Stam1na – Interview: Love in the mosh pit!

Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans, it is said. And that is what happened to and during my interview with Antti „Hyrde“ Hyyrynen. My actual idea was to make it a very funny one with lots of odd questions and humor. But then I met a very considerate and thoughtful interviewee being aware of many very cool facts and full of impressive opinions. Far too value not to go for them. Then in the end I noticed the recording had stopped at a very early stage of the interview. Antti was kind enough to reply to my questions by email again – thank you personally again so much for that. I have a very vivid memory of the interview itself. And so I was able to fill some of the details we were speaking of yet he did not write in that extend.

„What is metal?“ I ask as we arrive in the fresh iar in front of the club he just played a show. „Is it music, attitude? Is it the community? Or is it all of it?“ – „Metal seems to be an attitude, way of experiencing unity with people and a source of powerful cultural influencing.“

„Speaking of the tour’s name, what tells Arctic metal from the rest? Is there anything like this at all?“ – „Arctic metal ain’t that familiar term or genre for me but I recognize the characteristics you’re asking about. Of course the lyric language might be the first obvious thing with any band. Or then even the accent of the singer. Yeah, also you might want as many guitars in the band as possible! So riffs, heavy beating replacing the unnecessery atmoshperic emo-stuff … Screaming with good melodies, many times in really melancholic way, at least with us Finns.“

I am happy we’re processing quite fast as it is getting a bit chilly to me.

„Let’s go back to the questions about what is metal because I would also like to know what it is you like most speaking of the metal community? What is typical for this group?“ – „Like scientific studies say metal listening people tend to be more stable, easygoing and friendly. I totally agree.“ Imagine: There is a true metal head meeting all your clichees standing in front of you, bearded, capable of grim facial expressions and covered with many tattoos but argumenting on the basis of scientific research! I love those moments in that yet another stereotype dies crashing into the reality of diverse and open-minded life concepts. „In a mosh pit“, Antti continues, „there’s more love and human contact and real strong motions around you than any dance floor disco. It is positive aggression you know, to express your thing publicly.“ I frown. Did he really speak of the love in the mosh pit? He did. And then I remember Nummirock and one fo the pits there. „Indeed I remember in Nummirock this summer that I stood right like 10 cm from the … what’s it? Active zone of the pit and I had my cam and so. So I could not join, of course and needed to be careful not to hurt anyone with that heavy stuff. But hey, nothing and no one I would not invite to do so did touch me. That was great. They moshed most decently and you know, it there was someone stumbling hands from at least two directions made sure he’d not fall. I mean that was really amazing. And I never experienced something like that anywhere else. But then of course, I had not much time this year to really enjoy the very most of the shows I attended.“ – Antti nods comprehendingly and picks up his thought again. „Black clothes and vests expresses your tribal ways. A metal head always loves to tell you about some new upcomer band or artist. It’s like taking care of your family.“ – „Yeah, the metal family, I had a lot of that this year. Amazing enough all doors were wide open. Just that simple: Once you’re among them you belong to the community. Done. Nothing more to say“, I comment. By then I am feeling really cold already. It is about 10 °C and Antti obviously feels really good in his T-Shirt. I could do with a jacket. But I have none at hand.

Remembering the amazing atmosphere literally on the very edge of the pit, I think of this incredible contrast. Metal music is often blamed to cause aggression and feed aggressive crimes. But in my personal experience it is quite the opposite. There is hardly a situation in which I have felt as save and free as in the metal community. I have never experienced harrasment, not even being approached when I didn’t wanted. I can remember exactly one situation in which a drunken girl tried picking up fight. But the very same moment the crowd suffocated her aggression by encircling her just doing nothing but wait. Within a minute she knew she would not get her fight and calmed down! No one was even touched. And still there is undeniably aggression in the music. How does this go together?

I ask: „There is some kind of omnipresence of aggression and violence in metal while at the same time the community is considered open and peaceful. Do you have any idea how this could go together? Do you have any idea about the reasons for it?“ – „Artists and singers have always been the vent of human feelings. We try to dress up the unclear emotions by writing lyrics and putting things to words. Even if the things are nightmares, perversions or such darker topics. But it’s releaving when it seems that also someone else is thinking about the same difficult stuff in life.“ Once more I am reminded of the community of marginals and outcasts, as described by Adalbjörn from Solstafir. And this community seems to be capable of channeling aggressions into the music and so away from the society!

That could be considered a burden of responsibility for the musicians. And I have been thinking a lot on musicians and responsibility but more on what they sing. „It is a general question: How do you think about the responsibility of the lyricist for what his/her lyrics are taken for or how they are comprehended?“ – „I am not in favor of censorship but the law tells you where to stop.“ – „Oh no. I don’t mean censorship unless you mean you censor yourself in what you publish. No, I mean the decisions you take within yourself. No one else but you.“ He nods and explains: „I do not tolarate direct hate or suggestions to use violence towards any specific people or group but that’s just common sence. Art is art – but if a rap singer is a woman hater then he is a fucking idiot.“ Just what I experienced.

„Could you imagine a joint project with all three bands touring together here?“ And I see him smile. He chews his lips, thinking already. „Good idea“, he says repeatedly. „Really good idea.“ He says he’d need to think of it. As he drrifts away in his thinking I try get hold of him again: „What would that  joint project of Stam1na, OG and Skalmöld look like?“  He still smiles: „It would be a white wolf with three heads, eating a bear carcass in the frosty woods of Norway.“ I am not sure what to make out of the image in my head, but considering the Stam1na videos I am confident it will be a creative result and most likely make us explore some extremes.  

„Let’s move a bit closer to Stam1na. I have the notion that Stam1na is a band being able to deliver a very strong emotion on stage: It seems there is nothing better for you guys to do in this world than to be on stage. – Thank you for that, btw. So I wonder if you could prioritize some terms?  1) being on stage * 2) doing music in this particular group together * 3) expressing yourselves through your creativity (playing your instrument/composing/writing lyrics)“ – „First things first: the number one reason we’re still around after 21 years is the fact that the group is good. We like to do music with together. It’s fun. So doing music in this particular group is the founding thing. Then we express ourselves by making better and better compositions and albums. Stage life and shows are the prize of doing it right. It’s a great pleasure to still be able to performs this widely, now also abroad more and more. It’s the best there is.“ There is it again. The passion for music and the band. It is amazing to see them on stage and you would not think at all that they have been doing this for such a long time. And it is exactly this passion when they perform on stage that makes me wanting to see them again and again.

Actually I prefer seeing them abroad as then their moderations are in English or even partially in German. And this is definitely part of the real Stam1na experience! „Stam1na have a good, perhaps even vast fan base in Finland. And your songs are written in Finnish. What is the thrill and challenge of touring abroad? What do you hope to achieve (touring regularly abroad)?“ – „Every night might be your first time in that venue. So everything, everybody might be totally new for you. We have to challenge ourselves to get the day through. Putting up the stage, carrying tons of metal around, selling merchendice, meeting people, giving interviews, updating social media … It’s a challenge and the challenge is accepted, perkele!“ That’s the passion I love in their shows!

„When I spoke to other bands singing in Finnish they often replied that being utterly understood by the Finnish audience was one main reason for them to sing in Finnish. As you reach out for international audience, is the language a limit?“ He shakes his head smiling. „No it’s not. We scream. We growl. And even at home most people don’t understand it then.“ „They will understand it when reading the lyrics.“ He nods. „But this is not the reason to come to our shows. It’s fun and being true as I said before. Then understanding the lyrics is not so important.“ And I agree although I am very fond of meaningful lyrics being presented in a way I can understand them during the show.  

To some bands some questions are really obvious and it would not feel ok to leave them out. If you haven’t watched any Stam1na videos so far, please take a moment an watch on. Let’s say, Lääka (check/link) before reading on. „One question that pops up to mind nearly every time I watch a new video of you guys: who the f* is coming up with those weird ideas?“ In a somewhat excusing tone he points out first: „We have normal videos, too.“ I laugh. Perhaps there are. I wouldn’t doubt. But then, I haven’t watched them. I love the ‚other‘ ones. „I work in Medialouhos firm, we have been in really close relation with Stam1na during our whole existence. It’s logical of course, as a band we have had totally free hands to do the videos we like. Humour has been the key in many of them, sure… And doing it in our own way“ Humor, yes. You need lots of dark and cynical humor for Stam1na videos. And I have even more of that.

But to make sure: „There is a lot in general considered disgusting stuff you show in your vids. Think of something you wouldn’t do for a vid?“ – „Illegal stuff… Like stuffing a live dog.“ Antti did tell a little more on this but I don’t recall the words. Yet I do remember that taking respectful care of animals was very important to him – as we will see again.

See, I have some kind of tradtion. It is to end an interview with an odd question. I will give you the names of five female superheroes/villains. Which of them would you ask to assist the Skalmöld and which Omnium Gatherum on stage during their show?  1) Poison Ivy * 2) Black Widow * 3) Storm * 4) Rogue * 5) She-Hulk.“ Apparently Hyrde is not much into comics. I am a bit surprised as I have found myself quite often facing true experts in this during my interviews. But not being into comics is naturally no reason not to come up with a cool answer. In particular not for Antti. „Lara Croft would be cool to join us on stage. She has long hair!“ he points out. ‚A perfect reason‘, I think smiling. But then I am reminded to him introducing Stam1na’s drummer to the crowd earlier: „This is Kake“, he said pointing at and turning to the drummer right behind him on the narrow stage. The audience is a bit reserved in cheering. Has he really said ‚Kacke‘ which would be the German term for crap! „Tepo ‚Kake‘ Velin“, Hyrde completes the name. „He is the hardest of all. His head is so hard no hair is growing there!“ That is convincing andy. And Antti has made up his mind. „A Northern goddess from the Edda for the Skalmöld guys then. They may choose. And Black Widow for OG, even though I do not know this superhero. She’s got a cool name.“ Good point again, I think, moving on to my next question.

There is a bunch of well-know freaks … äh … personalities, of course, following you on stage and there is only one you can exclude from the party. Who will that be? Ape from Rue Morgue (Edgar Allen Poe, short story: Murder in Rue Morgue) * Mr Hyde * Mina (from Dracula) * Dr Viktor Frankenstein * Dorian Gray * Captain Nemo * Dr Moriatry (opponent of Sherlock Holmes) * Jack the Ripper * Queen Victoria.“ Antti reads the names from the list again as the list is a bit too long to remember all in a second. Then he sorts out. „Hm Jack the Ripper had knife. Too dangerous on stage.“ Then he thinks again seeing me smile. „Ok, Captain Nemo had a scythe, also not good on stage. And Mina with her fangs… or the Ape …“ – „Yeah, indeed most of them are not to be considered really harmless company. Not on stage. Not at all“, I comment. He looks at me nodding and rethinking. „Queen Victoria is a bit oldish, but goldish, for a metal headbanging show. She has to stay at home.“ I admit this is the reply I had expected. No matter if you think of her as the young girl she was when she was crowned queen or the motherly queen in her later days, she won’t fit my image of a Stam1na show!

„But there could be a different challenge to handle as well. Imagine when you leave here in a few minutes an elephant (and I mean an impressive, male African elephant – just to tell him from the hobbit elephants you tend to meet from time to time) is following you at your heels. It’s not leaving. It would not react on being sent away. And if I remember correctly, the stage here at the Nachtleben, it is … rather small. How do you save your gig?“ – „I welcome the elephant (or norsu in Finnish) on stage, put a microphone in it’s trunk and command it to blast full, perkele!“ No elephant riding this time. But some support on the vocals! Yeah. Actually before saying this Antti made sure the elephant was following him on his own free will on stage to make sure the huge animal was well and not forced to do anything it wouldn’t want. A man with a big heart!

I met a man presenting very intelligent and well-thought arguments. My intension to point of the spirit of a Stam1na show full of fun and energy got flushed aside by the smart and carefully  considered replies of my interviewee. He resembles most of what I met and have come to love in the metal community. Don’t trust in stereotypes – they die a painful death meeting the reality of the metal community.

I was discussing with another metal music editor lately about the momentum of our doing. Is there a momentum or significance in our media work for the metal music, speaking of the bigger picture? There is! We are giving insight into a subculture that has a reputation of aggression and violence. But what we show and experience its the opposite: the metal community is characterised by open-minded, integrating people interacting peacefully and respectfully – despite rising aggressions from terrorism and social division. It is not about a political or religious dogma but for the love of music experienced in a joint party.

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Stam1na – Interview: Love in the mosh pit!

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- "It has always been this way!" - I heard this phrase too often and it became the best reason for me to make it (whatever it is) my own way.

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