Latest release: Deathstar Rising (Nuclear Blast/Riot!)
Forming in 1999, it would be four years before the world started to sit up and take notice of Finnish Goth metallers Before the Dawn. Heading out on a very successful Scandinavian tour with Katatonia certainly opened up a lot of doors, but the cracks started to show and line-up changes were inevitable. In 2005 founding member Tuomas Saukkonen fired all the band members and hired long-time musician and producer Lars Eikind, Juho Räihä and Dani Miettinen in the hope of a new start. Within two years Before the Dawn released two studio albums and had one of their singles peak at #2 on the Finnish Top 20 charts.
Releasing their sixth studio album Deathstar Rising in February, the band has received praise from metal fans around the world and critics have been very kind. Just last week the album smashed its way into the Finnish Top 10, reaching #8. Loud’s Cameron Edney caught up with the band’s bassist Lars Eikind to discuss Deathstar Rising, life on the road and what he thought of Tuomas Saukkonen prior to joining the band.
Q: Hey Lars thanks so much for taking the time out to answer these questions for our readers. How’s everything been going?
A: Life’s been good. We’ve had some months off the road now, so it’s been nice doing other things than touring for a while. But it’ll be nice getting back on the road as well, of course.
Q: Let’s talk firstly about the new album Deathstar Rising which was released in late February. How does it differ from previous releases?
A: First and foremost we have Atte playing the drums on this release, which gives the whole album a different feel than the previous ones. We also know each other much better musically in the band now, so it’s been easier coming to mutual creative decisions about certain details, arrangements and ideas.
Q: All up, how many songs were written and demoed for the new album?
A: I’m not sure how many songs were written in the process, since Tuomas is such a machine when he sits down with a guitar. Let’s just say that there was plenty of material.
Q: Let’s talk a little about the writing and recording processes. How much time did you spend in the studio laying down the bass and vocals for the new album?
A: The bass is usually done very quickly in my own studio. After I’ve gotten the drums and some guitar recordings from Juho, I just sit down and play through the songs once. And then I record the first thing that comes to my mind, since that’s usually what works best. Then I send the recordings from my studio back to Juho’s studio. So I usually do the bass alone in my own studio when I have the time and the peace of mind needed. The vocals are a different issue altogether, though. This time around we got together in the studio and improvised a lot. Tuomas usually has a clear idea when there should be clean vocals and when there should be growling vocals. So I just tried out different kinds of melodies for the riffs, and then we put words to them when we felt that it sounded right.
Q: How did you push each other musically and creatively to get the best results possible for the new album?
A: Since we’ve been playing together for quite many years now, we know each other well musically, and we trust each other’s musical abilities and styles. So it’s a joint effort more than pushing our own ideas. We all have an idea of how we want the end result to sound, and then we just follow our hearts.
Q: What different factors surrounded writing the material that’s been recorded for Deathstar Rising?
A: As always, the ideas of the songs are created by Tuomas. He’s writing about things the way he sees them, and, of course, the lyrics are always open for interpretation.
Q: Tell us about the writing process for the new album… every band has their way of collaborating, how did the process work for you? Did you guys hold writing sessions; was it as easy as a few jam sessions etc?
A: The process of making a Before the Dawn album might differ a bit from other bands and albums. Usually Tuomas comes up with a bunch of songs that he records for himself, and then the rest of us put our ideas onto them. We hardly ever get together as a band for band practices and such, since we live in different parts of the country, but we did go through at least most of the songs once or twice before recording this album, just to see how the material works out with the whole band. But we’re seldom together as a group during the composing stage or the earlier stages of recording.
Q: What are you hoping the Before the Dawn fans will take away from the new album?
A: I hope the fans will see Before the Dawn as a band that can deliver high quality music both on albums and on stage.
Q: Looking back over your career, can you recall the hardest time you’ve ever had as an opening act?
A: Oh, that’s a tough one. I’ve really never had a hard time on the road. I did get fired from a band mid-tour many years ago, but I stayed on the bus as a part of the crew when the rest of my band went home. And I got a really bad flu when we were touring with Amorphis in 2009/2010, but we never cancelled any shows. I sounded a bit hoarse for a couple of shows, but we got through it. So I can’t really say that I’ve ever had any hard times on the road yet. I’m sure they’ll come eventually. But I’m a quite mellow guy, so I don’t let a bumpy ride ruin my day.
Q: When it comes time to go out on tour… how many guitars do you usually take along with you?
A: I usually bring two basses. I’ve only needed my backup bass once in my life, though. We were playing a festival in Finland, and the nut of my bass broke off. But otherwise I hardly ever even unpack my backup bass.
Q: Besides the obvious of course… what’s the one item you always take on tour with you?
A: My travel pharmacy. I always keep a stash of painkillers, flu medicines, stomach medicines, caffeine pills and that kind of stuff with me. It’s very easy to get sick on tour when there’s a bunch of guys living on top of each other in a bus. And you never know where or when you’ll find a pharmacy. Somehow I always seem to be the only guy who actually brings medicines, so I’ve been the “hero” quite many times by now.
Q: As a bass player and vocalist, before a show do you do anything specific to warm up and prepare?
A: I usually just walk around a bit, getting the feeling of the venue and the work in front of me, and then I have a couple of beers and a few cigarettes before I go on stage. I don’t do anything else to warm up, unless I really have to.
Q: Over the years you’ve shared the stage with many great artists, whilst on the road who has given you the best advice and what was it?
A: I don’t remember who said it, but the best advice I’ve been given is to know your place and your role on the tour. If you’re a supporting band, don’t act like you’re the headliners. And be nice to the crew. They’re the reason why you’re able to do your work, and they deserve to be treated with utmost respect.
Q: What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you whilst performing?
A: Apart from the normal fan related craziness there hasn’t really been many crazy incidents. There was one time, though; in the early 90s when my pants ripped open in the crotch while I was playing .The audience might have gotten a bit more than they paid for that night. And I think I learned to lower my bass a bit after that show.
Q: With the new album out soon, are there any plans in the pipeline for a possible Australian tour?
A: As I always say to people asking if we’re coming here and there on tour, it’s of course possible. Touring is expensive, though, and Australia is far away from Finland, but never say never.
Q: Lars we’ve hit the part of the interview where our readers get to find out more about the real you… what was the first concert you ever attended and how much of an impact did that have on you musically?
A: I grew up in a musical family, so I’ve seen a lot of gigs in my life. But I think the first big venue concert I went to see by myself was Prince in 1988. He was doing the Love Sexy tour, and I got a ticket from a classmate of mine. It was a pretty good gig. The sound was good, the lights were extraordinarily well done and the stage performance was really well choreographed. I’d say the impact of that gig on me was basically that it made me want to pursue music as a career. I just loved the professionalism of the show. But, of course, purely musically I don’t know if that gig made such an impact, since I play a very different style of music myself.
Q: Growing up did you always want to be a bass player or were your goals different?
A: I’ve always been a bass player at heart. I started playing piano when I was two, and picked up my first guitar when I was six. But I always wanted to be a bass player. I think my parents didn’t like the idea, though, since they felt that bass guitar isn’t the kind of instrument you can just pick up and entertain your friends with at a party. Which again makes me wonder why it was totally okay for them when my brother wanted to be a drummer?
Q: And you come from a musical family?
A: Yes, my father was a guitar player and my mother was a concert pianist. They both stopped playing actively when us kids were born, though, which was a shame. My father was still very supportive when us kids wanted to start playing, though, so I owe a lot to him.
Q: You joined Before the Dawn back in 2005, looking back now what were your first impressions of the bands founding member Tuomas Saukkonen?
A: The first time I met Tuomas was when he was recording some demo material for The Ghost, I think. He had eaten something bad, so he was pretty much just lying flat on a sofa in Juho’s makeshift studio. So I didn’t really get an impression of him at all then. But when I was asked to do some clean vocals on the album, and we met in the studio, I thought he was a nice guy to work with. He knew what he wanted from the music, and he also gave me the freedom to do the clean vocals as I saw them best. So the first impressions were good.
Q: Before the Dawn aside, what else would you like to achieve musically?
A: I haven’t really set any goals when it comes to my music. But it would be nice if people would remember me after I’m gone, of course. I’d also like to work on movie soundtracks, game music and stuff like that. But it’s a tough business with way too many big dogs fighting over just a few bones.
Q: There’s no doubt that recently many rock and metal artists have been releasing some very impressive albums.. are you currently listening to any new albums if so what ones?
A: Actually no. I’m working so much with my own projects that I never really want to listen to anything when I have a few hours off from work. I do listen through albums if I’m requested to do so, of course, but I never put on any music at all myself when I’m at home. Silence is sometimes the sweetest form of music.
Q: If you could put a band together consisting of musicians passed and/or present who would they be and what would you call the band?
A: That’s yet another very difficult question. But to ease my way out of it, I’d put Led Zeppelin back together in its original form. Those guys did magic, and they all filled each other out musically in a way that was truly amazing.
Q: Just before we wrap it up… the new album is due to hit shelves soon and no doubt you will be doing quite a bit of touring in conjunction with that. What other immediate plans are in place for the band?
A: We’re just going to make the best out of everything that comes our way. We want to play in countries and at venues we haven’t played yet, and when the time is right we’ll start working on the next album. It would of course be nice to headline a tour at some point, but I don’t know if the time is right for that just yet. So the plans are just to play as much as possible, sell albums, have a good time and make our mark on the musical map.
Q: Lars thanks again for your time today, it’s been a pleasure. Do you have any last words for our readers?
A: My last words are, as always, come to our shows, buy our albums and support your local bands. Music is a tough industry, especially these days with all the downloading and freeloading going on, so support the bands you like so that they can afford to keep on entertaining you for years to come.