When I first fell in love with (traditional) doom metal, there weren’t that many Finnish bands of the genre around. Having already spent hours listening to the likes of Reverend Bizarre, Minotauri and Spiritus Mortis, I still wanted more. I can’t recall where I first read the name Fall of the Idols, but for some reason, it really stuck in my mind, and I just had to find out more about the rising traditional doom metal band. Setting my eyes on the cover of their debut album The Womb of the Earth, it looked really weird, with some stag figure standing in a forest with an inverted cross above its head. Without having heard a single song from the album, I just bought it out of curiosity. Well, needless to say, I didn’t regret this decision, and in my opinion, The Womb of the Earth is still the best Finnish doom metal album ever made. But that’s enough about the past – let us turn our gaze into the future and harass bassist Vesa Karppinen with some questions about Fall of the Idols and his new band Wolfshead!
1. Hello Vesa! Let’s start off with the beginning of your musical career. What got you into picking up the bass?
I guess I’ve been a late bloomer when it comes to picking up an instrument, but I was 17 when I started to play in mid-90’s. A friend of mine, Peter, who had introduced me to Black Sabbath a few years before, had been in bands with Jyrki (Hakomäki, FOTI vocalist/drummer), and he talked me into learning the basics and joining their weirdopunk band Tre Kronor as a second bassist, since Peter also played bass back then. He quickly switched to guitar, though. I played my first gig after 4 months of playing, 2 months past my 18th birthday.
2. You also had other bands before Fall of the Idols. What kind of bands were they?
Before FOTI me, Peter and Jyrki had a punkmetal band called Adder, which Tommi (Turunen, FOTI guitarist) joined. Between Tre Kronor and Adder there was metalesque Von Stront in which I played rhythm guitar. This was around 1997-98. Not very good bands, I’m afraid! But one seldomly is a master at the start…
3. How did Fall of the Idols get started?
Adder broke up in mid-2000 because Peter had a vast ego and a substance abuse problem to match that. He thought himself of being a genius and thought we were shit, so me, Jyrki and Tommi decided to carry on with a new band. The first couple of years FOTI was more or less a therapy project and really off the wall musically, but we started to sharpen our focus as Rami (Moilanen, FOTI guitarist) joined in late 2002. Vocalist Panu Paunonen completed the line-up in 2003-04, and we did our first gigs and the self-titled EP. After Panu left, Jouni and Hannu joined in 2004-05, and the rest is (publicly known) history.
4. In my honest opinion, FOTI’s first album The Womb of the Earth is still the best Finnish doom metal album ever made. Can you tell me a bit about how you feel about it now? Does it stand out from all the other FOTI material to you?
How I feel about it? Nostalgic! Ha ha! I am still proud of that album and think it holds up very well. Of course it is a milestone on my career and there’s not much I’d like to change about it.
5. I have always paid particular attention to the lyrics of FOTI. There has always been more than just your average doom metal themes. What inspires you to write?
I know it’s a cliche to say but life, death and everything between. I’ve noticed that Jyrki’s lyrics have taken a more pronounced focus on social and political issues viewpoint, being extremely bleak and pessimistic – the world is going to hell in handbasket. And we’ve used the “traditional doom themes” like witchcraft and Cthulhu Mythos as well. I personally find writing lyrics extremely difficult nowadays, it is much easier for me to come up with riffs and melodies than lyrics.
6. It might just be in my head, but I think FOTI’s material has shifted from album to album. It has gotten more ethereal, floating, dreamy without losing the heavier aspects of the music. Would you agree with this? Can you tell us a bit about the evolution from album to album?
Yes, I agree with that. I think there is a common thread though our music, it is progressively going inwards, and the albums are more or less “snapshots” of what is going on in our lives. The Séance was a very dark album for a reason, etc. Real life has influenced our music very much.
7. You released Solemn Verses last year. How was it received by the media? It’s a really powerful and heavy album!
I think the critical reception has been the best we’ve got. After all that pain and darkness it was nothing short of a relief to get the album out, and positive reviews feel really good!
8. As many know, you lost your drummer a few years ago. This must have affected the band quite a lot. If I recall correctly, I read somewhere you are still going to release one more album? Is this true or just some false rumors?
Yes, there will be one final album, containing some tracks which were demoed while Hannu was still among the living. To my knowledge all instruments have been recorded – Jyrki played the drums for the album and is currently working on lyrics and vocals. When it comes out is still a mystery.
9. FOTI didn’t do too many gigs. Was it just too hard organizing gigs with the line-up, or wasn’t there enough interest from gig organizers? You were also supposed to do a European tour, but it never happened, how come?
I think it was a bit of both. There hasn’t ever been much money in the doom biz, and due to our line-up’s size and location, it was a logistical nightmare. We did manage to play a few “mini-tours” in Southern Finland, though, and a few in the North as well.
We actually got into Europe twice, in April 2006 we did a 5-date tour prior to the release of The Womb… album with Centurions Ghost and then a 7-date tour in October 2008 with Earth Flight. The first trip was quite chaotic with vans breaking down, leading to a cancelled gig etc. but it was a fun learning experience – emphasis on learning. The second trip went smoothly, we played in 6 different countries, highlights being Dutch Doom Days festival and the last gig in the basement of Erfurt Cathedral. It was great fun and my constant complaining aside I think it was the best time we had as a band.
There were then a few attempts to return on the road but they fell through because of a variety of reasons, which was of course very disappointing and discouraging. It still feels bad, because despite our best efforts I know we let people down. If anyone of them reads this, I apologize!
10. Now let’s talk about more recent musical endeavors! You have formed Wolfshead a few years ago. What made you start up this band?
I think the main reason for me to start a new band was to find the joy of playing again after all the dark depressing things going on around FOTI. I needed a fresh start – a new town, and a new band!
I met Ari (Rajaniemi, Wolfshead guitarist), whom I’d known for a number of years, at Pentagram’s gig in Helsinki in April 2011, and we talked that since I’m moving to Oulu in a few months, we should put a band together. So that is where the seed was planted. Flash forward a few months and we’re at a rehearsal room with Jussi (Risto, drummer, also an old acquaintance) jamming some Black Sabbath and Motörhead tunes. As players we clicked instantly since Ari and Jussi are real pros which one can really lean on. What resulted of that jam was a decision to continue as a band and a rough sketch of our first song, “Towards the Ghostly Lights.” I had the name in my head years before the band happened, and it was brought up and decided upon at our preliminary discussion in Helsinki.
11. The demo/promo/EP is phenomenal – some very solid doom/heavy metal. Clearly faster than FOTI, but still I can hear some yet not too many similarities. Also, the gig warming up for Hooded Menace in Oulu was really intense! Has the feedback been positive overall?
Yes, it has. So far we’ve played 4 gigs (2 in Oulu, 1 in Rovaniemi and 1 in Vaala) and they’ve gone well. The promo also got good reviews, so I’d say we’ve had a promising start. With Wolfshead we don’t have any predecided directions or genres we aim for, we just play and write which feels good.
12. Are you writing or already recording more material for Wolfshead? Any other future plans?
There’s another 4-song demo/promo coming, it’s about half-finished now, and we have a few more new songs composed. Hopefully we’ll be able to secure an album deal with the new promo, since at least to my ears the new stuff kicks some serious ass from here to next Wednesday! There’s rocking stuff and moody/doomy stuff in equal measure.
13. How do you find the doom metal scene nowadays? Any new interesting bands? I myself feel like the huge ”boom” has already died out. There used to be a lot more gigs and releases than now.
Yes, I think too that the “doom boom” has died out and “occult rock” is in vogue at the moment. I don’t personally care much of the latter, being a metal head at heart. I mean, I like the vintage stuff but I dislike the “postmodern hipster irony” of the contemporary scene. I can’t say that I am following the scene closely nowadays, being preoccupied with fatherhood and studies, but I do keep my antennas out.
14. Candlemass or Saint Vitus, and why?
Candlemass. The first doom band I got into (apart from Black Sabbath of course) though I like Vitus too.
15. Thank you for your time! Feel free to end this interview with anything you might want to add.
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