As long as kids are picking up instruments and playing, check them out. It seems different to me, all of these new bands playing thrash. I would never have wanted to play the music my dad might have listened too.
During their recent UK run in support of their new album Gods of Violence, Steve Fallows had some time to sit down and chat to Sami Yli-Sirniö of Kreator to ask about the new album and the thrash scene before they hit the stage in Manchester.
(((o))): First of all, how is the tour going?
Sami: It’s going awesome, two days ago we played at the Bataclan in Paris. It was great to see people back in there and a great atmosphere. Also we have played Scandinavian shows early in the tour, so I was close to home, which is always good.
(((o))): Tell me a bit about the new album?
Sami: It was a very long process, we started back in 2013 with the first ideas being swapped around. Just a few home demos before we all met up and stated arranging them. Afterwards, we did some demos as a whole band, lots of recording, and lots of different versions. I guess we stopped for a while and thought “Was it relevant, was it worth doing another album?”, but we decided we liked the material enough to carry on. Then we called Jens (Bogren, producer) back again so it was continuation from the last album and it was nice to work with him again. We know each other better now, so we can all be more honest and less polite with each other.
(((o))): I read that when you brought Jens Bogren in for the last album, it was because he brought a new outlook on your music and it was good to have fresh input. What made you bring him back for Gods of Violence?
Sami: Well, he made his own edits of our demos and offered advice on shortening some sections and expanding others. Sometimes we listened to him, sometimes we didn’t. Then when we got to the studio, he suggested more new things. It made perfect sense for us to work with him again because we already had such a good working relationship with him from the last album. Of course, he didn’t write any of the songs, but he had a lot of input, and he also suggested asking Fleshgod Apocalypse to help us with the orchestration, so that was his idea and his contacts to use that band. We already wanted to use some orchestration for the intro, but our ideas sounded too much like Star Wars music, so he helped us shape that, make it a lot more like Gustav Holst.
(((o))): You’ve had a long and successful career. What made the band strong enough to survive all of the different changes in fashions that metal has seen over the years?
Sami: That’s a very good question. There has been some line-up changes over the years, but we have been together for over 16 years now as this line up. I guess for me it’s because I live in a different country, ha ha. I think that continuity really helps. You get to know people really well, and each other’s strengths and weakness. You get to see what the band should nurture and what the band should avoid musically.
(((o))): Outside the Bay Area, the German thrash scene is one of the most well known in metal. What makes that particular scene so strong?
Sami: To be honest, I wasn’t involved back then at the start, although I was making similar kind of music with a band back in Helsinki, everyone was doing that back then. But when you think of Sodom and Destruction, I think that they all arrived at the same time, they drove that scene at a time when it was needed and have been good enough to see it through this long. All of those bands have gone in a different direction, but still have that sound at their core.
(((o))): I’ve spoken with other bands about how it’s strange that different scenes thrive in different places, such as thrash in Germany, Swedish death metal and Norwegian black metal?
Sami: Probably the same thing for all of those. Really good bands around at the start to drive the scene along and influence younger bands. You must remember too that a lot of the same people were involved in bands and production, especially in Sweden. Often it came down to bands suing a particular rehearsal space or studio, or engineer. People network and things grow quickly and organically. I’m not sure how it sparks exactly, but that growth is a great thing.
(((o))): A lot of the European bands we hear about in the media are often well established in their own country long before we hear about them. Which new bands have you toured with or heard that have really impressed you?
Sami: I don’t know. Aborted for sure, but they have been around forever too. There’s countless bands all over the place. As long as kids are picking up instruments and playing, check them out. It seems different to me, all of these new bands playing thrash. I would never have wanted to play the music my dad might have listened too.
(((o))): A lot of the newer thrash bands from a few years ago have since found their own identity and either become more extreme or more commercial.
Sami: That’s it. Find your own thing. You have to have a starting point and if thrash metal is your inspiration, then that can’t be such a bad thing.
(((o))): And thrash has that perfect sound for a starting point. You can crossover into punk / hardcore, become more extreme and include death metal or go for a more mainstream sound?
Sami: Yeah, it’s perfect.
(((o))): You said the last album took 3 or 4 years including making a decision on whether to actually make a new album. When does that process start again?
Sami: The very first ideas come from Mille (Petrozza, vocalist), so that’s kind of a kick up the ass for everyone. He’s the main songwriter and writes all of the lyrics, then when he has a few ideas, he calls us and asks us if we have any. Some are inspirational, some are not. Plenty gets thrown away. We never want to rush ourselves. In 2015 we decided to do less shows to have more time to concentrate on new ideas. Some bands can do it all at once, we like to have our own time to work.
(((o))): You always seem to have shows with other great bands, like a full package. How much input does the band have in that process?
Sami: A little bit. I remember when we did the tour with Celtic Frost, back in the day, it was planned as it was done ages before and when they made a comeback it would be the right way to do it. But with Sepultura, our albums came out at the same time, same label, same producer, so it made sense. It’s always about making shows more interesting so more people want to come out to them. It’s a nice varied bill, all of the bands are metal but very different, and so it won’t get boring. Four bands is a lot to get through, so it’s important that they are all good bands.
(((o))): After this European tour is over, you head over to that states to tour with Obituary, What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Sami: There’s some festival that remain to be confirmed, we’re probably doing Bloodstock, which I really hope is true as we haven’t played that in a while, and it’s a great festival. Festivals in Switzerland, Germany including Wacken, Italy, France. Then in September I think we are heading to Asia. There’s a lot that’s nearly confirmed but not ready to be announced just yet.
(((o))): Summer Festivals are a huge deal now. How do they compare to playing your own shows?
Sami: Tours are great, but living on a bus for a month isn’t ideal. No matter how nice the bus is, it does get tiring eventually. Summer festivals are the best time for everyone but especially bands. Festivals take place at the weekend, and then you get to go home for a few days before you go out again and see more col bands. I love it all, I love it in Manchester, but a long stretch on the road can be very weary, makes it more like work until you get onstage, but then after the show it’s back on the bus again for another long drag.