Skirmish | Interview with Mikko Kupiainen


Listening to "Through the Abacinated Eyes" is akin to getting caught in a bloody violent crossfire in the most dangerous drug cartel in South-America. Throughout 40 minutes, Skirmish holds nothing back and punishes our eardrums with their hyper-aggressive blend of raging riffs, crushing rhythms and furious vocals. In short, it’s heavy as shit.
Scratch the Surface asked guitarist Mikko Kupiainen what kind of things motivated or inspired the band to channel all this anger into "Through the Abacinated Eyes". Read the answers below.

Life itself, cold winters and bad hangovers. All of us have to take a certain amount of shit from somewhere each day and we, as a band, throw that into 40 minutes of aggressive music. It’s either better than buying a gun or doing something else stupid.
“Through the Abacinated Eyes” became aggressive and heavy as shit, that's for sure. Mikko wrote the basics of music, Jani most of the lyrics, but the infinite hours of jamming together finding the best solutions for each track moulded the album into the fierce bad motherfucker it is. And that probably sums up all of our feelings for the last winter.

Now that the album is finally out, what are your expectations for it?

Expectations are to get our name out there in the open. We have a strong album to promote, sales have been quite good so far for a nameless band, and the reviews have been mostly positive. Hopefully the concert promoters will recognize the name soon from the mass-load of e-mails they get daily. Also there are some things going on outside of Finland, let’s hope the promoters out there are nice too.
So far we’ve got some attention in the metal medias, Finnish Inferno magazine noted us with an interview, Metal Hammer UK included us on the free CD with the August issue and many webzines with their own community of readers have interviewed, wrote about the album release, reviewed etc.

Tell us a little about how Skirmish got started. I believe the band has been around since at least 2005 and had released three EP’s prior to the release of this debut full-length right?

That’s right. Those first EP’s were less professional in a productive way, but the latest “Skirmish” 2010, which we actually made at the same studio as debut, got some attention worldwide and lot of positive feedback.
In the beginning there were no any bigger plans or whatever. We just started to rehearse in a dirty cellar and played gig every now and then. Compared to today, a few of the first years were searching right persons to the group and learning to play together. Actually our line-up has changed a lot from those days too. Today, only Mikko (guitar) and Jani (vocals) are in from the starters. The songs we wrote then were also not so good as today, but the base-work was done there.

How does "Through the Abacinated Eyes" compare to those EP’s, particularly the last one “Skirmish”?

It’s a step forward again. Skirmish-EP got attention, good reviews and was overall received very well. But on “Through the Abacinated Eyes” we come yet more aggressive but more melodic too, more innovative and there is definitely more variations between the tracks. It’s good to compare great past music and notice you’ve moved on and done something new for yourself, and made it sound again a notch better. In conclusion; the songs are better, the production is better, cover art is great and the whole package is at least one step higher level.

If you had to describe the sound of Skirmish to someone who had never heard the band's music, what would you say?

Mainly Skirmish is aggressive metal band with influences from every here and there. Someone has called us deathrash or whatever, but we like to call it just metal.
Some editor labelled us “turbocharged Sentenced” which may have something you can start, but it is just only reference. Musically our influences are metal in almost every possible genre, but progressive rock, classic rock and stuff like that are there too even it maybe can’t be heard directly. We have grown up with 80’s and 90’s metal, so I guess these are the most important musical influences; even there are lot of modern vibes too.

Although the sound of the band is for the most part intensely heavy and relentless, there’s still a great focus on guitar solos and lead harmonies in several tracks. Knowing that there’s only one guitarist in the band, how do you ensure that your sound is just as heavy when you’re playing live?

A lot of guitar harmonies have played in a chord-style, even it sounds that there’s two different guitars playing one note per guitar. We also have seen that some of the rhythm parts behind the solos work better without rhythm guitar buzzing there, like in “Astral Infinity”.
Actually, we used to have a second guitarist, but after his departure we haven’t been really active on finding one. It’s always an option but there hasn’t been any urgent need. During the writing sessions for “Through the Abacinated Eyes” Mikko provided 98 % of all the riffs, but we spent hours jamming on each track. Kalle (bass) is a tight rhythm player and his distorted sound fits that hole excellently. Each bass line has been written with just one guitar playing in the rehearsal room, so automatically the original formats of the songs didn’t have backing guitars in them at all. Check out the bass line in the “Forlorn Masque” and “Mystery in a Blazing Dream” for example. It’s far from the usual thrash metal pounding of the E-string. And so far it has worked out quite well.
For the original question: if we will find suitable guitarist with right attitude, we totally going to check him/her, but so far we operate this way. So, if you are professional metal guitarist and you think you could mess with us, just hit the email.

You recently had a line-up change in the band and to replace drummers. Did this occur before or after writing/recording, and how do you feel it will affect the band live and on future releases?

We had to kick out our drummer just after the studio sessions. Luckily he didn’t fuck up the studio sessions. I mean, all of us in the band have at least two hobbies, drinking and playing heavy music, but our old drummer had his priorities in the wrong order.
Right now, with our new drummer Mr. Panu Heikkinen everything is going really well. He’s a nice guy and a top-notch drummer (after all, he’s a drum teacher) so the effects will be only positive. As for the rest of us, we don’t need to stress about each and every show or studio session for that matter and think if the drummer will be in condition to play or not. So we expect a lot more free and relaxed performances.
Big thanks to Waltteri Väyrynen who played two shows in the beginning of June, and learned the songs fast after we had to kick out the old drummer. Expect to see this guy play big stages in the future!

From a lyrical perspective, are there any specific topics that you guys talk about on any of the songs off the new album?

The overall theme on the album is death, and the various stages of dying from the physical death of the body all the way through the gates to astral infinity. And the whole trip the dead one is escorted by demons. It might at first sound a little funny, but if you read the lyrics sheet, you’ll find that the album is quite philosophical in its thinking. On top of that, Insurgency (the only track not written by the singer) is a more traditional track rebelling against the man, Indebted, a song dedicated to fallen heroes and Conquest where the sword is mightier than the pen!

So now that the album is out, what does the future hold for Skirmish?

We write new material all the time and will put them to on a CD somewhere in the future. Before that we will do hopefully a lot of gigs, get beers, meet great people, and have fun in all possible ways. Nobody knows, let’s see what’s happen!

David Alexandre