Having recently added in their ranks the legendary frontman Chris Barnes (Six Feet Under / ex-Cannibal Corpse) and with their mind really focused on creating some skull crushing US-sounding Death Metal, the Finnish mid-tempo wizards Torture Killer are about to release their menace on the world through their second full-length album ďSwarmĒ.
I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Jari Laine, during which, the friendly guitarist explained how it feels to play in the same band with a living legend, and why we should never give up on our dreams!
Jari, I would like to welcome you to our website and to thank you for doing this interview. I am pretty sure that you are counting the days before the release of the new album - what does your gut feeling tell you? Do you think that "Swarm" is going to be received well by the media and the metal fans?
Jari: No problem, looks like an in-depth one so Iīm glad to do this one definitely. Gut feeling? I really canít say, Iíve already exceeded all my goals with this band so...hehe...I care about it but I donít worry about it. The people Iíve been talking with and doing interviews seem to like it and it has some really good stuff in it but I canít honestly say I have any kind of expectations for it. Hopefully itíll go down well.
While reading the band's bio, I realised that the story of Torture Killer is like a modern day fairytale - a group of musicians who get to fulfil their wildest dreams! Is that indeed the case?
Jari: Yes pretty much, like I told you we obviously never would imagine our status in 2006 when we formed this band. It is like a fuc*ing Hollywood movie ill admit it and we feel very proud, excited, honoured but most of all totally surprised how things have worked out for us.
The band was first put together back in 2002. Which are your finest memories from these days, and when did you guys realise that you wanted to do something more that just cover versions from Obituary and Six Feet Under?
Jari: Back then it was just awesome, for each weekend we gathered to our rehearsal place with a sack of beer and learned a few more songs to play out of our favourite Obituary and SFU list. That was awesome, and we actually made the songs sound pretty good. After we did our first show, which we were asked to play those covers songs we were kinda running out of songs but still wanted to keep doing that, so we figured letís try to write a few song of our own. And it just started rolling from there.
Your debut album "For Maggots to Devour" was released in 2003 by the Dutch label Hammerheart Records. How do you feel about that release nowadays, and why are you not working with Hammerheart anymore? I am afraid that none of the big record stores here in England has a copy of that album on their shelves!
Jari: I still like the first album, it was written in a very short period of time, not wasting too much thought how it sounded. As long as we liked it, we kept it despite the fact that there were riffs that sounded VERY much the same as some bands mayīve sounded...haha...but I like the freshness, the spontaneousness of it. We decided to part ways when Chris came in to picture and Karmageddon didnít want to invest in this project as much as it wouldíve needed. Obviously the costs for making this album were a lot bigger than it was first budgeted with our Karmageddon deal. I have nothing bad to say about them, we got along real well and without their we wouldnít be here. So salute to Guido and Pat for helping us out.
Establishing a personal style is indeed a very difficult thing, and you understand better than anybody else how predominant the influences from bands like Obituary, Bolt Thrower and Six Feet Under are in your music. Which is your personal and unique contribution in establishing the Torture Killer sound?
Jari: You know, we never really gave too much thought if it sounded original or not. Far from it, we wanted to sound exactly as the bands we enjoy listening to, just try our best to write similar kind of material. Obviously we canít fully do that but still we can try to interpret it our way. I think we 0% of originality, but thatís not what we are after in the first place. I honestly think we have some good stuff going on, and actually here in Finland we are one of a kind. Weíve always openly admitted our influences, after all this is our tribute to that style so we donít see us worrying too much about our identity problems.
Next question is with regards the sound. Most northern European bands include a few elements of their local sound in their music, yet yours is a typical American sound. Is that something that happened consciously from your part?
Jari: Yes totally, we wanted to sound like a US death metal band - we still have some learning to do but weíre getting there. Everybody knows the best death metal comes and always has come from the US, and since we are huge fans of that I see it only natural to reach for that same sound.
One of the most important moments in the band's history was when Chris Barnes decided to join forces with Torture Killer. How did this amazing collaboration occur? Can you please clarify whether he is a full time member, or whether that was a one off collaboration?
Jari: He is a full time member now, well...at least as much anyone can be when they live on the other side of the Atlantic. But weíre counting on him to stick around and actually both of us are waiting to start writing new material with him. Itís pretty much all said in the bio, but shortly what happened was in 2004 when we went for our first small European tour, we lost a singer just two days before the tour. We were lucky enough to find a replacement on such a short notice but obviously the plans we had for our second album, which was supposed to be finished straight after the tour, was put on hold. We had an announcement on our website about it, and just one day we got an e-mail this guy introducing him as Chris and offering his help.
What was the reason, in your opinion, that made Chris offer his services to Torture Killer? I am sure that it must have been something very important, seeing as Six Feet Under manages to keep him quite busy!
Jari: I really canít speak on his behalf but I guess he appreciated the tribute history of our band, us openly admitting our influences and the fact that we kept on going for this tour. Also he had to listen to some of the samples at first, so I think he liked the stuff we were playing as well, but also one thing might be that heís not afraid to take risks. If you think about all of this, it is like a fu*king Hollywood movie right? A very special event all together, the famous guy joining this garage band and sh*t...just like ďGraveyard Classics 2Ē was. Doesnít matter if you like it or not you canít say that covering a full ACDC album from beginning to the end wouldnít be an original/special idea. So I think Chris does these things because he wants to keep on moving and doing something different and special.
I am well aware that Chris was responsible for the production of the album, but was he in any way involved in the creative process of the songs? How did you ensure that, with him behind the microphone, "Swarm" would not sound like the next Six Feet Under album? Did the fact that his vocals sound a little bit different in "Swarm" helped in any way avoid such a direct comparison?
Jari: We didnít worry about none of those things. If it sounds like to the next SFU CD to someone, so be it, also if it doesnít - again, so be it. Like I told you before we havenít driven ourselves for original sound at any time, this is the stuff we want to play, we know itís not original but we like it. Actually Chris had a huge input on the album and to be honest - without his help we wouldíve never gotten this CD finished. When we lost our first singer, we also lost our main lyric writer, we had 4 songs out of the 10 written down (lyrically, the music for 10 songs were ready) and those were good but then we faced a total writers block, nothing that we wrote seem to be right. So when we finally asked Chris if he was up to writing a few ones he agreed straight away, and THAT was cool. Not only doing the vocals but actually contributing on the song writing made it even more special to us. Thatís one of the reason why I think Chris was into it more than just a "one-off" project in mind.
I hope that you'll agree with me that in most Death Metal outfits, it is the guitarist that comes up with the majority of the ideas. Is that the case with Torture Killer? Which is the driving power behind the band?
Jari: Yes that seems to be the case, and thatís the way it is for us as well. I come up with most of the stuff at the time, at least for this CD, but we have 2 more persons who can write this kind of music - for some reason I just kept up bringing stuff in and the other guys didnít - that we will fix in the future and try to function more as whole unit, but obviously I have a pretty good vision how a band called Torture Killer should sound like so I think I have the final word on that...hehe...we all have that driving power at the moment and obviously every single one of us enjoy the situation we are at in 2006.
How soon did you mange to bring to life the ten compositions that are featured in "Swarm"? Did you make any corrections along the way, or do you like to stick to the original idea behind a song? Do you get easily satisfied with your work in general?
Jari: Compared to the first album we really took our time writing these songs. When the first one was really spontaneous and we really didnít give too much thought how it sounded, this time we re-wrote some of the tracks after a while. I think it took us about a year to complete it, but obviously we didnít have to push ourselves too much since it took over a year to release the first album after we recorded it. It depends, sometimes the song just completely finishes itself basically where in other cases we had to struggle to get the structure or one riff the way we wanted it. These day I donít think we get easily satisfied, the final song may sound a very simple one, but we mightíve had loads of different versions of it with different riffs and stuff like that so, these days even if it is simple music - we do pay attention what kind of songs we will record.
Tell me a few things about the recording process of the album. Did Chris' presence behind the console put any positive pressure on the remaining members of the band? Did you enjoy your time in the studio?
Jari: As we recorded our parts and his in two different occasions we didnít have that "instant" pressure you know, by having him looking over our shoulders - but I canít say it didnít effect us. We obviously paid more attention to the basic tracks, couple of extra days wouldnít have hurt - but itís ok. I donít enjoy being in the studio too much, I mean itís funny - all I do is pretty much wait for the next studio session and once we get there I get real stressed and nothing seems to sound right and I just want to get the fu*k out of there - once Iím out, canít wait to get back again...thatís fu*ked up...haha...
There are quite a few cases that I know that the mixing of an album led to a disaster, yet judging from what I heard in "Swarm", I assume that you must be quite pleased with the final result! It looks like Chris and Eric Rutan did a really good job there!
Jari: Yes we are, concerning how the basic tracks were - it sounds pretty good now actually. They did a good job, hopefully next time we can improve from that.
People who are not well into Death Metal find it kind of difficult to relate with the lyrical context of songs like "Cannibal Gluttony" and "Obsessed by Homicide". What is your perception of things, and where do you draw your inspiration from, in order to create such music?
Jari: Itís Death Metal, so this is what death metal bands sing about. Itís a bit like tongue-in-cheek type of horror story, but obviously without the long intro - the lyrics get right on the point so. The subjects we write are obvious, the inspiration comes from the rhythm of the particular riff and the groove on the song. And obviously by listening to other bands that have hooky vocal lines.
What about the imagery of the new album? Did you have any of the early Cannibal Corpse releases in mind when you commissioned Wes Benscoter as the artist?
Jari: Well actually no, Wes has been my favourite artist for years now and I was so thrilled we could get him to do the artwork. Chris came up with the image on the cover but I donít think he instructed Wes to go for any Corpse style. After all we are not even close of sounding like em, I really like the cover - it is a magnificent painting.
Talking about extreme music: "Swarm" is the living proof that an album doesn't have to be fast in order to be aggressive, with the majority of your compositions working at a mid-tempo speed. Do you think that this decision of yours is going to attract a specific group of fans towards the band?
Jari: Donít know really, it is obviously more approachable than a hyper fast death metal, but I donít know about any specific groups. Itís hard for me to think it like that, I know some will like it but I also know some wonít.
Are there any songs in "Swarm" that manage, in your opinion, to stand out? I hope you don't mind me mentioning "Forever Dead", "Sadistic" and "Heading Towards the Butchery" as my personal favourites!
Jari: "Forever Dead" came out real good so Iím not surprised you mentioned it, I also like "Obsessed with homicide", "Heading towards the butchery", "Multiple counts of murder" and "Funeral for the masses" a lot.
Your style of metal, which I call Ďheadbanging musicí, is one of the few that are so fitted to a live environment, and I do hope that you plan to get on the road soon after "Swarm" is released. Do you have plans for a European tour, or does Chris have a problem with such a prospect?
Jari: I think he wants to do it as much as we do, but for now we need to wait the album to be released - itís pretty hard to start arranging shows with a band that nobody has ever heard about. But I have my hopes up, and Iím pretty sure that it will happen eventually. Obviously we have not only SFUīs schedules to match with ours and touring schedules to match with recording schedules...itíll be tricky but like I said, we will get there eventually. Hopefully people will like this album so the tour managers get interested.
I am quite convinced that your album is going to do very well sales wise, and assuming/hoping that this will be indeed the case, what will be the band's next main objective?
Jari: You know, like I said earlier - weíve already exceeded all our goals with this band. So everything that might come up, we will take as a positive experience. All we focus now here in Finland is writing new roughs for songs, we always look for the next album to top the previous. I hope your prediction will go down well; just to get on the same stage with Chris will definitely be a highlight for all of us.
Jari, I am really happy that we did this interview, and I do hope that the sales of "Swarm" will be those that you anticipate. The famous last words?
Jari: Thanks a lot for the interview brother; this was a nice one so keep up with the brutality!
Interview © 2006