“SKEIN” INTERVIEW by Santtu ”Rebel” Kaskela
Dark, alternative metal straight from Finland, SKEIN
Formed in Tampere, Finland in 2004. During their 13 years journey, and after 3 EPs and their debut “Of Wings Unfolding”, Skein is now about to release their second full-length album, “Deadweight”, release date 22.9.2017. Since the beginning this band has made music their own way, walked their own way. The time has come to find out what the hell are these guys up to… Let´s go, Juha Höyssä is waiting !!!
First of all, thank You so much for this opportunity… How are You doing ?
Thank you, this is truly a pleasure! With three weeks to the release of Deadweight, we’re working hard, getting ready for the upcoming shows. We’ve been waiting for this for a while now, so it’s really quite exciting.
As always I’m so fucking curious… Would You tell us the story behind Skein ?
Skein was founded back in 2004 on the ruins of a band that three of the guys used to have. Even though I’m the only founding member left in Skein, I feel that we’re still on the same path that we started on all those years ago. After the first, self-titled EP, the band’s lineup started to change, resulting in somewhat quiet years. The next release, an EP titled ”The Key I-III” introduced a totally new lineup, with Kari Ruissalo making his first appearance as the drummer of Skein. The next EP, ”Children of Light” of 2012, proved to be a kind of turning point in the band’s career, as it introduced Sami Silvennoinen’s vocal abilities as well as the guitar prowess of Jarno Ojala. With the new added energy and passion, Skein started to work on its first full-length and ”Of Wings Unfolding” was released in 2014. Before starting the work on their second album, Skein released a digital single ”Rapier” in 2016, marking the departure of long-time guitarist Jouni Hänninen and introducing Hiski Marstio taking over the guitar duties.
Your way of making Your kind of music is definitely not mainstream, not the biggest selling or on top of every charts… Was this just something that came up or is it a decision well planned ?
I don’t think we ever really thought about how we should sound, it’s just the natural way our music finds its form. Nothing too conscious or planned about it. We do like to challenge ourselves as well as our audience and may not always make the most apparent or easy choices when it comes to our art. But that’s what keeps things interesting, for us and hopefully to anyone listening.
How was the reception after Your first releases, what kind of comments did You get by fans, media and those who know everything (critics) ?
We’re honoured to say that there have been many people who have stayed with us since the beginning, but I guess the release of ”Children of Light” brought a bit more attention to us. With ”Of Wings Unfolding” we reached some more people and got some positive reviews, too. Of course, our thing is not for everyone, but we’ve been met with a lot of positivity throughout the years.
Who are Your personal favorites, what kind of music You listen to and maybe draw some influences from ?
As individuals, our musical tastes are quite broad. While there are some bands and styles of music that we all enjoy, there’s quite a lot of influences every one of us bring to the table. With all these conscious ideas and subconscious influences, there’s really quite a lot in the mix ranging from extreme metal to movie music and from hardcore punk to hip hop. The actual representation of these influences is not always as apparent as it may sound like, though.
It’s been quite interesting to see how other people form associations and hear things in our music that we might have not thought of. Even if these remarks are somewhat interesting, we do not take these things too seriously though, but treat them as we treat reviews in general: everyone is entitled to their own opinion, our focus is on being true to ourselves and finding ways to express ourselves in musical ways we see fit at the time.
Before, we have been more ”paranoid” about the presence of our influences in our music. With ”Deadweight”, I think we took a little a bit more mature approach to the issue and even allowed ourselves to make a few humble bows to some of the great artists that have left their marks on us. These hints may not be as apparent as you’d think, so happy hunting!
Where do You get all the ideas and inspiration for Your music ?
The inspiration is drawn from all kinds of things surrounding us, both small and massive. Lyrics are important to us and on the new album we deal with lot of personal issues, trying to get rid of some of the mental ”dead weight” carried around. The songs maneuver through depression, fear, loss, greed, misuse of both political and religious power and our own obsessions with this form of art. There are also glimpses of hope present, alongside with empowering defiance here and there.
Unfortunately there’s more than enough happening in this world to inspire the gloomy and aggressive side of our music. We try not the be too black-and-white about the world or our lives, and hope to give that feel to our songs, too.
Do You know how to relax and take it easy, or is life just making, living, eating, breathing metal 24/7 ?
When not creating noise ourselves, we tend to spend time together mostly enjoying other people making noise.
For the past few years, we’ve also had a tradition of carrying our instruments to some desolate cottage and spending a weekend working on new material. These trips are focused on music, but quite a lot of time is spent in sauna and other strange but relaxing activities also.
I pretty much suck in labeling music, couldn’t care less about genres… How would You describe Your music Yourself and do these labels mean anything to You ?
Genre definitions have always been tricky for us, to a point where the whole thing has become a sort of a inside joke for the band. We suck at labeling too, and there has been quite a few ”interesting” definitions we’ve heard or read about us. Of course we understand why some people want to categorize music, but sometimes the almost compulsive need to label things with oversimplified terms results in surprising or even a bit comic statements.
We’ve always had some characteristics to our music, at least recognizable to us. We do enjoy variability in our music, and have always felt good moving between different soundscapes. There’s more beautiful, clean and melodic parts as well as aggressive, dark and punchy, heavier stuff too. Usually we try to avoid some of the basic clichés of metal, leaving solos and predictable song structures to other bands. That and the way we often paint our musical pictures with rather lengthy brushstrokes probably brings us closer to some of the ”post-metal” or ”post-rock” bands out there. But there’s also more straight-forward and aggressive songs, with intensity built with aesthetics maybe more familiar to some other ”metal” genre.
Your debut “Of Wings Unfolding” was released after 10 years of Your career, the second album “Deadweight” is on it´s way, to be released in couple of weeks… Any particular reasons for this pretty slow pace, hopefully not too many problems ?
From this perspective the early years of Skein were troubled with instability in the lineup. The reasons behind these departures were diverse. Some were due to moving to another country, some were the result of the need to prioritise things in one’s life and so on.
I guess some degree of stubbornness is in the essence of Skein. During the more quiet years we kept working on our material with just me and Jouni, writing songs in some bedroom corner, trusting our vision.
Even though the journey hasn’t always been all fun and games, all the things have led to where we are today. We’re really thankful to everyone who has contributed to this band along the way.
”Deadweight”. What can we expect ?
As described before, there’s a lot going on on the album. We’ve always had a lot of dynamics and variety in our material, and on ”Deadweight” we widen the range of our expression even more. The album consists of the lightest material we’ve ever made as well as the heaviest. There are songs that rely mainly on some bare arrangements with guitar and melodic vocals and more hard-hitting pieces with the full arsenal of our heavier side unleashed.
All in all, ”Deadweight” is an honest and personal representation of Skein today. And as the engineering and sound quality is just as good as we dared to hope for, its easy to say that this is our greatest achievement so far.
What are some of the best memories so far, after 13 years of Your journey ?
There’s a lot great things that have happened along the way, great shows and great people we’ve met. For me – and I think we share this – the recording sessions of Deadweight were one of the most memorable experiences so far. The amount of passion and work we put into the album paid off and we are really proud of it. The few weeks we spent in Electric Fox Studios with Tuomas Kokko were really intense, but rewarding. Tuomas was new to us prior the project, but from the first time we met during the pre-producing phase it was apparent that he shared the same passion for his work that we do for ours, and was willing to go in deep. He took us in with open arms and helped us challenge ourselves and take the ”next step”.
Even though we worked hard during that time spent in Vaajakoski, the days proved to be quite an emotional roller coasters with a lot of laughter and strange, awesome stuff happening that we’ll surely remember the rest of our lives.
Coming to Your live show… Better get ready for… what ?
We aim to do justice to our songs by playing them with the intensity and energy we’ve put into them. We’re present and we do not try to be anything we’re not. As the album takes a step forward musically, we are also working hard to a similar step when it comes to our live performances.
How does the future look like for Skein ?
Right now, the main focus has been on this release and on the shows we’ll be playing during the rest of the year. We’ll be playing a small tour in Finland visiting new cities and new venues.
But as the album itself has already been ready for a while now, we’ve started working on new material also. We just talked about ideas regarding new material, including some exciting new approaches and ways of working. We’ll see how it turns out, but its safe to say that our creativity is flowing as strongly as ever.
There might be some surprises up our sleeve also for the beginning of the next year, but let’s keep that as a secret…
Any last words (not literally) to everyone who’s reading this, members of MHF and Your soon-to-be Fans ?
Thanks for reading! Keep your mind open and think for yourselves. We’re more than happy to talk with as many of you guys as possible, so let’s meet at our shows or share thoughts in the social media.
Sami Silvennoinen – vocals
Jarno Ojala – guitar
Hiski Marstio – guitar
Kari Ruissalo – drums
Juha Höyssä – bass
Skein – ”Bound”
Santtu ”Rebel” Kaskela