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Interview: Gabriel(Finnugor)

Pure metal...interviews

Black Metal is quite a controversial style of music, but there are many representatives of this extreme branch that are more than capable of producing impressive albums. One of these really interesting personalities is Gabriel Wolf, the leader of the Finnish/Hungarian outfit Finnugor who quite recently released their latest album "Darkness Needs Us". Many musicians have to sacrifice a lot in order to release an album, but letís see what makes Gabriel so passionate about his bandís latest musical proposition.

Hi Gabriel. Before we start talking about the band's new album "Darkness Needs Us", could you give us a short bio of the band?

Finnugor was formed in 2001 (September). My good friend Tomi Kalliola (in Finnugor band formerly he was using the name "Nikolai Stalhammar", currently he's using the name "Godslayer N. Vassago") was telling me about his plans. He already had a lot of bands in those times... (he's the leader of Azaghal, Hin Onde, Wyrd, Vultyr, Oath of Cirion, Decay's Delight, Valar, With Hate I Burn, etc....) ...but he was planning to create one more (!) new black metal band.

Most of his bands were true black metal bands or Viking metal bands and he wanted to create a symphonic black metal project with gothic influences. In those times I spent most of my time for my industrial band (Infra Black)... I told him, I would be really glad if I could be a member of his new black metal band, because I really liked black metal and I wanted to be involved in something different than electro-industrial music.

For first he asked me to be the singer of the band. (at the very beginning) Later I started to write lyrics too... and also started to compose gothic songs and intros for the songs. I became the cover designer of the CDs too... and I found out the band name and the album titles too.... At the very beginning I was invited almost as a "guest singer". But later I became the leader of Finnugor band. I'm organizing almost everything alone, around the productions (the CDs, videos, cover art for the albums and inviting guest artists too...).

The name of the band derives from the words Finnish and Hungarian, and represents the union between the two leading members of the band (Gabriel Wolf and Tomi Kalliola). Knowing that these two nations were one in the past, how many similarities do you find in the psyche and the mentality between the two nations, and how does that influence the writing process of your albums?

I cannot talk about all the Hungarian and Finnish people, I can only talk about the two of us.

Our relationship is very special. We havenít met too many times but yet thereís strong connection between us. Our way of thinking is very similar and we can work together very easily.

I would call Vassago some kind of brother of mine. We donít have to meet very often to not forgetting each other. Thereís some kind of transcendental connection between us. With the most simple and shortest communication we can already discuss everything perfectly. Thereís no need to discuss everything very detailed and long, because we usually know what the other thinks about the situation.

Music composing goes the same way - if my memory serves me well I never told him to re-write or delete a song after he has shown it to me, and he also never told me to delete vocals or entire song-lyrics. If one of us creates something heartfelt and seriously, the other one always appreciates and likes his work.

Gabriel - Finnugor

"Darkness Needs Us" is the band's third studio release. How different is this album compared to the band's previous two releases?

The mixing, mastering and the whole production on this new album are definitely better than ever before. It would be hard to count it out, but I spent about ten times more money on this production, than on the previous one. I guess the big difference can be heard on the new album easily. These are mostly technical things: recording, mixing the music etc!

Some other differences: this time I havenít designed the CD cover (in most cases thatís my work). Also the working process was different, because we used to find out all the songs for first and then we used to record them at the same time. And after that we have to work on them (mixing etcÖ) for 4-5-6 monthsÖ But this time we always recorded only one song and I took care about only that oneÖ we recorded the vocals with one of the singersÖ and when everything was ready then we started to work on a new song. The entire working went different.

The style of music that you chose to serve is widely known as Symphonic Black Metal, the most popular representatives of which are Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. How easy is it for a band of this genre to avoid sounding like them, and which are those elements that make Finnugor's music stand out from the rest?

A lot of things are unique in our band. Our style (I think nobody plays exactly the same Black Metal like us), my song-lyrics (those ones also make our band individual, because most of them are not typical Black Metal lyrics), the line-up of the band (there isnít any other Finnish-Hungarian Black Metal bands - only Finnugor! This is the only band where you can find Finnish and Hungarian folkish elements in the music together at the same time), and both of us are some kind of "multi composers" (both of us can play quite a lot of instruments).

When did you first start composing material for the new album, and which was the band's main source of inspiration?

I think I started to compose the first song for this album somewhere around September-2002. It was a long time ago. (it was the music of Forest of Bane)

Concerning inspiration: All bands inspire me what I like. But of course inspiration doesnít mean copying. I never wanted to copy other bands. Mainly we follow the rules what the great ancestors already found outÖ but many times we are playing with breaking the typical "clichť" limits of this music genre. For example, sometimes our music turns to absurd and grotesque. The "circus" feeling became a returning element in our music. But NOT in a funny way at all. I would call it the "evil circus feeling" The fear and horror behind the illusive happiness and funÖ

As a matter of fact our greatest sources of inspiration arenít bands. They are artists from other territories of art. Writers, painters etc.

I think Tomiís greatest source of inspiration is J.R. Tolkien. Heís a real Tolkien fanatic. Most of his fantasy stylish ideas in our music are inspired by Tolkienís amazing works. If I should talk about myself, one of my greatest sources of inspiration is John Caldwell (the most famous fantasy writer in Hungary).

There are a lot of songs on my albums (including my other bands too) were inspired by his novels. Both of us are fantasy fans in the band. I also like late gothic paintings very much. For example the unbelievable works of Hieronymus Bosch (from the 15th century). Heís my all-time favourite. Those paintings, the absurdity and the hidden evilness of his works gave me a lot of ideas and inspires me to find out many grotesque and weird ideas for our songs. Most of the inspiration comes from these people. I could also mention H.P. Lovecraft hereÖ (from my side of the band).... and also Kryy (who were my muse when I was working on this album)

The recordings of the new album were supported by many guest musicians, the most important of which is Attila Csihar (Aborym, Tormentor, Mayhem). He has also contributed to the band's previous release "Death Before Dawn" by doing vocals for the song "Cosmic Nest of Decay". How does it feel to be able to work with such an influential artist, and how important is his contribution to the band?

Concerning Attila, we are very good friends. We meet often. We usually visit each other and both of us know each otherís family too. Sometimes we just meet to talk about things; sometimes we are roaming in the city and shopping crazy black metal accessories. (paints for make-up and things like this) I also visit his live shows each time when I can. (Live concerts with his own bands or live concerts what heís organizing for other bands.)

I usually record those live shows with video camera to "save" and keep them for the next generations. I can also call myself the official photographer of him. In the last two years I took most of the official photos of him what were released on CD covers or in magazines (attached to interviews). Most of those photos are my works. But my name usually isnít mentioned in connection with those photos, because I donít work for him for moneyÖ these are only friendly works. So we do a lot of things together.

For example when I had money problems, because of an asshole who owed me a lot of money, Attila was the one who brought me there with his car. When I told him I would like to kick that guyís ass and he helped me to get my money back. He can count on me any time, and it used to be the same in return

The music of Finnugor is quite rich in the use of many different instruments, some of which are traditional gothic. Do you have the required music knowledge in order to use such instruments, or do you use session musicians during the recordings of your albums?

I play all instruments in my gothic songs. I was studying in music school many years ago. Mostly wind-instruments (flute, oboe, French horn), and piano too. Also some percussion-instruments. I was also practicing guitar and bass guitar playing but that wasnít in that music school. So I would call my self a "classical music" composer. This is what I was studying.

But nowadays I use a lot of other things. I use a lot of special equipments what donít have too many connections with classical music. It depends on the music style what Iím currently working on. Iím able to handle almost everything if I have the time to practice.

For example industrial-techno music composing isnít farer from me than handling a real instrument. I like both things: old stylish classical things, and very futuristic, modern things too. Because I definitely see the connection between them.

One of them is our past and the other one is our future. Something connects them together (for me): You can also find the darkness deep within the ancient things - and you can also find the frightening, scary side of future. Frankly I donít care about present at all. (I mean: as inspiration for creating music. Politics, TV, newsÖetcÖ) I always like to reach far in time when Iím composing something. Sometimes forward (as a futuristic vision or a dream), sometimes backward (as ancient stories and legends).

You have once again chosen to use two different studios, one in Finland, and one in Hungary. Is it easier for you guys to work this way?

Yes, definitely. Tomi lives in Finland and I live in Hungary.

It would be too expensive to travel all the time, when we want to record a new song. So we always record our own compositions in our own countries. And later we mix everything together (music + vocals etc.). The previous album was mostly mixed in Finland, but this new entire album was mixed and mastered here in Hungary.

Gabriel - Finnugor

What was the recording process of the new album like? Do you have any strange stories to tell us about your days in the studio?

Yes I had many problems during that time: I was suffering from lung inflammation 4 TIMES within only 1 year. I donít know how could anybody get cold so much - so many times. But unfortunately I was the exception who succeeded in this meaningless challenge. I got cold 4 times within a year, and all of them were so seriousÖ after 1-2 days it turned to lung inflammation, and sometimes I was coughing blood. But I didnít stop working on the album. I didnít even stop singing the vocals for the songs. So if anybody is interested how important is Black Metal or my music to me, then this is my answer.

In those times, sometimes I felt like Iím dying. Iím not joking. (nowadays Iím okay again, but those times were terrible) But I still continued the work with the same tempo and I didnít stop.

Can you imagine how easy is to sing and scream very loudly in black metal style or to growl in death metal style, when you have high temperature (fever), lung inflammation and when youíre coughing blood? Well itís not an easy thing. But nothing can stop me if I really believe in something. This album is the proof for that. The force of faith in something what is even more important to you than anything elseÖ that helps you to do unbelievable things what is almost impossible to explain with scientific explanations.

I would really like to ask you a couple of things about the album's very impressive lyrics. Who is the main lyricist of the band? Is there a main topic behind them, or does every song refer to something different?

Iím the lyric writer in the band. All the lyrics on this new album were written by me.

My lyrics were always individual in this project. (if we compare them to lyrics of other Black Metal bands) Black Metal songs are usually about antichristian ideologies. Iíve never written song-lyrics like those ones. Mostly I write the lyrics about my own visions or dreams, or philosophical thoughts. About my own problems (written in a twisted way what is hard to understand for the first reading for sure)

Darkness Needs Us is some kind of conception album. Itís mostly about that hard period of my life (for example, what I mentioned above!). But I couldnít explain each lyric one-by-one. The lyrics are mostly about myself. Sometimes about my dark past, about hopeless future, troubled-happy-confused present, fever-visions, desires, wishes, fears and dreams.

One of them is about my girlfriend, the love of my life. (that song is called "Wings of Kryy")

Thereís only one fantastic (fiction) tale on the album: Hand of Light was based on a fantasy book (with the same title), written by Susan Salina. (Sheís a good friend of John Caldwell and I liked that book very much.)

The intro track is an exception too. Thatís not only about me. Thatís about the whole world where we live inÖ about the present, people of nowadays, art and music scene of nowadays, and also itís about this whole music style what weíre playing (Black Metal). And itís also about the entire production and idea of this album and about the great people who are featuring on it.

Are you satisfied with the way that your album has been received by the music press? Which, in your opinion, are the album's strongest selling points, and why should anyone invest in "Darkness Needs Us"?

Yes Iím satisfied with the reviews and opinions. Iíve already seen a lot of reviews with 9/10 scores, 4/5 scores etcÖ. almost the maximum!

Concerning selling points and advertising: well - advertising is not my job. Thatís my labelís job. (Karmageddon Ė New Aeon Media)

I can only say: all the people who liked the first two albums, theyíll like this one EVEN better for sure! I can promise that. This is our best album ever.

You have used the art of video before in order to present Finnugor's music to a wider audience, and I'm referring of course to the video for the song "Cosmic Nest of Decay ", in which we also have the participation of Attila Csihar. Do you have any plans on releasing a video in order to promote your new album, and if yes, which song would you choose for that purpose, and why?

Yes, Iím planning to record a new video for this album too.

For the song "Wings of Kryy" or "Mortal Reality". Because these are my two favourites on this album, and also because I was the singer in both songs. So it wouldnít be hard to record a video for them. But these are just plans. I cannot promise anything yet. Nowadays Iím terribly busy.

The artwork of your previous albums has been heavily criticized by the music press in the past, but I now believe that even the ones who criticized you the most will have to acknowledge the fact that the artwork for "Darkness Needs Us" is simply amazing. How happy are you with the final result, and how important is it for an album to have a good artwork presentation?

As the matter of fact, the previous two album covers werenít criticized by everybody. Some people liked them very much. Especially the cover of the second album.

Of course the cover artwork and the appearance of the album is very important for me.

This is why Iím designing or creating better CD covers from time to time. Iím very satisfied with the appearance of the new cover. Itís really the best one of all Finnugor covers.

I believe that Finnugor's music would be ideal as a soundtrack of a horror movie. Have you ever considered writing one?

I like horror movies very much. If a movie director invited me for composing a soundtrack for his horror movie, I think I would accept the request for the job with pleasure.

By the way a German computer game company (they make computer games for PC Ė Playstation - Xbox) already asked me for something like this. They asked me to compose music (soundtrack) for a dark fantasy game. But the deal didnít turn out too goodÖ They wanted TOO muchÖ too long music (about 5-10 hours of music!!!) for almost zero money as payment, so I cancelled the agreement. (it wasnít an official contract yet)

How easy is it to present Finnugor's music live? Do you have any plans for touring in order to promote the album? Any chance for us to see the band live in the UK?

Unfortunately there isnít any chance for a concert in the UK, YET.

I never perform my songs live. I have two reasons for this:

1 - because I wouldn't call myself a performer. I'm a music composer, who likes to work on music very much, but needs calmness in private life. I don't like to be choking in the middle of hundreds of people. I can say, I am some kind of "lonely wolf". I always walk my way alone, or sometimes with my best friends. As I said, I need calmness and quietness in my private life, to stay creative and individual. (that's why I can run 4 bands at the same time, and that's why I have so many musical ideas.)

2 - the other reason is: In most of my projects I do everything alone!! (music composing, lyric writing, singing, CD cover designing etc...everything!)

If I wanted to perform my songs live, I should pay a lot of guest musicians to play everything instead of me (what was originally used in the current song).

I use a lot of instruments and equipments in my music, and it would be really expensive to find musicians to handle each equipment on the live show. For example I would need about 16-20 people to perform an Ywolf song (or a Finnugor gothic song) on a live show, because there are so many instruments in that music.

I used to record the music of the Ywolf songs in about 16-20 channels in my own studio. (but on the newest upcoming Ywolf album, sometimes there are even 60 instruments at the same time!) All these instruments, even if they were real instruments or an other equipment, would deserve one musician who can handle the equipment as good (or even better) as me. That would be very expensive, you can imagine! I don't have so much money, to find and pay these lots of guest musicians. My only chance would be that, if I would play the music from playback, and only the vocals would be alive. But that would be ridiculous. I wouldn't like that. I'm not fuckin' Britney Spears or anything like that. (who likes playback so much)

So Finnugor (and Ywolf) are still "studio projects".

We arenít planning any live concerts. But I never know what I will do in the future. IT MIGHT HAPPEN some time... that we start touring one day. It wouldnít be bad, but it wonít happen in the near future, thatís for sure. It depends on a lot of things. A lot of money, my health, free time, a lot of energy and good nervesÖ and again: a lot of money.

Do you participate in any other projects outside Finnugor?

I have 3 other bands:

1 - Ywolf (dark gothic/neo classical band). I'm running this project alone. Sometimes my good friend, Nagy Andras (from Sear Bliss) use to be featuring on my albums as a guest singer. Ywolf is signed by the French "Adipocere Records". (earlier it was signed by the Russian "Irond Records" too)

2 - Infra Black (gothic industrial metal band) I'm running this one alone too. And sometimes my brother (Kevin Wolf) plays the metal guitars in some of the songs. Infra Black is also signed by the French "Adipocere Records".

3 - Aconitum Vulparia (cosmic/ritual dark ambient band) I'm running it all alone. This project is signed by the English "Cold Spring Records".

- I was featuring in other bands too. I was featuring on the newest maxi CD of the Finnish true black metal band called "Azaghal" as a narrator (its title was KYY). I directed a video for this band too! (for their newest album in this year)

- I was ALMOST featuring on the newest (2004) EWIGKEIT album too. He asked me for singing a song on his new album, in my own style. I recorded the song for Mr. Fog but he didnít put it on the album. I still donít understand why, because that song turned out PRETTY DAMNED COOL! So Iím still a bit angry on him. I was working for nothing. (for about 3 daysÖ to record the vocals for him)

How would you judge the evolution of the Hungarian Metal scene in the last couple of years? Any new bands that we should be aware of?

Unfortunately there isnít a big black metal scene here and I donít know too many GOOD new bands. The older ones are great (Tormentor, Sear BlissÖ).

What are your plans for the future of the band? What are we to expect from Finnugor in the near future?

I donít have any concrete plans yet. Iíve already started to work on two new albums. One of them is the next Ywolf album. But I think itíll be ready only in the next year. And the other one would be a new project (a new electro-industrial band)Ö but I donít know if Iíll ever finish this album or not. I met some difficulties at the beginning and nowadays Iím thinking on that, maybe it would be meaningless to continue the work. But I havenít decided yet.

Concerning Finnugor, we arenít planning anything yet. By the way we donít use to plan anything in most cases. Things just happen. When the time of the next Finnugor album will come, weíll start to work on it immediately. Weíre still waiting for the arrival of this time. When it arrives, both of us will be ready for the next challenge and weíll definitely know again what to do.

Are you satisfied with the way that Black Metal has been embraced by the Metalheads around the world? In your opinion, should we expect many more innovative releases from Black Metal bands?

That doesnít disturb me if there are a lot of new black metal bands. This style should be more well-known. It would deserve more fame. But of course more bands doesnít mean "clone-bands". This is my only problem. Nowadays there are hundreds of bands that are nothing more than a copy of an earlier famous band. All bands should be individual. The problem isnít in the number of new bands. The problem is in the lack of individuality.

Your message to the subscribers of "Pure Metal".

Hails to everybody in the UK! I always wanted to visit your beautiful country! I hope Iíll have a chance to travel there some time. (to play live with Finnugor, or just visit the country as a tourist) Until Iíll be able to visit you, please visit us at: www.finnugor.cjb.net. If you appreciate our music, please send us photos for our "photo gallery of fans" on our website. We already have some pics from fans from the UKÖ everybody is welcome! Darkness Needs YOU!

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Interview © 2004 John Stefanis


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