Ghost Brigade | Interview with Wille Naukkarinen

Responsible for one of the most surprising and interesting works released last year, Finland’s Ghost Brigade are one of those bands most musical journalists simply hate to write about, but can’t stop listening to. See, said work “Guided by Fire” is a marvellous gem of music that exhibits an eclectic musical exploration and completely defies any sort of common and known categorization. Guitarist Wille Naukkarinen also finds it difficult to place Ghost Brigade’s sonority within any genre or style when we first contacted him to gather some revelations about their past, their current activities and their future work. Read more...

There's a rare breed of bands out there that don't seem to fit comfortably within any genre or categorisation the music industry so pleasantly likes to shelve and market their product for easy consumption. Finland's Ghost Brigade is one of those acts, having carved their own musical niche with a debut recording titled "Guided by Fire" that touches a lot of territories, but don't exactly settle a residence in any of them. Does it mean Ghost Brigade can do whatever they want to?

“Well yeah in theory I guess so but I don't think we would ever write a reggae or a ska riff for example, because for one, It's not our cup of tea and secondly it wouldn't fit us either. But whatever we collectively think sounds good and what ever it is that we think fits under the musical umbrella of Ghost Brigade is what we'll of course continue doing. We try our best to not set any limits to what we can do and what we can't and try to be as open-minded as possible when writing new songs.”

Not many people know, but Wille along with bassist Janne Julin and drummer Veli-Matti Suihkonen used to play together in a Stoner/Rock group called Sunride, who had released three albums on the German label People Like You before being put on hold in 2006. So how come members of a rock act like Sunride end up forming a more emotional guided band?

“Well I don't know if many people are aware of this but, the first Sunride demo in 96 had actually growling vocals on it so you know, also the roots of Sunride are deeply in metal even if the stuff released after that was groovier, melodic rock-oriented stuff. But we definitely started as some kind of melodic death metal-ish band back in the mid-nineties. So I guess partly because of that, it wasn't that big of a step really to go from Sunride to Ghost Brigade. I just felt that it was time to move on and do things that inspire me. After 3 albums and some Eps with Sunride, composing basic rock music didn't really do it for me any more, I just felt like I didn't have anything more to say for that kind of music. I wanted to try something new, write music that would kind of cover everything that I never had had a chance to do in Sunride, something with a little bit more edge, dynamics, extremes and heaviness. I had actually talked about forming a moodier, heavier band like Ghost Brigade for years on numerous occasions to the other members so I guess it was just a matter of time really before we made it happen. And I got to say, even though I loved what we did with Sunride and I'm very proud of that band and all the CDs we did but to be honest Ghost Brigade feels like I've finally found home. I feel like I have so much music in me for this band. It's a great feeling.”

So does Ghost Brigade give you the opportunity to expel or exorcise inner ghosts, something you weren't able to accomplish with Sunride?

“Yeah definitely. This is one of the main reasons why Ghost Brigade exists and that is exactly why it is so much fun to be in this band.”

"Guided By Fear" was released last year and has garnered excellent reviews worldwide so far, but there's a common dominator in those reactions that is the difficultly in finding a suitable tag to file Ghost Brigade's sonority. Is it Post-Hardcore? Sure, there's a certain rage flowing around that's merged with emotional melodies, but "Guided By Fear" is way darker and melancholic than Glassjaw or Quicksand. Is it Dark Metal? Sure it's dark and it has a Metal influence and there's also a common thread with bands like Katatonia, but it's more than that! Atmospheric and desolated like Neurosis? Yeah, on a few occasions!
How would you define Ghost Brigade's sound without necessarily pulling out adjectives or genres?

“Well, I wouldn't and I can't either. Ghost Brigade is influenced by so many bands and artists that I don't think there is an easy way to describe or define it. I guess I would myself just call it Ghost Brigade and I hope some day people will start calling it the same way also. When we formed this band, we soon decided that this would be for once a band without any musical limitations. We agreed that let's just do good music for the sake of it and let's not think about if anyone else is going to like it or if it fits this or that genre because in the end, all kind of tags, genres and other people's opinions don't really matter. What matters is that we are happy with what we do and we think the shit sounds good. That is also why our album has such a title. But yeah, I sometimes hope there was an easy tag for us because it sure as hell would make answering interviews a lot easier but unfortunately I don't think there is.”

Have you already started working on new material yet? How are the new songs shaping up?

“Yes we have. We have actually a lot of new stuff ready already, but it is still too early to say how the next album will sound like because we don't know yet which songs are going to be on it and there is still more writing left to be done. But it is going to be better than the first one for sure and a little bit different as well. You won't ever get two same sounding album from us so don't expect a “Guided by Fire” part 2.”

I've read somewhere, you had quite an interesting method of piecing together the songs featured on "Guided by Fear" by committing some ideas onto a computer individually and only afterwards the band started to work on them collectively. Are you comfortable with this working method and how do you feel it affects the end results?

"I think that this is actually pretty common way to write ideas these days when everyone has access to the internet and everyone has a computer. I mean, when I for example come up with a new riff at home I immediately demo it with my computer because it's faster that way than having to wait for 2 weeks for the next rehearsal to present my idea and find out how it sounds with drums, bass and everything else. I can do it on a computer using computer drums right away, then email it to the other guys if I still like it and they learn the riff at home and at the next rehearsals we just start playing it. It's very effective, productive way of working actually.”

I've found the Neo-Noir style of the artwork cover really great and it sort of reminded me of Sin City imagery when I first saw it. The whole design was created by Wille and it features a black and white photograph of an individual standing in what looks like a cornfield that was shot by guitarist Tommi Kiviniemi. What sorts of concepts have influenced you to construct these visuals?

“Basically it is a visual reflection of the title “Guided by Fire”. The light in the guys hands obviously being the fire, spreading everywhere like water. The original cover was actually only the guy on a completely blank, white background but we added the cornfield to get a result that looks more like our music sounds. I like the end result though and I think it looks pretty much like the album sounds. It has the same mood.”

Ghost Brigade has a very independent, almost DIY attitude towards their music and the things surrounding it since they're responsible for their artwork, website and merchandise. This sort of posture comes from the years of experience with Sunride, playing small venues, riding vans and crashing on sofas?

Yeah it definitely comes from there and especially touring with punk and hardcore bands back in the day and getting to know those people personally. We learned many important things from some of those bands and their hard-working, humble attitude towards doing things in general rally had a huge impact on me. And you know, even if it's more work to do everything yourself, I couldn't even imagine some else for example designing a record cover for us or produce our record. We like to do stuff ourselves.”

Ghost Brigade has recently completed a handful of live performances outside Finland, including a presence on the Hellfest festival in France. How did it all went down and are you happy with the reactions and experience of fronting a more metal audience?

It was great!! Hellfest crowd was awesome, the tent was completely full and I didn't see anyone leave during our set. And as far as I can tell, a lot of people seemed to enjoy it. Good fucking times!”

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