We were really impressed by the new album by Brymir, so we caught up with Jarkko Niemi, who is the bassist and main lyricist for the band, to find out more. Check out our in-depth interview below, where we speak about recording the album, singing the wrong words several times over, album concepts, touring and more!
So you’ve just released your new album Slayer Of Gods, can you describe the writing and recording process for it?
The writing came quite naturally soon after we finished the previous album, Breathe Fire to the Sun… But the recording process? To sum it up neatly: it was a long and hard process, but worth every struggle. The thing was that when we lost our previous record-deal, we had to handle the production entirely ourselves. Improvising and learning-by-doing, it ended up being the defining process for the entire band. All those obstacles that we had to overcome have pretty much cemented everyone’s faith in what we do.
Were there any songs that were more of a struggle to get right, or did everything go more or less to plan?
Creating such a huge sound that we’re after, all by ourselves, was in itself a daunting task, so the mixing and orchestrations ended up taking the longest time. We had everything recorded already around the end of 2014, but it still took another whole year to finish. But indeed, though it is a completely self-produced album, the sound is absolutely professional; much better than what was on the first album. And that struggle paid off even further, since during this episode from early 2013 to late 2015 both Janne and Viktor from the band have become actual qualified studio-professionals, working day-jobs in their own studios. So now that we did this album learning new things step-by-step, the next one will be a piece of cake in comparison.
Any interesting tales from the studio?
It wasn’t all sweat, blood and tears, of course. We had quite a few laughs throughout the sessions. The most memorable episode for me was when Viktor was singing the second verse of the title track Slayer of Gods. At the end of the verse he kept stumbling on one word, always singing the word “stars”, instead of “skies” that he was supposed to sing. It took like 7-8 takes to get the word right, though he knew perfectly well what he was supposed to sing. It was so funny, since after delivering the vocal line he was always confidently like “Yeah, I think that was it”, and us pushing the buttons said that “You did it again”, and he was like “What?! Did I sing “stars”… again?!”… It just came from somewhere so instinctively that he was completely oblivious that he had sung the word wrong!
When writing the lyrics for Slayer Of Gods, did you have any specific concept in mind?
I had the main underlying concept ready quite early on: thinking of the term “God” from a multitude of angles through poetic means. I think the clearest thought-line on the album deals with how “Gods”, meaning anything that we people deem “greater than ourselves”, is the basic building block for all humanity as a social animal; they’re the creators of cohesion shared between individual people that makes society function. All the values, all the clues we gather from around us when we’re socialized as kids… What would it mean to kill everything you believe in? To recreate yourself as a “tabula rasa”, or empty tablet? And then, since it’s such a fundamental part of being human to create some meaning, any meaning, to life, would it then be better to just have your own purer meanings and live outside the accepted humanity? Or would it actually be better to then become a creator of Gods to others? A Beast… or a God?
Continuing on the subject of lyrics, on both albums your lyrics are very metaphorical and empowering, with freedom being a significant theme in many of the songs. Where do you get inspiration for them?
I am very much a ponderer by nature, and when an idea springs up from somewhere I tend to mull over it for quite some time… Sometimes for ages it seems. I always somehow enjoy thinking of as many perspectives from which to look at an idea as possible; think of all kinds of implications and symbolisms in a phrase. Indeed, the main (or initial) idea for the album I just underlined is just one of the many readings I kept in mind when putting the whole thing together.
Like the first album, I like to think of this one as a “very loose concept album”. Inspiration for the freedom and empowerment themes come from all that stuff you see every day: how society and the world functions, how we treat each other. The complexity of power and the like… It’s an endless well to mull over. Above all, I would want to be a positive force in the world, in some way that I can contribute. Using lyrics as a conduit is one way to stir up thoughts, bring up positive feelings, but still make absolutely sure that you don’t end up shoving anything down people’s throats… Thanks to the obscurity and multi-meaning laden metaphors.
Moving on to live shows, as you share two members with Battle Beast, there’s a potential for schedules between the bands to clash – do you have any plans to do more shows together, like you’ve done in the past?
No plans at the moment… But the times we have played together it’s always been a real blast! We’re such good friends, so I guess it would be a huge shame if the schedules would clash. So far there haven’t been any problems, but of course we’re aware of the potential. I guess if the situation arises we’ll deal with it then… It’s impossible to think of the practical arrangements beforehand anyway.
What has been the best show of your career so far?
It’s always a problem trying to decide whether the “best show” means a show when you played the best, or you had the best feeling when playing…I’ll go with the latter interpretation, and for that I have to say that for me, the best show was the one we just did a couple of weeks ago: when we held our album-release show in Helsinki. It was such an overwhelming feeling of joy, relief, hope and power that came from finally, concretely, realizing that “Yes, we did it! It’s done! The album is finally done, and we’re all here to celebrate!”
What about the strangest or weirdest?
For that we have to travel way, way back… One of the first gigs we ever played was at this tiny venue in Helsinki called “Factory”. It was a dump, really… The floor was sticky like glue everywhere, and the sound gear was naturally terrible. But what made it the most bizarre gig we’ve ever played was that, though there was hardly anyone there as you could expect, there was this one totally insane girl in the audience… All manic throughout the gig, she kept jumping in the front row and, every once in a while, switching lightning-fast between flashing her tits to crying hysterically… Oh, and also throughout the whole gig she kept trying to pull Viktor’s pants down. Nothing has come even close to that level of f’d up ever since.
If you had to choose an animal to represent Brymir, what would you choose?
Funny you should ask that. For this album, one of the initial concepts for the cover-art was a mythical two-headed combination of beasts, a giant serpent and a giant wolf, with the heads in battle against each other. Sort of the animal equivalent of some of the symbolism on the album; humanity being both the “lone wolf” vs. the “world-serpent”, and contrastingly the “pack animal” vs. “the lone hunter”, struggling over itself what to do. It’s also a good symbolic parallel of our other name-amalgamation: Brimir + Ymir = Brymir!
And if Brymir could put their name to a product, what would it be?
An awe-inspiring muscle car would be epic. I think I’ll go with that!