn any other songs. No difference really.
TMP: How is it looking back to that debut album, preparing to play it live from today’s perspective?
L: The debut album songs are so much fun to play as they are more straight-forward and stripped-down than our newer stuff, which is fun to play live too of course, but there´s something special about the “morbid groove” of the early material. Add nostalgia to that and there you have it! I´m still proud of all those tracks and I can hardly wait to play them all live.
TMP: What can people expect from the Roadburn show?
L: Heavy and intense set of songs with a cool digital backdrop matching the concept.
TMP: When you started out 10 years ago with this band, where did you think you would be in 10 years?
L:We didn´t think about it, to be honest with you. There were zero expectations. We were just glad to be putting out a demo and a 7” EP, and then a full-length album as some sort of ultimate climax. There were no plans to play live at all or any of that “proper” band stuff. I know we made a good record and it was exciting to see people´s reactions to it, but we didn´t really think about it any further than that. At the time I was still in Vacant Coffin and that was my main band basically, but soon I figured Hooded Menace was more special and that I enjoyed playing and composing a slower type of music the most.
TMP: You’ve played many festivals, what is it about Roadburn that makes it so different, special?
L: Versality, I guess. It attracts music freaks from all over the world and the vibe is awesome.
TMP: What are you looking forward to the most at Roadburn personally? Your hot tips of what not to miss?
L: Frankly speaking, this year´s line-up has names mostly unknown to me, but I´d love to see Godflesh. I saw them also the last time we played the fest. Bell Witch would be interesting to witness too but some of us, including me, are flying home on the day of their performance.
TMP: What does the future hold?
L: A few more “Fulfill the Curse” shows. In September we´ll be playing the album also at Kill-Town Death Fest in Copenhagen and there´s one more “Fulfill…” set confirmed but not announced yet, so I can´t give details about it. One week after Roadburn we´ll be heading to Glasgow to play North of the Wall fest and in June we might go out for a really short European mini-tour if things go as planned. Also a new split EP is in plans but as of now I must be silent as a tomb about it.
Hooded Menace play at Roadburn on Thursday, April 19, at Het Patronaat from 22:00-23:00. Check the Roadburn Website for all other festival info.