When I was in Finland a year or so ago, I asked a few people about the most exciting, eccentric, and individual work in the country’s metal scene. Music that hadn’t already made it over to the States because, it goes without saying, Finland exports a ton of great above/underground metal. I received a number of suggestions, a bunch of them good: Opium Warlords, the “occult ambient rock” project of Sami Albert Hynninen, aka Albert Witchfinder, aka Ancient Fisherman, aka etc., was my favorite. S.A.H. handles all the instruments and Opium Warlords’ total concept. Last year he released the mesmerizing, sprawling doom-on-DeSade debut Live At Colonia Dignidad: In The Black Year 2136 Of The Earth Ox. What’s it sound like? Hynninen suggests “psycho-sexual breakdown, “Klaus Kinski making love with Hedi Lamarr,” “Black matter oozing from the Mariana Trench,” “Arvo Pärt’s ‘Gnostic Mass’ performed at Dulce base,” and a “self-made black magician next door singing a lullaby through your wall,” etc. Fans of Finnish doom, black or extreme metal in general should recognize his name from any of his various bands — longstanding trio Reverend Bizarre, founding fathers Spiritus Mortis, the Puritan, raw black metallers Armanenschaft, suicidal BM group Azrael Rising, etc. He’s a smart, complex guy with a lot of passions. In the following exchange, we talk about Opium Warlords, “the intellectual limitations of what is the human body and the symbolism connected to it,” Chilean cults, man-made UFO’s, hallucinations, going further than Bataille, Tibet (David and the place), the Ramones, “Suck My Spear, Servant Of Satan,” pleasure and humiliation, quantum physics, 1976-1985, Candlemass, and his “private torment,” among other things. Hynninen is one of the most intelligent, compelling musicians I’ve interviewed, his music clearly an outgrowth of his everyday, not a cheap put-on or Halloween pose. (Note he’s armed with both a book and a guitar in the accompanying photo.) (Also note: Talking to him reminded me of my Q+A with David Tibet a few years ago.) (Or Peter Sotos, who we discuss.) Track down Live At Colonia Dignidad if you haven’t heard it. But first, read.
STEREOGUM: Can you explain the album title: Live At Colonia Dignidad: In The Black Year 2136 Of The Earth Ox. I know of the Chilean cult and Paul Schäfer … Is this a concept album? The soundtrack for the Dignity Colony? The songs seem to blend and trail into each other. Lyrically, it’s like the pillaging of a library/notebook/scrapbook … a book found after the dissolution of the cult?
SAMI ALBERT HYNNINEN: You have an interesting idea there, Brandon. Even though I did not have in my mind this kind of thematic context, or sonic description of Colonia Dignidad, or Villa Baviera as it was also known as, what you said makes sense. Structurally it is just how you described it. The tracks blend into each other. It is a journey! And in many ways this album — its compositions, lyrics and visuals — is a diary … or a scrapbook … of memories and feelings.
Maybe that Colonia Dignidad in the title can be taken as a metaphor of things I have been going through, and everything evil I have had to face during my life, so if we look at your question from this view, this album is a soundtrack of my private torment. In that sense it is also a true Live at Colonia Dignidad, but obviously I am not trying to compare my sufferings to the ultimate horrors that took place there in Chile. So, if there is a theme, it is my own mental and spiritual trips and states and visions, and even hallucinations.
To me it seems that there are several references to some other place, which still exists here in this collective world we all share from our own standpoints. I am now talking about some “better” place, but Colonia Dignidad was also this kind of world within world. It was just even worse than its surroundings.
For me this idea of reaching the other world is crucial: This world is within me, but it exists here on the Earth too, like Shamballah, which is a physical place but you can not travel there just like that. The understanding of inner and outer world and their connection is the key to that final gate. You may help your concentration with visualizing in your mind the connection of symbolical Mount Meru and your own axis, spinal column. They are the same! What is outside, can be at the same time inside. Quantum physics!
These things give colors to the more gentle and happier moments on this album. It is interesting that some people hear only darkness in this work. It is not how I felt about it when recording many of these songs. But of course there is lots of pain, too.
One thing that is stronger and more dominating than the others on this album is a feeling of some kind of violent mental outburst, psychosis, but it also goes into the silent depressive periods. Quiet and gentle can often be shadowed by raw and violent.
I originally got this title into my mind already during the times when we were working on Reverend Bizarre’s Crush The Insects, so it must have been around turn of the year 2004 and 2005. I learned about Colonia Dignidad from some sources back then, do not remember what lead me to the subject, but I got fascinated. As a fortunate coincidence I had a Chilean friend who was able to tell me more about it and its history, and from a bit different angle and depth than some foreign students, researchers or journalists could. She had even visited the place. I got more and more interested in this whole thing and gathered some information from books and internet and then I got this idea of an imaginary live album recorded there, Live At Colonia Dignidad.
Rock bands obviously did not play there, and as the whole place was more or less in a time bubble, and culturally totally isolated from outside world — rock music did not even exist in that context, at least as far as I am concerned and understand the thing. Anyway, it felt so surreal that the name got stuck to me. I think I got the basic idea to this title back then from Live At The Witch Trials, The Fall’s debut album.
So here we can return to your idea about theme album. A band playing in a place where there is no such music existing. A journey to something extremely “other.” This can be seen as a theme for this album, but as I said I did not consciously try to create a theme album and did not have the factual place in my mind in such way, only in this title and feelings it creates, and the whole paradox it includes.
One rather stupid double meaning that no one has noticed, or at least I have not heard about it, is that all the song titles are imperatives, so you can take the album title as such too, but then the finger does not point at the victims of the real Colony, but the gluttonous “western world.”
In the first place the idea of this Colony was based in the similar kind of ideas of supremacy and selfishness as Europe and USA have even today. Even though it existed in Chile, it was not really Chilean. The people there were basically of German heritage, and closed the surrounding world outside of the Colony, with an exception of those Chileans unfortunate enough to be tortured in the secret chambers.
About that year thing … According to the Tibetan lunar calendar, February 25, 2009 started the year 2136 Of The Earth Ox. I started working on this album on 18th of March. The “black year” there commemorates those over two hundred Tibetans killed by Chinese forces. I have my special interest in Tibet, and especially in Bön religion and Potala temple, or what is below it, but I won’t start to talk about that now or we will never complete this thing here!
STEREOGUM: The darkness of the lyrics contrasts with the pink cover art and material in the booklet. Where is the cover image from? How do the notes fit together? Children, cults, sex, rituals, death… The song “Overwhelm Me, Black Sorrow” brings together these two sides — “Little puppies and pussycats / emerald caves with plastic bats .. Golden showers and silver fountains / Magick forests under cemetery mountains.” I know you explain it partially via the slogans on the back of the album, but I’m curious to hear it discussed further.
SAH: I am sure you are not surprised when I say that I do not want to explain these things too thoroughly because it would destroy a lot of the different connotations, emotions and visions of the audience. I like contrasts and also confusion. Everything “ordinary” and “regular” is totally uninteresting to me, at least in the level that it is functionally meant to be. You may find accidental and surprising contents in very boring things and basically there is something exciting in everything, but this is not what I am trying to talk about here and now…
To put it simple: For this kind of rather unconventional album I knew I have to do unconventional covers as well. Usually I prefer minimalism, but I decided to break certain rules I have made for myself, so this explains the variety of the different visual elements. They seem to have no connections, but actually there is some logic there. Sometimes the logic is lack of it, where we enter the realms of pure surrealism. Same goes with the lyrics of course.
For me sexuality is a strongly ambivalent factor. I have a manic sexual overdrive dominating my mind, but perhaps because of that, almost a protestant feeling of guilt. I also have periods of what could be called almost impotence, caused by mixture of stress, depression and chemical things, sometimes also heavy usage of alcohol. I guess for many this could be a warning sign and something scary, but for me it is almost a blessing, as then I can concentrate on all the other things much better, when my manic sexual fantasies do not control my mind. For me sex does not equal “happiness” or “joy.” It is closer to some dark force, which I can not overcome. I am not saying it is completely bad thing, but it is more connected to my other, more demonic side. I am not talking about any illegal perversions, but I am a rather extreme fetishist, and these hints of necrophilia, feces, sniffing and such, of course, are connected to that.
I do not know where you see those children, but it must have something to do with my childhood. I often think about my childhood and for me the idea of the years from 1976 to 1985 create also some other world, to which I try to reach for, through all the years that have past. It was the happy time of my life.
I often wish I would not have to deal with some things that have very strong “adult” label on them. I guess I miss my childhood very much … before the year 1985, when the Hell broke loose in form of my father´s sickness, which lead to his death in 1990, and of course affected the whole family and caused sorrows which are still here. But this was just the beginning of my personal inferno.
Oh, but yes … There is that intro! It is me, back in the year 1985!!! Isn’t it exciting how we can exist in different times, and when different times are put together they become sort of “no time at all”? I am fascinated by these alternative ideas about time, and different time lines. And dimensions.
The images used on the booklet obviously come from many different sources. That drawing with the girl, rainbow and that strange creature I found in a supermarket years ago. It is drawn on yellow post-it note. Someone, I would assume the artist herself or himself had put it on some product or shelf, I can not remember anymore, but I found it, and the whole idea of leaving something like that there interesting, so I took it with me, and kept it safe for all these more than ten years, knowing that one day I will find a place for it, as it happened. So it is a piece of real found art.
The front cover is a drawing that I think I found from some book about symbols written by Jung, but I have not had success in finding that book again. I only had this tiny photocopy I had made. So it also rested for many years before I used it. I simply modified the face of that figure on the altar with a blanco fluid and painted the colors. Some other sources are Rollo Ahmed, Erich Fromm, one cheap Readers Digest sample and so on. There is even this note of me being held in a jail.
The lyrics you mention are especially connected to my fascination for contrasts and dualism. For me there is no clear good and evil or beauty and ugliness. This goes with what I said about sexuality too … I find beauty in ugliness and horrible things and vice versa. I am particularly happy with those lyrics, and my disappointment was heavy when many people seemed to be dissatisfied with that track. Maybe they did not quite get the interplay between that minimalist and slow black metal and those lyrics.
One person who knows me quite well and has enjoyed my black metal works said I had failed with those vocals. For me they represent exactly the artificial world of those highly “American” lyrics. Instead of being tormented they are sardonic and mocking. Almost intoxicated.
STEREOGUM: The strong sexuality of “Let It Pour, Let It Pour” is something rare in extreme metal these days. A ways back a friend of mine commented about how sexless black metal can be — with a few exceptions, of course. In a way, “Let It Pour” reminds me of Khanate or something Alan Dubin would write, but it goes further… DeSade-like. The lyrics are adapted from Leah Sublime. Can you explain how the track came together? How much of it is personal to you?
SAH: Jesus Christ. I wish I could have these kind of questions in every interview, instead of all those “As I have not heard this album of yours, could you tell me something about it” or “What are your favourite bands?”…
Again, I have to point out that I try to be careful not to open up these things too much … It is important to leave some things to be found out by the receiver, no matter what form of art is in question. Most of the songs on this album I have had with me for several years. Some of them date back to ’90s. But this one came to me while I was giving finishing touches to the arrangements, just before the sessions started.
It came to me as most of my compositions come. I can not explain it. I just heard it, and started to play it. I decided that it should be on the album too, to give it different kind of topical authenticity, if we keep in mind this loose diary thing with this whole work. Obviously I did not have lyrics written for it, and there was not much time, so I tried out few already existing things, and then I took out from a bookshelf this Leah Sublime by Crowley. I had a feeling about it, and hoped I would be right, and I was!
Again it is about contrasts. I know that for Crowley the things he writes about there must have been more straight and clear, and without guilt perhaps, but for me everything is bit more fragile and sensitive, the whole idea of purity and impurity and dominance. All of this matched perfectly with the composition. So, yes, it is personal, as everything that I do is. And even if it may sound bit too pompous I do feel there is certain connection between me and Crowley. But enough of that…
I am glad that you do not approach this theme from that childish and stupid “hah hah, he said fart!!!” direction which I have seen in many reviews, but those kind of remarks tell more about those who wrote them than about the song itself. Some of these people must live very boring middle-class lives, or then they are some loner nerds.
I told you about guilt, but it is not only about guilt. It is also a celebration of freedom and diversity of human sexuality. Of course it is also about fetishes, and the intellectual limitations of what is the human body and the symbolism connected to it, and closeness and distance, the loneliness and hermetic experience even when with someone. It is same time about domination and being dominated, and pleasure and humiliation. Even love and hate.
For me this song glorifies the courage of opening all the doors and living with the full flame, but also bearing the melancholy of it all. Guilt and shame, and same time pure experience and magical wisdom and knowledge, through sensations of flesh, and sensual vibrations of soul. Body and soul.
Nothing in this life is simple. Everything has many layers and aspects. And again there is also the question, asked by some, of what is beautiful and pleasant and what is unnatural or unwanted.
What is pleasing for me could be disgusting for some others, and what some people might enjoy the most could bore me to death. And so on and so on, ad infinitum.
Usually I have very strict structures in my songs when I record them, but with this song there was room for improvisations, and I did that too, especially with the drums and some vocals too.
This new kind of freedom matches with the lyrical themes, too. It was almost like making love with the sound. I think I succeeded to really touch the deepest essence of the subject itself here musically. And it was all done with the first take, to really reach the level of pure documentation.
Of course I am now talking only about my own personal experiences and understanding … but as this song has become a favorite song of the whole album for many listeners, including the label manager, I guess I was able to reach something real!
I kind of wish it would not be like this, as I am doing albums, not hit singles, and I would not like to see a one song stand out from all the others, but if this song becomes my “Paranoid” or “Ace of Spades” I can live with that.
I hope this makes some justice to Crowley as well. My means were and are very serious.
One friend of mine told me that he got slightly aroused when hearing this song for the first time. Usually I get comments from people about how they have got tears in their eyes from my music, so maybe this balances the scale a bit.
STEREOGUM: Are you a fan of Current 93?
SAH: I am not sure am I a real fan of anything, but I seem to have far too many mutual interests with David Tibet and few other people working in Current 93, that it would be almost impossible not to feel attracted to them. Especially when they have created such a musically excellent works as Thunder Perfect Mind, Sleep Has His House, Inmost Light — which I strangely did not get at all when it was still in its All The Pretty Little Horses form — or the great compilation SixSixSix:SickSIckSIck.
When I first heard Current 93, back in 1998 or so, there was this boom of apocalyptic folk music going on, at least in circles close to me, and I was kind of bored with it. I did not even like Changes’ “Fire of Life” 7” when I first heard it, and same goes with Death In June, which later became really great favorite of mine. Back then I was bigger fan of Boyd Rice than anything from that “scene.”
With Current 93 the problem in the beginning was the presence of David Tibet. I am talking about his voice and articulation, but also his physical presence. I could not cope with him too well, especially when so many people told me how he is the God! It took some time that I got used to him, and I still have this ambivalent feeling inside of me, but now it has become strength instead of weakness for their side. I like the fact that there is still something to find, more room to get closer. And many of their works I do not like at all, which is kind of good thing too.
I saw Current 93 in Roadburn 2008 and it was an amazing performance! One of the best I have ever seen. It was also great to see the whole group walking around there in Tilburg, like they were from some unknown time and space. I have strong respect for them all, and as I am big fan of Baby Dee it was great to see her there too. Excellent.
I like how there is no one exact shape for Current 93. It can be what ever David Tibet feels it to be. This same I have always wanted to have, and I had it with KLV, but it took me this long to be able to make it real as a recording artist!
The only way for me, as it is perhaps for Tibet too, is not to have a stagnant line up for a real band. Of course I am not trying to compare myself to them or anything, but I do feel that Current 93 could be the only “band” which I could say does something the same as I finally do now, even though my music does not sound the same.
Still, I would not say that I have been influenced by Current 93, because I already had “my way” of making things back in the time when I first heard them, but I do have found few authors and artists through them, and in them, namely lovely Rose McDowall.
STEREOGUM: “Return To The Source” is “based on a sonic ritual performed by ‘ars moriendi.’ And you use a poem by Gesshu Soko. Each song seems to contain this sort of depth to it. Can you discuss? This is another example of a song that has a “borrowed” text but that feels very personal.
SAH: First of all, Ars Moriendi was a short lived, but rather brilliant I dare to say, electro band … or should I say dark wave, even though I would prefer simply “gothic”, anyway … it was a band I had with the original drummer of Reverend Bizarre, back in 1996 and 1997. Sadly we only did few sessions and one video which has disappeared.
For many years I wanted to “cover” this song, or in other words, to return to it, so now I did it, and this adds little bit more to that diary-thing.
The original lyrics were taken from Oscar Wilde if I remember it right, but now I wanted something else, and I immediately knew it should be this jisei, or “farewell poem to life” by Gesshu Soko, as it really touches something inside of me.
So there I was paying tribute to this old band of ours, and this person who wrote the poem ages ago, but same time also to Yoel Hoffman, the translator, and his wonderful book Japanese Death Poems.
Right from the beginning I knew that if I would not be able to reach mister Hoffman, who of course is as far from me as anyone can be, and get his permission to use his translation I would not do it. I had written another piece of lyrics for this composition, just in case.
I wrote to this one particular department in University of Haifa, Israel, and asked if they could help me to reach Hoffman, and I got kind reply that they will forward my message to him. I was excited, but I really did not expect him to reply to me personally, which he did. I can still remember that day when I got that email!
So, luckily that poem, and that great translation, as there are few others, which in my opinion lack some essence, is now the lyrics for that song. My own lyrics were rather brute and would have destroyed the spiritual quality of this track.
I have a strong interest in East Asian and South East Asian cultures and also parts of Middle Asia. There are various different cultures and religions and ideologies, but from many of them I personally get similar kind of peace of mind. One of my very few ways to calm down my mind is to have a hot bath, in a candle light, listening to traditional music from Vietnam or Okinawa and Japan, or China, or Thailand, or some Indonesian island … Java!
STEREOGUM: So, are you as inspired by books and people and events as you are by other music? Are you familiar with Peter Sotos? Dennis Cooper? I’m thinking of more modern purveyors of Bataille’s ethos, etc.
SAH:I would say I am more inspired by those than any existing music. Still, I have huge collection of music and I have been into different kinds of music since I was just a child. My first memories of music are from late ’70s, these old songs I heard in radio, from ’30s and ’40s. I started really following music back in 1984 and it has continued to this very day. Right from the beginning I was not only following what was new, but also what were the roots of the music I liked, so I knew Iron Butterfly and Arthur Brown already when I was a fan of W.A.S.P and Venom. Still, I would not call myself a music fan or enthusiast. It is all so natural to me that I do not think about it that much, and I am not a record collector even when I buy records all the time.
All of this music has certainly inspired and influenced me, but I do not feel that affect when I do my things now with Opium Warlords. I feel more inspired by what I did myself back in early 1990’s.
I feel I am in some way back in those vibes. Back then huge influences for me were Godflesh, Arvo Pärt and Circle — so there you have that musical inspiration too, but it is more like an atmosphere. I get inspired by something every day. It can be some certain picture in some movie, or some detail in some book. Very often it is something I see in the nature or among other people. Sometimes it comes from pure abstraction. I am interested in many things and always keep my eyes and ears open. I try to tell you that I am not passive, but active, where ever I go or what ever I do. I have not been like this all the time. Back in 2003 and 2004 I was just a random psychiatric patient, with deep depression, dwelling in misery, eating junk food, occasionally doing some music. Then in 2005 to 2007 I was basically just suicidal.
I do not read fiction too much anymore. I read books about esoteric subjects. Subterranean worlds and tunnel systems, Oriental spiritualism, secret military bases and projects, man-made UFO’s, ancient advanced god-like civilizations. Gnosticism…
I am aware of Peter Sotos, but with him I had that trouble that after going through the circle of trying to figure out what the point really is for few rounds, I finally got that fear and disgust that there is no point, that it really is what it is. Dennis Cooper I have never heard of … I just happened to read about Bataille few days ago, and I have read some of his texts in university and had a slight interest in his L’acephale, but I think I lost it. It was too safe for me. I have to go further. But not as far as Sotos!
STEREOGUM: For its angry/accusatory title, “Suck My Spear, Servant Of Satan” is a meditative, peaceful, quite beautiful instrumental. What inspired the title?
SAH: If I would say it is merely a joke I would disappoint everyone, and it is not just a joke, but I believe in complete honesty so I will tell you, even when it is slightly too obvious and insipid, that one major inspiration was Spinal Tap’s “Lick My Love Pump.”
I do want to have these kind of popular cultural references every now and then, and I do love the movie, but it is also a message for all those self acclaimed “Satanists” who have not had interest to really dig deeper to any ideological or spiritual understanding, and who too often seem to suffer from mental diseases like homophobia, chauvinism, and racism. For me, real Satanism or devil worship has more to do with those Let It Pour, Let It Pour-vibes than the conservatism coming unnervingly close with Bible Belt right-wing Christianity. The whole modern idea of Satanism is based on ostension, popular imagination and Christian propaganda anyway. All the kids should check out La Bas by Huysmans and find the original source. It really does not go further than that in the pure SATAN form.
The “real” Satan, or Adversary, of course, was actually the real God, as all those familiar with Gnostic writings and other elder traditions know. When Christianity became a tool for those in power everything unwanted was easy to be demonized.
That composition itself dates back to 1998 or so. It was for a while “The Candles Burning Blue” song, and it has had several titles and lyrics. Now it found this “context.”
STEREOGUM: “Feel The Funeral Breeze” seems like a love song. What inspired it? I find it oddly moving. The lyrics, it’s length… it’s epic … and there’s a truth in there. Is it a love song?
SAH: It depends on what is love. Haddaway asked that same question and could not find the answer. In the way I view “love,” I would almost say this is a hate song. Or at least very very cold and selfish love song. It describes emotions in very unemotional way, and there is also strong sense of opportunism. The point is that the shared infection — got from some pussy-hunting asshole — is that one last thing that connects these two people together. They have the same disease.
I can not help thinking about these teenage mothers of lower-middle class who with their grey faces inhabit the supermarkets. It is, of course, a sad destiny, but when thinking of my own lonely youth, those “successful” girls who had those older redneck boyfriends, were actually the future single parents. But it could also be that the disease is something much harder. Like cancer! That carrying this same disease brings understanding between two people. Or perhaps it is so that one is ill, but the other “carries” the same disease, because of emotional tie. Or mental burden … In my family there has been serious diseases so this aspect of life has grown very deep into me.
The protagonist is waiting anyway. Maybe he can be seen as a savior, but as I said my ideal of love is not that selfish, that you really could feel pleased about the loss felt by someone you love or wish something bad to happen to her.
As you can see, your version of the interpretation was much better, and I wish I had not told you mine … That song is epic and almost romantic anyway. Forget what I said.
STEREOGUM: “Meet Me At The Iron Place” also has this feeling, but with more of an innocence to it… despite the promise of some sort of violent freedom. Are you playing with nursery rhymes here? Teenage love songs? This comes up with “Support The Satanic Youth,” too. It’s like this album is a guide book filled with secret codes.
SAH: I start to feel that you really see through me! I did not have all these ideas myself, but they make sense. And yet again my idea was something much more harsh, this time almost dealing with fascism and dominance. But I like your version better.
Mine is much more contemptible. And probably, sadly, closer to the truth. And yet, there is this idea of salvation again, after all; To show the way to freedom to someone who has not necessarily felt it. Or showing the purifying force of sexual outburst. Many possibilities!
At least, this song is about human relations, but also abuse or something like that. And there are those old timers lying on their bed. Hopeless visions.
And yes, there are lots of secret codes. I have always had them in my works, all of them; drawings, writings, even compositions. There are references, but also kind of a riddles.
Here we have an indication to the colors of the Nazi flag. Usually I do not show any of these hidden meanings to the people, but as no one has pointed this one out, I do this exception … but I won’t tell you why it is there. I guess I do not even know the answer.
For me the lyrics are as important as the compositions, sometimes even more important. It is depressing to see how little people pay attention to lyrics nowadays. It is of course their loss, but it is hard to live in a world like this, which sometimes seems to be “so shallow,” at least for the heart and soul of someone who occasionally gets these over-dramatical “lonely and misunderstood genius” moods.
STEREOGUM: We’ve spent a lot time focusing on the words and themes — musically, you switch things up a lot. There’s the brutal Khanate-esque doom, but also the more classic vintage My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost and Candlemass sort of stuff. The album ends with a bit of grindcore! What were you listening to when you composed the record? Did each track demand a new approach?
SAH: I can not say I am too happy with those names you mentioned, but again you do touch the truth … Back in the ’90s I did listen to the EPs and first three albums of My Dying Bride. Then they decided to start trying to reach a new audience, young girls, and I lost my interest and respect for them. And it is not just because I was jealous or bitter for not having those young girls close to me.
Paradise Lost’s Shades Of God is a pretty great album, but that is about that. I have never had much interest for Khanate either. I however do like Formula by OLD very much! When it comes to doom, for me it was and is early Cathedral, Saint Vitus, Trouble, Witchfinder General, The Obsessed and so, and from the death metal side Unholy, Unburied and Rippikoulu…
The songs on this album are from 1996 – 2009 so it is impossible to tell what I was listening when working on them, but as I said, music itself is not such a huge inspiration for me, at least not with this work.
If I really sit down to think about it, I can agree that I have been influenced by W.A.S.P., Venom, Black Sabbath, Arvo Pärt, Godflesh, Michael Nyman, Rozz Williams and Burzum, and a plethora of early ’80s synth pop, gothic and neo-romance bands, but it would be too hard to try to really point out where from I got this or that aspect to my own music. It is easier to say that everything I have ever heard, that has really left some mark on me is also influencing me.
That grindcore track is actually for me noisecore, but I guess these are just different terms, although at least the Finnish noisecore scene was something very different from any grind I know. The point here is that I used to play this kind of noisecore back in 1992 to 1994 and for me this song was return to that side of my “career.” Again we come to that diary or scrapbook thing, too.
For me these different styles do not mean so much, It all comes from inside of me. I have played so many kinds of music during my lifetime that now when I do Opium Warlords I do not think about all of that. I just follow my intuition and do each song exactly in the way the song itself wants to be brought to this world. I really mean that there does exist just that right form for each songs, or drawing, or poem. All of these songs on this album could have been arranged in many different ways, but I tried to be true to them.
STEREOGUM: You got the band name Opium Warlords from Dee Dee Ramone? He was definitely the most interesting of the Ramones, at least for my two cents.
SAH: Yes, I guess I can agree with you, at least up to that point about Dee Dee … but the Ramones could not have been any other people. I find Johnny with his fucked up right-wing ideals or Joey with his slightly retarded appearance and OCD or Tommy in his silent calmness and minimalist drum beats at least almost as interesting. Together they created something that did not exist before! Of course, we have to also add Marky! He continued the work of Tommy in such an excellent way!
But for me too Dee Dee is the key factor, and he was anyway the writer of some of the most memorable Ramones-songs. But The Ramones really was band in the very meaning of the word. They hated each other and still went on, in that van of theirs. It is a great story and great music, too.
I always felt in the final years of our existence that there was a certain similarity in the Ramones and Reverend Bizarre. Except that RB was not inventing anything new. Besides really slowing down the original doom metal.
The Ramones is on the same league with Boyd Rice, Black Sabbath, Joy Division and Burzum. All of them created something that did not exist before them. Oh, and SUICIDE! They belong to this list too.
STEREOGUM: You’re active in a number of bands. Do you have a favorite?
SAH: Everything I decide to do I do with 100% concentration and presence, but obviously those bands which have come artistically the closest to my own deepest inner world are the most important for me. With this I mean that even though I am most well known for Reverend Bizarre, and I cherish that memory, it is not as important for me as the Candles Burning Blue or the Puritan were, or what I do now.
In Azrael Rising and Spiritus Mortis I do not write the background music, but I do get to do my vocals very freely, so I am part of the process. I also do the lyrics and artworks to both of these.
In Orne I am just a working man, handling the vocals as they are written to be, so that is not on the same level for me as these other bands. But I want to do my job as well as I can, and hopefully even better than that, touched by some higher spirit!
With Armanenschaft we were able to really reach what we wanted, so in that sense it is one of the favourites and same goes with March 15, but I guess Opium Warlords is what I really do now, and what I will hopefully keep doing for some time.
Still, all of this music and art is the same to me. It is all part of my own life, whereas it is of course part of the lives of those others who have been there playing the music with me, but from where I stand, all of the records I have been involved in are part of my “back catalogue” and my private history.
If something is unimportant I do not do it.
Oh, I forgot KLV. That was the beginning of the second phase of my musical activities and thus, of course, more important than anything else, with exception of what I did back in 1984 and 1985 with SOPO. There are the real roots.
Better stop before something else pops to my mind!
STEREOGUM: Have you done any live Opium Warlords shows?
SAH: No, and I do not have any plans for them either. I am not too fond of performing live, at least if I have to play something. It is not because of the playing itself, but all the technical stuff, I mean gear. And I hate tuning. My OCD makes these kind of things ultra hard for me. I can not be sure about anything. It makes studio work hard too, but I have to do that, in order not to really lose my nerves.
If I would not have chance to get rid off these songs I have inside of me, and there is still plenty of material, for more than seven albums, I could shoot myself right away. I would not be able to bear it.
Also, the way I perform, or as I see it, live the whole thing, while on stage, is so ultimate for my body and mind, I have started almost fear gigs. I want to get all the stuff inside of me done, so I have a fear for serious accidents or getting finally and totally insane, and thus unable to continue my work.
I feel it coming! Every night, while doing gigs, could literally be the last. I myself would prefer rather quiet life.
Of course, if Walter from Roadburn would write me and ask if Opium Warlords could play in Roadburn 2012 I would not say no. I would find a line up and rehearse a set. Same goes with what ever gig in Japan.
If I will die without visiting Japan I will die as a bitter and miserable creature.
STEREOGUM: What are your plans for any upcoming projects?
SAH: I have always had lots of plans and ideas, since I was just a kid. Now I have intentionally decided to try not to plan so much, or at least dwell in all the future plans, but concentrate in working. Still I always know what will happen next and my calendar is always full.
I should continue the sessions for Azrael Rising debut album. I did the lead vocals for five songs in a one session of three or four hours, so I guess after the next session the remaining four songs will be done, and I only have to add some backing vocals. Then I will go to Turku to do vocals for the second Orne album. I have also already started working on the second Opium Warlords album. All the heavy bass guitars have been recorded. Hopefully we will get The Puritan sessions finished one day too. We have not been doing anything since 2008, and this project was started already in 2006! Overall, I hope that there will come the time when I will focus in just one project, but as long as I am this lousy in saying NO, I do not have much hope for easier and more relaxed times.
Live At Colonia Dignidad is out via Cobra. Here’s “Let It Pour, Let It Pour,” which we discussed in-depth:
This is one angle: Read the bio/manifesto and listen to more sounds at MySpace. Keep watch for a new Opium Warlords track, “Lament For The Builders Of Khara Khoto,” on an upcoming Levykauppax/Cobra comp. As mentioned, Sami is at work on a new album, for now called Opium Warlords II: Taste My Sword Of Understanding.