Oranssi Pazuzu | Interview with Ontto

Psychedelic black metallers Oranssi Pazuzu grabbed most listeners’ ears last year with their excellent third album Valonielu, which was listed as one of the best metal albums of 2013 by various publications, including the notorious Pitchfork and Stereogum.
We spoke with bassist Ontto about how the band reacted to such enthusiastic feedback, how their musical approach has matured and why they sing in Finnish, their mother tongue. Read on…

Let me start by congratulate you on the new record, it's an excellent work and is getting listed as one of the best metal albums of 2013 by various publications. How do you feel about the record now that it's been out for over a month?

"Thanks! I’m happy about the record and the positive attention it has got. It has many of the elements that we’ve been messing with on our previous albums too, but at the same time the overall vibe is more widescreen and proggy. At least that’s how I feel about it. We’ve always been into 70’s progressive rock, and this time we were able to bring that aspect of the music a bit more into the forefront. After all, our music is essentially a fusion of different elements, we’re not trying to be a strictly orthodox black metal band or anything like that. It’s more inspiring for us when different angles get mixed together and twisted into new forms. That brings a certain amount of uncertainty into the music, which is a good thing in my opinion."

All the press I've read about you guys is highly positive. Have you read anything negative?

"Sure. There are always people who are not at all into what we’re doing. I’m very happy about that too. It is a source for diversity."

Valonielu seems like a more progressive and experimental album than previous efforts. Do you agree? Do you see this change towards a more progressive and experimental direction as something intentional, perhaps a desire to push against boundaries or it was just a natural evolution of your songwriting?

"Our aim has always been to push our personal boundaries as musicians. That was one of the main points when we started the band, and I hope that will never change. Of course, that is a very slow process and the new angles take their time to develop.
Hopefully our albums will have a natural evolutionary arc, so that it would feel meaningful how they follow each other, but at the same time they would reach out for the unknown, just like genes produce endlessly different life-forms."

Do you put pressure on yourself to "get better" with each release you make, to top yourself and perhaps to do something new or different from what you have done in the past?

"Even if each album is a new phase in the music, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily better than the previous ones. It has many of the familiar elements, but they have been re-organized and hopefully there are new atmospheres that you couldn’t recognize before. To me the most important thing is that the new material feels inspiring somehow. Of course we want to get better, but without inspiration it is just about better mechanical execution without soul. And usually inspiration needs a bit of reformation to keep it fresh."

How did the recording process differ with Valonielu? The album was recorded by Jaime Gomez Arellano who have worked with Cathedral and Ghost in the past right?

"Right. We loved working with Gomez. He understood really well what the band is about and was able to make the aesthetics work in a studio environment. We played live takes of the songs like on the previous albums but maybe the biggest difference is that this time we also added more tracks later on to the mix, to make the album more spacious and full-bodied. Gomez is very much into analog sounds, just like us, and he had tons of cool stuff at the studio, from Hammond organ to cosmic effect pedals, that we were able to play with. It was a lot of fun."

Something that stuck out for me with Valonielu was the greater use of various sounds and weird textures. Do you think the recording process and the fact you used a better studio contributed to that?

"It was mainly about the recording process, the overdubbing of more stuff. We had the organic feeling of the live takes and then we just threw more sounds in there, to make the album feel more widescreen-like. I think it brings the psychedelic aspects of the music out nicely."

Can you talk about the significance of the title, Valonielu? Is there a concept or theme behind the album?

"The title just came to me when I was looking at the cover art that Costin Chioreanu made for us. It means light draining away, down the sink. I don’t have a rational explanation for it, it’s more about the feeling. The songs on the album are individuals, but there is a connecting theme about our perception of reality. The point in the lyrics, for me at least, is that we should accept the fact that our understanding of reality has large holes in it. Accept the holes, rather than try to fill them up with illusions. I think we should respect the mystical side of reality more. Not preserve it or worship it, but remember it is a fundamental quality of our existence."

Did you make a conscious decision to sing and write in Finnish right from the start or did you just find it a natural fit?

"It was just something that came very naturally for us. We wanted to write songs, and the songs had to have lyrics. I wrote the lyrics in Finnish because it’s my mother tongue. I’m very happy that there are people who are open-minded enough to appreciate the music even though they don’t understand the lyrics. I think it opens new possibilities for using your own imagination to make the music even more psychedelic."

Which directions would you like to go in for the next album or have you even thought that far ahead?

"I don’t know but I’m very excited to find out! I have some expectations, but I’d rather not speak about them because that might subconsciously close some unexpected and inspiring doors. I think there always needs to be a certain amount of mystery to what you’re doing."

More info at: www.oranssipazuzu.com