Thursday, October 18, 2012

Interview: Kai Leikola (SOULFALLEN)

   It rarely happens that a certain band/ song gives me goosebumps right from the first audition, and a large number of people I know experienced the very same thing when first listening to Soulfallen, dark metal band straight from the heart of Finland. Kai Leikola is responsible for the breathtaking vocals, the clean ones particularly standing out , and he is here on playdeadnation for a little chat!

pdn: Hello, Kai! First of all, how was the idea of this band born? And the name?

Kai: Hello, Laura. That’s a tough question to start with. 
I guess it’s the ordinary story. It’s hard to pinpoint how and when it happened, ever since I was a kid I have been listening to many types of music with rock being in the forefront. Guns n’ roses, Metallica, Sepultura, etc. And of course I thought those guys were the coolest guys in the world and when I grew up I want to play in a band too. So as a teenager I started playing bass and soon formed my first band with some of my friends and have been playing in a band ever since. From the start wanted to write my own music and I was somewhat lazy in learning to play other band’s songs. Of course the other guys in the band also composed music and still do even more than me, but it was never about playing cover songs but doing our own music. So I guess you could call it a natural state of my existence since I have been doing it for more than half my life.
I think the idea of Soulfallen came sometime in 2002 after my previous band was laid to rest. I felt the need to continue doing music. It was just impossible to think that I would not be in a band. So it took a while to find the right guys to do it with there have been changes in the lineup ever since but the passion for dark, melodic, atmospheric metal has stayed. Naturally the people who have played in the band have had a great influence in how the music has turned out, but in a greater scale the direction has remained somewhat solid. The name Soulfallen also came to me during this time and I thought it to be a good one-word name for a band. 

pdn: As I understood, the band was formed in 2003, but the debut album was released much later, in 2007. Was it difficult to get a record deal or did you guys just want to focus on live shows first?

Kai: You are correct. I don’t think it’s ever easy getting a record deal, a decent one at least. I don’t think we had a plan, we just made music and started playing it live. In the beginning it also took some time to find a good lineup and changes always disrupt the birth process of a beginning band. Time is a relative matter too. We only made two demos before our first album and some could say we got a record deal relatively fast. In metal you really don’t just form a band and get signed in the same year, unless of course you’re Max Cavalera or Mikael Åkerfeldt.
Looking at it now, I think it was only a good thing we didn’t make our debut in 2004 because I don’t think it would have been a very good album. There are things on World Expiration I would have done differently if I were to do it all again, and I think I will feel that way about all our albums sometime in the future, but I still think it’s a very good album. It is good for most bands to let their music stew and cook, if you want to use cooking terms. And it was good for us, too. Just practicing, playing live and practicing. The problem with many bands nowadays is that with all this home studio equipment band start making albums too soon. They don’t want to do the hard work in the cellars and practice places where their music would evolve and mature. They skip the cooking phase and hand people raw cd’s that usually don’t even sound that great. But I guess that’s the way this world is going, everything has to be done faster and faster despite the loss in quality.

pdn: At what age did started getting attracted to the world of music and a career in it? How did it start?

Kai: Well like I said, the attraction started quite early as a teenager, but I don’t know if you can call it a career. All of us have been studying or working or both at the same time, so this has never been fulltime work for any of us. I think passion would be a better word for it. A passion we take very seriously and put a lot of effort, time and money in it. But something we love doing. The way I think about it, that if your livelihood doesn’t depend on it you don’t have to make compromises or think about sales figures when you’re writing music. You can just write what comes out of the heart as stupid as it perhaps sounds. And I’m not saying that bands that live on the music do this, but I for one enjoy the fact that I have never even had to think about it that way. 

pdn: Which are your favourite bands, maybe some that represented a strong influence and/ or motivation?

Kai: Oh there are so many! My Dying Bride, Katatonia, Keep of Kalessin, Kreator, Moonspell, Meshuggah, Machine Head, Behemoth, Hypocrisy, Anathema, Samael, just to name a few. And there are a lot of great Finnish metal bands as well: Insomnium, Alghazanth, Scorngrain, Swallow the Sun, Torture Killer and the list goes on. I still listen to a great deal of music and I think everything you listen to and experience influences in one way or another, but I don’t think there is any one or two bands that could be named as our strongest influences. We don’t aspire to sound like someone else. With that being said, there are many bands we look up to and respect what they have accomplished. I just don’t see the point of wanting to sound like someone else.

pdn: Reviews say your sounds have somewhat changed, evolved throughout the years; What would you say changed in the music of Soulfallen inbetween the first album and the latest one?

Kai: That is true. I even read in a review of our latest album that we have changed our music style to some kind of doomish metal. It sounded strange to me since in my head I feel have always done the same kind of music whatever you want to call it. Melodic, atmospheric death metal? It is a matter of opinion always, now is it? But I do agree with evolution, I think there is a great difference if you compare any of our albums together, and whether it is a change for better or worse it is up to the listener to decide. I for one think it is for the better. I think the biggest difference is us evolving as musicians and songwriters and of course that there have been some changes in the lineup during this time. 
Despite playing together for five years prior to making the debut album, it is still raw in some perspectives. And in the last five years that was between these two albums we have played forty something shows in Finland and abroad and this has influenced us as musicians. We have learned to write better songs, conceptual lyrics, manage greater orchestrations and broadened our musical perspective, but still keeping the core of what is Soulfallen intact. If you look at our latest album song by song, they can differ from each other a lot. For example the last track At the Heart of Dying is the slowest, longest, doomiest, and saddest in my opinion, song we have ever made and the track before that has some of the fastest stuff we have ever made, but still they all sound Soulfallen. If you know what I mean. We don’t want to do the same album twice, we want to go forward and explore new musical heights but at the same time a part of our music will stay the same. The part that we aimed for, when we started the band nearly ten years ago.

pdn: Who writes the lyrics and what inspires them in general?

Kai: That would be me. Like I said, I think everything you experience influences you in some way. Books, movies, songs, life, everything. Writing lyrics is also something I have been doing for half my life. It is an escape, a way of self-expression and a vent to channel energy. I don’t go beat people up, I write. I am inspired to become a better writer, finding new ways to use language since in it only the sky is the limit. There are so many things you can do with it. All the Soulfallen albums are bound in a certain theme. World Expiration dealt with the end of the world, but I wanted to find a fresh perspective to look at it. Grave New World continued the story with the moment that comes after the apocalypse when there is nothing left to do but face the inevitable.
With the third album I wanted to end the trilogy. It took me about a year to come up with the idea and then another year and a half to write the lyrics for it. I cannot say where the idea came from, though. Just letting your mind work on it and eventually something pops out. The story continues where Grave New World ended in a post-apocalyptic world where the inevitable never came because something went terribly wrong. Life and death become entwined and one could not be separated from the other. Hell as promised by religions never came, but instead the whole world is caught in this limbonic state where even death cannot grant us escape. There are some twists and turns in the story and one can make his or her own interpretations of the story and how it finally ends.
I guess I could say, hopefully without sounding too schmuck, I am also inspired by my own texts to always improve myself. The great thing about being a writer is that you are never ready or complete. There are always new things around the corner to learn. 

pdn: If you could play anywhere in the world, what countries, venues would you gladly choose? And what bands would you like to share the stage with someday, if you could pick anyone? 

Kai: I don’t know if we have any shared dreams or visions about countries or venues. Of course it would be cool to play in all the great places like Madison Square Garden etc, but I don’t think we are very likely to play in any of those very soon or most likely ever. Not with this kind of music. Some big European festivals like Wacken would be a great milestone. We’ll have to see. And about other bands, I don’t think we have a shared dream of this either. Sharing the stage with any of the previously mentioned bands would be an honour. For me personally My Dying Bride would be the one above the others, but that’s just me. We have been fortunate to play with many great bands already and despite being very different in terms of music style opening for Cannibal Corpse in Lithuania a couple of years ago was one of those great moments. 

pdn: What is the band up to this summer? Also, any plans for the near future?

Kai: Next year in 2013 it will be our ten year anniversary and we hope do something special to celebrate it. I won’t tell you yet what it will be, but I hope we get the chance to do it. Meanwhile we released earlier this year a new album out called The Promise of Hell and we wish to promote it to people we would like this kind of atmospheric, melodic death metal. So if you already haven’t heard it, check it out now! You can download it for free from our official website at .
We are also writing new material for our next releases and we have opened a PayPal account for the band where anyone who has enjoyed our music can donate money directly to the band. So if you like the music, but don’t want to give 90 percent of the price of the album to distributors and shops, there is a way to support just the ones who make the music. And anyone who donates two euros or more will have their name printed on the fourth Soulfallen album. But enough of advertising. I guess it is safe to say that naturally we have plans to write and record a fourth album somewhere in the future. And of course we hope to play many shows live next year. 

pdn: Thank you kindly for your time! Anything you would like to add for your friends, fans?

Kai: Thank you for the interview! I hope we have the chance to play live in new places and countries we have never been to, since we have had a lot of requests from fans all over the world. Hopefully we can make some of them true. But it’s not going to be very easy since we don’t have a big record company or anything like that behind us. We also want to thank you for your support we have received from all of you all these years! We are still humble to learn people in countries we have never been to are discovering and enjoying our music. Keep the flame alive and all the best!

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