Poisonblack Interview: “I Write Music for Selfish Reasons”

Poisonblack. Photo: O.W. Kinnunen / Studio P.S.V.

Poisonblack. Photo: O.W. Kinnunen / Studio P.S.V.

Poisonblack is about natural instincts.

Oulu’s heavy metal band was formed in 1999. Band’s members are Ville Laihiala (vocal and the lead guitarist), Tarmo Kanerva (drums), Antti Remes (bass), and Marco Sneck (keyboards).

The band was born due to Ville’s obsession to few songs he wrote and could not sing them with his old band, Sentenced, due to their artistic differences.

All band members live in Oulu. It has been 13 years that they have been playing around the world and just released the sixth album, Lyijy.

We wanted to be the first to interview them right after release of their new album Lyijy to get to know them better.

The style of their songs mix Slavic melancholy with Finnish black humor or “Hevonpaskanmunahumppaa (meaning horseshit-dick-humppa in Finnish)” as Ville puts it or “some sort of ‘Rock Metal’ or just literally ‘Hard Rock'” as Tarmo puts it.

Guys, how do you come up with songs?

Ville: I write music for selfish reasons, to get shit out and if you are to be able to touch people through albums and shows then this is something that money can’t buy. Whether it’s love, hate, or indifference, it is real.

I write all the music and lyrics. Myself, Tarmo and Antti our bass player usually arrange the songs at the rehearsal place. Collaborating with someone when writing an individual song does not feel right to me. In my opinion and through experience I think it kills the heart of the song.

It may make it easier to stay loyal to the gut of the song.

Ville: Most of the time the song writes itself and you are just a passenger on that train. Inspirations behind our songs are varied: Life, things I hate, love… and so on. When something is strong enough to stir the shit within it begins to push out.

It is when you start to think too much it goes off the rails.

I sometimes think too much and after twists and turns I usually go back to the first version. To the core.

Which song would you identify as the beginning of Poisonblack?

Ville: The first song I wrote was the Kiss of Death, so that’s where it started.

Tarmo: Yeah, I remember Ville gave me a demo which he had made with our former bass player Janne Kukkonen and our original vocalist J-P Leppäluoto. Drum parts were made with a drum machine and there were 2 songs: the Kiss of Death and With Her I Die. Both tracks were included on our first album “Escapextacy“.

Your previous album is called “Drive“. This is a unique name as there are no songs called Drive in that album.

Ville: The attitude in the band and in the music at that time was about pushing forward and that one word really describes and gathers all the elements together.

Of course nowadays we’ve given up…

Your new album (Lyijy) is out. What does Lyijy mean?

The album title is sort of an inside thing. “Lyijy” means “Lead” in Finnish. Lead’s chemical symbol is “Pb” and you can get letters “Pb” from Poisonblack, too. That’s the story behind the album title.

Are there any correlations (series) between your albums?

Ville: I see it that pretty much the same feelings are present on every album but the way I interpret or what I may have or may not have learnt from them keeps on changing.

For instance the lyrics are getting brutally honest without too much metaphors and shit.

What is Mercury Falling about to you Ville?

Ville: It is about living in the moment while we still can. Waking up to see how this all is going to end sooner than we think.

The video is interesting!

Ville: Tarmo…

Tarmo: Hahaha! I know Ville doesn’t like the video at all, because it doesn’t really have anything to do with the lyrics! It was entirely the director’s vision, we just did what they told us to do. I still like and I think it has cool tongue-in-cheek vibe on it if you don’t take it too seriously. I mean there’s pretty girls and fire…only fast cars are missing!

Piston Head is about a man on the go. Would you agree?

Ville: Yes I do. I have always been a restless soul and have always felt relaxed when the scenery is chancing…

I am running towards the grave.

How did your early musical influences affect your art?

Ville: Metallica has always meant a lot to me. Kiss was important too and of course Iron Maiden. Those bands really started the fire for me to want and play music.

Tarmo: I guess Iron Maiden started the whole thing for me as well. I’m also a huge fan of classic 70s hard rock. Bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and so on. When I was a kid, I also spent a lot of time listening to the bands like W.A.S.P. and Twisted Sister.

Would Poisonblack fit into any of their genres?

Ville: We have no agendas other than playing music. I have never cared about genres or whatnot. We offer our experiences in life, music and how we put those two together. If you listen to our albums you can hear that there is a lot of different kinds of moods and styles even in there.

Tarmo: When we write new stuff, we don’t really care if it’s going to fit into a certain genre or not. We are much more concerned that the album will work as a wholeness, you know?

Poisonblack Finnish Rock Band

Photo by: O.W. Kinnunen / Studio P.S.V.

When was the moment that you knew, you would become a popular band?

Ville: For me it has been and always will be about the music. Popularity to me means more shows, playing music, more money, food on the table…It can also be a big pain in the ass but fortunately it can be avoided to some extend if you don’t forget why you are doing it.

Tarmo: I think it was quite obvious for me that we would gain at least some sort of recognition, because Ville’s former band, Sentenced, was quite famous already. But if someone would have said that we are still playing after more than 10 year, it would have been quite hard for me to believe it, hahaha!

Do you remember your first paying gig? How did it go?

Ville: Do we get paid? The lamest joke ever…For me it was with Sentenced. 1997 February or March at a club in Helsinki, Finland. I was really nervous and vomited before the show. The gig itself was o.k. It was sold out and people went nuts. But I’m not sure if I got paid though.

Tarmo: As far as I remember the first officially paid show for me was with Poisonblack in a rock club called Loop here in Oulu. I can’t remember how much exactly they paid, but surely it wasn’t much…hahaha!

Can you give us your views on Metal culture in Finland for those who are new to the scene?

Ville: I have no view on it.

Tarmo: Metal is almost like mainstream music here in Finland and it’s much more popular than in many other countries. I guess one of the reasons why it’s like that is because there’s so many cool metal bands coming from Finland right now.

Do you have any difficulties in writing / singing in English?

Ville: I have never really paid any attention to in which language I’m thinking when writing… It is when I am trying to translate a saying I have to think how I explain it in English and make it singable etc. Being bisexual is easy…

To try and translate Finnish to English word by word it doesn’t capture the meaning at all. For instance, ELÄMÄN KEVÄT/ THE SPRING OF LIFE. I fail to hear the sarcasm when it’s said in English.

This happens in all languages though. Does your accent provide any creative rewards?

Ville: I have an accent and my pronunciation is not the best but to try to sound like a native and concentrating on each word would kill whatever soul there is in my singing.

Maybe it sounds new and different or just retarded.

When we are in Oulu, how can we reach you guys to hang out?

Ville: I do not go into town. I do not really drink that often and when I do, I do it alone. At home. Sometimes a couple of beers when we’re on the road with the band

Tarmo: I think we all have our favorite places here in Oulu. If I go out for a beer with friends, I usually go to the pub close to my place called Heinäpään Oluttupa or to a place called Jumpru in the city center.

It also depends on who I’m with. There are many places: Jumpru, 45 Special, Petrellin Saluuna, Leskinen, Heinäpään Oluttupa…there’s too many to mention and like I said, it really depends on the company.

What would your advises be for new start up bands singing in English that want to break in Finland / world-wide?

Ville: Good luck.

Tarmo: I think nowadays breaking in Finland or anywhere is very hard thanks to decreasing record sales and huge amount of bands fighting for their place in the sun. The important thing to remember is that only playing your instruments isn’t necessarily enough anymore.

It’s good if members of the band can record stuff by themselves, create and update websites and so on. It’s also very important that at least someone in the band can take care of business matters, too.

Thank you Poisonblack.

Their new album is only available in Finland for now and you can get it at here: http://www.recordshopx.com/artist/poisonblack/.

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