Norther | Interview with Jukka Koskinen

Having moved labels for the first time in their notorious and continuously growing career, Finland’s Norther have finally produced an album that sees them outgrowing the “Children of Bodom devotees” tag clung to them ever since their debut album “Dreams of Endless War” came out in 2002.
Simply entitled “N”, their fifth full-length album and first for Century Media doesn’t belong to any standard category or genre as it showcases a splendid and mesmerising concoction of all the best elements of Metal.
Scratch the Surface caught up with a confident Jukka Koskinen, the band’s bassist for an insight into the foundations behind “N”.

Two years on from their critically acclaimed “Till Death Unite Us”, Finnish quintet Norther are back with an impressive new album that will surely delight anyone who has enjoyed them in the past, but one that will also put them in a spotlight position in new, different fields than the ones the band commonly trod on since their inception twelve years ago under the moniker Requiem. Their fifth and finest album “N”, could be described as a more diverse, melodic album with the band further exploring new levels of melody and different textures just its predecessor “Till Death Unites Us” somehow hinted, it showcases the next step in the ever-growing development of the band.
When questioned if the diversity exhibited throughout “N” has been the result of a natural progression or if Norther collectively decided to focus on those diverse areas more actively, bassist Jukka is a bit uncertain…

“The whole album was born thru a natural progression. It was more or less a somehow subconscious thing since we listen to a lot of different styles of music so you really can hear that there’s a diverse world in the album although working as a perfect pack (laughs). There’s five different guys in the band so of course every one has their own desires in a way, but at the same time everyone do know what Norther is about, going always on and trying something new than just standing still.
Our older albums have been more straightforward than “N”. We’ve unleashed the hidden force!”

Another progression is the clean singing of Kristian Ranta, his voice sounds a lot stronger and shows more confidence. Did the rest of the band encourage him to try out new things or it was the different textures of the new songs that demanded more from him?

“Well this time we had Anssi Kippo as our producer. An old friend who also has been recording our earlier albums, so he really knows our needs and thru that he was involved a lot with the clean vocals, melodies, etc.
Kristian was more aware of the vocal parts this time too so we didn’t do anything in a hurry way like before.
In “N” we thought to add more growling… like black metallish double growling but at the same time add more poppish cleans that made a great twisted vocals world for the album.”

A lot of bands like Amorphis, Paradise Lost and Katatonia for example, have at a certain stage of their careers ditch the Death-Metal singing altogether. Do you imagine Norther having a similar impulse in the future?

“No definitely not! We’ve always been working as a unit and using everyone’s different skills in our music. We’ve always extended our vocals after every album so who knows if in the future any of us will sing cleans n’ growls (laughs)… but we will never ditch something totally.”

“If You Go” is a song that grabbed my attention as it reminds me somehow of Amorphis, do you see them as an influence?

“Well that’s how I felt too (laughs)… when I first heard the ready version of the song.
Well we’ve known their music and the guys for a long time and been listening to it more in the past so probably there’s some Amorphis cells in our brains.” (Laughs)

The band have been compared to Children of Bodom in the past, however I believe “N” will surely dissipate such comparisons once and for all. Do you agree? Does it trouble you when people continuously associate Norther with Children of Bodom?

“Well naah, since it’s gone too far the whole comparison (laughs)…
Well in the beginning we did have more similar factors in our music but then, after the first two albums we started to change a lot musically so maybe people have stuck to this comparison thing because of our early stuff. Sometimes when someone makes an opinion it’s hard to get out from it although you wouldn’t have anything to do with it, similar sounds what so ever.
We started to change our own music a lot when we did the EP “Solution 7”. Kristian’s clean vocals came along and we started to mix pop and death metal together. Forming a great “pervert soup” in a way (laughs).
But surely “N” puts us far away from our previous records. It’s just this great feeling that you just have… like we have finally opened for ourselves and fully trust what we do…just a great feeling about this album!”

Seeing that you’re close friends with them, do talk about it?

“We’ve known them for years but we haven’t seen the guys that much anymore since they’re on tour all the time. (Laughs)
But yes we talked about that many years ago and wondered about it… funny story. I dunno why we were so close musically…
In the end we really don’t care what people think or say about this comparison thing that haven’t existed in years. We do our own thing and that’s it.”

“N” was once again produced by long time partner Anssi Kippo, who had previously worked with the band on the “Mirror of Madness” and “Death Unlimited” full-length albums, do you see him as the sixth element of the band? Would you consider trusting the production duties to anyone else again?

“It’s was the first time actually that Anssi had produced us for real.
He has been helping and giving great ideas but this time he came to our rehearsals many times and we really, really produced the album together.
He has been there for us for years now and really knows what we’re looking for so it would be hard imagining someone else to produce us… but time will tell.”

However, this time Norther have chosen to mix the new album at Fredman Studios in Sweden with famous producer Fredrik Nordström, whose credits include In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates between many others. The Finns are no strangers to the recording facilities of Studio Fredman either as “Till Death Unites Us” also bears the trademark Fredman sound. So what was it like working with Fredrik Nordström once again and did he bring anything new to the table for this record?

“Yes definitely! Him and Henrik Udd, a co-worker really tuned our sounds to a better direction and made the whole pack better. They’re really great guys etc.
One morning we’re just cutting the studio chairs with Fredrik with a chainsaw (laughs)!!! Don’t ask me why! We needed some exercise you know.”

There’s a certain common thread running through all of Fredrik Nordström past experiences as a producer, which is the clarity of sound and melodies, was that something Norther was aiming at, do you think it made a difference to how your CD turned out?

“Well sound wise of course it made a difference. Fredrik has his own special style to do things and mainly the guitars sounds he made were brilliant… so we thought that it’s going to sound a shaped Norther, in a good way and it goddamn did!! Fredrik and Henrik did a good job mixing the album.

It seems like the songs have been chosen and arranged in order to illustrate a certain contrast between them, was it intentionally?

“Well yes and no. We wanted to put the songs in an order that the listener will have a good feeling until the end of the album. That’s why the tracklist is in a dynamic way … something different after another so that you have this fresh feel.”

Let’s turn to the somewhat odd choice of the album title, a simple “N”. Is the title as obvious as it sounds or is there some enigmatic meaning behind it?

“N has been our symbol for a long time. It stands for north, northern, where we come from … and off course Norther.
That what’s this thing is all about so a powerful symbol was a perfect idea. We really have kind of a fresh start music wise and record label wise so the album name has a debut, self-titled feel if you know what I mean.”

With a notorious career made entirely on Spinefarm Records, the Finnish quintet have moved labels and secured a deal with Century Media for the release of “N”. What made you decide for such record label?

“They’ve been interested in us for a long time. Those guys who work in that company are great and since the first meeting to this date we just had this feeling that they’re exactly the sort of people we want to work with.
A great label and now finally Norther has good people who believe in the band!”

Norther will embark on a European tour in March with label mates Turisas, what can we expect from these concerts?

“It’s going to be an absolutely great and diverse tour! Two Finnish bands can’t be bad, huh!? (Laughs)
There’s going to be huge head-banging and Finnish insanity from two different styles of bands. It’s a great and diverse package!”

With a fresh deal with a big independent record label, a new and strong album that will definitely boost their popularity even further and an upcoming European tour, what expectations does Norther have for the future?

“We’re more than happy that things are finally going well. We basically dig ourselves out from the crap-hole and have been waiting for an opportunity for so long.
Hopefully we’ll tour as many countries as possible in the near future!
We’re truly reborn!!”

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