– Hello, thanks for your time. What are you currently up to?
Well, just came back from outside, did a short walk with the dog. We were planning and discussing the possibility of making a short trip together. The kind of trip that will flood our lungs and brains with fresh air. Our eyes and ears with the beauty of green. And, with a bit of luck, our bellies with incomparable fresh deliciousness. At the very moment I’m writing while listening to a couple of new song drafts that are short of texts and vocal arrangements.
– First of all, would you mind to share a bit the history of the band for all those who don’t know about you yet?
A group of friends in Oulu had been discussing the possibility of establishing a new band for quite some time, when in 2009 their path crossed mine. A suitable vocalist was the missing link in their plans until that point. Things clicked into place, I ended up spending a lot more time up North and our band gained in momentum. The music writing picked up pace and we found Cobra Records to release our first album. The recording process of the Vine album pushed us forward with its own weight – same as the first European tour we did in support of the album.
– And why did you pick the name «The Man-Eating Tree»? Both its origin and meaning, as it sounds quite original.
The name is the invention of Aaron Rantonen, our founding member who parted ways with us already early on. It’s origin lies in how early explorers brought with them stories of carnivorous plants in the newly discovered new worlds. As we know, these stories were greatly exaggerated. The point lies in how these stories were bollocks but nevertheless they were nothing but gasoline to the flames – man’s fear of anything new and strange. People were afraid of unexplored things, scared shitless of anything they didn’t know. And with shameful precision that is how man still is, today. Apart from human prejudice toward whatever there is new and to be afraid of, there is one more sharp edge to the name. It is the fact that at the end of the day, we will all be nothing else but food for flowers. Hence, The Man-Eating Tree.
– For all those who haven’t heard the band yet, how could you describe your sound? Specially considering your sound is difficult to be tagged due to the mix of different sounds.
Our music is atmospheric , melodic – and definitely comes with a metallic edge. It is difficult for me to box it anywhere and I wouldn’t very much like to do so either. I don’t know, maybe I’m afraid of finding myself in some box that is too small for me and the things we do. That I would find a wall between me and the place where I want to go. Don’t need that. Personally I go long ways when it comes to the music I listen to and I like things that way. The truth is that the metal and music scenes of today are splintered to ever-smaller sub-genres of all kinds. In a way, that is of course not a bad thing. There is more of everything out there.
– You will soon release your second «Harvest»; what are we going to find on it? How could you describe it in just 3 words?
You will find The Man-Eating Tree treading on the same path we chose on the Vine album. The Harvest album is merely the next step on that same direction. The far reaches of our music are farther apart from one another. On one hand the mellow and atmospheric side is deeper than before. On the other hand, the harsher edge is sharper than before. If I must put it in only three words, Harvest is deeper, broader and defined.
– «Harvest» is your first effort with guitar player Antti Karhu; what has he and the fact of having now two guitars brought to the band?
Antti is a very creative and multi-talented musician – and of course a mean guitar player. For the Harvest album, he already wrote some music too, in addition of spicing up whatever was already composed before he joined. And of course there is his handprint on how half of the guitars are in fact delivered. He brings a style of playing that ranges through the far reaches of our music with ease. Soulful in one moment, packing all the needed punch in the next. I urge everyone interested in his work to check out the bonus DVD, The Making of… Harvest, there you can get a bit more insight into how he does his thing.
– He even cooperate with one song, «Exhaled»; what are your thoughts on it?
Yes this is correct. Antti wrote the music of Exhaled. It is a brilliant doomy song. From the beginning, I enjoyed it because it was so strangely laid back while at the same time so oppressing. Ultimately, the song ended up very well. I love the way it breathes free and has a slightly humorous twist to it, despite the atmosphere and themes being so dark – if not simply straight out black.
– Anyway, how was the overall songwriting process?
The bulk of the music was written by Janne Markus. He brings quite thought out and well planned song drafts in to the rehearsal house. It is at this point when everyone makes the music their own – by bringing their own musicianship and heart into it. I on the other hand write all the texts and arrange the vocals.
– The album has been, once more, produced by Hiili Hiilesmaa, so I guess you may be pleased with his work…
Yes, Hiili is nothing short of sheer brilliance. He is a good man, a good friend. And when working with him, it is as if you were working with a genius and a madman. For example, if the given recording situation clearly demands a more dramatic approach and fewer pieces of garments than are usually socially acceptable, then so shall it be. There will be drama. And there will be scattered pieces of clothing in the studio. The more ballistic a musical idea is, the more he usually likes it. I could also put it this way: look at your normal office environment. Who do you usually prefer to work with? The uptight asshole who keeps his distance, goes always by the book and has no skills of his own to lay in service of the common good – or the super professional, multi talented guy who is also easy to work with and dedicated to making magic happen. And with whom you ultimately end up becoming good friends with. Exactly those same laws apply the field of music production.
– I could say this new effort follows the same line as «Vine» but improving the formula but, what does this new album mean to you?
Yes, you could say that Vine was the first step on the path we still tread. This is much more of a band album that its predecessor. This you can hear. But what is more, the far reaches of our music seem to have landed further apart than before. The recipe is the same – but there is more meat and the taste is more clearly present.
– The sound is, again, quite gloomy and melancholic but with certain light, exactly as the lyrics. If I’m not mistaken you are the main responisble for the lyrics so, would you mind to shed some light on some of the lyrical themes covered this time?
I did find myself writing again these dreamlike textures that blend surreal with the real. I love the haze that can be weaved around the horrors we as men so passionately create – for each other and also for all other life on the planet. Yes, I do worry when I read the papers or watch the news. These do have a bad habit of going into my blend. I have written about oppression, war, big bad machines – all is it were a bad dream. One central theme has been time – how it is the ultimate weapon. Though it’s a bitch to aim, it will relentlessly kill everyone. No way to defuse or disarm. All of that said, the most important ingredient in my texts has always been – hope.
– For lyrics, where do you draw inspiration from? As all lyrics seem to be quite real but treated in certain way where they seem more unreal or at least not that obvious.
Everything I write and arrange into music has it’s roots in the real world. Ever since I developed a functioning social consciousness, the direction of the world has effectively scared the living shit out of me. The current situation, where life and nature are chewed into bits in the teeth of the market machine, simply sends shivers down my spine. Those shivers I have used as one key ingredient in my texts. My home is at the edge of green, far from the city, so lots and lots I also draw from the beauty of the nature around me. Often my main goal is to achieve certain atmospheres and anything serious that I want to say, those shivers down my spine, tend to be more of an undercurrent than anything else.
For example, the text for the song At the Green Country Chapel is three-fold. The key theme is that the limits of our expenditure – of ourselves and our environment – are drawing nearer as they were walls closing in. Secondly, I had one specific location in my mind. There is a centuries old cemetery and church yard near where I live. The church itself has been moved away at the end of the 16th century and today, only the stone foundation along with random grave stones remain. What is so beautiful about the place is that despite it being such a reminder of our frailty at the face of time, everything there is covered with a thick green moss. It is so green it is borderline blinding, as it were a nature’s own neon light advertising life. There are huge pine trees reaching from the stone foundations into the sky. And light – it seeps through the branches as it were hope itself. Third, I wanted to incorporate the Finnish word “karsikko” into the story. The way these symbols carved on the bark of trees were used to guide the souls of our loved ones. These elements I tried to blend into what became the sung text for At the Green Country Chapel.
– And how does the album’s title describe the lyrics/sound of the band? As it seems to be a link between it or the whole album itself.
The album title Harvest is very symbolic. Figuratively thought, the gathering of ripened crop can be extended to imply things beyond just crop. It brings to mind also the idea of limits of time – that before long, things come ready. And it’s not only a bad thing, it is also a reason for celebration. The start of the cold dark season, which is always, eventually moved aside by the Spring and the light it brings. For me personally, although I wasn’t the one who came up with the original idea, this album title does bring to mind also precious memories of my time with my previous band, with which harvest and autumn were central themes – starting from the name of the band.
– This record will be released worlwide by Century Media, a really well-known Metal label. Do you think this cooperation will be positive for you as a band?
Yes, I believe that this was a good choice. It sort of came through with it’s own weight, as we already worked together with Century Media upon the worldwide release of our Vine album. So starting even a closer co-operation with them was easy. They are good dedicated people who are into the music they are working with, so I don’t see anything but good things grow from our work together.
– In your previous album you did a cover for «Nights in White Satin»; haven’t you thought about doing any other covers? What other songs would you personally like to cover?
Actually we have occasionally covered a Type O Negative song in some live shows. This same one also ended up being recorded in the Harvest album sessions. I have heard rumors it might actually end up being released on a special edition of the Harvest album. Well, anyway I myself did not jump up and down with joy when I first heard the idea of covering Type O Negative, having never been such a huge fan myself, but I think the cover ended up very good and personal. If a band were not a democratic system, where majority rules over the minority, I would probably dictate that we’d cover some cool early works by The Mission UK, Fields of Nephilim or New Model Army. Or perhaps we could swing at Indio’s ever-so simple but grand masterpiece called Hard Sun. Yeah I could see myself really pouring my heart on that one. However one must remember that in a band environment it is the tastes and likings of also the five other guys that matter. Covering a song that only one of the hippies digs is at a huge risk to fail – to fail to ignite in the right way. We are currently much more focused on writing new own material – writing our own souls down. That said, paying a constructive visit to your old influences can be refreshing at times too. A conflicting statement here, eh? I feel that a further discussion on this might require a few pilsners and a thorough investigation of which records on the shelf have really hit the bullseye. Made a difference in me becoming me. There are those. And it would require even more beverages convincing the rest of the crew who all also have brought something to the table – their hundred influences – all that that are equally important.
– Your vocal style is really emotional and, in general, pretty unique and recognizable. How do you approach your vocal duties for this band?
I have no specific angle of approach. When the music starts, I am a man who falls into that river and is carried far away. I am not an academically trained singer and there are vast numbers of vocalists who are a million lightyears ahead of me when it comes to technique or the means of delivery. But I’m good at pouring my heart out when I sing. I get carried away. This happens in also other areas of life. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes bad. But when it comes down to delivering rock music, it is a good thing.
– In THE MAN-EATING TREE’s line-up we can find members that have played or are still playing in bands as POISONBLACK, REFLEXION, EMBRAZE or SENTENCED among others, or yourself in FALL OF THE LEAFE for instance. How have all those bands influenced each one of you? I mean, I guess all of you bring certain things form all those bands, or what you have learnt with them.
Of course each and everyone of us brings to the band their own history – their own influences, skills, likes and dislikes. The situation, I feel, is quite similar to starting a relationship with a person you like. Neither one of you have lived in a vacuum for the twenty,- thirty odd years preceding that new relationship. This background needs to be respected but cannot be the holy book guiding one’s ever step on the new path. The focus needs to be in what is happening now, what is being created now, together. Ultimately, the truth is that every band is a sum of the people who are in it.
– Due to this we could say you are an «all-star Metal bands», which tends to be a double-edged sword. Do you think this works more in benefit of the band or the opposite?
I cannot consider myself a star of any kind, and my musical endeavours have also always remained quite effectively under the radar, so I feel that “all-star” is quite strongly put. Of course one cannot disregard the achievements my partners in crime have made. My friends in it are brilliant musicians, creative and soulful, and are dedicated to what they do. That is why they have come a long way. I feel proud to be a part of this band. What the music loving community thinks, is another thing. In my opinion, there are no shortcuts available to us, regardless of our past bands. I think there is fire in the music we make. That is what counts.
– When you started the band; what were your goals? Have they changed with the success you’ve got?
For me, the goal is and has been to write and record good music with good people. This has largely remained unchanged through the years and I think it will stay that way. With The Man-Eating Tree, all of this is happening all the time so I am happy and driven forward to get more of it.
– You will soon tour with AMORPHIS, what are your expectations?
I am confident that this journey will be nothing short of sheer damn brilliance. We will be able to deliver and reach out to new people. See new places, meet and make new friends. Nothing wrong with having a quality pilsner somewhere either, is there?
– And beside this, what are your near-future plans?
I’m going bird hunting with my dog. Will erase all hurry from my agenda, sit by the fire and enjoy the nature around me.
When it comes to the band, we are working extending the tour also to Finland and other European countries. We will see what that work will bring. And also, we are in a constant writing process. There is new music in the works. That is the most important thing.
– That has been everything from my side, thanks once more for your time. If you’d like to add some final words, feel free to do it.
Many thanks for this interview and many thanks to you who have read it this far! Peace and porno, everyone!