Interview With Jan "Örkki" Yrlund
Finland's metal scene may be one of Europe's biggest these days, but it started out small. Back in 1987, thrash merchants Prestige were one of the few bands that made it out of the country, and even though they went on hiatus on 1992, they still made such a lasting impression that their albums are considered as classics by true thrash fanatics.
The band's guitarist - Jan Yrlund, has been busy since - playing in such groups as Ancient Rites and Imperia to name but two, and owning a graphic company - Darkgrove, who's responsible for some of the best metal album covers out there these days. With a new double CD collection out for Prestige, we though it's time to talk to him, and find out about Prestige, Finland, and his work - past and present,:
Hey Jan, I'd like to start with the new compilation CD you've released - "Decades Of Decay", first - what does in include?
First of all it is a double CD and it comes in a double digipak format. The packaging includes a full 16 page illustrated story of Prestige. The CDs themselves contain not less that 36 songs. The first CD has the best speed/thrash metal songs from our three albums - "Attack Against Gnomes - 89", "Selling The Salvation -90" and "Parasites In Paradise - 92" - and the 2nd CD contains all the humoristic songs, hardcore songs and all the rarities like the 12" Maxi single "Priest", 7" "Veijo - EP" and our first and only demo "Gods" from 1988. So there is a lot of stuff there!
What brought on the decision to release such a Compilation?
The original idea came from our label Poko Records. For a long time already all the CDs were sold out and it was even impossible to find them in 2nd hand shops. So there was no way to find these releases anymore. The first idea of the label was to re-release the albums and maybe do some extra’s on them. But when we heard about this we thought that let’s make a compilation instead. We wanted a digipak format and a double CD and the label agreed. The reason why we wanted this instead of releasing the regular albums was that we wanted to include all the vinyl material on the CDs. These vinyl’s have never been released on a CD format before. The "Veijo EP" for ex. Has become a collectors item with a list price of 50 euros. That is ridiculous, so we just wanted to give it to our old fans.
What kind of a reaction did you get for it as of now? How do the people who hear you first through it react to the band?
So far the reactions have been very positive and we are featured in all major printed Finnish Metal Magazines with an interview. Also the main metal radio programs are interested. So it is nice to notice that after so many years people still do remember us and of course this release brings up many fine memories in all of us. The time in 87-92 was very important for the development of the whole Finnish metal scene and we were part of that. We were there to build things up and many people listened to our music and came to our shows. So it’s cool to notice that people still remember and appreciate that time.
Were the songs re-mastered or changed in any way?
Yes, all the songs were digitally remastered at the Finnvox studio. The old tunes needed some more kicking so we updated the sounds to the 21st century. It was a big challenge to get all the CDs, vinyls and the MC tape to match each other, but I think Minerva from Finnvox did a great job with these. Now the songs kick ass on a completely different manner!
What does it mean to you, the fact that so long after you disbanded, there's still interest in the band's music?
Well we actually never split up. So basically we have been together already 20 years. This compilation is a jubilee album for us. It is true that we haven’ t done much in the past years, but we are still good friends and I’m sure we will do something again in the future. To me the whole Prestige thing still feels like yesterday. It was a very important part of our lives when growing up so it feels good to know that we still mean something for the people we grew up with.
With so much happening in the Prestige camp, have you though about doing some real shows together, maybe a new release?
First we though not to do any shows, but in fact we already promised to play on a festival next year. The problem rather is how to do everything and if everybody is able to join in. But we are not gonna start touring again, but if there is something special coming up and people really want to have us there, I wouldn’t count out the idea of perhaps playing some songs, why not actually.
What can you tell us about your time playing with Ancient Rites and Dance Macabre?
It was in many ways a fruitful time - in the first years. I’d like to separate the two bands because the only common factor is me and our singer back then - the rest of the musicians are different. The year 99 was the highlight for us with AR: the Fatherland album was out and we got the chance to play at the Dynamo Open Air and Graspop Metal Meeting at the main stage. Later the next album Dim Carcosa was to my opinion even much better album, but the sales didn’t go forward and it was all downhill from that. I have plenty of very nice memories from the almost seven years and one of the nicest was playing in Tel Aviv at the Barbie club in 2001.
But of course there is also a reason why things didn’t work out in the end. C Our singer became more radical and extreme in his political views and I couldn’t take that. His views represented everything I am against. With Danse Macabre it is in a way a similar story, except that this band was for me personally more important. We kicked the singer out in May 2003 and after that we changed our name to Satyrian. This band means a lot to me and it is based on a friendship. I’m actually working on our next album right now.
You're also a member of Imperia, and you used to play in Delain, how did you reach the symphonic metal direction the two bands play, and how did you become a member of these bands?
Well, I think this orchestral approach to the music comes actually from my time with Lacrimosa. I still think that the "Inferno" album from 95 was one of the influential ones in so called "Gothic Metal" genre. These experiences I took with me by the way to AR as well (notice that suddenly "Fatherland" album has orchestra =). Anyways, I adore that style and when Gerry (our bass player from Imperia) phoned me up to ask if I would have interest in Imperia sure I wanted to check it out.
With Delain the first contact came through my old label Hammerheart.
Our label boss Guido heard about the band and that Martijn is seeking for musicians, so Guido recommended me - knowing my background in that style. It was really fun to work with Delain and it was a nice experiment for me. But unfortunately I don’t have too much time for such cool projects, because the bands I write music for take all my time. It is nice to notice how well the Delain album "Lucidity" has been received though and I’m happy for Martijn that he finally managed to realize his dream.
You just finished the new Imperia album, how is that going on for you?
So far very good actually. The reviews have been really rewarding and we even made it to album of the month in Belgium’s most important magazine MindView. And right now we are still in the middle of promoting the new CD. We have also some cool festival dates coming up this summer.
Playing mostly melodic metal these days, what are you're feelings towards the thrash music you began with?
Oh, I still get kicks from that! To be honest, I never understood Death Metal so much. Thrash/ Speed absolutely. I just saw Anthrax a few months back here in my home city in Finland and the band kicked ass! If you follow my playing, you’ll hear suddenly thrash in AR, Imperia and all. That is the style I grew up with and which still makes my head bang. Oh yeah. So though I nowadays play much more melodic, the basic riffing is close to the old days. In the end there is not that much difference I think.
Prestige was one of the few Finnish bands to break out of the local scene, along with Stone; did you know the guys from that band when you were active?
Sure we knew them - everyone did. We also partied a few times together with them and needless to say we also played sometimes on the same shows. But the difference was - at least to me - that they were a "Helsinki" band and we were a "Tampere" band. Their importance for the capital city was huge and ours to our home city (2nd biggest in Finland) hopefully as well. Stone was a very cool band and probably also the most technically skilled. Said that, I have to say that when they started going proggy and mellow with their third album, we just got more hardcore. So perhaps our starting point was somewhat different as well as our view on thrash and speed metal. Anyway they were and are cool guys still...
What caused you guys to disband?
You mean taking a break =)? Well we lived and toured with full throttle some five fast years. We did 3 albums, a maxi, an EP, demo + more than 100+ shows in several countries in that relatively short period. Our last show was at the Ruisrock - a major Rock Festival in the country. After that show we decided to take a holiday. We felt we had earned it. So we just probably forgot to come back from the holiday then =) But seriously, nobody ever left the band, or was kicked out or anything. When we met again it was like yesterday. Also we never even talked a bout splitting up or anything. It was obvious that we would just go on. But I guess that people just started doing different things meanwhile, but we always kept Prestige there in our minds.
What are your feelings towards the current metal scene in Finland, did you expect it to become as big as it is when you started out?
No way we could have thought of that. In our days there were not a single band which had any name in the international metal scene. The only internationally known band from the country was Hanoi Rocks, and that was it. Many bands tried to get gigs abroad - we too. But we were one of the few who actually did some shows abroad. In Finland itself the scene was very strong. I remember doing an interview to English Metal Hammer where the journalist really was amazed to hear that we actually have more metal bands in Finland besides Prestige. That is really funny actually compared to the situation now. We have now million selling bands in hard rock or metal and we won Eurovision and all. Hell - even in our Idols TV show the winner was singing Iron Maiden at the finals - imagine that! The whole country is in an music export boom right now. It goes further than metal too. I think it is just great!
What local groups do you listen to?
I listen to a lot of bands that I work with for their cover Artwork (www.darkgrove.net) . I like to play these bands loud when working on their album. The last Finnish bands I liked were Korpiklaani’s new album and a band called Airut. Also there is another killer surprise coming up called Ironica.
Any last message for the people who are still Prestige fans, 15 years since you guys went your separate ways?
Well, as they all say - thrash metal in our veins! I’d like to add a quote here from our first album - it says it all:
"I am your predator
You can´t escape
I´m always after you
You can´t run away"
Cheers and greetings from the North!