Before The Dawn interview with Tuomas Saukkonen: "I write music only for myself, Ι don't bother thinking what others will think"

21/05/2012 @ 20:03
For those who are into melodic death metal, Finland is an endless source of high quality bands, as it is thriving constantly, especially since the dawn of the past decade. Before The Dawn is one of the most attention deserving bands, having had only notable releases in their CV, among which this year's "Rise Of The Phoenix" arrives to add itself. Through this album, we found the opportunity to talk for the first time to the band's natural leader, Tuomas Saukkonen, in order to get to know better one of the genre's most prominent personalities.

Hello there! I am Vagelis from, Greece. Can you give me the band’s current whereabouts?
Hell-o! The album just came out in Europe + Finland and we are currently touring in Finland so busy and exciting times!

First, I’d like to congratulate you for "Rise Of The Phoenix", which I believe is a solid Before The Dawn album, that outcomes the band’s recent releases. Was there a new-found energy during its creation?
There was indeed! The last year of the previous line-up was very difficult in many ways and we could not have done another album or tour with that line-up. A lot of frustration and ‘bad blood’ in the band and finally when some major changes were done it changed everything. The overall mood was a lot better, the motivation and energy was in the roof and that had a huge impact to the new album also.

Before The DawnTell us a couple of things about the two newest members. How did you come in contact with them? And what were their roles on the creation of the new album?
Both guys are good and old friends of mine so they were not really new guys at all. I have shared the stage with them for numerous times in the past, so I knew where I was getting into when I was about to take them to the band. I have always written all the music and lyrics myself and also I always do very careful pre-production before showing the songs to the rest of the band, so the guys did not have that big of a role when it comes to the songwriting, but of course they gave their 100% with their own instruments and of course the fact that I had a lot faster drummer in the band allowed me to write a lot faster material.

As I understand, the process of mixing and producing the album is held by the band itself. How has all of that been for you? What are the pros and cons of being your own bosses?
I have been working as a producer for many years and while working with other bands I have also produced the last five Before The Dawn album, three solo albums in the name of Black Sun Aeon etc, and our solo guitarist, Juho, has been working as a sound engineer for almost ten years and has mixed most of the albums I have produced, so we make a very well functioning team. We both have our own studios, which allow us to work with very flexible schedules. Only pros, no cons :)

Before The DawnThe departure of Lars (Eikind, bass/vocals) and Atte (Palokangas, drums) has disappointed lots of the band’s fans. In some statements of yours, you refer to that lineup with characterizations such as «an era of great frustration», «lack of dedication and professionalism», etc. What has really happened there? When did it all become so bad? And what aspects exactly did these characterizations concern?
Lars had a lot of problems in his personal life and that started to reflect heavily on his work in the band. The main problem was drinking and he started to be more often drunk on stage and in the end we were unable to perform anymore on a professional level for the audience. That started to raise a lot of frustration inside the band and finally we reached the point where we could no longer work together. With Atte it was simply a musical decision and he was not into the new style of the band with blast beats and faster double bass drums. I would have loved to keep him in the band but he didn´t have the motivation to learn new drum techniques and I was not able to make a musical compromise.

So, after a long list of albums, this is the first time that the melodic vocals are completely absent. Weren’t you concerned of the possibility of losing a part of your fanbase?
Not at all. Of course I knew that some of the fans wouldn´t be happy but I also knew that we have the opportunity to gain a lot more fans with the new style. I always write music for myself and I don´t think of what others might think about it. We have done six albums in pretty much on the same style so it was time for a change with this seventh album.

Tuomas Saukkonen (Before The Dawn)The way I think of it, the only drawback of this significant change of yours will possibly appear in the concerts. How do you intend to perform your oldest material onstage?
Live gigs indeed will be the biggest change for the fans, since we are not going to play the old songs in which the clean vocals have big roles. Those songs would not even fit that well anymore with the new material. We have played already one tour in Europe in the end of last year including four songs from the new album and the feedback was very good from the fans. The live energy of the new line-up raises the band a lot higher on stage than before. We have made a big and clear decision with the music style and we will stand tall behind it and don´t want to do compromises on the stage either.

Apart from the melodic vocals, which have always been a part of your music, you’ve also used in the past some female vocals and even some rap-like vocals on the song "Ghost Town". Would you try something similar again or do you intend to keep a more simplified direction in this sector?
"Ghost Town" was a special song and don´t see that I will use rap vocals again. Female vocals on the other hand would be really cool but I have female vocals already in Black Sun Aeon and don´t want to have too many similarities. But I never say never :)

"Rise Of The Phoenix" is your second release for Nuclear Blast, and your seventh album overall, yet it stands as the heaviest and most epic record you have ever made. The truth is that this seems a bit 'paradoxical', given the ascension of the band to a much more recognized and commercially huge label. How did you manage to get to this outcome?
Like I said earlier, I write music only for myself and don´t bother thinking what others will think and that includes labels as well. Writing music and albums I love is far more valuable to me than a bit higher album sales. To me the situation is ideal. I have a huge label that does a very good job for the band and they trust me enough not to give any limitations or instructions in the music writing.

I have, in various webshops, been across two "Rise Of The Phoenix" limited editions, consisting of alternate bonus material, signed booklets, and even some awesome numbered dogtags! How can a Before The Dawn fan find his way out of this maze?
Each special package is for each label. Nuclear Blast has their own version of the album including bonus songs for the European release and the same goes for the Finnish release. Not my idea :)

Before The DawnEarlier this year, you received an award from the Finnish Metal Awards, in the category ‘Musician Of The Year’, so congratulations for that too! Though this is a rather typical question, what does this mean to you, having been voted by your fans?
That naturally means a lot! After all these hours, the blood and the sweat invested into the music, it feels really good to be awarded like that in a country that is literally full of super talented musicians and songwriters.

Besides Before The Dawn, you’re involved with four other bands (at least that I know of...), being a leading member in each one of them. How can you keep up generating so large amounts of music? Don’t you ever feel afraid that you might someday be no longer able to cope in every given role?
If I feel that there is too much work with all the bands, I can simply put one or few of them on a break. I don´t feel any kind of pressure because of the numerous bands I have (Before The Dawn, Black Sun Aeon, RoutaSielu, The Final Harvest etc) and since I am the leader in each one of them and also the songwriter, I also make the schedules so it is pretty easy to maintain all the bands without getting overworked.

The Finnish melodic death metal scene is constantly expanding since the beginning of the past decade, having generated lots of great bands. Which ones stand out for you?
Insomnium, Omnium Gatherum, MyGrain. Those are my three favorite Finnish melodeath bands and also very good friends of mine.

What’s the best band you have toured with, and what’s the one you would kill to tour with?
The best band is Amorphis. Awesome music, awesome guys + the whole crew. I would really like to tour with Hypocrisy because in my opinion Peter Tägtgren is the best metal vocalist ever. Also he is one of the best producers, so it would be really cool to share a tour with him.

Tuomas Saukkonen (Before The Dawn)Do you consider yourself as a metal fan, or is this a romanticism that tends to be lost as you mingle more and more with the insides of the music industry?
I am a music fan that mostly listens to metal. I have less and less time for listening to music besides my own bands, but the ‘fan factor’ is still there and I can´t imagine that it would ever go away.

Give us five albums or songs you've been listening to lately.
• Hypocrisy - Solar Empire
• Moonsorrow - Huuto
• Anaal Nathrakh - Between Piss And Shit We Are Born
• The Final Harvest - (new material)
• Ihsahn - Undercurrent

Thanks for the interview, Tuomas! Last words are yours...
Horns up and see you soon!