In occasion of this long-awaited gig with Morbid Angel and Nile, which has been sold-out for months, Kreator’s Finnish guitar player Sami Yli-Sirniö seemed more than willing to chat with us of Holymetal about the tour, the new record, and many other curiosities. Here is the result of our brief talk on a cold evening in early December:
Marco: So here you are again with a new album, and once again you have done a pretty good job, I would say. How do you manage to keep up with the standards that you stood up to, especially with the last three records?
Sami: Well, first of all thank you very much, it’s a nice compliment!
I guess we always take our time between albums. We usually release an album, then we usually have two years of touring, and we take almost a year off, only playing some shows here and there, and really concentrate on making the songs. Not be to hasty about it. And if there is, for example, a date set with the producer, and we feel that we are not ready we just push it forward. Maybe that’s one reason.
But Jens Bogren did a very good job also, this time he has been the producer, and I am really glad we chose to work with him! So it’s probably these two reasons for it. But thanks man, I really appreciate it!
M: You are welcome! And the same I would say also for the live shows, because every time the fans are always going crazy. I think it’s impressive how much energy you put into that! what’s your secret?
S: We try our best! Every night it’s like it would be the last show. Today the bad part is that we couldn’t fit our whole production here inside this venue! But hopefully in Oulu [next show the day after in Club Teatria] we can. Most of the time we have it, we have like the album artwork built up over the drum set, and all kinds of shit happening there. But today not everything was possible because of space. What the hell can you do? [laugh]
M: Yeah. Well, let’s hope for the guys in Oulu then. You are also used to strange "combinations" when you are touring, for example you have been playing with Accept and Swallow The Sun, now you are playing with Morbid Angel and Nile… Which is, would you say, the weirdest band you have been paired with, in terms of musical differences and audience?
S: I think Accept maybe! [laughs]
At least they turned out to be very different guys from how we are ourselves, and also the audience that came to see them might have been of a different generation, maybe more truckers and bikers. Nothing against those people, but it’s a different kind of people from those who normaly come to check out our shows.
This package I think is much better. Morbid Angel is an excellent band, David Vincent has a very good charisma on stage. Then Nile is just insane as music! And Fueled By Fire have this "energy" of younger kids who have been playing a similar kind of music to what we do.
M: Yeah, that’s true. If we come back to the album, you mentioned that this time you changed producer, working with Jens Bogren, and you also changed the artist for the cover artwork this time. Briefly I was curious about the reason for this latter change, and more importantly, how different was it to work in studio with Jens?
S: Jens is very talented. I love the stuff that he has done for example with Opeth, Amon Amarth, and all kinds of bands. The good thing about him as a producer is that he makes the band sound like themselves. Which some producers, in today’s world, lack the talent of doing so!
The album before, we recorded it almost live in studio. This time we also did the basics, but we were more concentrating on guitar overlaps and all sort of things like that. It took a bit more time to do it.
About changing the artwork I don’t know… it’s good to have a change sometimes, otherwise things start looking the same! [laugh] I guess the same would go for a producer as well. You want to test your boundaries, and see what is possible. Because the problem with a band that’s been together for 27 years or whatever… you have to really watch out that you don’t repeat yourself.
M: Kinda like Accept!
S: [laughs] Yeah! That’s what we were most worried about, that we don’t repeat ourselves. That’s why we decided to change the producer also, and the artwork.
M: Alright. And would you say that you are satisfied personally with the final result?
S: Oh for sure for sure! And if you ask me, we should give him the next one too.
M: Ok, that’s good! I also heard that your artistic department has done some good research for the making of the latest video, "Civilization Collapse", and found this one Greek photographer [Marios Lolos], who then collaborated by providing his archive pictures from the recent Greek riots. How do you see this combination with the visuals in the video and the song?
S: Well, this was directed by a guy called Matthias Kollek, he is German, who also did the extra DVD that comes with the new album. And it was kind of clear from the beginning with that song, "Civilization Collapse", what it is about. It wasn’t consciously about Greece, but it was more about this economic crack, how the world is today, and also "downshifting" what people think might be the answer to it, which might NOT be the answer. And also about injustice, in the banking world of today, and how people get treated badly because of corrupt governments and so on.
So when we were thinking about the video, it obviously came to Greece. Matthias Kollek just called those people, and they were more than willing to provide those pictures. That’s in short how it went!
M: So you would say you agree with Mille’s words on the lyrics?
S: Yeah, well… most of the time. I mean, he is not offering any solution to any problems, but it’s more about what pisses you off in the world of today.
M: More about awareness, maybe.
S: Yeah, everybody has that awareness today. But you know, metal is an aggressive form of self expression, therefore it makes sense to write about stuff that piss you off! [laughs]
M: Why not! And what is your personal opinion about the whole situation in Europe nowadays?
S: That’s a very big question. Like I said, the lyrics don’t provide any solution for it, I don’t have any solution for it either! [laughs] But I mean, it’s a nasty thing, and I see trouble headed our way. But I’m not a politician, and I don’t have the education to go deeper into that! [nice save!]
M: Alright then. I was curious to know instead, how do you see the growth of the band in these years that you have been playing with the guys, since about 10 years ago.
S: Well it’s still basically the same four guys. What we started doing just this year, we started using in-ear monitoring, so we can actually ear each other! For the first time! [laughs] We were shocked!
M: The wonderful things that technology can do!
S: So that helps. That develops the whole thing, you know. It was a good investment!
M: And what if I ask you to describe how the sound has changed from "Enemy of God" and "Hordes of Chaos" to this "Phantom Antichrist"?
S: It is similar, but like I mentioned before, we are very aware that the band has been around for a while, and therefore we avoid repeating ourselves… But still, keeping it into the genre of what we know, what we do best, it is kind of a thin line to take. I don’t know, we play all the time, we do tours… maybe we are not that old yet and we can still evolve as musicians! [laughs] I think I can! I mean, what the hell, if you do a tour where you have a show almost every day in two months, you get kind of a better touch.
But when you have a month off and after that you go and take the guitar, then… [laughs]
M: Yeah! And, besides Mille of course, you have actually been the guitar player that has been with the band the longest. What did you think when you first got chosen for the job?
S: First I was filling in for Tommy Vetterli back in the nineties, and then I was already moving to Finland. So the timing was actually kind of silly, when they asked me, but then I thought it was a great opportunity and might as well take it. Because I like the band, I remember them since I was a kid - I’m a bit younger than the other guys of course, but not much!
[From here on, Markus takes over as I am shooting Nile’s gig]
Markus: How easy is it to divide your time between Kreator and Barren Earth, which is more of a project, or is it?
S: It is more a real band now that we’ve released two albums and done a tour. Peaceville [Records] has also told us that they’d like to do a third album, so that’s cool. We have four songs already, and I think it will continue.
M: What’s after this tour? Another tour, perhaps?
S: Well, we have January off, and then we’re supposed to go to Israel. It seems that things have calmed down so it’ll hopefully happen (they probably already used all the missiles they had [laughs]). Then there is the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise, and there is been talk of a British tour with Behemoth.
M: What’s the best memory you have that is connected with Kreator?
S: I know what’s the worst! We were going to Turkey, and they just started offloading the truck and this one guy just told us that we couldn’t pass even if all the papers were in order... The best memories are probably the biggest gigs, like the one in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
M: When you joined just before "Violent Revolution", the band’s style changed significantly, which one would you say is more of an influence, classic heavy metal or the Gothenburg death metal scene?
S: When I came along the album was already just waiting to be recorded and finished. The major third parts that are nowadays associated with the Gothenburg sound, more reminds me of Iron Maiden and even Thin Lizzy and King Crimson, and the same is true for Mille.
M: "Phantom Antichrist" is awesome in my opinion, but a few leads and riffs made me go "wasn’t this already on Enemy…".
S: [laughs] That’s always a risk when you have as many albums as we do.
M: Kreator has changed style many times, has there been any talk of wanting or needing to do something different again?
S: This line-up has been fixed for ten years now, so we’re starting to define our sound, and we’re sticking with it! [laughs]
Siamo alla ricerca di un nuovo addetto per la sezione DEMO, gli interessati possono contattare lo staff di Holy Metal, nel frattempo la sezione demo rimane temporaneamente chiusa.