“DAMNATION PLAN” Interview by Santtu “Rebel” Kaskela
Founded in 2004 by Jarkko Lunnas and Kalle Niininen, and ever since Damnation Plan has offered some Finnish, a bit different metal for everyone to enjoy, by mixing some progressive elements with melodic death. Their latest album “Reality Illusion” was just released March 10th. The time has come to find out a bit more about these guys…Let´s go, Jarkko is waiting!!
So honored to have this chance to have a moment with You Jarkko. How are you doing ?
Thanks Santtu & MHF for having me here! Doing ok, spring is finally starting to be here with some new things on the horizon as of right now the new album is finally done and out – it was a long time coming!
Would You tell us a bit about the history of Damnation Plan… When did You decide the time has come for You to step forth, maybe a story behind the band’s name if there is such a story ?
Well it dates back to 2003 or so when I had moved to Espoo to study and was trying to find still a band that I’m able to stand behind 100%. Then I ran into Kalle (guitarist) as we were in the same school at the time and I knew we shared similar taste especially in the progressive metal music. Then we decided to start jamming and eventually started incorporating harsh vocal ideas to our progressive metal type of music which was the initial direction. Then we made the first demo with our first vocalist, and after that and some of the gigs we did we figured maybe we should write right away a complete album next. Our first vocalist left the band at the time and we started an exhausting search for a vocalist who preferably would be able to execute the harsh vocals and clean vocals the most optimal way for us – pretty much the way it’s been on our full length albums now.
The name…if I recall right I think it was actually some student cruise when I came up with the name Damnation Plan which I thought sounded cool and matched the way we sound like. The meaning of it is hard to put to something exact, but if you look at the world and the way the things are going….it can make you think is there some “damnation plan” that leads the world’s way, through this eternal damnation that keeps on unfolding. And now looking at it, our lyrics do deal heavily what’s going on in the world and why things are happening like the way they are. Since then it’s been quite eye opening on many fronts in terms of how and why the world keeps on going the way it is.
Your demo “Darker World” was released in 2007… How was the reception and what kind of comments did You get from media, record labels, fans and of course those who know everything, the critics ?
That’s been quite a while since that was…I remember some of the critics were able to hear that our material had a sense of ambition from the get go, possibly having a somewhat promise for the future. For a demo I think it got mostly above average reviews and reception overall among the people that managed, or ended up hearing it.
After Your demo it took 6 years before Your debut “The wakening” was released in 2013… You had some line-up changes and also, after listening a couple of times, the album is about nothing like. Your demo if You ask me… Much more melodic, might say even experimental with harsh and clean vocals by 2 singers and more complex song structures… What happened during those years ?
Well I think natural progress and growth is what happened from doing something you feel strongly about and are really dedicated to. And as some of the reviewers were picking a bit from the first demo already, we are a quite ambitious band with high standard goals in what we do. The Wakening album was written by me and Kalle in a pretty similar manner as the first demo was as well. After the first demo I wanted the growling vocals to be of “pitch screaming or shouting” instead of growling type and the clean vocals to have more power, feel and intensity…that’s why we got Tommy (harsh & clean vocals) and Asim (clean vocals) on board.
Tell us a little about Your songwriting process… Who’s in charge or is it true war between 6 different personalities with their opinions ?
It’s democratic and then I decide? eh! On our recent Reality Illusion album the load was mostly on me. On the first album the music creation process was a bit more between me and Kalle. This time I was also demoing and working on my riff ideas with Antti (lead guitarist) instead of Kalle, so Antti was way more involved on this one than on the first album from his behalf. Kalle then created the chorus music background still and added some synths here and there and some other tweaks along the process. I had the initial vocal ideas which we then started working on and fine tuning with Tommy and Asim. Then Jari Pailamo came on board as the new synth player as well. I’ve always done the lyrics as well, plus all the visuals and directing and shooting of the music videos.
Musically I do always want to hear all the ideas other people might have to offer as well, and the best idea wins or it’s crafted to its best possible form – and often some idea provokes something else to happen which leads to something else. I think it’s awesome team work with the guys in the end the way we do it. Everyone needs to be on same board and to understand what we are trying to achieve. In case something is not happening otherwise I tend to often to be the one who works on it as long as is need in order to make it happen, or I work as a kind of a catalyst that provokes ideas as long as is needed, if needed, to get the result what we are looking for.
Your new album “Reality Illusion” was just released, March 10th, after a few years wait… Obviously a result of hard work, blood, sweat and tears… Did You have some difficulties while making it and are You more than happy with the final result ?
Biggest pain of it was that we recorded it all ourselves (except the drums in D-Studio) at my and Kalle’s home and in our rehearsal rooms (the vocals). Maybe next time rehearsing the parts before the actual recordings might help a bit though, hehe…Anyhow, we really kept honing everyone’s parts during the recordings…I also needed to take some more recording duties along the way, in addition to recording all the vocals in the rehearsal room as well. But, in future will definitely record differently, it’s good to understand certain realities…as this time we also for the most extent kind of recorded the album twice – first in the pre-production phase, and then in the actual final recording situation. But you live, do and learn…hopefully! I am happy with the final result, very.
”Don´t talk to strangers” cover in that album was something I was so damn curious to hear and You sure honored Dios memory perfectly, simply a masterpiece version… Who made the decision to take a big risk, since that original song is, someone might say, classic, holy, untouchable etc. ?
For the first album we did the movie theme covers of The Terminator https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZLWEuYO1as and The Running Man https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xniQmO7V3yU in style of Damnation Plan, so we wanted this one to have bonus cover as well. Asim was throwing some pop song cover ideas and so was I, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on in the end how any of those would work for us. Then Asim threw in the idea of Dio’s Don’t Talk To Strangers, and quite immediately I got the idea how it would work in our style. I also knew Asim would be able to nail it greatly, so then we demoed our version of it with Antti for the most parts before I hit the drum studio. In studio then I played its drums basically improvising the end of it and then we finished the rest of it during the actual rest of the recordings – to which Jari added his synths in the end after the whole album was otherwise done for his synth parts.
Where do You get Your inspiration to Your music, who are Your biggest influences ?
Anything you recognize cool and working in your books and in your understanding of what is good music affects your understanding of good music. I think same thing goes with any form of art as well. Of course the later you are in your “career” of songwriter or musician, the amount of new influences that really affects your writing or style tends to decline a bit. So I’d think the biggest foundation is laid when you’re learning how to play your instrument and learning how to write music. We grew strongly digging progressive metal bands and some more traditional metal bands. Of course the learning process never ends, but it tends to change a bit. Of course any new cool thing that you connect with strongly and what works your emotions can bring new inspiration as well. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to get more often impressed with new music these days than say 10 or 15 years ago.
There is a ton of influences musically, I think musically biggest influences for our style has been classic progressive metal acts such as Dream Theater & co, Göteborg melodic death metal style in general, and the traditional metal acts laid the solid base, the bands like Megadeth, Bruce Dickinson solo, Tarot, Savatage, Dio and such…
During these years… What have been the most memorable, positive, rewarding moments… Everything just goes according to Your plans ?
At least for me so far it’s been the completion and releasing of these two full lengths we’ve done. For both I’ve pretty much dedicated my life during the recording process in order to complete them with as high standards as possible with the minimal budgets and resources we have. So material- and end result wise I’d say it’s the music we’ve put out, accompanied with the moments and friendship we’ve shared with the guys. Not much have gone actually Just according to the plans though hahah! Our trip to play in Tallinn last fall to support Suicidal Angels was a fun trip and we had a great reception there (there’s actually some footage from there here in this preview of one of our pre-order documentary episode https://www.facebook.com/damnationplan/videos/1394125687276342/). We also had a lot of fun playing now the album release gigs we just did in Helsinki and Jyväskylä.
Any serious troubles during Damnation Plans journey so far ?
The biggest challenges have been at the gig booking front as we have not had a booking deal so far. Some gig opportunities come with a very quick notice and it has been a bit hard to fit those “next day gig chances” to some of our work schedules. There has been also some serious bad luck with some of the agreed shows which we could have done from our part, but something like a double booking or a venue going bankrupt just before our booked show has happened, or similar. Our luck on those could have been better.
Personally I suck in putting bands and music to different “genres” as You have noticed… How would You describe Your band and music Yourself ?
Unless most of your songs sounding pretty much the same or exactly like the definition of your genre, putting genre labels on bands can be very difficult. Especially in a case like ours where we have a style that to some can be considered “melodic death metal”, to some “progressive metal”, to some “power metal” or “traditional metal” or their hybrid. Almost each of our song has also its own unique differing character, really varying from each other from extreme metal to power ballads, and everything from between. I think we are a modern metal band with our own mix of melodic death metal and progressive metal influences, but still there is a flavor of traditional metal there in the mix too.
Have we, the audience and Your fans, seen anything yet.. What does the future look like for You, what can we expect ?
Well you’ve heard our two full length albums now which we’d like to get to play a lot more live as well, so if the stars get aligned, hopefully more of gigs to support this album, and then new material sometime in the future!
Any last words (not literally) to people who are reading this, the Family of MHF, Your fans and Your soon to be fans ?
Well be sure to check out our albums on Spotify at https://open.spotify.com/artist/3LhVTmnVEbbCqdpXOB16uX and music videos on YouTube. And if you like it, don’t forget to recommend it to your friends too! Thanks for the interview, keep up the good work with the MHF
Antti Lauri – Lead Guitars
Jarkko Lunnas – Drums
Asim Searah – Clean Vocals
Tommy Tuovinen – Harsh & Clean Vocals
Jukka Vehkamaa – Bass
Kalle Niininen – Rhythm Guitars
Thank You so much
Santtu “Rebel” Kaskela/MHF Magazine