DATE OF INTERVIEW:
26th April 2017
JONI PALMROTH; VILLE VIITANEN
Formed in 2003, although currently with just two albums under their collective belt - 2012's debut on Century Media, 'The Treachery of Senses' and last year's 'Origin' on new label home, Sensory Records - it seems Finnish prog metallers Oddland are in no rush to release their music. Over in the UK at the end of April 2017 for a triple headliner billing alongside label mates Wolverine and Until Rain on what was called the 'Progressive Aspects Tour', Metal Discovery spoke to the band's rhythm section - bassist Joni Palmroth and sticksman Ville Viitanen - about their "no rush" approach to their creative output. As it transpires, this is in no way born from any sense of apathy. Far from it, in fact, and quite the contrary... for Oddland, it's all about an extreme creative democracy...
METAL DISCOVERY: When you hopped onto this tour in February when Lost in Thought pulled out, your management, Intromental, described Oddland as “a household name within the progressive metal world”. Do you feel, yourselves, that Oddland have already become a household name?
JONI: Well, I think we’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. We’ve just released our second album and I think we have to have more albums to be a household name. But, there’s no doubt that, one day, we can get there.
(Joni Palmroth on latest Oddland album, 'Origin')
"We wanted to do something different from ‘The Treachery of Senses’, but we didn’t know what it was. We tried to make a more simple approach... But, I think we ended up doing a far more progressive album..."
Ville and Joni outside The Bodega, Nottingham, UK, 26th April 2017
Photograph copyright © 2017 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: How about your label and touring buddies – were you already familiar with Wolverine and Until Rain?
JONI: Yeah, actually, we were with the same booking agency as Wolverine five years ago, but we didn’t do any gigs together. But we knew the name. Until Rain was new to me. Nice guys, great musicians.
MD: Your debut album, ‘The Treachery of Senses’ came out on Century Media after winning a competition the label organized in Finland, but you switched to Sensory for ‘Origin’… what led to the change in labels? Were Century no longer interested?
JONI: Yeah, they were kicking a lot of the smaller bands out, so we just went with the flood, I guess. And there wasn’t enough proper touring. We didn’t have the finances to do proper tours, so that was one reason. But I think the record did and sold well because it’s sold out. There aren’t any more. I guess it’s something like 3,500 copies, but I think it’s pretty good.
MD: That’s pretty good sales for a debut album.
MD: The band originally formed in 2003, so I guess the debut album was a long-time coming, following some demo releases. Why was there such a long delay?
VILLE: I think we were finding out what we wanted to play and we eventually came to what it is now… progressive metal, so we’re good on that.
MD: So you were just waiting until the time was right, when you had something worth putting out there?
VILLE: Yeah, there’s some stuff maybe not worth mentioning… or hearing!
JONI: We were finding our way and finding ourselves as to what we are as a band. And I think we know, pretty well, what we can do and what we can’t do.
MD: I gather you compose all music together as a band, which you’ve previously described as a “pretty extreme democracy” where “you can drive yourself to the brink of insanity”. Do you feel that pushing yourself to the brink is what forces you to progress as a band, and develop a sound unique to Oddland?
VILLE: Well, we’ve talked this through and we’re trying to find a different solution or method, writing the new songs, to make it less painful and more pleasing. But we’ll have to see; we’re not quite there yet. But soonish… [Laughs]
JONI: We definitely don’t recommend that democracy to anyone because that drives you insane!
MD: I think Wolverine work in the same way.
MD: Yeah, I think they get bogged down by small details and arguments.
JONI: Oh, that’s interesting; we have to talk to them!
MD: The music on ‘Origin’ actually all sounds very natural in the final recordings; it doesn’t sound like you were pushed to the brink of insanity. So, does it ultimately feel natural to you during the creative process?
JONI: Yes, definitely.
VILLE: Sure, yeah.
JONI: We wanted to do something different from ‘The Treachery of Senses’, but we didn’t know what it was. We tried to make a more simple approach and I don’t know if we managed to do that, but that was our goal. But, I think we ended up doing a far more progressive album than ‘The Treachery of Senses’. ‘Origin is a far more progressive album, but we were trying to do something simpler.
MD: Did the tracks start quite simple and then, as the democracy kicked in, they became more progressive?
JONI: Yeah. I think, in most of the tracks, there’s only one rhythm.
VILLE: And it’s produced in different ways. You have the core rhythm… for example, this song called ‘Will’, there’s a core rhythm that’s made up from a beat, and we build it in a way that we strip beats from it, so it became more difficult. [To Joni]… What did your girlfriend say when she first heard the verse?
JONI: I can’t remember, but something like…
VILLE: It makes no fucking sense!
MD: What track on the album proved the biggest headache? What one went through the most developments?
JONI: ‘Will’… maybe ‘Faraway’ was the biggest pain in the arse.
VILLE: And there are many deleted versions of that song. And I think, if the schedule hadn’t pushed us, there would have been more versions of that song!
MD: Do you find it hard to have a cut-off point, where you say, “this is it, let’s stop”?
JONI: I think he has some problems with that.
VILLE: I don’t remember!
JONI: I don’t know… maybe it’s in us all… always thinking - could we do this better, or could we do this another way? We’re all to blame, I guess, in the end!
MD: I think the album reveals new layers with each new listen… do you surprise yourselves whenever you listen back to your own music, and hear new depths yourselves, be it through emotional connection, or tangible elements?
MD: Or are you too close to the music?
JONI: I guess we’re too close. It took us four years to do this album, so we’re maybe too close and too familiar. We know all the layers… they’re meant to be there.
MD: When you perform the songs live, do you feel different emotional connections to the music?
VILLE: Yeah, I think so. It doesn’t matter if there’s one person listening or many… I feel the… I don’t know how to put it into words. It took us many, many hours to come here and nobody’s slept…
JONI: We started off at three in the morning from Turku, Finland.
VILLE: But, when you get to the stage and start playing, it’s worth it.
JONI: Yes, although we had a lot of technical problems.
MD: You guys must be so tired, after such an early start.
JONI: Yeah, we were in London by 9 o’clock but, like Ville said, it was all worth it.