Interview with Mikko Virtanen (GRENDEL / DEAD END FINLAND)

If you have an interest in Finnish death metal or in this year’s top releases, you are likely to come across the name of Mikko Virtanen. Vocalist of GRENDEL and DEAD END FINLAND, he had a few words with us about how it is to be a metal musician in the highly competitive Finland, and also about the goodies delivered by the aforementioned bands.

MFF:  Hello, Mikko! How is it for you to handle two bands? You had two album releases this year…

Photo by Tage Ronnquist

MV: Working with Dead End Finland beside of Grendel does not cause me much work. DEF doesn’t do live shows and I’ve never even jammed with the band in rehearsals. Santtu Rosén and Miska Rajasuo make all the songs and arrangements. We work together only in studio and basically I do the vocals as they suggest. This set-up works out great since Grendel is so big part of my life and takes so much of my time.

MFF: The Finnish metal scene is well crowded, what feeling does that give to an involved musician? There used to be a wave of gothic metal which had its say and then died out; now, there is a strong development of melodic death metal, with numerous bands already.

MV: There are so many excellent bands that it feels like there is not enough audience for all of them in Finland. For example in Helsinki there are always simultaneous gigs on weekends and different clubs need to compete of the audience with each other. Kind of same situation with selling albums. The internet providing everything for free does not help the case…

MFF: GRENDEL can boast with a nice number of gigs year by year. But we know how life in Finland is, there are countless gigs… How would you convince people to choose a Grendel performance?

MV: With the experience we’ve gained during the years of touring I think we can nowadays deliver quite unfailing performance every time. At our best we offer great atmospheres, energetic and sometimes even humoristic show. Havoc and mayhem – No shoegazing.

MFF: How about summer festivals? Could there be such plans for 2012? The latest material sounds very much live-oriented.

MV: We would really much like to play in every metal oriented summer festival, but we’ll see how it turns out… The new album works nicely live and the set contains mostly that stuff.

MFF: GRENDEL has matured considerably in the past years. While most other bands start from sounding rough and get to a softer sound eventually, this one has been doing the opposite. How has the ride been and was it a consciously acquired direction or a spontaneous one?

MV: I’d say the direction has been a natural one for us. We always have both sides in our hearts, but playing live is much more fun with the rough material. The softness of the 1st album was partly kind of a heritage from my predecessor, Jarno Blom who was the original vocalist (1999-2001). I think the atmospheric softer elements will remain in our music anyway in some form.

MFF: Are there any musicians with which you would like to collaborate? Come on, be daring! 🙂:)

MV: I guess you would like to hear some big and famous names here right? Ok, here’s one: Anneke van Giersbergen. Without a doubt it would be nice to have some great voices to feature in our albums, but then the other guys of the band would realize how poor vocalist I am and I would get sacked 😉;) To be serious, we’ve had some collaboration with Pasi Rantanen (ex-Thunderstone), Kari Tornack (ex-Thunderstone, Sentiment), Jukka Pihlajaniemi (ex-Ghoul Patrol, ex-The Undivine, ex-De Lirium’s Order), Janica Lönn (Lunar Path), Jarno Suodenjoki (Kiana, Embassy Of Silence). What comes to touring with other bands, I’d like to play more shows with Amorphis, Poisonblack, Omnium Gatherum, Amoral, Kiana, Ghoul Patrol, Anger Cell, Bill Skins Fifth. I have great respect towards all of them and we’ve had great time co-operating…

MFF: Best gig memory so far?

MV: Well, there are some many good memories in different ways, but I guess I need to name the most recent and in a way the biggest thing for us: Warming up the stage for Amorphis at sold-out Nosturi gig 07.10.2011 in Helsinki. It was so twisted feeling to be on stage as the only band before the guys who have affected our whole musical growth with metal.

MFF: On to the lyrics… GRENDEL offers quite diverse ones, I may say. They look inwards and also outwards, pointing to introspection, as well as social awareness. Why this approach and what does it stem from?

MV: I need to write lyrics that mean something to me personally, but I don’t care much about if the idea behind the words stay a bit blurry to the listener – actually I want to do that intentionally. In fact I really hate writing lyrics – although it feels quite rewarding when I succeed to write something I’m happy with. It’s natural to write about stuff that make you sad or mad. Things that really touch you in some level…

MFF: The music video for “Apocalyptic Rain”, freshly released this autumn, hides some very serious ideas underneath the simple story line and the ‘eye candy’. How can it be described to the, let’s call them, disbelievers?

(NOTE: this question was answered by Owe Lingvall, the director of the video)

Yeah, the video absolutely hides a serious subject. But it shouldn’t be taken all too seriously. What I wanted to create was a jolly freakin’ video that suits the music. And I think I managed to do that. When you listen to the song “Apocalyptic Rain” it mediates a certain feeling. And I wanted to transfer that same feeling into pictures. You know, kind of the same aggressiveness. That’s basically what I wanted to do…

MFF: Alright! Wish you the best in all your artistic activity, thank you for your time!


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