Kalmah Vocalist "Pekka Kokko" Interviewed For Maelstrom Webzine
With Swamplord (reviewed in issue #6), Kalmah has released a pretty melodic and yet straight-forward paced debut album that made quite some impression on me. I took the chance to conduct a phone interview with Pekka, the vocalist, after one of Kalmah's band rehearsals.
Maelstrom: Could you tell me a bit about the region you're from? Thinking of Finland, the first thing that comes to my mind is Nokia and a lot of wilderness. How does that match your background?
Pekka: We're from Northeast Finland, about the middle of the country, and actually we live in the town where Nokia founded its business. We live in Oulu. It's pretty far up north.
Maelstrom: How many inhabitants does it have?
Pekka: We have in Oulu about 100000.
Maelstrom: Is that a big city by Finnish standards?
Pekka: It's the fifth big city in Finland. Actually we come from a smaller town, which is about 30 km northeast of Oulu in from. But we all study and work in Oulu.
Maelstrom: Speaking of studying, last Friday at university I met some students from Finland. I think they like to drink a lot.
Pekka: That's right (laughs). Actually, I had to go to buy some beer right now.
Maelstrom: Do you do your rehearsals always with "liquid inspirations"?
Pekka: No, we pretty much separate the drinking and the music. Once in a while we do get drunk and play, because it's fun. But the "serious" part, such as composing, is usually separated from alcohol.
Maelstrom: So business is getting serious. I browsed your web site and found, that you played in Ancestor from 1993 until you changed to Kalmah. It also says you produced five demos in total, which looks like quite a lot to me.
Maelstrom: Are they still available?
Pekka: Mmmh, we have some of them at home, but won't print them anymore.
Maelstrom: How many songs did you do in Ancestor?
Pekka: About 40 or 50.
Maelstrom: In total or the ones you want to remember?
Pekka: (laughs) well, in total. Actually we're going to rerecord one song of the demo "With No Strings Attached" from 1993.
Maelstrom: You added some band members and changed the name to Kalmah. Was that intended as a sign for a kind of renewal?
Pekka: Actually it's because we've been recording the CD and somehow we wanted to have a fresh spirit to it. The music style tends to be a bit faster and the first demo tape of Kalmah brought us the deal.
Maelstrom: What's the meaning of "Kalmah"?
Pekka: It's a word from Karelian dialect, from the people living at the border to Russia, which was separated from Finland after WWII. We had relatives there. One of our uncles lived there and had written a book in this language. We used it as an inspiration for the band name. The word "Kalmah" means "To the grave" or "To the death."
Maelstrom: Your region is not far from Karelia?
Pekka: The whole Karelian area belongs to Russia, and it's about 600-700 kilometers away from us.
Maelstrom: Does that explain your song "Heritance of Berija"?
Pekka: That idea is from a book that had story about the former KGB leader Berija.
Maelstrom: The cover artwork is very interesting, very serene and restrained compared to the music you play. What made you think of the swamp lord?
Pekka: We live in an area that is 60% covered by swamp, so it's kind of our own thing. People from somewhere else might not understand it, but if you live here you understand the idea. The swamps are very common in areas up on the North Pole.
Maelstrom: It says: "Something you try to surpass in the very beginning of this moment."
Pekka: We have lived our lives in the middle of the swamp, so we thought we'd put something about that in the album title.
Maelstrom: If I met the swamp lord, what kind of guy could I expect?
Pekka: First of all, you'd have to search all of our forests and swamps, but even then you might not discover. He decides when to meet people and is rather a spiritual character.
Maelstrom: One of your leisure time activities is hunting, I read. Can you tell us a little about that? It might be very usual for Finnish people, but in areas like Germany it's not very common.
Pekka: Here up north we have a hunting season in fall. It lasts about three months. Yeah, it's very common hobby here. It's great to eat something that you have yourself hunted down: black grouses, for example.
Maelstrom: That's probably the time when the swamp lord would appear next to you, invisible to anyone else.
Pekka: Yes, he is our guide and leads us to the good game bird areas.
Maelstrom: Are you going to name your next album Swamp Guide then?
Pekka: We first figured something like Swamphell, but we came up with They Will
Maelstrom: Reverting to the lyrics, we had spoken about "Heritance of Berija" already, which is obviously hinted at Russia's raid on Finland.
Pekka: Basically it's just a story. There's no deep ideas behind it. It's not about the relations between Finish people and Russians.
Maelstrom: How about "Black Roija," then?
Pekka: It's also a word taken from the Karelian dialect and it means "Fire."
Maelstrom: A fire from within?
Pekka: (laughs) Yes, it's about alcohol fire!
Maelstrom: Mmh, yes, "Liquid years, no more tears..." is aptly chosen then... The song "Hades" seems to allude to the underworld of Greek mythology. In addition, it mentions the goddess Anubis rooted in the Egypt pantheon of gods.
Pekka: Yes, "Hades" is also present in Karelian myths and tales, described in a book called "Kalevala." It's a collection of stories passed from one generation to the other over hundreds of years. It's Finnish national book.
Maelstrom: How about the future? When can we expect your next album release?
Pekka: In Finland the release date was 4th of February. In Europe the new album's release date is 18th of March.
Maelstrom: How about tours?
Pekka: We have nothing planned yet. Maybe in the summer or next fall.
Maelstrom: Anything you'd like to say to our readers?
Pekka: I hope you'll like our new album and the debut. May the Swamplord guide you to metal stores...:)
Maelstrom: Thank you for the interview. May the Swamplord be with you all the time!
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