KHIRAL… Groovy Death, Punk and Thrash
Interview by Santtu “Rebel” Kaskela
Formed in Helsinki Finland already in 2008, slowly writing material, going through lineup changes, doing other musical projects, some gigs, but in 2016… The time had come !!! Summer that year first 2 singles with now a 5 member band, some more gigs, more material and damn… Debut full-length album was released January 2018 and what an album it is. A perfext mixture of groove, death, thrash and even some punk (at least when seen live)… You don’t want to miss this, the time has come to find out what the fuck are these guys up to… LET’S GO, Matti Hämäläinen is waiting ….
*So honored to have this chance to have a moment with You Matti.. How are You doing?
Excellent! The sun is shining and another summer of t**s and a***s is about to begin. Looking forward to present some new stuff we’ve been working on!
*Would You tell everyone of us a little about the history of Your band… How and when did You decide to create Khiral and how was the start ?
I joined the band in 2008 when there was our bass player Joni, and our then drummer Pete and vocalist Mari. The genre was some kind of hard rock with some hardcore elements and a hint of metal. For us guys who were already accustomed to play a bit heavier stuff it was only natural to make it harder song by song. I guess the point when we started to call ourselves Khiral was when we were too far from the original style to be anymore considered as the same band. Probably in the end of 2009 if I recall.
*Took some years to find a perfect lineup for Khiral… How difficult it was to start working as a team instead of just a bunch of strong minded and talented individuals… Was it a real war or… ?
There was never war. Quite the opposite. Me, Joni and Pete were best buddies who spent a lot of time together. Equally rehearsing and partying. And sometimes a bit more partying. Even though we made new songs, we never let it go too serious. We never went to our rehearsal place to just play and then go home. At least we had to play a few rounds of cards after the rehearsal and talk and laugh, if there was no beer around. And if there was, then maybe a few more rounds of “cards”. Maybe our tight chemistry was one of the problems when trying to find new members. We didn’t even want to think about a situation where there would be three guys with this huge connection and then a fourth and maybe even a fifth one just coming and going like this was just a regular once-a-week hobby. So we were not just looking for a vocalist or another guitarist, but also a friend.
*Would You tell us what happened 2009-2016 since about nothing happened, as far as Khiral is concerned… Hopefully not too many problems ?
Some singers and “second” guitarists came and went. After changing our name to Khiral our first actual vocalist was Tiina. She definitely left her mark with her death metal style growling. Of course death metal had been present to some extent, but mostly in the form of drum beats. With Tiina and our then guitarist Arto we played our first gig in 2012. It started to look good, but Tiina had to leave the band. Just personal stuff. Life happened, or how do you say it? No problems in the band itself. Anyway, dedicated singers are very hard to find when you’re a garage band without a proper demo. Most of all we wanted to play live, and if we’d feel like going to a studio someday, then we’d do it.
*Seems to me after 2016 everything just clicked instantly, first of all congratulations for Your Debut album, Emergenza Final in Finland and even Your first time in Germany… Are You surprised how fast everything just started to happen ?
Thank you! It’s definitely been a long and complex road. After so many years it started to be a now or never point of time. Somehow we managed to find Tuomo, a vocalist with dedication AND vision. It took him almost no time to rewrite all the lyrics from the scratch, while also doing some serious ass kicking that we really needed. This was actually the first time we started to take the whole band more seriously, in a good way. It was no more just a foundation for parties and friendships, but now we really wanted to start working instead of just going with the flow. Tuomo fit in with the old crew like a glove, so things started happening more easily. We were still not feeling like a studio band but it was about time to make a demo to get gigs easier. Jouni joined the band to provide the counterpart in our guitar wall of death. All songs were written for two guitars after all. After doing some shows, including the whole Emergenza that was quite a trip, we were finally ready to head to a studio. So, to your question I have to say I’m not surprised at all that things started clicking after we had found THE guys. Wasn’t that what we were looking for in the first place?
*Listening to Your music always makes me wonder… How the hell is it possible to tie all those different “genres” and musical elements (obviously every member has their influence and opinion in this) to such a tight package?
It’s never been about intentionally combining anything. We’ve always been a very “organic” band. As I told you the whole band was first just about going with the flow, the same applies to the songs. Pete had a strong death metal background, and I’ve always liked writing riffs with some groove and playing with rhythms. In my youth, besides metal, I was listening to a lot of punk rock and hardcore and used to go see all these small gigs where the bands would never need to beg the audience to hit the dance floor. Those years still affect my playing style and songwriting.
*Personally I need to relax every now and then and have absolutely nothing to with metal music, I just put on some 50s happy rock, maybe go outside to listen to birds singing and watch the sun shining… How do You relax and just take it easy if You have a “softer” side Yourself ?
I listen to almost all kinds of music, if it’s good in my opinion. Shit, I’d even listen to Justin Bieber if I found a song I like. But nowadays I do also enjoy silence. I like running, without any headphones. That’s when my brain really activates. I may end up figuring out how to end a song that’s been hanging there unfinished or how I will deal with the week’s tight schedule at work. For me that’s as much of relaxing as sitting down on the sofa and having a good beer. The most important, I don’t want to drown all my thoughts by having a TV turned on in the background or browsing the web 24/7. And yes please, the sun! In Finland there will always be plenty of darkness (both in music and seasons), so I really enjoy summer. That’s how our song UltravioleNt got its original working title and eventually its punchline. I have no idea how the t**s and the a***s ended up there. Maybe some hormone thing…
*Tell us a little about Your songwriting process, lyrical themes etc… Where do You get Your inspiration and do You work as a team or is someone clearly in charge ?
The inspiration may hit you anywhere, for example in the shower, or at least that has happened to me surprisingly often. I don’t know what that is. Should go there even more often. And I think Tuomo’s house is actually located on some kind of magical burial ground, because he never seems to have a writer’s block. Before hearing the second riff of a new song he has already written lyrics to that song, and while at it, to another song that doesn’t even exist yet. He once told me something like he could write a whole book about stupidity, so I guess we won’t be running out of lyrical themes anytime soon. But if I grab a guitar and decide to make a song, most probably nothing will happen. I think I’ll just go turn on the sauna.
The songs of “Chained” are of my handwriting, and because there were no other guitarists in the band when those were written, it was quite obvious that I was always the one bringing the ideas. Those days I usually brought whole songs to rehearsals, because when the inspiration hit me I couldn’t stop. I even programmed drum tracks, because for me the drums are VERY important when deciding what kind of part should come next. I can’t just think about the riffs separated from the beats. Of course those drum tracks went in the trash, but I think many of my ideas ended up to be arranged by Pete in the style more suitable to him, and later by our current drummer Markus.
Our new songs will have a quite different approach when writing. Jouni is writing songs as well, and even Markus has picked up his axe, but he still hasn’t brought his material into the daylight. So this will definitely be interesting, and the songs will have different aspects right from the beginning. It’s no more just arranging something someone else wrote, but actually writing together.
*Personally I suck in putting bands and music to different “genres” as You might have noticed… How would You describe Your music Yourself ?
I hate that too. Personally I don’t care what we’re called. All I can say it’s metal with some influences from hardcore punk to thrash to death to black to groove metal, but that wouldn’t fit into gig posters, would it? I think we’ve been calling it death/thrash just because it still has some obvious death metal elements, and well, thrash is a generic enough term for many kinds of metal bands. I tried to suggest something like ‘fartcore’ but it didn’t quite break through.
*Your debut “Chained” was just released in January, to me a real kickass album… Tell us about the album and how was the reception by fans, media and those who know everything (critics) ?
Nice to hear that! The reviews have been mostly on the scale from okay to very good. I really like reading well-written reviews, no matter what the outcome is. And in the end it’s always about personal preferences and intuition. About the first impression. And this applies to those 5/5 reviews as well, you have to bear that in mind. Anyway, getting the old songs finally and officially out of the oven was a huge step for us.
*How does the future look like for You guys ?
We’ll keep doing exactly what feels good. As long as we have our day jobs, not to speak of families, it’s about maintaining a certain balance. This will remain a serious hobby, and we’ll go as far as possible so that we’ll still be enjoying it. But you simply can’t control everything. Even if you dedicated your whole life to one thing, there are no guarantees it will be worth it. So personally I prefer to open as many small doors as possible so I can later decide which one I’m going to enter, instead of trying to open one enormous door. That means writing songs driven by inspiration, and of course doing what we love the most, playing gigs, small and big.
*News You want to share with us… New material, gigs, dates, maybe even some secrets just between You and me (and some thousand readers) ?
We’ve been having some break from doing live shows. You know, just taking a breath, writing songs and dealing with personal stuff. Some people have been born, some others reborn. No big secrets there. Currently we have two festival bookings for the summer in Finland: Jököfest in Lapinjärvi on June 15-16 and Mestarin festarit in Uusikaupunki on August 10. If I promise now that we’re gonna play some new songs, we’d obviously have to finish them first. So let’s do it: We’re gonna play new songs in the summer!
*Any last words (not literally) to people who are reading this, the Family of MHF, Your fans and Your soon to be fans ?
This interview was definitely a pleasure! I’m so proud of this band and happy about how things have turned out. And more is coming! Go listen to our debut album “Chained”. It should be available, well, everywhere. And tell your friends, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to play in your neighborhood someday. Meanwhile, see you in the group!
MHF Magazine/Santtu “Rebel” Kaskela