Kreator is one of the greatest thrash bands and their 13th album, “Phantom Antichrist”, is about to be released. Metalpaths had the opportunity to have a chat with guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö. We found out all about the new album, talked about their unexpected cover of “The Number of the Beast”, their first visit in India and, of course, if Greece will be lucky enough to see them live this year!
You can listen to the audio format of the interview here.
Hello Sami, this is Stella Papaspyropoulou calling from Metalpaths Greece. How are you?
Hi! I’m fine… And you are from Athens yeah? Haven’t been there for a long time…
What was the last time you’ve been here?
It’s 3 years at least. We wanted to come with our last tour, which was Thrashfest, last December (2010), but there was a timetable problem with those American bands. They did only stay for a month’s time. Then it got cancelled or something for some ridiculous reason which was out of our reach. So that kind of sucks…bad! But we are going to do a European tour next November that should be starting at the 2nd of November and going on until Christmas, the 23rd of December, or something like that. So there’s definitely has to be a Greek day. I haven’t seen the booking, the days that have been book yet, but it’s almost a 2 months tour. That’s 7 weeks. It has to be Greek day there. If it isn’t, we’ll protest.
I see… So let’s talk about your new album “Phantom Antichrist”. Have you finished with the mastering?
Yeah! It was last January that we ended up in Sweden, in the studio, with a guy called Jens Bogren, who produced the album and it took us around five and a half weeks or so to finish recording over there. It was quite an intense period of time, in the Swedish countryside, in the middle of nowhere, so there was really nothing else to do except making music and concentrating on that. And usually he (Jens Bogren) masters by himself, he mixes and masters by himself. But we gave him the opportunity to go to New York, to Sterling Sound. Consider it to be the place for doing that. First he didn’t know if he even wanted to go, but he decided to take the opportunity because he had the chance to go and see New York. So it has been mastered, yes. And the video has been filmed, for the title track. I don’t know if you’ve seen it.
Yes, of course I’ve seen it. It was really nice.
Cool! That was made in Poland with a production company called “Grupa 13”, and yeah, it turned out really good! It’s the same production company that did video for this band called Behemoth. You know this band?
Yes! I love them!
Yeah, me too! And the video that they had it looks really great. And we said, if we do a video, let’s do it with them, because they know how. There’s hardly anybody who does music videos these days anymore, especially for metal. In Finland there aren’t TV shows that show metal videos anymore, so it’s basically for Youtube! But, anyway, we decided that if we do it, we want to do it right, so they were the right people to contact for that.
Very nice. Can you tell how did you end up with Jens Bogren in the first place? How did you choose him?
That was an idea that was floating in the air over a year ago, when we were thinking of who to produce with and Jens has made very good albums in the past couple of years. And he has the advantage of not working with similar kind of bands.
That was why I asked. Because he has worked with Opeth, Katatonia…
Yeah, exactly. And then Amon Amarth. What I like about all those albums that Jens has worked with is that they all sound very individual, and that makes the bands sound like themselves. So, he doesn’t have that problem that some other producers might have that all the bands that they produce are too similar. So, what Jens has managed to do with all of these productions, I believe, is that he makes the bands sound very individual and like themselves and like… I don’t know how else to put it.
I understand what you say. So can you tell me in a few words what can Kreator fans expect from “Phantom Antichrist” ?
It’s the thirteenth album that we have recorded and we put a lot of work and a lot of effort and time into arranging the songs and we also took special notice that we wouldn’t be repeating ourselves. But at the same time we wanted to sound like Kreator does, which has to be brutal and thrash metal and straight-forward. So you can expect good songs ha-ha! It’s 10 or 11 songs. A lot of work was put into it and we did our best and now it’s not up to us anymore, if people will dig it or not. But if they like the previous ones, they certainly should like this one, too. And also if you think of the title track, the video that you saw, I think it gives you a pretty good idea of what the album is like.
That’s very nice. Judging from “Phantom Antichrist” it will be great!
Well thanks! (Laughs)
I read in an interview that Mille Petrozza said that your new album is your most epic album so far, and has more melodies in it than the previous ones. Do you see that as a natural progression to your sound ?
Well, I guess so, if you compare it with “Hordes of Chaos”. “Hordes of Choas” was recorded completely live in the studio. So there were not too many overdubs. But this time, when we started thinking about how we gonna do this album, we felt that the guitar section should be more taken care of… you know, harmonies and overdubs, and lead melodies, and this time especially I was more concentrated. And Jens was also a big help with that. It’s a Scandinavian thing.
During the process of the writing of the songs, Mille writes the lyrics and brings some riffs to you. Then how do you continue after that ?
Oh yeah, well… First Mille has very raw and basic ideas of songs that he sends over to the rest of us. And the fact that I live in Finland and the rest of the guys live in Germany sometimes… Sometimes it’s an advantage it gives him more time to think about what my approach is going to be on the songs. After that we do it like the old days, arranging the songs and putting them apart. And then after that, it was months before going to the studio, Jens also came over to Germany and we spent like 4 days just getting all that stuff together. So everything was pretty well prepared before we went to the studio. I mean a lot of changes were made too over there. Pretty conventional style of making music these days.
Ok. So let’s talk a bit about the artwork. It’s very impressive.
It was this American guy called Wes Benscoter, I think he actually even heard some of the tunes to get visions on that. But of course since the theme is the end of the world and the invisible evil, ha-ha, it obviously states what kind of an artwork we needed. I believe it also continues on the Kreator album cover style that has been in the past as well. But that’s up a little bit to the artist’s own vision. It works fine for me! I didn’t have much to do with it, so I can’t tell too much more about it.
He’s done a good job. That counts. So another thing… a very interesting one. For the “Phantom Antichrist” single, you did a cover of “The Number of the Beast”. How did you choose that?
Well, actually we didn’t! (Laughs)
We didn’t! Cause you know Metal Hammer in Germany, the magazine? They’re putting out this special magazine about the 25th anniversary of the album “The Number of the Beast” of Iron Maiden. They’re going to have a CD in between, where for every song there’s a different band playing it. As soon as Nuclear Blast heard about it, they thought that if you’re going to do it, we might as well put it on the b-side of the single. A little extra. First of all, I thought it’s a really lousy and a bad idea, because “The Number of the Beast” is one of these songs which you should not cover.
Exactly! That was my next question!
It’s one of those songs, like “Highway to Hell”, or something like that. It’s one of those songs that you shouldn’t cover. But then, while we were at the studio, we had this offer to do it for Metal Hammer and the record company was into it. Later on we recorded it and we thought “it doesn’t sound that bad after all, what the hell, why not, let’s just put it this way”. Actually we had fun. Obviously we are all Iron Maiden fans; at least we used to be when we were kids. So, it’s also a kind of tribute from us. But you were saying?
I was saying exactly that. Iron Maiden is a much loved band and “The Number of the Beast” has made history in metal. Was it difficult to make a cover of it?
It’s not a difficult song to play, but the idea, the actual idea, that you’re gonna cover ‘The Number of the Beast” is ridiculous. You shouldn’t do it. But then we tried and we ended up, and it wasn’t even our idea. It was Metal Hammer Germany. But anyway, it’s not on the album, it’s only an extra b-side on the vinyl edition of the single, which shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Actually it hasn’t anything to do with the album and all. It’s just an extra.
Yes, but the fans heard it and I’ve heard many good opinions about it. Many loved it.
Well that’s nice to hear. If somebody liked it, then it’s all worth doing it.
So, on this topic, as a band, do you feel that you have to provide some extras with every album, in order for the fans to buy it?
I think you have to. Because you can just download it from Spotify, or whatever. Of course I’m the kind of the music consumer, that if I hear something, maybe from Spotify or wherever, if I really like it I buy it anyway. But I guess it’s cool. It’s got a bonus DVD. That’s going to be a live DVD from Wacken from last year; it has a few songs from there. There are a few songs from Wacken from 2008, I think, I can’t be completely sure. Also there’s a kind of a documentary, you know, from the time when we were in Sweden. There was this guy from Germany with a camera and filming all the time and he edited it. And it’s hopefully entertaining for somebody to watch.
I hope it will be. When it gets in my hands I will see it. I wanted to ask you one other thing. You said it yourself about downloading, and it’s a cheap solution for those who can’t afford to buy music. On the other hand, there was lately this huge turmoil about ACTA. What’s your opinion on this?
I think that it would even go to stuff like Wikipedia; it’s awful, you know, that’s just horrible, it’s wrong. To have songs on Youtube it’s completely ok. We make a music video for “Phantom Antichrist” and nobody is going to show it on TV anyway. I don’t know how it is in Greece, but over here there is no one, no show that would show that kind of video on TV. It’s the only way to be shown. So how could I have anything against it?
Thankfully we have metal shows on TV, so we see it anyway.
Lucky you! But think about Youtube or Spotify. It would be cool maybe if the whole album wouldn’t be there. There would only be a few songs. That would be maybe a right solution for us. But it’s not possible, of course.
So that you can get a taste but not to be able to listen to the whole album.
I see. So, about your upcoming plans, I heard that in September you’ll be touring with Accept in North America. This will be a blast I’m sure!
Yeah that’s right! It starts off in Washington DC and then it goes to the West Coast over there. And I’m looking forward to it, that’s for sure. We also have from Finland my friends from Swallow the Sun also on the tour together with us so that should be funny as well. Actually the singer of Swallow the Sun is the singer of my other band called Barren Earth. So it’s all coming together.
I see! (Laughs)
Yes indeed! And after that the European tour, like I told you that’s in November, the beginning of November and hopefully we’ll come to Greece as well. We have to.
Hopefully! And in the near future, you’ll be for the first time in India, with Iced Earth. Lately, India has attracted metal groups, but only lately. What are your expectations, since this is a new destination for bands?
I’ve been to India once. That was mid 90s or so. I was more of a tourist, so I didn’t really get that much of an idea what it is like in India. I mean I know it’s like the very rich and the very poor live next to each other in this overcrowded country but I think it interesting. I’m definitely looking forward to go there because I want to buy myself a new sitar, cause I’m a sitar player you see. So I’m gonna bring one back!
Very nice. So that was it. I want to thank you very much for your time.
Thank you for your interest and your time and I wish a very nice week and it was nice talking to you.
You too! Is there any message you’d like to send to your Greek fans?
To the Greek fans! Keep going to shows and getting albums! It’s the only way to keep metal alive!
Interview by: Stella Papaspyropoulou.