Poisonblack | Interview with Tarmo Kanerva


The name of Poisonblack will always be inevitably associated with the now defunct Sentenced partly due to the fact the Finns were originally just a side-project of Sentenced’s charismatic singer Ville Laihiala, conceived to wipe the dust off his guitars, but greatly due to their willingness to pick up the torch buried by the Northern Killers three years ago and light it aflame with their odes to suicidal depression and misery.
Their latest work “A Dead Heavy Day” clearly sees them moving towards the ground where Sentenced was last seen standing and breathing, something that fans still morning the loss of the legendary Finnish band will highly appreciate. Scratch the Surface had the chance to learn a little more about “A Dead Heavy Day” from drummer Tarmo Kanerva.

"A Dead Heavy New Day" seems to have a dirtier and heavier edge in terms of sound, whereas previous work "Lust Stained Despair" was a bit more polished. Was it a conscious decision to try a different approach and make it a bit rougher and harder, like not to repeat yourselves?

“Yes, I would say it was intentional. When we started to rehearsal new songs, it soon became pretty obvious that the new material required a different sound. Therefore we already knew what we were after when we entered the studio.”

Those Gibson guitars sound particularly loud, groovy and crunchier!
"A Dead Heavy Day" is definitely a guitar oriented work that signals a departure from the more Gothic-influenced ambiences of previous releases right?

“Yes, you got that right! We definitely wanted to step out of that gothic image with this album. In my opinion we have moved into more "rocking" direction.”

"A Dead Heavy Day" could also be interpreted as Poisonblack’s most diverse and experimental work to date, a song like "X" for example has a somehow dark-bluesy vibe that wasn't seen on any of the two previous works right? I like the Hammond touch a lot!

“Thanks! Like I mentioned before, we noticed pretty soon that this time our new songs were quite different compared to our previous albums. We had a little conversation about this situation and we just decided that we are not gonna worry if a certain song fits into a certain genre or not. We simply wrote songs which felt good to us and if they still sounded good in our ears after we had rehearsed them for a while, we decided to use them on the album.”

Recorded at Soundmix Studio in Oulu with Kari Vähäkuopus and mixed by Aksu Hanttu at Grooveland Studio in Lahti, this time Poisonblack opted to conceive the new album in its entirety in Finland, whereas "Lust Stained Despair" was mixed by Tue Madsen at Antfarm studios in Denmark.
Do you feel more comfortable working this way close to home?

“Definitely! It’s always cool if you’re able to record an album in your hometown. This way you’re able to live as normal life as possible when you’re not recording your own parts in the studio. And you don’t have to worry about the accommodation, so it’s cheaper, too!”

What was like the atmosphere in the studio and how was like working with those guys? What did they bring to the table?

“I think the atmosphere was very relaxed and the whole recording process went really smoothly. Kari has also mixed our live shows, so he was already familiar with our sound and our style. We haven’t worked with Aksu before, but he understood completely what kind of sound we were looking for and needless to say we are really satisfied with the result.”

Do you see Poisonblack as perfectionists, constantly labouring over the music until its completion or is there room for improvisation when you walk into the studio?

“Usually there’s space for improvisation. Personally I usually have all the basic beats ready when we enter the studio, but quite often we try different kind of drum fills in the studio, for example. And most of Ville’s solos are entirely improvised, too. I think it’s safe to say that it’s pretty typical for us to have some kind of "skeleton" of the song finished when we start recording it, but there’s still lots of stuff which is improvised in the studio."

What made you guys decide on "Bear The Cross" as the first single and video?

“Well, I guess it was because this song has a catchy chorus and therefore we felt that it might be appropriate to be released as a single. Its running time is also ideal for the single release.”

From looking at the album title and some song titles there's obviously some pretty strong feelings about emotions and relationships reflected in the lyrical work of "A Dead Heavy Day".
What sort of place were you in emotionally when you made this album?

“I know that Ville gets his inspiration from real life. Like you said yourself, there truly are some quite dark and melancholic lyrics on this album, but I think on the other hand there are many songs which are written in a sort of "tongue-in-cheek" form. Tracks like "Human-compost" and "Lowlife", for example, are not meant to be taken dead-seriously.”

So the title of the new album could be interpreted as the all sort of adversities and misfortunes we eventually face on our daily lives?

"A Dead Heavy Day" means a day when everything goes wrong in your life. Your whole world falls apart, you know. It also has a little deeper meaning for us, but I don’t want to reveal too much. We want to leave room for listener’s imagination and give them a chance to make their own conclusions what the title is actually about.”

One a more personal note, what do you when you're at home taking a break from Poisonblack, do you have anything on the side like drum lessons?

“When Poisonblack is not active, I usually do something which doesn’t have anything to do with music. I have a daily job in a hotel and when I have a day-off I try to live as normal life as everyone else. Go out with friends and have a few beers, stay at home reading a book or something. The regular stuff, you know!”

What are your thoughts on the music industry right now? From your perspective do you think the current model of marketing and commercialize music is totally wrecked and condemned to a complete reinvention due to the illegal downloads and the choice of some bands like Radiohead for example to sell their own work directly to the public?

“Well, it’s really hard to say. Personally I prefer buying my music in a CD-format. If record labels want to survive, in my opinion it’s crucial for them to start making decisions which effect further in the future instead of just trying to fill their pockets with money today. But like I mentioned before, it’s really hard to foresee what will happen in the future of music industry.”

One of the albums that has been stirring some controversy dealing with illegal downloads is “Death Magnetic” by Metallica. Are you looking forward to hear the new Metallica album, have you already had the chance of listening to their first single?

“Nope, I haven’t heard their new single yet. I’d rather wait and listen to the whole album. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing it. Hopefully it will better than “St. Anger”!”

To end the interview, Poisonblack are well-known in Finland and already conquered a strong following in Europe, yet there are certain markets like the US where the band haven't had the same kind of recognition. Do you think the band is at a level where you most of you feel comfortable with?
Does it bother you the fact of not getting the same visibility and recognition in some countries?

“I wouldn’t say it’s bothering us, but of course it’s always nice to get new fans! We have intentionally concentrated on Europe first and tried to reach as many people as possible there. Naturally this doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t like to conquer new territories as well. Not just U.S., it would also be cool to play in places like Japan and South-America someday!”

More info at: www.poisonblack.com